Tribute Garden Update

After some heavy rain last week, it’s time to cart Violet into the yard so we can work on our Tribute Garden. I’m not entirely sure how this endeavour will go because so far she has been more interested in pulling up the plants, rather than encouraging their growth.

Let me bring you up to speed on our efforts:

As I explained in THIS post, the garden area is very dark. Under the tutelage of an experienced gardener friend, I was instructed to monitor the hours of sunshine in the planting areas and subsequently research which plants require the corresponding amount of light.

It turns out that some leafy greens can flourish with as little as 2-3 hours of sun per day and peppers and carrots would be alright in one area of the plot that receives more light.

Next came the tilling. I bought myself a Garden Weasel and worked that land. I pushed and twirled so long and hard it was almost romantic.

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Onward! To the local greenhouse/garden supply shop I went! These folks were really helpful and I bought some seeds as well as some pre-started plants.

Just in case you’re thinking, “Hey! That’s cheating! You bought pre-started plants!?” I have a response for you:

I want my first foray into gardening to be a positive one. I fully believe in the importance of food sustainability but I’m no farmer. I know my own personality enough to realize that if I don’t see results, I’ll probably quit. With less than perfect gardening conditions and no pre-existing gardening skills, I feel like I should set myself up for success.

Also, it’s kind of late in the season to start planting. (Note to fellow novice-gardeners: You can’t just up and start a garden whenever you get a hankering for some fresh produce.)

Another tip I’ve picked up: Plants are like goldfish. They do their own thing and it’s acceptable to leave them on their own for a few days and, in the initial days, you need to climatize them to their surroundings! I let my pre-started kale and pepper plants hang out in their new home for a few days before immersing them in the ground just like how you would dangle your new pet goldfish in a plastic bag in its aquarium before setting him free into the alarmingly cold expansive waters atop your dresser.

The next stage is where I made my first critical error of gardening that I hope will not have too harsh of effects. At the gardening shop I picked up some bags of composted manure and seaweed-treated soil (okay, my first error was calling it “dirt” and not “soil” at the gardening shop but I don’t figure that will actually impact the growth of my plants). I told them the estimated-dimensions of my garden and they recommended a quantity of soil/manure. When I got home I really felt like I had bought too much of the stuff to fill my tiny garden. I only used half of what they had sold me.

My cynical side believed I had been gouged. Imagine! Trying to upsell me on DIRT!

My realistic side figured that I had probably overshot on the dimensions I’d given.

Both sides were wrong. After again consulting my gardener friend, I was reminded that I was supposed to have removed some of the old crappy dirt to replace it with new crappy dirt! (See what I did there? Because I had to add manure, right? “Crappy” dirt…get it now?)

In any case, the plants had been planted and it was too late to turn back. Instead, we must wait to see what turns up! #MelHal

 

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Whose Routine is it Anyway?

In our bedroom we have these bamboo blinds over the windows. We bought them when we first moved to New York and thought it would be so cool to have trendy window dressings now that we were fancy and living in ‘Murica.

Turns out they are kind of a pain in the ass.

Unlike less-cool but more-efficient blinds, these ones have a long string attached that needs to be looped around a little hook on the wall when you pull them up at the start of the day. It’s not hard work but it’s time-consuming enough that I think a lot of people wouldn’t bother putting up these blinds on a daily basis.

But, I put them up every day.

After breakfast and after Violet gets washed and dressed and Daddy is safely delivered to work, I pull up each of the four blinds and wrap each of their strings around the little irritating hook. Then I make the bed. Then we come downstairs and Violet is ready for her nap. No one else goes in that room for the rest of the day. I thrive on praise and no one pats my back for making the room look bright and presentable but I still pull up those aggravating blinds.

Then, at 6:30 after supper has been been eaten, a little playtime has been had and Violet is splashing in the bathtub under Hubby’s watchful eye, I head back up to the bedroom to unwind each of those egregious strings from their hooks and lower the blinds for bedtime. I pull down the covers and unmake the bed for Violet to crawl into for storytime with me and her dad.

At first I cursed those stupid, albeit attractive, blinds and the time they were costing me in my otherwise busy day. And then, gradually, I found the opening and closing of the blinds almost ceremonial. Meditative. Ritualistic. One day I realized that opening and closing those blinds was the routine I had created for myself while creating a routine for Violet. In the same way that she knew once the bedroom was tidied it was time for her nap, I knew that once the blinds were up I was about to get a break and get some time to myself at the start of the day. In the same way that splashing in the bath meant two stories and bedtime for Violet, pulling down the blinds meant things were winding down and I was soon going to crawl into a snuggle with my best girl and settle her into a warm and cozy sleep.

The word “routine” is probably the most iterated in all parenting guidebooks. If you set a routine, you’re golden. Everything will be smooth sailing. But what I’m coming to realize is that the routine is as much for the parents as for the wee ones! If naptime comes and goes and Violet hasn’t rested her little head it’s me who is in more of a fit than her! #MelHal

Out of the Darkness

Today I’m trying to focus on growth in the darkness.

It has been a dark week. Like many others, I have spent countless hours glued to the media. At first, I was waiting to hear “breaking news” that the horrible man had been captured and eventually I was watching the funeral services of the men whose lives he stole.

It has been hard for me and who am I? Sure, I’m connected to the RCMP because my dad is a member but life went back to normal for me shortly after midnight last Thursday when the gunman in Moncton was taken into custody. Life for the families who were given bad news has been changed forever. There will be plenty of days in my life that the recent events in Moncton won’t even cross my mind. That can’t be said for the families who are living our worst nightmare.

I have been wanting to plant a garden for a little while but conditions for gardening around my house are dismal. It’s too dark. There’s one patch that sees some sunshine though and the internet says that some things can grow with dappled light if given enough attention.

We’re in a time of sadness and a time of mourning. We want to come together but we don’t know how. We want to express something but we don’t know what. I can feel connected to the families affected directly in Moncton but I won’t reach out to them. That would be absurd. I’m a stranger. I can’t offer them anything they want.

But we can’t do nothing. Nothing won’t do any good. What happened in Moncton feels completely senseless and it’s upsetting because it can’t be fixed.

I want to offer something, somehow. I want to offer something good out of the darkness.

So, I’m putting plants in the dark garden in my yard and hopefully, with enough care, they’ll be able to grow. They might not flourish but maybe, with the right amount of encouragement, some sprouts will push through the ground to reach for the light.

My garden will need more attention than other gardens but it will be worth it because my garden will be a tribute to the members lost last Wednesday night. Every time I tend to my plants I’ll be forced to remember them. I’ll remember Cst. Ross, Cst. Larche and Cst. Gevaudan but not the man who took them away and brought darkness on our communities. I can’t promise my garden will grow but I do hope that, eventually, something will come out of this darkness. #MelHal

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Maybe 13 Won’t Be So Bad

I spent last week with my 13 year old cousin, Abby. As our 14-month old Violet toddled around after her big cousin, I couldn’t help but think that Tom & I were getting a brief glimpse into our future. Having a baby girl means, inevitably, having a teenage girl someday. As someone who is genuinely scared, sad and filled with dread at the prospect of my sweet, innocent and perfect little baby turning into an attitude-driven adolescent, I have to say that having Abby around showed me that maybe 13 won’t be so bad.

I learned last week that maybe 13 won’t be so bad because sleeping has really (and I mean really!) come a long way by then! If Abby woke in the middle of the night while she was with us, I was none the wiser! She put herself to bed every evening and I didn’t hear from her until well into mid-morning on the following day!

I had braced myself for a bit of brazen before Abby arrived. I was 13 once too and I remember making quips to my elders that resulted in stern looks (and probably embarrassment!) from my parents. Abby was pleasant and polite for the entire duration of her visit. My one-year old, however, threw yogurt and peas at me on a daily basis and made a few swats too!

There are elements of truth here but of course I write with a tone of jest. I don’t want to be interpreted as demonizing Violet in any way! My little one may be difficult but, moreso, she is a blessing in its purest form. What I’m trying to say is that I learned a valuable lesson last week and that is not to dread 13. Maybe 13 won’t be so bad because it means that I will have spent 13 joy-filled years with a person I adore and who was created out of deep love. Maybe 13 won’t be so bad because it will be a fun time in Violet’s life. Even if I hate the music she’ll blare on whatever iteration of the iPod has come about by then and even if she wants to have someone else’s hair colour, I hope that she enjoys the coming-of-age moment of being 13.

I know there will come a day when I will long for a midnight feeding and a dollop of yogurt in my hair but I shouldn’t dread 13 just like I shouldn’t dread any stage of our daughter’s life. Every day is a gift and every year will make us another year richer for having her in our midst. #MelHal

How An Irresponsible Purchase Taught Me I’m One the Luckiest Moms in the World

This month I have embarked on a #MealsOnABudget project. Yesterday morning, with $77 left in my $400 budget, I headed off to WalMart to pick up a few essentials. In the bread aisle I was looking for the cheapest and healthiest option when I saw them –  the densest yet softest bread product of all: bagels. As soon as my eyes met them, all I could imagine was a beautiful toasted bagel, crispy on the outside and warm on the inside. I knew they had to be mine. I didn’t even bother making mental justifications for buying them before they were in my cart and I was in the dairy section for cream cheese. 

It was an irresponsible purchase in light of my current project. I could have bought a whole loaf of bread for the cost of the bagels and it would have been more practical. But I wanted the bagels, dammit. 

So, I got the bagels. 

And then this whole #MealsOnABudget project came into a very new perspective for me. 

This project is a decadent hobby for a new Stay At Home Mom who is used to the stimulations of a traditional work day. If I surpass my $400 budget this month, so what? We won’t go without food. We won’t even resort to eating white bread to make ends meet. I’ll enjoy my bagels and I’ll enjoy blogging about my groceries and I’ll enjoy my life. 

For some, this is a fantasy but for me it’s real life and I am thankful for it every day. It’s pathetic that “splurging” on bagels is what it took for me to realize that there are moms out there who actually have to choose between a loaf of bread and a doctor’s visit. There are moms who have grocery budgets a lot lower than $400/month and far worse consequences if they overspend. 

Moms everywhere are doing it though. They’re doing it on a budget. They’re doing it alone. They’re doing it with unsupportive partners. They’re doing it with sick children. They’re doing it in every different type of circumstance we can imagine.

I’m going to keep posting my #MealsOnABudget series and I probably will meet my goal. But each meal will be even tastier now that my irresponsible purchase has taught me I’m one of the luckiest moms in the world. #MelHal

When a Book isn’t a Book

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We are big book people at our house. Tom and I met doing our Masters in literature and he’s chasing the PhD. Books represent the bulk cost of our move to Plattsburgh from St. John’s (and we purged majorly beforehand!). You’ll find books on shelves, night stands, end tables…basically any flat surface around our house and so it’s no surprise that Violet has already cultivated a library of her own. This deep interest in books brings a certain level of expectation on the authors we invite to live in our home and reside with our family. My taste is not refined to the level of some (I read The Da Vinci Code, I confess!) but I try to spend my reading time, albeit limited nowadays, consuming meaningful and well-crafted texts (you won’t find 50 shades of anything at our house).  

Children’s books can be beautiful. Sometimes the messages and writing are so simple you wonder why we bother with complex storylines at all. In other cases, the books unravel complicated feelings within me. And this rewarding and delicious reading experience usually happens alongside colourful and stimulating illustrations that reflect the story you’re reading as well as infinite other plotlines. 

And then there are Disney books.

Hashtag Eff Em El Niño! 

I’m not exclusively anti-Disney. In fact, I find it very interesting that the massive Disney machine manages to embody both the best and the worst of humanity. A visit to a Disney park forces you to suspend disbelief and trust magic, resist evil and take the higher road. Yet, as most of us know, Disney prioritizes finding romance over self-satisfaction and glamorizes heterosexual relationships as the only true “happy ending.” As important as it is to note all of that negativity, it is already well-documented and I won’t add to it here. 

Instead, I’m going to rant about a book Violet has called Super Cute. This book was given to her and I’ll confess that I have no idea by whom so I apologize if it was you. I’m assuming you had no idea what lay within these cardboard pages. 

Every spread of this book makes me urge. The first page simply asks, “Who’s super cute?” To which a dolled-up Daisy Duck says, “Yoo-Hoo!” This page is only mildly irritating but it bothers me for being so self-congratulating on Daisy’s part. I read the underlying message on this page as, “Be super cute and make no apologies. Cuteness is important.”

Turn the page. Maybe things will get better, right? 

On this page Minnie and Daisy are having tea together, tucking in to eat an entire tower of cupcakes. That’s what females do after all. They get together and stress eat sugar. I’m serious. Women often do this (I have), but maybe let’s strive to not pass our wildly unhealthy relationship with food on to the next generation. 

I assume the next page will be set in a bathroom where Minnie and Daisy continue their conversation while purging their cupcakes. I’m wrong but it’s not much better.

Minnie and Daisy’s cupcake date, which I’ll admit could be interpreted innocently enough, has turned into a gossip session. The dialogue reads, “Did You know?” “Do tell!” A cloud of cartoon hearts fills the air between the two comments and Daisy and Minnie’s little anthropomorphized faces are devilish with the glee they are experiencing as their conversation no doubt continues, “Did you know Bobby’s back on the market? He totally dumped Mary.” “She deserves it for not keeping her eyebrows under control!” 

Underlying message to children here? Gossiping is a completely acceptable – and fun! – activity to engage in! 

The final two pages are really where I conclude that this book should be used as kindling. 

“Something new!” Minnie exclaims over her outfit.  And, to the books credit (ha!), it returns to the theme outlined in the title and first page. Daisy affirms, “Totally cute!” 

Underlying message here? New! Buy! Consume! Settle for nothing less than new! It is newness that makes you super cute and (consult page 1!) cute is important!

Right now many of you are rolling your eyes at me, pursing your lips to say, “It’s just a kids’ book!”

It is an offence to the word ‘book’ that this collection of words and pictures on cotton fibre be called as such. Books are food for the soul. Books transport you. Books belong in the hands of children. This is not a book.

What Did You Call Me?

Well, here we are. Sweet Baby Violet is just about one year old. The bi-weekly Maternity Leave deposits have dried up and I’m officially not going back into the formal workforce any time soon. So, where does that put me? What am I now? What do I “do”?  

We opened a new bank account today. As part of the application process we were asked for our professions. At home in Canada, it is assumed that a woman with a not-yet-walking baby is on maternity leave. Here in the US, women return to work (exhausted and zombie-like, I assume) mere weeks postpartum (a phenomenon I am incapable of understanding for enough reasons that maybe I will blog about it later). I was in a brief state of Canadian half-bewilderment at the bank rep’s question. Didn’t she see my baby? Of course she did because said baby was flailing herself wildly in my arms, making every attempt to gain access to everything on said bank worker’s desk. Peering over Violet’s unruly body I mumbled something along the lines of “I stay home with our little girl.” The bank representative looked at me knowingly and, with a nod, said, “Homemaker.” 

I let out a little chortle. 

Homemaker! Me? I’m classified in some computer system as “homemaker.”

“Is that okay?” She asked. “Do you mind if I list you like that? Some people get offended. We used to put ‘housewife’ but we had to change that.”

Sure. Whatever. It’s okay. I try not to get too hung up on stuff like that. Just hurry up and finish the account. I can’t protect your stapler from destructo-baby for much longer. 

When we got home, my alleged title of ‘homemaker’ came back to mind. 

The word felt weird. Like wearing someone else’s shoes. Or holding someone else’s baby.

“Hey Tom. Did you know the bank identified me in their database as a ‘homemaker’?”

“Do you mind that?”

“I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem right. (pause) … (pause) I think I prefer ‘stay at home mom’.”

And so, for the umpteenth time in the last 11 months of being a mother, I have been given another reason to grapple with how I’m going to balance being a mom (which is undoubtedly the most demanding, rewarding, precious and important role I’ve ever been assigned) with making sure I feel like a person who is fulfilled, who is contributing and who is living up to her potential. 

Hashtag LifeDilemma 

So, which am I? What am I? Who am I? Let’s see if a quick word association reveals anything about who I think I am: 

Word: Homemaker 

Immediate Association: Cookies / Apron

Word: Stay-at-home-mom

Immediate Association: Stained Shirt / Mini Van

Sure the image of cookies and an apron seems abundantly more appealing than that of the disheveled stay-at-home-mom I conjured up, but I believe it’s the latter that fits me better. When I think about my day with Violet, I’m not ‘home-making.’ If I were making a home, I would be baking things or polishing things or laundering things. Instead, I’m sitting on the floor doing a puzzle. I’m singing remixes of itsy-bitsy-spider to keep Violet from hurling herself onto the floor while I change her diaper. I’m calculating her input of food and output of poop over the last 48 hours.

And, for the most part, I’m loving it. 

Although, sometimes I do make cookies. And my shirt may be stained but I might throw on an apron to cover it up. Does that make me part-homemaker? Maybe. But do I care? Just like before Violet was born, I am a multiplicity. Being a mom is the biggest part of what defines me these days and, for now, I’m going to find my fulfillment and make my contributions through building a solid relationship with my daughter. While the salary’s not great, the payback is huge.