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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
Immediate Association: Cookies / Apron
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.