by , on
May 15, 2010

Right now two good friends are celebrating their marriage downtown.

We were there. We arrived during the cocktail hour and stayed for dinner, but as the night wore on the baby girl started getting harder and harder to soothe. Joe took her downstairs and outside a few times. She’d been changed, had a bottle, and was happy off and on but the happy times began losing out to the crying times, and the crying started to turn into screaming. After the first of the speeches, I turned around and Joe was mouthing to me from the back of the room: ‘We have to go!’

She was losing it, quickly, and we needed to get her out of there.

I knew it would happen, it’s been happening every evening, but I thought there might be enough going on around her for her to look at that maybe we could stave it off tonight. Joe told me to go back, he would take her home and come back and pick me up when I was ready. I told him it just wasn’t that simple.

Four months ago I became a mother and there was just no chance that I would be enjoying myself knowing that she was in pain – crying uncontrollably – and I wasn’t at least there. At least trying to soothe her or letting her know that I was there and would always be there.

At the same time, I was incredibly disappointed. Tonight, because of my daughter, I lost the chance to celebrate with two people I care a lot about. I’m mad at her. But then I get mad at myself because it’s not her fault. I get mad at myself because we should have gotten a sitter, but I’m still having trouble thinking of leaving her with anyone but family and we just don’t have any of that here that would be willing to watch her.

Tonight I discovered the guilt that I will wallow in for the rest of her lifetime every time something goes not quite right for either one of us. I could have done something different. I could have done something better. I’m her mommy, I’m supposed to solve the problems and make the hurt go away. I’m a mother, but I’m still a person in my own right, and the balancing act might just kill me.

Must See TV

by , on
May 12, 2010

Television is a crutch for me. I’ve watched too much TV for most of my life, and while this has allowed for a vast knowledge of pop culture that is very useful when playing trivia games I know it’s not good.

The fact is that I have gotten used to having the TV on as background noise, and while I’ve been turning it off more lately, it’s still on most of the day and night.

When I’ve moved away from home, cable was always the first thing I set up, because my TV shows were consistent wherever I went and it made things easier for me. But I also probably lost out on close friendships and socialization because I was happy to go home and spend the night with Lorelei and Rory, Buffy and Willow, the Huxtables, the Tanners, the doctors in the ER, Paul and Jamie Buchman, and countless other characters that passed through my life.

I used to watch TV while I did my homework. Now I watch TV while I knit, while I play computer games, while I feed the baby.

Frankly, one of the reasons I want to get rid of cable is because I’m so scared to live without cable. I don’t know what I would do with the quiet. I’d probably turn on the radio, which would be better for me and more educational for the baby girl. I would dance to music. We would get outside more. We would sit and read. We would come up with other activities to fill our time instead of just sitting in front of the TV. It sounds like a great idea.

But what of the shows we love to watch?

When I try to think of what I’d miss, not a lot comes to mind. I hate missing an episode of Bones, and we’ve really gotten in to Castle. We watch Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother on Mondays. I get excited for every new season of Project Runway. I’m getting in to Parenthood.

The fact is that if we cancel cable and I really miss these shows, we can buy or rent the DVDs to find out what’s happening to our favourite characters, or watch online depending on the network.

Another thing that’s making me think twice is the fact that our neighbourhood isn’t great for activities. There’s a park next door that’s under construction, there’s a Chapters a few blocks away, but other than that not much is in walking distance for the day that Joe takes the car to work. We made the trek to the library once, but it’s certainly not something we could do every day (in fact, Joe picked us up and drove us home so I wouldn’t have to carry all the books we were taking out).

If we get rid of our cable, am I going to go mental with boredom, or are we just going to listen to more radio and music, go for more walks, read more and spend more time in the backyard?

The more I think about it, the more I want to try it and find out.

Money Money Money (Part 2)

by , on
May 11, 2010

One of the biggest things about getting into the groove with our new budget is planning for the big expenses.

This will be difficult for me because I have always been an instant gratification type of person (which probably also explains my weight issues) and putting off spending on the little things to make sure we can afford the big things has never come easily.

We know that the dog will need to go to the vet, we know we’ll need to get snow tires for the new car when winter comes around again, and we have to maintain it, we know that we both need to get to the dentists and the baby is going to start wearing glasses, sooner than later, we know that if we’re thinking of moving across the country or buying a house (or both) then we need to build up savings to do that.

I need to remind myself when I’m looking at things I want in the moment, that it will not benefit me in the long run. I need to go to the library instead of the bookstore, and search through my yarn stash for forgotten projects instead of heading to the store. I need to remind myself that every new tee-shirt I buy that I don’t end up wearing is $20 or $30 that can no longer help us make a deposit.

The rule that Mel talked about in her comment on the last post is a great idea – not putting anything on credit cards unless you can pay it off before the next pay cycle. It’s a lesson I wish I’d learned when I was 18, but once you start it’s difficult to stop. The one thing I have done is kept my limits low, and I’ve transferred my balance to a card with a low interest rate. Now we just have to keep making payments and make them stick. We’ve also been looking into consolidation loans or a line of credit so we have a bit of security in case of emergency. Such a thing would mean that our entire debt payment would be going into the same account and paying it down faster, and it would also mean a lower interest rate.

Before we can apply for such a thing, we need to start getting things in order to prove we can, so we will keep examine our budget and figuring out what works and what’s wrong.

Money Money Money

by , on
May 10, 2010

Joe and I are both gainfully employed. We are lucky to have stable jobs (and very lucky that my job allows me to take a full year of maternity leave) and we are lucky that when I go back to work next year we will be able to afford childcare without too much pain.

In anticipation of paying for childcare (which will more than likely eat up about one of my paycheques per month), we have prepared a budget and will remove about that amount every month to put in our savings or help pay down our debt. It won’t be easy. I have spent most of my adult life trying to stick to a budget and it’s never seemed to matter what my take-home was, I was always living paycheque to paycheque.

The fact is, I started behind the 8-ball. I didn’t build up any savings while I was living at home, and as soon as they would give me a credit card I took it and ran with it. I went to college and took out a student loan, and started a career in journalism with very, very low pay. I took on more debt to move across the country where the paper folded two months after I arrived. I was unemployed for about six months and I took another job, another move, and five very unhappy months later I decided to take on more debt, go to university and get my degree.

I was very lucky, my father paid for my tuition while I was in college, so my student loan was only for living expenses and when I went back for my degree, as the child of (former) faculty, I was granted almost free tuition. I got a job on campus and I should have used that money to pay down some of my debt, but I was stupid and I didn’t.

If I met a genie, my first wish would be to get back all the money I’ve spent of things I no longer own. I dream of the day that the money we budget for debt repayments can be freed up for other expenses.

And so we’re at that point where we have to make a budget and we have to learn to stick to it because in a few months we’re going to have no choice.

Eating out is probably our biggest expense, so step 1 was cooking at home more and we’re doing that. We’ve been making meal plans and getting groceries and I’ve been cooking more. I’ve learned that it’s easier for me to put something in the slow cooker during the baby’s morning nap is easier for me than trying to get things going around 4:30 or 5. We’ve actually tried several new recipes lately and I’ve been trying to get more vegetables in our meals. We’ve faltered a few times, but in general I feel more confident that it is possible for us. It helps that there aren’t a lot of restaurants that deliver to our neighbourhood.

Step 2 has been paying attention to where our money is going. I started a Google document for us to each write in what we were spending where, and now we need to start categorizing these things and forcing ourselves to stay within our budget.

The biggest part of this is groceries. We budget $100 a week for groceries (not counting formula and diapers) and we need to come up with a good way to stay within that budget. I’m trying to watch the flyers we get each week and choose meals that incorporate some of the things that are on sale. We also usually make meals that have leftovers so Joe can take those for lunch the next day, which also helps. The fact is that we never sit down with our grocery receipts, keep track of what money is going to what and plan our menus around that.

What I really need is some tips from the people who do it, and do it better and have been doing it longer.

Over to you…

Books make a difference

by , on
May 4, 2010

I am the product of a single mother with a Masters Degree in English literature. Books are part of my life, there’s no denying and no escaping that fact. I used to love exploring the shelves at the library. My family would walk up and we could spend hours there. When I was very young I started volunteering at the library at my elementary school. We used to help check books in and re-shelve them. I would go to school an hour early just to help out.

That’s not normal.

The biggest treat we got for Christmas was a gift certificate to a local independent book store where we would go and browse around looking for the perfect thing to spend it on. I devoured Ann M. Martin and Gordon Korman, Lois Lowry and Paula Danziger, when I was older I started reading Michael Crichton and John Grisham, and then moved on to Richard North Patterson. I was still a kid when I tried to read Jany Eyre. I was introduced to J.D. Salinger at exactly the point in my life when I needed him. The best English I ever had taught me Fifth Business in a way that made me appreciate the amazing way Robertson Davies could write a perfectly good book on one level and a completely intriguing book when your lead by someone who makes sure you remember all the hints he leaves. I was lucky enough to be drawn in by the cover of The Eyre Affair and now I wait for each of his new books with an excitement I had almost forgotten.

I am on a constant search for the next book that is going to pull me in – that book that you want to finish but that you don’t want to finish because then it will be over. When I was a kid I used to pick things off the shelf and just dive in, I used to follow my sister’s lead, I used to buy books that I had heard mentioned in passing to see what I thought.

My biggest problem as an adult has been finding new reads, trying new authors, picking things up just because they look interesting. Admittedly, my second biggest problem with reading in my adult life has been television. Now with the baby in the house we’ve started going to the library and we’ve started turning off the TV more often. It’s important to me that she fall in love with books and reading because I believe books foster imagination and creativity. I also believe reading helps with critical thinking skills.

I don’t just think books are important to my child, I think they’re important for every child.

Books really can make a difference.

Boy blue and girly pink

by , on
May 3, 2010

I was listening to an episode of The Moth on my drive out to knitting class this evening. This episode of the podcast (which I highly recommend you download) was a story by a father whose three year old son loved pink.

The Dad declared that he wanted to be open to his children in a wanted his own father hadn’t been, but it took him a while to get comfortable with the idea that his son wanted a pink bike.

In my own life I have no problem with putting my daughter in what some people would consider boys’ clothes. She wears blue and purple, green and yellow, red and yes, some pink. We’ve even put her in frilly little dress once or twice, but usually she’s in blue jeans and a onesie or just a sleeper. I have no problem with dressing her that way and having people think she’s a boy or have to ask. She’s a baby, she looks like a baby.

The man on The Moth got me thinking, though. Something has been sitting at the back of my mind. If I had a son instead of a daughter, I don’t know if I would be as comfortable with dressing him in stereotypcal girls’ clothes. I don’t know if I would buy my son dolls as easily as I will buy my daughter trucks if she asks.

I don’t know if I would buy him a pink bike.

I’m curious as to why there’s this separation in my brain. I would have no problem if my child, boy or girl came to me and old me they were gay. I wouldn’t flinch of they told me they felt as though they were born in the wrong body. Why is this one thing about socialization so odd for me?

I think it’s because the idea of boys is so foreign to me. I grew up in a household full of women, I didn’t date through high school, I didn’t know any boys as close friends when I was growing up. The only boys I came in close contact with were brothers of friends and none of those boys stepped one toe over the line of what was considered normal or acceptable for young boys. At the same time, I was a girl who was happiest in pants, I shunned pink for black or blue or purple, I spent my time riding my (pink) bike around the neighbourhood and playing in dirt.

I shouldn’t have a problem with boys who like pink any more than I have a problem with girls who like blue, but I can’t get this itch out of my mind.

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