Monthly Archives: May 2017

Mental Labour & Exhaustion

The general rule on the internet is not to click on links unless you know where they’re going to go, right?

The other night, I clicked on a link tweeted by a friend entirely without any context or comment associated with it and I have never been so glad to have taken that chance. It lead me to “You Should Have Asked.” It details the mental labour that women do that is not in the least bit obvious to men, particularly in committed relationships where the couple also has kids.

One of the examples that struck me the most in the web comic was that of cleaning off a table.  It could take a man 5 minutes to take everything off the table and put it where it belongs. It could take a woman 2 hours to clear everything off that table and put it where it belongs because she’ll notice, as she puts the towel in the laundry hamper, that it’s full and so she puts in a load of laundry. And then as she’s putting vegetables away, she realizes that they are out of mustard, so she has to add that to the grocery list, and so forth. While all of these tasks are needing to be done regardless of whether it is the man or woman who is doing them, these tasks are largely invisible to the man who concentrates only on clearing the table.

It explains why I start getting ready for bed before Scott, but he’s always waiting for me to climb in before he can turn out the light. It’s true that I have more that I typically do.  I have to do things like take off my makeup, take down my hair, take out my contacts and brush my teeth. And all he has to do it brush his teeth. But there are all the unrelated tasks that I still have to run through before I can even get there.

  • I take a quick look around the house but the quick look often takes long time even if I ignore all the mess that still lying around the house that I like to clean up before bed. I check to make sure that the front door is locked because if Scott only used the back door, he won’t think to doublecheck the front door before going to bed.
  • I have to make sure that I’ve got a water for the night because in the middle the night there’s nothing worse than having to get up tiptoe past sleeping baby’s room to get some water only to have her wake up and having me unable to get back to sleep after 45 minutes of feeding, rocking and sneaking out of her room.
  • I have to check on two sleeping babies. I have to make sure that the toddler is breathing normally because her night terrors and her head sweating are often linked to severe sleep apnea. I have to make sure that baby sleeping calmly enough that I can check to make sure that her boots are on properly and that nothing is shifted around on her brace without us knowing.
  • I have to check the weather for the next day that way when Scott gives me a kiss goodbye (if I’m still asleep trying to make up for the interrupted night) I can take a quick look at what he’s wearing to make sure that it’s weather appropriate.
  • I have to make sure that I’ve got a list of everything that I need to get ready the next morning because the minute that my feet hit the ground, they hit the ground running, knowing it doesn’t matter whether we need to be at the door at 9 AM or whether we need to be at the door at 11, because there’s always something that gets forgotten or left behind. I always tell myself that tomorrow’s going to be the day that I remember to get everything into the bag when it needs to be in there.
  • And then I have to do a postmortem on the day. I think I put on things that went well. I think one of the things that I forgot to do, and I have all the things that I didn’t get to do. And then I have to try to decide whether it’s more important that I get eight hours of sleep a night or whether I get them done or whether I put them in a note somewhere to get them done which inevitably leads to making a note of all the things that need to be done around the house because I was intending to make that list of things we need to pick up from Home Depot and every time I’m at Home Depot I think “I don’t have a list of things to do” so start making that list

Before I know it, an hour has passed and while I may not accomplished anything in full, I’ve gotten at least three and a half lists made and figured out answer to a problem that I didn’t realize was an issue until I was half asleep.

Scott once explained me that having ADD means there is a constant sound of static in his head. Maybe not static, he said, but there is so much going on that he couldn’t pick out one single sound, and it gets exhausting. This mental load that women handle often feels the exact same, only instead of it being a constant droning sound we can’t distinguish, we can’t stop hearing each individual noise and try to categorize them and control them, all while trying to maintain a sense of composure, grace and decency.

It’s no wonder that once I finally fall into bed, I either can’t sleep, for all the thoughts in my head, or am out immediately, exhausted from trying to have my body keep up with my brain.

Categories: The new identity | 9 Comments

Giving the Bar A Boot (CTEV update)

Last week, M got approval to go down to nighttime wear for her boots (BNB). While we had figured out all of the tips and tricks by the end of the 3 months of full-time wear, I couldn’t wait to move forward with our lives. On the drive home, even the grass lining the roads seemed so much greener. That afternoon, M was so smiley and happy, and even carrying her around felt so much lighter and not just because she was missing 15 ounces of orthopaedic device.  And then I went to grab a drink and when I came back I started bouncing M on my knee, thinking to myself about how wonderful life was going to be.

Until I realized every bounce squished poop up out of her diaper and all over me. Welcome back to reality, Cara!

In all seriousness, there are some decided benefits to M being out of boots during the day. When we go to the park, I put her in the swing, I can hold her on the teeter-totter. When she’s in a baby carrier I won’t have to counteract the weight of the bar. I can use any of my carriers, and even put her on my back in them now. I can dress her in anything I want since we’re no longer having to dress around a bar.

Now we have new challenges.  She has no idea how to sleep without her boots on. Having untethered legs have sort of re-started her moro reflex only with her legs and not her arms. Her feet swell during the day in the heat, and so we have get them cooled down before we can put her boots on. And while she is currently thrilled when she sees her boots, since they are her favourite thing to chew on, we’re also starting to see the start of her getting frustrated with having her freedom during the day and not at night.

But the biggest challenge for me? It’s realizing that I thought it would be easier once we were done casts and full-time wear. I thought that moving down to nights only would be a significant and meaningful transition that would finally make me be able to put this all behind me. But with part-time bracing until 5, and semi-annual and then annual appointments until 16, we have years to go until it’s no longer an issue. I’d always told myself the first six months would be the hardest, and while that is, no doubt, true, it doesn’t make the next six months easy.

Categories: The new identity | 6 Comments

Five Things Friday Summer Plans

It’s a quiet overcast Thursday afternoon and I have managed to nap with both my girls (snuggles in bed with C was significantly more restful than nodding off in M’s glider). That is how grey days should be spent.  But, of course, when planning summer activities, we usually only think about the sunny days. I’m ok with that. The grey days are for taking it easy. But the sunny days? Here’s what I want to do:

  1. Go to a variety of beaches. There are so many lakes around here. While Bird’s Hill Park is a favourite, I’d like to check out Falcon Lake and West Hawk Lake too. 
  2. Go camping. That’s a near yearly tradition, and since we go with my family, that weekend has been booked since January (while I was still sleep deprived enough to not realize I would be taking an 8 month old with me. 
  3. Grow our veggies. Last year we took part in a CSA (community supported agriculture) that provided us with a box of veggies every week. It was good, but wasn’t tailored to our tastes so this year, we’re going to try growing ourselves. I’ve built and planned 30 sq ft of raised beds to grow carrots, peas, tomatoes, beans, peppers, herbs and so much more. But no zucchini. I’ve rarely had success at gardening so this “go big” strategy might fail but maybe having invested that kind of money in it will give me the push I need to keep it up. 
  4. Go to the zoo. We have memberships so this shouldn’t be too hard to convince us to do. They also have an animatronic dinosaur exhibit for the second summer and C promises is that this year, she won’t be scared of it. 
  5. Get some projects done. I have a doll house sitting in my garage that needs refinishing. I’ve promised C we’d turn her play structure into a castle. And building those raised beds made me realize I don’t hate building things when I get to use power tools. 

Thanks, Beth, for posting your Summer Bucket List. Mine may not be as long (or as pretty) but I’m sure it will still keep us busy. 

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

How To Get Dressed

“Go ahead,” I said at 3:00 in the morning to the OverDrive app on my phone: “tell me again that you only wear boots that cost several hundred dollars”.

That’s the one memory I have of reading Alison Freer’s How to Get Dressed. It started out so promising – the first two chapters available without signing out the book through my library had me even smiling as I clicked through the pages. But at 3 am, as I reached the middle of the book, I was raging.

The book obviously didn’t answer back immediately. But it did a few chapters later. In between were copious references to why no one should ever send their clothes to a dry cleaners because it’s a waste of money (which apparently should only be used for buying expensive boots).

There was 5 pages on how to properly wear a tuxedo. There was an entire chapter on laundering clothes, one on stain removal and a glossary of fabric types that pretty much just repeated — for the third time — how to launder items.

I appreciated the reminder on how to make sure you are getting a good fit. The tips and tricks for wardrobe malfunctions could have been handy, if I hadn’t already known them. But by the time I got to the section on what fashion rules to ignore — ones that everyone already ignore — I was over her bragging “I work with celebrities but I can’t tell you who, I’ll just assure you that they are THE biggest name in Hollywood” and other boasts (even the acknowledgements implied that 705 people were needed to do her regular work while she stepped aside to write this book).

Seriously, guys. Give this book a hard pass unless you’re someone who woke up this morning and thought “you know, I’ve shown no interest in clothing until this very minute and now I want to dress like a star” because chances are, if you’ve even only mildly been interested in clothing there is nothing she has to say that is relevant to your life that you don’t already know, or wouldn’t be able to Google if the need arose.


Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Five Things Friday

I blame Buzzfeed, Donald Trump and clubbed feet for the fact I am not reading enough. I used to read when awake at night with babies but now there is always something salacious, concerning or in need of obsessive research. I have read…hmmm… one book in 2017? And so I present to you the next 5 books I am going to read

  1. 51q-v-2bfvsl-_sx321_bo1204203200_Today Will Be Different (Maria Semple): Possibly the most Instagrammed/blogged book of 2017, I might as well jump into this bandwagon. It is pretty much the reason I feel guilty I’m not reading more. There’s a lot of “she works full-time, has two kids and STILL has time to read?” going on here (looking at you, Shea!). Plus, based on the title alone, I think I can identify with this desperate mother.
  2. 51o6tcz7fnl-_sx331_bo1204203200_To Be Or Not to Be (Ryan North): How have I owned this book since Christmas and still not read it? It’s a modern retelling of Hamlet… in Choose Your Own Adventure format. Sorry, I meant “Chooseable-Path Adventure”. Written by an author and cartoonist, it’s sure to be an amusing look at the characters in the Shakespearean classic. While I was angling for his other book, Romeo and/or Juliet for Christmas, and this one arrived in my stocking, I have no doubt that I’ll find it interesting, to say the least.
  3. 518el1s4oyl-_sy346_How to Get Dressed (Allison Freer): Since I’m hoping to work towards a smaller, quality and timeless wardrobe, fit is a must. This book (which I read the first few chapters on Overdrive already) focuses on tips like how to buy jeans that won’t gape in the back when you sit. It’s written by a costume designer, so it is a little frustrating that she says she works with stars, but doesn’t name names, or any other hints.
  4. 41h2ixltr2bl-_sx359_bo1204203200_The Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie (Alan Bradley): I don’t know where I first saw this book, but everytime I see it, I’m drawn to it. I’m not usually into crime writing (fictional or nonfictional), but how can you not be intrigued by the escapades of an 11 year old sleuth? Maybe I read too much Harriet The Spy and Encyclopedia Brown as a kid… wait… is there such thing as too much Harriet the Spy and Encyclopedia Brown?
  5. 51nbagrvvvl-_sx327_bo1204203200_A Number of Things: Stories about Canada Told Through 50 Objects (Jane Urquhart): With Canada’s 150th coming up in a few weeks, it’s hard to not get into the Canadiana of it all. The fact that I spent a good mass of years studying the literary tradition of attempting to enunciate Canadian identity also makes it a must-read for me. Plus, the goose just makes me laugh.
Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Time Alone with my Girls

For the last four weeks, C has gone off with my mom on Friday mornings, leaving just M and I for a few hours. It has been wonderful because sometimes it’s easier to just have to clip one set of seatbelt harnesses every time you get in and out of the car when your errands require half a dozen 5 minute or less trips between stores. And I was so pumped to have M with me since she seemed so easy to cart around (would have been even easier if she could still use her bucket car seat since it snaps onto our stroller but alas, the bar didn’t fit in it). 
But it was great! I drove halfway across the city and she napped. And then I browsed a thrift shop without having to constantly yell “don’t touch that! Don’t touch that!”  And I didn’t need to stop to let anyone go potty, or remember to bring snacks. No one was put out when I stopped for coffee and didn’t buy a cake pop. 

But by the fourth week, I was surprised at how much I wished I could have equal time with my big girl. She can support her body enough to take for a run in the stroller. I could take her out for coffee and so long as i gave her a cake pop, we could sit and enjoy some time in the coffee shop. 

C’s library programming that she attends with my mom and my nephew keeps going for another two weeks but Madeline and I will be starting fitness on the same morning this week so there won’t be the same  sense of freedom. In a way, I’m sad that I won’t have those few hours to spend with just my little girl. But at the same time I’m glad, because I will have to take more effort to plan out time to spend with just one kid, and hopefully I’ll be able to split that time more evenly between the two. 

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Motherhood and Extrinsic Motivation

I think the only thing that propelled me through the first few days as a mother, when my daughter refused to eat, was a comment that I read on my hospital chart. While I can’t remember the exact wording, (something like: “despite the frustrating situation, mom is calm, patient and loving”), it essentially boiled down to someone writing: “She’s a good mom”.

Two and a half years later, I’m frequently finding myself in frustrating situations. And I’m not always calm, patient or loving so I often find that I’m labelling myself a bad mom. And without any one writing or saying anything different, it’s impossible to get out of that mindset even when I should know I’m doing what’s best for my kids.

When I look back at my day, I don’t see the good moments, I see my shortcomings, and I feel the criticms.  Every time I tell C, “be good,” I am taken back to the night she was wailing in her bed, and when I went into see her, she was crying because she had internalized my admonitions to be a good girl as confirmation that she was a bad girl. As I put M’s boots on, I hear the voice of my mother-in-law ruefully protesting “but they’re so tight,” and assume she thinks that I’m being needlessly cruel even though she is really distraught over the whole medical intervention.

I shouldn’t need to be constantly reassured that I am a good mom. I shouldn’t automatically assume the fact that I so rarely hear it from people constitutes them judging me and finding me lacking. I should be able to stick to my convictions that I am making the right choices for my kids most of the time and feel good about that. But that’s hard. And that doesn’t happen very often. Instead I keep looking for approval from Scott. My mother. My sister. My friends.

But Saturday, as my little family went about our to do lists and errands, we heard a loud and insistent voice from the backseat repeating at dizzying speed “I love you baby sister, I love you baby sister, I love you baby sister” and her baby sister beaming and cooing back. It was an incredibly sweet moment. And then I realized that I’ve been looking in all the wrong place to see how I’m doing as a mom. You can’t ask for two better girls, and maybe, just maybe, I had something to do with that.

Categories: The new identity | 3 Comments

Five Things Friday

I don’t know why I’ve started thinking that it’s Mother’s Day weekend and not just one day. I’m pretty sure my family will indulge me in it. So here are the five things I want to do this weekend 

  1. Build a raised garden bed (because I like checking things off on my to-do list)
  2. Go for a run (either alone or with my big kid, since the little kid isn’t quite old enough yet)
  3. Take my big kid on a date 
  4. Snuggle my baby through an entire nap
  5. Take lots of pictures 

There’s a lot of stuff to do around the house and yard, church, and a barbecue to host for my family on Sunday so I don’t know how many things I’ll get to do. But as long as I can check off a couple of them, I’ll be pretty happy!

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Chicken Salad

When I was a kid, the best part about coming in for a shopping trip with my mom to the big city was going to the mall and getting a chicken salad sandwich from a bakery in the food court. There’s chicken salad sandwich rival no other. It had cucumbers, it had Mandarin  oranges, it had cashews. It might have even been served on a croissant. I don’t know when the bakery closed, but I have spent most of my adult life trying to re-create the sandwich which has undoubtedly growing taste year and taste you in my mind. Especially since I seem to be getting further and further away from the original.

I don’t know when the bakery closed, but I have spent most of my adult life trying to re-create the sandwich which has undoubtedly growing taste year and taste you in my mind. Especially since I seem to be getting further and further away from the original.

I like being home from work this year especially at lunchtime. It means I can do things like experiment with chicken salad sandwiches. It helps that my little girl loves her chicken salad sandwiches too, and is always happy to indulge me and some of my weirder creations.

But lately, we’ve been working with slight variations on the classic. I’ve been mixing the cucumber into the chicken and mayonnaise. It cuts down on the mayo needed because of the water in the cucumber. It also helps stretch the chicken from one sandwich to two. Sometimes we’ll add cheddar for some additional flavour. Sometimes we’ll add almonds for texture. With some crisp lettuce and maybe a tomato, I’m glad we’ve found a meal that hits a lot of food groups, isn’t too terribly unhealthy and usually pleases a temperamental toddler too!

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Getting A Grip On Life

There were a number of nights in a row where my baby slept relatively well. Would it last? What was the magic elixir that solved, even temporarily, our two month sleep “regression” (can it be a regression if she had never slept that badly before)? It was amazing and scary all at once.

Amazing because, well, that meant we could sleep for more than 45 minute increments. 

Scary because suddenly our excuse was gone. 

Why was our house a mess? Because the baby doesn’t sleep. Why are we having the same not-so-healthy meal for the third day in a row? Because the baby doesn’t sleep. Why have we not started that workout program we agreed to over a month ago? Because the baby won’t sleep. 

So after the second night of getting what seemed like enough sleep to regain functioning as a human, I knew I had kick our life back into gear. That day, we tidied the house. I say “we” because there was always a two year old sidekick asking me if it was time to read a book yet. Pro tip here: if you need a way to stay motivated for a fast paced clean, tell your toddler that you’ll read them a book after each room you clean. 

But we’ve been through that process before. We’ve spent many Saturday mornings picking up toys, clothes and who knows what else and returning them to their rightful place. But this was different. This was a Wednesday. The toddler wasn’t climbing up her dad’s leg all day, begging him to play with her because she missed him so much when he was at work. There wasn’t the nagging feeling that we should be out doing something fun as a family because it’s the weekend. And most importantly, it meant that by the time Saturday did roll around, we could get to the actual cleaning. Carpets were vacuumed, floors were washed and shelves were dusted with enough time we could head out after the baby’s morning nap to get some stuff done before lunch time. 

Getting out the door was smoother. We knew where jackets were. We knew where keys were. We even knew where soothers were. And that last glance through the kitchen as I locked the door wasn’t met with the overwhelming sense of dread of the work that would await us when we got home. 

There may have even been an inkling of pride. 

And that pride continued through the day as we remembered to do little things like wipe the table after a snack. Put a load of laundry through so we didn’t need to scramble for the “good” socks when putting on M’s boots the next day. Take 2 minutes to tidy before C&M’s uncle came to visit. I finally felt like I was starting to have it all together. 

You know the baby’s sleep is going to fall apart again the minute that I hit publish. But I’m hopeful that the secret to keeping this grip on life isn’t a certain number of hours of sleep but rather a certain amount of pride in how good our house looks and our life flows when it is clean. 

Categories: The new identity | 3 Comments

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