en france, si vous plait…

The first thing I thought, upon arrival en France, was:

I really should have brought nicer shoes.**

 

 

 

**(I wrote this two years ago. We had just arrived home from a fantastic holiday in Normandy and Brittany, followed by a long weekend in Ireland for an old friend’s wedding. I don’t know what else I had in mind for this post, but seeing it, in its incomplete state, in my “Drafts” folder made me chuckle. French people wear nice shoes. That’s how you can tell the difference between a French teenager and a French Canadian teenager.)

 

 

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truth

Here are some things that are true:

Gardening is good for the soul. An honest hour of digging in the dirt rejuvenates and refreshes my spirit like a cold lager on a hot day. An hour of digging followed by a cold lager is my idea of heaven. I hope there’s dirt in heaven. And beer. 

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I have a guilty pleasure, and that is wedding related reality television. Especially wedding dress related reality television.

The Queen is an incredible example of living with integrity. She’s ninety now, and celebrating her birthday like a boss. She has been a steady constant in an ever-changing world. I’m full of admiration for people who devote their whole lives to a calling, and commit themselves to excellence in that field, whatever it may be. Not only that, but she’s exactly the kind of old lady I’d like to be.

I picked a fascinating election cycle in which to become an American citizen. As interesting as it might be, I’m expecting to be slightly terrified come November. Make good decisions, America. 

Being a parent is relentless. I have a new found respect for anyone who has parented, even for a little while. It’s a new kind of exhaustion. Not only that, but it has made me rethink my habits, my words and my actions. What am I teaching my boy about life by exhibiting these behaviours? He’s certainly taking it all in.

The internet can be a horrible place. For some inexplicable reason, people feel comfortable expressing their opinions in ways that they would NEVER do when confronted with a real person. It really brings out the worst in people.

I’d talk more about my faith if I was braver.

If your friend wanted a cup of tea, but then passed out before you finished making it, you wouldn’t decide to pour it down their unconscious throat anyway.

Everyone is a hypocrite, when you think about it. We’ve all got ideals we can’t live up to. But the fact that we keep trying is inspiring. Sanctification, in whatever form that might take, is a good reason to get up in the morning. Every day, try to be a little bit kinder, a little bit gentler, a little bit more understanding.

Part of what it means to be a citizen of a “free” country is considering and preserving the rights of others alongside your own. Yes, you do have a right to live by whatever moral, spiritual or political code you might desire within the law. But so does your neighbour. Love your neighbour. Don’t expect your neighbour to agree. Don’t try to force your neighbour to live the way that you do. Don’t shoot your neighbour.

Music reaches me in a way that nothing else can. It can be equally whimsical and weighty, often profound, always speaking louder than the words on a page. It also makes me laugh.

 

 

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lullabies?

A few minor things may have happened since I last wrote; one minor in particular has been keeping me rather busy. There’s this little thing I’ve got going on called motherhood, and I’ve found that it occasionally results in interrupted intentions. Anyway, the little guy is a complete joy. Perhaps one day I’ll get to filling you in on all the gaps, but for now, this:

 

We sang Be Thou My Vision at church this morning. Not only is that a great hymn, but the little boy picked up on that fact and joined in with the singing, with quite a bit of gusto. It was going so well until we came to the end of the last verse and the music stopped. Not being able to read, and perhaps not quite understanding the significance of a perfect cadence with a little ritardando, the baby began another verse of his own, entirely on his own! How embarrassing! It was actually very sweet and I think it made quite a few people smile. It makes me wonder about the ways that little children are able to speak truth in ways that the rest of us, hindered by expectation, cannot.

I try really hard to discern the difference between “what babies do”, and “what my baby does”. I would hate to be one of those parents (We all know the ones. Please tell me if I ever am). He has definitely got a lot of personality for one so small. He’s actually quite tall for his age and weight, but it did crack me up that when I applied for his (American) passport (a baby passport is one of the funniest things in the world), I completed his height as 1’11”. I know he loves music though. Maybe all babies do? This is the only one I’ve spent extended periods of time with. He was only few weeks old when I realised that he didn’t really enjoy the tinny music that came out of the battery powered speaker in his bouncy chair. It was like (and obviously, this is conjecture) he was saying “no baby music, mum, just the real stuff”. He went through a phase of only napping to my Charlie Haden Pandora station. Sometimes I forget that he is already a seasoned listener:

 

Don’t hate me for this, but I often find myself singing my baby to sleep in Latin. That’s not pretentious, is it? It’s not like I’m singing an entire Bruckner Mass or anything, just that little chorus Dona Nobis Pacem. If a six-month-old’s bed time is not an appropriate place to sing “grant us peace”, I don’t know what is. It works, too, most of the time. I’m definitely going to have to up my nursery rhyme game by the time he starts talking. It won’t be fair to him if I send him out into the big wide world only knowing 17th-century English folksongs, obscure metrical Psalms and jazz standards. The curse of The Music Nerd Mum.

And then there’s this:

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The kid looks like a natural.

 

 

 

 

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on england

“When you’re born English, you stay English. Englishness is so obvious, you have no choice.”

From My Old Lady, Israel Horovitz

I watched the film of this play on the plane the other day. I chose it because 1) it has Kevin Kline (looking surprisingly old) and Maggie Smith (looking fabulous) in it, 2) it’s not a film the hubs would be interested in, and 3) it’s set in Paris.

It’s a sweet story, really, although nothing much happens in it. Nice for a rainy day cheer up.

Anyway, in a recent interview, the play wright said this:

“There’s something special about English people. They never get over it. No matter where they move to, they’re always English. They just never get over it. They always miss this rock. There’s something that always draws them back here, to the rain. I don’t get it exactly. You rarely find English people who lose their identity in some new nationality. They just stay very British.”

Well I get it. Exactly.

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well that’s a bit sexist, isn’t it?

Last week, (or was it the week before? I don’t remember yesterday, so who knows/cares?) it was icy cold and snowing just a little bit. This weather reminded us that 1) it is winter, and 2) we forgot to get the tenants ice melt for their front steps. So I drove over there, and stopped by the Local Friendly Neighborhood Hardware Store. It’s a little independent place, you know the type, where the old guy who’s been working there forty-plus years knows the names of his customers and all the projects they’ve been working on over the last forty-plus years…So anyway, it’s snowing, I am wearing a silly hat.

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it was probably this one.

There’s a young guy outside clearing what little snow there is out of the way of the door, and the older gentleman inside asks me if he can help me and directs me to the ice melt. Then he offers to carry it for me. I can’t decide whether I should be grateful or offended, wondering: Do I look like the kind of girl who doesn’t carry things? Maybe it’s my hat. Can he tell that I’m pregnant and that’s why he’s offering? It’s true that my coat doesn’t exactly fit anymore. Does he say the same thing to all the ladies…or the men for that matter? I tell him I can manage it, and stubbornly huck it over to the counter. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer of help, I’m just suspicious of his motivation. There is a middle-aged woman at the counter, and she scans in the ice melt and asks me “do you have a discount card?”. “No”, I respond, wondering exactly what she means. “Well, I’ll give you one, you get 10% off every purchase over $10, and once you reach 10 stamps, you get 20% off one purchase.” I accept the card, although frankly, I’m confused by their business model. Who offers every customer 10% off every purchase voluntarily? Then I look down at the card, which has one little heart-shaped stamp cut out of it:

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IT’S A WOMEN ONLY DISCOUNT CARD.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gender equality. I don’t see why a woman should have any more trouble carrying a bag of ice melt than a man. I know plenty of women who do DIY projects around the house and other “manly” things. I think it’s good that this little bastion of the old school shopping experience is trying to do its part to encourage women to try that which has traditionally been man’s work. But I wonder if a Women’s Discount Card takes things a little too far the other way. I mean you would never find a discount card only available for a certain race or religion, how is gender different? I also wonder how many men make their partners/sisters/mothers go shopping for them in order to score a sweet discount…

On the way out, the older man offers to carry my purchase, again. Then the younger man offers to open my car door for me.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26-28

All this baby business seems to bring out the sexism in people, too. We’re not planning on finding out the gender of our child before birth. This news has rocked some people’s world. “How will you know what colour to paint the baby’s room?” they say. “What about clothes/toys/bedding/anything else a baby needs?” I don’t know, maybe I’m going to put my son in a pink room. Maybe I’m going to let my daughter play with…shock! horror!…CARS. Maybe I want all white things for the baby. That can only go well, right?

I was looking online at “Baby Stuff”, and came across this ridiculously adorable bumble bee themed swaddle wrap thingy, or whatever it’s called. The bee-themed blanket was clearly labelled UNISEX. Because, you know, bees come in male and female, right? Yup. But then, next on the list came a dog blanket, blue, with brown and purple accent, inexplicably labelled BOY. Then came the kicker, the one that set me over the edge to a world of ranty-self-righteousness, the one that has been keeping me awake at night, stewing, The Lady Bird/Bug. Said lady bird/bug blanket is very cute. It’s red and black, and it comes with a little hat with eyes and antennae, and you wrap up your baby to look like a lady bird/bug and post the pictures on Instagram for everyone to “like”. However, the seller of said lady bird/bug blanket dictates that it can only be used by a girl.

Sorry, bare with me here, the list in the photo is actually in reverse order.

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I hate to burst anyone’s bubble here, but THERE ARE MALE LADY BIRD/BUGS. Yes. It’s true. Haven’t you ever seen A Bug’s Life? And actually, there really are a much higher percentage of female bees in the world than there are males. So I put it to you, dear readers, that this gender labelling, if it has to exist at all, be entirely switched around. It’s much more appropriate to the proportions of the natural world to refer to a bee as a she than it is a lady bird/bug. Not only does this seem entirely sexist, it’s teaching our children false things about the world. Cue existential crisis.

I still don’t understand the boy dog one either.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on equality, sexism and gender roles because I’ve probably got some thought refining to do.

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up the duff

“That baby is growing up way too fast!”

– My Husband, on finding out that the baby was the size of a lime at 12 weeks.

Well, the cat’s out of the bag, so to speak. I’m pregnant and now the whole world knows, I can finally write about it. I was thinking about telling you how amazing it feels to see the little one for the first time through an ultrasound (it really is), and how happy we are to be having a baby (obvs.) and how wonderful it is to be looking at baby gear FOR REALS (it’s all so cute I don’t even know where to start). That’s what everyone says. Isn’t pregnancy great? Aren’t you just so excited? Well yes, it is. I am. But there’s another side to my experience so far, a side that it seems like hardly anyone talks about – the little fact that pregnancy, especially the first 12-14 weeks, is MISERABLE. There. I’ve said it.

Now don’t get me wrong, please don’t take this the wrong way, I do NOT take any of this for granted. The hubs and I have waited a long time for this to happen, so we know it’s not easy. We are thankful that God knew the right timing for us, and that this baby is so wanted and so surrounded by people who will love and cherish it. We also know many people (and you’d probably be surprised just how many) who are really struggling to start a family and it just doesn’t seem fair. I am incredibly grateful, every day, for this amazing little gift and really excited for this new adventure. I can’t wait to see how our family grows.

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is it uncouth to post a picture of your pregnancy test on the internet? I can’t decide.

Anyway, back to the misery.

Maybe it was just me being naive, but I really think that people don’t talk about the first trimester troubles in a serious way. I mean, I knew morning sickness was a thing for some people. I definitely wasn’t expecting it to be all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. But what I wasn’t expecting was to feel so down in the dumps. “They” advise you not to tell a lot of people until your 12 week appointment, you know, just in case. This is sensible. I get it – you don’t want everyone in the world being delighted for you only to bring them disappointing (not to mention heart-wrenchingly sad) news. It is, however, really lonely. And it feels as though you’re lying to everyone. Whenever anyone asked me how I was I’d reply “I’m doing ok. I’ve been really tired lately.” LIES! I feel terrible. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep. My hormones are crazy, I have what feels like constant pre-menstral cramps, a splitting headache, and I can’t eat a normal-sized meal in one sitting. Every time I smell meat cooking I want to hurl. I have no motivation to get anything done, so my house is a mess. I’m constantly exhausted, yet I can’t sleep through the night. I’ve given up wearing jeans because by 3pm every day I want to burst out of them. I don’t even want to eat any chocolate, for goodness sake! I can imagine it’s really easy to forget all of that once you’ve gone through the pain of childbirth itself, and once you have a little bundle of joy to fill your time, but that is really unhelpful to women who are going through it. I find it hard to believe that a significant proportion of women are more optimistic than I am. That makes me wonder whether society in general makes it so unacceptable to be unhappy during pregnancy, especially when your baby is growing healthily and you have a very happy home life, that pregnant women in general mask over the misery.

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that’s our baby!

I like to think that I’m usually pretty good at putting my experiences into a broader context of reality. I don’t think most people would describe me as a drama queen. Moreover, I really don’t want to pretend that I’m feeling great because the world says I should be positively ecstatic throughout my entire pregnancy because a baby is such a blessing. I’m actually a terrible liar, and so I know some people knew something was up. That added to my worry, because I was worried that they were worried about me. I thought they thought I was dying, yes dying. I wasn’t myself and I wasn’t telling them why.

I guess most women who have gone through pregnancy just forget what it was like. Heck, I’ve actually started to forget already. I’m 14.5 weeks now, and starting to feel better…what was I complaining about again? I can’t remember. That’s why I wanted to write it down now.

I’ll say it again though, just in case you missed it the first time. A baby IS a blessing. A tremendous one. I know I am blessed.

“You have been looking really good lately. I just don’t know whether it’s because you’ve got that pregnant glow thing going on, or because you’re not covered in two day old pilgrim grime anymore.” -My Husband

I’ve been learning that pregnancy is full of cliches, and cliches just don’t cut it for me. I know everyone goes through some degree of sickness. I know a lot of people are more sick than I have been, too. But I also know how incredibly alone I have felt over the last couple of months and how guilty I felt for feeling sad when I thought I was supposed to be elated. That’s how it happens, right? You get the positive test result, you’re happy, your SO is happy, everyone around you is so happy, and then 9 months later, after looking absolutely incredible in all your super-cute and flattering maternity clothes, you have a happy, healthy baby. Easy.

Yeah. Right.

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baa!

 

 

That’s all.

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