Thursday, September 29, 2016

Unsettled

Yesterday morning, I went to Coffee Break.


(Coffee Break is a Bible study for women that is pretty universal across the Christian Reformed Church, which is the denomination Mark and I both grew up in. We have yet to settle on a church here in our new city, but we still have strong ties to more than one CRC in the area, so I happily accepted an invitation to join the group. An hour and a half to be something other than a mother every Wednesday morning? I'll take it!)

As I sipped my coffee after sending Isabel off to nursery, someone sat beside me and asked the question I've been getting whenever we see one of our friends, family, or acquaintances: are we settled?

The answer is difficult. Technically, I suppose we are. the boxes are all unpacked. We've bought ourselves a new couch. We've tried out different furniture arrangements in our living room and master bedroom. We've hosted a few guests. We've painted a room. We've even done some of the expensive, necessary, but not glamourous maintenance and renovation jobs - knob and tube replacement, fixing some plumbing. Our house has become comfortable, and the more time I spend in it, the more I fall in love with it, the more it feels like home. 

Yes, I told her. More or less, we are settled. 

Our new town is even starting to feel like home. Isabel and I have found some fun playgroups and have settled into a routine that gets us out of the house and around other caregivers and kids. Our neighbours are all friendly - yes, all - and many have gone out of their way to welcome us to the street and the city itself. They've gifted us homemade bread, 15 year old, mint condition, hand-me-down toys, and pitch forks. They've helped us clear out the intense amount of shrubbery that overwhelmed our house when we first moved in. They've brought our dogs back when they've gone wandering - twice now - exploring the neighbourhood without a leash. Our neighbourhood feels safe and with each wave and pleasant exchange, it feels just a little more like home. 

It's different than Toronto, but yes, I suppose we''re settled.

Except, I don't feel settled yet. 


I expect it's obvious why. Today, I am 37 weeks. "Full term", far enough along that Baby Girl can come any time she wants, though not yet far enough along that she's likely too. I still have a list of things to get ready, not the least of which is my own mental preparedness. I have spent so much time and energy over the past few months getting settled in this new place and so little time on working through what it will look like to bring another life into our family that I feel like the whole event is working on creeping up on me unexpectedly. 40 weeks is not enough time to get ready for this. 

Did I feel this way when Isabel was born? I expect I did, but I remember very little about the last couple weeks of waiting for her. I remember knitting contentedly on the front porch. I remember reading - though I couldn't tell you what book. Instagram or this very blog might be able to fill in some of those holes, and if it can, I imagine the life I lived in those three weeks following the start of my maternity leave and before Isabel's arrival looked very different than the way I'll spend my next few weeks. I imagine it will look far more settled, even if I didn't feel like it was so. 

Perhaps, in hindsight, I felt more confident bringing Isabel into the world.

Perhaps, more naive.

I don't know when this baby will join us. Any time now! So they say. And even more unsettling, I don't know how I'm going to fit her into our life. I know we will figure it out, and we'll figure it out with the same level of confidence and certainty with which we fit Isabel into our life over two years ago - we will do what we have to do. But, until I am in the depths of motherhood times two, I know this unsettled feeling with follow me.

Not long now. 

Three more weeks.

Or five.

Or tomorrow.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

35 Weeks


Today, I am 35 weeks into my second pregnancy.

On Monday, I realized that not only did I have no idea where our crib hardware was, I also had no idea where to even look since our move. All the major parts are leaning up against the wall of the nursery, but the hardware to put it all together was not with it and I couldn't remember seeing that little baggy of bolts and washers during the packing or unpacking process. Ultimately, this was a small problem: the base of the crib had a whole list of the hardware that we needed stuck to it. We could have solved our problem with a trip to Home Depot. Failing that, we could think of at least two people who might have a crib we could borrow for a while, and failing that, IKEA sells a decent crib for $100. Failing that, I have a perfectly good play pen with a bassinet sitting in the baby's closet that would work just fine in a pinch.

Losing our crib hardware was really not that big of a problem.

But, panic set in a little bit this week anyway. It wasn't just about the crib, I know. It was all my anxieties about this baby, about adding a second child to our life, about change on top of change coming to the surface. As our life flipped upside down with our move, I've found myself with barely any time to think about the baby's arrival as it creeps ever closer. People ask me how far along I am and I draw a blank, sometimes even finding the question odd. I'm pregnant? Oh yeah. I guess I am. 

When Isabel was born I was deep in baby mode. I feel like I thought about it every day. As soon as I started showing, I never missed a week of taking my picture in front of my office's mirror, almost always making sure the overflowing garbage was shoved out of the way. I spent hours researching things - cloth diapers, baby carriers, cribs, baby registeries, breast pumps. I had opinions on everything. Breastfeeding, home birth, epidurals, hypnobirthing, soothers, placenta encapsulation, deli meats, sushi, stretch marks. I felt so ready for our new baby. I was going to be Invinsible Mom.

You might think that I'm now going to tell you how much of a reality check I got when Isabel was actually born but I'm not. For the first six months of Isabel's life, I was so relaxed. She and I spent hours lounging on the couch, cuddling skin to skin, blissfully breastfeeding, or walking - and eventually running - for hours along the trails close to our house. I was lucky to have a baby that napped well, that nursed well, that adjusted to life on the outside well. We hit a few hiccups along the way, but for the most part, Isabel was easy, and I just went with her flow for the first 18 months of her life.

But now, we're firmly entrenched in toddlerhood, and I am firmly installed at home full-time, at least for the next six months or so, since no public libraries in the area seem at all interested in hiring a newly-graduated-but-pregnant librarian. And toddlerhood? It's not nearly as easy. I have all the normal complaints: I never get to pee alone anymore unless I wait until nap time; reading the same book over and over and over again has me bored out of my mind; the playroom is always a disaster and she never wants to help me pick up her toys; going anywhere has become a huge task; and really, I just want 30 minutes without my little ankle biter so I can make dinner in peace. 

And then, there's the anxieties that almost every mother seems to have, but that most don't necessarily talk about outside the circle of motherhood. Is she talking enough? Does she have enough words? Is she actually acquiring language, or should we get her some early intervention like, yesterday? Is she getting too much screen time? Am I on my phone too much when I'm with her? Is she playing appropriately, learning how to play independently? And socially? Am I getting her out around other children enough? Has she eaten enough today? Were those chicken nuggets healthy enough, because they're the only thing she'll eat a sufficient amount of and she already seems to so thin? Have I put enough sunscreen on her legs? Is SPF 30 ok, because that's what I bought accidentally last time and I can't find the SPF 60 and is that a freckle is she going to have skin cancer when she grows up now and on and on and on.

I actually manage all these questions and anxieties pretty well. We have hard, long days some days, but I'm with her nearly 24/7 and it's manageable working through them on a day-to-day basis and feeling confident in my ability to mother my daughter.

But now, with only 5 weeks to my due date, I'm starting to think about how those early years will go for my second daughter. I'm worried, worried in a way that I was never worried with Isabel. I fear that she will find herself neglected, tucked into a baby carrier and nursed and changed as needed, but not nurtured in the same way Isabel was. Will I sing to her? Will I lie down with her under a play mat and read her Dr. Seuss? Will I stare at her, unable to take my eyes off of the beautiful creature we created and brought into this world? 

I know my relationship to my second daughter will be different. I don't believe there's any way to avoid that. In fact, I think it's important that my relationship with her is different; it is one of the things that will make her different from Isabel, unique in her own way. And, I know that she and I and Mark and Isabel will figure all of this out together when the time comes, that I will continue to go with the flow rather than letting my anxieties get the best of me. But, as the time gets closer, and I begin to face how different her start of life will be from the life I provided for Isabel, I can't help but think and worry and panic over crib hardware.

I found the crib hardware on Wednesday, after two days of worrying about where it might be. It was one of those epiphany moments as I swept around a little IKEA entryway table by our front door. We had never actually unpacked it's little drawer in the move, just loaded the whole piece onto the truck and, sure enough, as I slid open the drawer on a hunch, there was the little baggy, each bolt and washer still safely inside. This weekend Mark and I are having a date day and night, and together, we'll put the crib together, and then maybe go out and pick up some artwork for the baby's room. I will continue to worry, but we will be ready, or at least as ready as one can be for a new life.

Friday, August 12, 2016

It's hot


I've been doing my best not to complain too loudly, but it is definitely time to admit that I am reaching the end of what I can tolerate. But that's the funny thing about heat, right? And weather in general.

It doesn't care what you can tolerate. 

Our new house has no A/C. In the first couple weeks that we moved in, this didn't bother me so much. It's an old house, built in such a way it was meant to withstand harsh Canadian weather. The brick insulates well, holding cool air in. Over the day, it eventually heats up, but cools off nicely at night, once again holding the cool air in for comfortable living conditions. It does, however, require those cool nights. 

22 degrees Celcius is not sufficiently cool.

22 degree Celcius every night for a week is pure hell. 

Add on to the problem that someone sprung the extra cost to get casement windows for our beautiful Victorian semi. Sure, they might be classier. They might be more expensive. They might allow the window to open more completely. But, casement windows won't allow for a cost-effective window A/C unit. I am drowning in sweat and humidity. 

I broke yesterday. It was a Facebook post that caused it. Someone on one of the many mommy groups I've found myself a member of put out a shout-out to all the pregnant moms in the group, struggle through with their little furnaces in this heat. The thread filled up with pregnant woman complaining about the lack of air conditioning in the subway cars on their morning and afternoon commutes, or their inconsiderate husbands who jack their air conditioning up to *gasp* 24 degrees. 

I wanted to punch every single one of those mothers in the face.*

So, I admitted that I couldn't really do it anymore. I complained. A lot. I get no break from the heat, unless I managed to get Isabel and I to a drop-in or the library - which, here in our new city, has proven disappointing time and time again. I'm 30 weeks pregnant. And Isabel is a ball of energy, who only seems bothered by the heat when it's time too sleep. I'm grumpy. So grumpy. I. Can't. Do. It. Anymore. So, Mark texted his brother to see if he had a spare window A/C unit, and while he went off to go pick it up, I rearranged the nursery, which has been a disaster since we moved in. It's one of the only rooms in our house with a sliding window.

And so, here we are. It's nap time. We went to a free drop-in this morning, which was blessedly cool, almost cold, and now she's asleep, and I'm taking refuge in this room too, homemade popsicle in hand, the hum of our borrowed air conditioner a comfort. One little room in our house, an oasis. 




*Not really. They're an amazing group of women and I have appreciated being able to be a part of their community. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Rainy Day in the Play Room

Isabel was eating her grilled cheese sandwich and watermelon lunch when it started to pour. Gone were our plans for the afternoon - a day spent in the wading pool and sandbox in the backyard, perhaps while I made some progress on ripping out the overgrown flowerbeds that surround her grassy backyard play space. I can't complain that our afternoon plans were displaced by rain; we need it, and badly, and I was instantaneously grateful for the rain and the noticeable temperature drop it brought with it. 

We settled in the play room instead. 




This room used to be dark red, and with one tiny window in the corner and a second half moon window in the door, it was incredibly dark and unpleasant to spend much time in. But this room was one of the reasons we bought this house. When we started house hunting, I added a separate play room space to our list of like-to-haves for a new home. In Toronto, we had little space for Isabel's toys. Now in a different housing market, we were looking at much larger houses; a play room just for her was suddenly not out of reach. 

But it was dark. So we painted it.  My parents came to visit for a three day painting extravaganza and, at the end of it, we had a much different room, one Isabel and I certainly don't mind spending time in. We need some art on the walls, maybe, and a bit of a better storage situation for her growing collection of toys, but we will grow well into this room.

And, maybe one day, she'll even learn about the delights of independent play in this room.

(I'm not holding my breath.)


Friday, July 29, 2016

When Motherhood Is Struggle


I have been a full-time stay-at-home mom for two and a half months. Probably, I should wax poetic about how rewarding, how blissful it is to spend days running through fields of wild flowers with my joyful, carefree, clean, and perfectly well-behaved daughter. But, waxing poetic about motherhood would, for me, be one big fat lie.

I actually don't find it difficult at all to openly say that I am not enjoying stay-at-home motherhood. It has its moments, sure, but for the most part, I'm fairly certain that I would feel a lot better about my role in Isabel's life if I were deeply involved in something else. She and I would both be happier if I loaded her up in the car in the morning and dropped her off at someone else's house, or maybe a proper preschool, while I went off to spend my day not thinking about her at all.

I don't feel particularly guilty about how I feel about my life as a stay-at-home mom. I know society tells me I should. But, I strongly believe there are people meant spend their life caring for children, and there are people who won't find such a vocation fulfilling in any way at all. This is no different than the differences between someone who thrives in an environment of hard manual labour, versus someone who finds the greatest amount of happiness and sense of accomplishment behind a computer screen. So, I refuse to bow to society's strong suggestion that I should be guilty for the way I feel about spending my days with my daughter.

Despite my conviction that a job outside our home would be a really good idea for me, and really, our whole family, I know that I'm not exactly in a place to go out and get one. At 28 weeks along, I can't hide the new life I'm harbouring. Employers aren't supposed to discriminate, but what hiring manager in their right mind would hire a woman who's going to need a good chunk of time off in a mere three months?

So, here I am, trying to make the best of something that doesn't come easily to me, with a toddler who has decided that two is a great age to practice a strong willed independence, especially when it comes to sleep, in a town I'm unfamiliar with, far from my support system of mom friends, in a house that does not yet feel like home. I don't want to seem like I'm complaining, but I also want to be honest about where I'm at. I don't want anyone to feel like my life is suddenly filled with Victorian glamour, brimming with nothing but the excitement of the possibilities of a new start in a new city. Things don't feel nearly that bright.

I know I must regularly remind myself to stay positive and optimistic about all this. I know that the months ahead will teach me much - about Isabel, about my new city, about myself - and I plan to do my best to embrace that. I know this is an opportunity to spend time working on myself, developing new habits, fostering skills, embracing the work of motherhood as important and valuable in our family and in society. I am certain that, while it may not come naturally to me, I can find some sort of fulfillment here in this season, even while I look forward to the next.

Together, Isabel and I, and eventually Baby Two will get through this time in our life and come out the other side, all of us a little more grown up, and the better for it.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Little House Tour

We've been in our new house for a week an a half now. Our life is mostly out of its boxes, but nothing is really quite settled in its proper place. I'm not sure if I'll feel like things are settled here for a few weeks yet. It will take scrubbing out a few more rooms, and rearranging the furniture a few more times, I'm sure.

I'm not ready to share my own photos of this house yet, but the photos from the listing aren't half bad and, since the house was more or less empty, they show off some of the details really well. So, this is a bit of a tour to share the inside view of this big Victorian semi.


The house is red brick with green trim, a colour scheme that seems popular in the area. I've speculated that it holds some historical significance, but I have yet to find time to do much research into the characteristics of the area. 


The front entryway, tiled in black and white, with two rooms on each side of its hallway. The room on the left is Isabel's new playroom. The room on the right is the living room. At the end of the hall, it opens to the dining room, and the doorway to the kitchen is on the left.


The formal living room, with an arching view into the dining room.


The dining room, with the first of three beautiful marble fireplaces. All three would have, originally, been coal fireplaces. The one in the play room has been converted to gas, but the other two - this one and the one in the master bedroom - have been decommissioned.


The play room. This is not a large room in comparison to the rest, but it opens into the kitchen, so it's seems like the perfect place for Isabel to play. The previous occupants had the room painted dark red, and the ceiling brown, which felt like an odd choice to me considering the window you see in the upper left corner is the only window in the whole room.

This room is the only room we're changing immediately. I couldn't imagine spending long hours with my daughter in such a dark room, so today we started the job of painting the walls and ceiling, with the help of my mom, who is the best person I know at getting a job done. After a coat of primer and a coat of Benjamin Moore paint (leftover from that time I painted the whole house in Toronto), it looks remarkably different.


We have one more coat of paint on the walls and ceiling to go. Now that it's all looking a little more fresh though, the trim and even the white of the marble fireplace looks a little more dingy than I expected. There is certainly more to do in this room, but painting those walls is certainly a start.


Fridge, dishwasher, sink, stove. Obviously the kitchen. This was the most disappointing room of the whole house. It's cheap. It's old. It's functional, but it's not pretty. But, it is a step up in terms of size from the Toronto house, and it will do for the next few years until we can save the funds we need for a big renovation. There are a few things, like the dishwasher, that may need replacing sooner rather than later, but for now, it's good enough.

On this floor, there is also a (slightly dingy) powder room that will be my next painting project, a cramped laundry area, and a mudroom that leads out to the back yard. When we do our big kitchen renovation, we would also plan to rip out these rooms and rework the layout of this part of the house.

Believe it or not, we're only halfway through this house.


The master bedroom, with the third and last fireplace. I plan to fill it with candles like a proper home design blogger. 

A little explanation about the house is needed from this point on. In March of 2015, there was a minor fire in one of the upstairs rooms. During the sale process, we requested the documentation about that fire. The source of the fire is unclear in the report, but was likely related to a faulty extension cord with too many things plugged into it. The upstairs went through a $100,000 restoration, with many - but not all - of the original details of the house still intact. The fireplace and trim were saved, but the floors hidden beneath new carpet. 


Isabel's room. It's the exact same size as the master, just without the fireplace. Her adjustment to this room has been a bit of a struggle, but that's a different story for a different day.


The baby's room. A little smaller than the other two rooms, but far from small and still full of light. All three of these rooms have nice large closets, which seems luxurious to me, considering many old Toronto homes don't have any built in closets at all. 

There's a fourth room as well, smaller yet than the baby's room. It currently contains a long set of stairs that leads to the attic, which is not finished - despite what they claimed in the listing - but does have a floor. The stairs are rough, likely there for the remediation purposes, and I find it very odd that they chose to leave them there and not include that fourth room in the bedroom count, listing the house instead as a three bedroom home. We plan to remove the stairs fairly soon and outfit the room as a guest bedroom. Perhaps it's not quite fair that our guests get the smallest bedroom, but guests don't live here, right? 

There's also a beautiful walk-in closet right beside the master bedroom.

And then, there's this room.


These days, it's generally unbearably warm, and we don't have any furniture for it, so I'm not sure yet when we'll get a chance to to set it up and actually use it. I'm not even sure what we'll use it for. But, it's a beautiful room, full of light, and I hope we'll put it to some good use eventually.


And, of course, a full four piece bathroom. On the surface, this room looks beautiful. The shower, toilet and floors are new, the claw foot tub is huge and there's a series of shelves beside the shower (just visible in the mirror) that provide a nice amount of storage.

But. The tiles are cheap. The shower head is installed too low. There's plenty of room for a nice vanity, maybe even double sinks, but for some reason, there's only a pedestal sink. There's that weird step up and drop ceiling over the shower. This was a renovation that was done as cheaply as possible, meant to attract a buyer, but does not have much longevity.

And there. That's it! Approximately 2700 square feet of Victorian spaciousness. All of the furniture except for the couch pictured in the entryway was left in the house, so along with some beautiful chandeliers, swooping bannisters, and elegant trim, we got a dining room set, a piano, a dresser, a wardrobe, and a random assortment of lamps and curtains.

I'm not sure the new-to-us furniture helps much in making this place feel like home, but we'll get there, eventually.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Emotional Cost of Starting Over

Today, at their final play date, one of Isabel's best friends squeezed her so tight in a bear hug as we were packing up to leave that she made Isabel cry. At 2, Isabel doesn't understand the ferocity behind her 7-year-old friend's hug. She doesn't understand that they won't be right across the street anymore. She doesn't realize that there won't be any more late afternoon backyard play dates. She doesn't get that she won't get to spend a few hours or a day at their house while her mama runs errands or goes to doctors appointments. Meanwhile, her friend understands perfectly.



**

Last week, I gathered with the moms on our street in a backyard over sangria and hippy juice* and snacks and an ice cream cake that read "Don't Go".



**

Three weeks ago, with some of our church community gathered in our pastor's living room, we witnessed the looks of shock, surprise, maybe even some disappointment as we broke the news. Later, we wrote a simple email to the people on the various committees we served on in that community, spreading the news as needed. We had a chance to speak personally with a few people.

Every announcement, every conversation. It doesn't get easier.

**

On Saturday, we start a new chapter of our life as a family. It's exciting in the way change often is. I'm looking forward to all the good that will come of this.

But.

I am all too aware that, on Saturday, while something new and potentially wonderful is beginning, something just as wonderful and so important to me is ending. Right now, it's hard to see past the ending to the new beginning.


* Virgin for me, of course.