Scent of a Woman

 

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They say scent is the most powerful memory trigger. Today I was faced with this very trigger, seemingly randomly. While taking a stroll with my dog, I walked by this old building turned antique auction house. Somebody from inside called to me and said ‘Hey, I have something for you’. I said ‘Oh?’ and followed him (maybe against my better judgement, but I live in a small town). The man had some dog treats for my dog, which basically meant he was my dogs best friend now.

Still, as I entered this old building, I was hit by this peculiar scent. I immediately thought of my Mamagan (my maternal grandmother). How to describe this scent? Thinking of it logically, it was the smell of cigarettes and dated furniture. Maybe an old wood drenched in the scent of cigarettes, really. But actually, when I smelled this scent, I didn’t think of it as wood/cigarette smell. I thought of My Mamagan and her house. My Mamagan’s house was this little cottage-like home wrapped in wooden shingles and, from what I remember, a lot of wooden furniture and accents. Plus, as the other scent would suggest, she smoked. A lot. Of course this antique auction building is filled with all such furniture. Old furniture and a man who likes to smoke and give treats to the neighbourhood dogs.

I left this encounter thinking of the correlation between scent and memory. I was taken back to that home my Mamagan lived in that seemed to be a castle to me as a child. I’m sure, though, that it was not much bigger than a few rooms. I always found that place to be so magical, with it’s nooks and crannies. The kicker to all of this is that, not only is that house long gone (burned down in a fire years after we moved away), but my Mamagan has also been gone for over 18 years.

That such a specific scent (despite sounding so unpleasant) can bring back these vivid memories of a period of time. Stuck in time with this scent that cannot be bottled or easily recreated, but every once in a while appears out of nowhere, just as quickly fading away as if it never was.

Things I Didn’t Do Before Having A Baby

Parenthood has been interesting. As this human grew inside of me and then proceeded to grow outside of me, I began to take on new characteristics myself. Some of them mundane, some hilarious, and some down right disgusting!
Here are a few things I’ve noticed (perhaps you can relate?!):

– Leaving the house with baby is a production. It’s no longer throwing on some shoes and running out the door. It’s also Murphy’s law that an impromptu diaper change will need to happen once everyone is dressed and ready to head out.

– Every time I leave the house without baby (read: rarely), I’ve developed a rocking motion while standing still. Oh, also, I sing and talk to myself now. Every. Time.

– I pee with the door open. I never did this before, but it became necessary with baby crawling around. The other day, however, she was at daycare and I realized I left the door open anyway. My dog just stared at me. I swear he was judging me.

– When I go to the mall (read: rarely), I find myself shopping for baby things more than myself. I think I’m just procrastinating, because, let’s be honest, my child doesn’t need any more clothes!

– I dance, jiggle, crawl on my hands and knees, and make more faces than ever before.

– I’ll just put this out there: diaper sniff test…

– I’m always distracted and often repeat myself

– When I go into cupboards or fridge doors, I shut them really quickly so little wandering hands don’t start unpacking everything. Even when she’s not around.

– That being said, everything needs to be on a higher shelf. Think it’s high enough? She’ll grow and stretch and inevitably reach it.

– I’m always distracted and often repeat myself…Oh, wait…

Self

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This has been a difficult year for me. Since being pregnant and being a new mother, I’ve struggled to balance my need for independence with the total dependence of a new baby. Some days it is very clear to me how fleeting this experience is, but most days I am filled with doubt, self-analyzing, and insecurities.
You see, being a mother has not been a lifelong goal for me. I don’t think I ever fully comprehended how all-encompassing it would be. I definitely thought I would easily birth this child and then swiftly get on with ‘my’ life (baby in toe, of course). It simply wasn’t that easy. And I struggled with this new reality.
I struggled because all of a sudden ‘my’ life had new meaning and priorities. Sometimes ‘my’ days were spent engrossed in changing quite literally 15 diapers per day. I’ve spent hours sitting, nursing my baby, every 2 hours for the first 5 months. I would spend most days in an utter daze due to lack of sleep, or I would be rocking my crying baby while crying myself, in sheer exhaustion. In those moments, it seemed like I would be in babyhood forever. I really did wonder why I chose this for myself.
Now my baby is 10 months old, and I am beginning to see through the fog. We have found a great daycare that she will start part-time. I am finally seeing myself as a separate identity from my child…and this scares me.
She is weaning from me, physically and figuratively. While she still wants me, she no longer needs me every second of the day. It means this very intense, intimate, attached year is coming to an end and we both have an opportunity to find ourselves. She will have a whole life at daycare that I won’t even see. I will have some time to build my career ( whatever that looks like).
My life is forever changed, but truly for the better. I’ve struggled with my identity, and still do, as I evaluate and re-evaluate my self-worth. My identity is neither tied to my career nor my motherhood alone, but strikes some impossible balance where I find myself.
As I write this now, I have my precious baby cradled in my bosom for a nap. I’ve finally come to cherish these moments where we are as close as humanly possible. I’m aware of how quickly life changes and am trying to absorb every second.

Time

There exists an alternate space in time that you only discover when you are a parent. A time where life speeds up. You literally blink for a second and find that your child has grown to twice her size.
‘How long have I been sleeping?’

Suddenly your time is not your own. Each month and year is invisibly marked BB (Before baby), or PB (Post Baby).

It’s like life sped up and you remained in one place, not feeling like you’ve aged.
But how can you not age, when this little human has grown so much?
Gaining aptitudes, personality, and attributes that literally did not exist 1 year ago.
As my baby ages, I continue to be baffled when I look at photos from this time last year.
‘Whoa. Where did that time go?’
How does a little person grow so much in so little time, and I didn’t even notice a thing?
2015 was a year totally and utterly consumed by this human.
Other things happened, sure, but they all ultimately came back to this one person. I carried, birthed, cared for and nursed her as my prime objective in life.
I will never have a year like this one again. With it’s pain, learning curves, worry and joy.

I’m not sure I’d want to relive it, exactly. But I wouldn’t mind if time would stop playing it’s silly games on me.

What if

As Christmas nears
This year much more quickly than the last
It’s hard to get into the spirit
Somehow the world seems upside down
So close, yet so far, from so much sorrow the world over.
Feeling my privileged guilt
That I’m not supposed to feel
Or that I can feel but must follow with some action.
Yet I feel frozen into inaction.
Overwhelmed by all the need.
As though I can’t focus on every need,
And so I focus on none.
What if I fundraised?
What if I donated?
What if I gave some time?
What if I dedicated my life to activism?
But yet the fear of somehow abusing my privilege has me frozen once more.
I fear screwing things up with good intentions.
The self-righteous saviour.
But won’t I look back and wish I had done more?
No one knows that I am frozen due to too much caring (whatever that means).
What will be remembered is how we acted in these times (or didn’t act)
While others suffered so.

While others suffered so
And I’m frozen in inaction.
Compassion overload, compassion exhaustion.
And I haven’t even gotten started yet.

Memories

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Playing Piano with Nana

What defines a memory for a child?
Is it just the things that the child can recount or remember?
I choose to think it also includes experiences, moments and activities of all kinds.
Like my child is a piece of dough that is kneaded, formed and sculpted with every touch.
Are we not all a result of the many years of experiences we’ve had, remembered clearly or not?
Why play with a child, if that toy will not be remembered?
Why chatter endless conversations with your toddler, answering ‘why? why? why?’, if those conversations won’t be saved into long term memory?
Why read that book, again and again, until you’ve saved it to memory?
Because, I think, experience and character is formed in many ways, and when you’re young, memory isn’t even the most important one.
How will your child know the world, and the people in it?

How does your child grow, learn, explore and experience, if not by a million tiny moments that are both immediately forgotten and yet remembered forever.

Jet lagged baby: 6 days in

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We’ve been home from Thailand for 6 days, and I think we have finally overcome (the worst of the) jet lag with the baby. It seems that Westbound was even more difficult than going East (which took about 4 days).
With a baby as young as 8 months, it really isn’t possible to do anything differently but let her sleep when she needs to. There’s no keeping her up a few more hours so she meets her regular bedtime. There’s no waking her up at a particular time without epic tears. There’s no reasoning, and daylight doesn’t seem to influence her.
So, we’ve been going with the flow.
As we’re staying at my parents house (re: we sold our house and have nowhere else to go), we holed ourselves in a hotel for the first two nights to avoid major disruption.

Night 1: Absolutely no change from our Asia schedule. We were awake all night and had breakfast at the hotel restaurant in time for ‘bed’ at 7am. Then we slept ALL day, waking up around 5pm for dinner.

Night 2: When we got back from dinner, we slept again, hoping our exhaustion would allow us to sleep through. We were mostly right, but Evey was up for the day at 3am.

Night 3: Back at my parent’s place, Evey went to sleep at 3pm. This was fine, except she then woke up from 10pm – midnight (Chris’ shift), then again 2am – 4am (my shift). She then slept until 6am, and was up for the day.

Night 4: Back to bed at 4pm, with a wake up from 11pm – 2am (Chris’ shift). She slept until 6am. Despite the long shift awake, we start to feel she is getting back on track!

Night 5: This might have been the toughest daytime. Evey had many meltdowns and inconsolable tears. This is either a result of the jet lag and not sleeping properly, or teething, or both! We tried to push her bedtime to 5pm, but it was hard earned as she had a fit and cried alot. I didn’t even manage to get her into her PJ’s, just straight to bed. She woke up for about 30 minutes at 3am. We thought she might stay up at this point, but then slept until 7am. Consider this a huge success!

We’ll see if we are back on schedule now. Evey generally is a very scheduled child, and even in Thailand she took to her home schedule once she adjusted to the time change. The last 6 days have been very hard for all of us, with a combination of sleep deprivation and a frustrated baby. It really does make me think twice about travelling that kind of distance again! But we seem to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s hoping tonight will continue to follow a more ‘normal’ schedule.

A Few Home Comforts

Now that we’re home from Thailand, we’re realizing that there were a few things that we were missing from home (aside from the obvious things like family and friends!). They are the simplest things, but we are relishing having them again. Here is a list in no particular order:

– a soft bed: beds all over Asia are typically quite hard. We got used to them, but must admit it is nice to be back in the land of pillow top!

– Peanut butter: We are unashamedly peanut butter and toast eaters. We didn’t find this is Thai restaurants, and only got to indulge when we stayed with my cousin for a few days.

– Coffee with cream: Most places we visited had creamer, and only occasionally milk. Chris is more of a cream drinker, so he is happy to have that again.

– Paying for things with debit: few places we encountered in Thailand were equipped to accept Visa or Debit aside from hotels. Carrying cash and being aware of cash flow became necessary, which we aren’t used to anymore in Canada!

– Seasons: Ok, we weren’t away long enough to see a change, but it was hot in Thailand and doesn’t get much cooler. Ever. We came to appreciate the varied seasons we have in Canada, even if it does hover in the cold longer than we’d like.

– Napkins: Many restaurants had either very small Napkins or simply toilet paper for Napkins. I found myself using tons of little pieces to clean up. It’s just nice to have full-size Napkins again. (Seriously, the little things!)

– High chairs for baby: I’ve mentioned this before, but high chairs are seldomly found in average restaurants around Thailand. This means eating with a baby on your lap, or trading-off who gets to eat while the other entertains baby.

That said, we’ve come back to Canada in December. In Montreal it is on average 8 degrees right now, and we are wholly underdressed for the weather. I can tell you the first thing we are missing from Thailand is the ability to go to breakfast in flip flops and shorts! Also, our breakfast at the airport hotel this morning cost more than a whole day worth of food in Thailand.
So, we win some and we lose some!

I Chew This

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Chew, chew, chew
Num, num, num
Teething baby chews.
Baby chews bottle
Baby chews straw
Baby leaves scratches all over Mummy’s sunglasses.
Chew, chew, chew
Drool, drool, drool
Stickers? Baby eats them.
Tablet? Baby mouths it.
Fingers? Take a chomp on those.

3 teeth all at once.
Chew, chew, chew.