Thursday, October 27, 2011

Come celebrate our maturity

I first noticed it on the entertainment pages of CNN. I keep up with showbizz, because I work with teens, and whether we want to admit it or not, current culture has a huge influence on them. Since we can't lock them up, it's better to teach them to interpret and put things in a context of values. But I was not sure how to approach this. Some rock star was holding a party to celebrate his divorce. With his ex wife. They were divorcing and a number of friends were invited to join in the celebration of how they wished one another well in the next part of their lives and how they would always work together for the good of their children. So many people in the comments were indeed congratulating them, sincerely, on how responsible they were, and how happy they were to see such good examples. I do not remember who that first star was, but then I found it happening again. And again. Divorce parties and amicable split ups with people saying how wonderful their now ex partner is, are in.
And not just with celebrities. I have seen several acquaintances recently who in one sentence announce their divorce or split with the father of their children and in the same breath assure us that everything is wonderful and that they are dealing with this like mature adults who like eachother and want the best for the other and for their children. And children want their parents to be happy of course!

Really? Have you ever tried to finish something, a book, a chore, a bit of work, while your child wants you to refill their juice or read a book for the fiftieth time? Toddlers don't care about your happiness, unless it affects them. They are not supposed to worry about your happiness, but you about theirs. When they grow and become more mature, they are supposed to grow in care for others. Because care and self sacrifice is what they have seen modeled all their lives before them. The problem is that this generation of children has not seen that modeled to them. They learn the lesson early that if something makes you unhappy it is your responsibility to change it, no matter how it affects others.

People who divorce, especially amicably, quite often say that it would be a horrible thing to 'live a lie' in front of their children. The implication of course is that 'pretending that they still love their partner' would be the lie. It sounds so rational. So good. We do not want people to lie. Lying is bad. Your life however would only be a lie if love is only a feeling. Even when you do not feel in love anymore, love can be a decision. You have given your word to love that person. That doesn't mean you will feel deliriously romantic every day. It is hard to feel deliriously romantic, serene and blissfully happy when you have mashed banana in your hair, when your spouse came home late after a hard day while you were counting the minutes, and when he doesn't get the fact that you just threw him a 'look' that should have said everything. You were biting your tongue and he didn't even notice. Or your job takes you each away from home every day, and between getting your child out of daycare, off to music class and soccer practice, you barely had a chance for a conversation and when you have it is ackward because you just don't know what to say to each other anymore. You just.. drifted apart and it is all good. Clearly this wasn't meant to be, so let's celebrate that you are good and responsible adults who do not try to kill each other , and move along. After all, it is better than 'lying' to everyone and pretend that you still are in love.

But love is not an emotion. It is a decision. A choice. Divorce is the lie. You make a lie out of the vows you have made and you tell your children that nothing anybody says can ever be trusted. After all, if even words said as solemn as we can say anything, with money spend even to make the occasion as memorable as it could, with people to witness them and photographs to keep the moment saved for eternity, if even those words can not be trusted, what can? If lives can be uprooted, not because of horrible situations, but because people have 'grown apart' or 'are no longer in love' and are 'no longer happy', then what can we not sacrifice for our own happiness?

Divorce, even divorce of people who were never formally wed but bound themselves to each other through children, teaches everyone around us that there is nothing that we can hold on to, and nothing that is more important than how we feel. We, and our own feelings, are the center of the universe. We are victims of our feelings. We can not help them, train them, or put them in their place. Which means that if I am angry, I have the right to lash out, to become violent, because that is how I feel. If someone does something, I have the right to laugh at him, and make him feel stupid, or to be rude to them. Because I feel he is stupid and to pretend otherwise would be a lie. In laying off the restraint that generations have put on feelings, not to suppress them as unworthy, but to channel them into something better, we become in contrast of the maturity that is proclaimed, as immature as the toddler who did not want to let us finish anything, until his own happiness was secured, by way of a refilled juice or a book, or whatever he desired at that point.

In divorce, without the grounds of adultery or abuse, we have reduced our maturity to the immaturity of a child, and we reduce the chance of our children to grow up with the knowledge that maturity is a matter of growing in happiness, not by the immediate gratification of our wishes, but by the channeling of our feelings into becoming better human beings.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Anatomy of a work out

The last two/ three months has seen me in the remarkable endeavour of actually building up a work out routine. While I love yoga, and other work outs, I found out that they just don't fit in our day to day routine. Not even the dvd version at home. My husband works out as well, and since he works out after the children go to bed, it would be nearly 11 pm before I could start. And that is not going to happen. Or I should get up earlier. Which is also not going to happen.All of a sudden I remembered that we have a treadmill upstairs that I used quite a bit before I got pregnant with Michael, and we found that while the children watched television in the evening, it was a perfect time for me to go upstairs and let dada watch the boys.

When I decided to start using the treadmill, I am not sure who thought I would hang in there. I am better at starting up routines than in sticking to them. I didn't have much faith in myself to be honest, so I decided not to buy anything for the work out (like those fancy new work out clothes that you always buy to motivate you and that then hang in your closet mocking you when you don't keep up three weeks later.). My only pair of running shoes/ sneakers however was so small it pinched my toes whenever I tried to wear them. So I spend the first three weeks running on the treadmill in a pair of target bedroom slippers. Like ballet slippers, but just with cloth instead of that leather sole. Not ideal, but after I had literally ran a hole in those slippers and could not run anymore due to treadmill burn on the bottom of my feet, I actually bought a pair of running shoes.
With a few breaks due to illnes or injury, I have kept it up, first adding to the incline until that was at maximum level, and now adding to speed. While I would definitely not think of myself as a runner, I love the way I can compete with the numbers on the treadmill, plus it is a chance to catch up on some television. I bribe myself: you can either sit here and watch the same episode of Barney with the children for the 300th time, or you can go upstairs and watch Inspctor Lewis. Or the Mentalist. So I go upstairs, put the television on. Put the treadmill on and start. And then my Inner Voice (IV) takes over.

IV: I don't feel that great, so I will just do 15 minutes.
IV after 7 minutes: I hate this. Seriously, I did 500 calories yesterday, I could take an evening off.
IV after 15 minutes: Oh, look, I am almost at the one mile mark, just add a few more minutes then I did one mile.
IV at 17 minutes: hey, I am at 223 calories, let's see if I can make it to 250.
IV at 20 minutes: hmm... I think the base speed is working pretty well. Lets's see if I can do some running, just for a bit, then I will stop after that.
IV after running: Hey, that brought me close to a mile and a half.. let's go for it.
IV at 25 minutes: oh, it would be silly to stop now. I'm at 370 calories. A little bit further and I can get to close to 450. 450 is a decent work out.
IV at 29 minutes: Oh.. *pant, pant* I am not sure I can do this. But loo... look... I am over 460. Seriously.. you know what would be really cool? If I can make it to 500 calories.
IV at 33 minutes: *pant.. pant* come on. You can do this. You can get past your previous numbers. Just a bit more.
IV at 35: Oh help.. it's past 9 pm. Time to help Bill take the children to bed. Cool down.
IV at 37 minutes: wow, I did 517 calories in 37 minutes. This is great. Can't wait to try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Years ago, I participated frequently on a large Christian message board, mostly in the Catholic section. One of the things I loved was the C.C.C. (pun intended): the club of creative Catholics.
We shared our attempts, finishes and ideas for craft, sewing, knitting, embroidery and other creative projects and encouraged each other. While many people appreciate a nicely made handmade object, few who do not craft know the work and love that goes in them.
One of the hardest things when my children are small is that I have to completely abandon all creative pursuits in exchange for bare survival. In my favorite embroidery magazine, I regularly read features of women who embroidered complete baptismal gowns or large projects just after their children are born. I wonder if these are magical super women or if they have been blessed with easy children. Breastfeeding, putting a semi healthy meal together and making sure we are not smothered by the mess in the house is the only thing I can manage those first 6 months to a year. It's therefor always a joy when finally I can start my needlework again and make beauty.

Here are two recent finishes, each different from the other:

Saint Michael: A saint softie to be send to my Godchild:

I made this one based on this cute little angel doll. I would love to send you to the blog where I found the original pattern, which actually is a blog I follow regularly, but my brain has clicked out and I just can't find it. I will attribute correctly later.

A wedding handkerchief for a dear friend of mine:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oh joyous day!

I have been looking forward to this moment from before the day my children were born. And today it was here. Joseph read his first book! Hurray! A little phonics book about Thomas the tank engine was my son's gateway into reading. The words are simple and of course few. Jam. Stop. Happy. Thomas. And. Very simple, very easy. But it is his first book! The first time he actually read something. I wish now we had taken a picture.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Groter Groeien is the title of a Cd by Elly & Rikkert that the amazing Viola deBijl-Parent send us for Joseph's birthday. This week, I was reminded how big my boys are getting.
Joseph managed to do a shirt button all by himself today. He likes to wear button shirts. I may have had something to do with that. I call them his 'handsome button shirts'. I can't help myself. I don't have a girl, so button shirts are my Sartorial outlet! And he DOES look so handsome in them. I hereby promise myself to let him develop his own style once he is a teenager. (hopefully by that time I have him so indoctrinated that he will chose button shirts by himself. ahum.).

And earlier this week I had a first real 'question and understandbale answer' with Michael. I asked him if he wanted to go inside. He looked at me and made some sounds. I asked him inside, or outside? To which he very self assuredly replied to me "ousside!" YAY! Communication! Verbal communication! Of course he already had been using several words. " Mama" only came a month ago, well behind the names of several Thomas the tank engine trains! And then there is "juuss" (juice) and "Soy" (Soy milk) of which he can make it perfectly clear that he prefers those in his cup to water. You should see the temper tantrums he can throw when I put water in his cup. (I still do. Tantrums do not solve anything. If you do not want to drink water, you are not thirsty.)

I love seeing them develop. I love seeing them add more skills. I love getting my brain back. And, can I say, once more, how much I LOVE to see my boys getting older and bigger. I know I will miss year three.. and four one day. Yes, it is exhausting, but it is so sweet too.

I doubt I will EVER miss that first year, or in Michael's case that first year and a half, no matter what anyone says. That is one thing I have learned from having a second baby. When I had Joseph, a lot of people said, when I complained about the fact that he just did not sleep, that this was normal. This was just what babies did. And they implied that I was just exagerating what every other parent went through as well. I looked at blogs of people who had a baby of the same age and they got things done. They did stuff with their family. And they did not sound like a raving lunatic. What was wrong with me? Why could they get it together and I not?
Having had Michael, I realized that he slept like a normal baby: good nights, bad nights, but after a few months, he did not wake up every 90 minutes during the night. Michael slept like a normal baby. Joseph didn't. But Michael had colick. Screaming for hours for the first 4 months. Then he had digestive troubles. Screaming for hours for another 2 months. Then he started cutting teeth. And having a really, really hard time with every tooth. Screaming for hours. I hung on by the skin of my teeth.

And now... we are past that. Sure, there are teeth still to come, but we are on to molars and we have long breaks between the screaming days. Sure having an 18 months who is starting to learn he can not get everything he wants is not always easy, but we are back to 'normal' whatever that may mean.
Apparently that first year in our family is just about survival. I've had two very high needs babies, and I do not need to compare myself with people who have a much more easy going child. In fact, I do not need to compare myself with anyone. We did survive. Sure, it wasn't always joyously (I defy anyone to be joyous after three hours of screaming) But now we are just a normal family with two busy boys finding their way. One of them who can almost completely dress himself. Button shirts and all!