Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pearls and Cowboy Boots

I'm on Pinterest. I use it to catalog the clothes I'd like to buy, places and images into which I like to escape, and great ideas and tips about everything from home organization to crafts for kids.

I've noticed a trend lately that disturbs me: photos of very young children wearing age-inappropriate clothing, with comments from people who think it's adorable. "I have to do this with my kid!" they say. "What a fantastic photo - I wish I'd thought of it!" "So cute!"

These photos aren't pornography. But there is something about them that makes me really, really uncomfortable.

Let's start with this one. This is actually from an etsy site - a woman makes these lace rompers for little girls. Her site has tons of photos like this one - a very young girl wearing the romper equivalent of a lace mini-dress, with pearls and cowboy boots. This baby girl is dressed like a hooker.

This one is from the website of a professional photographer. Some of her children's portraiture examples are indeed adorable. The ones of kids between the ages of 6 and 8 are especially good - she seems to really capture who they are. And then there's this one, which had me asking, "What the hell were you thinking?"

There are others.

It's taken me a while to wrap my head around why these types of photos upset me. I still haven't wrapped my head around it entirely, but I can articulate a few reasons.

1. There is nothing wrong with taking photos of your toddler that show his or her innocence. If those photos involve them not wearing clothes, I don't have a problem with that. But don't post them on public internet sites where people who see something other than their innocence can find them. I've taken photos of Moe in the bath because he's adorable in the bath. But those photos aren't visible to just anyone.

2. Childhood is so fleeting. It goes by so fast. Kids only have that total innocence for a few years - maybe 8 at most. Why on earth would you want to hurry that process? Why wouldn't you want your toddler in overalls and play clothes for as long as possible? After all, there are so many forces out there that want to hurry the process along for you - why would you contribute to that?

I don't know. Am I being unrealistic here?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dear Moe (23 Months)

My dear, sweet boy. What are we going to do with you? In another month, you'll be two years old. In some ways, I can't believe it and in others it feels like you've been two for a long time.

It's been quite a month. Of course, the biggest thing that happened was Christmas, and it was fantastic. It was a crazy few days that involved a LOT of gifts, getting to know and love your extended family, a lot of hard core playing and quite a bit of magic. It was a busy, busy time with a lot of visiting and family dinners, and you did super well. On the first day after the chaos was over, you had a four hour nap, which is a personal record.

You loved playing with Aunt Natalie and Uncle Darin. You enjoyed piling all your cars into their hands until they couldn't hold them all, and then you would knock the cars out of their hands and onto the ground in great glee. You connected really strongly with your cousin Isabel – you even let her colour with you in your colouring book, which at the time was a pretty honking big deal. You had a fantastic time with your Tio Rodrigo, who was always able to make you laugh. But you totally fell in love with Tia Reiko. You learned her name really quickly, and by the end of their visit, you would wake up from a nap or in the morning and call for her. It was very sweet. We were also lucky enough to get a visit from your Grandpa Will, Grandma Anne, Aunt Heather and Uncle David. It was very special to have us all together for the first time. You were showered with love. 

And you were showered with gifts. Santa Claus brought you an awesome toy recycling truck – the same one you love playing with so much at Robin's. It was certainly the hit of the holiday. You also love your new Hot Wheels storage box (you like taking the cars out more than putting the cars in), you've gotten great use out of your new table and chairs and great pleasure out of your new puzzles, and we had a great time test driving your new plasma car in the tunnels at Carleton. You were very excited to receive your new ride on toy (a pirate ship!) from Uncle Mark and Aunt Janine. It's still a little tall for you, so you have been known to sit on your old, smaller ride on car and pull the ship from behind.

Your vocabulary has exploded recently. You babble constantly, and have many new words. “Mommy” is one of your favourites. You love calling for me, and for a while, “Mommy” was your go-to word for whenever you were the least bit unhappy, whether I was around or not. You also say “tiss,” and give me a kiss goodbye through the gate every day. It's the best part of my day. I'll say, “I'm leaving now! Where's my kiss?” and you come running down the hall saying, “Tiss! Tiss!” It's fantastic. (Another of your favourite words is “mine”. This is less fantastic, but perfectly normal, and we continue our work on sharing.)

We've had some wonderful moments together this month. Daddy started a fire in the fireplace one evening, and you liked it so much that the next day you pointed to the empty fireplace and said, “More?” You are your Daddy's son. We've had several fires since, and in fact, ran out of wood. You watched an episode of Little Bear which involved puddle jumping, and started jumping through imaginary puddles in the living room. Aunt Kimmy came by with Caleb and Noah and they gave you a Duplo set of Lightning McQueen and his truck Mac. As you unwrapped the gift, you caught sight of Mac and got so excited. You said, “Ooooh! Oooooh!” and pointed eagerly. It was adorable.

You both gained and lost teeth this month. There were a few days where you were being very difficult. You were easily frustrated, generally cranky, sleeping poorly and not yourself at all. Then suddenly you had eye teeth and it all made sense. Then last week, you got too excited and tripped and fell in the living room and your tooth made contact with a Hot Wheels and it broke. (The tooth, not the car.) It's your left front tooth, and the chip is pretty significant. We're off to the dentist next week to make sure there's nothing to worry about. It's just such a shame – you work so hard to get your teeth and you've already lost one! On the bright side, you look a little bit like Chris Neil.

Baby, I know I say you get sick every month, but holy cow, this month it was bad. One night you woke up with a croupy cough – you sounded like a barking seal. We immediately canceled our plans for the next day and Uncle Mark and Aunt Janine came over for a play date, as croup isn't dangerous to adults. Well, it turns out you had more than croup, and they are lucky they didn't get sick. You had RSV (with a bonus ear infection) and boy, were you prolific. Despite the fact that we kept you out of day care from the moment we saw you weren't well, you managed to give it to three of the kids at day care and Robin. And even though you were already on antibiotics when she took care of you for the day, you gave it to Grandma. You had a terrible fever, a horrible cough (the croupy cough was replaced by a deep, phlegmy cough that came from your toes), and were obviously miserable. You didn't eat for three days. It got difficult to keep you hydrated. (We eventually had to finally let the juice genie out of the bottle – and once it's out, you can't put it back in. So you get juice now, watered down, once a day. And you're pretty happy about it.) 

You are almost back to 100% now, and we're very happy about it. We're looking forward to this next month as your vocabulary continues to grow, you continue to be a sweet, amazing little boy who makes us laugh, fills our hearts, and brightens our days.

Pooks, just after you were born, I sang you a very special song to tell you how happy we were that you had finally come into our lives after so many years of looking for you. This past week, the woman who made that song famous passed away. So today, we listened to it several times and danced together. I'll put the lyrics here. Because they are so, so very true.

At last, my love has come along,
My lonely days are over,
And life is like a song.
Oh, yeah, at last
The skies above are blue.
My heart was wrapped up in clover
The night I looked at you.
I found a dream that I could speak to,
A dream that I can call my own.
I found a thrill to rest my cheek to,
A thrill that I have never known.
Oh, yeah when you smile, you smile,
Oh, and then the spell was cast.
And here we are in heaven,
For you are mine
At last.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

In Soviet Russia, the Play Date Comes to You

So what do you do when your Saturday plans to attend a birthday party are scuppered by a croupy-sounding cough, and you can't play outside because it's -31 degrees Celsius with the windchill?

You invite Uncle Mark and Aunt Janine to come over and play!
(View full screen to read captions.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

It’s a Japanese Thing

I wrote this for Diversity Week at work, and thought I'd share it here, too.

My mother grew up in Kyoto, Japan, and my father grew up in Montreal West. My mom came to North America in 1969. For a long time, I didn’t think I was terribly connected to my Japanese heritage. But I have found that cultural heritage isn’t something with which you deliberately connect - it’s more something that kind of seeps into your life. And now that I think about it, my Japanese heritage has done just that.

My kitchen is full of Japanese things. For example, both my sister and I have a suribachi in our kitchens. It’s a special grooved bowl used for grinding things. We use it mainly for sesame seeds, and we can’t live without it. It is, we explain, a Japanese thing. Which is what we also say when people ask about the chopstick we keep by our toasters. We use chopsticks all the time – for cooking, eating, and fishing toast out of the toaster.

When we got married, I wanted to include some kind of acknowledgement of my Japanese heritage into the event. So I totally lost my mind and folded 1000 origami paper cranes, which served as decorations. (Full disclosure – I got help from friends.)  “Why on earth are you doing that?” people asked. “It’s a Japanese thing,” I’d explain.

There’s something extra comforting about Japanese rice. It’s warm and sticky and reminds me of dinners at home with my mom. And I’m happiest when I can put furikake on it. Furikake is a dry Japanese condiment that has been used to entice generations of Japanese kids to eat their rice. I’m 33 and I still love it. When my husband was reluctant to let me put it on Moe's rice, because he didn’t want him to become “furikake dependent” like his mother, I said, “Too bad. It’s a Japanese thing.”

Every December, we attend the Mochitsuki, a traditional Japanese rice-pounding festival. We have attended the one organized by the Ottawa Japanese Community Association and Cultural Centre for years. (Ironically, it’s always held at an Italian soccer club.)  We really enjoy bringing our friends to give them a taste of Japan – both the food (mochi, udon soup, sushi) and the culture (music and dance, taiko drumming). It’s a Japanese thing, we tell them.

This past December, we brought Moe to the Mochitsuki. He’d come with us the year before, but was just a tiny baby in a baby carrier. This was the first year that he could really take it all in. We all had a wonderful time, and I was surprised by how emotional I was watching him experience his Granny’s culture in this huge community setting. It was pretty magical.

I’m look forward to introducing him to lots of Japanese things.

Monday, January 2, 2012

I Have a Toddler

This is the answer I give most frequently to questions people ask me.

"Why are your jacket pockets filled with used Kleenex?"
"Why is there a Hot Wheels in your purse?"
"Why on earth would you spend $10.00 on green seedless grapes in January?"

I have a toddler.

"How is it that at least one member of your family has had a runny nose since September?"
"Why on earth would you have to hide in the kitchen to eat something?"
"Wait, you go to bed at 9pm?"

I have a toddler.

But I also know the exquisite feeling of being the only person on the planet capable of consoling someone. And I have felt the sense of accomplishment that comes with teaching a child how to calm himself down. And I know how fantastic it is when a small person who does not do anything he doesn't want to do suddenly and spontaneously gives you a hug.

Because I have a toddler.