Sunday, 25 March 2007

If You Chance to Meet a Frown...

Have you ever had one of those days where all you feel like is crying? I know (as a woman) I have definitely experienced moments when the tears flow silently down my cheeks and I couldn't tell you why. I know many of my girlfriends know those kind of days. Perhaps it's because women are emotionally tuned in a little more, and so are susceptible to the sadness that exists around us.

I also think that children, and babies, are open to the same levels of emotion. My mother has told me of when I was a baby and my father had to leave for an extended work assignment overseas. She was understandably feeling down. Then she picked me up for comfort, and although I was usually a wiggly baby, let her just hold me. My mother says I knew that she needed that hug.

The other day Colin woke up from his nap in tears, and the tears just kept flowing. He wasn't screaming or upset, just sad. He didn't want to be held, didn't need a bottle, wouldn't be comforted by his favourite toy. Even sitting with me at the piano wouldn't ease the tears. He moped about for a few hours, through dinner, and until bedtime. I changed him into his pajamas, read a book as teardrops fell on the pages, then sang a few lullabies before setting him down in his crib. He was asleep in minutes.

Normally during these "sad" moments, I sing a little song I learned in primary, at church when I was young. This is a great remedy for the baby who has the blues:
If you chance to meet a frown
Do not let it stay,
Simply turn it upside down
And smile that frown away.

No one likes a frowning face
Change it for a smile.
Make the world a better place
By smiling all the while.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Being under the microscope

Last week Colin and I participated in a study on infant stress by the University of Toronto. Two researchers visited our home to observe us in our natural habitat, taking saliva samples every half hour or so, for about two hours. I volunteered for the study because I feel it is important to support developing research. We would never have all the advantages we have today if not for the pioneering men and women pursuing their ideas.

I hadn't given the process much thought - they made it sound very casual during their presentation. However, as soon as they arrived and pulled out their note-filled books and began furiously scratching away in them, I suddenly felt a little nervous. They had already visited hundreds of homes and seen many mothers interacting with their children. How do my own parenting skills stack up? Should I devote every minute of the two hours to playing with Colin? This, of course, is unrealistic of our daily schedule, as I'm also in charge of the cooking, cleaning, shopping, mending, not to mention preparing for the classes I teach and other obligations. After half an hour of reading and playing (which, to be fair, Colin and I do a lot of during the day), I realized that if I didn't start to plan next week's menu, I wouldn't be ready to do the grocery shopping. So I reluctantly pulled out my cookbooks and set myself up next to Colin.

At one point I needed to grab a piece of paper to make the shopping list. Normally I would just grab it from the next room. We're in a two bedroom apartment - I'm never far from Colin. But as I ducked out for the 4 seconds it took to get the paper, a wave of guilt passed over me. Do the researchers think I just leave him by himself all the time?

Of course, many of these feelings were a) natural for the situation and b) not ones to be worried over. But the experience did open my eyes to how I do spend each minute of the day. How much time do I give to Colin? How do I organize my priorities? How important is it that the floor gets swept every day, or the laundry is kept up with, or the toys are always tidied?

Each time I smother Colin with hugs and kisses, I remember that in not too many years he'll start to resist such blatant expressions of love, but that he needs to know he is loved. Each time he picks up a book to read to himself, I think of the habits he is already developing. Each time he stops to study some ordinary object in the house and spends time trying to figure out how it works, I realize I need to feed this curiosity. And each time he 'interrupts' my piano practice I consider his emerging creativity.

All in all, being under the microscope wasn't so bad. I've only been a mother for 15 months and I can't expect to be perfect at it yet. We are given weaknesses so that we can become strong. These opportunities help me to examine myself and improve every day. I've got a long way to go, but as the saying goes, I'll get there one step at a time.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Little Social Butterfly

I started taking Colin to our local Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) this week. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it is a free program provided by the Ontario government. They are places for children ages 0-6 and their parents can gather to socialize and play. They run singing time, snack time, and even provide lunch a few days a week. They also hold parental information workshops and organize other events for families. There are specialized things like hearing programs, speech development, doctors, and more. It is such a fantastic resource to have.

Because Colin is an only child and is not attending daycare, we want him to have the opportunity to socialize with other children. OEYC is perfect for this. So off we went on Monday to see how it would go.

Hmmm. Put Colin in a room with children and adults ready to be a willing audience for him. He loved it. He has never had any type of "separation anxiety" whatsoever. In fact, I have to worry more about him walking off with a stranger! No sooner had we stepped foot in the door than off he went to discover new toys, explore new rooms, and meet new friends. The younger infants tolerated his stubborn interest in whatever toy they were playing with; the older children seemed drawn to his happy demeanor; the parents were taken in by his infectious smile and laugh. He is just a happy kid.

I met an interesting woman there. She has a beautiful little girl named Billie, the same age as Colin. One's first impression of this woman might include adjectives like "biker-chic", or "80's party-girl". She seems a little rough around the edges and maybe a little life-worn, and she is older than most other mothers. She doesn't seem approachable at first, but has a kind smile if you say hello. I knew her from a distance from a Baby Club I attended during Colin's first year. So I wandered over to say hello. We struck up a conversation around our kids (as you can imagine, most conversations at these places are about our children!) and eventually came to the subject of daycare. I haven't met many mothers who are staying home to raise children like I am. Many of the adults at these places are babysitters or grandparents. But when I asked this woman if she was heading back to work, she resolutely said "I brought this child into the world. I figure I should be the one to raise her."

I wish all mothers could see the value of these words. I know there are parents who are in situations that prevent them from staying home, but these days so many women head back to work either to make more money, or for the escape. I can't understand how another person feels, and I make no judgment of their decisions. I am not in their shoes. But I know how important it is for children to have positive role models in their lives on a daily basis. I know how important the first years of their lives are in forming who they will become. I know the invaluable learning that takes place.

I am grateful I can stay home with Colin. I am grateful for the music talent I have that allows me to work at home. I am grateful for my husband's good job that gives us the financial freedom so I don't have to have a full-time job. I am grateful for his understanding and humility, that he doesn't need things, the bigger car, the house. I am grateful for our little family, and I hope I can spend each day giving everything I have of myself to my family.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

It's quiet...

It's quiet...

Colin is exhausted from a busy Friday and Saturday and hasn't made a peep in over an hour. James hit the sack before Colin. I could be sleeping - I should be sleeping - but I can't resist the quiet.

It's quiet...and I can be alone with my thoughts.
It's quiet...and I can read intently.
It's quiet...and I can ponder and formulate my ideas here.
It's quiet...and I can just sit.

There is nothing like the joy I feel from our bustling home: Colin's squeals of laughter filling the air as James catches up with the bills while I'm trying to make both lunch and dinner at the same time. The phone rings as friends and family stay in touch. There are some TV programs James and I like to enjoy together. And it's a rare moment that music of some sort isn't setting a happy mood.

But right now it's quiet...and I'm enjoying it. I'm exhausted but I can't peel myself away to bed. I want to write, and then read, and then peruse a cookbook for a new meal idea. I want to take a bath or play the piano (if I could play without disturbing the house). I want to start a new project (I have an idea already for Colin's homemade Christmas gift). I want to get a head start on next week's Sunday School readings. I want to sit in my big blue chair with Cleo, our cat, on my lap. I want to stand out on the balcony and stare at the reflection of the moon on the lake. I want to breathe in the cold, refreshing air. I want to stop the clocks and experience the silent energy.

It's quiet...and it's beautiful.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Shakespeare? Mozart?

Okay, perhaps I'm aiming a little high with these famous historic artists, but it's fun to watch Colin and wonder what he'll be like as his personality develops.

He loves to read. Put him in front of a toy and he's bored in 30 seconds. Give him a book and he'll sit for a good five minutes. Read him a book and he'll sit with you for half an hour. Every day we read books together. Often I read it first and he flips the pages, and then we go back and he "reads" it to me. Of course his babble doesn't sound like anything to me, but if you watch him you can tell that he's imitating the idea of making sounds for each page. He studies the pictures and follows if you point at the words. So many times I'll wonder why I don't hear any sound from his corner anymore and when I turn around he's sitting quietly flipping the pages of a book.

He also loves the piano, which seems only natural. James and I are both very musical. He's been listening to me play the piano since conception. When he was newborn, I could roll his stroller up next to the piano and he'd lie for an hour just listening to me play. When he turned about 5 or 6 months I'd sit him in my lap and play and sing children's songs for him. By 7 or 8 months he would put his hands on the piano and play between my fingers. When he learned to crawl, no matter where he was in the apartment, if I began to play even a few notes on the piano he'd come racing into the room and pull himself up to the keys. At a year, he would sit by himself to play. Now he pushes my hands aside if I attempt to contribute to his Sonatas!

I have realized as I watch him that he is truly absorbing everything around him. Most of you know our house is always filled with music. In terms of reading, well, currently I have 8 books sitting on my night table (1 fiction, 1 biography, 1 non-fiction, 1 magazine, 1 behavioural guide, 1 daily spiritual thought collection, 1 anecdotal book and 1 journal). I realize just how careful we need to be in the examples we set for him. He's this little sponge and I want to make sure he soaks up all that is good in the world.

I'm excited to see how these early interests develop, if at all. People always ask if I'll teach him the piano. Of course, I reply, if he shows interest. I certainly don't want to push it on him. But I do hope both these interests become passions for him, as they are for me. How exciting it would be to share these with my son!

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

All in a Day's Fun

Trouble with TP.

Who me?

Monday, 5 March 2007

The Oldest Child

Being an oldest child myself, I am thankful to have some insight into the common personality traits that manifest in the first-born of a family. We are leaders (we want everyone to do as we say), we like to be in control (we want everyone to do as we say) and we like to help others in their tasks (we want everyone to do as we do).

Okay, these qualities can also have very positive results as well. One that has shown up strongly in Colin is that he does everything full steam ahead. He has tended to develop his skills a little later than most toddlers, but once he catches on, watch out. He hadn't been walking at all, so I decided to set him in front of a little lawnmower toy. It is designed so that a toddler can hold onto a bar and use it as a walker. I put the toy in the hall and sat Colin in front of it. He looked at it for a second, then promptly pulled himself up and started running! No tentative first steps, no worries about bumping into the walls - just pure energy.

In most areas, this has been an asset. However he has also decided that he doesn't want to teethe one tooth at a time, or even two at a time. The first time I saw a tooth ready to poke through, there were four coming all at once! Then three more, and now four molars. The poor kid can't figure out why he can't get a good night's sleep lately. Someday I'll have to mention to him that in some things, it might be better to take it slow!

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Whom God calls, God qualifies

I love how God works in our lives. I never cease to be amazed how I cannot see the big picture, but God can, and will always have his hand watching over us.

This weekend I had had the opportunity to once again lead the regional choir for our church. 15 women faithfully attended over two months of daily rehearsals to prepare for our two performances. Although I have years of lessons in the piano, I have never been trained as a choir director, and have only a very basic idea of vocal performance. And yet somehow each time I am called to lead this choir, miracles happen. Those 15 voices filled the chapel with musical praise and truly became voices of angels. I am always grateful for the praise we receive of those touched by our songs. And I would be lying if I didn't admit the pride I feel in a job well done.

Yet God is always there, watching over me to make sure I don't swell too much with pride. One speaker at the conference this weekend spoke about talents, and, focusing on the theme of "giving the firstlings of our service", spoke these words which continue to echo in my mind:

"Don't try to dazzle everyone with how brilliant you are, dazzle them with how brilliant the gospel is."

The inspired words and music of the hymns created in praise of God are truly what made the performance touching. I am grateful I was able to be instrumental in bringing the spirit into the meeting, and hopefully we touched some of those listening.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Colin's First Word - Boy, Are We in Trouble!

Ladies and gentlemen, Colin has said his first word! I was sitting at the piano with Colin on my lap, playing from a children's songbook. We often enjoy singing and playing together like this. Occasionally I point to the pictures in the book and say the name of the picture, always hoping I might coax something out of him.

Today, he finally responded to me! Pointing to a picture, I said the word "girl". Without hesitation, he repeated back to me: "girl!" Taken aback, I said it again, to make sure I'd heard right. Sure enough, he repeated again: "girl!" Amid bursts of laughter, we said it over and over again.

Thank goodness he probably doesn't really know what the word means yet. Hopefully we have a few more years at least before girls become his primary focus!

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Family Album

1. Colin being cute, as always!

2. Colin thoroughly enjoying his birthday cake!

3. Laughing at life.

Connecting to the World

My husband James and I were recently talking about our family, and how far spread we all are. From Australia to British Columbia, and even from London ON to Bobcaygeon ON, we don't have the opportunity to be in touch daily with many family members.

Then today, an old friend emailed us and referred us to her blog to catch up with her life. The email plus James' and my previous conversation connected immediately. Creating a blog of our own is the perfect way to let our friends and family in on our "daily treasures". And with a one-year old for entertainment, we certainly have many!

I have never been great at keeping to a daily schedule. Our life never seems to go along with the plans we make. However I am hoping that, for at least the near future, I will be able to keep a regular journal of the life and adventures of the Gawthroupe family!

For those of you who have not seen us lately, here are a few photos to start off with.