Sunday, 29 November 2009

Hit Parade

First: A big merci beaucoup to everyone for your comments on my last oh-so-serious post. Putting that experience into words was something I have needed to do for a while and I am grateful to you all for being such a gracious audience. Moving on!

Funny how scant few years ago I wouldn't have described myself as a parade person. I've been to a couple of fun ones over the years but those were in the summer. Pretty sure there were no parkas involved.

Then we had a kid and TA-DA! Free festive activity + fresh air = instant parade fan!

Last year was our first family Santa Claus parade experience. Remember this little snugglebug?

We upgraded to the latest mobile model. There are a couple of bugs with this newer version, notably her unwillingness to wear mittens.

We invited two other families to join us. It's hard to recognize them all bundled up but from the left that's Rosie (well recovered from croup, thanks), Liliane and Viggo of Halloween dance party fame:

Rosie was kind enough to share her snacks when we all went to the Botanical Gardens a few weeks ago, so now it was Liliane's turn:

Viggo with yummy mummy Isabelle:

Julie, dealer of goldfish:

And there were hugs and kisses all around:

The parade! Finally! (half hour behind schedule felt more like a half day)

Liliane hasn't made the connection between Santa and presents yet so this kind of excitement wasn't for the big guy in red:

But for this guy:

Merry Christmas! It's Spiderman!

Hey, whatever. It's a parade.

Rosie wasn't having a good time (nothing a nap couldn't fix luckily) so she and her Mamas left early. We snapped some family photos while waiting for the big finale:

Ho ho ho!

And, that was it.

Super fun, free and right down the street from our house. The perfect toddler activity!

We spent the rest of the weekend getting out the Christmas decorations and introducing Liliane to Frosty and Rudolph. Bonhomme de neige (snowman) is quickly replacing citrouille de Halloween (Halloween pumpkin) as her most cherished holiday phrase.

Wahoo! Alouettes just won the Grey Cup! Awesome!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Full Disclosure

Hang on folks, this is a long one! This post has been a long time coming, thanks for your patience as I get it all off my chest. Let me assure you that I write all of this safely ensconced in normal (or almost-normal) land on the other side of crazy. Deep breath, here we go.

Two years ago I was a newbie - Liliane was about six weeks old, Stéphane was back at work and I was learning how to be someone's mother. A Mom. Or Maman in my case. I cried at least once a day in those first weeks, then months. It was OK because there is no shortage of reasons to cry after giving birth. Hormones, sleep deprivation, you name it, you can cry about it.

Then we figured out the transition to formula (Hallelujah! Thanks Baby Guru!) and at three months our now happy and content baby was sleeping in her own crib (not curled all hot and twitchy into my insomniac chest). The difference to our family life was tremendous. We were all well rested, Liliane was thriving, I genuinely enjoyed those months.

But then it was summer and although Liliane was now sleeping 11 hours a night and our routine was stable and even sometimes fun, I was still not myself. I fantasized about breaking things, throwing plates and smashing glasses. I had a dark well of anxiety that was now installed in my chest. Liliane was learning how to eat solids and dinner time became a high point of stress for me when she wouldn’t eat and I couldn’t figure out what to give her. Much howling ensued.

June 23, 2008 was the first time I imagined shaking my tiny daughter to make her stop screaming. It was dinnertime, Liliane was yowling and Stéphane had just gotten home. When that violent and horrible image came to me, I cracked and left the house. But not before slamming the cupboard door and the front door as hard as I could bringing sweet, guilty relief for a moment followed by remorse and stinging tears. I wandered around our neighbourhood sobbing, terrified for myself, for what I thought I could do.

I desperately wanted our OLD life back. The one where I knew what I was doing, where I had fun, where I could experience joy. I sat in a little park not far from home and let the tears flow, not caring who saw.

An hour later I slunk in the front door overwhelmed by shame and failure. My husband was equal parts worried, apologetic and confused. I held Liliane and hated myself for losing control, for maybe scaring her. That night I went online and Googled Montréal+postpartum depression and found my psychologist, Dr. Z. I left her a message and she called me the next day. We set up an appointment for the following week and she sent me some evaluation forms to fill in before our meeting.

Sitting down with her that day in June started me on the road to reclaim my life. I sat down and promptly burst into tears. I remember saying that I didn't know what was wrong with me. On paper, I had no reason to be so unhappy. I was overwhelmed with feelings of failure and anger and remorse and despair. She took one look at the information on the forms and diagnosed me with Postpartum depression on the spot. She confirmed that I wasn't suicidal (I wasn't) and ruled out bipolar disorder. She explained that we were going to do cognitive behaviour therapy and that I was going to be OK.

I did some research and knew that this approach was effective and didn't involve any medication. But don't get me wrong! I'm not an anti-pill person. I'm the first one to reach for the Advil when I get a headache, and if you read this blog regularly you know that I'm not afraid of dosing my toddler with Motrin or Tylenol or Gravol when necessary. But I really wanted to explore the possibility of beating this on my own steam.

But let me be clear about this: I was lucky, I had the luxury of deciding. I wasn't suicidal or paralyzed by anxiety or the very real fear of hurting my child. My case was absolutely minor compared to what a lot of new mothers go through. I applaud those women for getting help through medication because it takes just as much courage (if not more) to get all that (dosage, side effects) figured out.

The road to finding my normal again was long and a little bumpy. I had two appointments with Dr. Z before I took Liliane on a solo trip to B.C. for ten days. Looking back now it is safe to say that I hadn't at all mastered the coping skills I needed to be a travelling single parent so that trip, well, it SUCKED. The whole family was sick with the flu! My brother and SIL visiting from NYC were getting sick! My Dad and his wife of 25 years were splitting up! But super busy with work so never home! I didn't have anywhere for my 9-month old to sleep since the crib was at my Mom's! Liliane got the flu and barfed for days! My grandparents were away! My fantasy of handing off my kiddo and comforting my fragile psyche in the safe haven of HOME was exactly that, a fantasy.

Man it was hard work. I had a breakdown (complete with tears and hysteria) when I realized I left Liliane's bottle at my sister's house 45 minutes away. That's part of the fun, too, an inability to remember things. Like an emotional, irrational version of the dotty old aunt at family gatherings. So that was fun, I gave my Mom, brother and SIL a little taste of the crazy. Hi! This is the new me! They rallied around me and fixed the (really not a problem) problem (I think my adorable brother bought one of each bottle at the store, just in case). In spite of their kindness, it's still horrible to be that vulnerable. Not to mention unhappy! Not to mention the awareness of just how unbalanced you are in the face of people who maybe don’t know the real (new and cuckoo) you.

When I got back I kept up regular appointments with Dr. Z and we worked on all kinds of issues. I had homework to do every week and every painful session led to a gradual but perceptible healing. I learned how to handle panic attacks, invasive thoughts, anger and despair. With her help I undid the knots that had formed in my seratonin-lacking brain and dug deep down to dispell my conviction that I was an unfit mother. Surprise!

I started sharing my experience with my friends because I absolutely believe that we need to TALK ABOUT THIS STUFF. It’s not a mystery, it’s not a shameful secret, postpartum depression affects anywhere from 10 to 28% of all mothers. That is as much as one out of almost every three women. Isn’t that wild?

I am eternally grateful for the support I received during those difficult days. My own family and my church family and all the prayer warriors that were behind me and still pray for me now. My friends who spoiled me and listened to my sad stories and made sure I got out and had some fun. My husband, my best friend who stepped up to the plate and parented for the both of us, who kept me accountable, kept my feet on the ground.

And to my sweet Liliane who doesn’t even realize what a hot mess her mother turned out to be. Baby, all I can say is that all this wacky chemical brain stuff has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how my brain is made. You are by far the best adventure your Papa and I have ever been on and I want you to know that you will always be my greatest accomplishment. I love my work and am proud of some of the things I’ve done in my life so far, but none of it will ever compare to the day you and your head full of strawberry hair came into this world. You will always be enough for me. Plus I’ve already started your future therapy fund, so don’t worry about that :)

Well okay, rereading this big fat post makes me afraid to publish, but I feel like I owe it to you readers and fellow parents, and to myself. This whole motherhood thing is as complex as it is miraculous and we owe it to each other to keep it real.

So thanks for reading! And possibly commenting! If you need any information or if you think I can answer any questions you might have, please email me.

Back to our regular cheery, photo-filled programming in a few days. It’s the Santa Claus parade on Saturday and I promise to post some clearly non-depressing pictures of the big event.

Am also hoping to report by then that Liliane is over her new sleep issues. It’s a whole new nightmare of possibly teething related unwillingness to fall asleep AND then to wake up at 3 and try to get me to come and rock her by calling Maman over and over and over and over and over again. Until I wish to TEAR MY EARS OFF just so I don’t have to hear her voice anymore. Oops, did I say non-depressing?

À bientôt.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Still Kicking

Stéphane out at the movies, house cleanish, baby (finally) sleeping, cheeseball movie on TV (13 Going on 30), cookies made, laundry folded, FB updated. No more excuses. Write!

In no particular order, here is my post:

Liliane has fully recovered and is back to bouncing off the walls. We're all sleeping again which is good. Very good.

I have started Christmas shopping. Tricky this year what with being broke and all but budgeting has become an excellent creative exercise.

Jennifer Garner is so cute - I feel like we could be friends. But then I would surely clumsily hit on her husband and that would be the end of that.

We got our H1N1 vaccination last weekend. Seven days and still not zombies. Awesome.

I discovered a really amazing website a few weeks ago for Montreal parents. It's called I Spy Montréal and they write about kid-friendly events for those of us in this area who are always looking for new activities with rugrat in tow. I got a Twitter shout out from Jessica AND she commented on my blog. So cool!

Glee continues to sparkle up my Wednesdays. Big Bang Theory also, but on Mondays.

Now too tired to think of anything else. Coming up - Santa Claus parade next weekend! Also Christmas baking and decorations. Hooray!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Twenty-Four Little Hours

Look familiar? The glassy stare, the PJs?

Oh yes, it's PJ Day #2! Which seems a lot like PJ Day #1 (see yesterday's post) but I assure my friends, it's not.

This photo of a lively, animated child has been brought to you by... SLEEP! And our other sponsor, ANTIBIOTICS!

I also included this pic because it captures Liliane's new habit of pointing with her little finger. I think I had a math teacher who did that once. Next she'll be begging me for chalk, a dusty sweater vest and a protractor.

Surprise! Toy Story. Again. (Or Toy Toych as it's known in our house.)

Buzz Liliane! I say that to her every morning when she "flies" up the stairs to her waiting "spaceship." To daycare... and beyond! Now whenever she sees Buzz, he's Buzz Liliane. Sorry buddy.

So she is doing really a lot better. Only one wake-up around midnight for a Motrin refill and then not a peep until 8:30 this morning. I am giddy from being so refreshed! I forgot what it was like to not have a stabbing headache and/or intense need to eat sugar and/or desperation to close my sand-filled eyes, just for a minute.

Today is also different because not only are we CLEAN (yesterday, not so much), we've already been outside to get groceries. And with all of this extra energy I organized all my Everyday Food issues by month so I can actually maybe find something without tearing the whole cupboard apart. And I am aiming to make this recipe which has been haunting me thanks to my SIL's post about Trader Joe's sea salt brownies.

Although we are not blessed with a Trader Joe's in this neck 'o the woods and even though I was forced to weigh myself the other day at the doctor's office with Liliane (doctor's ingenious plan) and what I saw there should not only shock and dismay me, but make me flee screaming from recipes that include butter, my rapidly expanding mid-section and I did a little research and found a recipe online.

Oh yes I did and I am going to give them a try this weekend because you know why?
Somebody on the Trader Joe's website actually commented that these brownies are perfect for people who put M&Ms in their popcorn. That is so ME ! I do that! I LOVE the whole sweet and salty combo. Besides, life is too short my friends. I'll be better behaved next week-ish.

Speaking of sweet and salty, I also credit my SIL for bringing me the bacon chocolate bar experience. That one is pretty high up on the food shame list, but so worth it.

Thanks for your comments re: Christmas shindig idea. I'll round up a few more people and try to determine if before or after Christmas works better. Maybe I'll whip up a batch of sea-salt brownies for the occasion :)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Sick Day plus Big Plan

Two hours at a walk-in clinic yesterday to find out that preshus baby has not one, but two infected ears and tonsillitis to boot.

The doctor tsk-tsked when we asked if she could go back to daycare. No, of COURSE not! (irresponsible parents who didn't realize she has been suffering since, oh, Friday) She needs to recover for at least two days. Which brings me to this:

A sick day at home with Maman. Who is currently healthy although desperate for more sleep. Which is like a sickness actually. Or torture. Depending on how many nights of dreamus-interruptus we're talking about...

Two guesses what she's doing here...

And here...

And here...

Are you really surprised? We have been lucky lately as Bee Movie has been added to the rotation - it's one of her new faves.

She is already doing much better thanks to antibiotics and copious amounts of cuddling and coddling by above mentioned ill-equipped slaves to guilt um, parents. If I squint a little I can see the light at the end of the germ tunnel.

In other news, our plane tickets to B.C. are booked! We are spending Christmas with the Piercy/Thomassen/Hicks clan and frankly, I can't wait. Between seeing Liliane hang with her six cousins and seeing my grandparents and eating my Mom's baking and watching holiday movies with my Dad and going to White Spot, it's going to be great.

Stéphane is already planning our H1N1 avoidance strategy. I think there are masks involved. If you live in B.C. and are planning to visit with us, you may have to pass some kind of screening process/portable airlock. I will keep you posted.

Speaking of visiting, I have an idea that might be a little cuckoo, but I thought I would give it a shot. My Mom has graciously offered to host a little 5 à 7 (that's Montréal for happy hour, but in our case we'll minus the alcohol. Liliane is a TERRIBLE drunk) so that we blog readers/commenters/friends/admirers can get together and actually talk to each other IN PERSON. With kids and everything! What do you think? Now, I realize that you really don't need yet another event at Christmastime, but it would be really quick and simple. We fly in on the 22nd so I'm talking December 23rd.

POST EDIT: Perhaps after Christmas would be better? Like the 27th or the 28th? Let me know!

Anyway, just a thought rolling around in my head. If you will be around, let me know and we'll make a plan! Ooh, as a bonus, those of you who read A Home Slice will be happy to know that Matthew and Bari and Asher will also be in town. What could be better than eating Christmas cookies and hanging out with this little cutie?

If I don't have ANY COMMENTS WHATSOEVER I will assume that you don't want to have anything to do with me (and my cockamamie plan) in real life and will procede to eating the rest of the Halloween candy to drown my sorrows. I'm just saying.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Not Halloweenies After All

We braved the threat of H1N1 to go out and party on Halloween and boy am I glad we did. This is a photo we would not have been able to take at home:

Cool gourd display aside, if we were staying home my husband would not have found us these festive accessories.

Those are pumpkin glasses friends. And they lit up, too! They lasted about two minutes before breaking but it was fun while it lasted.

Our friends Isabelle, Sébastien and Viggo hosted this fancy 'do.

So not only are they super creative and talented (Hellllooo, HOMEMADE costumes!) but their friends are, too! (OK not us so much, but other people.) Someone showed up with this creepy/awesome decoration:

Hello, pest control?

Ho ho ho, Halloween, you got me again!

We have known this little character since he was born. He turned one in August.

And it turns out he is quite a party animal (ha ha ha, no really)!

Contemplative panda. Hey, isn't that a yoga move?

Duuuuude... what was in those brownies?

Speaking of party animal, Liliane boogied the night away. This move is called the Kung-Fu Panda.

There was breakdancing and Liliane gave it a shot although I wasn't quick enough with the camera.

Speaking of lovely and talented friends, here are some of the party guests:

Shauna and daughter Béa

Daniel, Geneviève and adorable Arthur, born at the same time as Viggo.

Isabelle made creepy cupcakes for the occasion. Try and spot my contribution to the food table!

Liliane was completely fascinated by Filippo's gorilla costume but wasn't so sure she wanted to be THAT close.

Filippio and Maria. So cute. Sigh. I remember when we used to look like that. Distinctly less... tired. Or something.

We left the party in full swing around 7 so we could get in a quick trick or treat before bedtime. It was crazy windy outside so our neighbours were sweet enough to let us come a-knocking:

They put on their costumes and did the whole thing. AND they offered to babysit anytime. Treat!

Sadly for us, our little panda went to bed super congested which made for a (insert Vincent Price voice here) Halloween Night of Horrors, only with less blood and more snot. Although there were bloodcurdling screams and two zombie parents to show for it in the morning! She never did get feverish and she's doing much better today.

So now it's November. We made a quick trip to the mall today and I see that Christmas is taking over quickly. I love this part, though. When you see all the decorations and even start thinking about getting a gift or two but panic has not yet set in. I aim to make that phase stretch out longer and longer every year until maybe one day Christmas would be stress free! Imagine!

Anyway, I'm still not done with fall. I made Susan's pumpkin scones today (yum!) and since citrouille remains Liliane's favourite word of all time (first words out of her mouth this morning I swear), we'll keep them hanging around for a bit.

Have a great week everybody!
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