Tag Archives: fears

“The New Republic” By Lionel Shriver: A Book Review

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11778910Ever since reading “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, Lionel Shriver has been on my go-to author whenever I feel like having my ideas and opinions turned upside down.  She has an innate ability to take taboo subjects that people often shy away from and rub their faces in it.  She treats her readers as an etch-a-sketch, imprinted with their experiences and then shakes them with her words, leaving them a blank slate to be re-written on.  “The New Republic” received scathing reviews from a lot of people, but I enjoyed it.  Sure there were some characters I felt could have been left out, but the very idea driving the novel was what kept me turning the pages.  A satire on terrorism, this is not for the faint of heart.  She puts a social commentary on terrorism.  While most people see the act of terrorism itself, Shriver makes you a witness to the dealings in the background.  Dark, politically eye-opening, “The New Republic” will make you question your very trust in elected officials, the media and how it spins world events.  For my full review, click here.

“In comes Edgar Kellogg.  A former fat boy and lawyer turned freelance journalist, looking to escape his second string complex and finally get his big break.  Much to his chagrin, he is charged with finding out was happened to his predecessor, Barrington Sadler, who disappeared while reporting on the SOB (Os Soldado Ousados de Barba) who claim international bombing.  When Kellogg arrives, his complex comes back with full force as he finds that everyone cannot stop talking about the infamous Barrington Sadler.  It isn’t long before Edgar realizes there is more to Saddler than all rumours his fellow Rat Pack spew.  Bombings, international recognition and effect on local policy increase, and soon it isn’t long before things begin to spiral.”

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Another First

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I woke up with a gray hair right on the top of my head.  I’m only 27 and thought to myself “I’m too young for this.”  But after this first, I know why.  The Princess was invited to a birthday party today and like all the other parties, parents are welcome to stay.  Not this one.  I was not at all prepared for it.  In all the correspondence I had with the Mom, not once did she mention that parents were not to stay.  So when the Princess and I arrived, she took the Princess’ jacket and informed me pick up time was at 3:30.  I must have had a bizarre look on my face. I choked a little bit and then went and said my goodbye’s to the Princess and informed her I would be back later.  I walked outside and immediately called Hubby.

“They won’t let me stay.  I don’t feel right about this.  She’s only 4,” I stammered, holding back the tears.

He agreed that it was a little weird but said she’d probably be ok.

So like a crazy woman, I went to the coffee shop across the street and watched through the window.  I constantly watched my clock and then made periodical walk-by’s.  In my opinion, 4 years old is not old enough to be left alone.  I’m sure I looked crazy but it’s my job to keep her safe.

At 3:15, I picked her up early and she was just fine.  So despite walking up and down the street, holding back the tears, the Princess survived her first birthday party without me.

All Those Vivid Dreams

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Everyone says that you get less Zz’s while pregnant but the dreams you do have are much more vivid when pregnant.  Many believe that the additional hormones are to blame for the heavier dream load and the constant tossing and turning makes you interrupt the REM cycle therefore remembering more dreams in sometimes more vivid details.  I have been having my fair share of bizarre dreams and here are just a few.

  1. Very early on I had a dream that I gave birth early to a baby boy (psychic maybe?) and he was deformed but my Dad was cuddling him nonetheless.  Apparently these dreams represent an anxiety about the babies health.  It is likely since early on we were worried we would lose it, my subconscious was going into worry overdrive.
  2. This one was truly weird but I dreamt that Hubby and I were camping on a beach and the entire campsite was being attacked by Bigfoot.  We tried to trap it with a dummy made out of carrot (???) but it ended up just throwing carrot sticks at us.  Then somehow the Bigfoot pushed a woman into the water where she was circled by sharks.  Dream decipherers believe that dreams of being attacked by animals, albeit fictitious animals, represents a fear of vulnerability.  Or I ate too many Tums before bed.
  3. Lately I’ve been dreaming about loved ones that have passed on.  My Nan, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, and last night dreamt of my family dog I had as a kid, have been a mainstay in my dreams.  Some may not believe this, but I like to believe that people we love will visit us in our dreams to let us know things will be ok.  However, dreams of relatives who have passed away may be the subconscious’ way of connecting the old and new generations.  But it usually leaves me reaching for tissues when I wake up.  Hormones and sad memories equal a whole box of Kleenex used and in the trash.
  4. I have also had very vivid dreams about certain people in popular culture.   I had a dream I was on tour with the Jonas Brother’s, whose music I have never listened to and then the other night I had a very realistic dream about Snooki.  Somehow the cast of Jersey Shore (a show I don’t watch) and I were visiting my sister who was building a house.  I then turned to Snooki and said “It is a sad thing that future generations will look back and realize you would be considered an influential person during that time.”  It’s even more sad when you wake up and realize that is true.

What crazy dreams did you have when you were expecting?

“Mommy, Where Do Babies Come From?”

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228149Oh yes, that bomb dropped last week.  I guess I had it coming now that we are pregnant, but I didn’t think at 4, she would be asking me.  We were getting ready for school and she came up to me with the most curious look on her face.

“Mommy, where do babies come from?” she asked.  I stood there for a good 5 minutes trying to find the most age appropriate answer.

“Umm, where do you think they come from?” I asked using the movie ‘Knocked Up’ as my saving grace.

“I think when you eat food it sits in your stomach until it grows into a baby,” she answered seriously.

“Yup.”  And that was the end of the discussion.  I wish I had something much better to offer at the time, but I was unprepared and needed time to figure out what, if anything I wanted to provide given her age.

I started researching how was the best way, if it was appropriate to tell them at a young age and what repercussions to expect.  From what I gathered, any age is appropriate as long as the material is age appropriate and straightforward.  A study showed that children who were given information from an early age and information that continued on throughout youth and puberty were less likely to have unprotected sex, teen pregnancy and STD’s.  That was enough to convince me to give her the facts.  And besides, I don’t want to be that mother (or grandmother) on Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant.  Nooo thank you.  I ran into my neighbour, who is also the blogger from Mafa’s World, she suggested ‘It’s Not The Stork’ by Robie H. Harris.   So off I went to my local book store and kindly approached the sales rep.

“Um excuse me, do you have any books on sex,” I whispered, “that are appropriate for 4 year olds?”

“Yes, sure, follow me,” she replied and led me to the children’s section.  She said that most parent decide what books they want and how much they edit.  She handed me a book about periods.

“Um, no sorry, for 4 year olds, not 14 year olds.  I need a book about where babies come from.”

She handed me ‘It’s Not The Stork’ as well as ‘A New Baby Is Coming! A Guide For A Big Brother Or Sister’ by Emily Menendez-Aponte.  I paid for the books and went on my way.

I was so nervous picking her up from school that I must have dropped the bag about 6 times.  Flashbacks of my ‘sex talk’ came flooding back.  I was maybe 12 years old and I was in the living room watching the original version of Degrassi Junior High, the episode where Spike announces she’s pregnant.  My mother whom was sitting in the kitchen saw what was on the TV.

“Do you have any questions?” she yelled.

And as quickly as she asked, I quickly replied, “Nope!”

And that was the extent of my sex talk in my preteens.  She always had warned me about boys and their intentions, STD’s and pregnancy but that was definitely the moment that stuck out in my head.

So when the Princess and I got home, I read ‘A New Baby is Coming!’  I really liked this book.  It didn’t give specifics but openly discussed that sometimes children have feelings of sadness, or anger and that it was alright to ask Mommy and Daddy about it.  We then read ‘It’s Not The Stork’ which gives a much more detailed account and cartoon pictures of private parts and how exactly babies are made. S-E-X.  When I said the three-letter word, the Princess just looked at me with this quasi confused and disgusted look on her face.  I didn’t give her the how to’s, but she was pretty much content with what I told her.  But when Daddy came home, she felt the need to inform him also.

After the Princess went to bed, Hubby flipped through the books and just said he was ‘not ready’ for this conversation yet.  I edited some of the information as she’s still only 4, but at least we have these materials available for future questions.  So far, she is content with what she knows.

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Getting Ready for Sandy

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Hurricane Sandy has hit Toronto and while I prepared by making sure we were stocked up with candles, first aid supplies and matches, I didn’t bother telling the Princess as it would just cause unnecessary worry.   I knew that other areas would be hit harder than we would, it wouldn’t hurt to safe.  I picked up the Princess as usual but she was panicked and told me we needed to get home as soon as possible because we would “blow away and the city would be destroyed.” I stooped down and asked her what was wrong.  She explained to me that her teacher had told them about the Frankenstorm that was coming our way and Princess was afraid.  I explained to her that it was going to be no worse than any other storm we had experienced.  I hugged her and took her home as fast as I could.  I knew she was upset and being at home would make her feel much better.  The entire time she kept insisting we were in peril and despite my best efforts to calm her, she was sure that we would be hurt in this storm.

I then sat her down and explained that I had endured the Ice Storm of 1998.  I told her that for almost 20 days, we were without power and I had 17 relatives living in my home.  She sat there in front of me enthralled by the thought of my surroundings covered in inches of ice, telephone poles collapsing like match sticks and no television.  I also explained that while it was very dangerous to be outside, it was also on of the best times I’ve ever had.  It was like living in the pioneer days.  We heated water on the wood stove, played games with my sisters and cousins and my dad only even cooked my sister’s birthday cake on the barbecue.  I told her that this storm would be nothing like that and while it may be scary, it was very unlikely anything bad would happen.  After that she seemed more at ease and even felt comfortable looking out the window to watch the wind blow in the trees.

This is not an image from my home back then, but just an idea of the amount of ice that hit Ontario, Quebec, some of the Eastern Provinces and some States.

She is now sleeping peacefully just as the wind outside is getting stronger.  Hubby and I are watching TV, checking the news periodically but knowing that we will be fine.  I understand that the teacher was probably just trying to inform the students about the storm that is happening, but somehow the Princess turned it into some sort of Perfect Storm-esque situation.

Just One of Those Days

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Today has been one of those days where I am doubting my parenting choices.   Every little choice, decision, point, etc has been called into question but probably none more so than our decision to put Princess into Junior Kindergarten.  To put it bluntly, our Princess is not adjusting very well and we have seen backward steps in almost all areas of her development; behaviour, sleeping, eating as well as using the potty.   We had been under the assumption that these issues were contained to home as her teacher and ECE said nothing to alarm us of the contrary.  I had spoken to them prior to orientation night and everything was jovial.  “She is so popular, she is such a character, oh she plays with everyone” and so on and so forth was what we were told at Orientation night.  However, literally the next day, I picked our Princess up from the Principal’s office.  Never in a million years did I think that would happen.  Upon talking to her teacher, she’s been having behavioural problems at school since the very beginning.  The teacher thinks the behaviour is out of jealousy but we have until the end of October to correct it our they will be removing her from school.

I listened attentively, taking in all that was said and pondering how this had been happening and nothing was said to us.  We asked our daughter everyday how she was liking school and everyday it was the same “I like it, my day was good.”  Hubby was upset for two reasons; 1)that Princess was getting into trouble and 2) that over the numerous times that we spoke to her teacher, nothing was said until that Friday.  If something was a consistent, ongoing problem, why not bring it to us sooner so that we could have nipped it in the bud earlier?  Now we are seeing the repercussions of her actions.  Hubby and I do not condone poor behaviour so Princess had to accept and deal with the consequences of her actions.  She was grounded from TV, all her toys were taken away, she is going to be earlier and no special treats.  We had a big conversation about respecting personal boundaries.  We also set up a reward system for good behaviour.  For each day she behaved, she would get to pick one of her toys back.  So far, we have only had good days and her teacher telling me that she has been improving.  But while she has been having good days, I have noticed a change in her and I’m not liking it.  Her confidence and out-going personality has taken a back burner and I now have a very subdued and insecure little girl.

I know that I am her mother and of course I think she is truly amazing, but many other people have said how much they adore her too.  She will talk with anyone, regardless of religion, colour or creed, loves to play with all children regardless of age or sex, and loves to help people.  Her teachers at daycare cried when she left and her friends there had their parents call us to set up playdates because their children missed her too much.  A friend of mine hates children, but she adores the Princess for her outgoing personality.  She is a good girl, I swear, but school has changed her.  Today I witnessed how alone she really is.  Today we were waiting in line to go into school when another little girl came up behind her.  The Princess said good morning and politely asked her mother if said little girl could come over to our home to play.  Perhaps it was because I was standing back that the mother felt compelled to say what she really thought, thinking I was not in earshot.  The mother matter-of-factly said “No, she doesn’t like you.”  I gasped.  I couldn’t believe it.  A simple “maybe another day” would have sufficed, but was it necessary to point out to a 3-year-old that your daughter doesn’t like her?  As more children lined up, my Princess sat quietly in the corner and spoke to no one, her hands holding up her sad face.  I cried all the way home.  My little girl has gone from having lots of friends to none.  She has gone from being vivacious and witty, to sullen and withdrawn.  I have seen her apologize to her family that calls to speak with her and having her ask me over and over again “Mommy, am I going to be kicked out of school?”

And now the question that is wracking my brain is “Did I make the right decision by putting her in school?   I have been weighing the pro’s and con’s to said decision and whether or not pulling her out is a good idea either.

KEEPING HER IN SCHOOL

PRO’S

  • She will learn that even if something is hard and tough, she has the inner strength to stick it out and flourish
  • Her education is very important
  • Even though she isn’t making friends right now, she will make them soon enough

CON’S

  • Low self-esteem and self-worth are a possibility
  • She’s unhappy
  • She is lonely

PULLING HER OUT OF SCHOOL

PRO’S

  • She will be able to start fresh in one more year
  • She will be more mature and better prepared
  • She will get one more year at home with me

CON’S

  • She will think that quitting will solve her problems
  • They will expect more from her next year and the pressure will be greater
  • She will miss out on all the things she will get to experience this year

 

I feel a tremendous amount of guilt for putting her in school in the first place.  I really thought she was ready.  She is potty trained, had 2 1/2 years of socialization with children her age and teachers, she met all her milestones and was ecstatic about going.  I tell her every night how beautiful, special, kind and nice person she is and that even though things are tough right now, they won’t always be this way, and that things will get better.  Right now, I just have to figure out what is best for my Princess.

The Death of Play

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Princess is entering her third week of kindergarten and we have had some mishaps along the way that were brought up at orientation night last Thursday.  Like all parents, I received a booklet of the ABC’s of Kindergarten, examples of kindergarten homework, handwriting tips and a poem called “Just Playing.”  I quickly flipped through it there, and then spoke with the teacher of how we can help ease the Princess’ adjustment to kindergarten.  After all was said and done, we went home and I read the booklet more thoroughly.  After everything, all I can say is that I feel bad for the generation in which my daughter was born, for it is the generation that could be easily labelled “The Death of Play.”

This is the first year of all-day kindergarten in Toronto and it is clear that most teachers, parents and students are having some trouble adjusting.  The teacher openly admitted that come 2:30, it becomes “The Twilight Hour” with a portion of the children in full on meltdown mode.  Princess even fell asleep on her desk last week.  The children are tired and from 12 pm to 3:22, they are inside a classroom for “play based learning.”  Granted I’m not a teacher or  an Early Childhood Educator, but perhaps it would be good for the children to have a short outside break in the afternoon.  Most children have the attention span of a gnat and being cooped up may be the cause of the “Twilight Hour”.

But the main point of my argument is that in this booklet, the poem that was included to represent the “play based learning” curriculum.  In it, when a child is at the kitchen centre, we’re not supposed to say “they are just playing” but instead say “they are learning to be mother’s and father’s someday.”  When a child is painting, we’re not supposed to say “they are just playing” but instead say “they are learning to be an artist.”  While I am in complete agreement that children certainly excel developmentally and socially through play, let’s leave it at that, play.  I feel that if play no longer is just play, and it becomes muddled and adds more stress and pressure onto children.  Instead of correcting children and  saying “No you aren’t playing, you are learning” maybe just say “go enjoy yourself.”  Maybe the Princess doesn’t want to be a Mother when she’s older, maybe she doesn’t want to be an artist.  She just enjoys playing.

I remember what play felt like as a child.  I didn’t have special toys that encouraged learning, I found a million different uses for a skipping rope.  I wasn’t “learning” how to use my muscles, I was playing cow girl, or the skipping rope turned into a circular force field against the alien menace that was after us.  When I climbed trees, I wasn’t “learning” about ecology, I was building a fort or hiding from my friends.  I enjoyed being a kid for the sheer fact that play was simple, pure and innocent.  I didn’t feel pressure to “learn” and I think I turned out ok.  I am a confident, well spoken,  contributing member of society.  I don’t think it is unreasonable to wish that for my daughter too.

Children today are more medicated, have higher stress levels, are more likely to become depressed and suicide rates are getting higher for younger children, some as young as the age of 9.  I believe the insane amount of pressure that is put on children to be the very best is leading to this.  Honestly, at the age of nine, what stresses should you really have?  Whether to play tag or hide and seek?   I want my daughter to do well in school academically and apply herself and develop a great work ethic, but I also want her to be able to say “well now that school and homework are done, I am going to go have fun and not worry what I should be learning while running away from the big bad Monster Poo Poo Pants.”  Children and childhood are pure and innocent and should be left that way.