Number Crunching

Ways to think about my book revisions:

1. 182, 871 words. Response: AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2. 387 pages. Response: see #1.

3. 22 weeks  (if I am to meet my, admittedly self-imposed, deadline of giving the manuscript to Q. by the middle of June so that he can return it to me by the end of June and I can then resubmit to the press by the end of July). Response: see #1, again.

4. 4,500 words (the number of words that have to be added to the new draft every week in order for me to reach 99,000 by the end of the twenty-second week. 100,000 words would be a very respectable book, and my book in its current state is much too long.). Response: Totally manageable.

5. 15 pages (the number of pages from the first draft I have to edit and place [or discard] in the new draft each week to finish the book by the end of the twenty-second week [this figure ignores the bibliography and the front matter, which is why it adds up to 330 pages rather than 387, in case you did the math]). Response: Totally manageable.

4 and 5 are my weekly targets from now on.

It’s all about how the work is presented.


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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Life after the PhD, Writing

Progress, Not Perfection

I have been having a difficult time getting back into a good rhythm with my research. Too much time off over the holidays has meant I’ve lost my momentum and my Inner Critic is back up to “shouting so loudly she’s hurting my ears” rather than the “nasty whispers under her breath” I’d beaten her down to by the end of last semester.

I learned last fall that the absolute, most critical key to successful academic writing (for me at least) was consistency. The more I worked on something, the easier it became to keep working on it. My weekly schedule makes this a challenge. Mondays I’m at home with P., and Tuesday nights I teach. This has meant that the work time available on Tuesdays (the morning and the early afternoon), more often than not, has been eaten up by class preparation and marking. I’m hoping this will improve this semester because I’m now into the section of the course that I’ve taught once before, so I already have PowerPoint slides and relevant assessment that can be reused.

The reality is that four days away from my research is too long. Every Wednesday I’d have the same inner battle with myself as I walked to the library:

Inner Critic: “I don’t know why you even bother. It’s never going to get published. No one wants to read your crap.”
Turia: “Shut up.”
Inner Critic: “It’d be so much easier to do something else. So much more fun too. Why not just read your novel? Or go for a long walk? Or answer emails? Or write a blog post? Or we could go eat some cake. Ooh, I love cake. You love cake too! You’ll feel better about yourself then!”
Turia: “Shut up.”
Inner Critic: “It’s so pointless. You’re so pointless. You’re such a fraud. If you actually send this to a publisher everyone will know you’re such a fraud.”
Turia: “SHUT. UP. Just sit down at the desk, Turia.”
*Some time is wasted by going to the washroom, setting up the desk, filling up the water bottle, writing a few emails, checking the phone, etc.*
Inner Critic: “You’re never going to be able to do this, you know.”
Turia: “SHUT! UP! Open the computer, Turia. Open the file. Start writing. Write for fifteen minutes. Just fifteen minutes. You can do fifteen minutes.”
*Fifteen minutes pass.*
“Ok. This is going well. These are interesting ideas. You can do it, T. Keep writing.”
Inner Critic: “I’ll be back, you know.”

And she is back, every morning. She’s easier to silence on Thursday and easier again on Friday because by then I’ve picked up some momentum and I can remember what I most wanted to start with when I’d finished the day before. But she never, ever, truly goes away, and by the following Wednesday she’s back out in force.

I described this entire process to my friends in my writing accountability group at our meeting in December and they were both horrified. “That sounds terrible!” one of them said.

It is terrible. I guess I’m just so used to it it doesn’t even seem strange to me anymore. I’ve never written anything research-related without also engaging in a fierce internal war.

My work goal for 2018 is to try to break this cycle. The fundamental problem is that I’m a perfectionist with a very fixed mindset. I associate editing with failure- I didn’t get it right the first time. I confuse my work with myself, and feel that a rejection of my work would pass judgment on myself as a person. This leaves me paralyzed with fear whenever I think about submitting my work somewhere.

It’s a really unhealthy way to live, and I don’t want to model it for my children.

E. and I talk all the time about how “practice makes progress” and how we have to be willing to try and make mistakes in order to improve. When he’s worried about his dictée words, and is wailing about how he will “never get anything right” and how he will “make a million mistakes on the dictée”, I point to how much he’s improved every time he practices.

I knew it was sinking in when I heard our nanny say to E. “practice makes perfect” one day and he, rather irritably, corrected her that it was actually “practice makes progress because most things aren’t perfect”.

It needs to sink in for me too.

Walking to the library this morning, with my Inner Critic shrieking in my head, I resolved to make “progress, not perfection” my mantra for my work this year. And by the time I’d reached my second-favourite desk (annoyingly someone had already claimed my favourite desk), I’d realized that it applied to far more than just my writing.

It applied when it came to my photographs.

It applied when it came to my efforts to control my lizard brain when I’m frustrated with my kids.

It applied to anywhere in my life where I felt unsatisfied and wanted to make a change.

When you practice, you see, you have to make the time for something. You have to engage in it. And maybe the progress you make is incremental. Maybe it’s tiny, almost unnoticeable at first. Maybe baby steps even seem like big steps at first. But eventually, if you give it enough time, you will be able to look back and see just how far you’ve come.

I wrote on here that I hadn’t been able to come up with a good word to represent my goals for 2018.

It turns out I needed three words, not one.

Progress, not perfection.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Brave New (School) World, Choose Happiness, Who am I really? (Career Angst), Writing

This is 18 months

Let’s just accept that I have permanently dropped the ball on writing monthly letters to P. (poor second child). I have a lot of notes in her journal, but I can really see the difference in how much I observed/wrote down before I went back to work compared with after. 18 months feels like a milestone, however, so I wanted to make sure I wrote something down. I’ve heavily borrowed from Non Sequitur Chica’s format as I always enjoy her updates!

Vital Stats:

I never weigh or measure P. myself. At her 15 month appointment she was 81.5 cm (32”) (95th percentile) and 9.53 kg (21 lb 0.5 oz) (25th percentile). Three months later she was 84.5 cm (33.25”) (95th percentile) and 10.22 kg (22 lb, 9 oz) (25th percentile). She has been on that weight curve since she was 9 months old and has been gradually creeping back with the height (she was off the charts for most of her first year).

P. has twelve teeth (all four molars came through in her seventeenth month). No sign of the canines yet.

P. still has very little hair. It is thickest at the back but it’s still baby fine and quite wispy. It will be some time before she will need a haircut.

P. usually wears cloth diapers during the day and size 6 diapers overnight. When she wears disposables in the day she is in size 4 but she really needs to be in size 5 (we’re slowly using up our last package).

P. was in 12-18 month clothing (with the exception of 18-24 month sleepers) but mid-way through this month I dug out the rest of the 18-24 month clothing and discovered I probably should have put her in the new size earlier. I think her winter boots are a size 6 (they’re hand-me-down Bogs) and they fit well.

Development (Gross/Fine Motor):

P. walks with a lot of confidence and is starting to attempt something that resembles a run (usually accompanied by a drunken stagger and arms akimbo). Her default speed is “beetling”, where she walks with great purpose and some speed. She can move very quickly when she is excited to see someone arriving at the door or when she’s trying to do something without me noticing (she is also very fast and very sneaky at going up the stairs if we leave the gate open). She can walk from our house down to the main road and then back again with a rest stop in the swing at the park on the way (a distance of one kilometre).

She loved the “sleeping bunnies” song this month and would try desperately to jump at the critical “wake up, sleeping bunnies and hop, hop, hop!” moment. She could either bob up and down at the knees with her feet firmly planted on the ground or march in place. She was clearly deeply frustrated that E. could jump and she couldn’t.

P. sometimes chooses to walk up the stairs, holding on either to our hands or to the railing. Most of the time she still crawls up. She is starting to come down the stairs on her bottom, again holding on to a hand or the railing. She remains a confident climber and has now mastered the art of pushing E’s kitchen step stool or one of their little chairs to a particular spot and then climbing up on top of it. This has greatly extended her reach and has resulted in yet another round of baby-proofing.

P. is a pint-sized tornado, cheerfully destructive. I have to assume that her fine motor skills are improving because she has absolutely zero interest in doing anything that requires precision and patience. I know she can stack up to eight blocks because I once managed to convince her to do so, but her preferred method is to knock blocks over the minute she stacks one on top of the next. She expresses an interest in colouring but then eats the crayons (which she absolutely knows she’s not supposed to do and she’s largely stopped mouthing anything else, so I can only assume she is doing it on purpose for attention). She isn’t interested in Megabloks or Duplo and cares not a whit for puzzles. One of her favourite words is “dump”, accompanied by her emptying whatever bag or basket she has found. The number of small animals and cars we keep in our living room has dropped significantly as a result (although she is pretty good at helping to clean everything up again before bedtime).

Like E. at this age she absolutely loves cleaning and helping out. She has the apron he used when he was a toddler and she will ask for it and put it on independently. She likes to help with sweeping and the dishes, but her favourite activity is cleaning up messes. A frequent sight in our household these days is P. trundling off somewhere clutching a cloth saying very seriously to herself, “Oh dear, oh no, oh boy.”

P. can put on her own boots, neck-warmer, and hat, can unzip and take off a hoodie, and will help get her arms and legs into the rest of her clothes. She has very firm ideas about what she wants to wear. Her favourite colour (which she can clearly identify) is purple (most other colours are also identified as purple in books but when she says “purple” in her room she always follows up by choosing the purple items of clothing). She likes to wear both socks and tights, and frequently negotiates to wear both at the same time. She has clear preferences for her pjs, her pants, and her hoodies. This has come as a bit of a shock to me (and to Q.) as E. really couldn’t have cared less about his clothes at this age and has remained largely disinterested in what he wears ever since (with the exception of the red hoodie phase when he was two and three).

She likes to find items of clothing for the other members of the family and will sometimes follow E. around in the morning holding one of his mittens or one of his boots (with E. inevitably saying, in a tone of exasperation, “No thank you, P.! I don’t need those yet!”). She can turn the light switch in her room off (but has trouble with on). She is getting very good at opening and closing doors. We now keep bag clips on our cereal after one too many incidents where P. tried to help herself to Cheerios (she did try to pour them into a bowl she’d fetched for the occasion but it didn’t quite work out as planned).

P. wanted to sit on the toilet, just like the rest of us, so I got the potty out and put it in the bathroom. She’s happy to sit on it for a few seconds and then wants toilet paper to wipe herself. Nothing thus far has appeared in the potty, but I’m not the least bit fussed about it. She tells us when she has a dirty diaper (although she will always deny it when asked), and she likes to suggest that her dolls need a change as well.

Development (Language/Social):

We have been blown away by P.’s language development. At 15 months, when her paediatrician asked if she had any words, I reported that she had “Mummy” and “no” and then we both agreed that those were two very effective words! When P. turned 18 months she had over 100 words. She now (closing in on 19 months) has too many to count and is starting to string them together to make little phrases: “Mummy lap”, “green sheep”, “more snack”, “thank you, Mummy” (her “thank you” sounds like “dee-dee-oh” and is adorable), “play outside” and “Daddy play more”. On Skype, when we asked P. to explain to her Australian Granny why it was that we’d just spent 30 minutes adjusting the Christmas tree, she replied “Pippa touch lights” (“Peppa tah yigh”). When I was on the phone with her Canadian Grannie after the stomach flu incident I asked P. to tell Grannie what had happened. She gleefully reported that she had thrown up “doh up!” and then, unprompted, added “bowl” (we have a designated vomit bowl) and “bath” (she needed a few of those). She is starting to very clearly enunciate the final consonant in some words, so eat is no longer “ee”, snack is no longer “snah”, and sleep is now “seep” rather than “si-si”.

Her vocabulary has a huge range. Lots of very useful words: help, eat, water, milk, snack, all down, up, down, outside, more, play, bath, door, gate, potty, other side, etc. Words for what she wants to play with: boat, car, tractor, ball, Colleen (my old Cabbage Patch doll), tea party, animals (sounds like “ammo” or “Elmo”). Words for the other members of the family: Daddy, Mummy, E. (“Eeee”), brother, auntie, uncle, Grandpa (“Dam-pa!”), Grannie, cat, tail, cat’s name (“ee-ee”). She has picked up that we call ourselves boas after E.’s long-standing snake obsession, so she often calls Q. “Da-dee bo-a!” and when E. first gets up in the morning she runs for the stairs chanting “Eee! Ee! Bo-a! Bo-a!”. The first beginnings of what will hopefully one day be good manners: please (“pea”), thank you (“dee dee oh”), bye-bye, and sorry. Her “no” is very clear and can be said in many different ways (including a long, drawn out “nooooo”). Her yes is a head bob and a happy “hmm” sound, exactly like E’s was. She also has a bunch of words to help tell us how she is feeling: happy, sad, cold, fall (used more generally to mean “scared”), sleepy. Her “oops” words (oh dear, oh no, oh boy, uh oh) are adorable. She reduced my mother to helpless laughter when she was eating dinner and carefully poured her milk all over her plate, then examined it and said “oh deeee-aaar” in a tone of astonished dismay.

I don’t know if this is just reflective of the difference between how boys develop and how girls develop, or if this is a second child who has realized she has to get talking quick smart if she will ever be able to get a word in around her brother, but it has been quite something to witness. She’s going to really be able to express herself as she gets closer to two and the desire for autonomy increases (she already says her name firmly if she wants to do it herself and I’m convinced she’s started saying “me too”).

P. thinks her big brother is the best thing in the entire world. She wants to do everything that he’s doing. If he’s reading a book under a blanket, she needs a blanket too (preferably the same one he has). If he’s reading a book while eating snack, she needs a book to read too. She knows she’s not allowed in his room unless invited and when he does let her come in to watch him driving his Lego train she stands so carefully in the middle of the floor and doesn’t touch anything (if she sneaks in when he’s at school it’s a totally different story). She has a special cackle of glee that she reserves for when she’s driving him crazy (and she knows that’s exactly what she’s doing). If he’s trying to read quietly on the couch her favourite activity is climbing up onto the couch and then rolling around on top of him. When we had our living room furniture moved around to accommodate the Christmas tree, P. quickly figured out that meant she could climb on top of the coffee table and reach the basket with E.’s library readers. If she felt no one was paying enough attention to her, she would climb onto the table, stand up, and start throwing the books on the floor one at a time.

I had a hilarious exchange with E. before Christmas after I’d run down the street to catch our neighbours who had a baby girl in September. I told E. I was asking them whether they wanted any of our clothes since we were done having babies.
“I’m so glad we’re not having any more babies,” E. announced as we went inside.
“You know, when P. was little you were very upset that she was our last baby,” I told him. “You said you weren’t done being a big brother yet.”
“Yes,” said E., “but that was before I realized just how annoying a little sister can be! Although I guess if you did have another baby when I was older, like maybe seven, and P. was big enough to look after herself a bit more, when that baby got bigger and was very annoying to P., I could say to P., ‘Yes, P., this is just what it was like when you were a toddler.’ Because otherwise P. won’t get to know what it is like to have someone that annoying.”
I agreed that the baby of the family never had the experience of the younger sibling always getting into their stuff, but then pointed out that P. would always have to wait to be old enough to do the things that E. could do.

P. mimics everything that he does (and everything that we do too). She uses remote controls as telephones (along with blocks and anything else that seems remotely suitable) when she can’t get her hands on my actual phone. I have to keep it well hidden because she can push the button to turn it on and can swipe the screen. I didn’t have a smartphone with E. so this is an entirely new experience.


P. likes to play with small vehicles, especially tractors, and our collection of Schleich animals. Mostly this play involves carrying them around, putting them in bags and baskets and then taking them out again, and dumping them all over the floor, but she does occasionally push the vehicles along the carpet. She still loves balls, although not as much as she did when she was closer to the year mark. She is almost ready to play trains with her brother as she is getting the idea of pushing the train along the track, but she also likes to take the track apart, so that’s still an exercise in frustration rather than a fun group activity.

Without a doubt, her favourite toy is my old Cabbage Patch Kid. I have been having a really hard time with this. I loathed dolls as a child (I thought they were creepy and pointless) and spent years collecting and playing with model horses (I had hundreds of them- no exaggeration). When E. showed absolutely no interest in playing with dolls as a child, gravitating instead immediately towards vehicles, trains, and building toys, I was disappointed. Now I’m disappointed that P. doesn’t care much for those toys but will carry the doll around all day long. This is my own problem, not theirs; there is nothing inherently gendered or wrong with any of these toys and they should be allowed to explore and enjoy their own interests.

In an effort to combat this, I made sure that Santa brought P. her own baby (one of the Corelle infant dolls with the bean bag bodies) because my Cabbage Patch Kid is a big doll for her to be lugging around. On Christmas morning, when the kids came downstairs, I put P. down and she looked at the tree before announcing “baby!” in a tone of joyful surprise and then toddled straight off to take the doll out of its carry bag. She does like to look after the baby (it spends a lot of time sleeping and needing food and diaper changes) but I think she still prefers the Cabbage Patch Kid, largely because my doll came with its own bag of clothes (most made by my mother thirty years ago) and P. loves to request a wardrobe change. Interestingly, P. interprets the bunting bag my mum made for the doll, which is supposed to be a snowsuit, as a sleep sack. P. makes some interesting dress choices and has a distressing tendency to choose socks, shoes, and underwear/shorts for the doll, but not much else.

She also received a tea set for Christmas from one of her aunties and she loves to have tea parties with the Cabbage Patch Kid (and sometimes some of the Schleich animals as well). She will set Colleen up on one of the little chairs at their table in the kitchen and arrange some assortment of cups and plates and spoons (she never forgets the spoons- I think they’re her favourite). Inevitably she ends up pushing Colleen off the chair as she decides she wants to try sitting on that one herself, leaving Q. to intone seriously, “I’m a bit concerned about what she’s serving at these tea parties” after one too many afternoons of him arriving home from work to find Colleen face-down on the floor near the table, only half-dressed.

P. loves to play outside but hates playing in the snow, so the last month has been hard on her. She’s just a year too little to really enjoy the snow. She’s basically spherical in her snowsuit, she can’t properly see her feet, and wrestling her thumbs into the appropriates holes in her waterproof mittens is a real challenge. Outdoor play with the two of them usually results in E. happily romping around engaged in a building project of some sort with the snow while P. pokes morosely at a ball, falls over, and requests to go back inside for snack. We took her sliding for the first time on Christmas Day. E. at this age loved it. P. went down twice and then refused to go down again, preferring instead to sit in the snow looking resigned and miserable, chanting “all done, snow” over and over again.


P. is very interested in having a book near her, especially when eating snack, something she’s most certainly copied from her big brother (he is the best possible role model for encouraging a love of reading). We’ve fallen into a pattern of going to the library on Saturdays at least a couple of times a month. E. immediately finds a few new chapter books and starts reading them. P. used to spend the time climbing off and on the chairs, running amok, and pulling books off the shelves but in the last couple of visits she’s started to more carefully choose a book or two and bring them to me so I can read them with her.

P. likes books with flaps (although she can’t have those unsupervised in her crib because she also likes to pull the flaps off and then frantically request “tay tay!” (tape) to fix them). She still loves the Priddy Baby 100 First Words board book and will gleefully turn the pages to find anything you ask her to identify. She knows she’s not allowed to touch E.’s books with paper pages and she’s pretty respectful of his shelves. I did get Cars and Trucks and Things That Go out this month as that was E.’s favourite at this age, but P. got bored with it very quickly. She definitely does not have the same attention span for books that E. did.

At bedtime we read three stories. Perennial favourites have included the BabyLit Dracula and Frankenstein, Eric Carle’s Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? and Mr. Seahorse (flipped through and summarized more than read), Where is the Green Sheep?, and It’s Time to Sleep, My Love. I Say, You Say, Feelings! turned up at Christmas and has been very popular as is the 100 Flaps Things That Go large board book.


P. goes to bed somewhere between 7 and 7:30 p.m. (7:15 is probably ‘normal’ bedtime) and falls asleep almost immediately. We never hear her chatting to herself like her brother did (and still does). She still gets up once to nurse but we are getting very close to that feed becoming the first of the morning as most of the time she sleeps until 5:30 a.m. or a bit later before nursing. I think we could fairly easily persuade her to drop that feed but then she’d get up for the day at 6. If she nurses and goes back to sleep she often sleeps until 7:30, so I’m not in a rush to change things.

P. naps around 12/12:30 p.m. and sleeps for two or two-and-a-half hours. A 90 minute nap is noticeably too short by the end of the day. Sometimes she’ll sleep for three hours but usually there’s a reason to explain it- a poor sleep the night before, or a lingering illness, etc. She still uses sleep sacks and a white noise machine. I dropped the white noise machine on our return from visiting grandparents over the holidays and thought I had broken it but it turned out it was just too cold from being in the car to function properly. I’m planning to wean her from it in the summer, like we did with E. She’s better at sleeping through noises in the night and the morning, but I’m not ready to lose that support.


P. is still a great eater, despite what her place on the weight percentiles might suggest. Our nanny comments all the time about how much food P. eats and all the different kinds of food she likes. I think this is another case where E. is acting as an excellent role model. He was much fussier when he was little but he’s been a pretty consistent eater for a couple of years now and he’ll try things even when he already knows from previous experience that he doesn’t like them. P. will sometimes refuse to try something (head shaking and “no!”) and other times will give anything that looks suspicious a bit of a lick before she’ll put it in her mouth.

She is good with a spoon and getting better with a fork (I think sometimes she is stymied by the blunt tines of the baby forks). She is perfectly capable of drinking out of a regular cup but likes to drink very nicely for quite some time and then unexpectedly turn the cup upside down (or throw it) when we let our guard down. She also needs someone to hold her cereal bowl while she eats or she’ll dump it over the side when she gets bored.

She likes to make her own decisions about breakfast (again copying her brother) and can choose between muesli (“mew-ee”), oatmeal (“oh-mea”), Cheerios (“chee-chee-oh”) and toast (“tow”). She doesn’t usually eat a big breakfast (probably because of the nursing overnight) but will put a lot away at lunch and supper. She still doesn’t like drinking milk very much but is getting better with cheese and yoghurt. She has no sweet tooth whatsoever and doesn’t like ice cream, chocolate, cake, cookies, or basically any sort of dessert (is she really my child?).

Interestingly, P.’s favourite food is still avocado (my number one craving when I was pregnant with her). She would eat two a day if we let her and “a-cah-o” was a clear word before her eighteenth month was finished. Other favourites are cucumber, crackers (especially Goldfish), strawberries (and most fruit in general), pasta, mashed potatoes, and any sort of stew or vegetarian dish mixed with rice (dahl, chili, chana masala, etc.). She notices immediately if we’re eating something that she isn’t (whole nuts are a big issue), and she frequently requests to drink our wine or my tea (although she will cheerfully follow up the latter request with “Noooo, hot!”).

She is still nursing. She nurses before bed and before nap if I’m the one home with her, once overnight, and sometimes first thing in the morning (depends on when the night feed was). She associates nursing now with comfort and connection rather than with food, and she can very clearly ask for it (“Mummy!” complete with hitting her own chest, or just lifting up my shirt/sticking a hand down my shirt if I’m within reach). She wants to nurse as soon as I get in the door after work and would prefer to spend the hour between me getting home and eating dinner attached to a boob. On days when I’m home with her she nurses a lot, but these are usually quick cuddles. I don’t really have any sense of how much she’s actually drinking these days, which is why I’d like her to be a bit more keen on dairy products. I no longer get over full on work days after the weekend at home with her, and I can miss both the nap and the bedtime feed on nights when I teach without becoming uncomfortable. It’s clear that how much she’s drinking is decreasing, but it’s also clear that she’s still very attached to nursing, and I’m in no rush to encourage her to give it up, especially since she is able to go down for a nap or at night without me. She is my last baby and I am very glad to have such a positive nursing relationship after the way things ended with E.


P. is a great traveller. She really enjoys playing with toys and looking at books in the car (a mystery bag filled with vehicles and animals is always a hit), and she almost never complains if E. is in the backseat with her. They often invent silly games (usually involving throwing stuffed animals at each other), and if E.’s back there it’s easy for her to eat a snack as he will carefully hand her things and pick up her water bottle if she drops it. She drove with me when I went to see my Dad during his medical scare in mid-December (and coped admirably with the eight-hour epic that was our return home when we were caught in a snowstorm) and then again between Christmas and New Year with Q. and E. as well.

P. had her first ever stomach bug (at least in terms of vomiting) right after the New Year. She threw up nine times in eighteen hours but was generally cheerful when she wasn’t puking (and was very frustrated and confused that I wouldn’t let her eat anything other than Cheerios). She also unfortunately caught HFM from her cousin at the end of November (although she escaped much more lightly than either Spud or poor labmonkey).

She is prone to serious bouts of Mummyitis. It is still generally impossible for me to cook dinner if it is anything more complicated than defrosting something Q.’s already made and cooking rice or potatoes or pasta to go alongside it. P. either demands to be held on my hip (and clings like a monkey if I try to put her down), wants to nurse, or holds on to my leg and cries. The other day Q. came home and I was running late because P. had had a massive diaper blow out that had required a full wardrobe change and a bath. When he walked in the door, I was trying to get pasta in the boiling water while P. held on to my leg and cried.

“I don’t know why you’re never able to have beef Wellington ready for me when I get home,” Q. quipped. “It would be so easy for you to make it.” (When Q. cooks, P. happily plays with her toys.)

At this age, E. loved standing on a chair helping me with dinner, but P. is not trustworthy enough to stand on a chair. We decided to get one of the learning towers (or a smaller knock off) as her present for Christmas but the one I want has gone out of stock most places online. Hopefully I can order it soon as I feel like it would make a world of difference if she could safely help me. It is unfair that so much of the cooking is resting on Q.’s shoulders right now, even if he understands why this is the case.

Q. and I have always felt that around 18 months was the golden age when E. was little. He was walking, sleeping well, eating well, communicating with us, able to amuse himself with toys, keen to help and/or participate, and still generally very agreeable (the autonomy seemed to emerge overnight when he turned two). We have been getting noticeably more resistance from P. in the last week than had been the case earlier, but she’s still very obviously in this sweet spot as well. It’s a really wonderful age, and she is a great deal of fun to be around.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the seventh year, Letters to P., P.- the second year

2018 Goals

1. Conquer my lizard brain

Back in 2015, when I sent myself to happiness boot camp, my first happiness reset sphere was parenting. At the time, E. and I were butting heads A LOT. It was a combination of a difficult developmental stage for him (no one is exaggerating when they talk about how miserable 3.5 can be), a lack of purpose for me (PhD finished, no job, no second baby), and very long, cold winter.

We had slipped into some very negative patterns in our relationship, and I knew things needed to change.

It was a bad phase, but we got through it and things did change and get better and, for the most part, things are a lot smoother chez Turia these days, even with the addition of P., the pint-sized tornado.

When I took a step back and looked critically at the way I interacted with E., I could point to this as the problem:

One of the things that I dislike the most about how I parent E. is how easily I get frustrated/irritated when he starts yelling or getting hugely upset (especially when it is over something that seems highly inconsequential to me). The moment I get frustrated, I feel my jaw clench, and my willingness to compromise or to not sweat the small stuff evaporates. Although I almost never yell, I do raise my voice. The minute I do, the situation escalates.

E. is very sensitive. Yelling doesn’t work. I know this, and I almost never yell at him in anger. But he is just as easily upset by a loud, stern voice, and I am guilty (very guilty) of resorting to using it, especially once my buttons have been pushed and I feel like I’m locked in a battle of wills that I must win.

It’s still the biggest problem in our relationship. I ask E. to do something, he refuses to do it, I ask a different way, he refuses again, I get frustrated and wham! Here comes my lizard brain, which sees danger around every corner, and suddenly my back is up and I’m dead set on winning whatever battle of wills we’re currently engaged in.

I am pretty sure it was Dr. Laura Markham’s Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting which first explained to me exactly what was going on in my brain when I would feel myself losing my temper over the most inconsequential of things (but I didn’t write any quotes down from the book, so I’m not 100% positive. I do remember thinking it was a really important book once I had finished it). Basically, when our children push our buttons, our lizard brain (the oldest, most instinct-driven part of our brain) rears up and takes charge. Lizard brain lives in fight-0r-flight mode. My beloved son is not a sabre-toothed tiger hiding in the grass, but when he’s arguing with me and my lizard brain kicks in, he might as well be.

I don’t feel like I have enough patience for E. a lot of the time. I think sometimes I am too quick to think of him as six-and-a-half-SO-big! instead of six-and-a-half-still-little. Maybe my expectations are too high, or maybe they’re reasonable for his age but he’s not yet able to meet them because of his own developmental arc. I do know I had so much more patience for defiance and meltdowns and hysterics when he was two, because I expected the behaviour.

I know my triggers: not enough sleep, not enough me-time or quiet, being hungry, or having him suddenly disagree about something when I wasn’t expecting it. I know it is developmentally normal for kids to push boundaries and to test their parents, but it’s very very hard for me to keep my lizard brain suppressed when he’s arguing with me or speaking rudely or refusing to do what I’ve asked. I almost always react too quickly and too strongly. I don’t give myself the time and space I need to respond the way I would like. I hit panic mode: “I have to stop this behaviour NOW” rather than being able to take a step back, assess the situation and think “Why is this behaviour happening?”

Lizard brain doesn’t let you step back, take a deep breath and assess the situation.

So if I achieve only one thing this year, I want it to be this: less time with lizard brain in charge.

2. Start getting ready for bed at 9:30 p.m.

Before the holidays, Q. and I were in a bad pattern of going to bed too late, and I was in an even worse pattern of taking ages to actually get ready to go to bed (largely because I kept taking the phone with me to the bathroom so I could read “one more thing” while brushing my teeth). I also hated doing anything that would make the morning more efficient in the evenings because that was my precious “me” time, which meant that E. and I spent quite a bit of December sprinting to school to make sure we wouldn’t be late. We were never late, but it wasn’t a great feeling.

When I was thinking about goals and resolutions for 2018, there were a whole bunch of little ones that could all be neatly folded under this one simple change. So this morning I set an alarm on my phone for 9:30 p.m. called “Go To Bed”. My goal is to be all tucked up in bed by 10 p.m., and to use those thirty minutes to do a bunch of little things that I never prioritize:

  • make E’s lunch for the next day
  • make my lunch if I’m going to be at work
  • fold laundry if it’s hanging out in the dryer or put it away if it’s in a basket
  • file important papers and tidy my desk
  • clean out the litterboxes
  • plug in all of my devices (and put the phone down!)
  • floss

I need to stop thinking of 9:30-10 p.m. as “me” time and start thinking about it as “get ready for tomorrow” time. This is hard- I’m often still upstairs with E. until 8:15, and I don’t like to give up “me” time. I think it will make a huge difference though.

3. Stop taking the phone to the bathroom.

I still have a love-hate relationship with my smartphone. Lately I’ve felt it’s been creeping into my life a little too much. I’m on it too much in the evenings (which noticeably affects my ability to go to sleep) and I tend to take refuge in it too easily. I have been known to hide from everyone in the bathroom with the phone, which feels, on the one hand, like some excellent multi-tasking and, on the other, like maybe I’m a bit addicted to it. So no more email writing or blog reading in the bathroom because it always ends up sucking far more time than I expected.

4. Make the switch to manual and RAW on my camera.

I feel like my photography skills have plateaued. I can shoot pretty well on Av mode, and I control my ISO and my white balance, but I’ve been hesitating before taking that last final step to full manual mode, and I’ve still refused to start editing my images. I’m sick and tired of being jealous of other people’s photos without ever taking steps to change what I know, and I’m frustrated that I default so quickly to using the camera on my phone while my big camera sits on a shelf. Shooting inside my house in the winter is always a challenge- the light’s never very good- but I don’t want to just keep taking snapshots with the phone.

I signed up for the same photography course that Mali is doing. Hopefully that will give me the push I need to practice more. I also need to be more willing to take pictures of things other than my kids, both because they’re not the most cooperative of subjects if I’m trying to fiddle with settings and because I try not to post photos of them online. It seems silly to take a course and not make it possible for others to offer critiques of your work. Plus I do like finding beauty in the everyday.

5. Read 75 books.

I will hopefully write an entirely separate post about this one, but for now I will say this: I am an avid reader and reading is one of my most important mental-health management strategies. 75 books is more than I read in 2017 or 2016, but far less than I read in 2015 (which was the first year I started keeping track). These all have to be books for fun- the (no doubt many) books I will read for my work will not count. My TBR list has expanded exponentially since I started following Modern Mrs. Darcy, and I currently have over fifty books on hold at the library (most listed as inactive), so finding the books will not be the challenge.

6. Go on two dates a month with Q.

Q. and I have a monthly lunch date, which he organized as his present to me for our tenth wedding anniversary last summer (the envelopes with the restaurants’ menus were all presented to me in a tin lunch box because tin is the traditional gift and Q. is amazing). I want to add to this and make sure we get out at least one other time each month, whether that’s for dinner or to see a movie or a concert or just a long walk together and a chance to poke around in a bookstore. Our nanny is happy to babysit on days when she hasn’t been at our house, my mother will soon be close enough to babysit as well, and P. is now (I think) getting to be old enough that my youngest sister might be occasionally willing to look after them both (although her schedule is usually pretty busy). We have options. We need to start taking advantage of them to make sure we remember to prioritize our marriage.

I feel like there should be something in here about exercise and something about writing in general (and blogging in the specific) and something about work, but I haven’t been able to clearly articulate something for those areas yet, and I don’t want to get overwhelmed. So I think I will leave it at six and reassess how I’m going at the start of the next quarter, in April.

What are your 2018 goals/resolutions?


Filed under Books, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Choose Happiness

How to Name a Goal

I’ve been struggling a little with how I want to articulate my goals for 2018.

I’m not usually big on New Year’s resolutions. As I’ve said on this blog many times before, I always think of September as the new year, because my life is so tied to the academic calendar.

This past September. though, wasn’t just a regular “back to school” start to the year. It felt like a seismic shift in our family. It wasn’t just that my maternity leave ended and I went back to work, but that I went back to work to a position that required full-time hours. I’ve always been working, with the exception of the first six months of E’s life and all of 2015 when there wasn’t any teaching to be had, but previously I’d been able to fit the work in around my family. Even when I was registered as a full-time student for the PhD, I never actually worked more than three days a week on it once E. was born.

Something approximating full-time hours (because I’m still cheating and staying home with P. one day a week) was a real shock, for all of us. E. had never had someone other than his parents pick him up from school in the afternoons.

The fall was a big period of adjustment (although it took much longer for me to adjust than anyone else).

We survived the fall.

That makes it sound probably worse than it was, because everyone was largely happy with the new routine (I’d still rather be home an extra day, but c’est la vie).

What didn’t happen, at least from my perspective, was this: we didn’t really ever slip into a groove. We made the routine work, but we weren’t settled in the new rhythm yet. On the surface, we probably looked under control- the house got cleaned and everyone ate and the kids went to activities and had clothes that fit and we didn’t forget appointments- but I think Q. and I both felt like we just careened from one week to the next, always only one step ahead of total chaos. (That we avoided chaos at all is almost entirely thanks to Q. who took on the lion’s share of the house management.)

It is quite possible that this is just normal life for two working parents with two little kids, but we’re not used to feeling so out of control.

It wasn’t a comfortable fall.

So I feel like there is value to setting some resolutions or goals for 2018, because I think it would be useful for me to sit back and look at my life and see what is working and what is not and to think about what I can change to improve things.

I just haven’t quite worked out yet how I want to approach it.

I have an all-or-nothing kind of personality, so it’s not at all practical for me to make resolutions like “do x every day” because as soon as I start missing days I tend to decide the entire thing’s a disaster and I quit. I once made an abortive attempt at a photo 365 (starting in 2016) and gave up even before January was half over because I’d missed a few days. In July it became clear on the photo blog which inspired me to start the challenge that she’d missed a bunch of days, including quite a few in quick succession in the summer. It was honestly shocking for me to contemplate the idea that you could keep doing something even if you hadn’t done all the rest of it perfectly up to that point.

I have to be careful with numbers because my inner perfectionist loves to tell me I’ve failed at things. That’s why I really liked Ana’s idea about posting 30 times in 30 days during NaBloPoMo: even if you missed a day, you could still complete the challenge. I didn’t quite get there, but I also didn’t give up almost immediately after missing a day, so I call that a win.

At first I thought about choosing a word for the year, to keep it simple. But the best word I could come up with was “less” (as in less stuff, less stress, less worrying, etc.) and that didn’t seem to encompass everything.

From Ana’s blog I heard about the Happier podcast’s idea of 18 in 2018, which seemed promising for about fifteen seconds before I decided that I’d get overwhelmed with 18 things, even if some of them were small.

I usually like goals better than resolutions because I’m a very results-oriented person, especially results that come with lots and lots of external validation. But some things lend themselves better to resolutions than goals (I am happy to resolve to “floss more” as opposed to working towards the goal of “not having my gums bleed copiously every time I go to the dentist”). Plus sometimes I don’t want to do the thinking to make sure all my goals are SMART. And sometimes the process is more important than the result: from a results-only perspective, my happiness boot camp back in 2015 was a total failure, in that I didn’t keep up with my charts and didn’t stick to the plan and didn’t achieve most of the goals (although the ultimate end goal was a success as I did end up much happier).

I take choosing my resolutions/goals seriously, even when I usually don’t achieve them.

Does that make any sense?

How do you approach your goals/resolutions? What works for you? What are you hoping to achieve in 2018?

1 Comment

Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Choose Happiness

Microblog Mondays: The Good Patient

I am usually a model patient.

The chief ultrasound tech at the clinic used to comment on it, saying, “Turia, you are a good girl. You take all your medications on time. You come in when you need to come in. You are a perfect patient.”

This always struck me as crazy, because there was so much on the line at that clinic. Why spend thousands and thousands of dollars to not take the right medications or skip monitoring or do the IVF trigger shot too early or too late? But I guess she had seen all of those and more.

This morning I had my second appointment with my new endocrinologist (who is just as competent and just as pleasant and just as organized as she appeared to be at our first meeting). We went over the bloodwork I did two weeks earlier, and she was very happy with the change to my synthroid, but a little perplexed as to why one other factor still wasn’t in the ‘normal’ range.

“It could be something totally benign,” she told me, “in which case it’s just indicative of either low Vitamin D or low calcium.”

At that point I had to admit that, despite what it said in my chart, I had largely stopped taking both Vitamin D and calcium back in the summer. I got out of the habit when we went to visit Q’s family and never got back into it. I haven’t even been taking a prenatal, even though I’m still nursing P.

I’m eating dairy again, but not huge amounts of it because of what I discovered when I was regulating my cycle before P. was conceived, so I’m quite sure I’m not getting the 1200 mg a day she wanted. And I know I should be taking Vitamin D because it’s a given that everyone in Canada is deficient without supplementation. My kids get theirs, but taking care of me had slipped through the cracks.

She was very good about it and suggested that we do another round of blood tests in three months to check everything was back to normal.

I was unbelievably embarrassed.

I’m still mulling over my goals/resolutions for 2018, but one of them was definitely going to be “take better care of myself”. I had thought to start small on this by restarting my flossing habit (which once was impeccable but has been far from ideal ever since P. was born).

I guess I better add “take your vitamins” to my list.

How’s your self-care? Where are your weak spots?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.


Filed under Microblog Mondays, MSPI, My addled brain, Nursing, Thyroid

The best-laid plans

Over a year ago, when I was discussing with our nanny how our arrangement would work, she asked whether I would mind if she didn’t work the two weeks when E. wasn’t at school over the holidays. I said that was fine.

I’ve been looking forward to this week ever since. I knew the first week of the holidays would be busy, with Christmas on the Monday and then us travelling to see the grandparents. But I figured the second week would allow me to spend some quality time with both kids. We’d be at home, in our comfort zone. We could play in the snow. We could go to the library to get some new books. We could make use of our annual passes to a couple of our city’s attractions.

It hasn’t quite worked out as I’d hoped.

Monday, the 1st, was quiet. We’d arrived home lateish the night before, so we spent the day cleaning, unpacking, doing laundry, and figuring out what we’d need from the grocery stores once they opened the next day. E. and I finished building an Eiffel Tower out of K’nex that we’d started on Christmas Day.

P. started vomiting in the wee hours of the 2nd and kept right on going that entire day. (My despondent post while I was waiting for laundry to finish so I could go to bed turned out to be the last time she threw up). So the 2nd (Tuesday) was very quiet indeed. E. and I packed up all the Christmas decorations (we even managed to get the tree outside onto the front porch, which was the only point any of us went outside all day).

E. was saintly on the 2nd. P. needed a lot of attention (and a lot of cleaning up) and he did a great job of amusing himself and helping me as much as he could (with the Christmas decorations, getting his own snack, watching P. in the bath while I cleaned the carpet, and running to get the vomit bowl when it was clear P. was about to be sick yet again).

Yesterday, the 3rd (Wednesday), P. was clearly on the mend and managed to keep (plain) food down all day. I bundled them both up and got them outside in the morning. E. and I dug a tunnel underneath the giant snow pile in our backyard (made from shovelling our parking pad and our section of sidewalk). P. poked morosely at a ball and then complained until it was time to go inside (she is really one year too little to be enjoying the snow). The wheels fell off  a little bit in the afternoon but I managed to find an activity that both kids could do- building with the Crazy Fort sticks and balls. E. built a slide/ladder on our couch and P. was happy to stand in the cube I built for her, whacking whatever she could reach with spare sticks. Q. arrived home to find E. and I chasing each other around the house in a tickle war (using Crazy Fort sticks with balls on both ends as our magic tickle wands) while P. was stampeding along behind us, waving her sticks in the air, not understanding what was going on but joining in wholeheartedly (which is P. in a nutshell, really).

Everyone felt well.

I reached out to E’s best friend’s mum to see if they wanted to come with us on an outing the next day. We made tentative plans to meet for a playdate in the afternoon. E., P. and I hatched a plan to go to the museum in the morning.

And then, last night, almost exactly twenty-four hours after P. stopped vomiting, E. started.

So we’ve spent today at home, again. P. and I have sorted through the many, many piles and boxes of outgrown baby clothes that I’ve been meaning to donate. We organized them into three piles- give to the baby girl three houses down, give to the house for young mothers a few streets over, give to the Diabetes Clothesline the next time they’re in the area. We got out her 18-24 month bin and pulled out everything that was seasonally appropriate and sorted it into three piles- put in P’s dresser, send to Spud, give to house for young mothers (the baby on our street was born in the wrong season to need winter 18-24 month clothing).

E. has spent the day lying in his bed. He fell asleep for a couple of hours in the late morning, but mostly he’s just been lying there. He’s not even reading.  He hasn’t thrown up since early this morning, and he isn’t running a fever, but he is clearly VERY UNWELL.

It hasn’t been a terrible week, and I’m glad I’ve been the one to be around. We’ve had some good moments. And I know there will be other opportunities to go to the museum or do any of the other things we’d planned.


This is the only week I’ll get at home with my kids between now and the summer holidays.

I wish it could have been different.


Filed under E.- the seventh year, P.- the second year, The Sick