Alice at Naptime and The Rabbit Hole of Maternal Love

Naptime- those words evoke a sense of peace and calm. Calm if you are the one indulging in a nap – but even more tranquility if the sleeping person is your busy little toddler.

Alice at Naptime is the sweet and dreamy latest book by Canadian artist and mom, Shea Proulx. Moms with children of all ages will delight in pouring over the colourful depictions of the sleeping child, and will lose themselves in the narrative carefully created for adults and children both. In this graphic story a baby’s naptime gives the mom a welcome chance to turn away from its need of constant attention but the artist simply can’t – the baby is her muse.

As Shea Proulx says she, “spent her twenties going to forest-raves, living with a lot of strange people, and becoming over-educated at Emily Carr and UBC. Immediately after graduating with an MFA she discovered that she was totally pregnant…  At its core, Alice at Naptime tells a universal story, of a parent pining for past freedoms, while simultaneously descending down a rabbit hole of all-encompassing maternal love.”

It’s the perfect book for new moms, artist-moms, moms we’re grateful for – and admirers of all of those. Anyone really – moms, dads and children – can lose themselves in the artwork that winds around itself in an ever changing pastel wonderland to the tales end. The book is available in hard and soft cover or a limited edition gift set that includes the hard copy with a signed book plate, two charming pins, and a special chocolate bar – a Mother’s Day present extraordinaire.  Available from the publisher – Renegade Arts and Entertainment.

Alice at Naptime can also be ordered from all your favourite book sellers (which include some in the UK) and Indigo and Amazon.ca Alice at Naptime

Oh Baby – Let’s Swing

“How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown–
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down! ”

The Swing –   Robert Louis Stevenson

Up at our cottage there is a small clearing in the trees, with a view toward the lake.  It is a place some of us (probably the girls) always looked at as if it was where you would slip off to with a new boyfriend when it seemed you had been inundated with aunts and uncles, and cousins or other lakeside visitors –  to get away and whisper, or steal a kiss without being observed by dad.

It is a place to go when you are feeling like a moment, or being contemplative, or are in love, or out of love – a place away from the other places, a place to steal a kiss, or tell a secret. IMG_4581

 

 

 

And then our eldest had a baby who has a love of swinging, and we’d drive for twenty minutes to the park beside the local baseball diamond.  At last I knew what the spot in the trees needed – a swing – a swing for a toddler, but a swing for a long-legged kid or a grown up, too.

Lucky for all of us my son-in-law, the toddler’s daddy, is a recently graduated architect with a passion for building – no pre-packaged swing set kit for us.  On three of the hottest days of last summer he happily constructed the perfect, simple baby swing and a ‘big’ swing, and a place to climb and slide – with awe struck assistants from those of us eager for the finished product.

It was a hot summer with the lake temperature invitingly warm, so swimming and boating and floating we’re so much of what we did – not much swinging at all.IMG_4641

But it’s British Columbia, Canada and there are long crisp seasons where the lake is the backdrop for more quiet pursuits, times when there will be a fussy baby that needs to be soothed or too many folks will be crowded inside, and two others will have to slip out to that spot in the trees and take turns simply swinging.nest painting-2

It’s January now, the ground is icy white, the still air promises more snow and cold.  But hey, it’s time to dream of  spring and going “up into the air and down”….

Peas, Ice Cream, Smarties and a Little Blue Potty

Hey, while Grandma’s trying to catch her breath – I’m writing this on her iPhone to let you know what’s going on here, Mommy, but first I have to shout at Grandma, “No, No!” because there is a tiny piece of blueberry stem in my breakfast and she will come remove it from my presence.  You know how I hate anything nasty like that cluttering up my highchair tray.  I’ll digress, Mommy, to tell you I have Grandpa trained, too.  Yesterday he found out some other grandfather has his grandson call him ‘Bronco’, so decided he wanted to be called ‘Cool Guy’.  I say it and he’ll watch the ‘puppy’ movie with me another fantastic time. Image
So the morning I found you’d left me, your two-year-old sweet baby girl, to go reclaim your misspent youth at that music festival for what?  Five sleeps? –  I was fine, really.  I had my cousin to hang with and the other Nana and Papa before I got plopped in the car with this Grandma and caught up with some zzz’s all the way to the city.  Grandma’s first stop was Toy R Us – what’s with you never taking me there?  I think she was nervous when she saw my eyes bug out – she bought another potty and had me packed out of there in no time and over to Great Grandma’s (GG’s) and Great Grandpa’s so I could amaze them with my dexterity and climbing abilities and they could say over and over, “I’m just afraid she’s going to fall,” and encourage me to eat my dinner.   Grandma didn’t want to let on that when I started to squawk the last twenty minutes of the three hour car ride (I mean really) she had passed me back a big old bag of potato chips and ruined my dinner.

The first night was hell going to bed without you folks.  I started to cry – like seriously wail, and you won’t believe this Mommy, but somehow Grandma had left ‘Baby’ behind.  Her and Grandpa started dragging other ratty old dolls up from their basement but Mom, Baby is Baby, no substitute was filling that void.  But then ‘Cool Guy’ offered a movie and Grandma remembered you’d pulled the plug on my viewing ‘Bolt’ for the summer – the flick that I cleverly refer to as ‘puppy movie’ to help you all forget that the action packed animation is scary and that amazing puppy, Bolt, demolishes a ton of bad dudes.   Well, that was the old folks solution to my frantic tears.  Grandpa found it on his big screen TV.  It was bliss Mommy, cuddling with them and watching puppy movie.  Grandpa was such a fan of it that the next morning while Grandma ran out to buy me a big bucket of fat baby Lego and stock the fridge with my favourite healthy fruits and juices (like that lasted) Cool Guy and I watched puppy movie again.
Grandma’s been showing me off to her friends.  It’s a pretty easy gig – she get’s me to say a few words that come out clearly, and you know, I show them that I know where my nose is (duh)  and they are down on the blanket doing baby Lego with me or asking Grandma in a challenging way if she’s spoiling me with ice cream – and then she does. She had invited two grandma wanna-be’s-but-not-too-soon over passed my erratic bedtime and I know they were looking at us like the whole situation was out of control.  But really, Mommy, it was late and I was bored with the fat Lego.  She didn’t want me to watch puppy movie again (Cool Guy wasn’t home yet), they’d kiboshed my attempt at grabbing that glass ball dangling over the window seat (who makes a ball out of glass anyway), and I was so over toys.  Someone came up with the ice cream idea and yeah, yeah, I know I’m supposed to say “all done” instead of mucking in it and pushing the dish off the tray, but honestly I was spent, and Grandma was frazzled.  I knew if she’d just put me in the bath I could amuse her again.
Speaking of amusing people – the other great-grandparents came to see moi and were spellbound by my using Cool Guy’s iPad – iPad, iphone – it’s not rocket science – you scroll, you push, you tap – a baby could do it.  Even more exciting – as time goes by Grandma lets me get into the cupboards she’s said no to earlier – so why wouldn’t I give that a go?  Isn’t that what they’ll want from me when I’m older – persistence – going the extra mile?  So finally I got to play with the glass candle holders and the fragile Easter decorations tucked away behind them.

Did I mention that people bring me presents – a new doll – so cute, but not Baby.  Speaking of Baby – what’s this I keep hearing, something along the lines of, “do I understand about the new baby?”  Seriously folks?  Word here is that I’m too little to stress about a new sibling yet.  Oh, and speaking of stress…  Grandma gave up on the potty thing.  Hey, don’t get me wrong.  I like this new potty.  She thought the other one wasn’t comfy. This one is so comfy and supposedly my using it for my business instead of perfectly acceptable diapers could have something to do with eating Smarties.Image  Hey, I can’t believe you’ve kept those from me too.  I guess we’re even – you’re having a wild time at the music festival with Daddy and I’m kicking it up here with those chocolate bits of loveliness.  It seems Grandma thought she could train me, but she handed over the Smarties when I whimpered at bedtime and she sort of whimpered herself about how she trained her four kids – you can train me, and good luck to you.  I think it was a weak moment.

Today she took me out to visit another sweet grandma wanna-be… for more presents and you know it – ice cream.  Grandma was super late getting there and I have to tell you, Grandma told this friend that she can’t believe she suggested to you, Mommy, that maybe you could do some of your art while I sleep.  “As if!” she said to her ice cream serving friend.  “I totally get that when this toddling ball of energy stops spinning circles all you want to do is catch your breath, or clean up the mess, or maybe for fun throw in the laundry and watch it go around,” Grandma said gulping back a glass of vino.
ImageShe brought me home and for dinner she let me pick and eat a zillion peas from what she calls her slug invested garden.   After that I tried once more to stand at the top of the stairs to the lower level and shout what Daddy shouts at you when we’re all here together, “Zoe, are you coming?”  Just hoping that you might be down there.  That really got to the old folks – Grandma hugged me and told me “just two more sleeps” and Cool Guy said he’d watch puppy movie. They were both asleep before Bolt returned from his exile.

You two have fun – we are. But it will be blissful to snuggle with you and see ‘Baby’ again and get off this ice cream diet.  Love you guys.  XO Tessa (Grandma says I need an alias in case this is all too embarrassing later.

Taking Care of ‘Baby’ – a Memory Shake Down

Okay, call me a slow learner or a good forget-ter.  During the five days of caring for my granddaughter, while her parents enjoyed their baby-free honeymoon I found myself too often collapsing in a heap (usually with fussy baby in my arms –or with her just tucked into her car seat) with me gripping the steering wheel up front and reaching for my survival coffee, and later saying to whoever would listen – how did I do this back in the day?  I have four adult kids.  When the oldest was the mature age of five the youngest was a newborn.  So yeah, I was raising a new baby, a two-year-old, a four-year-old and my right hand person back then, the girl that had my back, fetching diapers and entertaining her brothers  (during all those long hours that their dad was at work) was my then five-and-a-half-year-old eldest daughter.  She’s twenty-seven now – and deserved the holiday with her baby’s daddy.

My honeymoon babysitting stint took place immediately following their ‘destination’ wedding on a little west coast island.  After all those months of helping plan the lovely affair I was a little frazzled leaving our home to fly out for the wedding, so when I returned here with Baby the house wasn’t exactly ready for infant care.  The first morning rather than packing usurped Baby into a cold car seat  I was borrowing milk and Cheerio’s from the neighbours.  That’s standard baby fare right?  Milk and cheerio’s?  I could best describe the five days as a memory shake down

Day One went swimmingly – fifteen-month-old grandbaby was just taking it all in, visiting her great-grandparents and traversing their stairs like she was a mountain guide in the Swiss Alps, and gobbling up fresh blueberries so fast I swear they thought I was starving her, then merrily spreading her funny grins around.  Even bedtime wasn’t too bad even though her mom still nurses her then and all grandma was offering was an unfamiliar bottle of cow’s milk. Day Two we kept action-packed, visiting another set of great-grandparents where Baby  put three little stuffed dolls under placemats and discovered them there seconds later as pleased with herself as if she were Houdini performing an escape act.

Every time she visits our place I babyproof for a different level of trickster Baby.  This time I wound fat elastic bands tightly around the cupboard handles of the cupboard I most-want-her-to-stay-out-of and she most-wants-to-get-in and she expertly unwound them.  I distracted her with some time in the yard.  She distracted me by considering putting pebbles and twigs in her mouth.  Still we were having fun, Baby and I, until bedtime.  At bedtime the jig was up.  Though Baby gurgles and chatters and exclaims all day, accept for pointing, her language is mostly indecipherable.  But we didn’t need a translator to tell us what the long hour of crying, little shouts and sobs meant.  Her message was clear, “Where the hell are my parents?  I’ve put up with you pathetic stand-ins long enough.”  Grandpa couldn’t console her, a favourite uncle felt he’d lost his place of esteem, and I finally resorted to pulling a big quilt over the two of us and letting the sweet (noisy) pet sob it out.

By Day Three any bit of fatigue brought a similar break down.  “Imposters”, she cried at nap time, “I beg you to return me to my people.”

I’ve got to do better, I told myself. Think. Think hard.  I brought out her buggy to attempt to stroll her to sleep.  Just then a heavy rain poured down outside.  But forlorn Baby had climbed into the buggy on her own.  I fell into Plan B, circling the stroller through the kitchen, dining and living room, shush, shush, shushing her and, voila – she was fast asleep and dreaming.

And on that night there were no tears at bed time either.  It was the motion theory at work. We dropped in on great-grandparents again, who can never get enough of Baby, and cleverly (finally) left at a time that my tucking Baby into the car seat with her bunny was the last image she had that night, staying soundly asleep until Day Four. 

Now I’ve never spilled the beans to my daughter about how sad her daughter was those first few nights.  I don’t want to lose any opportunity for her to let me bond with Baby for a few wonderful (sometimes loud) days again.  Darn it, why did it take me four days to rediscovered the benefits of the stroller and every mom (and grandma) should know that the car ride always works.  We finally had a rhythm going for Day Four and Day Five – with trips to Starbucks before nap time – Grandma needed a caffeine boost early in the day, and it was a little slice of heaven showing off my beloved granddaughter in my favourite coffee shop.  And after we planned for an after dinner stroll or car ride (duh) and I whispered to  smart Baby that she’d get her people back the next day, the last bedtime was calmer, too.  

So please let me do it again, good daughter of mine.  I’ve got the hang of it again, I swear.

Mother of the Bride – a Fun Ride

Cover of "Wedding Flowers"

Cover of Wedding Flowers

Wow – five days until my daughter’s wedding!!  For the last three  days I’ve admitted to some people that I’ve been “oddly emotional” and they all reply – “What?  Of course you’re emotional – what’s odd about that?”  But I think I was surprised by my own tears in the pompom warehouse (no kidding – millions of pompoms under one roof) and even, can you believe it – over the phone to the indifferent desk clerk at the honeymoon spot (making sure that they acknowledge the honeymoon couple in some nice way – and they do  – with chocolates and wine) because except for a very few, very mild panic attacks (breath deep, in through the nose, out through the mouth)  I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of helping my daughter plan her hopefully lovely, ‘ smallish’ wedding.

My husband and I like to entertain – small scale in our home or cottage, with flowers from the garden, homemade food (okay – yeah, I cheat a bit on that) drinks, and the right music on the iPod.  My daughter’s guy has a similar background, and she and the wonderful young man she’s marrying  have the home in their community that friends spontaneously  gather at and so they regularly put on impromptu dinner parties as well.  So come on, tell me – how could we not have crazy fun planning a party where we don’t have to cook or clean up – but get to set the stage, make it dazzling (we hope) choose the menu and dance lots?  She’s an artist so indulged her passion for drawing by designing invites and seating charts (her small obsession), and programs and thank-you cards and EVEN those signs at the side of the road that say “Wedding this way” – paying no attention to my, “But honey, those don’t have to be art – they might get rained on and people are just speeding by.”

What were my obsessions? I admit I did tromp all over two cities looking for the right lacy socks for the flower girls -all women of a certain age will know the ones I refer to, I’m going to start importing them.) But I also was stuck on retro qualities from cousin’s weddings back in the day – the ones  where we ate homemade Ukrainian food and polka-ed and did the stupid chicken dance.  This wedding is on the coast on an island that takes two ferries to get to (just ten minutes each, honest).  There won’t be perogies, and maybe not the chicken dance, but there will be bright pompoms on the cars and match books with the couple’s names on them (if they arrive in the mail this week) and flower petals sprinkled down the aisle by tiny girls – the bride and groom’s niece, as well as their own fourteen- month-old toddler who may or may not help her cousin with those petals (okay – not).  There will be flowers grown on the island by a local young woman – dahlia’s and whatever else grew this summer, and groomsmen who have never been groomsmen before and bridesmaid’s in the same category, accept for the one whose done it five times this summer (bless her). There will be lots of young people who have never even been invited to a wedding or maybe one way back, but not a close friend’s.  Both families will walk down the grassy aisle and my sister will perform the ceremony.  There will be a cousin playing Davie Bowie songs on his guitar as the bride walks towards the groom with her dad, and I guess, this is the part that is making me cry, because I’m crying now, is that it’s been a hec of a fun ride, helping to put this together – fun, of the sorts that makes me happy.  That’s what we’re supposed to pursue right?  So now, after so much anticipation I’m tearing up.  Our two families have worked together so that the guests  that we love (even those slow to RSVP) could be well taken care of on the day that we join each other by the seaside, while our dear daughter and the good man that she is marrying stand together, with their little baby girl nearby and promise to keep loving each other for a very long time.

And the best advice that I can give the new couple is to cherish the day, to let others entertain you on Sept. 24th but most importantly –to  have fun on your day.   Just remember, we’ve got your back.

Hey Granny, You Better Buy an Easy-Peasy Umbrella Stroller

So I bought the bright red  stroller for wonderful grand-baby – and was shocked at what a buggy cost!  That said, I do remember saving hard for a double buggy when two of my own darlings were eighteen months apart, and in fact this stroller is built with the future in mind.  When you have baby number two you can purchase another contraption for the teeny new one to lie above this one (or something convoluted like that) and IF number two is followed by number three, everyone shoves over and you buy a little step to attach to the back so number one’s little feet still don’t have to do the walking!

So one-year-old granddaughter was in my charge while we visited Windermere B.C. and I took her to ‘town’ to have a little stroll around and pretend people were whispering, “Mom, or grandmom?”  Of course, the gig (in my dreams) was up when baby woke from napping and I needed to adjust the stroller back to let her sit up, and had to ask a youthful shop owner (of childbearing age) to assist me.  Baby and I wandered off down the sidewalk window shopping, with me picking up her flowery sun hat as she threw it down (“good game, silly grandma”) until I noticed that now the fancy buggy straps were so loose grand-baby could haul up and run off if she so desired.   I was struggling to tighten them – baby bouncing on my lap and stroller sliding all over the walkway when a kind couple came by – my peers, I might add and the silver haired gentleman, introducing himself as a experienced grandfather, offered to assist.Okay, we were all – the other couple and I, the grandparent type you see on the vitamin bottles in my bathroom – the just barely 50, might need a boost of vitamin type, you know that fit, but slightly graying sort from the freedom 55 comercials frolicking on the beach?

But could any of us fit-frolickers understand that millennium baby stroller? Nope – for full comprehension we needed a buggy from the eighties.  I finally had to tell this guy thanks for his trouble but obviously the darn, modern, high tech stroller had outwitted us all.  I slid baby back in and had the forethought to ask my would-be helper to demonstrate the four-way clip that held the whole harness together.  He obliged, but I guess, given the circumstances, my short attention span was timed-out.

After I fed my dolly a cup of strawberry ice cream for her lunch, I figured we should make our way back to the car.  There I was in front of  my ride trying like mad to undo that child-proof four-point clip and thankful that grandpappy and I had  never tightened the darn harness, as it was becoming clear that if we would have succeeded I’d have had to abandon my vehicle and stroller stuck-baby many miles back ‘home’ – instead I was taking off her shoes and preparing to lift and slide her out of the bottom harness when who should rescue us?  Kindly grandfather-man, probably wondering why I hadn’t paid closer attention last time.  Okay, I’m definitely the grandma – the universe was making that loud and clear – baby’s mom was at a music festival calling up her mis-spent youth and dancing her little heart out, and I was considering how badly I needed a teeny little afternoon nap.

Bridesmaids, Popcorn and Babies

Now here is something that didn’t exist when I was home with babies –  Stars and Strollers, the afternoon matinees just for parents ( and grandmas, and eager aunties, and friends) and – get this – babies.  My daughter,  Zoe, and my oh so adorable one-year-old granddaughter came to visit and we decided we had to give this a try.   We picked a movie that we really wanted to see (maybe that was a mistake), which unfortunately was only playing way, way across the city (perhaps our second boo-boo) and headed off to meet a friend of Zoe’s and her one-year-old little guy, and to observe the darling chaos of it all.

The movie was Bridesmaids and for a Wednesday afternoon there appeared to be a pretty big turn out of mostly new mommies and teeny weeny babies. I noticed a few grandmothers in the crowd, amongst the stroller pushers.  My youngest daughter, Lily, wanted to see the movie, but not as much as she wanted to hang with her out-of-town tiny niece at the theater, so she was with our group, as well.

The lobby was a stroller-a-thon though the  two women purchasing tickets ahead of me were being charged regular price for not having a under two-year-old with them (which is what the fine print on the Cineplex web site says would happen), but they successfully argued they should be entitled to the same discount the rest of us were getting for the inconvenience of being surrounded by all those babies.  Now I have to say right off, if they really came to enjoy the movie, the constant interruption wasn’t worth the discount, but if they came to take in the sight of forty plus moms trying to take pleasure in a movie while nursing and changing and soothing and bouncing forty plus babies – now that was worth the price of admission.

Our driving across town had given grand-baby the chance for a solid nap so after a short period of calmly taking in the dimly lit room full of her baby peers, and then staring at the larger than life characters of Annie and Lillian on screen,  she was ready to sit on mommy’s head, or travel from mommy’s lap to grandma’s lap to auntie’s lap and back again, while experiencing the new sensation of being fed little iddy bits of popcorn. None of the babies cried for very long, rather they all took turns at crying for short periods of time.  Zoe and her friend were critical of the character development in the zany comedy, but who the hec knows how they could have possibly have followed the plot lines while keeping their babies entertained – though they and their movie going peers were all learning to be the mothers-of-all multi-taskers.

I figured twenty-one-year-old Lily would say that sitting amongst a roomful of wah-wah-wah-ing babies was a stupid way to watch a flick, but she loved her niece’s visiting her seat-side to press crumbs of sticky popcorn into her mouth, and insisted she was able to tune out the babies bawling over top of  clever lines such as the bride, Lillian, asking her messed-up bridesmaid, Annie, “Why can’t you be happy for me and then go home and talk about me behind my back like a normal person?”

At the  front of the theater was a changing table, a slightly lit-up spot where you would not miss a second of the soundtrack, but the audience had a clear view of you tending to your infants soiled diaper needs.  We noticed only one man in the entire theatre, and when he was the one to come stand in that light and expertly change his baby, I know most the moms were watching this macho figure in his baseball cap rather than Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph and wondering if their own baby-daddy would be so bold?

Stars and Strollers was an event, a gathering, shared camaraderie amongst a group of pretty new moms, allowing themselves – despite the squawking and wiggling of their infants – a  bit of entertainment on a weekday afternoon.  But I think I’ll go see Bridesmaids again – because I don’t feel like I’ve seen it yet.