This BBC article gives an update on what's happening in Kenya. I've read so much about the genocide in Rwanda back in the mid-90s, and it's terrible to think similar things are happening in Kenya. Hopefully, the violence will subside soon. I have friends there, and we sponsor a boy through Compassion International--none of these are in the Rift Valley, but still, I hope they're OK.
Joseph Ledoux is a neuroscientist at the Center for Neural Science at New York University. He has done fascinating work mapping the circuitry of the emotional brain:
"Ledoux turns to the role of the amygdala in childhood to support what has long been a basic tenet of psychoanalytic thought: that the interactions of life's earliest years lay down a set of emotional lessons based on the attunement and upsets in the contacts between infants and caretakers. These emotional lessons are so potent and yet so difficult to understand from the vantage point of adult life because, believes Ledoux, they are stored in the amygdala as rough, wordless blueprints for emotional life. Since these earliest emotional memories are established at a time before infants have words for their experience, when these emotional memories are triggered in later life there is no matching set of articulated thoughts about the response that takes us over. One reason we can be so baffled by our emotional outbursts, then, is that they often date from a time early in our lives when things were bewildering and we did not yet have words for comprehending events. We may have the chaotic feelings, but not the words for the memories that formed them."
--Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
Whenever I'm on the computer, my eyes will migrate up to the 2007 Canadian tax packet up on the shelf, and quickly dart back down again. I have a feeling I will really be procrastinating on this! When I think back on our first year in Canada, along with all the big milestones such as Eric's first year of teaching and Will's birth, I will remember all the time I spent anxiously on the phone with the Canada Revenue Agency. I remember being on hold with the International Tax Office in Ottawa last winter, while sitting in the musty basement of our rental townhouse, Will in a bouncy seat by my side, my c-section scar still sore. Our taxes were complicated, having lived in Canada for only half of the year, and my having earned some income in Scotland. It would take forever to reach someone, and then I would often be given different information depending on who I spoke to. Finally, it was sent off, and I was pleased, because it looked like we would get a hefty refund. Turns out, they ended up saying we OWED them money! Ugh. Back to the phone. Long story short, our taxes were reassessed THREE times, and each time, we did get refunds. I can't imagine what this experience is like for new immigrants who do not speak English or French. Or even for people like the Brits who move to Canada--in the UK, people generally don't file taxes, it's just done through the work payroll.
And our expat status had further complications. In Canada, there are sales taxes called GST and PST (federal and provincial). These add up to 13% on most purchases. However, the government issues GST/PST credits based on family income and number of children. We were eligible for these despite our work permit status. However, our credits were not calculated correctly because the agency did not have information on our children. Why not? Because that information comes from the Canada Child Tax Benefit application--and an immigrant is not eligible for the child tax credits until they have been here for 18 months on a work permit, or have achieved permanent residency. Anyway, lots of little complications, and having to talk to different offices that didn't seem to be sharing information between themselves very effectively.
Thus, my procrastination. But fortunately, it should be a lot simpler, with us having lived all of 2007 in Canada. And as of next month, we will be getting Canada Child Tax Benefit. Canada also issues $100 a month for every child under age 6 in a family--this is called the Universal Child Care Benefit. Since we've lived without these so far, we're going to try to be disciplined and put that money into savings. Wish me luck!
He married the lovely Stefanie in June 2004, and then they almost immediately set off for a remote village in Nicaragua. Jeremy had won a Fulbright scholarship to do his anthropological field work for his PhD. Now, he and Stefanie have a daughter, Mira, and Jeremy is an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati (see his faculty page). It doesn't have a photo, but fortunately, I have one.
Will turned one on January 17! Here are some photos from our celebration:
Eric made beef curry for Will's birthday dinner. Yummy! The recipe is here on Eric's blog.
Will is a big fan of Daddy's curry!
We invited our friends, Ken and Judy Guenter, to join us for the celebration.
Will's birthday cake--free from the Moose Jaw Co-Op!
And it even came with a sparkler!
Kate didn't want to be in the birthday cake photo, however, she and Judy did draw a birthday picture for Will
Will sure did enjoy the cake! I laughed about the fact that for Kate's 1st birthday, I gave her plain yogurt and blueberries. I didn't want her to have chocolate, gluten, sugar, eggs, etc. Will has had all those things by now.
In light of the conversation below on motherhood and guilt, I thought of this blog post about the importance of benign neglect. The blogger is responding to the email below, which I think could definitely be part of the reason for the "supermom" syndrome.
"Yes, I think I DO play with my children more than, say, my mother played with us. And some of it is [reasons particular to her family], but I really do think some of it is some weird cultural shift where if you are fortunate enough to BE HOME with children then by god you should BE with those children ALL THE TIME. And I'm a slacker mom in my large social circle; most of the moms I know have their kids in this lesson and that class and the other camp. My kids just pillage the Playmobil fort all day."
Guilt seems to be part of the territory of motherhood for most people. If you're a mom who has escaped this trap, good for you! Unfortunately, I haven't.
I can feel really good about many of my parenting decisions, and yet keep fretting about the ways in which I think I fall short. I can feel guilty if Will didn't nap enough that day, or Kate is only eating bread for dinner one night, or I realize that other mothers do lots more fun craft projects with their kids than I do. I can feel happy about Kate's French Immersion preschool, but worry about the social implications of making school friends in a different town than we live in. Like most mothers, I feel guilty when I'm not totally patient and attentive. I can even feel guilty about things I can't control, such as the fact that my kids live far away from their grandparents.
I'm trying to find a balance between generally seeking to improve in certain areas, and accepting that I'm a "good enough mother" as Winnicott described. It would be good if Will ate more vegetables and Kate was better at cleaning her room. It would be good for me to be better at patience. But I think we're doing fairly well, and God's grace covers all our imperfections anyway. And I imagine most mothers reading my blog are "good enough mothers." We provide love, food, shelter, and clothing for our kids. We aren't trying to parent while we work on overcoming a heroin addiction.
I recently read a book which proposed that mothers of my generation have fallen into "momism"--the quest to be a perfect mom. The book claimed that this is similar to how women of the 1950s tried to be perfect housewives. And just like then, the media can feed our guilt and worries. I'm not trying to be perfect, but I think I do need to shed some guilt. What about you? Do you struggle with guilt and how do you deal with it?
This list is from the US. I see William is #27. So while it's a good classic and familiar name, hopefully there won't be 5 of them in his class at school. I'll have to hunt for the comparable Canadian list!
Have you ever thought about how your personality affects the way you parent? We spend years in school, trying to decide on the careers that best suit our gifts and personalities. But when we become parents, all of us are pretty much given the same job description, regardless of how much we feel up to the task!
I know the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator has its limitations, but I still think it can be a valuable tool for understanding ourselves and others. And I even found that someone has written a book on how personality affects mothering. Her website even has an interesting quiz. I know from having done this test several times that I am an INFJ, even though it's all a continuum. My guess is that my personality type is not ideally suited for being a stay-at-home mother, but like every type, it does have its strengths and weaknesses.
I (Introvert): This does pose a challenge for me, as I require lots of time by myself in order to thrive. And the needs of babies and children are relentless! On the other hand, as long as I am able to be out and about, I don't struggle as much as many moms do with not having enough adult interaction.
N (Intuitive): I like the world of ideas a lot. And being a mother has opened my eyes up to all sorts of fascinating things, like the field of infant mental health, for example. Personally and professionally, I am very interested in child development, and I have the privilege of a living laboratory in my home every day. On the other hand, I'm not very good at just getting down on the floor and playing with my kids, as I get bored fairly quickly. When it comes to hand-on activities, I'd rather have the kids help me make muffins or weed the garden.
F (Feeling): I think this is a very good fit for mothering, and for the most part, I find it easy to be empathetic and nurturing. However, I'm not very good at containing my irritation or impatience either!
J (Judging): I like to be on time, and I like my environment to be ordered, and since both are a challenge with children, I can get fairly stressed out at times. However, I don't know if I'm a strong J, because I like having a very flexible schedule and I am known to throw my clothes on the floor at times rather than hang them up. So while being a J can be helpful as a parent, I imagine Ps (Perceivers) find it less stressful!
I believe Eric also tests as an INFJ, so while we understand each other well, we don't necessarily compensate for each other very well! What about you? How does your personality affect your parenting?
I have been longing to learn more about Canadian culture and history. I recently picked up some biographies at the library on Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, and Alice Munro. A friend has said she has some Canadian literature and history books she can loan to me. I love getting our Macleans magazine every week.
What other Canadian people should I read about? What literature by Canadian authors would you recommend? And do you know of good Canadian films set here? Any suggestions are welcome!
I've been reading An Accidental Canadian: Reflections on my home and (not) native land. It's by Margaret Wente, who immigrated to Canada from America as a teenager. She is now a columnist for the The Globe and Mail newspaper. Here's a quote from the book:
"Like most Americans, I got here accidentally. This lack of intent makes us unique among all immigrant groups. We didn't come here to escape repression, intolerance or poverty, or to make a better life for our children. We were not chasing an ideal of freedom. We came because we got a job here or fell in love with someone or wanted to escape the draft, and Canada was a reasonably pleasant place to live. If you're from Chicago, Toronto looks more culturally familiar than Dallas.
Unlike other immigrants, we didn't have to make a big commitment either. We never had to struggle with the language, take ESL, adapt ourselves to foreign ways or leave our families far behind across an ocean. We didn't have to work at menial jobs because our credentials were no good, or adjust to life as a visible minority. As immigrants, we are totally assimilated from the moment we arrive, and totally invisible."
We need to move Kate out of her carseat and into a booster seat. Does anyone have any recommendations or advice? I have heard of booster seats that still have a 5 point restraint system, but I wonder if that's overkill and I should just go for a basic model that is secured by a seatbelt alone?
*Update: We got a Radian Premier. The Radian has more room for Kate to grow height-wise, and is also a bit cheaper than the Britax Marathon. I ordered it from this website, as they had free shipping. It's working out well! I believe it's called the Radian 65 in the US.
Eric got me Loreena McKennitt's latest album for Christmas, An Ancient Muse. She travels around the world to various places, generally those with some sort of connection to Celtic history, and it inspires the most beautiful lyrics and music. Her website is interesting, as it gives more of the background to each song. And she's Canadian!
Yes, in our family, the celebration of New Year's Day takes a backseat to the more important celebration of Eric's birthday! Did you know that he was the 1976 New Year's Baby in Redwood City, California?
I've always known that Eric was quite the catch, but he proved himself over and over to us this last year. In the midst of his first year of teaching (which can be quite gruelling at any level!), he was there for me throughout my pregnancy with Will. He picked up the slack with Kate and the housework, he faithfully drove with me to all my medical appointments when I had complications in late-pregnancy, and he supported me throughout my c-section and recovery. He makes coffee and breakfast most mornings, takes Will so I can sleep in, and keeps on giving even though neither one of us gets enough alone time or couple time (does anyone want to come watch the kids for a week so we can go to a Caribbean island?). It's a privilege to serve God with someone of such high character and such willingness to follow God no matter the cost. I always wanted a purposeful and adventurous life--and being married to Eric has helped give me both!