Love you buckets

Have you read “Have you filled a bucket today?” If not, you must. Share it with your children and your spouses and your friends. It can be found in the kids’ section at Chapters, but it isn’t just for kids. A respected colleague shared it with me recently, and it’s a gem. The gist of the story is that everyone has an invisible bucket that carries their good feelings, and that we can fill each other’s buckets (and in doing so, fill our own) by being kind to others and treating them well. People who hurt others “dip” good feelings from their victim’s bucket, but they cannot fill their own buckets with “stolen” good feelings.

Nina and I read “bucket” last night, and I know that she lacks some of the sophistication required to fully grasp what the book is offering. But she was so interested. She asked lots of questions, and she was amazed at the idea that she has the power to influence the world around her. Even at the tender age of three, she wants to be a good girl and she looks to me for reassurance about her goodness. (She has been trying her hardest to fill my bucket with non-stop kisses and “I love you’s.”)

I worry that as Nina is exposed to more of the world, she will become cynical, and that she will stop believing that there is good in the world. And by extension, that there is no value in trying to be good considering all of the terrible things we see and hear daily. I have heard it said by far too many people, that it is better to be a real jerk than a fake nice person. Are those the only two choices anymore? Characters like House or Lucille Bluth or Frank Underwood are deliciously cruel, and fun to watch on TV. But they are not real people. It is possible to tell the truth, even a difficult truth, without being cruel. And it is possible to be nice without getting walked on. It takes patience….it is an art.

I was bullied as a child, and it was dehumanizing. As an adult, I have learned a lot about many of the people who bullied me as kids. Many of them were living their own struggles – broken homes, chronically unemployed or abusive or absent parents, poverty. Even as a target for merciless bullying, I wouldn’t have traded my circumstances for theirs. A rough life doesn’t excuse bullying, but if some of those issues had been rooted out by the grown-ups around us, maybe some of their victims could have been spared. I’m very curious about what kind of parents my bullies have turned out to be, and whether they even realize that they were bullies at all.

As an adult, I have also been bullied. It looks different, but feels pretty much the same. It took a long time to realize what was happening, and even longer still for me to speak up about it. It has stopped but the feelings linger. The distrust, the dissection of every word to check for double-meanings, and the shame of being victimized once again. But I’m determined to move past it, because people are essentially good. And filling buckets is a worthy endeavor.

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A treat!

This isn’t really a food blog, but I adapted a cupcake recipe from Pinterest recently and the results were soooo good that I wanted to share.
I am trying to eliminate chocolate treats in my house because it seems to make the tiny tyrant even more….tyrannical.
But I had a jones for a treat, and ‘nilla also meets the tyrant’s stringent standards. I have made these both as minis and regular sized cupcakes, and they bake up beautiful and fluffy, and don’t DEFLATE as soon as they come out the oven.
I’m not including a recipe for frosting because my absolute favorite, go-to frosting recipe flopped the last time I tried it so I’m a little gun-shy. For my latest batch (which is cooling on the rack as we speak) I am going to try a glaze rather than a frosting. Frankly, the cake is so moist and delicious that I daresay frosting is optional.
And without further ado, here is the path to vanilla happiness.

1 and 2/3 cups of AP flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
3/4 cup milk
3 tsps. vanilla extract

1) preheat oven to 350F degrees.
2) line muffin tin with cupcake papers (12 regular or 24 minis).
3) in a medium bowl, combine flour, powder, soda and salt.
4) in a large microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar. Add egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla and stir until combined.
5) add dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well-combined.
6) divide into 12 cups and bake for 20 minutes. (For minis, reduce bake time to 18 minutes).
7) allow to cool and ice with the frosting of your choice or enjoy them neat.

I have no idea how long these last because they haven’t survived for more than two days! Enjoy and have a nice long weekend. 🙂

Be good

One evening, a few weeks ago, I was feeling particularly frustrated. I was tired from work and it was too many days until the next weekend. Whether by example, or pure serendipity, Nina picked up my mood. I was trying not to be shouty but no matter how hard I tried, nothing was good enough.

The supper I made was yucky.
Can we get Old McDonald’s for supper?
Why was her cheese cut into triangles instead of cubes?
She wasn’t allowed to wear her cape in the tub.
She didn’t like those pyjamas.
Why can’t we watch Frozen again?
She wanted to paint.
What’s that sound?
We were out of elephant-shaped flossers.
Oh the humanity.

After what felt like an eternity of arguing and wailing, we were lying in her bed together. I was trying to breathe calmly. She was trying to choose a story to read. (Negotiating bedtime reading with her is like meeting with a damn Teamster.) She handed me her selections, and then she looked at me so seriously. And she said:

“Mama. Am I a bad girl?”

Of course not, I answered. She is a good girl. A great girl. But even great girls do bad things sometimes. Everybody does bad things sometimes; even Mama does. She is a great girl, who has lots of time to practice doing more good things. And I love her always. Her joy (relief?) at my answer was so unexpected, and she wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me so tightly that I understood what people meant when they said they were so happy they could burst.

Thankfully, for once in my life, I had the right words exactly when I needed them. Sweet Jesus, I hope I can find them again.

Sometimes

Sometimes I am suffocated by the knowledge that another person’s world revolves around me.
Sometimes I wish I could eat cold cereal for dinner while binge-watching Netflix.
Sometimes I wish I could sleep without a small, sweaty urchin pressed against me.
Sometimes I wish I could sleep in on Sunday mornings without having to plan it ahead of time.
Sometimes I wish I could spend my paychecks on tattoos and concert tickets instead of diapers and daycare.
Sometimes I wish I could get in bed and never get back up.
Sometimes I tear up when I fold her teeny tiny little underwear.
Sometimes I don’t want to watch Dora anymore.
Sometimes I want to colour a different page.
Sometimes I just want her to put her f*!@*?g boots on without fighting in the morning so we can get out the door.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have a child so I wouldn’t watch the news and face the fact that some parents have to bury their children.
Sometimes I wish for more patience.
Sometimes I wish for more time. To do anything.
Sometimes I wish that I wasn’t responsible for another human life, because I am sure I’m not the person for the job.
Sometimes I hate washing all those tiny socks.

Sometimes I am staggered by my daughter’s capacity for love.
Sometimes I take her for granted.
Sometimes I am grateful that she forgives me so easily when I make mistakes.
Sometimes I listen to Baby Beluga when she isn’t in the car.
Sometimes I am delighted by her quick wit.
Sometimes I melt at the feeling of her tiny hand holding mine.
Sometimes I wish there were two of her so I could have twice the fun.
Sometimes I imagine us talking as adults and I hope that she looks back on her childhood with fondness.
Sometimes I am frightened by the lengths I would go to in order to protect her.
Sometimes I need to remind myself what a privilege it is to be her mama.

All the feels

I spent the vast majority of my life childless, and assuming that I was going to stay that way. I was a cousin, a babysitter and an auntie, but I never imagined being a mom. I’ve always liked kids, but I didn’t feel much pressure to have any.

I heard so many parent friends tell me about the intensity of parenthood, marveling about having your heart walking around outside your body. So cheesy! Like “duh, of course you love your kids, what’s the big deal?”

And then I had one of my own, and it scares me sometimes.I watch her change and grow, learning new things. I watch her run ahead of my in the hallway of our apartment building, her elfin little body wriggling and shimmying and bouncing and spinning, and I am consumed. Consumed with amazement and wonder and joy. I can’t believe that she is mine.

I think I could actually kill someone with my bare hands if they tried to harm my child. There is something about how much your child needs you that is intoxicating. Of course, your spouse and friends and family need you, but they don’t need you in the survival/security way that a child needs you. They just love you so hard…like, no strings attached. Just pure, unconditional confidence that you are the whole world.

Of course there are times when that kind of dependence is exhausting. There are times when Nina drives me crazy, and I need a break soooo badly. But the messed up thing is whenever I drop her off to have some time to myself I miss her practically the whole time. It’s like an addiction. I love her so much, sometimes it feels like too much. In a way that I’m not capable of fully expressing in words, or to someone who does not have children. It’s disconcerting to be so attached to one human being.

Occasionally I have the briefest flash of regret about having her. It is so brief it is barely even there, but I have realized to my own horror that I don’t think I could survive without her. Rationally I know that people survive losing children every single day, and I probably would too. But I can’t grasp the thought. I don’t want to. I have birthed my own Achilles heel. I spawned my Kryptonite.

Big

I love it when Nina tells me about what she wants to be when she is “big.”

So far she is going to be a pilot, a ballet dancer, a doctor, a doll maker, a mermaid, and a horse….who lives on a houseboat and watches grown-up TV shows.