Monday, 30 September 2013

Pretty Woman

Apparently some schools in the US want to add a regular BMI assessment into the public education system.  I don't know where to even begin with this.

How I Would Have Felt About This As a Child?
 I'm fairly sure this would have completely shattered middle school Sarabeth's self esteem that was already teetering on the edge.  I was by no means a skinny child, but being a late bloomer whom a friend's mother once commented, in front of many of my friends while I tried to stuff myself into some back to school clothes that,  "I hadn't lost my baby fat yet".*  Weren't the brown polyester shorts they forced us into wearing for gym class enough to keep us sufficiently fat shamed?  Perhaps an additional score of F, for Fat on a report card would have aided in the nicknames from some boys who called me Wedgie Woman and sang a song along to the tune Roy Orbison's Pretty Woman with lyrics talking about how fat I was.** The scores would have fed the fire from all of the whispers for a formerly chubby middle school male friend of mine who had hit a growth spurt at the same time he went in for minor surgery and everyone talked about how he was actually at fat camp.  Kids are already jerks, don't give them any more ammunition.

I know personally how I would have "dealt with" my fat scoring.  I would have starved myself for two weeks before and then gone home to soak my troubles with milk and Oreos a la Natalie from the 1980's television show The Facts of Life.***

Me - day after the birth of the minions.

How Do I feel About this as an Adult and Parent?
I'm obviously a HUGE advocate of fat shaming as described above.  As an adult I'm a weight fluctuator.  I generally range in size between a 10-14 depending on how vigilant I am on watching what I eat and exercising.  When we decided that we wanted to try to have babies "soon" I decided that I wanted to take my health and weight seriously.  There have been a number of people in my family who suffered from complications because of weight gain in pregnancy and had trouble losing the weight that they had gained and I wanted to avoid this.  I began working with a nutritionist and meeting biweekly to assess my weight, eating habits and help me make my food a way of life with the goal of losing 5-10% of my body weight before I started trying to get pregnant.  During the course of my year with my nutritionist I succeeded and managed to undo some of my feelings about food as the enemy.  I managed to lose 9% of my body weight and had a plan in place for healthy weight gain during pregnancy.  I learned BMI does not work for people with a combination of any of the following factors: significant muscle mass or bone density.  This obviously makes me question the validity of the BMI assessment in general.

Right now Molly is blessed with a high metabolism from Chris's side and Jack has the brute strength of a rugby player.  Even if they would fit into the "normal range" either way on this scale they would be opted out by their parents.  No questions asked.  I can't protect my kids from playground bullies, but I can protect them from inaccurate fat shaming.

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*Yeah thanks for that.  That really helped with the name calling. I loved it when the overweight mom picked on my 12 year old chubbiness as I topped the scales at 80lbs.
**"Wedgie Woman walking down the street, Wedgie Woman had too much to eat, Wedgie Woman please don't sit on me!" - the wedgie was because my pants were too tight (obviously).
***Only they would have been called something weird like Jazz Cookies because my mother refused to buy us name brand cookies.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

We've Got the Beat

Recently a friend sent me this article on the importance of play for children which got me thinking about free time and the anti-homework movement that I've been hearing more and more about lately.  A few nights later I sat in the waiting room for my weekly drum lesson.  I played a game on my phone while I watched other parents interacting with their children.  Kids, most of them under ten, around me were anxiously working on homework while they awaited their music class.  Parents whose children were exiting their lessons were going over practice plans and music work for the week, the children seemed stressed and exhausted.  One little girl exited her lesson and ran over to her mom gushing about her teacher providing her the sheet music from one of her favourite songs this week for her to work on.  At least someone had it figured out, right? 

That very evening I boasted to my drum teacher that I'd actually managed to carve out a decent amount of practice time once the kids had gone to bed.  We had an extra productive lesson.  As I was leaving my teacher said, "It's too bad that you aren't 17 with all of the time in the world to practice, but you're still making great progress, especially considering the other demands in your life right now."

Drum Kit
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

As I witness these parents trying to do what is best for their kids, investing time, money and efforts into homework, tutors, after school activities and artistic pursuits, I feel exhausted and frustrated for these children.* It's easy to judge others, but this week that comment from my teacher gave me an aha moment. I am guilty of being incredibly hard on myself during a very busy time in my life as a working parent of twins.  Maybe I'm not so different than those parents, only I've been directing it at myself which in turn is setting a terrible example for Molly and Jack.

About a year and a half ago my husband's band really wanted a drummer to help fill out their sound.  I had always wanted to learn drums so I decided that I would throw my hat into the ring.  The only problem was that I didn't know how to play the drums and my previous musical experience included middle school choir, eight guitar lessons and a grade six music class foray into the world of the recorder.

I took up drum lessons to learn the fundamentals, but spent most of my spare time trying to practice existing band songs, without focusing my practice on the basics I was learning in class. I was treading water, poorly.  In the chicken and the egg debate there will be no chickens if you spend all of your time breaking eggs.  I'd sacrifice hours a week, which I really didn't have, to practice, all while dealing with a flurry of daycare related illness and my adjustment back to work post-maternity leave.  When it came time to practice with the band I would choke.  The hours of practice wouldn't show, partially because I hadn't been focusing on fundamentals and partly because I had no clutch. 

Everyone was frustrated, even though they tried to remain supportive because they knew I was working so hard.  I had put so much blood, sweat and literal tears into something that was making me miserable.  I'd never put so much thought into the effort versus output equation that wouldn't balance.  Eventually I resigned to ease a mountain of frustration.

In the nine months that have passed since, I have worked on the fundamentals that I needed.  I have played the songs that I want to play and it doesn't matter if they're peppered with mistakes.   I have enjoyed myself infinitely more than compared to a year ago.  It has become a hobby, not a thorn in my side.   If I'm not going to expect my kids to be concert pianists the first year of their lessons, why would I put that kind of pressure on myself? Thank you little girl who is learning Daft Punk, you taught me something incredibly important.

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*With the exception of that one little girl who I know is dutifully practicing one of her favourite songs this week.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Chalk Outline

A while back I saw this article on toy segregation and sent it to Chris.  Basically it's about how some toy stores in the UK are putting an end to gender segregation, also known as "no more pink aisle", just toys for kids period.* 

The article had me thinking and ranting about the unnecessary genderfication of toys.  I was one credit shy of having a minor in Woman's Studies in my under degree, so the Grrrl rage comes easily.  We've tried to avoid gentrification for Molly and Jack giving them a gender neutral nursery rhyme themed bedroom along with equal access to all sorts of toys.  On the other side of the coin, the article got Chris thinking about segregation of the minions toys in a practical and literal way.   Specifically it had him brain storming ways to prevent their continued spread taking over rooms that we deemed our adult space.**

For over a year now we have used one of our pack and play playpens as a toy storage bin in our living room.  It's fast for tidying up when the minions go to bed, but is similar in look and contents to the trash compactor in Star Wars, often becomes a black hole to shoes, socks and a source for finding random containers of penicillin.***  We also need to load all of the toys into giant garbage bags whenever we need to "pack" both pack and plays.

A while back I'd taken an old IKEA coffee table from our garage and sprayed it with some chalk board paint so the kids would have a fun surface to draw on.  Molly loves to draw and we debated getting a traditional easel style chalk board, however I have seen Jack purposefully knock over two of these at other people's houses and I didn't want to see if he'd flatten his sister under her chalk board at home.

The only issue was that Chris and I couldn't agree on a spot to put the spray painted chalk board coffee table until recently.  So it just satin the garage.  We went back to IKEA and purchased some handy toy storage boxes, assembled them in a way that would allow for decent toy rotation as well as giving us our living room back, at least a little bit.  It cost us less than $25 including chalk spray paint and storage boxes.

Wooden Train Box Storage

Tidy(ish) toys - yes there are toy cars "parked" in our living room.

Chalk board that Jack won't be able to overturn, at least for a few more years...hopefully.

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*How fitting that the nation that brought us The Spice Girls and Girl Power eradicates the Pink Aisle (there is only a little bit of sarcasm there).
**When I was pregnant I remember going on about how there would always be areas unaffected by our progeny, yet I can't step into the bathtub for a shower without emptying it of a fleet of toy boats, water squirting fish and a shark bath plug.
***Expired bottles and sippy cups of milk.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Take this Job and Shove It!

If you've been working for a number of years, odds are you have had at least one terrible boss, or heard some great stories from some unfortunate friends and family members.  I feel lucky nowadays, but sometimes the minions bring me back to some of my first jobs post-university graduation.

Work isn't always a cakewalk when your boss is grouchy!

I can't help but recognize some alarming similarities between raising toddlers and dealing with a nightmare boss.  Enjoy!

1. They make you work ungodly hours, weekends, evenings, overnights, you name it!

2. They won't let you take sick time...even though they're the ones who got you sick in the first place by demanding close contact while they were ill.

3. You are always on call! Whether it's via your blackberry or screamed through the speakers of a baby monitor. 

4. They touch you in a way that makes you feel a bit weird, whether it's a hug that's five seconds too long or demands that you lift up your shirt and let them poke your belly button (Molly).

5. They cry in front of you, about ridiculous things that you have no control over.

6. They want more!  Numbers, reports, cookies or time at the playground!

7. They change their minds all the time.

8. Their mistakes = your fault.

9. They eat your lunch because they know you'll let them.

10. You spend way too much time cleaning up their messes!

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Friday, 20 September 2013

Parade of Toys

A while back Bunch featured an article about Kid's and their Toys that displays pictures from Italian photographer Gabriele Galemberti.  His Project "Toy Stories" includes pictures of children with their toys from all over the world.   According to Bunch, " He travelled the world for a year and a half, making these portraits of children with their toys, and observing more similarities than differences in what toys they were drawn too. But he also noticed that the wealthier children were more possessive about their toys, and less enthusiastic about showing them to him."

The article got me thinking about materialism and the glut of baby stuff that is swallowing our household.  I began to focus on culling old, outgrown toys of Molly and Jack's and passing them along to some of our many friends who have children the right age to enjoy them.  The messaging surrounding the wealthier children bothered me.*  I don't want overly materialistic children who hold onto objects they don't need and want to teach them how rewarding giving to someone else can be.

 How much is too much in toyland?

Below are some things we've done, or plan to do, that are environmentally awesome, make you feel good and keep things useful and affordable.

Clothing Sharing Circle
One of my friends R commented on our clothing sharing circle a while back and it is wonderful to be able to see friends and family enjoy the more "gently"** worn clothes that we can pass on from Molly and Jack and in some cases have already been passed on from other cousins and friends.  I want my kids to feel the same happiness I do when an object is actually getting use rather than sitting in a corner collecting dust.    

The Spirit of Giving with Receiving
Another acquaintance has her daughter clear out many old toys that she doesn't use any more at Christmas and around birthdays.  The deal is toy for toy, what comes in new an equal item gets donated to children less fortunate.  I am hoping that we can implement something similar with our children once they get old enough to understand.***

Upcycle, Recycle
A couple years ago I got Chris one of his favourite Christmas gifts...I upcycled (turned) old worn, previously favourite t-shirts that were collecting dust in Chris's closet into a useful, funky quilt that gets a lot of use.  If you aren't super crafty (like me) you can commission someone on sites like Etsy to do the quilting, you just need to send them the shirts.

The Great Costume Exchange Charlie Brown
I'll admit it, I have a very specific costume theme in mind for Molly and Jack this year, but I also know how much they enjoy dress-up and the drama centre at daycare.  This year we are participating in a clothing exchange to pass on last year's Pebbles and Bam Bam costumes and either get items towards this year's Halloween costumes or some great dress-up clothes that will actually fit them.  Goodwill, used clothing (like Once Upon A Child) and thrift stores often have amazing costume deals, you just need to go early.  If you're local to Toronto, the costume exchange we'll be participating in is at Kid Culture in the Junction: click here for details.

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*Not that we're exactly living large, but we are middle class and our kids have so many things at their disposal.
**I'm such a liar, toddlers don't use anything "gently", we pass on whatever is in reasonable shape.
***Instead of us acting like the anti-Christmas elves while they sleep, stockpiling old clothes and toys for donations and friend-recycling. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

A Spoon Full of Sugar

Next week (September 22-28) is Nanny Appreciation week.  Although the minions don't have an official nanny they have several ECE workers who they depend on five days a week and two fantastic sitters (L&A) who they adore.  All of these people are such an important part of Molly and Jack's development and lives that I can't believe that years from now they probably won't remember the ECE staff who spent many hours with them and taught them so many important things.  Half the time if you ask Molly what her name is she'll tell you that it's B (one of her favourite ECE workers).

Don't let your Mary Poppins Crash and Burn

We can all learn a lot from other people who spend a great deal of time with our children.

When I was a teenager and babysat I was a very competent sitter, but I was also still very much a child myself.  I bonded with the kids I sat for and I definitely had favourites, but when I punched out of my shift, I punched out.  I never understood the difference between a "babysitter" and a caregiver until I had kids of my own.  We have been very fortunate to have so many people who care so deeply about our children, on and off the clock.  I've come to realize that I'm not interested in a babysitter for our kids, I want someone who is going to hold a more important, continuous role in our children's lives.

Here are some ways that you can thank the people who help take care of your munchkins, for Nanny Appreciation week and every day:

1. Say thank you, often.  Whether it's in person, in a note, an email or an annual holiday card.
2. Treat your caregiver kindly and with respect.  Everyone has bad days, if you don't treat your caregiver politely, what do you think your children are going to do based on your example?
3. Set clear expectations and allow for input and an open relationship. I don't know about you but I want to know if my kid is misbehaving.
4. Give your caregiver authority.  Let them know how you deal with discipline so they can deal with it consistently.
5. Make their shift fun.  Let them bust out the bubbles, colouring books, new stories or a favourite movie.  The more fun your children have, the easier it will be for everyone to cope when you're gone.

On another note: Funky Lindsay wrote this fantastic list of things that she learned from Mary Poppins: Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Mary Poppins. I hope you enjoy her list as much as I did!

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

No Son of Mine

I've had the Phil Collins song No Son of Mine stuck in my head for days now. I blame two people: 1) my grade seven music/French teacher who made us analyse and perform the song because she had an unhealthy obsession with Phil. 2) Jack who has taken over the crown of "evil twin" for a couple of weeks now.* His recent behaviour seems really out of character and is directed mostly at Chris.

There has been a shift in the powers that be in our household over the past few weeks. It started off slowly, Molly eased up on the tantrums and focused her efforts on "helping". She genuinely enjoys tidying, carrying and bringing us things and we are ecstatic.** Miss Molly has slowed her efforts in the tantrum department and seems to understand, as well as a two year old can, that whining does not get you anything.    The tantrum sabbatical is appreciated and noted.

We had about two days of peace until it happened.   The thing that I'd been warned about by other twin parents, they switched. At daycare pickup I was informed that Jack gets really upset when other kids around him fight.  Understandable, but instead of trying to break it up he acts like a wrestler and starts throwing chairs. The chair launching continued at home.  Whenever he got frustrated he'd pick up a chair and toss it. In other feats of strength  "Rowdy Roddy Piper" has also been pushing our giant coffee table around the floor just to show he can.*** When we reprimand him and give him time outs, Miss Molly is right behind us wagging her finger in Jack's face saying, "No Jack, All Done Jack, All Done." I'm kind of worried she's going to be the recipient of a folding chair in the back of the head for her need to repeat parental messaging with a finger pointed two inches away from his face.****

 Perhaps some taber tossing of the see-saw is in order?

The other day Jack was playing with the channel changer, trying to figure out the concept of how batteries work. Chris sat nearby and supervised as Jack took the batteries in and out of the remote to make sure he wasn't going to eat them or hurt himself. The remote was confiscated when Jack wanted to see how well dad's BBQ chips would work as an energy source and began cramming them into the battery compartment. After Chris took the remote, Jack flipped out. He chased Chris around the house trying to hit him. We were on our way out the door so Chris wanted to avoid the usual time-out because we were already running late.  Big mistake. Parenting short-cuts often bite us.

Jack was determined to punish Chris. He went back into the media room and grabbed a handful of Chris's records, took them into the kitchen and started whipping them on the floor at Chris's feet.***** As he hurled a German Drinking Songs record onto the floor, directly in front of Chris I couldn't help but feel a little proud. What he was doing was smart, albeit mean. It was near impossible not to laugh. The following day when Jack threw a chair we gave him a time out. During time-out he learned how to scale the wall of his crib, busted into the washroom and started to run himself a bath. There's a new evil genius in the house.  Molly better watch her back, literally.

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*No one is planning on leaving in a dramatic fashion, however we do have trains running behind our house frequently, similar to the noises in the beginning of Phil's "masterpiece".
**Clearly we wanted carrier pigeons not children and misunderstood how things would work as parents.
***I think that he's trying to intimidate us.
****Not that our house is ripe with stadium seating.
*****It was kind of reminiscent of the record Zombie scene from Shaun of the Dead, but with a lot less apathy.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

16 Candles (plus 19)

Today is my birthday, I am 35 years old.  A month or two ago I was watching retro TV when on an old episode of Roseanne she complained about her life at 35. Is it possible?  I'm the same age as Becky and Darlene's mom?  I looked it up, and it's true, I'm the same age as an early episode Roseanne. If it were the 1980s or 1990s my kids would be a lot older. I'm of similar age to Peg Bundy and I'm older than Marge Simpson who is apparently a spry 34.  Fictionally I could be a mom of teenagers.  Mind officially blown.

Marge Simpson.png


Image courtesy of wikipedia

Almost a decade ago I met my husband Chris.  At the time I lamented about how I'd just turned 25 and had to check off the 25-34 box in surveys.  What could I possibly have had in common with these "real" adults in that age bracket?  It's officially time to check a new box on any survey.  I can no longer lie and claim that I am in my early 30's because I'm not.  I am very different from that 25 year old.   A lot has changed in the past decade. I met Chris, moved in with Chris, married Chris, got a new job, went back to school part time and have almost finished my post graduate certificate in public relations, bought a house and had two wonderful little children.

Below are the 10 lessons I've learned or thoughts I would like to share with 25 year old SaraBeth, not that she'd listen anyway.   She thinks she knows everything.

  1. Your parents were probably right.
  2. People you care about will let you down, but people who you wouldn't expect will pick you up and become really important to you.
  3. There is never a convenient time to have kids.
  4. When you think it's a good idea to drink whiskey, that generally means, stop being a jackass and you should just drink lots of Gatorade and go to bed instead.
  5. Children are a lot of fun, people talk about how much work they are, but never how much fun it is to play.
  6. You don't know what broke is, yet.
  7. Say I love you to the people you care about, often.  Also, small gestures mean a lot to big people in your life.
  8. Invest in high thread count sheets and a good mattress.  IKEA mattresses were made by the devil and will hurt you immensely in the long-run.
  9. Just because someone is older doesn't mean that they're a grown-up.
  10. Don't be afraid to ask for help!

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Friday, 13 September 2013

Yellow Days

DISCLAIMER: This post is about potty training so if that type of thing is not of interest feel free to scroll to the bottom of the page for a non-toilet related thought.*

We've dipped our big toe into the waters of potty training** but haven't been very strict about it yet.  Basically daycare has started the training on more of a schedule whereas we've made a potty and a toilet seat insert available and ask the kids periodically whether or not they need to use the toilet.

Ancient Greek Child's Chamber Pot Courtesy of Wikipedia

Here are 5 things that we didn't know, but probably should have guessed, about the early stages of potty training.

1. The potty has become a "cool" hang out spot when a toddler is bored, plus it gives the boy access to play with his junk beyond bath time.

2. The most significant leap that we've made in toilet training is that the toddlers now tell us when it is time to change their diapers, not that they actually have to go.

3. Toddlers don't realize the odious nature of fecal matter, they think it's an extension of their body and don't understand why you don't want them to touch it.

4. The girl thinks that any sound or function that comes out of her body is "poop" and recently, on taco night, after Chris passed gas she proclaimed, "PooPoo Daddy!  Tell Mommy!"***

5. The cup in the potty can also double as a hat.

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*This is a really neat Info graphic on 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer, Enjoy!
**Grossest analogy ever?
***I strongly encourage this to be Chris's new nickname.  All hail PooPoo Daddy!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Time is on my Side

A ways back I attended a professional mentoring event.  I had a great conversation with a seasoned mentor about the question he has been asked most by his proteges.  The topic that came up again and again was work/life balance.  His answer: "There is no work-life balance." I was confused, then he continued, "There are priorities and you need to make choices about what your priorities are, period."

It's some of the best advice I've ever heard.  When I had nothing but free time I accomplished very little because time (and motivation) was not an issue.  Projects came, projects went and time flew by and the only thing I had to show for it were computer disks* full of half finished projects.  I went to school and took courses in play writing, sitcom writing and journalism.  I started things, but nothing ever stuck.

For regular readers you know that I have a major "thing" for Douglas Coupland, in fact some may think he's Molly's Father.  This is one of my favourite quotes from him, " “By the age of twenty, you know you're not going to be a rock star. By twenty-five, you know you're not going to be a dentist or any kind of professional. And by thirty, darkness starts moving in- you wonder if you're ever going to be fulfilled, let alone wealthy and successful. By thirty-five, you know, basically, what you're going to be doing for the rest of your life, and you become resigned to your fate..."

When I turned 30 I feel as if my creative side met my practical side and I kicked myself into gear.  I wrote my first novel and I sent it out to nearly 100 publishers. I received a lot of rejection letters on my self-addressed stamped envelopes, a lot of non-replies and I even had a couple of bites that never made it to fruition, but I was doing it!

After I got pregnant with spontaneous twins I thought that I would chronicle my pregnancy, but I was so sick that I couldn't manage anything.  After Molly and Jack were born I tried my hand at fiction again, working on my second novel, but my heart wasn't in it any more, so at six weeks into my life as a mom I began writing Multiple Momstrosity. Parenthood has a bad rap. I was always told about all of the things that I wouldn't or couldn't do after I became a mom; about the restrictions, the time and the endless responsibility.  This has become my passion project, a priority and my twisted love letter to my children.

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*Yeah I said disks, I'm that old.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Sweater Weather

One of the things that I was adamant about when we decided to have children was their right to wear ridiculous things.  When else but childhood can you go to the Super Market in a Batman Costume, other than on Halloween and have people think that you are adorable and not just crazy?

My mother subscribed to a similar method of picking battles surrounding clothing.  When I was four or five years old I had this pyjama set that included a candy cane striped night gown, housecoat and hat with a pom pom on the top of it.  I decided that this hat would be the perfect thing to wear to the airport as we said bon voyage to my aunt, uncle and one year old cousin before they went to Australia for a year sabbatical.  My aunt was unimpressed that my mother would allow me to wear such a ridiculous hat out in public.*  My mom shrugged.  A few years later my aunt had her daughter K. who became obsessed with this tie-dyed baseball/trucker hat, complete with mud flaps in the back, and wore it everywhere (like even with dresses at Christmas).  My mother was smugly satisfied with the turn of events.

Fastforward to when I was a goth teenager.   My mother took me to the mall and told me to: "buy something normal to wear to school".  I'd been frequenting my childhood dress up bin for school clothes (primarily a witch costume) and ten years later she wasn't finding it cute any more and longed for the days of candy cane pom pom head.  I picked out a few things that she and I both found acceptable including this plain black button up cardigan from a discount rack at The Bay.  This cardigan matched everything and became a staple wardrobe piece that I shared with my bestie E because it went with everything.  We even called it "the magic card".  To this very day I'm still obsessed with sweaters and cardigans.**  Sadly right now there is no "magic card" in my collection. 

When I "declared" that I wouldn't set restrictions on what my children would wear I didn't think about weather appropriateness.  Molly also has a "magic card", it has buttons on the front and rainbow colours, pink, red, white and blue with a hood - so essentially it matches everything and nothing at the same time.  It has a Dora the Explorer*** patch on it and was a hand-me-down from Molly's cousins A & C.  Yesterday we had a heat alert in the city.  Temperatures reached 33 degrees (91.4 degrees F) or 43 degrees (109 degrees F) if you consider the humidity.    Sounds like sweater weather to Molly.  Even better she throws a fit if the sweater is open, so you better button it up all the way.  She looks like a two year old granny with her Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dora Sweater and her "lap" blanket.  People are passing out on the street because it's so freaking hot and my daughter wants more layers.  Apparently the cousins also were very attached to the above mentioned Dora Sweater.  I have determined that this is no "magic card", it's the "black magic card" that possess toddlers into wearing it constantly.  Insert smug, satisfied smile from my mother and aunt right here.

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*The hat was a candy cane striped cloth bathing cap with a giant red pom pom, my head looked like the top of a poorly decorated cupcake.    
**When you work in an office with "temperature control" you need layers my friend, no matter  what time of year it is.
***Thankfully neither child knows who Dora is, yet.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


As I delve deeper into parenthood I oftentimes find myself questioning my own motives as a child.  When I was around 10 years old I decided to start collecting Pierrot dolls*.  I saved up my allowance and bought a ton of them, I don't know why I chose to pursue this bizarre collection.  Simultaneously my older sister had begun her teenage foray into the world of reading horror novels.   Specifically there was one book that lined her shelf called something like Mama about a possessed doll that tried to kill its owner, a little girl.  I never read the book, although the photo and description was enough to get my imagination running wild.  The doll on the cover of the book had eyes eerily similar to those on one of my giant Pierrot dolls and it scared the living crap out of me. Every night before I went to bed, I would turn the most scary dolls to face the wall and even cover them up with blankets or clothes, you know, so they couldn't watch me sleep.

Non-creepy dolls, for now.

In middle school a friend, very aptly, described my creepy french clown themed bedroom as the most horrifying room in the nursing home.**  Eventually I stopped collecting those dolls, I briefly moved on to collect slightly less creepy Comedy and Tragedy masks before I culled all of the menacing chachkis that haunted my room and entered high school.  I can only shake my head at why I tortured myself into collecting items that terrified me.  Why didn't I pack them up and put them in a box sooner and just tell my parents that I was sick of their dead inside eyes boring a hole into my soul?  Why did we think it was funny to play Bloody Mary,  I just don't know.

At around the same age, my husband, Chris used to listen to a clock radio before he went to sleep at night.  He would instantly get scared when one of two popular songs came on the air, Thriller and Somebody's Watching Me, yet he continually listened, knowing that they were top 40 hits and were sure to be played.

Were we both just miraculously stupid children?  Maybe.  But I also think I understand the source for this idiotic behaviour, bed time children's stories.

We read a story, or three, to Molly and Jack every night.  Right now, as far as I can tell, they aren't really scared of anything.  In fact Molly LOVES IT if you jump out at her and yell.  She also loves to be chased. Lack of fear aside, I'm beginning to notice a theme in a lot of these "night time" stories.  Probably one in six we read make references to a bed bug bite attack or checking closets and under the bed for monsters.  Why are we reading them stories that teach them to be scared of the Boogeyman?  Who writes these stories that promote the bed time equals scary time formula anyway? Sadistic children's story authors, that's who. Bed time probably shouldn't involve scare tactics,  yet we continue to read them these stories, because apparently we are no smarter than we were 25 years ago.  

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*Creepy sad clown french mimes.
**No New Kids on the Block posters for this gal.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Across the Great Divide

Chris and I were near the first of our friends to have children and are full on into the world of potty training and speech development while many of our peers are still in Infantlandia.  Over the past year I've gotten to know many of my friends as parents and I'm proud to say that everyone involved has rolled up their sleeves and fully embraced their new roles.

As I speak to many green dads about their new roles and responsibilities I continually see a theme popping up again and again: fathers wanting to be more useful in the early days.  A handful have outright said that they wished they could somehow give their partners a break and share in the feeding responsibilities.  These new fathers feel guilty that they can't be of more use while their partners, who in many cases have worked hard to master the art of breast feeding, are quite literally attached to their child for hours and hours every day without a break.  With all of the talk of nipple confusion and paranoia about what it is to be a good mom I understand the pressure surrounding breastfeeding.  I felt it, I saw it when I attended a breast feeding class at the hospital when I first had Molly and Jack and it was awful.

And, before I continue, let me say: I understand that breast milk is important along with all of it's super powers and that "Mother is the name for god on the lips and hearts of all children".*  I also get the importance of the bond you have with your child(ren) when you feed them.  That being said we all need a break some times.  I don't regret pumping milk as a primary feeding source for the first six months so Chris could be a bigger part of the feeding experience and I had more help for a second.  If I could do it all over again I would.  Me pumping and us supplementing with formula when I couldn't produce enough milk for the minions was a necessity for us and how we made the first six months of parenthood work.  We were both able to alternate taking evening shifts, whether I was feeding or pumping or it was Chris's turn.  We were able to bond as a family as opposed to just maternal child feeding bonding.

When I read Karla Erickson's article about a mom talking about how she'd skip breast feeding next time because of how it sets up a gendered division of parenting with an unequal distribution of work I was intrigued.  She even goes so far as to call breast feeding both a burden and a power trip that creates a bond giving the mom an unfair advantage.  I've heard stories of these villainized controlling, love hogging mothers and their lump like partners.  The truth is, we are all too hard on ourselves and each other, period.   

It makes me happy to see the fathers I know take on tasks like bath time, walks (colic and non-colic) and story time to help them bond in early days when they can't take on the task of feeding from mom.  I smile when a friend tells me about how she pumped so she could get out with "the girls" or to the gym because when a specific parent doesn't let their partner parent they become babysitters, not parents and that isn't fair for anyone. 

I am proud of the equal parenting relationship that Chris and I have with the kids.  Would some of this been derailed if we hadn't of pumped? I can't say for sure.  I've been guilty of behaving like the martyr mom who is the only one who can calm the baby.  I've lamented how I haven't taken the shower, I've worn those shoes a number of times, until Chris did what he does best, talked some sense into me and forced me to realize that doing it all isn't required to be a good mom.  I've also learned, sometimes the hard way, that sometimes you need to tag out, let your partner take a lead, go for a walk and take a long hot shower.

Food for thought.

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*If you got that The Crow reference, touch the ground and touch the sky.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Sheep Go to Heaven

The girl child talks a lot.  Most of it are words that can take Chris and I days or weeks to understand what she's saying, even though it's the same series of 100 plus words over and over again daily.  If I were providing Molly media training my compliment sandwich would go like this: you are very good at making sure that the things you care about are said often, however you're obsessed with the words "Open"and "Apple" and you probably shouldn't lift up your shirt and yell "belly button" quite so often, but you smile a lot and always make eye contact which shows people that you're genuine.

The other day Molly slipped on my shoes, slung my purse around her neck, grabbed an empty paper shopping bag, yelled, "Bye-Bye" and made the loop around the hallway towards the kitchen and then back into the front room through our media room.  This is something that she does dozens of times a day.  It's like the Caucus race in Alice in Wonderland only with less purpose, more insanity and a lot more falling and screaming.    When she concluded her loop she came into the living room and scolded me, "Mommy how come no bye-bye?"  Her hands were on her hips judgementally.  A question from anyone but one of my two DoDo's would be answered with, "Because I know you aren't really going anywhere and we've been playing this game for over half an hour."  But because it is from Miss Molly I felt like a giant jerk, put down my paper and apologized to her.  I didn't know that she'd start to call me on my crap this young. 

A few hours later she was saying something that she's been working on for a couple of weeks now, only this time I was paying better attention, because I'd been told off only a few hours ago, when all of a sudden it clicked.  They've both been singing Ba Ba black sheep for weeks unbeknownst to us.  Now that we've figured this out we've all been singing it constantly even though the lyrics to both toddlers are still,  "Ba Ba Sheep, Ba Ba Sheep, Wool, Wool, Wool". 

If only we could figure out what she means when she says She-Shaw. 

My mother in law and Facebook are right, it doesn't matter how tough you are, when a toddler hands you a toy phone, you answer it.

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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Raise a Little Hell

The other day I came across an article in The Toronto Star about The Fraser Institute's study that claimed that the minimal costs of raising children in Canada is highly exaggerated and is in fact only $3000-$4500 a year.  After I finished cleaning the gore off of my computer screen, because my head had exploded in a rage induced, "Are you effen kidding me?" moment, I dug further.

The study does not include child care, I'm guessing that the over 30% of our after tax income going to daycare is discretionary to my "middle class bias".  The study does not include shelter because it assumes that you already have shelter, which I suppose makes sense, but becomes crowded when you try to cram a family of eight into a studio apartment. 

My son's "room" according to the Fraser Institute

In fact, did you know that, "It has never been easier, financially, to raise children in Canada."  Is this because there is a magical Pegasus* who takes care of Canadian children every day by providing rainbows and fairy dust as sustenance and shelter while we're at work?   He also poops educational toys and story books, cooks, cleans and smells like lavendar.  Somehow this mythical Pegasus seems more realistic to me. 

Don't get me wrong, I understand the differences between needs and wants and that some families are able to balance it all on a shoe string budget and I applaud those who can make it work.  In Josh Brandon's Blog, There is an Alternative Policy Fix, he says, "Children raised on a bare minimum will have fewer educational opportunities and are more likely to be trapped in lifelong cycles of poverty. The goal of social policy should be to provide a basis for raising the opportunities for such families, not to entrench existing poverty as an ideal."

This study glosses over some harsh realities of parenthood making it seem a lot easier and cheaper than it really is.  This study assumes that one parent will stay at home with their children, as daycare is not a factor, however there are other costs and particular years of raising a child that are more expensive than others.  Financial common sense guru Gail Vaz Oxlade mentions in a blog post on parenting on a budget that, based on a 2004 study, Canadian's spent an average of over $10,000 on baby in the first year.   Canadian Living's estimate trumps Gail's (likely due to the 10 years of inflation) saying on average it costs $12,825 per year, any year, to raise your child.  I'm assuming that most of these numbers do in fact factor the realities of shelter and perhaps even some child care. 

Here are just a few tidbits on the cost of raising children from my research and experience (not including the tens of thousands of dollars we spend on daycare each year):

We use four to five 4L bags of milk a week for the kids (okay we drink tea with milk too): TOTAL $995 a year**

This past year we purchased the following shoes for Jack: 2 pairs of used $8 Robeez shoes for daycare sized 12-24 months, 1 pair of sized 3 running shoes $16 (one of which he promptly lost when he kicked it out of his stroller on the way to daycare), 1 pair of sized 3 replacement shoes $16, 1 pair of sized 4 fake converse lace up shoes, used, $7 (which looked cool but got worn 3 times), 1 pair of sized 4 running shoes $4 that didn't fit properly and made him cry from Value Village, 1 pair of $20 replacement Walmart shoes that didn't make him cry, 1 pair of sized 4 winter boots from Winners $30, 1 pair of sized 5 spring shoes from Walmart $20, 1 pair of sized 6 fall shoes for $20: TOTAL $149 on shoes for Jack ALONE!***

If you don't own a washer and dryer and decide to go with cloth diapers, you can expect to pay $624 a year to wash your diapers (including soap).  This cost does not include the diapers themselves or washing any of your children's other clothes. 

Registration for swimming lessons is around $100 for one set of lessons.  Somehow preventing your child from drowning doesn't register as a middle class luxury in my book.  This cost does not include swimsuits.

Point beaten to death.....Excuse me, I have to run to the store and buy some milk.

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*I call him Bitey.
**That does not include the more expensive milk we end up running out to the convenience store for at 10:30 at night.
***This is nearly 30% of the clothes budget that The Fraser Institute mentions, on shoes!