Archives for November 2008

Belcarra Park

Last weekend we loaded up the kids and visited one of my favourite spots, Belcarra Park. It’s sort of a perfect place. At low tide you can search for baby crabs under the rocks on the beach. There’s a dock where people fish and drop their crab pots, and it has one of the best playgrounds around. In the summer there’s concession and kayak rentals. Add in picnic tables, wide green spaces, fabulous views, walking trails, and proper bathroom facilities, and you’ve got a great park.

The area has some pretty fascinating history as well. It was originally inhabited by the First Nations, who abandoned it following a smallpox outbreak. After some nastiness involving a murder in 1882 it came to be used as a vacation spot for people from Vancouver. At one time it contained a government naval reserve, and one of its beaches was home to a decades-long squat. Today it’s bounded by the high-rent village of Belcarra and filled with kids playing frisbee.

The park is rarely all that busy – unlike nearby Buntzen Lake I’ve never encountered a full parking lot. On a beautiful winter day, though, it’s hardly deserted. There were lots of people out with their crab pots and lots of kids on the playground. Hannah had a great time climbing, sliding, and watching the other children.

It’s a bit of a hike from downtown, but for those of us in the Tri-Cities it’s very accessible. And the drive out there, along the inlet and out through Ioco and Anmore, is gorgeous. It’s a really great way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon at any time of year. If you want to visit yourself, you can check out the Google Map here (My thanks to Lisa and Dennis, whoever they are). 🙂

Eating my Words

Last year I wrote this big post about how I was not on Facebook. About how I didn’t like the privacy rules. About how I wanted to be accessible to anyone and everyone. And I still do want that – to be accessible.

However, on Tuesday I gave in and joined. Why did I do that? Well, it turns out that everyone else has. Or almost everyone. And my desire to be open to everyone was beginning to mean I wasn’t. My friends, my family, and my vague acquaintances are on Facebook. If I want to connect with them I have to be there, too.

I’m slowly learning the ropes. I have some friends. I’ve joined some groups. I’ve posted some photos (although there are still way more on this blog. I’m figuring it out, feeling my way in the new environment. It’s still a little awkward, but in a good way, I think.

I do have a lot of anxiety about the whole social networking thing. Asking people to be my friend freaks me out. But I’m getting better at it. I’m getting better at extending myself in the blogosphere as well – commenting on posts I like, letting people know I’ve stopped by. I like connecting with other people, I like it when they visit my little corner of the world, and so I’m trying to hold up my end of that bargain. Each time it gets easier. Each connection reminds me of the importance of community and the value we find by sharing pieces of ourselves with others.

Social networking is quite the thing. Chatting with people you haven’t seen in years. Making ‘friends’ with people you’ve never met. It’s all very 21st century for someone whose heart remains in 1992. I paid my bills by mail until I got married, never fully trusting in newfangled banking technology. Ironic for an engineer who works in high tech, I know, but it’s true. It’s why I held out so long on Facebook. I am not an early adopter. I need other people to blaze the trail and drag me along kicking and screaming.

I’m not going anywhere. This website will always be my first love. Over five years of my life are chronicled here. I love looking back and reading what I wrote when we were renovating our house, when I was pregnant, when Hannah was learning to walk. I like browsing the photo gallery and seeing my wedding photos or snapshots from our trip to the maritimes. The story of our family is contained here on Strocel.com, and that is where it will stay.

So yes, I’ve eaten my words. It’s not the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last. Now if you happen to be on Facebook, why don’t you add me as a friend? You’ll make my day, and save me a world of anxiety. 🙂

Crafty Mamas

Here in BC we are blessed with some truly fabulous, crafty mamas. Somehow they manage to create beautiful, local, hand-made products and while they’re raising their little ones. I’ve shared my love of Bamboletta and Poot & Boogie natural dolls. And of course there’s my very dear friend and crafting mentor Kirsten at Yummy Yarn. But I’ve come across a few more recently, and I wanted to share them with you. You can click on my photos for a larger view.

Big Ocean, Little Fish – I recently met Lou, a multi-talented mama (she teaches yoga for the whole family, too). I had my eye on her wishing owls for Hannah, each with their own secret star pocket. One girl only needs so many Christmas presents, though, so I’m doing a custom order for the kiddo’s birthday. In the meantime I chose two fabulous prints for my downstairs bathroom. Until she gets her Etsy shop stocked, you can check out her Facebook group to see photos of the owls for yourself.

Sweet Earth Soaps – Did you know that most commercially produced soaps aren’t actually soap? They’re detergents, which are cheaper but not nearly so nice on your skin. Plus, they contain artificial colours and fragrances. I prefer the real thing, so I was delighted to find Ashley and her truly divine soaps (I can’t stop sniffing mine). Their scents come from herbs, spices and essential oils. My favourite is ‘Brewsky’ – made with actual beer! If you love soap as much as I do you have to check her out.

Milk Lush – This summer I came across another mama named Ashley who makes the most fabulous baby gear. Her myQuilt quilts are truly gorgeous, it’s almost a shame to imagine a baby drooling on them. We have one of her myPad playmats, and we love it. They’re made of phthalate-free vinyl, so they’re easy to care for but they don’t contain the same harmful chemicals found in traditional products. After all, who wants their babies rolling around on something that could hurt them?

Still TV Free

It’s been two weeks since our TV died, and I wanted to give you all an update. When we last left our story, the stalwart entertainment device had breathed its last breath. Jon and Amber decided to see if they could last a couple of weeks without TV. Where are they now? Have they shrugged off the chains of our capitalist society and become raw food vegan anarchists? Or did they give up after 4 days, buy a new TV, and become unrepentant couch potatoes?

The boys hauling the TV away

The boys hauling the TV away

We remain without a TV for the moment. We did finally haul the old one off to the recycling centre, so we’ve acknowledged defeat on that front. Besides which, having no TV is a principled stance. But a dead TV taking up your whole living room? Well, you’re moving into Jeff Foxworthy territory, if you know what I mean. 😉

Redneck Twelve Days of Christmas

Without TV Hannah spends a lot of time drawing or concocting imaginary games with her toys. I haven’t felt compelled to buy a new television on her account. While it is a useful babysitting device it’s also the source of much anguish, which her parents are glad to be rid of. We still have 3-year-old meltdowns, but they have significantly decreased in number. At this point, she’s just accepted that the TV’s gone.

Two figures by Hannah - the one on the right is an elf. Click to enlarge.

As for the big people – well, we do cheat by watching shows on our computer. When hockey games are available, Jon watches them, and I’m up to date on 90210 (yes, yes, I know). In the internet age we can be without a TV, and yet have more access to electronic media than ever before. Luckily, Hannah is blissfully unaware that this is an option. She’s seen a few YouTube videos, but she doesn’t know that she could get full episodes of her favourite programs.

The empty corner

The empty corner

We’ve held out this long, but we don’t really plan on going without TV forever. At the moment we’re thinking we might hit the Boxing Day (Boxing Week, Boxing Month – how long is it now?) sales after Christmas. We’re also thinking about how we might reconfigure the TV and our home. My personal hope is that we can have a fresh start, a chance to re-examine and change our relationship to the TV.

Dust bunnies and a light spot on the wood - all that remain of the TV

Who am I kidding? I’m sure that once we get a TV back in our house it will be the same as it ever was. Maybe even worse, as we gorge ourselves on all the television we’ll be missing. Still, I have my hopes. A girl can dream, right?

Ho Ho Ho, Happy November!

In order to avoid a line-up we got the traditional Santa photo early. Jacob wasn’t up for posing, but Hannah was pretty excited. Unfortunately she was overcome with shyness and could neither smile nor articulate what she wants for Christmas. Luckily you can write a letter to Santa and you don’t even need a stamp, so perhaps we’ll try that. 😉


Click for larger version

Second Maternity Leave

It’s Mat Leave Monday! Today I’m talking about taking your second (or third, or more) maternity leave.

When you already have a little one at home, your leave will not be the same as it was with your first. You have divided attention in a way that you did not before. You can’t always get out of the house as easily, or participate in all the same baby groups. In speaking with new moms of two I’ve dicovered that this was a big transition for all of us – maybe bigger than when we had our first baby.

The most significant issue that I’ve faced with this mat leave is what to do with the big kid. So we decided to keep Hannah enrolled in daycare. It keeps her in her routine and she likes it there. She’s getting a chance to participate in age-appropriate and enriching activities that I may not have time for (sand table, anyone?). Plus, if I withdrew Hannah we would lose our spot. After our struggle to locate this great place I don’t want to subject my kid to more upheaval.

Keeping Hannah in daycare works for me as well. I get to have time alone with Jacob 3 days a week. We can do mom-and-baby classes, I can go grocery shopping while he sleeps in his sling, and I can go out for long walks that Hannah couldn’t handle. If I didn’t have child care, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Jacob as much, and I would definitely face more of a struggle to keep myself healthy and sane.

Not everyone can keep their childcare, though. It can be a financial strain to pay daycare fees when your income has decreased substantially. And sometimes your childcare is a family member or your partner, who is not willing or able to watch your child when you are available yourself. You might not be entirely pleased with your current arrangement, or you might not plan on returning to work. Then what?

Most moms that I know continue their activities with their older children, packing their baby along. You see them breastfeeding beside the pool during swimming lessons, rocking a carseat while they read their older children library books, or sporting a sling at the playground. This is what I do on the days that I am alone with both kids. I do puzzles one-handed, I nurse Jacob and watch Hannah dance, I walk my baby on the sidelines at Tumbletots.

The other thing that I’ve found with a new baby is that the support of family and friends is critical. Jon puts Hannah to bed almost every night now – he never did before Jacob came along. Hannah goes on sleepovers to her grandparents, and has a grand time. Her Grannie is teaching her to swim, her Nan takes her on outings, and she goes on playdates at her friend’s house. Sometimes I feel sad that I can no longer be the sole and primary person in her life, but mostly I’m just glad that Hannah has all of these people who care for her.

More and more, I am enjoying this new role as mama to two. And I anticipate that the balancing act will get easier as Jacob gets older. It sideswipes you at first, that’ s for sure, but it’s great. I wouldn’t change it for the world. 🙂

As an aside, I wanted to mention that I created a new page for the Mat Leave Monday series. You can find it under ‘Maternity Leave’ in the menu at the top left.

Hannah’s Hair

I have a strange relationship with my daughter’s hair. It’s a love-hate thing, an internal struggle that I’m not exactly comfortable with. I sort of want her to have long hair, always neatly arranged, attractive and well cared for. On the other hand, her hair is hard to manage (at least for me) and she generally pulls her hair clips and elastics out shortly after I put them in. I don’t want to impose my esthetic on her or create conflict over pigtails, but I also want it to look ‘nice’.

I didn’t anticipate that I would feel this way. Or perhaps I didn’t anticipate that my daughter would have strong ideas of her own at a young age, forcing me to examine myself so closely. I always laughed when I heard mothers lamenting their daughters’ decisions to cut their hair short. I felt then, and I still do on many levels, that it was wrong to feel attached to your kid’s hair. That living vicariously through your child, casting them in your own image isn’t entirely healthy for anyone.

19 months old

19 months old

I’ve always insisted that Hannah brush her hair. It’s a requirement for having long hair – you have to take care of it. In my mind it’s the same as brushing your teeth. I brush Jacob’s hair every day, and I don’t imagine that will change. Although, to be fair, it will most likely be much faster and he won’t have to sit through my styling attempts. It’s not exactly the same. There is a gender difference. Even if Jacob did want long hair, you know I wouldn’t be braiding it.

2 years old

2 years old

I really faced my inner conflict a couple of nights ago when Hannah told me she wanted to cut her hair short. I pointed out to her that her hair would be short for a very long time, and it couldn’t grow back if she changed her mind. She said that was OK, and wanted me to get to cutting. I put her off by explaining we would go to a hairdresser if she wanted a real haircut and that would have to wait a few days.

From the back at 2 1/2

From the back at 2 1/2

By the next morning Hannah had changed her mind. She told me she liked long hair. I felt relieved, then I felt uncomfortable with my relief. If my child really wanted short hair, why should I feel disappointed about that? Why did I try, in my own way, to talk her out of it in the first place?

Almost 3 years old

Almost 3 years old

Then there’s my own hair. I’ve always been a natural blond. People say that they pay good money to make their hair look like mine, and I feel completely superficial pride about that. Right now Hannah’s hair is exactly the same colour as mine. I find myself pointing out that my hair was much lighter when I was her age, that her hair is more similar to her dad’s. I’m worried that if Hannah’s hair darkens, somehow that will be a problem. That she won’t share that satisfaction that I’ve always felt with my hair’s colour. Weird, right?

Braids at 3 1/2

Braids at 3 1/2

I wonder if it is all so very bad, being caught up in our children’s appearances. Of course we want them to look good. People who look good generally have an easier time in the world. I can see why, as mothers, we spend this time on our children. Why we wrestle hair bows onto the heads of 2-year-olds. We’re just like monkeys, grooming each other as a sign of care and affection, to keep the parasites away and advance our social stature.

But this is a very slippery slope. I hardly want my child to base her value on her appearance. I don’t want her to develop a distorted view of herself. I hate to think that she may fall prey to the struggle that so many women face over their sense of self-worth and their looks. So I do my best to keep my mouth shut and to honour Hannah’s decisions about her own appearance. I let her know that I love her for who she is, no matter what. Because that’s really the truth – she is my daughter, whatever’s on top (or not on top) of her head.

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