Archives for October 2009

Trick or Treat!

Today is Halloween, and we are devoting ourselves to all things spooky at our house. Halloween parties, carving jack-o-lanterns, roasting pumpkin seeds and trick-or-treating are all on the roster.

Speaking of trick-or-treating, I recently learned that there are places that have official ‘trick-or-treating’ hours. For example, the fabulous Feminist Breeder told me that her town allows trick-or-treating only between the hours of 10am and noon today. I’ve heard of other places that have trick-or-treating times set up on weekends when Halloween happens to fall on a weekday. Both of these rules seem sort of wrong to me – trick-or-treating in my world happens on Halloween night.

Here in Metro Vancouver, the only place I’ve ever ‘done’ Halloween, there are no official Halloween rules. But there definitely are unofficial rules. Trick-or-treating generally runs from about 6-8pm. Most folks eat dinner and then head out, and the little kids tend to come before the big ones, since they go earlier and don’t visit as many houses. In order to signal that you have candy, you leave your porch light on and maybe set out decorations like your jack-o-lantern. And when it’s done you’d better bring that pumpkin in if you don’t want it smashed in the street.

What about you? How does Halloween happen where you live? Now that I know that there are geographical variations, my curiosity demands to know more!

While you think about the trick-or-treating rules, here are a few not-so-spooky seasonal photos to get you in that Halloween-y frame of mind:

Jacob as a turkeyRunning off into the field

Amber and pumpkins

Wild mushroom close-up

Red Riding Hood close-up

Jacob manning the entrails

Hannah drawing the faces

The jack-o-lanterns

Spooky!

Happy Halloween!

Trying out the Ergo

A few months ago I became the proud owner of a Beco Butterfly II baby carrier. I tried it out, and wore it all over. And while it had many upsides, in the end I preferred my mei tais. The poor Beco never stood a chance.

Recently, though, I got my hands on an Ergo. I have a friend who loves her Ergo, but is expecting a baby any day and she hasn’t had much luck with Ergo’s infant insert, so I loaned her my Beco. In exchange, she lent me her Ergo. And I have been wearing it here, there, and everywhere to see how I like it, and how it compares to the Beco and my beloved mei tais.

Mama and Jacob try the Ergo
Trying out the Ergo on a family outing

So, what’s the verdict?

Here are the things I like about the Ergo:

  • There are far fewer points of adjustment as compared to the Beco, so I found it much easier to get a good fit.
  • It can hold a child who weighs up to 40 lbs. It held my 37 lb 4 1/2 year old comfortably and securely.
  • It doesn’t slip or give at all while you’re wearing it, so you can adjust it once and you’re set.
  • There is no fabric between you and the baby, so you could conceivably breastfeed in the Ergo.
  • There aren’t any dangling straps to drag on the ground or get caught in stuff.
  • I think most dads would be more willing to wear a carrier like this one than, say, a woven wrap.
  • The Ergo’s built-in sleep hood means that you’re not fumbling to find it and snap it on.
  • The Ergo is cheaper than the Beco.
  • Here are the things I don’t like so much:

  • The Ergo has a built-in sleep hood, which mostly just got in my way and can’t be removed. If you like the hood this wouldn’t be a problem, but I don’t use it and so it irked me.
  • For some reason I found the chest / back strap really hard to do up when I was wearing the baby on my front, much harder than the Beco.
  • The Ergo doesn’t have the handy-dandy little strap for easy and compact folding that the Beco does.
  • I didn’t try the Ergo infant insert, which is sold separately and required to use the Ergo with a baby under 4 months. However, the general consensus among my friends who have is that it’s not that great, and the Ergo is much better with babies 4 months and up.
  • It is harder to get the baby on your back when using the Ergo, as compared to the Beco.
  • Now that I’ve tried both the Beco and the Ergo, I am more on the fence than ever. I found the Ergo generally easier to understand and use, but I found the Beco to be a more well-thought-out carrier. If you are going to be using the carrier with a newborn, or if you feel less comfortable with back carries, I would go with the Beco. If you are going to be using the carrier with a slightly older infant or toddler, you like to breastfeed in the carrier, or you just don’t want to spend the extra money, an Ergo may be the way to go.

    As for me, in honesty, I am going back to my Kozy. Like I said, I love my mei tais!

    PS – I’ve got a new post up today at API Speaks – so head on over and read When Attachment Parenting Speaks for Itself.

    Finding My Tribe

    It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! Today I am talking about something that is near and dear to my heart – finding my tribe.

    I am a pleaser by nature. I think that many women are. I want people to like me, and sometimes I refrain from voicing my honest opinion for fear of what others will think. Sometimes I find myself agreeing to do things I’d really rather not, in order to gain brownie points. Other times I do this thing where I agree with someone, as a way to disagree more gently. “That’s a really fabulous idea! But I wonder if it will really work…”

    I have discovered lately that stating your Truth is sort of paradoxical. On the one hand, when I talk at length about breastfeeding or maternity leave or refurbishing my shower curtain I am not going to appeal to everyone. I may lose a few folks along the way. But – here is the big one – I attract new people in the process. People who share my thoughts and concerns. People who are in the same place as I am. And these people are what Havi would call my Right People. They are my tribe.

    While I’m in the process of crafting my life, I’ve taken a number of leaps. To me, these leaps felt huge. Things like talking about my dreams and giving voice to what I really want to do continue to be a struggle for me. I am really afraid of what people will say. When you’re starting something new you feel kind of vulnerable, and the last thing you need is for someone to rain on your parade. I am full to the brim with self-doubt already, you know? But at every step of the way I have been totally gobsmacked by the support I have received. You folks, as it turns out, are my tribe.

    I have found my tribe by stretching myself, and by being myself. Or, at least, as much as I am able to be myself in this space, or even in daily life. When I respectfully say what I think, when I reach out to others, and when I set priorities I find folks who feel the same way. There are 6 billion people on this planet, and I am bound to run into more than a few kindred spirits along the way. But when I hide they can’t recognize me, so I’m not hiding as much.

    Aside: Originally, I wrote ‘trying not to hide as much’, but then I heard Yoda and decided to commit. 😉

    There have been times in my life when I’ve felt out of place. When I’ve been in a room full of people who are all saying one thing, while I feel totally another. I’m not sure that I would seize that moment to speak my Truth. There is a difference between sharing your views and being confrontational. But I am learning how to avoid that room in the future. If it’s not my place, that’s OK. It doesn’t have to be. If I can accept that and move on, I am far more likely to find the place that’s right for me, filled with fabulous people like you.

    Next week I am going to talk a little bit about how I see my tribe. Who I think we are. In the meantime, I’d like to hear from you. How do you find like-minded folks? And how do you find the courage to speak your Truth?

    Rehabilitating my Shower Curtain

    I’ve always bought vinyl shower curtains. I like the fact that there are many translucent styles that let the light through. I don’t enjoy a dark shower. Sadly, there are some downsides to the vinyl curtain, though. For one thing, vinyl is sort of toxic. And for another, the little holes at the top are really prone to tearing.

    In my less-environmentally-friendly days I didn’t really sweat the short-lived nature of the vinyl shower curtains, because they are so cheap. Spending $15 for a new shower curtain every year was hardly breaking the bank. But now, I feel bad about using what is essentially a disposable shower curtain. If I need a new shower curtain in the future, I will opt for something sturdier and non-vinyl. For now, though, I am committed to making my vinyl curtain last as long as possible.

    So, I undertook a little shower curtain rehabilitation project. At the outset, my shower curtain was dirty and mildewy, and 5 of the 12 holder holes were ripped through. The first step was to clean it, and for that I used the washing machine. I put in a small amount of soap, I added vinegar to the rinse, and I washed it using cold water on the gentle cycle. Then I repeated the process, and finally I let the curtain air-dry in the sun.

    IMG_9564
    Shower curtain drying on the grass

    Now my shower curtain was clean, but it still wasn’t hanging right. I considered my options for dealing with the holes. My first idea was to cover over the top of the shower curtain with clear packing tape, and then poke through where the holes should be. I opted against that, though, in case I need to run the curtain through the washing machine again at some point. Instead, I decided to use my trusty hole punch.

    IMG_0005

    I folded the shower curtain over about 2″ from the top edge, so that I would have a double-layer of vinyl to support the curtain. Then I punched holes about 1″ above where the old holes were. Once I had punched all of the holes, I folded the shower curtain again so that the old holes and the new holes lined up:

    IMG_0010IMG_0011
    New holes punched above the old one, and then all 3 holes lined up together

    The idea is that the holes that weren’t torn through now have many, many layers of vinyl supporting them. My theory is that the more ‘stuff’ that is keeping that shower curtain up, the less likely it is to tear, since each hole experiences less direct stress. I think it’s a sound theory, based on the many, many physics classes I’ve taken in my time. Either way, though, my shower curtain is holding up so far, and no new tears have occurred to date.

    IMG_0014
    IMG_0017

    I am pretty happy with my rehabilitated shower curtain, I have to say. I hope that I will get much more use out of it by taking care of it and repairing it as-needed.

    Have you ever repaired a shower curtain? Or do you have shower doors, allowing you to avoid the problem altogether? Inquiring minds want to know.

    On Having No Life

    My name is Amber and I have no life. I haven’t seen a play in living memory. The last movie I saw in the theatre was Wall-E, with my then 3-year-old. I occasionally brave lunch in a restaurant when I have only one kid with me, and I eat more take-out than I’d like, but I’ve had precisely one dinner in a restaurant in the past 14 months. And, during that lone dinner, someone complained about being seated near my children. In short, I live a very typical lifestyle as the mom of two small kids.

    I didn’t plan it this way. When I was pregnant with my first child I had visions of how I would retain my independence. I would start by leaving the baby for half an hour to run out on a quick errand. Gradually, I would work up from there, until I could do something really crazy like take a class in the evenings. In my mind I thought that the time apart would be good for both of us. It would give my child a chance to bond with Jon or the grandparents, and it would give me a chance to have some time to myself. Win-win, right?

    Real life didn’t work out the way I’d planned. When I was a brand-new mom I kept thinking that I would take my child out more ‘later’, when I was less nervous. Only, by the time ‘later’ came she was mobile and sort of loud. Plus, she screamed if I was out of her sight, at all, ever. And then I went back to work, and the time that I wasn’t working was spent with my kiddo. Along the way I found that previously straightforward activities like getting my teeth cleaned require Herculean feats of planning. And even when you finally get the plans in place your child cries through the whole appointment while your husband desperately tries to entertain the little angel in the waiting room. It just all adds up to not much in the way of ‘me time’.

    When Hannah was a toddler the whole situation reached a point where it really started to grate on my nerves. Someone would invite me out for coffee and I would have to decline because I couldn’t leave my kid. And if I brought my kid I couldn’t enjoy the outing while my 2-year-old was bent on destroying everything in sight. I really missed my freedom. I missed the way I could just pick up and go at a moment’s notice without a diaper bag and a change of clothes and 15 snacks and the right music for the car. And I didn’t see how I would ever get that freedom back.

    But you know what? In spite of my doubts, my first kid got older. She eventually reached the stage where she pushed me out the door when we dropped her off for sleepovers at her grandparents. These days, my husband handles bedtime, and I just kiss her goodnight. She handles her own bathroom trips and she prints her own name. Sure, I’m still her mom, but she doesn’t have the same intense need for me at 4 1/2 that she did at 1 1/2.

    Jacob is now 14 months old and I am once again in the thick of it. If my toddler can’t see me he wails so pitifully the very heavens weep. Once again I receive invitations that I must decline because I can’t bring my kid, and I can’t enjoy myself if I know he will be at home crying for me the whole time. Sometimes I’m disappointed that I have to turn down something fun, I’ll admit it. But overall it’s much easier for me this time through, because I know it will end. Soon enough Jacob will also be pushing me out the door so he can enjoy some quality time with someone much more fun than me.

    So if you invite me out someplace and I decline, you can rest assured that it is not you or your event. It is simply the space that I am in right now, and I would love to take a raincheck for another year or two from now. Hopefully the world will still be out there waiting for me sometime in 2011.

    Field Trip to Dad’s Work

    The other day Jon forgot his wallet when he went to work. He called me in a panic and asked me to look and I found it, right where it should be. These things happen, sometimes I think I would forget my own children if they weren’t so gosh-darned loud. Anyways, a forgotten wallet is a mild inconvenience for adults, but for kids it is happy-happy-fun-time! Because a forgotten wallet means we have to go on a field trip to Daddy’s work to return it. Visit the bathroom, put on your shoes, and let Mom spit wash your face, because we’re setting out for that magical place where Daddy spends most of his days!

    Dad forgot his wallet
    The forgotten wallet

    Jacob samples the forgotten wallet
    Jacob samples the wallet while we get ready to go

    In fairness, Jon works at a local TV station, so his office is sort of cool. Other people line up to tour the place during annual events. Several of my husband’s co-workers could be considered local celebrities. Their faces grace local magazines and that sort of thing. My kids aren’t the only ones who think that Dad’s office is a great place to visit. So you can imagine that when we arrived and Jon met us in the parking lot, the wee ones were clamoring for a very special tour of their own.

    Hannah and Jon walking into Jon's workHannah and Jacob checking out the big bear

    Walking inside, and saying hello the bear statue

    Jacob was pretty impressed by Jon’s office. Here at home he likes nothing more than to try to climb up to his dad’s computer so he can press all the buttons. Buttons are Jacob’s number one most favourite thing. So, you can imagine how tempting the work desk with many screens and keyboards and pieces of television equipment appeared to a toddler. So! Many! Buttons!

    Jacob in Dad's office
    Would you look at all that gear!

    But the really, super, amazingly exciting thing was the big green screen area, all lit up. Some of the on-air folks were taping some promo shots that day, although not while we were there. This meant that we were free to take a close look ourselves. The kids thought that it was just amazing. Would you believe there was even a traffic cone right there to play with?

    Playing in front of the green screenMore green screen fun

    Green screen fun

    You’ve got to love seeing your every day world through the eyes of small children. The stuff you walk by fifteen times an hour can seem amazing to them. Hannah, especially, can’t wait to return to Jon’s work for another visit really soon. In fact, I might have seen her hiding his wallet last night, now that I think about it. 😉

    Do your kids have a favourite ‘ordinary’ field trip? Someplace that no one except a 3-year-old would think is cool? Please share in the comments!

    A Bicycle Built for Me

    One of my dreams is to have a cool retro bicycle of my very own. Something with a big, low seat, wide handlebars, and lovely bright colours. It would also have an inspired retro-cool wicker basket, which I would fill with produce from the farmer’s market and library books and craft supplies. I would ride it around town, getting exercise and saving the planet, and my bike and I would look simply fabulous. People who saw me would say to themselves, “Who is that gorgeous person, and where did she get that fabulous bicycle?” Together we would be like good-will ambassadors for cycling and sustainable living.

    bicycle cart
    Photo credit – Ard Hesselink on Flickr

    But there are obstacles to my bicycle dreams. We are now entering the rainy season here in Metro Vancouver, and there is just no way I am going to ride my bicycle everywhere in the bone-chilling downpour. The wicker basket would be soggy, my books would become waterlogged, and I would be miserable. I know that some people do it, but I haven’t ridden a bike since 1995, so starting small seems to be in order. But that’s the least of it. The bigger obstacles in my path are named Hannah and Jacob, and they are adorable but unable to keep up with me on bicycles of their own.

    Bicycle Built for 5?
    A possible solution, courtesy of Scott Jolliff on Flickr

    If I wanted to ride my bike around town, I would need to cart one or both of my children with me. Collectively, these kids weigh about 60 pounds. So, let’s say that I wanted to go to the library. There is a hill between my house and the library, which means that I would have uphill portions going both ways. The idea of tackling that trip with two children in tow, plus whatever books we are returning and/or borrowing, is highly unappealing. Highly. Unappealing. Yes, I could do it, but it would raise the difficulty level significantly. So much so that in honesty, I probably never would cycle to the library with both children.

    The old bicycle and the field of wheat in spring
    Photo credit – Bernat Casero on Flickr

    So I wondered, how do other people do it? If you have a couple of small kids, do you just give up on the bicycle until they’re old enough to ride along? Do you reserve it for child-free outings? Or do you get yourself a trailer and a toddler seat and cycle away, because you have commitment to the cycling cause? I would love to hear any and all solutions, because I still cling to the bicycle dream, even if I can’t seem to make it practical for me.

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