Archives for June 2010

They all call it Canada

Tomorrow is Canada Day. I have a great post planned, as part of my Crafting my Life series, with a definite Canadian flavour. It will be awesome. But today I wanted to take a little time aside from that to celebrate this land that I call home. So today I offer you some of the things that I think are awesome about being Canadian:

Happy Canada Day!
Photo credit: Ian Muttoo on Flickr

  • Year-long paid maternity leave. While our system is not perfect, on the whole it’s really pretty good, and quite competitive, internationally speaking. I am so grateful that I was able to access it.
  • Roch Voisine. He is made of awesome. Need I say more? No, I need not.
  • Dill pickle potato chips. And ketchup potato chips. These are classic flavours people!
  • The letter zed. You know, it, it comes right after X and Y. And when you sing the alphabet that way, or read American children’s books that way, the rhymes don’t work. But we like it.
  • The Log Driver’s Waltz. To know it is to love it.
  • French on our packaging. Reading cereal boxes as a child is how I learned such useful words and phrases as gratuit and moins de sel. I might not be bilingual, but I can speak cereal box French with the best of them.
  • Canada is freaking huge, eh. There may not be many of us, and we might not be a superpower, but we’ve got space, and that’s something.
  • Canada Day cake. I finally had some. In fact, I had 3 pieces. It was as good as I hoped.
  • Curling. It’s not our national sport, but we’re pretty good at it. And it is the most oddly engrossing sport I have ever watched. Although, sadly, the Norwegians did manage to one-up us in the curling pants department.
  • Me. I am a pretty awesome Canadian, if I do say so myself. 😉

So, tell me, what do you think is awesome about Canada? And also, happy Canada Day!

PS – As you may know, I have started including a link-up with my monthly reviews. The reviews are an informal listing of a few things I learned in the past month. My June review will go live at 6am Pacific on Friday, July 2. If you want to play along, write a post on or before July 2, come here, and link up. I have a feeling this is going to be fun!

Calling People Nazis is Uncool

Have you heard of Godwin’s Law? According to Wikipedia, the law was formulated in 1990 by Mike Godwin, and it states:

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

As a debate goes on, sooner or later someone’s going to call someone else a Nazi. A corollary to this argument is that the person who invokes Nazism automatically loses the argument, especially when the matter being debated has nothing to do with totalitarianism and genocide.

One extension of Godwin’s Law is that proponents of breastfeeding are sometimes called ‘breastfeeding Nazis’. In fact, the term is common enough that it has an entry in the urban dictionary. There are variations on the term, too. Boob Nazi. Lactation Nazi. You get the picture. There are articles that use the term, and people who apply it to themselves. I’ve even read it in books.

I quite dislike the term breastfeeding Nazi. Working to promote what you consider the very best thing for babies is not the same as perpetrating mass murder. Plus, using the word ‘Nazi’ in this way diminishes the atrocities that the Nazis committed. It turns the whole thing into a big joke. Genocide shouldn’t really be a punchline.

I might be particularly sensitive to this, as I consider myself a breastfeeding advocate. I want to do what I can to help mothers to reach their own personal goals. Not everyone will breastfeed, I know this. But if someone wants to breastfeed and comes to me for help, I’ll do my best. And if I see a societal obstacle (a booby trap, if you will) that is making breastfeeding difficult, I will speak out against it. It’s not about fanaticism or judgment, it’s about doing my part to make the world a little more breastfeeding-friendly.

Good intentions can’t always avoid hurt feelings. When you really want to breastfeed and it’s not going well, you can be pretty emotionally vulnerable. I certainly was when it wasn’t going well for me. I felt as if I were failing at a fundamental task of motherhood. I cried a lot. I still harbour bad feelings towards some of the nurses in the NICU who gave me conflicting advice when I was already overwhelmed and confused. In an ideal world they would have seen my vulnerability and made an effort to spend more time listening to me and supporting me.

If you were the recipient of an unkind comment at a low moment, my heart goes out to you. That should not have happened. Feeling angry or hurt is more than reasonable. Sharing your feedback or seeking a more sympathetic care provider is more than reasonable. Crying into your pillow and wanting to throw things may even be reasonable. But remember that sometimes people say the wrong thing at the wrong time, even well-meaning ones. Most everyone has stuck their foot in their mouth at least once. It might make us doofuses or maybe even jerks, but it doesn’t make us Nazis.

I am sure that there are breastfeeding proponents who lack sensitivity or tact. Just as there are fitness proponents, or elementary school teachers, or bus drivers who lack sensitivity or tact. That’s not cool. It’s even less cool when we begin judging others without walking in their shoes. It’s never appropriate to imply that someone is less worthy, less human or less caring because of the way that they feed their baby. Especially if we don’t know the first thing about that person’s story.

Just as it’s uncool to be judgmental of someone who isn’t breastfeeding, it’s uncool to dismiss a whole group of people who are sincerely trying to help. Two wrongs don’t make a right, as my grade 3 teacher said. So I’ll make you a deal. Don’t call me a Nazi, and I won’t call you one, either. I think everyone will be the happier for it.

What are your thoughts on the phrase ‘breastfeeding Nazi’? Do you think it’s funny, and I should lighten up? Do you think it’s sometimes well deserved? Or do you find it just as uncool as I do? I promise not to call you a Nazi if you disagree with me.

Things my Toddlers Taught Me

I find toddlers challenging, I admit it. They are very … very. They can be aggressive and loud and demanding. They move from extreme happiness to extreme sorrow to extreme anger at the drop of a hat. They act out physically and scream to get their way. And frequently, I have no idea what ‘their way’ actually is at this moment. It’s just lucky that toddlers are also the cutest people on the planet, with the way that they imitate you and learn new things every day and sincerely try to make you happy.

In the midst of the challenging toddler behaviour, though, I’ve gleaned some gems. My own toddlers, these little people who live out loud, have taught me a lot about life. There is so much joy and wisdom in young children, once you get past the screaminess. Here are some of the lessons my toddlers have taught me:

Jacob goes for a slide
Toddler Jacob taking a slide

1. Live in the moment. Toddlers are all about right now. If they’re doing something that they like, they enjoy it fully. They don’t waste time and energy worrying about other stuff. They embrace the here and now, because that’s all they know. I suspect we would all be better off to do this a little more.

2. Don’t be afraid of falling down. When toddlers master new skills they practice, and practice again. They fall down, dust themselves off, and try again. Maybe not immediately, but they don’t give up on climbing a ladder just because it didn’t go well the first time. They accept the mistakes and learn from them.

Riding the big kid slide
Hannah’s first ride on the big kid slide, at almost 2

3. Set boundaries. The two classic toddler words are ‘no’ and ‘mine’. The classic toddler phrase is ‘no, mine’. Toddlers are not afraid of asserting their boundaries and staking claim. Sure, a little courtesy would be nice. But at the heart of it they’re showing that they can declare their limits, and they deem themselves worthy of consideration.

4. Be a trendsetter. Toddlers make some of the most, erm, creative fashion choices. It’s true that not all of them look good to the adult eye. And it’s true that not all of them are weather or situation appropriate. But any way you slice it, they’re setting their own trends and doing their own thing. Toddlers are not followers.

Rockstar Fairy, 2 3/4 years old
2 1/2 year old Hannah, the rock star fairy

5. Spend more time outside. Kids love the outdoors. As soon as I say the word ‘outside’ my kids run to fetch their coats and shoes. When you’re outside you can run and jump and throw the ball and use a loud voice. When you’re outside, you just feel better. I spend a lot more time outside thanks to my toddlers, and I’m grateful for that.

6. See the wonder in the mundane. When you’re out for a walk with a toddler and a plane passes overhead, they have to stop and watch it. They will point and comment on it. They will make sure that you see every bug, every dog, every truck, every stick and every leaf that you pass in your daily wanderings. They don’t take the world for granted, they see it and they see the magic in it.

Jacob checks out the grass
22-month-old Jacob checking out the grass

Toddlers can be hard. But it’s a good kind of hard. Like knitting or sudoku. I think I’m a better person for mothering toddlers, and I’m glad of that.

So tell me. What lessons have your toddlers taught you?

PS – I was interviewed by the fabulous Lora of Cascadia Kids about my family’s trip to Parksville. It’s supposed to be posted today, so drop by and say hi!

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks

One of the best parts of going on vacation is all of the blog fodder it provides. This was certainly the case with the trip we took to Parksville a couple of weeks ago. Fun! Togetherness! New places to talk about! It’s really win-win, I think.

One of the places that we checked out in Parksville is Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. We visited the farm three years ago when we were in town, and I loved it. I am a fan of cheese, what can I say? So when we were back in the neighbourhood, I knew I had to visit again.

Jacob LOVES goats
Jacob meets some goats on the farm

Morningstar Farm is the home of Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and MooBerry Winery. Since 1999 it has belonged to the Gourlays, who started milking cows and making cheese there in 2001. All of the milk for their cheeses comes from their own herd of cows, and all of the cheese is made on-site at the farm. They also grow berries for their fruit wines, and make all of the wine on site as well. The fruit and berries for the wine that aren’t grown on the farm are sourced locally.

The cows at Little Qualicum Cheeseworks
The cows, hard at work

The cheese, wine and pork that they produce and sell at the farm is not organic. However, they are definitely dedicated to sustainable practices and quality local food. Places like Little Qualicum Cheeseworks are the reason that I often opt for local over organic – by talking to people you can get a much better picture of the practices they follow than by reading labels. The Gourlays are dedicated to the local environment and to farming lightly. Although they do have some certifications that I appreciate, like the SPCA Certification that they treat their animals with great care and Environmental Partner Certification from The Land Conservancy.

Milking parlour
The milking parlour

We toured the farm and peeked through the window into the room where the cheese is made. Jacob got up close and personal with a goat. Hannah got up close and personal with a bunny. We saw some of the cutest calves ever. We tasted cheese and I tasted wine. And I got to chat with some of the folks about their farm.

Where the cheese is made
The outside of the cheeseworks

The cows at Little Qualicum are pasture-fed as long as the weather co-operates every year, and then they eat silage. Their milk is left raw for ripened cheeses and pasteurized for soft cheeses. Apparently, raw milk results in a more flavourful cheese. The pathogens that can live in milk have a lifespan of 60 days. So cheese that is aged for longer (like ripened cheese) will not contain live pathogens, but soft cheeses may and so they pasteurize that milk first. This is why pregnant women are cautioned against eating unpasteurized soft cheese.

The cheese

Living in the suburbs of a large city as we do, I don’t get to see the operations of a dairy farm first-hand. Or any farm, for that matter. Visiting Little Qualicum was a great chance for me, and for my children, to a get an up-close look at local agriculture. While I have bought Little Qualicum cheese at my local farmer’s market, the experience can’t compare. And the fruit wines, that you can’t get at the farmer’s market, were fabulous, too. 😉

You can also check out the video my lovely husband Jon made of our visit on YouTube:

PS – As you may know, I have started including a link-up with my monthly reviews. The reviews are an informal listing of a few things I learned in the past month. My June review will go live at 6am Pacific on Friday, July 2. If you want to play along, write a post on or before July 2, come here, and link up. I have a feeling this is going to be fun!

A Not-so-Funny Joke

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The mom of a 5-year-old and 22-month-old goes in for dental surgery. She’s having a gum graft. The procedure goes well, and as she leaves the dentist tells her to take it easy for a couple of days, and to not do any heavy lifting. Ba-dum-bum.

OK, so it’s not really funny. But it does feel sort of like a joke. I had a gum graft on Wednesday, and I can tell you that from the moment I walked out into the waiting room and my toddler jumped eagerly into arms I have been back on duty. Luckily, my recovery has been really smooth so far, because I’m not sure what I would do if I were actually out of commission.

Post dental surgery swelling
You can see the swelling on my right (your left) cheek here

So what’s with the gum graft? Thanks to braces and compulsive pen-chewing, I had serious recession on one tooth. They did an in-office procedure that took about 90 minutes to stitch a small piece of tissue from the roof of my mouth to where my gum should be. It sounds gross, but it was actually not awful. I declined sedation, and took only local anesthesia, because I couldn’t see being that groggy. I’m glad I did, it really wasn’t that bad. I watched the Golden Girls on the TV in the ceiling, and managed to mostly ignore what was happening. Also, I think my dentist might be awesome.

So, back to the bad joke. Yeah. The recovery is going well, but I’m not supposed to stress myself too much lest I pop my stitches or something. I’m also not supposed to let my children touch the affected cheek, lest they pop my stitches or something. I can only eat soft foods for right now, and I have to follow a regimen of antibiotics and mouth rinsing and keeping my head elevated. I’m only glad that I haven’t had any real post-operative pain, because if I had to take the Tylenol 3s they gave me I would really be up a creek. If my reflexes were slow, I would have a much harder time deflecting my toddler’s stitch-popping affections.

"Relaxing" post dental surgery
My children ‘helping’ me to take it easy

I’ll go back to the dentist on Monday for a status update. I’m hoping that he’ll decide things are going well and give me the all-clear to get back to normal. Because all of this ‘taking it easy’ is really taking it out of me. For reals. Especially now that Jon’s back at work today. There’s just no way to be alone with a toddler and rest. No way at all.

How do you get any rest or recuperation when you have little kids underfoot? Or do you think it’s basically impossible? Please share!

Embracing Simplicity

It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! June’s theme is money. Which is hard, but important. In the past few weeks I explored my money issues, the ins and outs of sharing finances and dealing with an unpredictable cash flow. Today I’m talking about embracing simplicity.

While I was on vacation I went to the spa. I got a mid-week deal that included a whole bunch of things, one of which was a non-stop tapas lunch. I was especially looking forward to that – eating in a robe and slippers, by myself, with two hands. It sounded lovely. And it really was. They offered me a selection of the most popular menu items to start with, and then as much as I wanted after that. It sounded good, so I agreed and my food started arriving.

The food really was amazing. I watched the birds in the trees out the window, sipped my tea, and feasted on snack-sized portions of this gourmet cuisine. The only thing is that it just kept coming. All of it was amazingly good. I ate every bite. Around the 8th dish I was starting to feel full. When the last of the chef’s selection came, I had eaten 15 or 16 plates of tapas. I was more full than I have been in a long time, possibly ever. So full that I didn’t feel good anymore.

Trees, sky, clouds

When we have a full plate of food in front of us, many of us feel compelled to finish it. I feel that way myself. If I give myself a half serving of food I am totally satisfied, but I am unlikely to stop eating a big plate half-way. When it’s in front of me, I eat it. Because there are starving children in Africa. Or something.

Money can be very similar to food. If you have a lot of it, you somehow magically use it all up. Many of us have found that as our incomes rise, our expenses seem to rise, too. And it can be hard to know when to say ‘enough’. There are so many lovely, lovely things that we would like to have. Handbags and shoes and smart phones and fabulous vacations. In the non-stop tapas meal of life, there is always something to catch our eye and make us say, “Maybe just one more bite.”

One of the biggest shifts in my life was realizing that what I had was already ‘enough’. I am speaking from a total place of privilege here, I know it. But I think that a lot of people in our culture are in the same place. We have everything that we need, and a lot of stuff that we don’t really need, too. Having more things, while they might give us a temporary thrill, will not really affect our overall happiness level. It won’t bring us satisfaction.

Sand meets sea

As I try to create a new lifestyle for myself, simplifying plays a large part. That means learning to tell the difference between a need and a want. It’s not easy, not by a long shot. I can convince myself that I need all sorts of things – like a spa day, for example. Or some fancy cheese. But the truth is, these things are luxuries. If I can understand that my life is very full and I don’t really need more stuff, I feel happier.

I’ve learned that the mall is not the place to find to financial security or personal satisfaction. There will always be another Thing to buy there, and another, and another. This doesn’t mean that if you like to shop from time to time you’re doing anything wrong. I see nothing wrong with making mindful purchases of frivolous items that you can afford. A good lipstick can turn your day around, for sure. But it can’t turn your life around, or make your kids better behaved, or your house bigger. Understanding that is the key.

If the mall isn’t the place to find satisfaction, where is? I think it’s the places I go every day. When I look around and see the simple abundance of my life I feel joy. They always say it’s the little things, and they’re right. Things that cost hardly anything are what really make me happy. Picking a strawberry from my garden, or watching my kids blow dandelion seeds to the wind. Racing my 5-year-old across a field. Reading a good book. So even if it isn’t always easy, I work every day to remind myself that I have everything that I need already. I don’t need to go looking for it.

Broccoli bathed in rain and sun

Making this choice for yourself is the key, I think. When a simple lifestyle is imposed on you, it’s not much fun. But when you embrace simplicity of your own free will, it can be awesome. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to mindfully choose a life that involves more time and less stuff. I think it’s the right choice for me. Especially with the occasional spa day thrown in once every few years for good measure.

What brings you real happiness? And how do you know when you’ve had enough? I’d love to hear. And I’d also love it if you would link up any posts you’ve written on money this month. Or just read the other posts, and feel inspired!

An Ode to Elastic Waistbands

For the past 15 years I’ve had pretty much the same standard uniform of jeans and some variation on a T-shirt. When I was an engineer, this was what most everyone wore. I made a few concessions for work – I opted for nice shoes instead of sneakers and chose my better tops. But on the whole there was very little difference between what I wore on the weekend and what I wore to the office. In fact, I frequently dressed up more on the weekend.

Now that I’m at home every day I’ve kept the same uniform. Right this minute I am wearing jeans, a white T-shirt and a brown sweater. But there’s a problem – my jeans are unbuttoned. This is not because I ate a massive lunch or because I recently gained 10 pounds. My jeans are unbuttoned because Jacob is sleeping in my arms. And in spite of my desire not to disturb him, I had to pee. Have you ever tried doing up jeans one-handed? It is a skill that I have not yet mastered, in spite of many opportunities for practice.

Given that I have nowhere in particular to be today, I am beginning to wonder why I am wearing pants with a fly at all. I could be wearing pajama pants, or sweatpants, or yoga pants. All of which are considerably more comfortable than these jeans. And all of which are easily pulled up one-handed, no extra steps required.

When I visit the grocery store on a Tuesday morning I see lots of other moms like me. They have the big cart with the car in front for the little ones. They’re stocking up on family-sized packages of this and that. They’re stopping at the bakery for free cookies for the kids. And most of them are wearing a uniform that tends more to Lululemon than Levi’s. They’re rocking the yoga pants in the frozen foods section, and I’m beginning to think that they might be on to something.

Not only are elastic waistbands comfortable and convenient, they’re imminently practical, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re having some bloating, or even if you’re pregnant. If you need to assume some strange contortion to fish a toy out of a tight spot, your elastic waist pants will stretch with you. And if you have a chance to take a nap, you’re already dressed for it. The more that I think about it, the more convinced I am that elastic waist pants may be the answer to all of my problems. Maybe they could even bring about world peace, if enough people wore them.

The only snag I see in elastic waistband domination is that they’re not considered ‘professional’. But it wasn’t long ago that every workplace required heels or a tie. These days ‘business casual’ has become a legitimate clothing style. Work attire is becoming less and less formal all the time. Add in rising numbers of people working from home, and I’m pretty sure that elastic waistbands will soon be appropriate everywhere. Maybe even at weddings, which would make hitting the buffet for thirds just that much easier.

Who’s ready to jump on the stretchy pant bandwagon? Or are you a holdout for decorum and the confinement of buttons and zippers? I need to get a picture of what I’m dealing with, here.

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