Archives for July 2010

Visiting the EcoDairy

Last weekend I was invited, along with my family, to tour Bakerview EcoDairy. I am always interested in learning more about where my food comes from, so I jumped at the chance. And what I saw while I was there has left me thinking a lot about agriculture in general, and dairy farms in particular.

The EcoDairy is a demonstration farm, which means its purpose is to teach the public about dairy farming. You can visit 7 days a week, all year round. Because it is open to the public, you know that the animals and the facilities are well cared-for. They also lay out the operation in such a way that it’s highly visible. I learned a lot about cows and dairy production during my tour. For instance, did you know that the average dairy cow produces around 30L or 8 gallons of milk a day? That puts lactating humans to shame.

Exterior of the EcoDairy
Exterior of the EcoDairy

Bill Vanderkooi, who created the EcoDairy, has a background in animal science, specializing in dairy cattle nutrition and physiology. He grew up on a dairy farm, which is currently run by his brother. When he graduated, he wanted to use his knowledge to develop innovative nutritional solutions for dairy farmers. In the process, he created Vitala milk, which contains DHA Omega-3 and higher levels of CLA.

Milk!
Look, milk!

To achieve the DHA and CLA levels in the milk, the cows are fed a special diet. They receive a specific mix of grasses, silage and grain, as well as flax seed and small quantities of tuna oil. Bill is committed to feeding the cows food from natural sources, so they don’t receive any supplements or artificial chemicals. When I saw the cows eating, it all looked pretty hay-like to me, but I admit to feeling a little bit squeamish about the tuna oil. It doesn’t sound like something that cows evolved to eat. Bill did tell me that it is locally sourced and tested free of mercury and other contaminants, and that feeding cows animal meal has a long history and many scientists consider it to be good for them.

The cows at Bakerview EcoDairy
The cows eating their special diet

The cows live in an ‘indoor pasture’. It is a large open space, with big windows, lots of light, rubber floors and special ‘cow mattresses’. The 40 or so animals that are currently there are free to roam around the space as they please. There are temperature and humidity controls, and the cows have access to an automatic brush and a robotic milker, so they set their own eating, sleeping, grooming and milking schedule. Each cow has a transponder so that they can track her milking, but Bill told me that most cows choose to be milked 2-3 times a day. We saw a line-up at the milker while we were there.

One of the cows checks out the automatic brush
One of the cows uses the automatic brush

While cows are being milked, the machine monitors their output specifically, checking flow rate, volume, temperature and white cell levels. This lets them know if a cow is sick, in which case her milk is dumped and she’s attended to. It also lets them know when her milk production is starting to slow. And over the course of a milking, it lets them know when she’s done. The robotic machine actually detaches from each teat individually when it stops flowing. This means that instead of just milking a cow for a specific amount of time at specific hours, they can really follow an individual cow’s pattern. As a nursing mama myself, I can appreciate that individuals vary.

Hannah says hello
The cows greeting Hannah. A few seconds after this photo, the one on the right licked me.

In order to keep the quantity and quality of the milk consistent, the cows are kept inside while they are producing milk. While the barn was very clean and lovely, it kind of upended my traditional view of what a dairy farm looks like. I grew up in dairy country, and I am accustomed to seeing a lot of cows out roaming pastures, at least over the summer. This is probably the thing that I wrestled with the most. I have no doubts that the cows are well cared-for, and that they have far more self-determination than the average cow. But would they be happier if they were outside? And does thinking of ‘happiness’ in human terms even make sense for a cow?


A video of our visit

The barn that the cows spend their days in is built do be as comfortable as possible. It’s also built to be environmentally friendly, too. They used recycled tires in the rubber floor and low-energy environmental controls and lighting. They have a green roof on one of their buildings, and collect rainwater off another. They are almost finished building an anaerobic digester, which will convert the cows’ waste into energy for the dairy and high-nutrient fertilizer. And they used pine beetle timber in their building, which is effectively salvaged wood.

I really believe that a lot of thought has gone into the EcoDairy and it was very educational for me to see it. It left me thinking a lot about farming and my pre-conceptions. That’s a good thing, I think. Knowing where your food comes from, and how the animals who produce it are treated, is important. And now I’d like to hear your thoughts. What do you think makes for a good dairy farm, or a good farm in general? What makes for a good quality of life for a cow? I’d love to hear!

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 July review will go live at 6am Pacific on Monday, August 2. If you want to play along, write a post on or before August 2, come here, and link up!

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

My daughter Hannah was born at 34 weeks gestation. It’s not easy to breastfeed a preterm infant, and we struggled in the beginning. On many occasions, I wasn’t sure if we would make it. But we did make it, for a whole lot of reasons. One of the biggest, looking back, was the help I found at La Leche League (LLL).

I stumbled into my first La Leche League meeting when Hannah was 8 weeks old, and we were still using nipple shields. I had been discharged from my midwives at 6 weeks, and when I asked them where to get breastfeeding support, they recommended LLL. I walked into my first meeting with trepidation, not sure what I would find. But I needed help, so I screwed up my courage and went.

What I found was community. Leaders and mothers sharing their stories, and showing me that I could do it. I returned, became a member, and eventually a leader*. I wanted to help others as I had been helped.

LLL’s cornerstone book is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. The book encapsulates the organization’s philosophy and contains thorough, comprehensive and well-researched breastfeeding information. On July 13, 2010 its 8th edition was released, and I was lucky enough to nab a review copy. The new edition is a complete re-write, and is significantly different from the 7th edition. Although if you’ve read an earlier edition and enjoyed it, I suspect you will enjoy this one, too.

So, what did I think? Honestly, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I want to thank the book’s authors – Teresa Pitman, Diana West and Diane Wiessinger – for writing a book that I can recommend without reservation. As much as I love LLL, the 7th edition sometimes made me cringe. I think the update was much-needed, and I am so happy to read it.

Here are some of the things I love about this book:

  • There are tear sheets at the back that you can cut out and quickly reference, including information for new grandparents on how baby care recommendations have changed, milk storage guidelines and how to get breastfeeding started.
  • They suggest letting the baby self-latch. I did this with Jacob, and it was much better than the “rapid arm movement” they recommended when Hannah was born.
  • The photos of nursing mothers in this edition don’t make me think of my grade 3 teacher anymore. The 80s hair and glasses are GONE!
  • No longer are babies only “he”, and partners only “dad”. The language is much more inclusive.
  • The book covers breastfeeding at various ages, in chronological order, so you can skip right to the section that you need right now.
  • The section on mothering and working much more accurately reflects the realities that parents face, without passing judgment on those who do work. This was a major issue for many people with previous editions, including me.
  • Just like all LLL publications, the book is thoroughly researched and includes detailed references.

If I have any criticism of the book, it would be its size. I don’t get a lot of reading time, so it’s taken me more than two weeks to finish it. It can seem a little bit intimidating. I think it’s good to keep in mind that the book contains detailed discussion of a whole lot of scenarios you probably will never encounter. So skimming it, and not worrying about breastfeeding twins if you don’t have twins, is totally reasonable. Take what you need and leave the rest.

I am so glad to see this update to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I hope that other people enjoy it as much as I did, and that it helps make breastfeeding, and LLL, more accessible to all mothers.

* I don’t talk about my LLL leader status on this blog often, because I am not writing here in my capacity as a leader. For instance, LLL doesn’t necessarily share my views on Roch Voisine. They have to remain neutral, though how they can remain neutral in the face of such awesomeness, I have no idea.

Life Crafting Role Models: Kirsten

It’s Thursday and I’m Crafting my Life! July’s theme is looking to our role models. Because other people have walked this path before, and we can learn from them. In previous weeks I talked to Andrea Gregg-Aylott, Sue Sinclair and Christine Budai. This week I’m talking to my very good friend Kirsten Zerbinis, all-around cool person, fibre artist and teacher. Read on to hear what Kirsten had to say.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?
My professional background is as a technical writer and college writing teacher, which has nothing whatsoever to do with my business. I had a career path that was pretty typical for 20-somethings at the time. I graduated, I temped, I got so bitter that I couldn’t even temp effectively and got turfed, I got a lucky break with a short tech writing contract, I got a longer contract somewhere else. I applied for a couple hundred jobs in a handful of cities. I phoned the local college every time I completed a new contract to see if my experience was good enough yet for me to teach for them, and eventually it was. I had taught four semesters for them, loving every minute of it, when I got pregnant, then we moved when the baby was born, and I found myself far away from any potential contacts with a resume that didn’t reflect what I knew I could do. And I had a young baby that I was not willing to put in full-time daycare, under almost any circumstances.

How did you decide to start your own business?
I tried to return to the worked I had done before, the work I loved and thought I was good at. Give me a room full of surly 19-year-olds and a required-but-not-desired “here is how to write a business memo please don’t mess it up when you get your first job or we’ll look bad” class, and I’m a happy woman. I took a teaching contract locally, but then didn’t get another. I started a little handspinning business just to see where it would go. I bought some dye, bought some wool and a wheel, signed up for the local farmer’s market as a vendor, and for an Etsy shop, and hoped for the best.

My goal was to make enough to pay for the two days a week of daycare I’d signed my daughter up for on the assumption that I’d be getting another teaching contract. I wanted to keep the daycare spot, and I felt the two days away from me was okay, but not excellent; it was justifiable if I was getting a ton of work done and recharging my own batteries, doing something I loved. If either of those conditions wasn’t met, I would have found another option. Fortunately I broke even within a couple months, and the business kept growing, just a little then a little more, until eventually I realized it was Plan A, not Plan B anymore.

What led you to fibre arts, and teaching handcrafts, specifically?
I’ve been a knitter for 28 years, and I’ve dabbled in all sorts of other handcrafts along the way. Moving from knitting to spinning was natural. It seemed to me that a lot of the handspinners out there were making yarn that was very neat to look at, but not really very nice to touch. They were making yarn for yarn’s sake and didn’t have much of a sense of what the final fabric would be. I thought that, as a highly experienced knitter, I could bring something unique to my yarn, and I still think I make a more knittable/crochetable hands-on than a number of my competitors.

Adding teaching to my business was a fluke. I started out just making and selling yarn. A local handcrafter and arts promoter found me and asked me to do a knitting demo at a local arts day. I did that, and that led to me teaching at the local arts centre. I had experience teaching adults already, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to just teach a new topic. Then one day, a reporter did a profile on me in the local paper, and that led to me being asked to teach at the yarn store that was just opening. The former program director at arts centre moved to another arts centre, and this summer I’ll be teaching at the new place – embroidery and sewing as well as knitting. One thing has just sort of led to another, it’s been kind of amazing.

You are one busy mama. How do you juggle all your different commitments?
Honestly? I drop a lot of balls. My house is a mess. I don’t have a lot of time to form and nurture friendships, and I get kind of lonely. Sometimes bills go overdue, I don’t call my mother enough, I haven’t read an entire novel for 5 years, and if it weren’t for my calendar program bing-bonging at me regularly, I’d also miss doctor’s appointments, school casual days, and knitting classes I’m scheduled to teach. I’d like time to take more classes, I’d like to have the energy to throw parties, organize my closets, make love to my husband more, be more patient with my kids. Wouldn’t we all?

I live by a “D is for Diploma” kind of rule. The house is a mess, but it’s clean enough that you don’t have to worry about your health if I’m serving you food on my dishes. I’d like more of a social life, but I have a couple friends who seem to still enjoy being with me, even if it does take me ages to return a phone call – it’ll do. My customers get their packages, I make enough yarn and dye enough fibre to keep a decent stock in – it’ll do. I figure I’m getting most tasks done to about the 70% level, and I know it won’t be this hard in a year or two when the kids are that much older and more self-sufficient.

The nature of my business makes a big difference to how much I can get done. I was briefly trying to start a freelance writing business. Given my education and my previous experience, it seemed like it would be a natural progression. It didn’t get off the ground before Yummy Yarn did, and in hindsight, I’m glad it didn’t. How I would manage to make phone calls to clients in my household, I have no idea. How I’d find the mental energy for prospecting new clients when I’m as sleep deprived as I often am – no idea. The though of trying to complete a job, when writing is so much a process of gathering your mental energy and then finding a quiet place to concentrate for an hour or two, is mind-boggling.

I can spin in 10-second bursts, and the yarn is of the same quality as if I did it in a single session. I can list an item in my Etsy store in 30 seconds, and then go make snacks for the kids before I list any others. I can take pictures while the kids are bouncing on the bed next to my photography area. I can design colourways in my head while breastfeeding. I can paint dye on wool while the baby is strapped to my back (although she gets restless after I’ve done two trays). I can wind yarn while I make faces at the toddler in her high chair. I can combine mailing things with a walk to the park. I can answer customer inquiries when I’m awake at 3am. I can spin while playing pretend with my 5 year old. I spend quite a lot of time spinning while playing pretend, actually.

My working life is a lot like playing Tetris, trying to fit a critical mass of odd-shaped pieces together before your buffer tops out.

What are the upsides, for you, of running a business?
The biggest upside is that I’m here. I believe in attachment parenting, and I believe children benefit hugely by just being in their own space, having unstructured time to play. By having a business that can be run from home, I can be here with them, for the long, relaxed, unbroken stretches of time that do them so much good.

Having a home-based parent is really handy. When a kid is sick, I don’t have to stress about checking in with a manager or rescheduling meetings. When the plumber can come “sometime between 8am and 5pm”, I can be here for that. I can grocery shop at 1pm on a Monday, instead of 11am on a Saturday when the stores are crazy.

The feminism I was raised with in the 80s and 90s was focused on ambition and career, and that’s awesome, but I’ve come to see the value of having a lot of invested, intelligent adults inhabiting the domestic sphere, too. I think our communities are well served by having stay-at-home folks, and I’m proud to be one of them. I may choose to return to a traditional job in a decade, but for now it’s very satisfying being where I am.

Is there anything that you wish you had known before starting out?
I guess if I could tell my 4-years-ago self anything, it would be that so many opportunities are available if I just put myself out there, talked about what I did, met lots of people, tried new things. I was surprised by what just fell in my lap because I was out in public doing my thing. If I’d known, I would have started doing the networking-type stuff earlier. There’s a hunger for handcrafts, for making things. It’s a great time to be doing this.

What is the biggest challenge you face in balancing your family with everything else?
There are certainly days when I think that if I just got a part time teaching job, I’d make more money for less time. But then I remember about the marking and the deadlines, I try to envision how I could meet those commitments on a week when a kid is sick and one is teething and my husband is on a deadline himself and barely home…then I’m back to begin grateful that I can do what I do, on my own schedule.
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Thanks so much for talking to me, Kirsten!

Who inspires you? I’d love to hear. And I’d also love it if you would link up any posts you’ve written on role models this month.

Boot Camp for Children

We recently got the Fall Recreation Guide in the mail. I sat down with and scanned the children’s section for classes my daughter Hannah might enjoy. There was Young Chefs, Eco Heroes, Cheerleading and Holiday Day Camp. There was Rhythmic Gymnastic and Fencing and Floor Hockey and Karate and Swimming. And there was Boot Camp for Children. Here is the class description:

Boot Camp for Children
For ages 6-9 years. This Boot Camp will include cardio conditioning, strength, power, agility and much more! This program is led by a qualified fitness instructor.

Boot Camp for Children – for 6-year-old children – stopped me in my tracks. The other classes centered around a specific subject or skill, or just promised to give your child something fun to do over the school break. Many classes involved activity, but activity that happened through martial arts, dancing or sports. Boot Camp, on the other hand, seems to be centered around promising a physical outcome for your child. Cardio conditioning. Strength. Agility. Not fun, teamwork and a non-competitive environment, like Basketball for Children advertised.

I have never taken a Boot Camp class, so I may not understand how they work. I associate Boot Camp with adults getting in shape and losing weight. They often seem to be advertised with taglines like, “Get bikini-ready for summer!” While I chafe at the implications of that statement, I see nothing wrong with taking a structured fitness class to help you achieve your personal goals. I know that I’m much more likely to do something if I have time set aside to do it, especially if that time was set aside by others. If Boot Camp works for you, cool.

But Boot Camp geared towards adults feels much different than Boot Camp geared towards 6-year-olds. And, I’ll go ahead and say it, 6-year-old girls in particular. We spend so much time in our society, so much time, telling girls that they are not OK. They are too fat. Too thin. Too tall. Too short. Their toes look weird. Their noses are too big. They need hair products, skin products, perfumes and the right clothes. They need to buy fashion magazines to tell them what to wear, and then they need to buy the stuff to wear. Otherwise, no one will like them.

Suggesting that a 6-year-old should have fitness goals that include cardio conditioning seems to feed into this mindset. Already our children are getting the message that they need to improve their physical selves. When I think of my own 5-year-old, perfect as she is, this makes me sad. I don’t want her to feel that she needs to take a class geared solely at improving her physical condition. Especially not as a school-aged kid.

I know that kids need to be active, and that many kids don’t get the activity that they need. But an 8-week Boot Camp class isn’t the answer. Getting outside and playing, participating in sports, spending days swimming and cycling, these are the answer. I was a pretty bookish kid. I mostly sat inside and read. But my mom sent me outdoors, or took me outdoors, and some of my fondest childhood memories were formed. I climbed trees, played baseball, rode my bike and waded in a creek until my feet were numb. Once I got moving it was hard to stop me, and I think most kids are the same. They want to play and explore their world, they want to run and jump and climb.

I’m sure that many kids would enjoy Boot Camp. Hannah sees me doing yoga, and wants to do it, too. Even 2-year-old Jacob imitates my poses. If their parents are doing Boot Camp, kids may want to do it, too. This is totally understandable. But maybe the stated goals of the class should be different. I think that there’s a way for kids to have fun and be active without focusing on their bikini-readiness or agility. Our children have enough people telling them that they’re not good enough. I don’t think Parks and Recreation needs to join in, too.

Tell me – what do you think about Boot Camp for Children. Do you think I’m over-reacting? Or do you find it as disturbing as I do? Would you enroll your own 6-year-old? Please share!

PS – July’s Crafting my Life series is about role models. On the last Thursday of the month, which just happens to be tomorrow, I will include a link up. To participate, write a post or track down a post you’ve written on the subject sometime in the past, and add yourself to the list. Check out the link-ups from January, February and March to get a feel for how it works.

The Story of Cosmetics: Canadian Edition

Are you familiar with The Story of Stuff? If you’re not, you should check it out. It’s a 20 minute film that chronicles where the stuff that we use every day comes from, and the problems with the system that produces it.

Just recently the people behind The Story of Stuff, in partnership with The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Free Range Studios, have brought us The Story of Cosmetics. The video details some of the concerns about cosmetics, including misleading labels, lax or nonexistent regulations and untested, possibly toxic ingredients.

Many of the concerns raised in the video were brought to light here in Canada over two years ago, when Health Canada found lead in lipstick. Of 26 lipstick samples tested, 22 contained lead. Health Canada claimed that the amounts weren’t high enough to be harmful. At the time that story broke, I was 7 months pregnant with Jacob. You can bet that I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of exposing my unborn child to lead, whether Health Canada said it was safe or not.

I doubt that I am the only person who feels this way. And yet, like many other people, I remain at a bit of a loss. Unlike in the US, Canadian cosmetics are required to list ingredients. But not all of them. And ingredients lists alone are not a huge help. I am not a chemist or an environmental scientist. I don’t know which unpronounceable words signal danger. I don’t know what kind of impact this product or that product has on the planet or on me.

Organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society do a good job of explaining why we need clear labels. But we need more than that. We also need regulations that protect the health and safety of individuals before they protect the interests of private industry. We need to test the stuff we slather ourselves with before we slather ourselves with it. We shouldn’t need a PhD in order to choose a safe baby shampoo.

If you’re concerned about the safety of your cosmetics and personal care products, what can you do? First of all, you can check out the Cosmetics Safety Database. The database allows you to search for specific products or ingredients, and outlines any concerns surrounding them. You can join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. You can contact your elected representatives and share your concerns. You can share The Story of Cosmetics. If you’re in Canada you can sign Environmental Defence’s Just Beautiful Petition, to let our lawmakers know about your concerns.

We can also re-consider the number of personal care products that we use. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look and smell good. I want to look and smell good myself. Sometimes it’s fun to dress up and wear lipstick and nail polish and hair products. But we must recognize that the beauty industry is trying to sell us stuff, just like any other industry that markets consumer goods. They want us to believe that we are flawed and need their stuff. If we aren’t concerned about the state of our skin or the shininess of our hair, we’re not going to shell out for products to fix them. Even initiatives like the Dove Movement are marketing campaigns aimed to make us feel favourable towards a certain brand.

My daughter Hannah is 5 years old. I don’t want her to feel that she needs to coat herself with stuff to be OK, and I especially don’t want the stuff she coats herself with to contain toxins. That’s why I want to see change in the cosmetics industry.

Have you seen the video? What do you think? And how do you make decisions about what cosmetics to buy, and what cosmetics to avoid?

I wrote this post as part of the Green Moms Carnival. Check out Lynne’s blog Organic Mania on Wednesday, July 28 to read more posts about The Story of Cosmetics.

Crying Like a Baby

Babies cry. We know this. If you have ever spent 30 minutes in a public place, you have heard at least one child wailing to high heaven. Fear of infant crying is what makes everyone on an airplane clench when you bring your precious cherub on board, or causes people to sigh audibly when your young family is seated next to them at a restaurant.

Even though I totally knew that babies cry, I wasn’t really aware of just how much some babies cry, or what effect it would have on me, before I had a baby of my own. Add it to the long list of rude parental awakenings, I guess. I sort of expected the crying to be annoying, but I thought that I would learn to read my baby’s cries, and answer them, and life would be smooth again.

The reality was not so peachy. When my firstborn Hannah arrived at 34 weeks gestation she really didn’t cry much. Preterm infants don’t behave the same way as full-term infants. She was pretty quiet and sleepy until she reached her due date, and then it was like someone flipped a switch. Hannah found her voice and it was loud. It was insistent. And it was not really related to any obvious issues that I could solve.

I never did develop that magical ability to understand my baby’s cries. Hannah’s cries were either ON or OFF. There was no working up to the crying and there was no discernible difference between any of the cries that I heard. She started out crying at a full-blast wail, and continued until I had solved the problem or distracted her sufficiently or she was tired of crying. There was no ‘wet diaper’ cry or ‘hungry’ cry or ‘tired’ cry.

I tried all sorts of cry-calming tactics. My routine went something like: (1) try to breastfeed, (2) use loud white noise, (3) try to breastfeed in a different position, (4) check her for any obvious physical issues like a dirty diaper or snap pinching some skin, (5) put her in the sling, (6) try to breastfeed while standing on my head, (7) cry myself. Sometimes one or all of them would work, sometimes none of them would work. For one 3-day stretch she only wanted to nurse while I stood up, then for the next 3-day stretch she wanted to be nursed any way but while I stood up. And she totally failed to respond to reason. Babies!


Hannah at 3 months, letting me know she’d had enough of the photos

I got a lot of suggestions from different people about dealing with the crying. It was something I ate. She had a gas bubble. Maybe her diaper was too tight? Maybe she was too hot? She must be too cold! She’s just exercising her lungs. She’s overstimulated. She’s hungry. She’s tired. She’s working out past-life trauma. I read and tried a lot of things. A lot of things. And I can tell you that pretty much the only thing that solved the problem was doing the best I could in the moment to calm my child, and allowing her to outgrow that stage.

Here’s the thing: babies cry, and it’s not your fault. It’s also not your job to stop the crying. I don’t leave my kids to cry by themselves as a rule. When they are upset, I try my best to calm them. But sometimes, I can’t. In spite of my best efforts, they are going to cry and scream and maybe even rage a little. I try to guide them through to the best of my abilities, but I can’t always make my kids happy. I’m not sure that expecting happiness is in my children’s best interest, anyways.

In the darkest days of Hannah’s crying, when she was 2-3 months old, I lost it a few times. I found myself crying along with her. On a couple of occasions, I yelled at my baby to, “JUST STOP CRYING! I NEED YOU TO STOP!” When I was alone once I had to put her down and go in another room to breathe for a few minutes. The crying felt like a form of torture. But slowly, slowly, we got through. Looking back, the crying days weren’t that long. And today I have a lovely 5 1/2-year-old, who still lives at full volume. It’s just who she is. It’s not because I ate something spicy or didn’t change her diaper promptly enough. It’s not that I’m a bad mom, or that she was a bad baby (as if there could be such a thing).

There is a local campaign working to raise awareness about early infant crying, which they call the Period of Purple Crying. They want to let people know that crying is normal. They also want to let people know that while you may be frustrated and angry and worn down, you must never shake a baby. Because you, too, want to come out the other side and see that lovely 5 1/2-year-old who is still a little bit too loud. You don’t want to lose that chance because of an impulsive action in a low moment.

One of the facets of the campaign is knitting or crocheting purple caps, that will be given to new parents in British Columbia the week of November 15. If you would like to participate join the Facebook group and get to fiber crafting! I will be making one myself. Because I have been there, and I came out the other side, and I want other people to know that they can, too.

Now, tell me. How did you get through the crying days? I would love to know.

Hopscotch Kids

A few weeks ago I talked about painting my son’s toenails pink. The backstory is that I received some Hopscotch Kids Nail Polish from my friend Sue at Raspberry Kids. The sample was given to me for free, in exchange for writing about it here. Which I am about to do. Disclosure: accomplished.

Anyways, back to my story. I got the little bottle full of bubblegum pink-ness, and of course my daughter Hannah and I tried it out. And then my toddler Jacob got in on the fun. In the end three sets of toes and one set of fingers were painted. The instructions with the polish said that you should clean and buff your nails first. We did not. We are rebels that way. We applied only one coat, and then we played in the grass. More rebellion.

Hannah's toes
Hannah’s toes

In spite of our rebelliousness, the nail polish lasted pretty well. After a week there was some chipping and fading, but that’s been my experience with pretty much all nail polish. I would say that its drying time and length of wear were pretty typical. It’s been 3 weeks since I did Jacob’s toes, and there are still polish remnants on him. It behaved pretty much like regular polish, but it is not as scary as regular polish.

The people who make Hopscotch Kids say that their polish is completely safe and non-toxic. I am not really qualified to judge their claim, but I can tell you that it doesn’t smell like regular nail polish. In fact, it smells sort of like water colours, which I guess makes sense considering that it is water-based. It didn’t emit fumes, and I really appreciated that, especially because it was going on my kids. My daughter Hannah loves nail polish, so having a safer option is awesome.

Amber's fancy feet
My feet, evidence that I am not so good at getting the polish in the right spot

Along with the polish, I received a sample size bottle of polish remover. My experiences with the remover were less positive. On the upside, it is free of the scary chemicals that traditional polish removers contain. But it didn’t do a great job of removing the polish. For my kids it wasn’t a big issue. Their polish seems to wear off faster than mine, probably because they are far more active in general. Also, they don’t really care if there are polish remnants. But for me, it was a bigger deal. I don’t really enjoy the half-polished nails look, and I had to use a lot of remover to avoid that.

Hopscotch Kids is geared to kids, and for kids I think it’s a good solution. I certainly feel more comfortable with it than with whatever we find at the drugstore. My kids love the vibrant colours, too. For adults, though, the ineffective remover is a bit more of an issue. I understand that Hopscotch is working on an adult line, so perhaps they will work out their polish remover with that.

Polish and remover
Polish and remover

My friend Sue kindly gave me a second sample size polish, remover and emery board to give away. The polish is bubblegum pink, which is the same colour we used. If you would like a chance to try it, leave a comment on this post sometime before 6pm Pacific time on July 26. I will draw one winner at random – people anywhere in the world can enter, one entry per person. UPDATE – The contest is now closed, congratulations to Melodie, our winner!

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