Archives for October 2011

Putting on a Brave Front

It’s Halloween, but I won’t be doing anything scary today. I don’t like scary movies or scary books or the dark or snakes – especially snakes. The way they slither around is just not natural. When something is just a little scary, it sticks with me. I can’t watch certain TV shows right before I go to sleep, and frightening images stay with me for years. Often, the material doesn’t even have to be all that scary to freak me right out. The 1987 movie The Lost Boys, for instance, which Wikipedia describes as an “American teen comedy horror film” can still give me nightmares almost 25 years later.

Because I am really a huge wimp, there are a lot of things I avoid for my own good. I have never read a Stephen King novel, and I probably never will. I haven’t seen many iconic films that nearly all of my contemporaries have, including Silence of the Lambs, The Blair Witch Project and The Exorcist. I made the mistake of going to see the movie Seven with my friend, who had told me only that it starred Brad Pitt. I was expecting something more along the lines of A River Runs Through It. Instead I was up with nightmares for weeks.


When I was a teenager, I decided that if I hid under the covers the scary things that surely lurked there in the night couldn’t get me. I started pulling my comforter up over my head as I slept for this reason, leaving only a small gap near the top so that air could circulate. When I was in my early 20s and living by myself, it also drowned out the normal sounds from other apartments, that would keep me awake if I let them. I somehow felt more secure, when my head wasn’t exposed as I slept. I realize, of course, that the very idea that an actual monster or intruder would somehow be stopped by a blanket makes no sense, but we all sometimes do things that make no sense.

Now I’m a parent, though. I gave up pulling my blanket over my head on the night that my daughter Hannah came home from the hospital. I needed to be able to hear her every wiggle and peep, so I learned how to sleep with my head exposed to the dangers of the night. I also learned how to walk around my house in the dark without freaking out, because turning on lights when you’re trying to get babies to sleep is counter-productive. In the end, my sleep deprivation and new mama instincts won out over my fear of the dark. I couldn’t afford the indulgence of irrational fear in the face of the practical realities of child-rearing.

Now Hannah is six and a half and her brother Jacob is three, and I have to put on a brave front for them pretty much every day. I can’t let them see that I’m terrified of snakes or afraid of the dark, because I don’t want to transfer those fears to them. When they wake up crying and telling me they’re afraid of something, I can’t say, “You’re right, ghosts are scary, let’s cover our heads and hope they don’t see us!” I have to be the grown-up and communicate an aura of calm, even if I’m completely terrified on the inside.

Pumpkin family

Tonight, when the teenagers are out setting off their firecrackers and Jacob is crying about how he’s scared, I’ll put on my brave face and comfort him. When masked children come to our door and Hannah tells me she doesn’t like the scary ones, I’ll tell her she has nothing to fear. And when my house creaks as it cools down for the night while I try to fall asleep, I’ll resist the urge to hide under my down duvet. It may be Halloween, but I’m still the mama, and it’s my job to make little people feel safe – not convince them their irrational fears are justified.

What are your irrational fears? How do you put on a brave face for your own kids? I’d love to hear all about it. And, of course, I hope that you have a very happy Halloween!

PS – Every month I do a monthly review of things I learned. Some are serious, some are funny, and all are hard-won. I will be running my October review on Wednesday, November 2. I’d love it if you played along. Write a post on or before October 2 and come back here to include it in my link-up!

Podcast: Kim Graham-Nye, Founder of gDiapers

Which is better – cloth diapers, or disposable diapers? It’s a decision that every parent has to mak. I made it twice, myself. I used disposables with my first baby, and cloth diapers with my second. I discovered that each had their own benefits and drawbacks. Recently, though, I had the chance to speak with Kim Graham-Nye of gDiapers, which is a different kind of diaper altogether. It’s like a cloth and disposable hybrid, and it promises the best of both worlds.

Kim Graham-Nye founder of gDiapersKim and her husband Jason founded gDiapers in 2004 in the US. Their product is fairly simple – a disposable liner fits inside a reusable, moisture-proof cover. Instead of throwing away a whole disposable diaper, you’re only disposing of the liner, which gDiapers claims is biodegradable, compostable and flushable. Because you’re not chucking the plastic outer layer, the diapers decompose much more quickly. And because you’re not washing the liner, you don’t have to deal with dirty diaper laundry.

The option of flushing the liners is one of the main features of gDiapers, since it provides an easy way of disposing of poopy diapers, without sending them to the landfill. I asked Kim about the flushability specifically during our interview, and she asserts that gDiapers really can be flushed. There may be some slight conflict on this point, though, as Deanna Duke of Crunchy Chicken discussed in her post gDiapers – Plugging up the S!@#ter.

gDiapers kim graham-nyeIf you’re not sure whether or not you want to flush gDiapers, then you can take heart because they do offer reusable cloth liners as well. The idea here is that you can cloth diaper your little one in gDiapers, and then when you’re in a situation where you’re not able to handle the laundry, you can use the disposable liners temporarily. This would be a very good solution for many families like mine, who cloth diaper at home but aren’t up to the task when they’re on vacation in a hotel. You’re not generating the same amount of plastic waste, and you can continue to use your existing gDiaper covers.

Really, though, my discussion with Kim did not centre around scientific analyses of how diapers travel through the sewer system, as exciting as that may be. Instead we talked a lot about the company Kim and her husband have built, which is innovative and forward-thinking. Their Fair Dinkum philosophy has led them to offer their employees perks like flex time and on-site childcare. Other people are noticing gDiapers’ business practices, too, as Kim was named one of Fortune‘s 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs this year.

Kim and I talked about how gDiapers got its start, and how it has grown. She talked about attending the Fortune summit, and how the next generation of moms are inspiring her. After our talk, I felt inspired, too. Listen, and see if Kim’s optimism doesn’t rub off on you:

I’m working on a few interviews right now, and I’m excited to share them all with you. Subscribe to my podcast on iTunes, and be sure not to miss a thing. I’d also love to hear your suggestions for future podcast guests – feel free to leave me a comment and let me know who you’d like to hear from. I can’t make any promises, of course, but I can always try.

Not a Moment to Waste

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! I invite you to join in the fun. If you would like to share a story from your own journey, please drop me a line. If you’d like to find out more about my online class on living with intention and my upcoming e-book, visit

As I get older, I feel the relentless march of time more keenly. With each passing year, it becomes more and more clear to me that there are certain things in this life that I just won’t do – or just can’t do. Any shot I had of competing in the Olympics is long gone. Ditto my chances of becoming an astronaut. They’re sending fewer and fewer people into space these days, the likelihood they’d pluck a mom in her mid-30s from suburban Canada for a comeback tour on the shuttle is pretty low. My choices are narrowing as I get older.

I tell my children that they can do anything, and be anything. At three and six years old, this is still (mostly) true for them. I want to tell them something more, too, but I know they wouldn’t understand. They’re simply too young. I want to say, “That thing that you want? Go after it. That thing that you don’t enjoy? Don’t do it. Life is too short to spend a single moment walking down the wrong path.”

Many of us spend a good portion of our lives doing things that we don’t enjoy. These are the things that don’t work for us, but we think others expect us to do. They’re the things that we thought we wanted, but when we tried them we discovered maybe we really didn’t. They’re the obligations that sap our energy and take up all our time but don’t really enhance our lives. All of us have them, if we stop to think hard enough. And yet we keep doing them, because we feel as if we should, or we don’t want to be quitters, or we worry that if we don’t, no one will. And maybe some or all of these things are true.

As I get older, I’m coming to understand that I only have so much time to play with, here. I simply don’t have the luxury of wasting the time I do have doing things that detract from my life. I don’t want to spend another moment walking down the wrong path out of a misguided sense of obligation. It’s time to seize that thing I want and do it … and then discard it if I discover it’s not right for me, and move on to the next thing. This is how I will live with purpose and intention, and create a life that works for me.

It may be true that there are certain things I’m never going to pull off in this life. But there are just as many things that I still can pull off, if I put my mind to it. If I’m going to make those things happen, I’m going to need to focus my energies. I’m going to need to learn to accept help more, and say no more when something doesn’t work for me. I’m going to need to practice sovereignty and I’m going to need to pause and reflect and ask myself how things are for me.

There’s simply not a moment to waste doing anything else.

How do you decide when something isn’t enhancing your life? How do you create boundaries around that, and give yourself permission to let things go? And when did you realize you were likely never going to become a Rockette, after all? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Repost – Mission: Piano Shelf

This is a re-post of a post I originally wrote on October 17, 2009. It shows then one-year-old Jacob engaged in some feats of climbing. This kid is still my climber, and has made my heart stop more times than I can count in the intervening two years. He’s just lucky he’s cute.

I realize I have been dedicating rather a lot of posts to Jacob’s latest feat of climbing. But, you know what? This is my life right now. I spend my days constantly fluctuating between being amazed and impressed by my toddler’s abilities, and being afraid for his very life. Plus, I do think he’s rather adorable, and so I can’t really resist sharing his photos with the internets.

So, on to Jacob’s latest feat of climbing. The other day I was sitting here in this very chair, probably spending some time on Twitter. Then I happened to glance to my right, and noticed that Jacob had made it to the top of the piano chair. He was in pursuit of the cat, who was shooting me looks that clearly said, “Will you please control that child?” Being the dedicated blogger attentive parent that I am, I of course reached for my camera and decided to see what would happen next. Here it is, as it happened:

Jacob made it up on to the piano chair

Hey, how'd that cat get up there?

One knee up

The other knee up

Nearing the cat

Standing on the shelf

I snatched Jacob down right after the last photo was taken, and folded up the piano chair. This is the advantage to not having obtained more permanent piano seating – the Costco folding chair is easily transformed into a non-toddler-climbable object. Jacob has tried to unfold the chair a few times, with no luck. Thank heavens for that. I also spent a few minutes tidying the toys, since as you can see the family room was not exactly blog-ready when my son began his little adventure. I hope that just makes you all feel better about your own domestic disaster zones.

[Aside: That alligator piano? We had to chuck it when Jacob pooped on the keyboard when he was two. Ah, memories!]

Here’s hoping for a peaceful weekend, free of toddler derring-do and other forms of mischief.

Do you have a climber on your hands? How do you sleep at night? I could use some tips and/or commiseration!

Photographic Evidence

For most of humanity’s history, photography did not exist. If you wanted to record an image, you had to do your best to re-create it through a sketch or painting. Most people had only their memories to carry snapshots of the past with them in the days, weeks, or decades after an event happened. We are not those people.

Today, we don’t only have photography, we have digital photography. On top of that, many of us have cameras with us at all times, thanks to our phones. In my youth, I had to buy film and pay for developing. Today, photos are virtually free, and I can take as many as I want. Of course, there is a limit to how many photos my phone or flash card can hold, but it’s so high as to be virtually infinite. I can document every little itch, sneeze and minor event to my heart’s content, and then just delete the images that I don’t like. I don’t have to spend a lot of time framing a shot, or calculate how many more pictures are left in my camera, I can just keep on snapping.

It’s funny how unfettered access to photography has changed the way I view the world. Even in my own life, I rely heavily on photos to remind me of who did what, and when. What did my children look like when they were babies? How old was Hannah when we went on vacation for the first time? What was the weather like on my wedding day? I don’t have to remember, I can just look at my vast photo library, stored on my computer and backed up regularly, and I have the answer.

Sometimes, though, the photos aren’t there. To my eternal sadness I accidentally deleted a number of photos from the day that Jacob was born. They’re gone forever, and I can’t get them back. Does this mean those moments didn’t happen? Of course not. But I don’t remember them as well, because I can’t look at the photos. Long after Jacob has grown, those missing photos will leave holes in my story of his arrival. Other lost images and missed photo ops leave similar holes all throughout my life. If I didn’t photograph it, the event fades in the unreliable ether of my memory, and it’s almost as if it never occurred.

This weekend, we went to Victoria. I know this, because I have the photos to prove it. Are these the best moments of the trip? I don’t know. But I do know that they are the ones I will remember, because they are recorded forever in computer memory, stored on my phone and somewhere out there in the vast internet. I can look at them and recall what things were like in the moment I took them, while all of the other moments may be lost. I’ve saved a few, though, and that’s what matters.

View from the ferry

Jacob doesn't like the wind on the ferry

Enjoying the wind on the ferry

The Legislature

Outside the Royal BC Museum

Woolly mammoth at the Royal BC Museum

Seal at Fisherman's Wharf

Outside Craigdarroch Castle

How do photos – or the lack of photos – change the way you view your life? And how has digital photography changed your photo-snapping habits? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Put on your Brightest Colours, Winter is Coming

The mornings are cold now, and sometimes if I’m up early enough I can spot a light frost. In response, the trees are putting on brilliant coats of yellow, orange and red, colouring the landscape in the vibrant hues that will soon give way to bare branches against the winter sky. I see the geese flying south, increasingly insistent and urgent, wings beating in unison as they honk out their messages of warning to each other. Flee, flee, for cold days are ahead.

Sometimes, as I make the morning pilgrimage up to my daughter’s school, I bundle myself in my winter coat. It keeps me cozy in the early hours before the waning sun has warmed the earth. Other mornings, though, I resist. I am not ready! It isn’t winter yet! And so I wear my light fleece coat, wrapping my arms around myself and shivering a little, but taking a stand against the vanishing warmth of summer. I am defiant, even if my defiance makes me uncomfortable.

Leaves on Grass

Any Canadian can tell you that here in Vancouver we don’t have real winter. Real winter involves months of freezing temperatures and four feet of snow, packed down by heavy winter boots tromping across it for almost half the year. In Vancouver we have only the rainy season, which is colder and wetter, but not so frigid that it kills the grass or the blackberry bushes. Winter in Vancouver is green, but a different shade of green than spring or summer.

Newport Village Landscaping

In spite of my admission that I am a lightweight, and I do not know what it is to live in a land of ice and snow, I confess that winter carries a certain sadness for me. Or maybe not a sadness, really, but a heaviness. Darkness encroaches, cold mornings bite my nose, and life retreats to its hiding places, buried deep in the soil or inside insulated burrows or holed up on the couch in front of the television. We’re all just riding out the cold days, saving our strength and trusting that spring will come, and bring the return of the light.

Canada Geese Flying
Photo credit: Craig Bennett on Flickr

I’m certain there’s a lesson in the waning warmth and encroaching coldness. Perhaps it’s meant to teach us that all things come to an end – and that from that ending springs a new beginning. Perhaps it’s meant to teach us that we all need times of rest and retreat. Or perhaps it’s just a trick of physics, a planet tilted on its axis in just such a way that the life living upon it must adapt to changing seasons if it is to survive. Although, even a trick of physics holds lessons – intentional or not. I have an engineering degree, after all, and I spent years studying tricks of physics.

As I peek out my window at the red leaves on my blueberry bush and the mushrooms that have popped up in my back yard, and survey the pumpkins that my children so carefully selected for their jack-o-lanterns, I see vibrancy everywhere. I also see wistfulness. Winter is coming, and we’re celebrating the last bits of warmth and growth and colour. Soon the cold days will be here, but until then, we’ll pull out our brightest colours and adorn ourselves in all the beauty we can muster. Because hope survives, even as the trees shed their leaves.

Podcast: Kim Wilson, Creative Head of Kids CBC

At the end of September, I attended a Kids CBC event here in Vancouver. If you haven’t watched much Canadian TV, you might not know that the CBC is our national public broadcaster. Kids CBC is their children’s programming, which airs every morning, and is geared primarily towards preschoolers. If you have watched enough Canadian TV that you can pick Bruno Gerussi out of a lineup, this probably isn’t news to you, but I am all about providing context, so I appreciate your patience.

At the Kids CBC event, I had a chance to meet Kim Wilson, who is the Creative Head of Children’s and Youth Programming. What this means, more or less, is that she runs Kids CBC. Mamma Yamma, Patty, Sid and the crew all work for her. In short, if you’re a preschooler in this country, you may not know Kim Wilson’s name, but you’re probably a big fan of her work.

Jacob meets Patty
Jacob meets Patty at the Kids CBC event

I recently had the chance to chat with Kim. I was interested to hear about how Kids CBC is run, how they create their programming, and how she keeps it engaging and educational at the same time. While we were TV-free for a couple of years, my family has seldom been without some form of on-screen entertainment for our preschoolers. Let’s face it, the electronic babysitter can come in awfully handy when you’re trying to get dinner on the table. Since my own kids watch TV – including Kids CBC – I was eager to hear from someone who has the inside scoop on what’s happening in children’s television.

Jacob and me with Mamma Yamma
Jacob and I pose with the ever-fabulous Mamma Yamma

Kim and I covered a lot of ground during our interview, and I was left with the impression that she’s incredibly passionate about the work she does. Whether you’ve ever seen an episode of Busytown Mysteries or not, that’s a pretty inspiring thing. Listen to our chat, and soak up some of that passion for yourself:

Next week I’ll be sharing a podcast with another Kim – Kim Graham-Nye of gDiapers. Fortune magazine recently named her to its list of Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. If you’d like to hear her thoughts on business, how she implements family-friendly policies in her company and a whole lot more, subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a thing!

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