My Daughter and Body Image

I watch my daughter Hannah. She’s almost seven years old (!!!), and her father is showing her a dance move. It’s from the Charleston, where you put your hands on your knees and cross and uncross them as you move your knees in and out, in and out. I realize this sounds totally unclear, but it’s the motion depicted in this photo.

In spite of the January chill, Hannah is wearing a short skirt and a T-shirt. As she tries to master the finer points of a dance that’s as old as her great grandmother, she gets a look of intense concentration on her face. Watching her legs and hands and knees, I’m struck by her intense thin-ness. Her little baby rolls are long gone, and in their place is this girl who’s all knees and elbows. Her physique right now is like many other seven-year-olds – thin lines and sharp corners, which never really stop moving, not even when she’s asleep. She’s not big, but she packs a lot of energy in her small frame.

Hannah was skinny when she was born, too. Even skinnier than most newborns, in fact, because as a preemie she didn’t have the time to pack on the body fat that full-term babies do. As a wee babe her smallness conveyed fragility. Now it conveys something else entirely. I can see her muscles working as she dances with her father, and in my eyes she is mighty. She owns her power, and fully inhabits her body, stretching it as far as it can go. Maybe that’s why she’s so skinny – all that stretching did it. As she reaches higher, her body draws in on itself like an elastic band.

Hannah takes a self-portrait

Right now, today, Hannah still loves her body. She tells me about her strength and her speed. She talks about how her belly gets bigger after she eats a big meal, and she tells me that she can fit into her brother’s pants because she’s a “skinny mini”. She describes her body’s bigness and smallness without any trace of malice towards her physical self. She sticks out her gut and says, “Look how fat I can make myself!” and laughs. She doesn’t have any self-esteem issues, and she hasn’t yet learned the lesson of female adolescence that says you should only ever make yourself skinnier, never the other way around.

How long can this last? I don’t know, and truthfully, I don’t really want to know. I love the way that Hannah revels in her body, and all that it can do. I love the way that she brags when her weight on the bathroom scale goes up. I love that she can play around with ideas like big and small, fat and thin, tall and short, and never once cast herself in a negative light. I don’t want this to end, but it’s not in my control.

A 1986 study from the University of California found that 80% of fourth grade girls were on a diet. Given our current preoccupation with childhood obesity and the increasing media bombardment not just from TV but from computers and smart phones and tablets, there’s no reason to think this number has changed. We haven’t become much more enlightened and accepting in the past 25 years. I know that it’s only a matter of time before Hannah will come face-to-face with some of the issues around body image and self-esteem that every girl encounters. I will do my best to help her through, but I’m not even really sure how. How do I help my daughter come out with as few scars as possible?

Today, this is all still in the future. Today, I watch my little girl learn to dance from her father. I watch her smile and move her legs in time to music only she can hear. And I send a silent request to God and the Universe and anyone who’s listening that she won’t forget the truth that she knows today: her body is strong, and perfect, and hers. Skinny (or not-so-skinny) legs and all.

How do you talk to your kids about body image? If you have any resources to suggest, I’m all ears!

Hockey Mom: A Different Take

The hockey mom is a Canadian icon. She gets up early so that her kid can be at the rink for a pre-dawn practice. Her mini-van has logged countless kilometers on trips to small towns far and near for games. Her trusty thermos is always at the ready, filled with hot coffee and maybe a little splash of something extra to help see her through. And she is nothing like Sarah Palin.

I have been a soccer mom, but so far I have not been a hockey mom. My daughter Hannah prefers figure skates to hockey skates, and at three years old my son Jacob can more or less hold his own on the ice, but his sport of choice is basketball. Plus, he’s too little for 5:00am practices. Thank heavens.

Recently, however, my friend Suzanne got in touch with me and asked if I wanted to take part in some hockey sessions for moms. Suzanne is a hockey mom, but like me she’d never worn hockey skates before. While hockey is Canada’s national winter sport, when I was growing up girls just didn’t play. It wasn’t so much that we were excluded, as it just never came up. Plus I’ve lived my whole life in rainy Vancouver, so it’s not like there were neighbourhood pick-up games on the local pond. I decided that it would be fun to try, though, so I signed on. Call me a hockey mom … with two kids at home who weren’t invited.

Suzanne arranged two training sessions with Phil, a local hockey coach. When I arrived at the rink on Saturday night, I found myself in a room with 11 other ladies, all of varying abilities. Some of us were total beginners, some had decades of experience, and some had played a little here and there. I had one of Jon’s old jerseys (he played from the time he was five until he graduated from high school) and a whole lot of nerves. The other ladies helped me put my borrowed gear on, and when I was all dressed I have to say that I certainly looked the part.

All suited up and ready to play

How was it? A lot of fun, actually. For my first time on hockey skates, I think I did pretty well. I’d always heard they were easier to skate in than figure skates, and having worn both I’d say that’s true. I got the hang of stopping reasonably quickly, and that was good. But once I had to control a puck, I found out that hockey is harder than it looks. I did manage to shoot it into an empty net on my third try, though, and I only fell twice all evening. All in all, I’d call it a success. By the time it was over I felt sweaty, exhilarated, and pretty freaking proud of myself.

Post-practice

All of us hockey moms are having another practice session with Phil, and I’m excited to see how that goes. I’m not sure I’ll be joining a team – hockey gear is expensive – but now that I’ve finally had a chance to play around with hockey, I can definitely see the appeal. It made me think that instead of shuffling my kids from activity to activity, I should get out and play more myself. Who said that children are the only ones who get to have any fun?

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 January review on Wednesday, February 1. I’d love it if you played along. Write a post on or before February 1 and come back here to include it in my link-up!

Podcast: Talking Family Size with Three Moms

How do you know when you’re “done” having kids? It’s a question I’ve been grappling with since about 20 minutes after my son Jacob was born. He was my second, and my husband was quite convinced that with one girl and one boy, our family was complete. I wasn’t. The babylust is strong in me. I know moms who have a very strong feeling that their family is complete, but I’m just not there. There may be many rational reasons to shut down the baby factory, but biology doesn’t always respond to reason, and so the desire to procreate remains.

Strocel.com Podcast Stephanie Precourt Family Size

Stephanie

I decided that a discussion about how moms decide that their families are complete would make for an excellent podcast. I knew that I couldn’t interview just one person, though. The decision is too individual for that. So I decided to speak to a few mothers who are “done” having kids, to get their perspectives. And so, this week in the podcast I’m bringing you interviews with three mothers:

  • Stephanie of Adventures in Babywearing – Stephanie has four children. Her youngest, Ivy, is just one month younger than my son Jacob. While she hasn’t completely shut the door on the possibility of having more kids in the future, for the time being she believes that she’s “done”.
  • Allison the Bibliomama – Like me, Allison has two kids, one boy and one girl. Like me, Allison still feels babylust. But with her younger child about to turn nine, she’s decided that she won’t be fulfilling that urge. Allison’s situation is closest to mine, and so I really wanted to hear her thoughts.
  • Strocel.com Podcast Allison Family Size

    Allison

  • Amanda, a.k.a. pomomama – Amanda has one child, and feels emphatically done. Her husband has had a vasectomy, and any babylust is gone. I remember feeling quite done when my own first child was a toddler with an extremely healthy set of lungs, but things changed for me. They didn’t for Amanda, and she’s enjoying having just one older child.

Before I share the podcast, I’d like to acknowledge something. I know not every family comes about as the result of a heterosexual couple conceiving without assistance. I also know not every pregnancy is planned. Deciding to conceive a child, or deciding not to conceive a child, is no guarantee of any outcome. However, for the purposes of this podcast, I decided to focus on people who were making decisions around family size, knowing that they likely could become pregnant with relative ease if they chose to. Since I’m trying to make a decision based on the assumption that if I wanted to get pregnant I could, it seemed most fair to talk to people in a similar situation.

Strocel.com Podcast Family Size Amanda

Amanda

I had a really good time speaking with Stephanie, Allison and Amanda. It was a fun change for me to include multiple interviews in a single podcast, and I loved gathering all the different perspective. While I didn’t have any startling revelations about my own family size as I spoke with these other moms, it was good to hear how they made their own decisions. If you’ve ever wrestled with the question of whether or not to have another baby, or you just want to hear how other people reached their own conclusions, I think you’ll enjoy this one. Listen here:

Next week on the podcast I’ll be talking to Suzanne Bertani of Green Planet Parties. We’ll be talking about choosing sustainable, safe products, making environmentally-friendly choices, and what inspires her as a small business owner. Suzanne has a really great energy, and I enjoyed speaking with her immensely. Subscribe to the Strocel.com podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a minute!

Letting Go of What Isn’t Working

It’s Thursday, so I’m Crafting my Life! If you’d like to craft your life, too, and find a greater sense of purpose, sign up for the Crafting my Life Online Class, which starts SOON. Or, enter my giveaway and win a free registration. Get ready to do something for yourself, because you deserve it!

Last week, I told you that I’d discovered my mission in life – or at least my mission in life right now. And here it is:

My mission in life is to help other mothers live happier, more fulfilled lives.

This really resonates with me because it takes a lot of things that I am doing already, like my volunteer work, my job with VancouverMom.ca, my writing here at Strocel.com, my book dream and the online tools I create for Crafting my Life, and unifies them with a single statement. In many different ways, big and small, paid and unpaid, I am helping other moms live happier, more fulfilled lives. What could be better? Nothing, that’s what.

I don’t think that everyone needs a mission they can easily define in a single sentence. You can do amazing, meaningful and important things without one. But speaking purely for myself, I’ve found having that sentence helpful. It’s brought me greater clarity, and helped me set better priorities and goals. Since I’m a planner at heart, I really groove on this renewed sense of purpose, and I’m making all kinds of plans. But if I’m going to turn those plans into action, I need to free up some space, which means I need to let go of the stuff that isn’t working for me.

There are two things about letting go that I do not enjoy:

  1. Letting go is emotionally difficult.
  2. Letting go takes time and effort.

10 of 365 - Letting Go
Image credit – Andrew Mitchell on Flickr

There are things in my life that aren’t really working for me, and that don’t help me further my mission, and I can identify them. But I’m invested in them all the same. In some cases, I’ve agreed to do something for someone else, and I don’t want to leave them in the lurch. In other cases, in order to let go of a task I need to put in some work to shut it down or prepare it for hand-off, and it’s hard to find time to do that. On top of that, there are my dragons who start telling me stories about how if I let go of something it will mean I’m a big quitter.

Invigorated by my mission, I’m ignoring my dragons, putting in the work to get things organized and learning how to gracefully step out of commitments that are getting in the way of the work I should be doing. The work I need to be doing. It’s isn’t easy, though, and as I face down a task I need to finish before I can let go, I have to force myself to swallow that frog. Who wants to spend a whole bunch of time working on something that doesn’t further your purpose, when you could be doing something that you enjoy? No one. But sometimes you need to put in a little bit of effort now to save work in the long run, so I’m doing it and having faith that it will pay off.

There is an upside to the hard-ness of letting go, and it’s the feeling of relief. When I hand off something that’s been weighing me down, I feel a bit of a rush. Doing something that isn’t working for you takes up a lot of energy. Letting go of it frees up all that energy for something more fulfilling and purposeful. With every little thing I let go, my hope is renewed. I can see that there is a light on the horizon, and that while it isn’t easy, it is worthwhile.

I have spent a lot of my life proving my worth (mostly to myself) by being useful. The problem is that I didn’t consider what was useful for myself, I mostly considered what was useful for others. Now I see that if I really want to be helpful, I should take on tasks that help me further my own mission. This way everyone wins, because I’m giving my best self and doing my best work, and I feel a sense of purpose. So I persist in this beginning phase, shedding my old skin, and enduring the discomfort it brings. It lets me know that there is a brighter day ahead.

Do you find it easy to let go of things that aren’t working for you, or do you struggle with the hard-ness of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you clear out space to pursue a greater sense of purpose and authenticity.

Me and My Skin

I have always had a tenuous relationship with my skin, at best. I am naturally blond and pale, which means that I sunburn easily. I can spend two weeks in Hawaii, and when I get back people ask me if I hid in my hotel room. To my constant chagrin as a teenager I just don’t tan – or at least not enough that someone who can’t see me naked would notice. (When I’m naked, my tan lines show, and there is some visible contrast.) On top of that, I’ve been prone to break-outs since I was about 10 years old. I remember getting my first pimple. I was in grade four. No one else in my class knew what they were. I was such a trailblazer.

I expected that my skin would clear up when I left my teens behind. It didn’t. I used all sorts of products, which promised all sorts of results, and nothing really worked. I visited a dermatologist one time when I was about 20 because I had a mole that I was concerned about, and she prescribed me something for my face. It worked reasonably well, but then I moved and I didn’t refill the prescription. Plus, Jon complained that it made my face smell bad. In retrospect, it was an antibacterial cream and I’m pretty sure that it contained triclosan, so I’m glad I stopped using it.

When I was pregnant with Hannah, my skin was at its hormonal worst. I never would have posted this photo without running it through Photoshop first. In fact, it’s seven years later and even today I don’t really want to post this photo, but I’m doing it. This was me:

Pregnant with Hannah,  Dealing with a Breakout

More than five years ago I started washing my face with honey. It was the first thing that really helped to clear up my skin. It wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. But I think its relative gentleness, coupled with its natural antibacterial and exfoliating properties, helped to calm my skin down. This is when I discovered that the answer wasn’t to beat my skin into submission, it was to treat it with respect. Piling chemicals on it only dried it out and irritated it more, exacerbating the break-outs. Honey was my first answer.

This fall I went gluten-free in an extremely round-about and backward manner. One of the things that sold me on giving up wheat was the fact that I saw a noticeable improvement in my skin. Once again, it wasn’t what you would call an instant miracle cure, but just one more thing that seemed to help. It was also a relatively convincing sign that giving up gluten made a difference. I could be imagining that my digestion is better, and the fact that eating wheat now makes me feel pretty bad could all be in my head. But my skin? If believing that I’d found the answer was enough to stop the breakouts, my first bottle of anti-acne face wash would have done the trick back in 1987.

A week and a half ago another piece fell into place, skin-wise. I had a coupon for a free facial, and after evaluating my skin the esthetician decided to apply a hydrating mask. This was exactly the opposite of what I expected, given my skin’s tendency to oiliness. She believed that applying moisturizer could curtail that, since my skin wouldn’t be working overtime to counteract any dryness. After the facial my skin felt really good, and it looked really good, too. I decided that maybe she had a point about the moisturizer, and I decided to take a page from every other hippie mama and try coconut oil. I’m only a week and a bit in, but I’m quite happy with the results. One more pillar in my skin-care regimen, one more step forward for my face.

My skin today

Is my skin perfect? No. It’s still sensitive, and prone to redness. It can be more than a little blotchy, too, which just comes with the territory when you’re as light-skinned as I am. If I treat it badly, it will show it. But I’m finally making my peace with it, and learning to treat it gently. I’ll never have perfect skin, but I can accept my skin for what it is, and make the most of it, putting my best face forward.

What’s your skin like? How has your relationship with it evolved? And what does your skin-care regimen look like? I’d love to hear!

The Other Half of the Story

My son Jacob is nearing the halfway point of his fourth year, which is really just a fancy way of saying that he’s almost three and a half. At this age, he’s making big leaps in terms of expressing himself. His words are getting clearer, his sentences are getting longer and the ideas he’s sharing are more complex. Six months ago he rendered verdicts like, “No like it da fwoot!” Today he’s more likely to say, “Mama, mama-mama-mama-mama, I don’t like it, mama. Because, because, because this fruit is not good. Can I have an apple. Please, mama? I like apples.”

One of the side effects of Jacob’s burgeoning language skills is that I hear a lot of stories. The stories come from all sorts of places – things that happened at school, events that transpired in the other room while I was cleaning the kitchen, things he saw on TV, stuff his father said to him and even dreams he had. He’s like a little reporter, constantly filling me in on the who, what, where and when. He’s a little weak on the why and how, but he’s working on it. He tells me which friend took all the little cars and didn’t share, and which teacher he reported the infraction to. He tells me that he went on an adventure, and that he’s being a dinosaur right now. For the longest time he couldn’t get a word in edgewise past his big sister, but more and more this kid is holding his own.

There’s a thing about stories from almost-three-and-a-half-year-olds, though: they always leave you hanging. You hear about the friend who snatched the cars, and you hear that he told a teacher, but you never hear what happened next. You can go ahead and ask what happened next, but somehow the answer is never quite clear. You may go so far as to provide possible outcomes, like, “Did the teacher help you work it out?” Then your child will nod, and you know full well he would have nodded if you’d asked, “Did the teacher feed your friend to a tiger to serve as a cautionary tale against anyone who would consider snatching a toy in the future?”

Jacob dreams of the day he's big enough
Jacob dreams of the day he’s big enough to take off on his own

Because Jacob is not so good at finishing his stories, I go through my life with all these little unfinished thoughts from my son. He compiles lists of wrongdoings, reports of missing toys, and plot synopses from the Backyardigans. He gives you just enough to make you want more, and then stops cold, and no amount of prodding will reveal the actual outcome. You’re always left wondering exactly how it all worked out, as he stares blankly back. Blink. Blink blink blink. Can I have a cookie?

It’s interesting to gain this view of your child’s inner life. This half-completed story from the little person you spend so much time with. It reminds me that while I am still a very big part of Jacob’s life, with every passing day he’s claiming more and more of his story for himself. I only hear half of it, wondering what exactly he meant, and how it all worked out. Just where did he go on his adventure? Did he like it? Did he think of me? And how many times has he been the toy-snatcher, but not told me?

Because I have an older child, I know that Jacob isn’t going anywhere yet. He’s not even three and a half years old, for crying out loud. I also know that he will get better and better at finishing his stories. One day I will have more details than I could possibly want. Instead of wondering what happened next, I’ll be wondering what he’s telling other people about me when I’m not around, if he’s sharing this tidbit about his friend’s mom with me. So for now I’m enjoying the half stories. And I’m wondering if his teacher really did feed the toy-snatcher to a tiger.

Joining Forces and Resolving to Fight Climate Change

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today. In fact, it may be the most pressing issue. As the evidence mounts, and the scientific community reaches a strong consensus that our actions are affecting the average temperature of the planet we live on, we can no longer turn a blind eye to the reality of what’s happening. The time has come to act. This is why, for the month of January, the Green Moms Carnival has decided to join our voices together to speak out and share what we’re doing to fight climate change.

When we’re faced with these big, overwhelming issues, it’s easy to feel paralyzed. That’s why it’s so important to join with others. When we all do what we can, it begins to add up, and really make a difference. Since it’s still January, we’re all sharing what we’re doing to fight climate change and reduce our own carbon footprints in 2012. Maybe, as you read what the Green Moms are doing, you’ll be inspired to make some changes of your own, too.

Farmer's market apricots

Food and Carbon Footprint

Linda at Citizen Green has resolved to Cut Out the Food Waste in 2012. She’s meal-planning, buying in bulk, composting and using leftovers, in order to reduce her carbon footprint. Did you know that 25% of the food grown in the US ends up getting thrown out? If you want to tackle your own food waste, read Linda’s post for tips.

Beth at My Plastic Free Life is trying out Recipes for the Semi-Vegan, Plastic-Free Lifestyle. By reducing her consumption of animal products, and avoiding plastic packaging, Beth is reducing the carbon footprint of her food and fighting climate change.

Abbie, a.k.a. Farmer’s Daughter, is sharing Five Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Choosing Real Food. Instead of opting for packaged and processed food, she’s cooking from scratch. Fewer food miles and less packaging are just two of the ways her choice is fighting climate change.

Deanna Duke, author of The Non-Toxic Avenger and blogger at Crunchy Chicken, has some lofty Urban Homestead Goals for 2012. She’s going in on a pig share, raising meat rabbits and joining a honey CSA, among other things. In the process she’ll reduce her food miles, and her carbon footprint.

Brenna at Almost all the Truth is also making food-based Resolutions to Fight Climate Change. She suggests reducing the amount of animal products you consume by observing Meatless Monday or Vegan Thursday, and reducing your food miles by eating local. Both will reduce your carbon footprint.

_MG_9899
Image credit – tarsandsaction on Flickr

Getting Political for the Planet

Mary of In Women we Trust is making a Business Climate Change Resolution. She’s working hard to create real change. My favourite part is when she writes, “I resolve to stop referring to our business leaders as ‘leaders’ unless they truly are taking a leadership position.” Preach it, sister.

I didn’t write a post of my own for this carnival, but my resolution is to take more political action to fight climate change. For me this means writing letters, using my voice here on this blog and elsewhere, and joining groups that are fighting climate change. I want to make sure my elected representatives know how I feel.

Diane at Big Green Purse suggests Making a Big Hairy Audacious Green Goal for 2012. This is something significant and measurable. Her One in a Million campaign is urging people to shift $1000 of their annual spending to greener products and services. That sounds both audacious and awesome to me!

Harriet the Climate Mama is Fighting Climate Change with Facts in 2012. She’ll be speaking out, leading by example, and even testifying before Congress. Harriet protested in front of the White House against the Keystone Pipeline in 2011, so she’s already been making herself heard and taking political action to fight climate change.

In fact, Lynn at Organic Mania watched Harriet as she was arrested, and her post about Resolving to Fight Climate Change shares the account. She reminds us that together, we can accomplish so much.

Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green is making Green Resolutions for 2012. She’s been very vocal in her home community, working to promote local recycling and bringing awareness to cement kiln pollution. Her advocacy work is not only fighting climate change, it’s helping to protect the health of her neighbours, too.

Trees, sky, clouds

Being Mindful

It’s probably no surprise that Micaela the Mindful Momma is writing about Being Mindful. She’s taking care of the planet, her community, her family’s health and herself. She’s trying to create a green and healthy life, which will certainly reduce her carbon footprint.

Karen at Best of Mother Earth is also making Resolutions to Fight Climate Change that involve being more mindful. She’s championing pause and choice, saying, “A lifestyle of less is more. In the end this produces less waste and we are healthier!” I agree.

Jenn of The Green Parent is making New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 that involve mindfulness, as well, including listening more and holding the guilt. She’s also planning to spend more time on Facebook, connecting with other green moms. Community is so important!

Resolved 2007 - 046
Image credit – Jacob & Kiki Hantla on Flickr

Resolving to Fight Climate Change

Stephanie at Good Girl Gone Green has tips for Reducing Your Carbon Car Print. The time we spend driving plays a big part in how much carbon we emit, and she has ideas for cutting back. For example, by keeping your car serviced and reducing your idling time, you can help fight climate change.

Jen at Puddle Jumping in DC has a novel idea – Green Your Cycle with Reusable Menstrual Products. Cloth pads and menstrual cups are actually easier to use than you might think. I’ve been using them for years myself, and I’m a convert.

Lori at Groovy Green Livin’ is sharing Four Resolutions to Fight Climate Change. From choosing zero VOC paint in a renovation to getting a home energy audit, she’s working hard to reduce her carbon footprint.

Betsy the Eco-novice has made five Climate Change Resolutions. She’s cancelling catalogues, turning off power strips and more, in order to reduce her personal carbon footprint.

The bloggers at The Green Phone Booth are also joining forces and Changing for Climate Change. Their resolutions range from being sure to remember reusable bags at the grocery store to reducing energy use to moving from environmentalism to activism. Once again, working together reaps big rewards for the planet.

As you can see, fighting climate change can involve taking small private steps to big political actions. It doesn’t matter so much what you do, though. What really matters is that you do something. Take a look at your life, and see what steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint and fight climate change. The time has come to stand up, speak out, and act – if not for ourselves, then for our children.

How are you fighting climate change in 2012?

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