Archives for August 2012

Podcast: All About Placenta Encapsulation

Placenta encapsulation is one of the hot new trends in birth, although the idea of eating the placenta is hardly new. Nearly all other mammal species do it, including those that are otherwise complete herbivores. There are a number of theories as to why this is – the placenta contains hormones, which are said to ease post-birth complications. It’s also highly nutritious, which can be critical if you’ve just given birth. And some people postulate that by eating the placenta animals are hiding the evidence that there are new babies around, which may attract predators.

Placenta Encapsulation
Image credit – Herb Mother on Flickr

Whatever the reason for it, consuming your placenta is something that is catching on in crunchy birth circles. My friend Gina, a.k.a. The Feminist Breeder, makes her case for it in “What’s the Deal with Placenta Encapsulation?” Although most of the benefits are anecdotal at this point, as more moms talk about it, it’s only likely to become more common. By encapsulating the placenta you can take it like a vitamin, instead of actually cooking it up and eating it, which makes it much more palatable for most (if not all) moms.

Strocel.com Podcast Placenta Encapsulation Roxanna Farnsworth

Roxanna

I decided to look into placenta encapsulation a little bit further for this week’s podcast. While I personally have not consumed my placenta, I’ve watched more than one animal do it. I was wondering if they know something we don’t. I was also curious as to exactly what’s involved, and if there’s any reason that someone shouldn’t eat their placenta. And I wanted to hear what benefits people have actually found.

I interviewed Roxanna Farnsworth, a Certified Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, and Dr. Monika Poxon, a psychologist and mom of two who had her placenta encapsulated and consumed the pills following the birth of her second child a little over six weeks ago. If you’re at all curious about what’s involved in placenta encapsulation, you’ll want to listen to this week’s podcast:

I’m planning a surprise for next week’s podcast – I hope it works out! No matter what, though, I promise you there will be a great conversation worth tuning in for. Subscribe to my podcast in iTunes and you won’t miss a minute!

Plastic: Taking Steps to Reduce my Consumption

At the beginning of August I decided to take aim at my plastic consumption as my One Green Thing for the month. To help keep me honest, I also decided to keep track of my plastic by keeping it all in my garage. I started with a small wastebasket, then I graduated to two, and eventually it all ended up in a large black plastic bag. The reason that I kept having to increase my plastic waste storage capacity is that I produce more than I am willing to admit most of the time.

one green thing plastic

Now, the truth is that the plastic waste you see here does not represent my total plastic consumption for the month. I took a trip to New York at the beginning of August, and I did not bring all the plastic I consumed there home. There were several plastic containers from eating out, some candy wrappers because when I’m in the US I always buy sweets that aren’t available in Canada, and some plastic straws from restaurants. As well, I know that there are some plastic items that got thrown into the trash simply because I didn’t remember not to chuck them as I normally would. However, I would say that what you see in these images represents the majority of the plastic my kids and I consumed during August.

one green thing plastic

By the time the month was about half over, I was starting to feel discouraged. While I did the things I normally do to reduce my plastic consumption, like carry a reusable water bottle and reusable bags, and clean and store plastic bags that come into my house for reuse, I was still creating far more plastic than I would like. It felt as if the efforts I was making weren’t having any impact. In the midst of that, I had an epiphany – maybe I couldn’t completely give up plastic in one fell swoop, but I could target specific plastic items one at a time. Just as I had become accustomed to carrying a water bottle, I could become accustomed to other small changes, one by one.

one green thing plastic

I decided to start by making my own hummus. I grow my own garlic, so that’s plastic-free. I bought chick peas in BPA-free cans, and tahini, lemon juice and roasted red peppers in glass bottles and jars, in order to make it. I’m still perfecting my recipe, but it’s one less plastic container I’m creating every week, and I’m saving money while I’m at it. Is it a huge change? No. But over the course of the year I’m using 52 fewer plastic containers, and that’s something. Plus, I can build from here, and make other changes as I go.

I’m not sure if I would call my efforts at ditching plastic successful or not. I certainly consumed far more than I was hoping to. However, I learned something in the process, and took steps to make changes. In the end, I’d call that a win.

What steps do you take to reduce your plastic consumption? And do you have any great hummus recipes to share? I’m all ears!

Walk of Shame

In my last post about BlogHer I warned you that I had at least one more story to share. This is it. And it’s definitely a good one, if you enjoy the chance to have a hearty laugh at someone else’s expense – in this case, mine.

As I’ve mentioned before, there are a number of “official” parties at the BlogHer conference. These are the parties that everyone can get into with their conference pass, and which are held in big ballrooms in the same place as the conference itself. And while they’re all fun, for me the highlight is definitely Sparklecorn. Imagine a big high school dance, but with free-flowing alcohol, a giant unicorn cake, and 90% women. Last year at Sparklecorn I learned how to dance with abandon. I was looking forward to repeating the experience this year, and for the most part I did. I danced. I danced my heart out. I had a great time.

In order to tell my story, though, I need to back things up a bit. Last year I brought a big bag to Sparklecorn, and it was cumbersome. This year I decided to do things differently. I decided to leave all my gear in my room. I tucked my room key and my drink tickets into my lanyard behind my conference pass, so that I would could dance unencumbered. And that’s exactly what I did – until some point in the evening when I realized that my room key had fallen out. I guess that all that jumping I did when they played “Shout!” shook it loose. But fate smiled on me – or so I thought – because when I looked down at my feet I saw a room key on the floor. Phew.

Fast forward an hour and another drink, and I was danced out. I headed back up to my room, where I thought that I would find my husband Jon waiting for me. I put my key in the door and … nothing. Nada. I tried again, from the other direction, still nada. One more time, and it became apparent that this was not my room key. No worries, though, because my husband was inside, right? Wrong. I knocked. I knocked again. It was after midnight, where could he be? I didn’t know, and since my phone and all of my other possessions were in my room there was no way to find out. It was down to the lobby with me, in search of a new key.

Now, I should probably back the story up even further to explain that this wasn’t the first hotel key card I had lost. I misplaced the first one wandering around Central Park on my first morning in NYC. On that occasion I had my purse, my ID and my husband with me, so it was no big deal. When we arrived back at the hotel I asked for a replacement key. The person at the desk asked to see my ID, I complied, and two room keys were re-issued, because apparently they reset both when one gets lost. Following this experience, as I headed down to the lobby after Sparklecorn, I was worried for two reasons: (1) I didn’t have any ID with me, and (2) I knew that my husband’s key would stop working as soon as I got a new one.

When I arrived downstairs I discovered that I was not the only person to suffer this fate. I met the lovely Annie from Kansas, who was holding her shoes in her hand and waiting patiently for her turn. We talked about New York (it was the first time for both of us) and swapped stories of how we’d lost our room keys at Sparklecorn. Neither of us had ID. I gave her the key I found, thinking it might be hers. She expressed concern about one family who had been talking to the guy at the desk for quite some time. Was something wrong? How terrible would it be to arrive in New York with your kids at midnight and run into an issue?

Walk of Shame Amber Marilyn Allison BlogHer
Me and my friend Marilyn earlier in the evening, taken by Allison

There were two people working the desk that night. There was a younger woman, who had been the one to check Jon and I in when we arrived. She was lovely and very friendly. There was also an older man, who was speaking with the family we were concerned about. I was silently hoping that I would get to speak to the lovely woman. I was not so lucky. At around the same time, both the younger woman and the older man opened up. The woman beckoned to Annie, and I waited for the man to gesture to me. Now, I don’t know what happened with Annie, but she was at the desk a very short time – under a minute – before she happily headed off. Maybe the key I gave her was the right one. Maybe the woman was flexible. I don’t know. All I know is that my journey back to my room took a little longer.

I explained my predicament to the man at the desk. He asked for my name, and I showed him my conference pass. He asked for my room number, I gave it. He asked to see my ID, and I explained that it was in my room. He asked about the other person in my room, and I explained that he wasn’t in there and I didn’t have my phone with me so I wasn’t able to contact him. At this point, he called security. I asked if he would be giving me a replacement key, because I didn’t want to have to come back down. He grudgingly made one. I asked about a card for my husband, knowing his would no longer work. He sighed and made another one. He held on to them until the security guard arrived, and then he handed the keys over to the guard.

The security guard was a large man, wearing a bright white shirt and a shiny gold badge. He looked very official. Together, we headed towards the elevators. In my head, I thought, “This is my walk of shame.” I got on, he got on, and then another conference attendee got on. She looked at me with a questioning sort of expression. I explained that I was locked out of my room, and that I didn’t have any ID on me. She said that she never leaves her room without her key card or her ID. I explained that I had my key card, but that I lost it when I was dancing at the party. She said, “Oh, you were having too much fun.”

This is where the experience redeems itself. Because the large, slightly intimidating, mostly silent security guard turned to her and said, “There’s no such thing as too much fun.” Score one for the security guard.

Back at my room I showed the security guard my ID, and he handed over the keys. I picked up my phone to find that Jon had been up to our room a few minutes before, and hadn’t been able to get in. He was down in the lobby, and I texted him to come back up. He had been at a baseball game, and headed out for a midnight snack. He entered the hotel through the back, so he’d bypassed the lobby, or he would have not only seen me, but probably witnessed my walk of shame. Maybe it’s best that he didn’t.

I was a very well-behaved teenager. Too well-behaved, maybe. But I made up for it that night, when slightly drunk and sweaty from dancing, I got to ride the hotel elevator with a security guard. Better late than never?

Care to share your walk of shame story? I could use a little commiseration!

My Kids Totally Play Favourites

Welcome to the Taboo Carnival. This post was inspired by the Taboo Carnival hosted by Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This we’re reflecting on favouritism in relationships with children, parents, siblings and more. Read to the end to find a list of links to the other fabulous carnival participants.

As a mom of two, I try really hard not to play favourites. We all know it’s a major parenting no no. While it’s true that at certain times I’ll find one of my kids more, erm, challenging than the other, I think I do pretty well on the whole. I do my best to meet everyone’s needs, I try to keep an eye to fairness, and I lavish affection as often as I can. My kids, on the other hand, aren’t as considerate. They make no secret of the fact that while they love their father very much, Mama is number one in their books.

It’s not really surprising that my kids turn to me first when they’re hurt, sad, scared, angry, confused, in need of help, happy, want to tell a joke, looking for a lost toy, etc. I was the one who breastfed them for years. I was the one who took year-long maternity leaves. I was the one who reduced my work schedule and then started working from home in order to spend more time with them. I am now, and have always been, their primary caregiver. Of course I’m their go-to person.

Me and my girl
Me and my daughter

While it is kind of lovely to be so adored by two little people, there are downsides to being the favourite. When a kid wakes up at 5:00am and is looking for company, I’m the person who gets a little finger jammed into my eye socket because a child is trying to pry my eye open. For the first three or so years of each of my kids’ lives, I was the only one who put them to bed every night, so I had to always be home at bedtime. Even today, I am the person who fields all the questions and requests. How do you spell “galactic”? Where are my shoes? I need a glass of water! I want to do a puzzle, and I don’t want to do it by myself! Ask Mom.

This isn’t exactly a great deal for my husband, either, who is in fact a competent and loving parent. When I’m not here the kids somehow survive, but when I am and he steps in to help he’s often met with resistance and rejection. There have been countless times when I just needed a break, and in trying to give me one he ended up holding a child who was wailing for Mama. On these occasions I try to give them room to work it out, but it’s really untenable for everyone: the distraught child, my husband who is just trying to help, and me as I rush through the shower I dared to have because I just can’t handle listening to the complete distress.

Goofing around
Me and my son

Now that my firstborn is seven years old, things are a little better. She has better manners, and she is less dependent on any single adult. There are more and more situations, now, where she turns to her father. But there are still those moments when I am the only one who will do. The really bittersweet part of it for me is that as those situations grow less, I am torn between enjoying my increasing freedom and missing that feeling of being my daughter’s sun, moon and stars. There’s simply no winning at this game of parenthood.

And so, when my kids cling to both of my legs so that I can’t walk, or when I’ve been trapped indoors with them on a long rainy day, I try to remember that one day I will miss this. There are upsides and downsides to being the favourite, but whatever else this situation is it’s temporary. One day, probably, someone else altogether will be the favourite. And then I may miss that little jab to the eye at 5:00am. Maybe.

Visit Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Taboo Carnival. Enjoy the posts from this month’s Carnival participants!

  • Playing Favourites — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school looks at how her intense parenting style has created what ‘looks’ like favourites but is more causal than reality.
  • Taking Longer to Fall in Love with My Second Baby — Dionna at Code Name: Mama fell helplessly, powerlessly in love with her first-born. Love with her second-born has not been as easy, but does that mean #1 is her favorite?
  • Yes, Parents Have A Favorite Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her thoughts on parents having a favorite child and how this may have long term effects on both the favored and unfavored child.
  • Money and Equality: Should All Your Kids Get the Same? — At Authentic Parenting, Laura investigates whether or not we should provide exactly the same for our children financially.
  • My Kids Totally Play Favourites — Amber at Strocel.com tries hard not to play favourites with her kids – but they make no secret of which parent they prefer.
  • What makes a favorite? — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders what caused her grandparents and parents to choose favorites. She also considers possible causes for her own favoritism.
  • There Are No Favorites (I Hate You All The Same) — Amy at Anktangle guest hosts about it being easy to see how a cycle of conditional love can make a mother keep her children at arms reach.
  • Mommy Dearest or Darling Daddy? — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro guest hosts about every parent having faults. Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders why she would prefer one parent over the other and whether this applies to every situation or can it vary?
  • On having two kids & not playing fair — Lauren at Hobo Mama learned from her mother that you don’t raise children based on what’s fair but on what’s right for each child.
  • More Than the Kid Sister — Amy of Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work always felt that she lived in the shadow of her older brother’s accomplishments, until her parents made her aware that her personality and passion have always brought them joy and pride.
  • The Ugly Side of Favoritism — Shannon of Pineapples and Artichokes shares a guest post with a warning: Don’t favor one child over the other.

Tales from a Trip to the Grocery Store

They say that the contents of a woman’s purse say a lot about her. Leaving the obvious gender stereotyping contained in that statement aside, I think we can see an underlying truth: the things that we carry around with us do provide windows of insight into our lives. Some of it comes in really handy, some of it weighs us down, and some of it is just plain funny. For instance, as the parent to two small children I can’t count the number of times I have reached into my own purse in search of my phone or my keys, only to lay fingers on a small toy or balled-up napkin that some child slipped inside.

On a morning last week, I found myself at the grocery store bright and early. And as I looked around at my fellow early morning shoppers, it struck me that in much the same way that the contents of someone’s bag may reveal something about them, so too do the purchases one makes at the grocery store at 8:45am on a weekday morning. For instance, there was the mother with the baby in the stroller, emptying a couple of dozen items from the underbasket on to the conveyor belt. I imagine that she had already been awake for at least a couple of hours, and thought that she may as well go shopping while the store was still quiet and her child was in a good mood. I smiled sympathetically at her, because I have been in just that place myself.

This crow is working for its breakfast
A crow outside the grocery store works for its breakfast

Most of the early morning shoppers around me weren’t loading up on groceries, though. Like me, they were there in search of just a couple of items, like the young man who was buying a small box of Cheerios and a half liter of 2% milk, or the young woman behind me who was buying half a dozen eggs and a liter of skim milk. They were people who realized that they had nothing on hand for breakfast, and so they made a quick trip in for provisions before they started their day, drumming their fingers restlessly while they waited in the checkout line.

One of the things I’ve been working on, as a writer, is honing my observational abilities. I want to actually see the world, not just inhabit it. I look for clues about the people around me – clues like the kind of shoes they’re wearing, the way they’re standing, the people they’re with, and the groceries they’re buying. What kind of person is this? What are they doing and why? I’ll never have all the answers, but I like to guess. It helps me form blog post ideas, and helps me develop as a storyteller.

Waiting for the chocolate to harden on the Nanaimo bars
Nanaimo bars in progress

As for me, if you’d like some insight into what sort of person I am, I will tell you that on this morning I was buying custard powder, rice flour and bandaids. And because I don’t like to keep anyone guessing, I’ll even fill you in on the backstory. The custard powder was for my first attempt at making Nanaimo bars, which I planned to try that day. It was the real reason for my trip. The rice flour, located directly across the aisle from that, was on sale, and I was running low so I thought I’d stock up. And the bandaids were something I bought just because I was already at the store. We were out, and when you have two kids you know that being out of bandaids is a dangerous thing.

As I carried my reusable bag to the car (another observation: most early morning shoppers who are picking up only a few items don’t bring their reusable bags), I thought about all the interactions we have in our daily lives in a large community. The people we stand beside at the grocery store, or pass on the sidewalk. The people in the car behind us, working out near us, riding the same train every day. All of these people who we know nothing about, except for what we can intuit by observing them. Our lives are intersecting without any real contact being made, but there are still all sorts of stories and imaginings. Like that woman with the baby in the stroller – I think I liked her, even though I will probably never see her again as long as I live.

I wonder what other people think about me – what kind of vibes I give off. What stories are people telling in their heads about me? I’ll never really know, but I like to think the custard powder kept them guessing. That last bit – keeping someone on their toes – the thought of it makes me smile.

Podcast: Talking Birth Photography with Jaydene Freund

If you’ve had a baby recently – or you know anyone who has – you probably know that birth photography is pretty hot. Looking at the gorgeous black-and-white images of angelic mothers and brand-spanking-new babies, I can understand why that is. I’m actually sad that I don’t have many photos of my own children’s births. While I was in labour photography was the last thing on my mind, but seven and four years out I know that there’s no way to re-capture those moments. At the same time, I wasn’t exactly at my most photogenic as I birthed, if you know what I mean. I decided to catch up with an expert – local birth photographer Jaydene Freund of Cradled Creations – to get the scoop on birth photography for this week’s podcast.

Strocel.com Podcast Birth Photography Jaydene Freund Cradled CreationsJaydene isn’t just a photographer, she’s also a doula. In fact, when she was working as a doula she agreed to take some photos at a birth for a doula client, and that’s how she fell in love with birth photography. That was several years ago, and she’s been working as a birth photographer ever since. I love talking to people who are energized by what they do, and Jaydene is very energized by what she does. It goes without saying that I loved talking to her.

At the same time, I’ll be honest, I had some questions. How does she take birth photos that you’d be comfortable sharing with your father-in-law? How do the hospital staff react to having a photographer in the delivery room? Is birth photography just a symptom of the way we overdocument every part of our lives? And how does Jaydene – a mom of a toddler herself – juggle parenthood and being on-call at all hours of the day and night?

Strocel.com Podcast Birth Photography Jaydene Freund Cradled Creations

If you’re curious to hear the answers to those questions, or you’d like to know more about birth photography, take a listen to the podcast:

I’m working on a podcast about placenta encapsulation for next week’s episode. Just like birth photography, it’s kind of hot right now in birth circles. What’s the scoop? I’ll talk to two moms and find out. If you’re intrigued – or you’re thinking of doing this yourself – you’ll want to tune in. Subscribe to my podcast in iTunes and you won’t miss a minute!

Green Back-to-School: When Time and Money are Tight

It’s Enviro-Mama Thursday here on Strocel.com, and today I have been inspired by my friend Micaela Preston – a.k.a. Mindful Momma – to write about greening back-to-school.

Here in Vancouver the kids will be heading back to class the day after Labour Day, which is September 4. That’s still a week and a half away – but on the other hand, it’s only a week and a half away. As I consider it, I realize that it’s time to get hopping on my preparations for sending my daughter Hannah off to grade two.

Challenges with Greening Back-to-School

I would like to do my part to make back-to-school a little more sustainable. However, the truth is that I’m running into the same problems this year that I run into every year:

  1. With only a week and a half to go, I don’t really have time to thoroughly research school supplies and clothing, and order them all from ethical sources. Because, really, there’s no way I’m going to find everything on my green list at my local mall.
  2. I don’t want to break the bank. I absolutely love beeswax crayons, for instance, but I need two packs and at almost $30 a pop I’d have spent almost my entire school supply budget on a single item. I can’t afford to go green on everything.

Green back to school shopping she loves sparkly things
Sparkly things catch Hannah’s eye while we do our back-to-school shopping

Going Green and Heading Back to Class

So, I face limitations around time and money. Join the club, right? All the same, there are a few things I’ll be doing to help go green as my daughter heads back to school:

  1. Buy less stuff. This is the biggie – reducing our consumption is the single greenest thing we can do. This is why my daughter will be going back to school with a six-year-old backpack and a five-year-old water bottle. The items are still in pretty good shape, and I’m not about to replace them. I’m also sticking to the basics and the real needs when it comes to school supplies, clothing and shoes.
  2. Go second-hand. We buy a lot of our clothes second-hand, whether it’s back-to-school or any time of the year. It’s cheaper, it’s greener and I often get some really great items that I would never buy new.
  3. Buy for longevity. There are some things my daughter really needs that I just can’t buy second-hand. By opting for quality, and buying clothes and shoes a little on the big side, I can ensure that my kid will get lots of use out of them and I’m getting more bang for my buck.
  4. Look for eco cred. Labels like “organic” aren’t fool-proof. But often, when you’re making a buying decision, they’ve all you’ve got to go on. I’ll admit that I’m thrilled to see more and more organic cotton at my local H&M, at an affordable price point. I also look for school supplies and other items made from recycled materials, or FSC certified wood and paper.
  5. Think litterless. I’m going to be sending a lot of lunches and snacks. In preparation, I’m going through my reusables and making an assessment about what I need and what I already have enough of. By planning now, I’ll have what I need when I need it so that I don’t have to resort to plastic.
  6. Choose the neighbourhood school. This will be Hannah’s third year at our neighbourhood school, and I’m more glad than ever that we went this route. We can walk to school and back every day. We also get to know the people in our community. It’s greener, it’s free and I feel more connected to the place where I live.

Am I doing enough? I don’t know. I do know that I’m certainly trying, and I trust that my efforts will make some difference. I think that’s all we can do, really.

What about you? Are you greening back-to-school? What are you doing to reduce the environmental impact as your kids head back to class?

For a bunch more suggestions for a greener back-to-school, stop by Mindful Momma, who is hosting Green Moms Carnival all about heading back to class sustainably.

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