The Tween and the Death of the Landline

My daughter Hannah is 10 and a half years old. In a week and a half she will be starting grade five. And the fact that no one has a home phone anymore (including us) is killing her social life.

landline tweens home phone cell phoneWhen I was 10 I had a number of friends in my neighbourhood. I also had their phone numbers, for the family phones that sat attached to the walls in their kitchens or living rooms. If we wanted to get together to play we could call each other and find out if we were free. I remember asking my mom if I could go to my friend’s, or have my friend over. Sometimes the answer was yes, and other times it was no, but we could make plans for later. It made summer vacations, when we were bored and missing each other, much more palatable.

We got rid of our home phone about four or five years ago. Both my husband and I had cell phones, and it just made sense to cut what had become an unnecessary expense. By the time we got rid of the landline we mostly only got telemarketing calls on it, anyway. A lot of other people have made the same call and gotten rid of their landlines. According to an article from this past February more than half of children and adults under the age of 45 (i.e. – my family) live in a house without a landline, and the number is only growing.

Here’s the problem, though: I don’t want to let my daughter use my cell phone as her phone. My iPhone feels much more personal to me than my home phone ever did. I’m not okay with Hannah using my phone to call her friends. I’m not okay with getting phone calls from her friends on it. And I’m definitely not leaving it with her when we’re in different places. And most of Hannah’s friends’ parents? As far as I can tell they have the same deal.

Hannah does have her own phone – my husband gave her his old iPhone, but it doesn’t have a SIM card. It’s essentially an iPod that could be a phone but isn’t. She can use FaceTime and iMessage, which means that she has a way of connecting with other iPhone users, including me and my husband and her grandparents. However, many of her friends don’t have iPhones, or don’t have any kind of phone at all. And many of her friends also don’t have landlines, or email addresses that they check regularly. So Hannah’s “phone” is essentially useless and she has no other good way to get in touch with her friends in the neighbourhood. As a result she sees her friends less than I saw my friends when I was her age.

In a few years, once these kids are 12 or 13 or 14, I’m guessing they’ll all have cell phones of their own and be more than able to connect with each other. In the meantime, though, the onus remains on us as parents to manage their social calendars. Since the kids can’t get in touch with each other the parents have to text and email to set up play dates or arrange to meet up somewhere. By giving up the landline we’ve become responsible for keeping our kids entertained for a few more years, until they all have texting apps of their own.

It’s not all bad, staying connected to our kids. And I certainly wouldn’t want my 10 year old to be glued to a texting app. There’s plenty of time for that later. For now, though, I’m realizing how a decision you make for one reason can reverberate in unexpected ways in other areas of your life. So if you have a six year old and you’re considering whether or not to keep your home phone, you might want to hold off on your decision for a few years yet.

Jacob + 7 years and 6 days

Last Thursday my son Jacob turned seven.

Seven!

Seven year olds climb trees and ride scooters and read comic books. Seven year olds have skinny legs and knobbly knees and gap-toothed grins. Seven year olds go to school and swimming lessons and baseball practice. Seven year olds are not babies. Although sometimes they are still your baby.

Even so, this birthday isn’t hitting me as hard as his last one. Seven doesn’t really feel so much older than six. Grade two doesn’t really feel so much more sophisticated than grade one. Maybe I got all the tears and bitterness out last year, and this year is only sweetness. Maybe. I suspect the more likely reason is that I’m enjoying having older kids. I am really grooving on the increased independence (for them) and freedom (for me). I like that my son can wipe his own butt and choose his own clothes and pack his own backpack. Watching him become a more fully-formed person is cool.

So what is my seven year old son like? He’s funny. He loves to tell a joke and he loves to make people laugh. He is still a little bit scared of the dark. He is always delighted when he receives a gift. He gives me the silent treatment when he’s angry. He’s friendly with everyone. He is super into Minecraft. He dreams of being a scientist. He tells me that when he’s old enough he’ll be a YouTuber. He is better at math than his big sister, although he is much less coordinated than she is and definitely cannot touch her artistic abilities.

Sometimes I look at Jacob and just feel gobsmacked. Can this person really have grown inside me? Is this really the tiny baby I gave birth to seven years ago? Did I really have any part in creating this person? It boggles the mind and even though I was there I don’t really know how it happened. I guess I am always too busy living in the moment to observe the journey from point to point to point. I can’t remember how I got here, but I know what I need to do now that I am here, and it probably involves cleaning a mess.

Because parenting? It is a beautiful mess.

So a happy belated birthday to my son, one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can’t wait to see where you go next.

Poem of the Month: Ode to a Tween

poem of the month tween(Let’s just ignore the fact that it’s been, er, several months since I shared a poem of the month, shall we? Good.)

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but I have written enough that are not as personal and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t necessarily my deepest poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, inspired by my daughter who earned her yellow belt in tae kwon do yesterday.

Ode to a Tween

Her hair has gotten much longer lately
I noticed it yesterday as she brushed it
She is independent and private now
Her fashion sense is not half bad
Her sentimentality has reached an all
Time high because she senses that
Her childhood is drawing to a close
I sense it too filled with ambivalence

I can’t believe I haven’t broken her
But she survived my awkward first-time
Parenting, overly earnest and tentative
Here we are and she insists I am the
Best ever – does she protest too much?
I think maybe she senses my flaws and
Is reassuring herself and delaying the
Inevitable realization: I am imperfect

I want her to know my imperfection
So she knows she’s not alone when life
Sucks so hard the fight goes out of her
We all struggle and that struggle does
Not make us weak or unworthy
Every day we get up and show up we have
Won and that is the thing I admire
Most: she always, always shows up

From her early arrival heralded by her
Strong lungs to first steps to her
Own prolific writing she lives life
Whole-heartedly even when she is
Afraid always offering the best of
Herself without a second thought
This girl-child, this old soul, this
10-year-old with long honey hair

Not That Mom Anymore

Everyone tells you that kids grow quickly. Too quickly. Blink your eyes and they’re different people. What they don’t tell you is how you change right along with them, and how quickly you forget everything that came before.

I don’t mean that you literally forget everything your kids have done up until this point. That obviously isn’t true. But you do forget, mostly, all the little day-to-day realities of life with younger children. Even things that seemed to be life-and-death, and you were tremendously worried about, fade from your mind as they’re replaced with all new life-and-death, tremendous worries. Worries about birth are replaced with worries about breastfeeding. Worries about breastfeeding are replaced with worries about sleep. Worries about sleep are replaced with worries about food. And on and on and on … until (I imagine) the day you die.

I was going to write until the day your kids leave your house, but my guess is that the worries don’t end even then.

I remember this feeling of deja vu when my second child, Jacob, was a baby. He would enter a new stage and I would remember going through it before. Sometimes I would remember exactly how I handled it, sometimes I wouldn’t. Sometimes the solutions that worked for my daughter worked for my son, sometimes they didn’t. And once again, as soon as one problem was solved or outgrown a new one arose to take its place.

kids playgroundNow my kids are ten and almost seven. They go to school. They swim. They get themselves out of bed in the morning. They even get their own snacks. They still require adult supervision, of course, but I’ve become much more relaxed over time. They are no longer a threat to their own health and safety. If they’re both home and the house is quiet for a moment I don’t panic, I enjoy it, knowing that the peace will end soon.

Sometimes I have flashes of life as it used to be. I hang out with the mother of a two-year-old and we have to constantly move to keep the toddler in our sights. Our conversations are interrupted mid-thought as she sprints off to rescue her little one from imminent danger. At our house she asks if it’s okay to put the diaper in the kitchen garbage. Setting up a time to get together 1:00pm doesn’t work because it’s nap time.

I also have moments where I realize I act clueless around moms of younger kids. Like I offer whole grapes to an 18-month-old. Or markers to a two-year-old. Or I wear white pants to a playdate. Or really, I own white pants at all. I’m no longer in the habit of keeping my mind on high alert for disaster. And I have forgotten a lot of the little pieces of information that used to be at the top of my mind. The rules for keeping small children happy and alive.

I’m just not the same mom I used to be. That doesn’t mean I’m worse. It also doesn’t mean I’m better. It just means I’m different. I’m worried about nurturing a tween girl’s emotional well-being and helping a school-age boy learn to swim and ride a two-wheeler. I’m concerned about questions like at what age you let a boy use a men’s washroom by himself when you’re out in public, whether a two-piece bathing suit is appropriate for a 10-year-old, and how to balance my kids’ needs with mine as I head back to school full time.

Life has changed, and I didn’t even really notice it happening. It just … did.

For a while I was sad to move out of the stage of parenting babies and toddlers. I thought I wanted a third child. I know that if that had happened, I would love and cherish that baby. Now, though? I’m kind of glad it didn’t. I like being the mom of the “big kids” on the playground. I like having a little more freedom to finish my conversation with a friend. And I love not having to wake up when my kids decide it’s time to wake up.

The mom I am right now is a good mom to be.

kids and mom

Silenced

I’ve been feeling silenced lately.

downloadFor one thing, I’m going to start full-time school to become a teacher in September. Which is neither here nor there, I suppose, except that I am feeling more conscious about what I publish. Of course, I have always written blog posts assuming that anyone could be reading them. Family. Friends. Colleagues. My boss. But teaching adds a new dynamic.

(Side note – if you’re a teacher how do you deal with your online presence? I’d love to hear.)

For another thing, my kids are getting big. So. Freaking. Big. Every day they’re a little bigger. Writing about them is harder. Hannah is 10 now. I was a 10 year old girl once. I remember the feeling of perpetual embarrassment. I hardly want to contribute to that. Or, at least, contribute more to it than I naturally will on the basis of being her mother. Obviously, given my extreme lack of coolness some level of embarrassment is inevitable here.

On top of all that, it feels like there isn’t much going on in my life at the moment. I had a bit of a rough go at the beginning of the year, between being laid off and having my car totaled and jumping through the hoops of applying to university. Before that, my life was out-of-control busy for three months. I was volunteering at a middle school three (or more) days a week, taking two classes, working from home and parenting. I got out of the habit of writing because there literally was no time. And then there was a big let-down after all the busy, and the ennui of unemployment and dealing with the car accident.

I am starting to bore myself now.

Here’s what’s going on in my life right now. I am enjoying the laziness of having a summer off with my children before I start school. My daughter Hannah has started tae kwon do and she’s rocking it. She also has grand plans to write a book. It will be the first of a series, and she says it will be fantasy/mystery/horror. My son Jacob has finally, at almost seven years old, decided that he can put his face in the water after all. He is taking swimming lessons and he is just the cutest. He reads amazingly well and he’s super-excited about grade two.

My garden is not doing all that well. It’s been very hot and dry this year. Also, I suspect that there is a rat that is eating my plants. Ugh. At some point I will figure out what to do about that. For now I’m just glad it’s staying outside. And I’m also glad that I have a cat.

I just finished another set of tap dancing classes. I love it. I’m not very good, but it’s so much fun.

I’m looking forward to school.

I had an article published elsewhere. The photo they chose to represent my husband and me slays me.

Some days I write poetry. Some days I play video games on my iPad. Some days I read.

Things are good with me.

How are things with you?

Where my Yogurt Comes From

True story: I am shopping with my kids when they spot the Olympic organic yogurt and ask for some. I suggest we try another kind of yogurt that is on sale, because I am cheap like that. They will not hear it. I buy the yogurt. They eat it. All goes well.

olympic dairyOlympic Dairy got its start here in the Vancouver area in 1979, and today it has a 66% market share for organic yogurt sold in British Columbia. I buy it because my kids like it, and because I like going organic when I can. However, I didn’t know anything about it – including those fun facts at the beginning of this paragraph – until last week. One of the good parts of being a blogger is that you occasionally get invited to do cool stuff. Last Thursday I got to do one of those cool things when I toured a local organic dairy farm that sells its milk to the Olympic Dairy, and then tour Olympic Dairy itself.

We arrived on the Brandsema farm in Abbotsford at about 10:00am, which is apparently a full eight hours after milking starts in the morning. That is, if 2:00am can actually be considered the morning, which I contend that it can’t. If one of my kids wakes up at that time I very firmly say, “It is still nighttime, go back to sleep.” I guess cows are not so reasonable, though. The farm manager Ian showed us around. He has been there since the beginning, when the farm got its start in the late 90s with 30 cows. Today it has 200 milking cows, and other, younger cows that are not yet ready for milking.

olympic dairy organic farm baby cow calf

We met the baby calves, we saw the cows grazing in the field, we saw the barn, and we even saw the maternity area where there was a tiny newborn calf with its mother and another pregnant cow clearly ready to pop at any time. We watched some milking, saw what the cows eat, and even bottle-fed some calves. They get raw milk from the herd. I found one very hungry little one who was willing to take an extra meal from me. Needless to say, it was adorable.

brandsema organic dairy farm farmer cows olympic yogurt

Because this is an organic farm, the cows get ready access to outdoor pasture year-round and eat organic feed. Grass grows here about eight months of the year and they graze, but they also eat hay grown on the farm and grain that they buy from Washington State. Like all Canadian cows they are not given any hormones. They can receive antibiotics in the case of illness, but if they do their milk is discarded for 30 days to make sure no medication ends up in your dairy products. The milk is also tested for quality, including antibiotic residue, at the farm and again at the plant.

dairy farm milking

Ian emphasized that as a farmer his goal is to keep the cows healthy. This ranges from breeding practices (apparently he’s really into genetics) to how they decrease milk supply when drying cows off to giving the cows regular foot care that he describes as “pedicures”. He believes that access to the outdoors is helpful, and that the cows like it, although some do opt to stay inside the barn where it’s cooler. Non-organic farms where I live aren’t required to offer access to the outdoors, and many don’t.

dairy farm barn cows

Our tour then moved on to the Olympic Dairy plant in Delta. It’s a small company, with about 80 employees. They make mostly yogurt, but they also produce sour cream, kefir and regular organic liquid milk. Not all of their products are organic – they say they do about 50/50 between organic and conventional. We had to answer health questions before touring, and we wore overalls and head coverings. Once we were suited up we saw where the raw milk comes in and is pasteurized, where it goes for storage and preparation, and where the finished products are made. One thing that was interesting to me is that most of their yogurt is fermented right in the tubs, so it’s still basically milk when it goes in and then it spends about five hours in a room heated to 110 Fahrenheit where it becomes yogurt. It’s that fast.

olympic dairy

All of Olympic’s products – including the non-organic ones – carry the “natural” label. I was under the impression that this was basically meaningless, but their R&D person said that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency actually regulates the “natural” claim, and I did a little digging and found out this was true. This means that they are limited in what they can and cannot use. For instance, they are not free to use stevia as a sweetener at this point, because it’s not yet approved as “natural”.

olympic dairy yogurtThe best part, though, was the tasting. I tried their natural yogurt, which has recently been re-formulated to contain less sugar. I tried their organic yogurt. I also tried their Krema, which is a Greek-style yogurt that was already my personal favourite. I recommend “Honeylicious”. We also got to sample a new Krema flavour, which is slated for release this fall – pumpkin spice. It was yummy, which is no surprise. I also sampled kefir for the first time. It was the strawberry flavour, and I will admit it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I’m not really into smoothies or drinking yogurt so if you enjoy either of those your mileage may vary. Finally, I tried their chia yogurt, which is just regular yogurt that contains chia seeds. They are soft and not gritty – someone else said they were reminded a little of bubble tea, which is apt.

We had a bit of a Q&A and one of the things I wondered about was the packaging. Yogurt comes in a whole lot of plastic. They said that they opt for easily-recycled, non-leaching plastic. They also switched from foil to plastic film to seal their containers, because it’s a lot thinner. However, they do not have the types of recycling programs some other yogurt makers like Stonyfield offer. They do recycle in-house, and they have taken lots of steps to be energy-efficient. For instance, the heat from the curing room is pumped into the rest of the plant to warm it during the cold months. I feel that they’re trying, but as a smaller manufacturer their abilities may be limited when it comes to large-scale programs aimed at consumers.

So, what did I learn? I learned that organic dairy farms do function differently than conventional dairy farms. I learned what it’s like to bottle feed a baby calf. I learned that milking happens long before anyone should be awake. I learned that Olympic Dairy sources its milk and makes its products locally (to me). I learned that the word “natural” on a label actually means something in Canada. And I learned that I will be running out to buy the pumpkin spice Krema this fall as soon as it’s available.

Poem of the Month: The Poetry of the Universe

poetryFor the past few months I have been writing poetry. While I’m churning them out at a slightly slower rate than a couple of months ago, I’m still writing weekly. Many of them are not fit for public consumption, but I have written enough that are and I’d like to share some of them. And so, a blog series is born. These aren’t my most personal poems, but I do enjoy each of them.

And now, here is this month’s poem, inspired by my love of math.

The Poetry of the Universe

My favourite number changes
Sometimes it’s 16
Sometimes it’s 36
Usually it’s 96
Because it’s divisible by
4 and 6 and 8 and 12 and 16.

The beautiful part: these things are
Always, always, always true.
It’s not a matter of opinion
It doesn’t change in far-flung
Countries or even distant
Galaxies as yet unseen by human eye.

3.14159265… is unshakeable
Molding the stars in their
Courses, hula hoops on the
Waists of laughing little girls,
Bubbles babies bat at
Of course lemon meringue pi(e).

I heard once that Pythagoras
Assigned mystical significance
To certain numbers and hated
Non-terminating decimals –
Impaled on his own theorem.
To me it just shows he really cared.

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