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.

Sometimes You Just Have to Try Something

Sometimes you have to step out of your shell and try something new. This happened to me yesterday when my husband and I were enjoying a kid-free afternoon in a very trendy neighbourhood. I came across the Commercial Drive Licorice Parlour, which I have visited before because I am a licorice lover. This time, however, I was brought up short by a sign outside advertising ‘snorting chocolate’.

Now, I am a chocolate lover as much as a licorice lover, if not even more so, but I was puzzled. And intrigued. And puzzled. How, and more importantly why, would one snort chocolate?

Once I was inside the store buying dark chocolate-covered Australian black licorice and minty Dutch licorice chalk I had to ask. What’s the deal? Apparently the idea of snorting chocolate was conceived for a party thrown by the Rolling Stones with a chocolate theme. Which struck me as incredibly funny. And I decided that I might as well try it. So I shelled out $2 and opted for the recommended raspberry chocolate flavour. Or scent. Or variety. You know what I mean, right?

It was … not bad. The chocolate scent lingered in my nose, and hence on my palate, for a solid 20 minutes after, which was pleasant. I think I would generally prefer to eat my chocolate, though. Less sneezy, and more satisfying in the end. Fortunately, however, my husband was there to capture this one-off on video. What does it look like to snort chocolate? Watch and see.

Podcast: Mothers and Memoirs with Melissa Cistaro

podcast melissa cistaro memoir pieces of my motherPodcasting was my most favourite thing for a time, and now I’m thrilled to be slowly getting back into it. The opportunity to chat with interesting people about interesting things is amazing – I highly recommend it. Today I’m excited to share another conversation with an interesting person. Melissa Cistaro is the author of Pieces of my Mother, a memoir that was released in the US on May 5, 2015 and seems to be gearing up for official release in Canada on May 15, 2015.

Melissa’s mother left the family home when Melissa was very young. The memoir covers her experiences growing up without her mother in the house, and her experiences being present when her mother was dying. In her mother’s final days Melissa found a box of “Letters Never Sent” that shine a lens on the past and the present. I got my hands on an advance copy of the book and I found it readable and engaging. Whether or not you share her experiences, Melissa’s memoir will resonate with you in some way. As we all recover from Mother’s Day, this is an interesting take on a different side of motherhood.

podcast melissa cistaro memoir pieces of my  mother bookDuring our conversation Melissa and I talked about writing, publishing, motherhood and a whole lot more. Whether you are a mother or you have a mother (which is pretty much all of us, right?) there is something in this book and conversation for you. Sit back, relax, and take a listen. And stop by www.melissacistaro.com to find out more about Melissa, or pick up a copy of her book pretty much anywhere books are sold. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed my conversation with Melissa Cistaro, or you’d like to hear more of my interviews, check out the Strocel.com podcast in iTunes. As an extra bonus, if you subscribe you won’t miss a minute of my future broadcasts. And if you have a podcast idea, please share it with me. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

What I Will Not do This Year

Today is my 39th birthday. Unlike previous years, this birthday actually didn’t trigger a massive existential crisis. This feels sort of ironic given the fact that I am sort of betwixt and between at the moment, cooling my heels until I start school full-time in the fall. Maybe that’s why – I’m letting myself off the hook because I know I have a plan, and I don’t have to do anything to make that plan happen right now. Whatever the cause, it’s lovely.

birthday selfie

Birthday Selfie

For the past few years I’ve made birthday resolutions. The idea was to set some intentions and bring new things into my life that I didn’t have the year before. Given that I’m in a different frame of mind this year, though, I’ve decided to switch things up. Here is what I plan not to do with this final year of my thirties.


What I Will Not do at 39

  • Eat corn.
  • Ruminate on my various shortcomings, big and small, real and imagined.
  • Go skydiving.
  • Stop loving my still-newish-to-me minivan.
  • Start drinking coffee.
  • Have a baby.
  • Slow my rate of tea collecting.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Lose my mind (I hope).
  • Write a novel.
  • Keep track of my weight.
  • Join the circus.
  • Finally manage to do the splits.
  • Start a business.
  • Stop laughing.
  • Give up chocolate.
  • Move to another house.
  • Let my hair grow out.
  • Get a tattoo.
  • Dye my hair.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Give up on my goal of becoming a teacher.

You know what the best part of this list is? I think I can manage not to do all of it. What about you? What would you like to not do more of?

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