23.10.10

And This is What Bullying Looks Like

So, anyone not seen a tweet, facebook status or news story about bullying in the past couple of weeks?

It's a pretty important topic in our collective conscience right now. As such, the word is being tossed around by all and sundry. I even wrote on it last week myself.

After I wrote that article I got some harsh comments from someone who:
1. Didn't agree with me about the definition of bullying.
2. Accused me of bullying her when I continued to discuss with her.

I can give you a dictionary definition of bullying, but sometimes the dictionary defintion isn't enough. The semantic meaning is shared by many, especially those who have been bullied.

The dictionary will define bullying as as an act of intimidating another, usually weaker, person. If one took this definition at face-value, a single act of name-calling or shouting down an argument or excluding a person from an event or conversation could be considered bullying.

I think we all know that's not what bullying is. We've all done those things. Even the saints among us are not nice to everyone all the time. Heck, given the dictionary definition I bully my children into eating their supper and going to bed.

Anyone who has ever been bullied will tell you that it's systemic. A single act does not make a bully. An ongoing attack is what defines a bully.

Bullying is not typical childhood behaviour. It's not teasing someone on the playground or not inviting everyone in your class to your birthday party. It's not getting into fights or calling another child a name. Those are normal childhood conflicts.Terming them bullying and intervening in a legalistic way will just diminish our children's ability to resolve conflict in social peer groups.

Bullying is much more than simple conflict. It's a deliberately aimed, ongoing attack to undermine another person. Whether in school, social networks, or adult workplaces, a bully is a person who uses their voice and physicality to squelch someone else's voice and personal respoct on an ongoing basis.

It can be subtle and it can be incredibly obvious. It depends upon the aggresor and the victim.

But here's the thing, bullying must have both an agressor and a victim. Getting into an argument online and being shouted down by someone does not make you a victim, it just makes you the loser of that argument. Calling someone names, whether publically or privately, and then having the same flung back at you does not make you a victim, it makes you a victimless aggresor.

I'm getting tired of seeing people fling the word around like it's the latest fad or coolest slang. Bullying has meaning. It has powerful connotations.

You can ask anyone who has ever been bullied. Ask me. I can tell you how horribly it can destroy your self-esteem, your self-value, your life.

Meaning is important. Keeping the defition of bullying clear is vital to insure that real victims can tell their stories. Muddying the meaning will only muddy the response to the type of bullying that is a true crime - whether in our judicial system or just as a human being.

Please, tell me, what do you think of when you think of bullying? Let's firm up the meaning.

18.10.10

You Can't Talk to a Psycho Like a Normal Human Being

Posts in the offing: ranty angry ones and informative, conscientious ones and a couple funny ones.

In the meanwhile, I've been procrastinating lots because ---umm, I don't know why. I'm tired. I had a migraine for four days. There's ice-cream in the house.

I can come up with more excuses if you'd like.

But, see, there I was on Facebook, messaging back this very nice normal girl who has always been conscientious about staying in touch and even has brought lego for my kids. We worked together once. I wasn't her boss, nor, really, her mentor, but I was kinda, sorta, by default, in charge of a project that she was in charge of (get it?). So I should be all mentor-like and adult and give her good advice and things like that, right?

But I'm tired. And I'm coming off a four day migraine. And I was feeling silly. So instead I gave her this wonderful advice:

This conversation is started almost exactly in the middle. I could give you the whole conversation but that would be pedantic (which I originally wrote as "mendantic" just now. That's not a word. But it should be)

Nice, Normal Girl:
hahahaha Can I drop them off to the little library building on (edit: details you don't need)? That's where your husband works, right? That might be the most practical, since it's close to school, and my schedule is messy, so it's hard to find meeting times.
Me:
Okay, well, you know, if you don't want to see me, fine. I understand (it's cause I'm fat isn't it?)

Ahem.

Yes, (edit: details you don't need) is at the library and his office is still on (edit: details you don't need) street. I love that you called it "the little library building." I think that's what I'm going to call it from now on: "Oh, honey, have a good day at the little library building today! Bring home milk! I love you. Play nicely with the others."

He'll like that.

I just can't get serious at all tonight. It's SMUK's fault. She's really funny in a gross and disgusting kind of way and I just found her blog and have been reading it instead of typing up my column. Check it whenever you need an excuse to procrastinate http://steammeupkid.blogspot.com/

I am sorry your schedule is messy. How's school going this year?
Nice, Normal Girl:
well that fact the I want to click this link right now, because I want to procrastionate should pretty much sum things up. haha. It's okay, a lot of bullshitting really, "oh, yes, my art is about the state of human consciousness..." when actually, I just wanted to paint a flower, but I need to sound good to get marks. I love art school.
Me:
Just make everything "a post-modern feminist's take on....." and you'll get straight A's. Unless your prof is a guy (and not one of the touchy-feely ones) in which case it's "a post-modern deconstruction of...." and don't forget "the medium is the message."

That ought to do it.
Me again:
And by the way,
CLICK THE LINK!!!!
Nice, Normal Girl:
I just did, okay? You have successfully made me procrastinate. Such a good influence.
Me:
Did I ever claim to be a good influence?

Okay, maybe I did. But when I did I was making a statement as a post-modern feminist's take on the constructions of self and societal expectation.

Now paint a flower to go with that and we're all good.
Nice, Normal Girl: ..........
Is either painting a flower or reading some hilarious adult-oriented content over on SMUK. Cause she didn't answer me. Strange, hunh? I don't get young people these days.

For further lessons in how-not-to-be-a-mentor-or-at-all-sensible, buy my new book

I Just Make This Shit Up

Haha, did you actually click that? I made that up too...

BUT
I didn't make up the title to this post. Poe did. Here, see for yourself:

14.10.10

What Activism Really Looks Like

For about one third of my thirteenth year, I got up each morning and looked in the mirror while I applied my lipstick before going to school or out to the mall. My parents didn't let me wear makeup, but I didn't hide this lipstick application from them. I wasn't putting it on my lips, see; I put it on my face. During the entirety of Canada's involvment in the first Gulf War, I wore  a peace sign on my right cheek. In November of 1990 when the States and UN called on Canada to involve itself in the war, I declared that if we did I would protest it until it ended.

For the most part it was a quiet protest. I didn't believe we belonged "over there" and felt that the entire war was a sham for the Americans to gain oil grounds and establish an operative foothold in the middle east. I didn't agree with Hussein, but I didn't agree with the war either.

When people asked me about my facepaint (and, yes, even at 13 I understood the irony of wearing war paint to protest a war) I explained my reasons to them. The reactions I received were varied, from the president of the local Plowshares group telling me I was the coolest kid he ever met, to raised eyebrows and invitations to debate from my teachers, to accusations of not supporting our soldiers from relatives of those serving.

I explained it wasn't about the soldiers but about the war. I thought I was showing the best sign of support ever - that they could come home.

And yet, one day, shortly before the end of the war, I received a voilent reaction unlike any other. As I stood in the school hallway talking to a friend, an older and much bigger girl approached me. She demanded I wipe my face. I explained that I wore the sign as personal protest. She punched me in the stomach and laid me out on the floor. I lay on the floor at the top of a staircase, certain to tumble if I was touched again. As she reached for me declaring "my brother's a soldier and you want him to die!" I shouted back "I'm not fighting you!"

She spat on me and began to walk away. I tried to explain - I support your brother; I don't support the war. She called me names and walked on. For the rest of the year she followed me and taunted me, even after I washed the peace sign from my face at the end of the war.

I remembered that girl this week (though damned if I can remember her name) as I watched other's being attacked. But in these cases they weren't being attacked for their activism, they were being attacked by activists.

Last week I blogged about the breastfeeding message and why I think it's neccessary to promote breastfeeding. I was impressed by the mature response of most comments. Until someone decided to use my blog as a platform to lauch an attack on formula-feeding mothers. Very Bored in Catalunya? I am sorry that happened and I admire you for standing your ground.

Let me make it clear. I don't believe formula feeding moms should be attacked. I don't believe they should be accused of poisoning their child or of being too selfish to do what is best for their child. I won't give every one of them a "get out of jail free" card for their choices (by saying formula is just as good as breastmilk), but I respect their choices and their personal stories. I understand that often the choice is made under duress. The thing about my support of breastfeeding is that it's part and parcel of my support of mothers the world round who want to do best by their babies. I don't think attacking any mother for choicing or being forced to use formula will in any way further the cause of breastfeeding.

Who do I attack? I attack the formula companies. I do think there are harmful ingredients in formula (though I wouldn't go so far as to call it poison). So I ask the companies to change; I lobby against those ingredients. I attack marketing campaigns and the institutions that support them. I attack ignorance and old-wives tales (though they're new old-wives indeed).

The other day as I sat nursing my toddler at the doctor's office, a heavily pregnant women asked me why I was still nursing. Turns out she planned to go straight to formula. We discussed my reasons for nursing. We discussed her reasons for her choice. At the end she agreed that she might try breastfeeding. I didn't badger her; I didn't use scare tactics; I just gave her my honest beliefs and encouraged her to do what a niggling part of her must have wanted to. I cleared up some misconceptions she had (you can't drink ever; you're stuck to the baby; they nurse all night; my breasts will get saggy; my mother says it's not normal and she'll give the baby bottles).

At no point did she ask me to "back off" or seek to end the discussion. If she had, I would have. Because activism is not meant to be individual attacks.

What good would have come of attacking this woman? Even if she sat there feeding her six month old from a bottle, what good would judgment and unkind words do? The choice was already made. The best way to change her choice in the future is through support, encouragement, and sharing information.

To me, that is the sign of a true activist. One who encourages; who peacefully stands their ground; who attacks ignorance and corporate agendas and not people and individual choices. For how does attacking an individual further a greater cause? One must attack the institutions that are against one's cause, not the individuals that are merely going about their lives.

Earlier this week another form of activist with which I identify attacked an individual. On her blog, Jill Haskins revealed the death of her infant son from HLHS - a congenital heart defect. His death happened to occur shortly after he underwent a circumcision operation.

I'm not just a lactivist, I'm an intactivist too. In other words, I believe that a baby boy's foreskin should not be cut off for cosmetic purposes. I give heed to religious reasons but not so much social ones (so he can look like his Daddy). My belief in this is simple: first, do no harm.

Despite my personal beliefs I would never have dreamed of attacking a grieving mother for her choices. Yes, sure, if she had beaten her child to death I'd attack her. But she did not. She made a choice based on the information and knowledge she had. And I don't neccessarily believe that had anything to do with his death.

She sat by her baby's bedside for 51 days straight. She expressed her breastmilk so it could be fed to him through his NG tube. She loved him with all the heart that was in her and prayed for the heart that was in him.

In the end this struggling mother said goodbye to her child.

For 51 days she fought with him. She had many moments when she had to make decisions and fight for her child. She made a single choice I don't agree with. She was encouraged in that choice by the doctors and the hospital. And as a mother of a sick child myself I completely understand the need for some normalcy in your child's life. For her family, the circumcision was part of the normalcy. I can understand that even if I don't agree with it.

The thing is, Jill was attacked. She wasn't even given a  full day to grieve before others had taken her story and made it their own for their own purposes. They subverted her voice, they stole images of her child and they personally attacked her on her blog. I read some of those comments. They were horrible. I've read the posts that attacked her or judged her. They disgusted me. I will not link to them because I don't want to give them credence. I think I've been an authentic blogger - you can trust me when I tell you what my impression was.

Today, I watched on Twitter as they continued to force their views and beliefs on her despite her asking that she be left alone. A grieving mother wants to grieve her child and they could not understand that.

As an intactivist I support educating pregnant women that circumcision is not neccessary. I support lobbying professional medical groups to speak out against it. I support spreading the message of intactivism through a display of my beliefs.

I do not, as with breastfeeding, support attacking any individual. I don't support judging indvidual choices. I don't believe in hatred and stubborn dissaproval of anyone who choices differently than me. I don't think the war is won soldier by soldier but battle by battle.

Mostly, though, I don't believe in hitting someone when they're down. That's not activism, that's just inhumane.



*Please note: I have never before moderated or deleted comments (well except that one time when I was asked to by the commentor and also, of course, spam), but if someone decides to use this post to propogate hatred or attacks on individuals I will delete your comments. Also, Jill has not seen this post before it was posted. I asked her if it would be okay to use her story to illustrate my point. However, if she indicates she rather not have it out there I will remove any mention of her from it.(edit: she has seen it and approves) If you don't agree with these sentiments than take your ball and go home; I have other friends to play with.

9.10.10

Breast IS Best - I'm Not Going to Shutup

I am overweight. Why? Partly it's genetics. Partly it's medical. Partly it's my ass's propensity for the couch and mouth's propensity for ice-cream.

Partly it's marketing schemes I swallowed when I was a child and didn't know any better that led to me becoming addicted to sugar. Partly it's society that told me being overweight was disgusting, made me look at myself with disgust, and led me to devalue myself to the point where I allowed myself to become even more overweight. Partly it's my lack of motivation to lose weight due to previous failures.

In other words, I've been booby trapped. Not like the Best for Babes booby traps - they talk about why women chose to use formula instead of breastfeed. No, I guess I've been fatty trapped.

Except, a lot of the reason - like 90% at least - is me. I've made the choice to stay the way I am. Not consciously, but it's not like I've done everything in my power to change.

And I know being overweight is unhealthy. Given my family's history of high cholesterol, diabetes, and arthritis, I know that loosing weight could save my life - make me healthier.

I know that I am not being the best role model I can be for my children. When I choose ice-cream over exercise, what am I showing them?

It's wrong. And I know it's wrong. And there are times I feel very guilty about it. And there are times I feel angry about it. And there are times I feel powerless.

But, do you know what? When I see media messages about living an active lifestyle, eating healthy, maintaining an acceptable weight; when I see medical studies that show how dangerous it is to be overweight; when reports are released about how important it is to lose weight - all of that. When I see those things I don't say:

"Yeah, yeah I've heard it all before."

or

"Stop trying to make me feel guilty"

or

"Your science is flawed and I don't believe it"

Instead I say: bring it on. Because I know that the message sent is that being overweight is dangerous to anyone's health and a nation's economy. I understand it is not personally aimed at me. I realise any guilt I feel is due to my own failure to cope with societal expectation and my own beliefs. Yes, that's right, I create my own guilt. Scientists studying fat mice in a lab did not get together in order to make me personally regret my choices or non-choices in life.

I also understand that even though I "get" the message, I haven't acted on it to my fullest ability. And for everyone else out there like me, who knows the dangers, "gets it" and does nothing, there are twice as many who still don't hear or understand the message.

So why is breastfeeding different?

Why is it that formula companies are allowed to advertise formula, sell it's benefits, even try inspire guilt in parents who can't afford the premium DHA or added probiotics formulas, but breastfeeding advocates are not allowed to counteract this message? What is it about saying "breast is best" that can inspire hundreds of women to hate themselves?

Breast is best. There's nothing wrong with saying that.

Your situation may mean you couldn't breastfeed. It may mean it was difficult and you made the choice not to pursue it. You may have been "booby trapped." Maybe you just decided you didn't care. Maybe your mother telling you formula is fine was a stronger message than the public health nurse telling you breast is best.

Whatever. I don't care about the reasons behind it. If you feel guilty, it's about you, not the message.

And yeah, I totally acknowledge that some of that guilt comes from you internalising societal messages. But guess what? You're an adult. You can be media savvy. You can analyse a media message and ask yourself "does this apply to me? Is this true to me?" That's what media literacy is all about.

Meanwhile, there are entire communties in my home province where not a single woman chooses to breastfeed. There are millions of women around the world being misled by formula companies telling them that in their situation formula is best. There are children growing up with images of bottle-feeding shoved in their face everytime they go in public while women who breastfeed in public are told to cover-up.

So, yeah, I'm going to say it. And I'm going to say it loud. BREAST IS BEST.

Bring to that what you will. The message is true. The message is clear. There's no falsehood or doubletalk involved.

1.10.10

It's Great They Have That Comfort

I drafted this post while sitting next to an empty hospital bed. I frantically scratched it into one of my eldest son's Hilroy exercise books with a coloured lead while I waited for the return of my youngest son.

It is made of nervous energy and nerves and random whizzing thoughts that popped into my head in an attempt to stultify my fears.

And there is some relief in it too. For, you see, my youngest had to be put to sleep. He needed an MRI to assess for tumours due to his Neurofibromatosis. And young children need to be put to sleep for MRIs.

My eldest also had a test for which he had to be put to sleep when he was just a little older than Emerson is now. I feared and stressed about it. We bought him his favourite wooden rocking horse as a gift if he promised to awake. Because it's not the procedure that scares me, but the forced sleep.

What if he doesn't wake up?

My fears are not completely groundless. My mother reacts very badly to general anaesthetic and I have had my share of bad experiences with it as well - though not so severe as hers.

So. What? Who can promise me my son will wake up?

Before we entered the hospital doors I said to my husband "I know he'll be fine" and held my hand to my head, "but I don't know he'll be fine" and held my hand to my heart.

Once he was asleep, though, my head and heart seemed to be in agreement. We knew he'd be fine. So though there was a nervousness it was nothing near the fear I had felt for my eldest.

Why?

Because I was the one to put him to sleep. Not an anaesthesiologist, not an IV. Just me and some meds.

Back to this morning. When we walked into the prep room one of the nurses commented on how tired he looked.

"Yeah he woke up at 4am and we had a hard time getting him back to sleep" I replied.

"It's hard when they can't have anything." (He had had to fast beforehand)

"Yeah, normally I would just nurse him back to sleep. It was really hard because when I tried to hold him all he wanted was my breast and I couldn't give it to him."

I saw the two nurses grin at each other, a conspiratorial look between them. My hackles went on high alert, sure they were going to say something about my nursing a two year old to sleep.

But I couldn't have been more wrong.

They were excited. They didn't want to give my baby boy and IV anymore than I wanted him to have one. Chloral Hydrate, the oral hypnotic/depressant is preferable with young children, but it's also easier for them to fight.

But because he was tired already. And because they knew I could nurse him to sleep, they were excited to have the opportunity to use it.

I held my son and syringed the meds mixed with grape kool aid into his mouth. And then I held him to my breast and began coaxing him to sleep. He fought it, arms flailing, stuttering susserating syllables urging from his mouth. He flopped and "no"ed and generally acted like a nasty drunk. We gave him a little more meds. I walked him and sang to him and shushed him and then settled with him once more to nurse him.

And as he latched on, I felt the fight flow out of him. And the fear flow out of me.

I put him to sleep and I can wake him up.

And as he drifted off in my arms, ready to face the dragons in his dreams, I heard the nurse whisper to my husband :

"It's great they have that comfort"

Yes it is. It's great we have that comfort. Both of us.





This post in the first in a series I will be doing this week in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week 2010 in Canada, Oct. 01-07. If you have a breastfeeding story to share, come back tommorrow and link up. I'll have a McLinky up for the next week.

Looking for a great breastfeeding resource? Buy  or borrow The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers: The Most Comprehensive Problem-Solving Guide to Breastfeeding from the Foremost Expert in North America, Revised & Updated Edition. It was my bible when my first was born.

29.9.10

How to Be Boring in Ten Easy Steps

So, here's the thing: there are a gabillion and one blogs out there and only about a million blog readers. *you can click those links for more accurate numbers Don't believe me? Check it:

How many blogs do you or have you run? Seems to me most bloggers have three, at least. One may no longer be updated but damn them if they'll take it down and free up some breathing room on the interwebs. How many non-bloggers read your blog? Your mother doesn't count. Heck, half the bloggers out there have their mothers blogging too!

My point? Yeah right, I'm supposed to have one. Well that's it right there: Blogs and their multifarious posts are actually supposed to have a point

Nobody reads your blog? Quelle suprise! Most bloggers have an audience made solely of bloggers themselves. Except for, you know, the really popular folk like my new BFF Jessica (don't believe me? Check this post. She calls herself a "devoted reader." Even my own mother isn't a devoted reader. Jessica? Will you adopt me?). So, bloggers subscribe to a tundrillion blogs they never read in the hopes that the people they subscribe to will subscribe back. It's kinda like Twitter y'all. But what that means is that there are blogs that look active and yet no one reads them. The comment zone is a gaping hole like that in Aunt Nelda's chompers.

Come on. Are we each going to read fifty blogs a day? Every day? I don't know about you lot, but I actually do have a life. And my real life - you know, the one with the breathing people and the messes and no search box or SEO to make things easier - that gets in the way of this handy little virtual reality we have going on here where we all love each other and think the lot of us are brilliant writers just on the cusp of being discovered. There's a whole lot of people uploading videos to YouTube, but there's only one Justin whatshisface.

I, personally, have a handful of blogs in my "must read" list. Those are the ones I try to read every day. I have a fair number in my "reference list" - those awesome niche blogs that I may not read every day but are my go-tos when I need a craft, recipe, etc and I'll devour ten posts at once. And then I have my crap list. Not that I'm saying you're crap if you're on it. I won't subscribe to a blog that's utter crap - unless I'm throwing you a bone. But it's crap in my mental space that I don't often have time for. And then, of course, there are the 20 or so blogs that I keep forgetting to subscribe to and only read because they link their posts on Twitter or someone I subscribe to has them in their blogroll.

So, yeah, point. Here it is: if you want people to read YOUR blog out of the gabillion and one blogs out there you have to not be boring. It's as simple as that. If you're not boring and you play the game right you'll get readers. Problem is, there are a lot of boring blogs out there. You know the ones. The ones who:

1. Write about the same thing every day. Yup, niche blogs are awesome and will get you tonnes of SEO hits via google. But unless they're truly awesome, like Frugal Family Fun Blog, or No Time for Flashcards, or Bakerella you're not going to get people subscribing. And if you do get subscribers they will probably not read every day. Because, let's face it, Valerie is the only mom in the entire world organised enough to do a fun craft with the kids every day.

Here's the thing - bloggers have been around for a while. The majority of the niche markets are pretty full. Joe Blow from Arkansas will not make a big name for himself in a field where there are already 20 big names. Get over it.

2. Moan all the time. So some people seem to write blogs just so they can complain about how miserable their life is. This is mostly true of mommy bloggers, but there's others too. They're the ones who see the grey lining on the fluffiest, whitest, unicorn-shaped clouds. The moany mommy bloggers have miserable brats for kids, their husbands are useless twats and the school is always asking for money.

Save it for girls night out, missus. Seriously. Unless your life is really miserable - like third world impoverished with ten disabled kids and a convicted murderer husband - I'm not going to find it interesting. Yes, the occasional moan is fine - cathartic even. But try to be a bit lyrical about it or something. Like this one of mine. Because I'm a class A moaner (get your mind out of the gutter) but I try to do it with style.

3. Have a soapbox and use it. I'm a feminist, lactivist, back to earthavist, gay-marriage-supporting, special-needs-sympathising, Christian, pro-choicer. And I'm totally going to love some of your posts along these lines. I will also enjoy reading the other side. However, if that's all you ever talk about and there's nothing new going on, I will avoid you like the Latter Day Saints that come a-knocking on my door. I will shut out the lights, hide behind the couch and duct-tape the kids' mouths just to make you go away.

Get a life. That's all I have to say.

4. Write about every day stuff without a point. You might think you're being all "voice of the people" or perhaps you're going for deconstructivist irony. I don't give a hoo-ha. It's not working.

We can all churn out a "this is how my day went in point form" post once in a while, but unless you want the aforementioned Aunt Nelda and your mom to be your only readers, a blog is not an online journal. And if you are writing about the ordinariness of life, take a note from Kyran's page and make it sound good. Write about cleaning the bathroom floor but give us some modern-day behaviour analysis with it. 'kay?

5. Are perfect. Oh I get it, you savour the sweeter things in life. But if you post another pic of your little pixie in her handmade pink dress with nary a hair out of place while waxing lyrical about how she can count to 3 million during her gymnastics floor routine practice while you fix up a "little" gourmet dinner I will vomit. I will vomit hard. I will vomit heavy. And your immaculate kitchen floor and designer living room will get dirty - at least on my screen.

There's a little something called integrity and there's also being valid. I appreciate poetic license but unless you're so drugged up on Prozac that you actually live in another dimension I know there's dirt under your couch. Don't try to lie to me about it.

6. Act desperate. Each blogger is allowed one and exactly one and no more and preferably-not-even-that-one-but-it's-understandable post about why they don't seem to have any subscribers or comments or both. We will rally to your side and proclaim how wonderful you are before promptly ignoring you again. Unless you're really good and your little plea actually drew attention to how good you are (that's how I got Heather over at Note from Lapland to read me! Although it was a comment, not a post. And of course I'm not conceited enough to say I'm good.). Usually, though, if you want attention the best way to get it is to actually write a really good post. And then pimp your post like a train station whore.

The way to lose any potential reader's attention is to continue writing posts pleading for attention; leaving 20 comments over 15 days on the blog of someone who has never and will never read you; pimping your own post on Twitter every three minutes; or - my personal favourite- declaring that you're going to shut down your blog because nobody reads it - we're all nodding our heads and rooting you on there!

7. Have Wildly Schizophrenic Ambitions. If you're blogging because you're in love with Annie at PhD in Parenting and you want to respond to everything she writes with copious backlinks in the hopes that she will notice you and requite your love and then you decide that she's a stuck up bitch who will never respond to you because you're better than her so you decide to start mimicking The Bloggess because she's always been your second-choice for life blog partner and then you realise that The Bloggess is already married to Twitter so you decide to write "What Would Angelina Do" posts that bespeak the perfect parenting and social-justice perfection of the Jolie-Pitt family in the hopes that maybe Angelina will notice and adopt you - if you do that, I won't read you. I can't speak for the others. But me? Naw. I got enough craziness right here at home, thanks.

8. Have No Clue About Grammar, Spelling or Syntax. If you flunked Grade 8 English twice? Don't blog. I'm not sure how much more I can say about that. Typos and the occasional verb tense gaffe are understandable. Posts that are harder to read than Vegemitevix's on predictive texting? Not good. Call up your Junior High English teacher and ask for some tutoring before you return to the blog world.

Next?

9. Don't Know When to Stop Writing. Some people write 400 word posts. Yup, 400 words. I can't even tell someone how to brush their teeth in 400 words. But there are those who do it. London City Mum? Brilliant - in 400 words or less. Most blog posts tend to be in the 500-800 word count. A decent number, informative yet precise. Then there are the rest of us, like myself and Very Bored in Catalunya who tend to be in the 1000 range and sometimes higher. It's because we have a lot to say and we haven't figured out how to work the humour in without upping the word count. If your posts are longer than mine, you're doomed. Heck there are days even I get bored reading mine.

If your reader has to scroll for five minutes to get from the first word to the last, you might want to re-think the whole blogging thing and become an auctioneer or something instead. Because nobody wants to suffer from eye-strain to read your nuggets of wisdom. Even Jesus knew to keep his parables brief.

So on that note, I'll shut-up. Yeah I said ten. I gave you nine. I'm unpredictable like that. It's what keeps me interesting...


Ok, one more thing. If your blog is full of reviews? Get lost. You bore me to tears.

Got anything to add? Keep it interesting...

27.9.10

The one in which I prove my inability to take a photo or follow a recipe

Yes, it's a recipe post. Look, if you're looking for controversy or humour, peruse some of my old posts, like this one or this one. Or read my column on Wednesday. For the controversy, not the humour. Pretty sure I will be flamed in the comments on that one *a gleeful smile crosses my face*

Meanwhile, here's the thing about me and recipes. I don't follow them. That's all you really need to know. They're rules of thumb only to me - giving the appropriate ratio of liquid to dry, baking powder to flour. And they give me ideas sometimes.

I also don't measure much. I'm pretty much a lackadaisical cook. I see it as an art, not a science, albeit an art in which if you are inclined to measure you can teach your child some awesome math skills. Kinda like woodworking.

Anyhoo.

Here's what I made:



Looks horrible, doesn't it? Well it wasn't. They tasted much better than they looked. And this photo is wretched. I desperately need a new camera as I can't actually adjust this one at all. Been dropped one too many times by grabby little hands.

I sent 24 of them into my son's classroom of 12 kids (and I think one was out sick) on a day when they were bombarded with treats (it was apple day and parents were asked to make apple treats for the kids to eat) and only four came home. Now mind, I've made cupcakes and had more come home than that.

They are Zucchini, Carrot, Apple Spice Bars (Harrison knows they had zucchini and carrot in them, but I advised him not to share such information with his friends.

If you want to know where they came from or find an actual recipe to follow, they are loosely based upon this Rice Krispies recipe. I'm pretty sure they had an actual food photographer take that photo, though.

I didn't use Rice Krispies, though, as we tend not to have processed cereals in the house (you do realise that you can cook oatmeal in the microwave in less than a minute, right?)

Here's what I did use:
  • About a 2 inch piece of large zucchini
  • 1 medium carrot - cleaned but not peeled
  • 1 medium apple - peeled and cored
  • About 3/4 cup of oatmeal
  • 1 heaping cup of Best for Bread Multi-grain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice(I didn't measure the spices, just you know skake-a, shake-a till it smells right)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (yeah, I know they say don't bake with olive oil. "They" say lots of stuff I don't listen to)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Approx 1/2 cup white chocolate chips and 1 tsp olive oil (I recommend trying butterscotch chips, though, white chocolate is what I had)

You'll need a food processor or blender (tho I suppose a mortar and pestle and a handheld grater would work); a large baking dish - mine was 13X9; a handheld mixer or mixmaster; and your usual paraphernalia of bowls and measuring devices.

Preheat oven to 350.

So first take your oatmeal, dump it in the food processor or blender and pulse till it's fine grit. Measure. You should have about 1/2 cup. If not, do some more. If it's a bit over don't worry about it.

In a large bowl, mix the pulverised oatmeal with the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.

Cut the zucchini into smaller pieces and chop in the food processor or blender (or if you feel like dirtying up the grater blade you can grate it, but I just use the chopping blade and chop fine.) Dump into 2 cup liquid measuring cup. It should approach the 1/2 cup mark. If it's much less, chop some more. It it's a tad off, don't worry. Repeat with the carrot and apple. You should end up with approximately 1/2 cup of each.

In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites, toss in the oil, brown sugar and vanilla and mix well. Throw in the chopped vegetables and apple. Mix well.

Dump this into the flour mixture. Stir as little as possible until just combined. The secret to not ending up with flat, dunchy baked goods when using whole grain flours and/or vegetables is not to overstir when adding flour.

Spoon into greased pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (or you can be more like me and run around the kitchen half shouting-half muttering "why don't I every buy toothpicks" and "what has he done with the bamboo skewers" until eventually finding a longish matchstick to poke in there. Uncooked spaghetti works as well)

Place pan on wire rack and let cool.

Meanwhile, pour the baking chips and oil into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for one minute, continue microwaving in 30 second intervals - whisking after each interval - until fully melted. Drizzle over bars. Cut and serve.

Take a better picture than me.

25.9.10

Warning: this post is not interesting

So the number one rule of blogging is don't talk about blogging.

Bullshit.

Hello audience? You don't exist apparently. This is just my own personal journal which instead of hiding under a mattress in the guest bedroom (don't look) I've made public to the entire world. I certainly don't care how many people read my blog or my visitation stats. No sirree.

The number two rule of blogging is don't post posts about why you haven't been blogging. That's a big no-no. Excuses, excuses, excuses right?

Except here's the thing. I actually do care about you - my readers. I care about the fact that you subscribed to this blog and for the last week I've given you nothing, nada, zip. I think it's awesome that even though I haven't posted anything new in the last week, I've gotten four new followers and hundreds of visits.

I care that I made a vow to myself to blog every day and I haven't been doing that. Because I'm torn. I want to blog every day, but I also want to write meaningful posts. And meaningful posts take time to research and write. They don't flow like snakes from my head.

So, here's what's up:

1. I've been working on a volunteer committe for World Breastfeeding Week. In Canada, just to be different, we celebrate it the first week of October. I've been trying to organise more media around the events for the entire Western Region of our province. It's been several years since they've done anything for it, so there's a lot of delays and confusion. However, fair warning, next week will be all about breastfeeding. For the whole week I will be posting about various issues in breastfeeding. At the beginning of the week I will put up a McLinky for everyone else to share their breastfeeding posts too. I expect brilliance. From everyone.

2. I'm broke. Beyond broke, actually. I spend a lot of time every day applying for jobs and preparing article proposals. We need more money. And we need it now. And between trying to find the money, worrying about the money we don't have and trying to figure out ways to stretch what little we do have, there's not a lot of room left in my brain for other thoughts.

4. I have four posts half-written. All wonderful thought-provoking posts you'll enjoy. For some reason I just can't seem to finish them. I will.

5. I've been working on launching a new blog - a joint one that my husband and I will post book reviews to. I sort of hope that some people might decide to buy the books and that they might click through from our amazon associates account. See number 2 above. But also I want my husband to have an opportunity to share his librarian brilliance and I have a lot of expereince in engaging children and young adults in literacy. The responsible thing is to share that.  I've experienced some technical glitches. Essentially blogger can't do what I want it to do. But I can't afford to self-host. See number 2.

6. I have three kids. They're really crazy, demanding kids. Yeah, aren't they all, right? Except mine are a little more demaning than most. In the past week I've started my eldest on Concerta for ADHD and prepped him for his first ever spelling test. I've had to administer gallons of lactuolose to the middle child and try to push up her ultrasound appointment while also try to follow up with the doctor on her EEG results. The youngest has had croup, I've scheduled speech therapy and an MRI for him this week. We've all had a cold. My husband's been out of town. And even on my best more organised days, I can only write after the kids are in bed. I'm writing now when they are awake and since this posts has started I've been interrupted twelve times. Twelve. It's taken me exactly 28 minutes just to write this. Actually I've just been interruped three more times as I tried to write those three sentences. It's now been 40 minutes.

Forty minutes for a not very interesting post. Sorry if you feel it's a waste of time.

Thanks for reading. Normal service will resume shortly. (2 more interruptions)

17.9.10

Book Review: Losing Emily. After Stillbirth

Following is a review my husband, Mr. Librarian, has written for the book "Losing Emily." In it, a mother recounts the story of losing her child to stillbirth and the journey that led her on. Stay tuned, for next week I'll post my own mini-review and we'll be giving away a copy of the book. As well, Mr. Librarian and I will be launching a brand new joint blog solely about books and being a reader.

A grief like no other: after stillbirth claims a child, what then?
by Darrell Squires


The birth of a child is supposed to culminate in the sound of the newborn’s robust crying as it first encounters the world, senses stimulated all in a rush. And it’s the sound expectant parents are relieved to hear because it reassures them that the baby has been born healthy.

But this was not what Tammy Anderson and her husband Darren would experience when their daughter Emily was born on May 10, 2006. Emily’s birth was silent because she was stillborn. So, as a tiny life came to an end before it could even begin, a long and intense voyage into grief and a difficult search for meaning were just beginning for her parents.

Bereaved mother Tammy Anderson’s book, ‘Losing Emily: A Journey through Stillbirth to Finding Peace and Embracing New Hope,’ came out of that hard process. Though a small book, it offers enough insight, personal experience, empathy, and hope to fill volumes.

Devastated at her loss -- her family’s loss -- Anderson nonetheless found the emotional resources to seek out information on why her pregnancy with Emily ended so wrenchingly. Understandably, she was full of questions and she wanted to know everything about why her pregnancy had ended in such a cruel way.

Aside from information aimed at the medical and academic community, she found that there wasn’t much information on which to draw. Therefore, and determined that some measure of good would come of her family’s grief, she decided to share her thoughts and feelings about what had happened –how they coped, and are still coping still. The good news is that the pain and grief, incomprehensible unless you have to deal with it yourself, are manageable.

How, though? ‘Losing Emily’ asks and answers that question very well. In fact, it is hard not to regard it as essential reading for women or families who might lose a child to stillbirth. For their relatives and friends trying to support them through this difficulty, it’s just as necessary.

As Anderson explains very well, it’s hard to know what to say to someone dealing with this particular situation. Assurances like “it was meant to be,” or “you can try again,” or expectations that after a suitable time bereaved parents will finally “move on,” are well-meant, but misguided and hurtful. Following Emily’s birth, Anderson’s physician patted her thigh and said “try to get some rest,” words which Anderson cannot recall today without a stab of hurt.

Given that there seem to be no “right words,” what do you say? Anderson answers that clearly; you express the support you are willing to give, the things you are willing to do, the ways you will be there, the ways you will listen.

Anyone might do well to read this book, and virtually no one will read it without feeling the sting of tears – it’s that moving. Those working in the medical profession in obstetrics and nursing, and those working in family support ought to find it particularly relevant, and I recommend it highly. As one who works in public libraries, I’d call the book essential for parenting collections – it’s that important.

16.9.10

Be Good to Your Daughters

I’ve been tagged. I’m not a meme-ey kind of gal, but this one was interesting. I won’t be as snarky as I was in the Tribal Wives meme . . . promise.


Him Up North has been wondering about daughters and the meaning behind the John Mayer lyrics

Fathers be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters too…

And he wants to know:

If you are a daughter, what did you learn from your father or mother, positive and negative?

If you have daughters, what lessons have you passed/will you pass onto them?

Do you see something in yourself which you recognise as an inherent (unlearned) trait from your parents?

I am a daughter, well that’s rather obvious. And I have a daughter. Anyone who has read about her “little half penis"” or her ambulance ride knows she keeps me on my toes.

In my column, I wrote a while back about the lessons I had unwittingly taught her:

It's important that girls not fall into gender stereotypes. But what we're asking them to do is be everything at once. Adult women complain that they can't be superwoman: great career, great mother, great wife and look pulled together. Yet, we want our girls to be supergirls
(Everything Isn’t Nice in Girldom)

I wrote about how I was careful to compliment her on more than her looks but wondered if in doing so I was pressuring her too much.

My daughter is four years old. Already I worry about the pressure on her from society . . . and from me.

What have I taught my daughter?

About Beauty

When I look in the mirror and say “ugh” to myself, I’ve taught her that there are standards of beauty we must judge ourselves by. I’ve taught her that I’ve failed at those standards, even though she thinks I’m “the prettiest.” Therefore, I’ve taught her that what she thinks is beautiful is not important.

When I tell her “you look gorgeous in that dress” I’ve taught her that natural beauty is not enough, that we must be dressed, like meat, to be appreciated.

BUT


When I spend time pinning flowers in her hair so she can be a fairy, or sewing skirts that are dancey enough, or admiring her multicoloured people drawings, I show her that I respect and understand her ideals of beauty.

When I call her “beautiful” or “pretty princess” or “prettiest girl in the world” she smiles with that inner knowledge: that she is gorgeous and it is noticed.


About Strength

When I lose my patience or lose my temper or cry in front of my children, I show her that emotions can overpower us – whether this is a good or a bad thing to learn, I don’t know.

When I lift and pull and carry and dig without calling for help or shirking a job, I show her that weakness is not a trait to be admired, or a way to barter favours.

She doesn’t know the stresses in our lives now, but as she grows older, I hope she will learn to carry on, to fight for herself and her family, to fight for her love, the way I have and do.

About Wisdom

Her brightness delights us and surprises us, even after these years, so I hope that in our reactions to her we don’t express surprise that she is so smart, but pleasure and pride.

About Love

Here I have no doubts. I have shown her how to hug and kiss and cuddle; how to surrender herself into the warmth of love; how to approach everything with passion and enthusiasm. I have shown her that love is a many-sided thing; that it is soft and violent, perfect and marred. I know she understands that love is something we create, not fall into, and that it carries on through our unbending pursual of it.

When she dances around the kitchen singing a song about her new rubber boots, I know that I have taught her to love life, to embrace it’s pleasures no matter how small, and to express herself and her love for the world. And I dance and I sing with her, because I know that love and our world are things we create and creation is a thing best shared.


So now in true meme fashion I've got to tag some folks. This is the part I'm really horrid at as I always worry it's an imposition.

Susie at New Day New Lesson will have something to add I'm sure.

Vickie at Vegemitevix will humour us and slip some insight in there too.

Naomi at Organic Motherhood With Coolwhip - Do boys "soldier on?"

Heather at Notes From Lapland because she hates memes and I like tormenting her.

And my new friend, at The Contented? Maybe. I've no idea if she's having a girl or a boy. I've no idea if she knows herself as I haven't had a chance to bakread her blog enough yet. But what I have read impresses. So there.

Tag, You're It.

14.9.10

The Tremendous and The Terrible


A Week in The Life of a Two Year Old

On Monday
Emerson ate blueberry oatmeal. Strangely, he emerged from the breakfast battle with a flaky bluish face.

“Emerson,” Mommy said “you need to wash your face.” She ushered him towards the bathroom.

Suddenly the washcloth loomed, magically wet and cold, in her hand.

“Me do” Emerson shouted.

After a pre-emptive scrub she handed him the cloth. He pushed her out of the bathroom and shut the door.

She heard splashing….

“What the!” Mommy exclaimed as she ripped open the door:

“Emerson, we do NOT wash our face with toilet water.”



On Tuesday
Emerson followed Mommy into the bathroom. He attempted a little sit-in with her. Finding the events boring he stood, goodies waggling in the breeze. He walked over to mommy, saying “oh oh, no pee.” Then he peed on her foot.



On Wednesday
Emerson grunted and groaned. Mommy said “Are you doing your poo Emers?”

“Un-hunh,” he replied shaking his head. Then pointing to the bathroom “Potty?”

“Do you want to poo on the potty?” Mommy said, the maybe-he’s-about-to-get-it excitement just thinly veiled.

“No.”



On Thursday
Emerson helped Mommy bake cupcakes. First he scooped flour into a pile on the floor, then he rolled an egg off the table and cracked it in the vicinity of the flour. Next he decorated his hair with cocoa. Mommy made 48 cupcakes. Emerson made a mess.



On Friday
Emerson found an old toy that Mommy had put away and forgot about new toy in the garage. It quickly became his favourite. He took it everywhere. It pulled along on wheels. It was awesome. He wouldn’t leave it out of his sight.

Well, except for when he decided to leave it on the stairs so he could go help Mommy pull out the laundry baskets from upstairs. Mean mommy stepped on his new toy and flew down the stairs, spilling the laundry he had helped her pick up all over the floor. He checked on his toy and gave it a kiss. It was okay. Mommy was so upset about hurting it that she cried. She’s been holding her arm kind of funny ever since.



On Saturday
Emerson slept for three hours. Emerson never sleeps for three hours. Mommy wanted to get groceries. She had to wait.



Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest
But not for Emerson. On Sunday he played in the sandbox with some big kids. He ate lots of sand. He had a sand bath. Then he ran through the open door. He was thoughtful enough to take his shoes off, though. He flung them across the room. The sand achieved great spreadage. Then he broke his sunglasses. Summer is over after all. He followed that with a fine rendition of pull-off-my-diaper-and-pee-on-the-kitchen-chair. His encore involved swiping Mommy’s cold coffee and sharing it with the couch.

A very productive week for Emerson.

I’m not sure why I haven’t managed to get much done around the house myself.



12.9.10

Mommy Mathlete: Answering Parenting Mysteries Mathematically

A reader* recently sent in** this question:
Dear Mommy Mathlete,***
I was hoping you could put your genuis skills to great use by solving my current dilemna. My youngest child is two years old; when we sit to read a book together, he only lets me read two pages before he shuts the book and declares "done." He will often then pick up another book, just to read the first two pages. How can I get him to read more than two pages?
Signed,
Want to Know How It Ends
Dear Want to Know,
You are facing an age-old problem. Two year olds are especially notorious for having an attention span shorter than a fruit fly's love life****. It may seem an impossible task to read a whole book, even though the child enjoys reading.

However, as a former child literacy worker, I can tell you:
Ic = ((Np/Nb) * Im)*Ac

Or, in English:
A Child's Interest (Ic) is equal to the number of pages with pictures on them divided by the number of pages total in the book; multiply that fraction by the mother's interest level and then multiply the whole by the age of the child.

As you can see, there is a direct and positive correlation betweeen the child's interest and the mother's interest. The mother's interest level is scaled on a 1-20 graph with 1 being the lowest interest (i.e. reading to the child while simultaneously cooking, tweeting, facebooking, and supervising other children) and 20 being the highest (full on engagement with both child and book complete with eye contact, finger pointing and funny voices).

The majority of variables in this equation are unchangeable: such as the child's age or the number of pictures in the book. The most easily changed is Mommy's (or Daddy's) interest level.

However, some options for creating a greater sum total are:
  • Picking books rich with visuals (Yes, I realise the latest interior decorating magazine has plenty of lovely pictures, but we're looking for a book and especially one that interests your child)
  • Picking shorter books (an example: multiply the child's age by ten and your pages should not exceed that; for reluctant readers, multiply by five.)
  • Using your voice to inflect the story and create characters (come on, Dragons do not talk with posh accents, they've definitely got a Transylvanion, slithery and sibilant voice)
  • Maintain close physical contact with the child while reading as well as occasional eye contact
  • Sitting in a quiet room free of distractions for both Mommy and child (i.e. Mommy put down your iPhone)
  • Using your texting finger as a pointing finger instead (you'd be surprised the versatility built into that finger!)
  • Engaging with the book by pointing out pictures and/or asking your child questions ("Okay, who spilt milk on this page?" not being one of the more valuable questions)
  • Maintaining a positive attitude about reading (i.e. When child asks you to read the same two pages of the same book for the 2000th time, do NOT roll your eyes, sigh, and yell to your spouse "Dear Lord, can you please save me from this monotony!")
This equation is all about the correlative variables. With a little work you can change the result.

And if you want to try some new books or find books in various languages, check out the International Children's Digital Library. We love browsing through their books and they're all free. (No, that was not sponsored - they don't even know who I am)


* I read my own blog occasionally, therefore I can be called a reader
** "Sent in" is assumed to be interchangeable with "thought to herself"
*** That's my super-hero name

**** While it is a myth that fruit flies only live for a day (it's more like two weeks), it is not a myth that an adult female only needs  a couple second to be "fertilised" and will then continue to lay eggs for a week.


If you've a question for Mommy Mathlete send it in (yeah, you'll have to email me, not just think it to yourself : darasquires AT gmail.com - calling me a genuis insures you'll get a response) or leave it in the comments. I'm not advocating formula for babies, but I love creating formulas for parents!

9.9.10

Disempowered Dads; Martyred Moms

Never one to dissapoint, I've pulled this old column out while I work on my post about clubbing baby seals.

It ran as a two part column, but I've put it together here so you can read it in it's entirety - in other words, brace yourselves and go pee now, you might be here a while:

It was a national conference on health and family literacy. I was seated at a table with five other professionals: three from the public health field, and two others – like me – from the literacy field. Our assignment was to discuss some of the stresses, good or bad in origin, which could occur throughout a family’s life. We were discussing childbirth. One of the women brought up Postpartum Depression in mothers.


“It’s also an issue for fathers,” I said. Murmurs of agreement followed. Of course, fathers have to learn to deal with the mother’s depression. “No,” I clarified, “Dads get Postpartum too.”

Looks of amazement and laughter followed this statement. One of the nurses replied: “Well, my five year old was pretty upset when the baby came along too. He was no longer the center of attention. But I wouldn’t call it depression.” More laughter and nods of agreement followed this belittling remark.

I was amazed to find health professionals talking in such a dismissive way about a serious medical issue. Fathers do get Postpartum Depression. About 10% of new fathers, actually, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. New mothers were found to be afflicted at a slightly higher rate of 14%.

But had anyone at that table two years ago (around the time that study was published) heard of it? No. And if they had, I doubt they would have taken notice.

You see, we were a table full of women.

There’s something that happens when women – especially moms – get together. It’s something we’re not proud of and hate to admit. It’s something that has the potential to tear down men, tear families apart, and destroy good relationships.

We complain about and criticise the men in our lives - the fathers of our children in particular.

It happens when we gather at groups for new moms. It happens in groups of two and three at school functions. It happens during gossipy phone calls with friends. It happens far too often.

When our first child was born, I attended a breastfeeding support group weekly. It happened there. And I’m sad to say I participated:

“He comes home and accuses me of spending all day on the couch! I’m breastfeeding! Does he think I want to be stuck on the couch all day? Does he notice all the work I did in between feedings? And even if I did spend all day on the couch, I deserve it. It’s not like he ever gets up with baby at night!”
Can I blame my poor judgment on sleep deprivation? I’ve tried very hard since those first few months as a new mother to avoid publically criticising my spouse. But it’s difficult. It’s just such a latent practice when women get together.

Why do we do it? I imagine because it seems the acceptable thing to do.

After all, watch any commercial or TV show and it’s obvious that any married man, a dad in particular, is a doofus. Women run families. Women work their fingers to the bone. Women look fit and put together. Dads are lazy, forgetful, inconsiderate, slobs. They can’t follow simple instructions and are utterly incapable of taking care of the children – or even the laundry – without explicit instruction and guidance from their wives.

The only fathers in the media who do a halfway decent job at parenting are those forced to do so because their wife is dead or gone.

For decades, discussion has been about the stresses on mothers. Working mothers are expected to work outside the home, run a good home, devote themselves to the children and show up at school functions. Stay at home mothers are expected to enrich their children’s lives daily, cook delicious, healthy meals, keep a tidy home, and neglect their own appearance and needs for those of the children.

We’ve all heard about Super Mom Syndrome.

But what about Super Dad? Why is the stress on fathers completely ignored? Are they not facing a lot of the same issues?

And is their stress made worse by the fact that we, as a society, refuse to acknowledge it?

Not that long ago families were made up of a mother and father in their traditional roles. Fathers worked all day and were expected to be the disciplinarians in the home, spending some time in the evenings and on weekends with their children. Mothers worked too, but in the home, childrearing and “keeping the house.” Single parent and mixed families were uncommon.


Television shows like ‘Leave it to Beaver’ lead us to believe that this was the norm and something that made home-life run smoother. But many women and men who lived during that time will tell you that it wasn’t necessarily like that.

It’s the same today. In the media we see goof-off dads and hardworking moms; but, in reality, most dads participate in household chores and childrearing. Fathers are expected to help raise the kids and do housework, as well as work outside the home -- just like mothers. But they do so under stresses not commonly acknowledged.

At work, a father is considered unprofessional and undedicated if he starts taking time off to take Timmy to soccer practice or Tara to her doctor’s appointment. If his child is sick, a father is expected to show up at work regardless. Employers tend to be more understanding of a mother’s need to take family time.

At home, a mother might wonder why her partner isn’t doing more, why the at-home responsibilities are all hers. Often, though, when fathers do try to pitch in and help out as best they can, they are often told they are doing it “wrong.”

How many women reading this have told their husband he has loaded the dishwasher wrong or done the laundry incorrectly? Did the world end when the glasses ended up on the bottom rack or everyone’s underwear turned pink?

Maybe not, but your husband’s incentive to help ended when he was criticised. Of course most women don’t mean to be critical. The problem is often that the mother considers the housework to be her ultimate responsibility and wants to make sure it’s done “right.” Like any workplace, a home has established routines and ways of doing things.

The problem is that we are not quite sure of our roles anymore. In our struggle to make mothers and fathers equal partners at home, we’ve blurred the boundaries which our traditional understanding of ‘his’ and ‘her’ responsibilities made clear. Yet, at the same time, we’ve yet to arrive at a commonly understood alternative.

And, again, in spite of our struggle to democratize the parenting dynamic, we still find it hard to let go of the traditional notion of the woman as the main parent and house-keeper. Despite the fact that both parents have the option of taking parental leave, in most families -- and in the workforce -- it is naturally assumed the mother will be the one to take time off.

Women are struggling with the stress that shifting responsibilities at home and outside the home bring into their relationship. Just as men suffer from the media image that they are useless, women are still led to believe through the media that they can and should be superhumanly capable of doing it all.

They internalise those feelings and end up feeling like Dana, a mother of one from St. John’s who says: “It always feels like things are ultimately my responsibility. (My husband) encourages me to go out, to go back to work whenever I feel ready, and to have him take care of stuff -- but in my mind all I think is ‘no, I’m the mommy.’”

Unfortunately, such feelings -- when expressed through not leaving children in the care of their fathers, or not leaving housework in the father’s hands -- can lead to fathers believing they’re not considered capable of handling these things.

Better communication and increased understanding between spouses can clarify each other’s expectations, but it’s especially hard for new parents to find the time to talk to one another. There’s the stress brought on by the new child, of course, but there’s also the stress of adapting to the new regime of who-does-what.

It’s actually disturbing when, because of perceived or real spousal distrust, fathers are not permitted to father. Mothers have to learn to ‘let go’ from taking the majority of parenting responsibility. As counter-instinctual as it may be, mothers have to learn to trust fathers to do what is ‘right’ and ‘acceptable.’

In 2006, the National Fatherhood Initiative published the results of a survey titled “Pop’s Culture.” In it, respondents were asked where they look for help on becoming a better father. Almost 90% reported that their wife or child’s mother was who they turned to.

While it is great that fathers look to their spouses to give them appropriate parenting advice, this pattern of behaviour reinforces fathers not trusting themselves to make parenting decisions. Ironically, the more often they consult with the mother, fathers learn not to so much to parent but to become better mothers.

Men and women parent differently. And this range in approach and style is important to the family dynamic. Fathers’ attitudes towards parenting and the way they approach such matters as conflict resolution often differ from those of mothers. This doesn’t make them wrong; it just makes them different. Many experts agree that a father’s natural approach to parenting is important in teaching children concepts such as independence.

Most importantly, though, fathers serve as role models for their sons. And a mother’s actions towards the father reflect upon her son as well. When a father is told or shown that he can’t be trusted to parent appropriately, a boy learns that he cannot be a father.

And the cycle begins anew.

7.9.10

Tribal Wives of the Blogosphere

Sometimes I enjoy being a shit disturber; I really, really do.

A couple weeks back, Vix wrote a post about this show called Tribal Wives (never heard of it myself). Gist of it is an urban woman is taken to live in another more hand-to-mouth culture. She learns lessons and grows and learns to appreciate what she ....snooze.

So, Vix turned it around and made a tongue-in-cheek Tribal Wives rules of survival for Britain.

Heather read it and decided to make it a meme. She wrote the Tribal Wives in Rural Finland post and tagged myself, Very Bored in Catalunya, Gooner Jamie, and Cate. Missy M and London City Mum got in on the action too.

They all did awesome funny posts. I definitely recommend you read them. Because after what I post you're probably not going to want to read me any more. You see, I'm perfectly aware that most mommy blog readers are mommy bloggers themselves. Not that I really like being called a mommy blogger, but with "Readily A Parent" as my title, hey, might as well go for it.

Sometimes my friends who don't write and/or read blogs ask what exactly a Mommy Blogger is. So this post is for them. If you yourself are a Mommy Blogger and easily offended, well, just pretend you didn't see this. And for God's sake don't unsubscribe from my blog. I actually care about my stats. I'll send you a big jar of Nutella as an apology gift.

In order to survive as a Mommy Blogger you must:

1. Have Kids
But not just any kids. You must have the most magically wonderful, photogenic, perfect angels who sit and do crafts and can be homeschooled with ease. Your children will all have the names starting with the same letter or look so insanely alike that one wonders if you've learned how to clone in your kitchen.
OR You should have two or three kids that are general nuisances, annoying and brat like and make your life a living hell so you can complain about it all the time on your blog, like I did here.
BONUS POINTS: If your child has special needs or is ill and/or you concieved after infertility. Super bonus points if you have all of the above.

2. Have a Brand
This is almost more important than having kids. After all, what's the point of blogging if no one's going to recognise you? I think we all know the dirty D word for the most recognised mommy blog brand. But, come on, there's more. Ways to create your brand recognition include: have a cutesy logo like Heather, or run a carnival like Tara, or call yourself something outrageous like a Bad Mother or Redneck Mommy (this seems a predominantly Canadian thing to do)

And the reason why you must have a brand? Because you must

3. Be Willing to Write About Idiotic "Mom-Related" Crap.
There's the Nutella nutties, or the chocolate weetabix whoring,  or formula sell-outs. Then there's all the crap sponsored posts about makeup and insurance and all kinds of other things that we moms are supposed to be interested in.

And if you do write about crap, you must

4. Be Willing to Work For Free
Or for a free sample or something to give-away. Yup, because name-dropping about your connection to Huggies will build your blog for you. Everyone knows Mommy Bloggers are in it for the sense of community and the money they might make is secondary. Surely none of us sat down and thought "I might make a little money if I start blogging."

You must also:

5. Hardly Ever Mention the Child's Father
They don't exist and all this hard work is done by us, the mommies. The one exception to this is the Daddy bloggers who are obviously married to emasculating bitches that make them do everything around the house and take care of the kids because they happen to make the greater salary. Of course, some Dads are in the military which therfore builds your blog credentials because your family is sacrificing for its country. If you do mention the child's father, he is either the DWLM (Dickwad who left me) or he's DH (I've no idea: dreary hole-licker?).

6. Know Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Reddit ....
It's not enough to write your blog, you must also write posts to every social media site known to man while simultaneously commenting on 100 other posts each day so that you gain traffic back to your blog. If you begin to feel like a flag-lady rather than a writer, that's fine. Just hold that "slow" sign high, lady.

7. But Not Care About Your Blog Stats
It's best if you pretend you don't even know what they are when someone asks (though if you're proud of them, make sure you have sitemeter installed so curious people can look it up). You should laugh about it when you make it higher on technorati or your Twitter Influence score goes up. Pretend innocence and lack of knowledge whenever it seems you might be becoming popular and blame it on your natural abilities - you know, like in high school. If your stats are low then blame it on the cabals and cliques, just like it was the popular girl's fault that you couldn't get a date in junior high. Overall, though, never, ever admit that you might be blogging to be popular or make money. You're only doing it because you love writing and the sense of community it gives you. Otherwise you're not a mom, you're a brand. And we wouldn't want that.

8. Be Juicy
There's only so far post-natal depression, a disabled child, or a penchant for talking about your sex life will get you. You must be prepared to engage in some juicy gossip, especially about other bloggers or if you're really lucky, a celebrity. Be prepared to know about all the relationships and infighting in the entire mommy blogosphere and have an opinion on it all. (Notice I didn't link to anyone on this one, that's because I'm actually not into gossiping about others).

9. Stir Up Controversy To Be A Hero
Like if a waitress at a zoo asked you to stop breastfeeding, the only response it obviously to tweet, blog, and facebook it saying you can't believe it happened to you - before giving the offending company a chance to respond. Or stir up a hashtag drama over a silly ad that moms can get easily worked up about a la Motrin Moms.

10. Never, Ever Offend the Other Mommy's
You might find yourself at the bottom of a playground pile-up.

Ooops. Please, don't jam your elbow into me too hard; my cesearean scar is still sore and my breasts are tender from nursing.

I'm such a mom. Sigh. Guess that means I'm a mommy blogger too.

3.9.10

Finding Your G-Spot Part 2

For the most part I'm a pretty intuitive computer user. New programs don't faze me as I just go off and play with the buttons and toolbars till I figure it out.

But, if you're like me, there are still those moments when someone tells you to double-click the whatchamacallit button on the top left of the screen and you feel as if you've gone blind.

"Ummmm, where?" you ask?

"Top left."

"Oh." Your eyes scan and scan and you still don't see it.

"Isn't there a keyboard shortcut?" you ask hopefully.

"I don't bleeding know! Just double click it!"

"Well....."

"Oh, nevermind, HERE, it's done" and they press the button that eluded you while staring you in the face.

So, with that in mind, and as there's a fair bit of back and forth in the following tutorial, I filmed a vlog for it instead. I promise I won't curse at you if you can't find what you're supposed to click, just rewind and replay till you figure it out.

The baby, however, is pretty certainly cursing at me while I film it. Please ignore him. He's had too much to drink.

The following vlog will help you learn how to install the G-Reader Share widget in your blog as well as introduce you to some of the ways to maximise and simplify your G-Reader experience.


You'll want to make it full screen in order to read it better. Hope the audio comes through. My sound card on the laptop is broken and the kid's computer has a very fuzzy and distorted speaker system, but it sounded okay to me even with all that.

2.9.10

Everyone's Gone Nutty Over Nutella

I've been biting my tongue for days now as I've read post after sponsored post about Nutella.

It seems Nutella, in their continuing quest to show their "hazlenut" spread as wholesome, healthy, and family friendly, invited a bunch of parent bloggers in the UK to attend a Nutella breakfast and info session at legoland.

Nice touch, eh, the legoland? Once I loved lego, but lately it's been branded far too much with it's Star Wars and Iron Man and GI Joe series editions - all violent and all the only kind of lego you cna find anymore. To top that off now it's even associated itself with junk food.

Yes, you heard read me right, JUNK FOOD.

For that's what Nutella is. The reason they're trying so hard to sell themselves as wholesome is that they know moms. They know the way we set our minds on something. They know that we don't like to admit we might have made the wrong parenting choices. So they want us all to chose Nutella before the truth hits through the new EU labelling and it becomes obvious that it's junk.

This is what a Nutella label in North America looks like. Now, it does differ slightly country-to-country, but essentially it is all the same


1 TBSP, which is about what you would need to spread on toast, contains 100 calories. Of that 54 calories, so roughly half, are from fat. With one third of that being saturated fat. 49.5 calories, so roughly half again, are from sugar. Yes, that's right, Nutella is half fat/half sugar. In fact, 1 TBSP of Nutella actually contains 4 tsp of dissolved sugar.

But healthy nuts are fatty, right? We know that. It doesn't make them any less healthy. And that's true. However, Nutella contains very few nuts. And you can see from the label that it offers little in the way of nutrition. Good vitamin E content, but other than that, a tiny bit of calcium and iron and that's it.

For comparison, let's look at a chocolate bar. Everyone loves a Dairy Milk bar, right? Go ahead and click on that link and take a look at the nutrition facts for a Dairy Milk bar. I think we'd all say that we would not give our child a chocolate bar for breakfast, correct.

And yet, Nutella is no better. Nutella has 100 calories per serving; there are 105 in a Dairy Milk bar. Nutella has 6 grams of fat, the same as a Dairy Milk bar (though admittedly, the Dairy Milk bar does have more saturated fat). Nutella has 11 grams of sugar, just slightly less than the 11.3 in a Diary Milk bar. Nutella has 1 gram of protein, falling under the Dairy Milk bar with its 1.5 grams.

So when one blogger said
There is a big difference between eating a jar of Nutella and the 15g portion that is recommended, just as there is a big difference between having Nutella on toast for breakfast and having a bar of chocolate for breakfast.
She was actually mistaken. There is no difference between Nutela and a chocolate bar.

But I don't blame her, because she was fed a lot if misinformation along with her ooey-gooey chocolatey Nutella spread for breakfast.
In an attempt to prove that Nutella is a suitable breakfast food, bloggers met with a psychologist and a nutritionist to learn some "facts" about Nutella.

Following are a few of the things they have reported:

1. I am quite happy eating it directly out of the jar now I know it’s hazelnut spread and not chocolate spread and therefore not as bad for me as I had thought.

Well, actually, it's a fat spread mostly. It's first two ingredients are oil and sugar. In most countries, the oil is palm oil. A fat that has been recognised by the WHO as a danger for heart disease. It's also the most ecologically reprehensible oil as harvesting practices involve stripping rainforest and habitats of animals such as the amazing Orangutan as well as child and slave labour. So yes, it is as bad for you as you thought. And it's bad for the rest of the world too.

2. Of course there was the inevitable conversation about Nutella and the fact that many people see it as a treat because it's made of chocolate right? Well no actually, it's made from hazelnuts and is clearly labelled as a hazelnut spread yet because of the brown colour of Nutella we often consider it as a chocolate spread . . .
It was inevitable that this come up. Once, Nutella was handicapped by having to label under Italian law as a hazlenut spread. They would have preferred to label as a chocolate spread. However, they didn't contain enough chocolate. Once they gloamed onto the fact that they could use the hazlenuts to spin the health side of things, they embraced the term "hazlenut spread." However, I am sorry to tell you, as above, it is neither a hazlenut nor a chocolate spread. Check out this ingredient list. Nutella has 50 hazlenuts in a 13 oz jar. If you do the math, 13 oz is roughly equivalent to 368 grams which is roughly equivalent to 26 Tablespoons. Therefore, 1 TBSP of Nutella has less than two hazlenuts in it. And please note, though their commercials show nuts and milk being poured into a jar, there's more chocolate than milk. And that milk is powdered and processed - as are the hazlenuts. Seriously, you'd be better off giving your child a slice of toast, a glass of milk, a handful of hazlenuts and a small square of chocolate than giving them Nutella for breakfast.

3. She also told us that one portion of Nutella is 2 teaspoons (which seems a lot to me!) but has less fat and sugar than jam like for like.
First of all, there's no comparing like for like between the two. The sugars in jam are mostly natural fruit sugars. And there is no fat in jam. But, just for comparisons sake let's take the scenario of a slice of toast with margarine and jam on it. I don't know about you, but when we buy jam instead of make it, I always get the "twice the fruit" kind as it has less sugar and is tastier. It also (depending on brand) has no added colouring or preservatives. One of our favourites is a store brand here in Canada. A 1 TBSP serving contains 5 grams of sugar. A lot less than the 11 grams in a serving of Nutella. If you bought the worst jam on the shelves you would probably find it contains about 10-12 grams of sugar. So, even the worst jam is only equivalent to Nutella, not worse. And, lets remember, the sugars in the jam are mostly natural fruit sugars not processed and added white sugar. There is a difference.

As for margarine, we usually buy Becel or Smart Balance. At four and five grams of fat per serving, respectively, they come under the Nutella amount of 6 grams. They also have less saturated fat.

So my toast with margarine and jam has less sugar and fat than toast with Nutella. And it's no less healthier. I would get 10% of my RDI of Vitamin E from the Nutella or 10% of my RDI of Vitamin A and 4% of my RDI of Vitamin C from the margarine and jam. Personally, I never spread both margarine and jam on my toast. I pick one or the other.

4. For all that time I was eating Nutella I was convinced that it was chocolate spread. How wrong I was! The cocoa content for it is around 7% which is barely anything if you compare it to other spreads.
I don't question the amount of chocolate. What I do question, though, is why it matters? Chocolate, as in cocoa itself, is actually quite good for you. In fact the chocolate in the spread is probably better for you than the hazlenuts are. I mean a couple of hazlenuts don't offer a lot, but just a smidge of chocolate is valuable for it's anitoxidant properties and heart-healthy cholesterols. Whether Nutella is made of chocolate or hazlenuts or squirrell poop, it's still full of palm oil or other fat and sugar. And the reason why we frown on chocolate is not because of the cocoa but because of the sugar and fat that's added to make it edible for our markets. I don't know what other "chocolate" spreads are available in the UK, but if they are marketed as chocolate spreads they are better with the higher percentage of chocolate. As the less cocoa mass that is in there, the more fat and sugar that has been added.


Essentially, it comes down to choice. Nutella is not the devil's food but it's also not a healthy part of a balanced breakfast. In fact, in 2008, Nutella was found by the Advertising Standards Authority to be in breach of advertising standards regarding accuracy in advertising for making the claim that it was part of a balanced diet.

Do I still like my Ferrero Rocher chocolates at Christmas? Yes. Do I give my children Nutella for breakfast? No. Not even occasionally. Because it really isn't worth it. No matter how much chocolate is in it, they are smart enough to know it's sweet and chocolatey and therefore a treat. So if I let them have it for breakfast they will expect other treats for breakfast. I'm sure I could pull some Ferrero quotes out to prove to them that it's actually healthy, but quotes don't make facts. And facts don't lie (even in Legoland). Nutella is fat and sugar foremost. That makes it a treat - not a breakfast.

However, if you have been craving the sweet roasted creaminess of Nutella, you can always try this recipe - a homemade organic version that's lower in sugar and fat than the original. But remember, eating the whole jar is still unacceptable!