27.8.10

What Were You Like Before You Were A Parent?

One of my all-time favourite bloggers, Naomi, has one of my all-time favourite "About Me" posts. In it she recalls asking her mother, as a child, what she was like before having children. Her mother responded that she didn't remember.

Was she lying? Sparing her young daughter's feelings? I have to wonder  . . . Naomi remembers quite a bit about life before children. She says
I don't think I feel the same way, because truthfully, I remember a lot about what my life was like before my children. Mostly, it was relaxing. And filled with quite a bit of adult conversation. And I don't think I remember ever having to clean smeared banana off my furniture.
What I remember (and miss) most about life before children:
  1. Coffee and the Saturday paper in bed on a Sunday morning.
  2. Listening to interviews on the radio and being able, firstly, to hear them and, secondly, to remember what was said and found out more if I was interested.
  3. Talking to my husband. Sitting down and talking. Discussing things like politics and social justice and what colour the living room walls should be.
  4. Staying up late and knowing I can sleep in the next morning.
  5. Going on spontaneous hikes without having to worry about juiceboxes and snacks and ten changes of clothing and footwear.
  6. Walking quickly. I really miss walking quickly.
  7. Meeting new people and actually being able to pay attention to them and ask them questions instead of yelling "get back here! A parking lot is just like a road! There are cars!"
  8. Sleeping in a bed with just my husband. All night long. Just the two of us.
  9. Being able to clean the house in 30 minutes or less.
  10. Space. Time. Quiet.
Naomi goes on to say:
But I do understand what she meant. Becoming a mother changes you so completely that certain things that once seemed so important become completely irrelevant.
So, in honour of those sentiments, the things I occasionally may complain about or fondly remember but don't really care about are:
  1. Partying, drinking, and the wild life. Maybe it's because I'm a parent; maybe it's because I'm older. It just doesn't interest me anymore.
  2. Sleeping in. Okay, I know I listed it above, but it's not really the sleeping in I miss; it's more the knowledge that I can sleep in.
  3. Having my breasts (and the rest of my body) to myself. So what if I've been nursing and/or pregnant for almost seven years. Soon I'll be neither and I'll miss it.
  4. Eating a bowl of ice-cream, chocolate bar, and/or cookie without having to share. Truth is I've always liked sharing. And it's so cute when they beg.
  5. Watching TV. I'm so glad I had children and discovered I didn't have time for TV. Don't miss it a bit. It's out of my life for good.
  6. Long, uninterrupted phone conversations. Yes it would be lovely to talk for ten minutes without being interrupted, but I don't miss the leg cramps and burning ear from those hour-long phonecalls.
  7. Eating out. Okay, it's fun once in a while, but I don't miss it. It's so much more fun preparing new foods at home and convincing the children to eat them than it used to be discovering new restaurants.The Chinese waiters get offended when you ask for a bowl of monkey brain soup. The kids think it's hilarious!
  8. Drugs. Being pregnant and breastfeeding makes you think twice about any medication you take. Is this necessary? Are the risks worth it? I love that being a parent has made me more mindful of what I put in my body.
  9. Style and Fashion. The truth is I never was very good at looking good. At least now that I have kids I have an excuse. Mismatched clothing, stains, wrinkles - they're all excused by parenthood
  10. Going out to movies. I prefer to cuddle with my honey on the couch, with a bowl of ice-cream and the ability to pause for crying children, bathroom breaks, snack and drink refills and the occasional make-out session. I remember one date where I felt cheated as I had paid $8 to see a movie and ended up seeing my date's neck most of the night instead.
Check out Naomi's blog. She's much more thoughtful and funny then I am. Come on, even her title is both thoughtful and funny: Organic Motherhood with Coolwhip. That's just awesome.

But before you go, what do you miss and what's irrelevant from your pre-parent days?

25.8.10

Parenting Quiz

Parenting: It's wonderful, isn't it? Don't you love the nurturing and inspiring of young minds?

Don't you hate it when you realise that try as you might, honours university degree, high IQ and all, you can't outsmart your kids?

Here's a couple of conundrums I am working on. Perhaps if we can combine our parenting brain power we can solve one or two of these burning questions:

1. How long must your children not have played with, paid attention to, or remember they possess a certain toy before you can throw it out, give away or resell it without hearing the cry "but that's my favourite?"
Please provide your response as a mathematical formula such as (B*P) + (I*A)=L where B is the number of batteries it takes and P is the percentage of plastic used in the construction; I is how long in days they've ignored it and A is how far off in years they are from the suggested age. L, of course, would be the length of time it needs to be utterly hidden (with batteries removed so it doesn't start acting posessed and calling out from the storage room) before it can be "disposed of."

2. Why is it that from 2:00pm-4:30pm, when Mommy is hitting her energy slump, the children are hitting their energy high? Supply possible reasons and solutions that don't involve duct tape or massive amounts of drugs. Small amounts of drugs are appropriate enough.

3. How can a child pee in the potty or toilet without actually getting pee IN the potty or toilet whilst meanwhile covering the bathroom floor, counters, ceiling and sink? Extra points if you can explain it for a girl.

4. How many outfits must my daughter wear daily and how does she manage to get them dirty in five minutes? If you can tell me how to scotchguard her tights and shirts against stains, I'll give you the Nobel Prize.

5. Where did my "life" go and does anyone remember what it looked like? I don't. I think it may have involved coffee-laden chats with my husband, hobbies, reading, and the occasional night out, but I wonder if that's just one of those created fictionalised memories.

Please feel free to answer using multiple choice, short answer or essay form. I won't dock any points for spelling because I know you're trying to type while nursing with a larger child hauling on your arm or climbing into your lap.

24.8.10

Plastic Fantastic

So, we here at the Squires household have decided that plastic isn't so fantastic.


Get the reference?

It's official, we've now made it three months with no plastic cling wrap! A small step, for sure, but one I'm proud of. Still wish I could find a pioneer woman, though, to ask how they covered food. I've been using wet tea towels, butcher paper and grocery bags (yes, still plastic, but not plastic I've bought). Anyway, staying away from the plastic film is good for us, good for the environment and good for the budget. So I think it'll stay away.

But I want to get rid of more of our plastic entrapments now too!

I was talking to the husband the other day and mentioning that I'll probably contact everyone we exchange Christmas presents with and ask them not to buy any plastic toys. Toys in general we don't really need. Arts and Craft supplies, Science Kits, things like that we can always do with more of. But toys? Bah humbug.

I was asking him what he thought we should do for eldest son's birthday, coming up next month. I really, really appreciate people buying lovely gifts (and most of them are quite lovely and exactly up his alley) but I also really, really don't want anymore toys - especially WalMart plastic crap - in the house.

My ideas so far are to ask for books only (though we've got so many already); to ask for donations to a certain cause or donations of toys/books/clothes/food, etc for a cause (like the women's sheltar or the food bank); or to ask for monetary donations. He wants to buy a goat for a family in Bangladesh. He's been talking about it for two years now and I told him this year he could have a lemonade stand and bake sale to raise the money. However, we could just ask people to donate money for it for his birthday.

The only problem with that, of course, is that he wants gifts. He's a typical 5 -almost-6 year old and no saint. Yes, he wants to raise money to buy a goat, but he also wants gifts for himself. If everyone in our circle did donation parties it wouldn't be such a big deal, but he sees other kids getting gifts and he wants them too.

A friend mentioned an idea to me that one of her son's classmates had done. So I thought to bring it up with the husband:

Me: We could have a two-toonie party.
He: What's that?
Me: People would bring a toonie (Canadian two dollar coin) for his goat fund and a toonie for him. That we he can still buy himself something he'd really like too.
He: Yeah, I don't know about that.
Me: Would people not like us asking that, you think?
He: You never know.
Me: (getting flustered) Well, I don't know what to do. I REALLY don't want any more toys coming into the house. Quality wooden toys or things handmade are one thing, but we don't need anymore junk. He doesn't NEED anything. And I really just want to clear out all of our plastic toys.
He: All of them?
Me: Yes, all of them. They have too many toys anyway. If I get rid of the plastic stuff that'll weed it down substantially.
He: So we couldn't buy any more plastic toys?
Me: Oh God, what's the problem with that. What is it you could possibly want to buy them that must come in plastic?
He: Well. You know, not something for them.
Me: Oh My God, grow up! You don't need any toys. We can buy steel remote control cars for "Harrison" (as if they're really for our son- yeah, when Daddy lets him have a turn) and I'm not going to make you throw out your stereo because it has plastic knobs.
He: No, I was thinking more something for us. But I think you can only get it in plastic.
Me: What could we possibly need that only comes in plastic?
He: sly grin, wink
Courtesy of http://www.mcblogger.com/archives/images/dildo.jpg
Bloody Men!!!

23.8.10

Just Because You Ride the Long Bus Doesn't Make You Better

BEWARE: THIS IS A RANT!

If there's one thing I really, truly, completely despise, it's when people in power stomp all over people not in power.

Call me an underdog voter. Perhaps I am. But more than that, I'm a decent human being that believes that if you are in a position of responsibility you should act in a responsible manner.

In our narccisistic media-driven society, there's nothing more powerful than Prime Time TV and the awards and recognition that come with that position.

I realise Prime Time is adult-oriented, but as a mature adult I find most of the content aired despicable, idiotic or just pointless. There's a reason I don't watch TV and it has nothing to do with being too pious or too holier-than-thou. It just plain doesn't interest me anymore. Yes, I'll still watch the occasional show such as Dexter or Nurse Jackie online. Even House fails to do it for me anymore, though. It's all so predictable.
That's fine and good - I don't like it, "big whoop-de-doo," says you "shut up and let us watch our Glee."

And I haven't got a problem with you watching it. What I do have a problem with is when these shows go beyond being boring or mildly offensive and tread into "makes me want to vomit with the utter morally- nihilistic, offensive crap spewing" territory.

And what I really have a problem with is when such crap gets nominated for an award.

Case in point: The Family Guy.

I once watched about ten minutes of an episode. It was pretty juvenile and stupid but mildly funny. I don't know a lot about the show. I actually appreciate when the media pokes fun at our mores and isms when it does so to show a point or raise a contention. However, I had a feeling from that ten minutes that Family Guy was offensive just to be offensive. This went way beyond Simpson's caliber offense - which was intended to shine a light on the hypocripsies and fallacies of moden suburban life. I'm not sure what Family Guy is intended to shine a light upon, except for the fact that you can get a lot of sheep to baa together if you tell them that you're being funny when you're really being insulting.

So I didn't see the episode in question in this post. And I refuse to watch a video clip on YouTube, though I'm sure you can find one if you try.

It seems that an episode titled "Extra Large Medium" (I can only guess what that's about) aired a song called Down Syndrome Girl. This song has now been nominated for an Emmy award.

In essence, the song seems to be implicitly advocating the seduction (read RAPE) of a girl with Down Syndrome. Explicitly, it calls the girl a "little whore" and terms her a "poorly grooming ..  .just a little crooked walking, poorly pouting, poopie-sprouting, for some reason always shouting, fascinating, captivating, happiness and joy-creating Down syndrome girl." among other things.

It's just a great big joke, trying to get it on with the "retard." The song is offensive on so many levels. And there's no meaning to the offense. I can't speak to the true intent of the writers, but this song appears to all intents and purposes to be hate-speech directed at all the millions of people with Down Syndrome. It doesn't point a finger at any ills of society or use humour to direct attention to a particular controversy.

On top of that, the show has gone even further, picking a particular person to ridicule. The girl in question states that her mother is the "former governor of Alaska." Sarah Palin's son Trig has Down Syndrome and this was clearly a poke at him and his mother.

And for what reason? So some immature assholes can sit on their couch and have a laugh at the expense of others. You know all those "Dad gets it in the balls" videos shown on American's Funniest Home Videos couldn't even come close to showing how decrepit and disgusting moden humour has become.

I have friends who watch this show. I truly hope they weren't one of those "immature assholes" that sat on their couch and laughed their way through this song. Clearly, though, the Emmy's nominating committee contains any number of blind, idiotic, immature, insensitive assholes itself for this song to be nominated.

I don't know what to do. Sure I'll write letters. But really, this is just another aspect of our society that makes me want to run away and raise my children in a cabin in the woods, cut off from the rest of you and safe from the ills of society.

Excuse me, I have to go vomit now.

For more information on this travesty, read this and this.

Add another to my boycott list: Nestle, Oprah, non fair trade chocolate and now The Emmy's. Guess I won't be checking out the best dressed this year.

Hi Ho Hi Ho Off To Work I Go (on the couch)

I know everyone else is talking about back to school, but for me it's back to work I'm more excited about. No, I'm not returning to an outside job, but now that my two oldest will both be in school (Grade 1 and JK) and the baby is still napping in the afternoons, I might just get some work done!


Being a work-at-home mom has always sounded like the ideal situation to me: professional fulfillment while still being there for my kids. How could I resist?

But it hasn't been so ideal. It's been incredibly hard, actually. And since summer vacation started and my eldest - the boy who is definitely LD, most-likely ADHD and probably OD - has been home, I've just felt like a huge, guilt-sponged failure.

I know some moms who work at home still send their kids to daycare part-time or have a nanny or even have relatives that can help out when there's a deadline to meet.

I don't have any of that. Between the demands of my eldest, the needs of my middle child and the constant nursing (during which he flails at my keyboard) of my two-year-old (isn't he supposed to be nursing less now?) it seems I never get a moment to sit at the computer and get some writing done.

And yet, according to my son I'm "always on the computer." And "never play or have fun."

So while I'm feeling guilty about not getting article proposals off on my planned timeline, and being a couple hours late on my column deadline, I'm also feeling like the "mom" part of work-at-home mom is missing.

And I won't even mention the giant pile of laundry or the filthy kitchen floor.

So, yes, I'm looking forward to back to school in many ways. But I also am dreading it because I feel like the summer has slipped away and all I've done is struggle to work, struggle to parent and struggle to keep my house clean.

Hopefully it will be a time when I can get back to work and really develop my professional relationships so that this will all get a little easier. Because once school starts there's less hours in the day I can spend with my kids and more responsibilities during those hours (homework, activities, etc) and I really don't want to be "always on the computer!"

Are there any other work-at-home moms out there? I'd love some tips or suggestions for making this all work!

19.8.10

Collapse

The children played "collapse" yesterday.

It's a new game, just started this week. One lays down on the driveway and the other runs inside to say they've "collapsed" and need ice packs in their armpits. I've been urged to call an ambulance three times this week.

"He needs a ride in the pecial ban to da hopital" my daughter says in her whimsical four-year-old voice, too excited to enunciate appropriately.

Where did this game come from?

It came from Monday.

Was it just that long ago? Was it that far away?

On Monday it was warm. Very warm. We played in the pool and I took out the Slip'n'Slide we had won on a Frugal Family Fun Blog giveaway. The day before the kids had been up late. Too late. And then Teaghan had awoken screaming that her stomach hurt. Her legs. My ears; my brain.

We were all tired and too warm.

After lunch the kids wanted to draw with chalk on the driveway. They had just changed from their swimsuits. I was rushing to get my column finished before my 5pm deadline.

I didn't make that deadline this week.

Harrison came back inside. Teaghan stayed out. I checked on her, asked her to come in.

"I'm having fun Mommy!"

It was easier to let her stay out.

I looked out at her as she dipped her chalk in a remnant water puddle. So tiny stretched on our expansive driveway, surrounded by the flowers she had drawn.

"I'm making a field of roses, Mommy!"

The baby tugged at me. I sat at the computer, nursing him and revising my column. I looked up. I thought to myself, "she should come in soon. It's hot out there."

I saw the construction workers from across the street walking into our yard. I dreaded the news they were going to delivery: the electricity needs to be cut; the water is on boil orders; they need to turn their truck in my driveway.

Three loud bangs on the front door. Too loud and violent. It's hot. I tuck my breast back into my bra. "How rude," I think. "Why did all of them come over?" I think. "What's going on?"

Where did I put the baby? I think I was still holding him. What did they say? I have no idea.

All I remember is looking out and seeing that tiny girl collapsed on the expanse of driveway. Three burly men stand around her: hardhats and orange vests to protect them. She is a vulnerable heap, unprotected and unconscious.

I run to her. I shake her. I gently try to awake her. Then more aggressively. "Teaghan! Teaghan!" I yell as I shake her little body, press my fingers on her throat.

"Sissy! Sissy!" Emerson repeats as he rubs her head and pokes her cheek.

"I'm going to call 911" one man says, pulling out his phone.

"Could you. Could you please?" I ask. Strangely calm though she hasn't moved or opened her eyes.

She's breathing. She's breathing. She's breathing.

I check under her. I rub her head. No bumps. No blood.

She's breathing. But her eyes won't open. She won't move.

I have to call my husband. I can't take the other two in the ambulance. The ambulance is on it's way. She'll be fine. She's breathing.

Her eyes open. Her hand twitches. She doesn't move. She doesn't talk.

My husband comes. Her runs to her. I put the other two in the van. The ambulance comes. They ask questions. How long? How long as she been like this?

I don't know.

They check her blood pressure, her temperature, her respirations, her pupils. Reactive. Thank God.

They talk to her. She stares at them. She looks at me. "Is she shy?" they ask.

I cling to that. She's shy. That's why she won't respond.

I tell them she's being investigated for stomach problems. Maybe she has diabetes. They prick her finger. She doesn't move. Doesn't scream. This is not my Princess Pea. She would kick and scream if they did that to her.

Where is my daughter?

Everything is fine. Her blood sugar, her blood pressure. The blood pounding in my skull.

She didn't hit her head. She peed herself. What happened?

They put ice packs on her and she moves. She snuggles into them. They ask her if that feels better. She nods. She responds. She's come back.

She's still quiet. Still confused. But she's responsive. She doesn't know what happened, but she's talking. Ina quiet, raspy, uncertain whisper she asks where we are going.

To the hospital. Where they find nothing wrong. Except some abnormality with her liver function test. We have to follow up with our family doc. She jumps up and down on the bed. She plays. She cries. She whines. She says she's hungry.

My daughter is back.

She was gone for far too long. Five to ten minutes. For heatstroke that's a long time. For seizures even, it's a long time.

We don't know for sure what happened. Heat? Exhaustion? Some other, sinister, heavy thing?

If those construction workers hadn's seen her. If they hadn't thought to check and see why a little girl was lying unmoving on a driveway. If they hadn't swallowed their own dread and checked on her. It would have been at least another five minutes before I finished nursing Emerson and checked on her again.

We were lucky. This time. And we're praying there isn't another.

My little girl is back from wherever she went. And she plays "collapse" with her brother on the driveway. Our trauma has become a game and she screams and she whines and she cries and she demands and I am so, so, very lucky that she is with me.

Don't ever go away again, Sweetheart.

"I won't Mommy. I will stay with you forever."

This post was written as part of Sleep Is For The Weak's Writing Workshop.  I chose prompt 5: Lucky.

18.8.10

For Your Reading Enjoyment

I was going through some old files on my computer today and came across a little story bit I wrote with the kids back in the winter. Here for your reading enjoyment is:

The Jam, Jam - Jam
Momma made breakfast:
Harrison wanted eggs.
Teaghan wanted cereal.
Momma wanted coffee and “quiet-please.”

Momma made the baby toast and jam.
When she turned her back the trouble began.

Harrison giggled and Teaghan laughed.

Momma sighed and said, “quiet please. Eat up quick and then get dressed. Brush your teeth and find your boots. Harrison it’s time for school. Teaghan it’s time to go. We don’t have time to be so slow!”

“But Momma,” said Harrison.
“Look,” said Teaghan.

“Oh my,” said Momma when she turned around.

The baby was an icky, sticky mess, a messy, muck-monkey covered in jam.

“Oh no,” said Momma.
“We’ll never get him clean in time to go.”

“So?” said Teaghan and Harrison. They danced around the highchair singing “Jam, jam everywhere. Jam, jam everywhere. Jam, jam everywhere!”

“Stop right there!”
said Momma and both kids froze.

“That’s just not right”

“I know,” sighed Harrison, “we have to go.”

“No,” said Momma, “your song’s too short.”

So she picked up the icky, sticky, messy, muck-monkey and danced .

“Jam, jam everywhere,” the kids sang out.
“Jam on his fingers, jam in his hair,” Mommy added.
“He’s even got jam on his toes,” yelled Teaghan.
“Yes, there’s jam everywhere he goes,” sang Mommy, looking at the jam droplets on the floor.

All four ran around the dining room table, chasing each other and singing:

Jam, jam everywhere.
Jam on his fingers. Jam in his hair.
Jam on his great big toe.
Jam everywhere he goes!



The Ejection Seat

This evening we had to go somewhere. with the kids. in the rain. late at night. And that "somewhere" involved about an hour of driving each way.

Fun. Oh yeah! Silly me, I thought seeing as how it was only an hour before bedtime they'd fall asleep. Silly, silly me. No, no, sleeping would've cut into their whining, complaining, arguing, and crying time. Sleep might be precious, but throwing a tantrum when Mommy can't reach you or put you in your room is way funner!

My husband mentioned a little addition we could get to the car to make those moments easier.

No, not a dvd player - we have one of those; we left them alone in the car for five minutes and they took it apart.

No, not sattelite radio. Then they'd just fight over what station to listen to. The one fuzzy station we receive on most trips is fine for us.

He suggested the best thing ever (short of a nanny).

An EJECTION SEAT.

Courtesy of http://www.renishaw.com
I can just picture it now:

Kid: When are we going to be there? When are we going to be there? When are we going to be there?
Mom: You're going to be in the air in a minute.
Kid: But Mom! When are we going to be there?
BAM - hit the eject button
Mom: You might get there faster this way!

Kid: I need to pee.
Mom: There's a bathroom in about five minutes.
Kid: I need to pee now!
Mom: We're not pulling over on the highway in the rain so you can pee in a ditch. No. Not doing it.
Kid: I need to pee. I need to pee. I need to pee.
BAM - hit the eject button
Mom: There, go pee on the birds instead of the trees!

Kid1: Kid2 is touching me!
Kid2: Kid1 is copycatting me!
Kid1: I'm hungry!
Kid2: I'm thirsty!
Kid1: No you're not. I am.
Kid2: No you're not. I am
Kid1: Stop it!
Kid2: Stop it!
Kid1: Moooooommmmmmmmmm!
Kid2: Moooooooommmmmmmmmmmm!
BAM- dual eject button engagement
Kid1 and Kid2: Moo . .. ooo .... ooo.....mmmmmmmm

I'm pretty sure an ejection seat wouldn't be that hard to install. A remote control, a big spring ... Of course we'll have to cut holes in the roof of the van. But that'll be just fine because they're always complaining they "need more air."

I'll give you "air" kid!

What sanity-saving device could your car or home use?

13.8.10

Why Advertising Works Even if You Don't Buy It

This week's column didn't end up online over at The Western Star so I'm posting it here for all my scads of readers :-)
Will post a follow-up commentary tommorrow, but feel free to tell me what you think of my ideas in this peice.
I had a hard time settling down on one topic this past week and wrote this sort of last-minute. It was inspired by the recent report released in Pediatrics that girls are entering puberty earlier and one major cause is obesity.

So this is it:
Why Are Our Kids So Fat?


Yet another study has been released linking childhood obesity to major health problems. This time, it’s early puberty in girls. It’s also been linked to Type 2 Diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, asthma, sleep problems and any number of psychological and emotional disorders.

Even though obesity in children is growing at an alarming rate, these kids are still singled out by their peers and even their own family as the victims of relentless bullying. Poor self-esteem and depression are common among overweight kids which leads into vicious cycles of emotional eating.

What can be done? We all know that weight is a result of lifestyle and diet. But it’s also influenced by genetics. I thank my lucky stars every day that my children seem to have inherited my husband’s metabolism instead of my own.

I was an overweight, perhaps even obese, child myself. And I’m still overweight to this day. Once I hit puberty the pounds packed on at what seemed to be exponential rates.

I don’t think my parents did anything wrong. Yes, we had a certain amount of unhealthy food but we weren’t inundated with junk food the way children today seem to be. I was always active and played outside every day. Dance, soccer, basketball, rugby, plus hiking, canoeing and general messing about in the woods kept me busy and active.

This was before the advent of internet, gaming, and social media so we can’t blame screen time.

I was definitely an emotional eater, though. After a bad day of teasing at school I would console myself with an after-school snack made from peanut butter, chocolate chips, honey and oats. Or a milkshake. Or a microwave pizza.

My parents didn’t keep a lot of junk food in the house, but I knew how to make comfort foods from everyday ingredients.

Which is why I sometimes cringe when I hear people respond to advertising aimed at children by saying “well, parents decide what to buy, not children.”
That’s certainly true. And as a parent myself, whose children have hardly been exposed to any advertising, I know how much they can demand what they want. I also know how hard it is to decide what is best.

Just last week I spent ten minutes in the cereal aisle at the grocery store. I was trying to find the best healthy value for my money. I know how to read a nutritional label; I know how much sugar and sodium are acceptable and how much protein and fiber are desirable. I’m the woman that reads the labels on everything before it goes in the cart.

Yet, even I was confused by the differing labels. I finally found a cereal that we could afford that the children would like and was still under 8 grams of sugar per serving. Then I realized that their “serving” was a half cup. Meanwhile I had just rejected a cereal with 9 grams of sugar per serving, but upon further inspection, the serving size was one full cup.

Food labeling can be incredibly tricky and confusing - even when you come to it with an understanding of nutrition and with high literacy skills. But many parents don’t have that. They read “made with whole grains” and “a source of seven essential nutrients” and feel that they are making a good choice. Advertisers never write “more than 50% of your RDI of sodium” or “enough sugar to help your children climb the walls” on the outside of their boxes.

Advertising is deceptive and even parents can fall for murky claims. Even well educated, knowledgeable, health conscious parents can buy a box of multigrain cheerios thinking they’re a good choice.

But advertising isn’t just deceptive in the way it words things. It’s deceptive in the ideas it relates.

Advertising aimed at children does more than attempt to sell them a product. Advertisers and manufacturers know that childhood is the prime time to create loyal consumers.

Ads aimed at children are especially notorious for being too fanciful. Young children, especially preschoolers who are still struggling with representations of reality, will believe that the plastic toy horse with wings can really fly if you show it flying.
They will also believe that pizza can make them happy if you show a lot of happy children eating it.

Advertisers want to create brand loyalty in children, which they do through the use of characters such as Dora, Iron Man, and the Disney Princesses. They want to enmesh children in their commercial culture which they do through sponsoring children’s events and even schools and through relentless advertising.

But they also want to sell ideas: more is good, buying is best, keep up with the latest, and this can make you happy.

Which brings us back to the 12 year old me. No access to junk food in the house, but I’ve already been sold the idea that food, and especially sugary, fatty food can make me happy. So I make my own.

Even when parents make the decision not to buy what their children have asked for, the children have already been sold the idea that happiness comes in bottles and purchasing power.

So, the next time someone calls for advertising reform, instead of jumping to the conclusion that advertising is about a single product and a parent’s choices, think about what the advertisers are really trying to sell.

In my opinion, advertising to children at all should be illegal. I think everyone needs to admit that it at least needs to be regulated more.

6.8.10

Freaky Free-Flowing Friday Thoughts on Self and Family

There's no "me" in family.

Well, unless you're a really bad speller, that is.

Everytime I hear a woman say she went out for some "me" time I inwardly cringe.

Oh yeah, I appreciate the sentiment - seems like we never have time to do anything for ourselves because the kids are always needing something, hubby still hasn't figured out which drawer his socks are in, house is a mess, blah, blah, blah.

Being a parent is hard. Yes indeed. And uninterrupted time to ourselves is impossible, especially when the kids are young. BUT, it's really time to stop moaning about it.

Good Lord. Our houses are a mess because we don't clean them. Yes the kids mess them up as fast as we can clean them, but the truth is we don't put a whole lot of effort into it.

We don't get uniterrupted time to ourselves, but how many of us can add up the time we spend watching TV or blogging or reading online content or a book and have it equal 2 hours or more?

We think we have it harder than our mothers and our mothers mothers but we don't. We just have more on our minds and more on our plates.

Used to be you cared for your kids, cared for your home and cooked. Sometimes you worked too in which case you came home and cooked and cleaned. Wasn't easy but mothers did it. Because that's what they were supposed to do.

Now we want to have designer homes, cook nutritios and creative meals, bring the kids to hockey, ballet, music class and volunteer work, work ourselves, watch The Bachelorette and update our blog.

It's our fault. No one elses. Whereas our mothers were content serving hot dog and macaroni casserole, we wouldn't dream of it. Whereas our mothers worked then came home, we bring work home with us. Whereas our mothers kicked us outside to play for two to three hours after school every day, we want to engage our children in growth opportunities.

We have more help from our husbands than they ever did. But we have less help from our neighbours and other mothers.

We value leisure more than they did. How many of you remember your mother sitting down to watch 2-3 hours of TV in the evening? I hardly remember my mother watching TV at all. They certainly weren't spending time online.

And because we value it, it seems more fleeting.

But that's not the only reason I cringe at the term "me time." Because the fact is, me came before family and now it's us. Nothing I do is for me alone. Take, for example, exercise.

Three or so times a week, I get out for a run. Why do I run? Well, I want to get in shape. I want to lose weight. Two of the major reasons I want to get in shape and lose weight is so that I can be a good role model for my children and enhance my self-esteem to make me a better mother. I also want to remain physically attractive to my husband. I want to run a marathon in the next couple of years. Again, as a role model and also to raise money for NF research.

I don't run for me. I run for all of us. So when I run, it's not "me time." Sure, the kids and husband aren't physically in tow, but they are there with me in my thoughts and motivations.

I'm not saying being a mother should consume all of our self. But neither should our self be more important than our family. A relationship means that everything we do we do for everyone within the relationship. Our intrinsic motivation as humans for just about anything we do comes from the want for or maintenance of a relationship.

Yes, the individual and the self are important. But time is not needed to nurture our selves; whats needed is thought and intent. Taking an hour to do something without our kids in tow is not "me time." Lying in bed at night thinking about what we value and why is more important to our self-development.

Placing all this importance and attention on "me time" just feeds into the idea that we can disconnect oursleves from our responsibilities through physical distance. We can't, because our responsibilities are intrinsic to our very being once we become an adult.

Me schmee. If you have to get a haircut then get one. But don't delude yourself that it's time just for you. You don't have that anymore. Suck it up and be a grownup about it.

4.8.10

"Yay! Boob" OR Why I never get anything written

Mommy: “Emerson, do you want a cookie?”


Emerson:“eah!” (big grin) “dut-dee” (dances)



Mommy hands him a cookie.



Emerson:“uh oh – a hand” (holding up his other hand to show me it’s empty)


Mommy: “You want another one?”


Emerson:“eah!” (big grin) “dut-dee” (dances)



Mommy hands him another and takes one for herself. Oopsie Mommy! But that’s okay because he holds his hand out for that one too.



Mommy: “That’s my cookie.”


Emerson:“Un-unh. EIN!”


Mommy: (shrugs): “If you say so.” (toddles off to attempt a rewrite of an article proposal.)



Before computer has fully booted:



Emerson:“Boob!” (crawling into Mommy’s lap)


Mommy: “You have cookies!” (thinking to herself: you only got them so I could get a couple minutes at the computer!)


Courtesy of: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1285566
Emerson:“a BOOB!"


Mommy: “How about a nice glass of milk with your cookies?”


Emerson: “Un-unh”


Mommy: “What would you like to drink then? Juice? Water?”


Emerson:(grinning) “Ba-Ba-Ba-BOOB! Dut-dee” (smushes cookie crumbs into Mommy’s chest)


Mommy: “You know you’re destroying any chance I have at a proper writing career, right?”


Emerson:(with his nouth full) “Hmm-mmm. Yay! Boob!

In a Boycotting Kind of Mood

Courtesy of
http://www.everystockphoto.com/
photo.php?imageId=4179170
Yesterday I wrote about my personal Oprah boycott. I doubt it will amount to much, but it feels good to do something rather than just bitch on Facebook.

This week's column (not up yet, will post tommorrow) is about the Nestle Boycott. This week is World Breastfeeding Week. As I read yet another militant breastfeeding mom flaming yet another "formula has it's place" mom on Best for Babes, I thought about how we, as women, have allowed ourselves to be twisted into an ugly battle that has so little to do with us and so much to do with corporate culture and capitalism.

Face it. Formula is not evil. It has it's place in our society. But because it's considered a food and not regulated as, say, prescriptions are, marketing and media management are the key for companies like Nestle trying to make a quick buck from families. And Nestle knows what it's doing. It purposefully obfuscates the truth about things like DHA (it does no good and could do bad) and natural cultures in it's formula (in order to make sure formula doesn't contain deadly bacteria it has to be prepared or heated at high temperatures, yet Nestle directly states in the instructions for the cultured formula to not mix or heat above 40C) to make families feel like they are buying the "best" product, when truthfully it's all the same, just some costs more.

In this brave new blogging frontier, they've manipulated relationships forged online to create a pro-Nestle camp - offering some bloggers free products, trips, parties, etc to "inform" them about Nestle advertising practices (i.e. feed them propaganda to shout down the Nestle boycotters)

I've always been a half-hearted Nestle boycotter. I haven't bothered to print a wallet card listing all the Nestle products so I know not to buy them. I have been known to buy their Ice Tea, as well.

But as I researched this week's column - and trust me I looked at information from both sides - I realised that my half-hearted boycott just wasn't good enough.

So now I'm fully on the bandwagon. I'm practicing the list of Nestle products like I'm back in Grade Four prepping for a spelling test.

But, see, then what happened was I thought about their chocolate bars and I begin to look up some of my favourite chocolate bars to see who actually makes them - is it Nestle or someone else?

And I ended up stumbling upon things that I already knew but had convienantly pushed aside into a corner of my brain: that cacao harvesting is environmentally destructive, unsustainable and the furthest from fair trade imaginable. You thought coffee was bad, read up a little on chocolate!

So now I've decided to boycott all non-fair-trade chocolate. And I know it probably won't make an actual difference to companies like Nestle or Cadbury.

The thing is, it makes a difference to me. I hate being another crass consumer. I don't want to buy into the capitalistic, market driven mentality that says a buck is good but two bucks is better: increase production and cut costs no matter what the cost to people or the Earth.

I can't know the things I know and ignore them just because everyone else thinks that Wonderbar is wonderful.

And then there's my personal vow to never again shop at Toys R Us because they have the worst customer service known to man . . .

The great thing about these boycotts? Chocolate and Nestle products don't do my waistline any good. Toys R Us doesn't do my budget any good. Who knows, instead of these boycotts being a restrictive cross to bear they could lead to all kinds of good things!

3.8.10

The Sharks in the Waters

Courtesy of
http://www.everystockphoto.com/
photo.php?imageId=736064
Most babies are perfect in their parent's eyes. Ten fingers and ten toes is all they need, and if they have an eleventh finger, well the doctors can cut it off.

Some, tragically, are born with illnesses, disfigurments and disabilities that are apparent even at birth. The parents spend their finger-counting time shedding tears and rallying relatives for support as they try to meet their child's needs. Some parents quickly realise that perfect isn't an option.

And then there are those of us who have babies born with imperfections that aren't immediately noticed: metabolic disorders, chronic illnesses, developmental delays. These scenarios hide in the oceans of contentment like icebergs that will eventually and inevitably hit. Parents carry on with their image of the perfect child until the first devestating blow when they realise that fingers and toes have nothing to do with it at all and that the life they planned has been exsanguinated into the vials of blood the doctors order to assess and diagnose.

Some approach this growing terror calmly, like the band playing hymns on the deck of the Titanic. Others jump straight into the oceans of panic and despair. Other still sit patiently in lifeboats waiting to see a glimmer of hope: rescue approaches.

But whether calm, panicked or patient, all parents seek more information. The panicked ones may find their fears eased or reaffirmed. The calm ones may begin to strategise and plan or decide to turn a blind eye. The hopeful seek any sign to maintain their hope.

I'm not sure which I was when we found out Emerson had NF. Perhaps all three raged at once in my psyche. I remember an outward calmness and an inward panic. I remember the panic growing as I first searched the Internet and other media for information on his condition. It took a lot of willpower to remind myself that people love sensationalistic media - that the images I saw and the words I read were tinged with worst case scenario-itis.

I found sources of information I trusted and I clung to reassurances. I consider our family lucky to not have received a more deathly or certain diagnosis. Perhaps Emerson will never, ever, ever have a problem due to this disorder. Hope flashed like a searchlight in the dark and I heard the calls of rescuers.

Courtesy of http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=602977
But there are sharks in the waters. There are those that feed on sensationalism and tragedy to satiate their own hunger for fame or money. Sometimes these shapeshifting sharks are easily mistaken as liferafts or the arms of rescuers - until they strike.

When news that Oprah Winfrey would be airing a piece on Neurofibromatosis first hit the NF community, I was happy. After all, many people watch her show - many mothers especially. Awareness is key when fighting such an unknown disorder. And when I thought of all the mothers that might potentially be given the liferaft before they hit the iceberg I was ecstatic. I pictured women watching the show and learning about NF: learning that it isn't a death sentence or a curse of disfigurement; that it didn't happen because of the diclectin or paint fumes or something they "gave" their child. These women would hit the ocean swimming if their child was ever diagnosed: forwarned is forearmed.

I didn't watch the segment because I just don't watch TV. Also because I felt there was little I would personally learn from it, having spent my quota of 3 am research to keep myself updated. So the next day when the proverbial hit the fan in the NF community I was a little surprised.

I watched clips and read a transcript of the show. And I knew why people complained. The number of mistakes made in that 20 minute segment could cause (and did) hour upon hour of heartache for parents learning about and dealing with NF.

But, I thought, this is just one of many shows she airs. I'm sure she doesn't do the research herself. She relied on the doctors she interviewed and her staff researchers to provide her with the appropriate information. Remembering my own struggles in the search for truth about NF, I realise how her researchers could have made mistakes (the doctors? There's no excuse). I didn't jump on the Hate Oprah bandwagon.

Along with many others, I sent emails and letters to Oprah and the Harpo team. I gently asked them to acknowledge their mistakes by airing a correction to their previous segment. I prayed for the mothers who watched that show and believed what Oprah - their own personal info-goddess- told them.

Instead of airing a correction, however, the sharks decided to reair the segment, completely unedited and with all the false and sensational information intact. They have not even acknowledged the cries of foul from the NF community.

I still have hope and calm and often fears, but Oprah has made anger a more resonant feeling.

When sharks attack, survivors attack back. If you're reading this and you care at all about the one in 3000 children born each year with a disorder that Oprah has wrongly called Elephant Man's Disease and told mothers that children can only inherit from affected parents. If you care about my beautiful boy, my feelings, our family. If you believe that truth is valuable and sensationalism a sick puppet of the media, then please join me in boycotting Harpo productions and all their products.

Following is a list of Harpo owned/operated media and businesses:
  • The Oprah Winfrey Show
  • O, the Oprah Magazine
  • Harpo Radio
  • Harpo Films: (see http://www.oprah.com/entertainment/Past-Harpo-Films for a list)
  • Three charities: The Oprah Winfrey Foundation; The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation; Oprah's Angel Network
  • Oprah Winfrey Network (ironically a joint venture with Discovery Communications to replace Discovery Health)
  • Then there's the books endorsed through her book club - that one's up to you. Personally as long as you don't buy the one with the Oprah approved sticker on it and gush about how brilliant the shark is (because she actually READS!), I'm okay with you reading your fine literature.
When letter and emails and cries of foul were sent her way, Oprah chose to ignore them. Harpo productions allowed the controversial segment to re-air. Their ignorance could be excused once, but ignoring the corrections they were sent was stupid, hateful and downright aggresive. This shark needs a sharp punch on the nose.