6.12.11

Island Snow

Look I'm updating my blog!

Nothing all kinds of awesome. It's just that I wrote this for the CBC Canada Writes challenge for True Winter Stories. And I didn't get shortlisted (booo!!!). So I figure I'll share it with you lot.

Here you go. It's not completely true, but it's that first winter in Newfoundland as I remember it.

Island Snow

Winter followed on the heels of our moving van. We drove across the island, shadowed by it, two or three weeks behind. By the time the last box was unpacked or placed in the attic, it whispered around our new-to-us house with whisps of wind and casual frosty dustings.

As we settled into our new neighbourhood, the cold settled into the earth. Never before had I seen grass crack under the weight of its own iciness. Or watched the sweat bead into frozen teardrops on my father’s face.

Painting "Frozen Rocks" by Vadim Vaskovsky.
To see more of his Newfoundland scenes visit http://www.vaskovsky.com/art-island.html

The cold preceded the snow by a good two weeks. We struggled into sweaters, frozen in waiting. New friends laughed at our talk of ice-skating and sledding. They looked at our ankle-high boots, then at each other, secretive eyebrows raised.

It started at night. It was still coming in the morning. Between the frost-rimed windows and the whitened sky, it was hard to tell where one dimension ended and the other began. Everything was blurred and dulled –softened by the thud of snow.

It continued for two days straight.

On the third day, we rose to the glare of a sun-glared field of snow, ice crystals reflecting harsh light into our morning windows.

It crunched beneath our feet, bruised our knuckles inside our woolen mitts.

Gone was the barbed wire-fence. Gone, the trickly river behind us. Gone, all the toys and tools we’d carelessly dropped.

It reached halfway to the roof of our shed. It seemed like walls pressing in on us, the gradual pressure transforming us into something harder, more finely formed.

The cold broke. Inside our multi-layered, multi-piece snowsuits, we sweltered. Two pairs of mitts and wool socks inside boots seemed excessive; we snuck behind the shed and stripped down to sweater and snowpants, soggy woolen mittens dangling from our sleeves.

My eldest brother discovered that the distance between the top of the snowdrift and the roof of the shed was the exact length of his body. It didn’t take us long to scrabble up his back, over his shoulders and onto the slippery tarred roof. It took even less time to discover that once our bodies had broken through the jagged edges of ice-crust a few times, the snow beneath was soft and wet.

We jumped, climbed and jumped again all afternoon. Carefully avoiding the barbed wire fence beneath and our mother’s eyes at the window, we crafted a replacement for ice-skating and sledding that embraced the abundance of snow.
Eventually the holes our bodies slammed into the snow became deeper. Wet slush sucked at our boots as we climbed up to the new ground level. The layers we had abandoned beckoned us with their warmth and dryness.

Back behind the shed we forced wet, swollen, woolen sweater-clad arms back into coats, sank into the snow, and sucked the dangling blobs of ice from the long hairs of our mitts.

Later, the holes we had created became tunnels. A world was built beneath the snow’s surface.

1.8.11

Stones and Rubble

Stones and Rubble

Here is what I want to tell you:

About the time I saw a boy, standing ghoulishly alone on a dark road, his presence a terror we swerved from.
Where? I wondered. Why? Again.

There was a leaf that fell once as I was climbing, scaling the park’s sentinel, rough bark gritting through thighs, legs wrapped around and arms outstretched. Its falling was a murky dream through water. Three times it flipped upon itself, twisted in the wind and flew. Still green, still lively, broken from my shaking, flying, wind-driven, to its death.

When tears leap to eyes, do all throats close off? Choking on mourning, unable to swallow, frozen eyes as thoughts leap like freed backyard frogs behind them. I wonder this.

Moments frozen in memories become rocks in the stomach, lading the heart with grit and stone.

Worm-gnawed flashes of your skin and smile. Worried laughter pipes through terror. Chips of mortar fell from you in dust so fine it was not noticed.

The boy stood braced to the darkness, a mask of lumpy misproportions. At his feet, roadside rubble.

22.7.11

Justice for Ayn: #BlogforAyn

This past week I wrote about a stunning case of child "protective" services gone awry in Abbotsford, BC.

Ayn, an impish and beautiful nine year old girl with severe autism was taken from her family based on the assumption that her father - with two other children one of whom is also severly autistic - has more than he can handle.

When ministry workers told Derek, her father, that they wanted to take Ayn, he - like any parent - said, essentially, "over my dead body." And now, because he hasn't signed an agreement that states he voluntarily let them take her, he's facing an ongoing uphill legal battle to get her home.

Let me put it on the line here: Ayn is not neglected; Ayn is not abused. Ayn is not in immediate danger - not any more than any of our children.

However, since she's gone into care, Ayn has been subjected to abuse and neglect and is in plenty of danger.

The abuse: Within 70 hours of going into care, Ayn was put on two antipsychotic medications (risperdal and seroquel - both used typically to treat schizophrenia). Ayn has not been medicated before. Derek nor Ayn's mother approved drugs for their daughter. Since then she's also been put on another powerful antipsychotic (Chlorpromazine) which is administered at twice the recommended daily dosage for her age!

The neglect: For 18 days straight little Ayn cried for her daddy. Finally, on the 19th day, ministry workers asked Derek for a photograph to give to her. Is letting a child cry for 18 days straight not neglect?

The danger: Everytime Ayn acts out, she is medicated. Everytime Ayn asks for her Daddy, she is told he's not coming. Everytime Ayn cries, her father cannot hold her. She is being cared for by people who do not love her and would rather drug her than cope with her autistic behaviours. Does that not sound dangerous to you?

Ayn deserves better. Derek deserves better. Our society deserves to be better than this.

What can you do?
No one can force the ministry to give Ayn back. But together we can raise our voices to show them that the world is watching and they better treat Ayn - and Derek - better than this.

>> First I would urge you to familiarise yourself with the story. Read my column, join the facebook group or check out the news coverage of this case.

>> Then, please, go sign the petition.

>> If you can spare any money, consider donating to help pay for legal fees and experts. This fundraising site, created by Kat over at Kat's Cafe also features a widget you can add to your blog to encourage others to donate.

>> If you blog yourself, please, blog about Ayn. You can come back here and link in. You can also tweet your blog post under the #BlogforAyn hashtag and we'll make sure it gets seen by everyone! If you don't blog, but are on Twitter, feel free to RT the #BlogforAyn tweets to help spread the news.

>> Finally, if you've signed the petition and are wondering what kind of difference your one click will make, consider extending your influence by writing to those who have the power to reverse this decision:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Canada
Fax: (613) 941-6900
E-mail: pm@pm.gc.ca


Premier Christy Clark
Premier of British Columbia
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC, V8V 1X4
Canada
Fax: (250) 387-0087
E-mail: Christy@christyclark.ca


and


Mary McNeil
Minister of Children and Family Development
Room 306 Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
Canada
Fax: (250) 387-9722
E-mail: mary.mcneil.mla@leg.bc.ca

Please do read what some other fabulous bloggers have to say about  Ayn's story. If you're blogging it, link in here:

28.6.11

Things Left Unsaid


Chantal Joffe, Yellow Raincoat
courtesy of http://www.likeyou.com/en/node/15189

… What you don’t know

Is that I have always told you

The truth, covered up under

A yellow rain slicker….

- Stephanie Hemphill



And sometimes the rain pours so hard that the raincoat becomes slicked to my body – a second skin. The covered truth burrows inside, warm and cozy under my heart. It bangs against my ribs when it wants set free. But the tumbling of the rain drowns out its knocking.

What wouldn’t you blog about? What do you leave unsaid?

I’m a private person – which I know is somewhat of a dichotomous place to be as a “life blogger” (I much prefer that term to “mommy blogger”) and a family columnist. After all, I discuss my life and my family in all forms of media. And I have always told the truth.

But that doesn’t mean I tell all the truth, or that the layers of truth have not become firmly glued into a plywood of a story – planks for building public houses.

I have read other bloggers discuss their husband’s suicide, their own suicide attempts, their children’s special needs, their path to fertility, even just their insecurities. And I don’t think it’s wrong to write about those things. But I wouldn’t.

Sure I’ve touched upon my sons’ illnesses, my husband’s struggles. But those are not my stories to tell. I will not be the actor who upstages before the soliloquy has even started.

And so there are things left unsaid. Things that maybe would help you understand the things I have said. And there are things buried deep under the truth, like burrowed animals in the winter, waiting for the thaw when they’ll drag themselves out ravenous and hungry for the world.

What wouldn’t you blog about? It’s a strange question, because it asks you to answer a negative. I know bloggers – bloggers who always tell the truth – the often gory, sometimes funny, and always identifying truth. And I know some of the things they haven’t said on their blogs. There are truths we all keep close.

Because what is a blog? It’s just another face we present to the world.

And what is the truth? It’s a many layered experience. It’s personal and it’s private. And it’s subjective.

So while I believe there are bloggers who blog with integrity, I don’t think there’s a single person who can claim to blog “the truth.” And while many bloggers will write their personal and private stories, I don’t believe those are the full truth either.

What wouldn’t you blog about?

21.6.11

I am her -ummm She - no - "that" woman

I am the mother that sends her six-year-old to school in mismatched socks.
I am the woman whose house looks like a tornado hit it - every single day.
I am the mom who shows up late for school events even though I'm a "stay-at-home" mom.
I can never find anything.
My library books are always late.
I don't accept your invitations to go out and don't contribute to every little fundraiser.
I'm a mess.
You can tell all those things just by loking at me.

I'm also the mother with three young, high-needs children: one with ADHD and on with Neurofibromatosis Type 1.
I work 15+ hours from home without childcare or help - which means I'm usually up till 3am finishing my work after everyone else goes to sleep.
I worry about money every single day and recently redid our budget only to realise that we're about $500 short every month on our basic expenses.
My husband has challenges of his own and the fact that he goes to work nearly every single day when he could well be on disability is enough to impress me.
Despite all that I spend the majority of my time worrying about other people and trying to help them.
You can't tell these things by looking at me. You'd have to actually talk to me. Talk to me as if I'm real. Talk to me as if you care.

But all you care about is how hyper my son is and how his socks don't match.

4.5.11

Hyper-Aware

May is Neurofibromatosis awareness month.

Which is kind of ironic for those of us living with NF - either as people with the disorder, or as parents of children with the disorder. The fact is, I'm always aware. It's like a tickle at the back of my throat. Even when everything is going great and we have no worries, I'm still aware. Aware that everything won't always be great; worried that things aren't as they seem.

This week Emerson has fallen off his tricycle and skinned his face; he has gotten into the knife drawer and put a handy gash in his finger; he's fallen and jumped off of more chairs than I can count. He's a boy. Almost three. He will get hurt.

Yesterday another mom told me she admires my calmness when he is hurt. How I can take charge and take care and not turn into a sobbing mess.

But let's face it, gashes and fat lips, even asthma attacks and hives - they're pretty easy to take care of. There's a branching tree of decisions you can make: is this serious; can I take care of it myself or should we go to the hospital; should I use a bandaid or a gauze pad; etc. etc. etc.

Neurofibromatosis, on the other hand, has no orderly decision tree. For three months Emerson has been limping off and on. A couple of days his speech has been slurred and his balance seems off. Tired? Maybe. Brain tumour? Possibly. Spinal cord tumour? Perhaps. Plexiform tumour in his leg? Might be.

And we mention it to the pediatrician, and we mention it again, and we mention it again. But until he's limping every day for several days she doesn't really care.

But I care. Everytime I see him limp I search for the decision tree and instead I find the disaster scenario. You know the one. The one that reads: He's got a tumour on his spine. One morning I'll get him out of bed and he won't be able to walk. They won't operate. If they do it'll come back. We'll do radiation. How are we going to afford the trips to the hospital? I need to find more work. The house is going to get a lot messier.....

Typical mom thoughts, right? Or not. Not for those with "normal" kids.

Neurofibromatosis is not something I think about every moment of every day. But it is something I think about every day. At least once. Changing his diaper I notice new spots. Watching him sheild his eyes from the sun I wonder if that's a symptom of an optic glioma (memo: ask Google). Calling to schedule and resechedule and check up on results of tests and appointments. He gets a pimple or a hive and I mark it in my memory to check for later. Because if it's still there next week it's not a pimple or a hive but a neurofibroma.

Sometimes I think about it so much that I forget my other children don't have it. When Harrison seems particularly obtuse in learning a new subject I remind myself that kids with NF have a higher incidence of learning disabilties. When Teaghan complains of her stomach hurting again, my first thought is stromal tumour. Those are on the days when I'm tired. When I've been on the phone with more doctors. When I forget where I've placed my coffee ten times in a row and we're only an hour into the morning. Those are the days when I can't keep the kids names straight, let alone keep their disorders straight.

I am always aware of NF. It's a part of our lives. Its the shadow under which we live, but it's also part of the glue of our family. It's a large part of what's kept me at home; it has made me new friends; it has led to me being able to support others as well.

And it's made me acutely aware of the suffering of others. There are times, yes, when I see or hear another parent complaining about their child's asthma or allergies and I think - God you don't know how good you have it. But that's just on the really bad days when I've been climbing the disaster tree. Most days I can react with the knowledge and the certainty that they've got shadows and glue in their family too. And sometimes I can help, with support or information. And sometimes all I can do is say "I know how you feel."

I wish I didn't. But I do.

Awareness? We've got plenty. But the world out there knows so very little. It's hard to imagine that something that consumes our life so totally is a word that many people can't even pronounce. And I know there are other parents - with kids with NF or kids with other disorders and diseases - who feel exactly the same.

2.5.11

Why I Won't Be Celebrating Bin Laden's Death

A man is dead. Most of "us" would not say he was a good man, but there are many of "them" that will. Regardless of what kind of man he was, or perhaps intrinsically because of the kind of man he was, there will be an aftermath to his death - of that we can be certain.

Many are celebrating. I will not.

Why not?

1. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Romans 12:19
Had he been killed ten years ago, when he remained an imminent threat after his declaration of personal war against Christian nations, it would've been an act of war. Killing him ten years later is an act of vengeance only. What has been accomplished? Will it bring back the dead? Will it end the fighting? No. I think we can agree that in actuality nothing has been accomplished by his death - other than the American government finally carrying out their threat to kill him.  His death now is an act of vengeance only. As someone who doesn't believe in the death penalty (though trust me individual cases stretch me on that) I can't support killing even world enemy number one.

2. "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:20-21
Ours is not the first generation to be torn by religious fanatacism. Many religions were born of war; many religious leaders were military leaders. It's a story as old as time. And the Bible is full of it.  While it's not The Art of War, the Bible contains plenty of insight on how to defeat enemies. Again, what his Bin Laden's death accomplished? I said nothing, but that's not true. What it's done is created a likely rallying point for others of his ilk. One man has fallen; ten will take his place. Have we forgotten the crusades? Do we neglect to remember Christianity's birth by blood onto the world scene? Although we don't remember the names of any of the leaders of those battles, their death surged the soldiers of Christ forward even more. To them the enemy was not a person, but a lamb set for slaughter.  Religious fanatics believe they are serving as the hand of God. Reacting with further violence, especially directed and targeted violence will not slow them. It will only incite them further. Showing them God's will in us, however, may serve to give them pause before the killing blow. If we concentrate more on building schools, providing aid, and atttempting to understand the place from which our enemy is coming we have the ability to cut off fanatacism before it starts. There will always be lunatics in the world and God will always be used as an excuse for evil, but the power behind an individual lunatic lies in his ability to persuade others that he is acting as the hand of God. The ONLY way to prevent that is to offer an alternative view of God's work - to feed the hungry, quench the thirst, and overcome evil with goodness.

3. It's not over
Why celebrate the end of nothing? Bin Laden's death has ended his life, and a small part of the American military schedule. But it has not defeated Al Queda and it will not prevent future terroritic acts. I fear it will have the exact opposite effect. What is there to celebrate? Are you feeling at peace today? Do you feel safe and secure because of one man's death? If so, I envy you.

30.4.11

Why in the Name of Entertainment

If your child was in pre-school and her care provider invited someone to come in and talk about dieting and watching your weight with the three-to-four year old girls, would that be acceptable? Or how about if your son’s Kindergarten teacher wore a revealing tank top and regularly kissed the male principal in order to get special treatment for her class? Would you find that an agreeable environment for your child? Perhaps it would be okay with you if the Grade 1 classroom teacher told your children to sign up for Facebook in order to find out more information about a topic they were studying, knowing full well that there are minimum age requirements to use Facebook.


As a parent, would you sit back and allow these things to happen without a murmur of dissent? Or would you protest, pull your child from the system, go to the media and make your voice heard?

If you’d sit back and let this happen, don’t bother reading the rest of this; it doesn’t apply to you.

To the rest of you: do you let your child watch TV? Do they regularly watch DVDs? Do you intently watch everything with them? If not, you may be surprised at what your child has already been exposed to.

I know I got quite a shock when watching Barbie and the Diamond Castle with my daughter one day. They had been showing it at our son’s school so I assumed it was okay. I even went to Common-Sense Media to check the ratings and special information provided by experts and other parents. I had watched most of it with her before, but had been sidetracked occasionally by the needs of another child, or the call of the laundry machine.

I had talked with my daughter about the commercialization in the movie and alerted her to the fact that the movies are in part made to sell the toys. She was aware that watching the movie did not mean she would get the toys. I had even taken extra-special attention to balance her viewing of the “quest for a prince and a palace” style of movie with extra readings of The Tough Princess and Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots.

I felt I was an in-tune and savvy mom, allowing her exposure but tempering it with extra information and discussion. But strangely enough I didn’t think I had to discuss the topic of casual sex with my daughter to prepare her for watching a Barbie movie aimed at three-to-seven-year-old children. And yet, imagine my shock when I saw a buxomly waitress dump a pitcher of water (?) over a cad/minstrels head and declare “that’s for leaving without a goodbye.”

Click here to see the whole scene on Youtube.
Oh sure, my four-year-old didn’t understand what it meant, but I sure did. And my daughter asked why the waitress had done it.

They see more than we know, as Angela, a savvy mom of two, discovered when watching My Little Pony: Twinklewish Adventure with her daughter. The super-slimmed down and sexed up ponies are not happy enough to be sparkly pink and slender, some are still watching their weight. In the movie, an adult pony is offered a cookie which she declines by saying “I’m watching my figure.”

Check out time-mark 7:23 in this Youtube vid.

Angela’s five-year-old daughter, who had viewed that scene a few times already, turned to her mother and said “Mommy, what’s a figure?” Nothing escapes her attention. She’s a brilliant, beautiful girl suddenly exposed to the idea that some people are not happy with their bodies.

And for what? What purpose did either of those scenes serve in the movies they were in? Why does the Lego Clutch Power movie feature only one female lego character and why did they need to paint on cleavage and have her use sexpot charms to get her way with the rest of the team? Is that the lesson we want our sons and daughters seeing?

If these things happened in our schools or daycares we wouldn’t sit idly by. But because they are considered “entertainment” and not “education,” TV shows, movies, websites and toys get away with more than we can imagine in terms of questionable content. And because they are entertainment, we parents have the tendancy to view them as “harmless” fun.

By the time a girl reaches her teens she will have been exposed to hours of images and talk that show her that her body is not her temple but her torment. By the time a young man starts dating he will have been exposed to a multitude of images of young girls as sex figures and men as powerful. He will already have been introduced to the concept of female manipulation and passive-aggressive behavior.He will have started distrusting girls already.

Companies like Zoobles create special interactive websites for children featuring a prominent link to their Facebook page. Sure if a child clicks on the link they show a warning saying that you’re about to leave the page and to “please make sure you have a parent’s permission.” In my mind, if they have to post a warning, they know it’s wrong.

And that’s the thing. Didn’t the script-writers or producers of the My Little Pony video know it was wrong to encourage young girls to “watch” their figures. Didn’t the Lego team realize that having one female character – and I neglected to mention the black skeleton dude who supplied comedy – and making that character out to be a sexy, manipulative and insecure team member would teach young boys something ?

Or have we slipped so far that these things are considered appropriate and I’m a lone voice yelling into the wind?

1.4.11

Vamanos Destroy the World

Dora.
The name that makes every parent's heart collapse in the certain knowledge of an hour or more of shouty Spanglish and faked enthusiasm.
Despite all you wish for, no evil twin pops up and says "No, I'M the map," nothing incriminating ever pops out of backpack, and Swiper never rehabilitates himself. Formulaic, inane, and kids love it.
And I'm okay with that.
I put up with two years of Dora when my daughter thought that Dora really was her best friend.
And now my son is asking for "Doha Boots, pay Doha Boots!" when I say he can watch TV.
My husband can't stand the big-headed little Spanglish girl and is really upset at the fact that her parents seem to let her wander all over the world without any supervision - except that of a helpless, boot-wearing monkey.
But I'm okay with it.
Until my son found THE BOOK
Due to my daughter's obsession, we had plenty of Dora books. Only one I actually bought myself, but when a kid has an obsession that makes it super-easy for relatives at gift-giving time.
I can totally handle the insipid story-lines of the Dora phonics reader. And the buttons on the interactive books have to be pressed at least ten times before I lose my mind.
But then there's "Dora and the Mermaid Kingdom"
That book irritates me.
No, actually it makes me irate, angry and prone to ranting.
Dora's cleaning up the beach. We get to help her find garbage. Then a clam opens up and shills a story about the mean octopus. He's dumping garbage all over Mermaid Kingdom and nobody knows what to do. Until Mariana finds the magic crown so she can wish the garbage away. But the crown gets lost, Dora finds it, and saves the day. Lovely story, what?
Except there's this

Even my two-year-old knows that a juice box is not garbage, it's recycling! And then there are the two cans - which look suspiciously like beer cans and with their sharp bits are not something I would want my unsupervised four-year-old (how old is Dora anyway?) handling. They too are not Basura, but recycling.

Fine, whatever, a little eensy mistake. Except throughout the book the "garbage" is represented with pictures of plenty of recycling in it.

And then there's the last page

Do you see the "garbage" the mermaids are picking up? Does any of it look like it belongs in the trash?

The first time I read it I held out hope. At the end, Dora would teach the mean octopus that he didn't need to dump all his "garbage" in the ocean because most of it could be diverted into recycling streams.

Silly me. At the end, simplistic, big-headed little Dora makes the octopus promise to put all the garbage in the dump from now on.

Lo Hicimos indeed.

We just taught children that:
1.The only way to save the mermaid kingdom (read: the environment) is with magic
2. Anything we need to dispose of, whether dust, food wrapper or juice box, is "garbage."
3. The way to get rid of items we no longer need is to take it to the dump.

Brasura!

I'll sacrifice a bit more Spanglish lessons in exchange for some real learning, please?

10.3.11

Great Gorillas

Nope, not going to write about my love affair with the bonobos. I'm saving that story for a book.

Great Gorillas. I've given up swearing, yelling, and negative talk for Lent. I'd tell you how hard I expect that to be, but that would involve negative talk. So, to put a positive spin on it: I anticipate that I will rise to the challenge with the same vigor I put into folding laundry.

Here are some other things that have made me say Great Gorillas this week:

My two year old dumped an expensive jug of Tropicana orange juice on the kitchen floor. It's quite obvious to me that he mistook it for cleaning liquid and wanted to help mop the floor. What a sweet little helper he is.

He then squirted red paint all over the entrance carpet. I'm amazed by his artistic skills and his perserverance. I literally had to pry the paint from his hands after telling him to stop - he has that much invested in his artistic experiences.

He then dissapeared the DVD remote. He tells me he put it in the toilet. But he didn't flush. So that's wonderful. I've reached in as far as I can and haven't found it. I think he may be trying to play a little game with me and has hidden it elsewhere. You should have seen the joy on his face as he watched Mommy shove her hand down the toilet drain - wet up to her elbows. What fun games we play!

Through a Twitter conversation I've discovered that the Rice Krispies packaged squares now come with a feature that allows you to write a love note on them. Isn't that just sweet! I know there are many moms who cannot spare the ten minutes to make their own rice krispies, how wonderful of them to produce the prepackaged kind with their shiny wrappers. I've a suggestion for a love note to your child: "I love you so much I can't take my eyes off of you for the two minutes it takes to microwave marshmallows." Surely your child will feel the love.

Nutella has provided a website full of breakfast recipe suggestions featuring their product. Isn't it wonderful that they care so much about your child getting a healthy wholesome breakfast. I know so many children who are forced to eat uninspired fare like plain oatmeal for breakfast. Their moms could surely use the inspiration Nutella provides.

Margaret Wente. What a brilliant woman. Oh I just can't get over her ability to take something that seems so sensible and make it completely blurred and unlike reality at all. She's got a true gift! And people just flock to her columns because they really get discussion going on important topics.

The biggest Great Gorilla moment, though, was when I found out that Kraft has been happily fortifying their products with genetcially engineered milk. Buying from dairies that use synthetic Bovine Growth Hormone is one of the many consumer-friendly ways in which they keep their costs down. I was nearly dissapointed when I realised that Canada doesn't allow the use of rBGH in milk, but it promptly occured to me that Kraft dinner is equally cheap and tasty in both the US and Canada. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Canada doesn't allow the use of rBGH at Canadian dairies, but does allow products containing milk produced in such ways to sell in Canada. Isn't that just delightful! I spent a whole morning researching the topic to make sure. So I have Kraft to thank for inspiring me to educate myself!

What wonderful things have happened to you this week?

9.3.11

How F*cked Up Celebs Can Help You Talk With Your Kids

My kids don't watch TV and see ads. When they do watch TV it's pre-selected videos that Mommy and Daddy have vetted. Although we've loosened our stance a little, most of these movies are pretty tame stuff or - if featuring violence - have some learning potential.

The main reason I don't want them watching TV has little to do with program content and more to do with ads. Ads, brands, marketing and the constant flow of pop-culture junk are, to me, more dangerous than watching a violent show.

Despite my trying to raise them in a cave, they are aware of pop-culture. They hear it from their friends and schoolmates all the time. My son has come home reciting the entire plot-line of shows he's never seen. My daughter asks for toys and accessories that she heard about from friends.

You can't protect them forever and you can never protect them from everything. It is not my intention to never let them watch ads or be swayed by marketing. I keep those things at bay because I know that at 6, 4, and 2, they are too young to look at anything with a critical eye. As long as they believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, they're not ready to walk on the ground of media literacy.

But they hear things. Of course they do. Last night they heard my husband remark that he had finally caught on to the whole Charlie Sheen debacle. Over supper, he said a quick word about it. Something like "that Sheen, eh? Tiger blood? Really?"

My eldest heard it and immediately started quizzing us: "Who are you talking about?" "Who has tiger blood?" "Can people have tiger blood?"

Part of me wanted to just brush it off with another "oh it's just something silly that grownups are talking about." But he's six. And he is developing a critical intellect. And it's time to start opening the floodgates, just a teensy bit - a tiny trickle of our media-obsessed pop-culture to test his ability to understand and critically evaluate what so much of the world seems obsessed with.

And, though I hadn't expected to have this talk this early, it gave us the chance to let our son know what we thought about drugs.

The conversation went something like this:

Charlie Sheen does not have tiger blood.
Then why did Daddy say he does?
Because Charlie Sheen said he has tiger blood.
Is he lying?
Sort of.
Is he lying or is Daddy lying?
No one's really lying. Charlie Sheen...
Who is that anyway?
He's an actor - you know, he plays pretend on TV.
Oh. Have I seen him? Do you know him?
No. He's in a tv show for grownups. You don't watch it. And we don't know him. He's a man who thinks he's very important and  lot of other people think so too, but Mommy and Daddy don't think so.
Why did he say he has tiger blood?
You know how we don't want you to take Mommy and Daddy's pills, and we don't want your brother and sister to take your pills? Because they're dangerous, right? Well, some people take pills and other drugs because they think it will make them feel good. But they don't really. So they take more. And they keep taking more and then soon the drugs make them very sick and sometimes it damages their brain so that they can't think right.
So he doesn't know how to think? Why does he lie?
Because he doesn't know he's lying, honey. He's mentally ill. His brain is sick - the same as your tummy gets sick. When yor tummy gets sick you can't eat and sometimes you throw up. Well his brain can't think and sometimes it makes him say things that aren't true -bad things come out just like throw-up.
But why does he think he has tiger blood?
Because he thinks he's a hero - a really strong man - and that he got that way by having strong tiger blood in him.
But he's not?
No, he's just a man. He has a lot of money and a lot of people listen to him, but he's just a man who's sick. And a lot of people are making fun of him and trying to get him to say more lies and silly things because they think it's funny. But we know it's not right to make fun of people, right?
So they're making him lie?
No, what they're doing is listening to his lies. And because he doesn't know he's lying he thinks that they're listening to really important things he has to say. So he tries to come up with more important things to say, but they're always lies. Remember, his brain doesn't work right.
Because of the drugs?
Yes (SCORE!).
But that's mean - people shouldn't make fun of him.
Sometimes people forget that people that play pretend on TV are real people. They pretend to be someone else so much, that the people who watch TV don't know when they're pretending and when they're not.
But that's silly.
Yes it is.

And then the conversation naturally drifted into other topics. I mentioned that he has children and that he can't see them anymore because he might be dangerous to them. And my boy wanted to know why. So I gave a possible story of Sheen thinking he could fly and jumping off his roof with one or more children. And my son asked why other people would let him do that and then my daughter interrupted with a story of her own and we let the conversation naturally drift.

I don't know why people would let him do that. I'm glad I didn't have to answer that one because I'm not ready to discuss enablers with him yet.

But the whole thing made me realise that maybe he's ready to have the media world in it's full gore and glory unleashed on him. There's so much potential for learning there: drug abuse, scandal, body image, and just the general foolishness of it all.

I love that he thinks it's all very strange and questionable. That's exactly what I wanted - to let him live a life that wasn't inundated with this junk to the point where he couldn't question it.

Maybe tonight I'll show him this Dove Self-Esteem Fund ad


and then show him this Pond's Flawless White ad


And then we can discuss how one hypocritical company can have two completely different advertising campaigns (I'd show him an AXE ad but he's only 6). Or how making people feel good - whether by telling them they're good enough or by telling them they can be better (with their product) - sells things like moisturizer.

Think he's ready for it?

3.3.11

The Rulebook

Dear Children:

For nine months I grew you. I endured bladder infections, fainting spells, around the clock vomitting and kidney stones. I brought you forth into the world in the midst of great pain: back labour, malpresentation, placental tearing, vaccumming, episiotomy, c-section and more.

I nursed you. I cluster nursed you. I danced up the hill outside our house at three am singing Thunderstruck by ACDC because the song, dance, upward movement and fresh air was the only thing that would get you to sleep. I walked to playgrounds at midnight and swung with you on my lap because the swinging was the only thing that would get you to sleep and you refused to be put down. I rocked for five hours straight while nursing when you had the ear infection that wouldn't let you sleep.

I gave up dairy, soy, eggs, legumes and seafood when your food allergies meant my milk would make you sick. I cooked for you because I wanted to and because you coudn't eat any commercially prepared food. I continue to cook for you, catering every meal so there's at least one thing each of you likes. Preparing vegetables so that you cannot taste, see, or smell them, cooking meat so that it's tough because you hate "smooth meat." Packing lunches that accomodate your sentsitivites, your classmates allergies and your pickiness.

I have wiped drool from your chin, snot from your nose, and shit from your ass. I have wiped pee from every surface in my home. I have wiped vomit and blood and puss from surfaces that never should have seen them. I have wiped your faces with my spit, and your noses with my sleeve. I have wiped tears from your eyes almost every time you cry.

I have taught you how to speak. I have read to you for countless hours, enduring the fifth rereading of the same book in one night because you have insisted and I have appreciated your hunger for the written word. I have bicycled your legs to strengthen them, held your hands as you tiptoed to improve your balance, held your legs as you balanced on a ball to improve your stomach muscles.

I have cut out paper dolls, blended soap and paint, drilled holes for your screws, made easels and blackboards. I have mixed cupcakes and marshmallow fondant. I have planned parties. I have created posters from nothing but a handful of photos and our combined imagination. I have helped you write your first stories, listened to your first poem and attended more living room fireplace concerts than I can count.

I have removed splinters, burst blisters, slathered cream on rashes. I have checked for lice and for tumours. I have brushed every last bit of cradle cap from your head though I know it will return next week. I have stopped bloody noses and iced bumped heads. I have brought you to the hospital and shouldered the blame for your injuries. I have sat with you in an ambulance, in an MRI waiting room, in a genetics office, in a late-night emergency room and prayed for your health and your life.

I would do it all again. Every last thing. Even the c-section. Even the snotty, bloody, vomit.

Because I love you. Because that is what mother's do.

But please, please, please don't ask me to play pretend with you ever again. I love playing pretend. I love to pretend. But I do not love your ceaseless instructions and intrusive rules. If you tell me once more what the character I'm pretending to be is supposed to say and do and then yell at me for getting one word wrong, I do believe that I will be the one spewing bloody, snotty, vomit. For the love of all that is between us, please don't make me be kitty's mother, or school bus driver, or pit crew ever again.

Tiger rides are still cool, though.

Love You,
Mom

1.3.11

And Now for Something Completely Different

You know how you can make really good friends blogging. You come across another blogger who's style you like and watchyakno they like yours too and next thing you know your friendship is as solid gold as Elton John's Candle in the Wind.

You know what I'm talking, bout, right?

So anyway, of course the day will come when you feel like you want to reach out to that new friend, to give him or her something they'll really like. And since you can't slip him the tongue online or give her a home pedicure, you do the next best thing and give them a digital present.

Like this lovely one Heather from Note from Lapland sent me:















You see, because of our very special and strong relationship, she knows the tenderness in my heart for a good bit of monkey porn - or bonobo porn to be more specific.

And because of the very special relationship I have with a Very Bored Housewife, I know about her feelings regarding sexual encounters. She quite readily states:
For me, it really is a no brainer, if both parties are up for it (to coin a phrase) and there is no other party in the wings that may be hurt by this chance encounter then why not? 
So, for my lovely friend in Catalunya, I give this gift. Because I know she also feels like oxen have been ignored for far too long.


But wait! I'm not done. You see I have another close friend who also loves a good ox story. And I know for a fact that she's curious about the things men do and talk about and how beer is involved more than boobs so for her, I've found this historical presentation on what happens when a few men drink too much beer and get into a pissing match over whose ox is biggest  fastest.

So, Bianca, this is for you:


Now ladies, I dare your husbands to give you better gifts than those!

This oxcentric post has been brought to you by the crazed whims of my mind and the silliness of online chatting.

25.2.11

Is It Really Necessary

Is it really necessary:

When making a typo during your long-winded facebook comment to then make another comment correcting your mistake? We all know it was a typo - nobody thinks you really believe actually is spelt actuallt.

When tweeting your blog posts to apologise for possibly tweeting them too much? If you think it's too much than we definitely do.

When commenting on someone's blog post to go back and comment about your own comment and ways it could have been misconstrued? Unless someone's arguing with you than leave your word analysis for your own blog 'kay?

When running a giveaway on your blog requiring people to follow you and three other people on twitter, like you on facebook, leave a comment, subscribe to your newsletter and get inbox rss delivery of your blog?Newsflash: your $30 commercial plunder ain't worth all that effort and your blog ain't worth the gold standard of inbox delivery.

Having three or four facebook pages for yourself, your blog and your public self and your alice-in-wonderland-ate-a-mushroom self and asking me to join them all? I'm going to get finger cramps scrolling past your thrice and frice? repeated posts.

When deciding someone you follow on Twitter is annoying and unfollowing them to then tweet an annoying tweet about how you're unfollowing them because they're annoying? Until we have #unfollowmonday or #um (who's with me?) keep it to yourself.

Subjecting your blog readers to your constant grammatical and spelling mistakes and declaring that your mistakes are what make you so readable? Take a grammar lesson and get a life.

Being a blogger who continuously writes critiques of how other people blog and handle social media in order to take out your frustrations with having a bad day?
Oh yeah, that one is necessary.

What's your pet peeve?

24.2.11

Tattoo Placement

Husbands: if you decide to get a particularly ghastly tattoo on your upper arm, consider which arm to put it on by thinking about what side of the bed you sleep on and what your wife will see last thing before she closes her eyes at night and first thing when she opens them in the morning.

Poe's sad and haunting eyes have tormented me all night and caused me great terror (beyond that of discovering all three kids in my bed) in the morning.

And for a lesson in how not to lauch your writing career using those idiotic mass article sites, like evoices or - say Helium - check out my other tattoo advice here

23.2.11

This Is What Sleep Deprivation Does To You or Ah Motherhood Part 2

Part 1
So although I knew on Friday that my toddler had an earache and although we went to the doctor yesterday where she advised he had a viral ear infection and although my son has been cranky, clingy, and upset all day, it took me until about 6:30pm tonight to realise that he had an earache. Tylenol works wonders.

Part 2
I avoid processed foods. We really avoid food colouring because of my oldest son's ADHD. Tongight I made macaroni and cheese. My son declared he only likes the macaroni and cheese from a box. He told me not to make it like I did last time (my homemade stuff). I will not buy macaroni and cheese in a box. The "cheese" sauce is more like chemical soup. So instead I pureed garlic, broccoli, corn, carrots, cheese and milk to make my own cheese sauce. I added a dash of mustard powder and a dash of tumeric. The colour was still a bit off. So what did I do? I dropped in some red food colouring.
Brilliance!

Ah Motherhood: admitting our failures since Eve.

Ah Motherhood

It's not yet lunch time and so far the two year old has eaten:
  1. A banana/orange juice/strawberry yogurt/ frozen blueberry smoothie
  2. A large wedge of canteloupe
  3. Three navel oranges
  4. Three mini candy-canes (memo to self: find a new hiding place)
  5. Half an ice-cream sandwich (memo to self: check floor for treat wrappers before giving treats)
  6. One slice whole-wheat toast with peanut butter
  7. One bowl of mixed berries with milk
  8. One bowl of popcorn
  9. 10 cheesy crackers
  10. One glass of milk
  11. One glass of natural apple juice
  12. Three or four servings of "boob"
And all I can think about is how bad his diet was today because of those damn candy canes!

Ah Motherhood: making imbeciles of us all since Eve.

*Cheese! He snacked on cheese too! Oh, yeah, now I feel better

10.2.11

Survival of the Meanest?

Honesty is the best policy. That’s what I try to teach my children and that’s what my parents taught to me. I’m also trying to teach them, like me, to be polite and respectful towards others. I hope to instill in them that it is better to be accommodating to the needs of others than self-absorbed. It is my plan that my children will grow up to be self-respecting but respectful members of society.
But am I doing them a disservice? My biggest weakness as an adult is that I’m not assertive enough. Take my natural shyness – which many people don’t believe I have, but trust me, I do – and combine it with the lessons my parents taught me and I have to work hard to make myself heard when I feel things are unfair.
I’m shocked, to tell the truth, when someone treats me badly. I always expect the best of other people and don’t know how to react when I don’t get it. It takes me time and distance before I can respond to nastiness, lies, or rudeness.
My children are the same.  My daughter just avoids people who are mean to her and my son is truly shocked, like me, when someone treats him unfairly.
I’ve always believed that its better they get hurt once or twice than that they hurt others. So I’ve continued to teach them the lessons of humility and kindness.
But am I raising survivors? Sure, the meek may inherit the earth, but they’ll probably be decimated by the strong and powerful first and then handed a torn-out shell of the earth at the end.
Since returning home to Newfoundland, I see it more and more: politeness and honesty are not rewarded. What’s rewarded is knowing how to work the system, and lying to get what you want.
It wasn’t until I returned to this province that I had work literally stolen from me by a higher up coworker. It wasn’t until I returned here that I saw nepotism and disregard for quality over connections really take place.
These has all been driven home to me these past two months as I’ve attempted to work with  the Workplace Health and Safety Compensation Commission regarding a work injury I suffered before Christmas. It’s been six weeks and my claim is only getting approved now. It took many phone calls and a call to the complaints line to finally get it that far.
What held it up? Well, first I was honest. Although my injury was a new one, I had suffered a similar injury over ten years ago. I mentioned that to both my employer and WHSCC because I thought it might be relevant. Despite the fact that my doctor and physiotherapist both agreed that it did not impact this injury, I was questioned and my very integrity questioned because I brought this up.
Then, of course, like usual, I expected people to be honest, trustworthy, and to do their jobs properly. This was obviously a mistake. Not only did they not do their jobs, but they tried to shift the blame onto me.
Of course this all sounds like whining to the average reader, but to me it has made me deeply question the ethos under which I am raising my children.
It seems they are expected to be liars and cheats by “the system” and that politeness will get them nowhere in life.
I don’t think these are attitudes endemic to Newfoundland only, but anywhere where a small population struggles for even smaller opportunities.
Because of my struggles now, and in the past, when dealing honestly and being accommodating with coworkers and social systems, I really wonder if what I am teaching my children is how to be a patsy.
Because that’s the way I’ve been made to feel these past weeks - not a valued member of society, but a kicking ball for others to abuse.  This goes beyond the “better they get hurt once or twice than hurt others” variety of abuse.
Is it better that I teach my children to lie when necessary; to accuse before being accused; to not trust others or expect competence from anyone? Won’t this in fact help them get further in life, help them survive and even succeed?
And yet, I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to raise children who are liars and cheats. I know others do it and think it’s for the best, but I can’t. So my daughter will continue to be sent to her room for lying and my son will continue to be admonished for not playing nicely with others. And perhaps they will become someone else’s kicking ball, but hopefully I will have instilled a sense of self-worth and pride in them. Hopefully, they too, like me, will understand that it’s more important to be true to yourself than to get ahead.
And while this means they may not survive in some apocalyptic situation, I hope that they will also grow into the kind of citizens who know how to prevent those very situations from happening.  Perhaps they may not be survivors and schemers, but they will be good Samaritans. I just hope they never have to deal with WHSCC!

9.2.11

I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means

It's inconcievable for a blogger or social media junkie these days to write out full words. After all, let's face it, thumbing on the smartphone can cause cramps. And when we've got four windows open on the laptop: writing our blog posts, reading the news, checking out facebook and chatting online, we need the maximum result with the minimum effort.

Thus the rise of acronyms. Acronyms in social media have become a social construct of sorts - and they've changd over time and in different situations as well. They're fairly plastic according to the community one uses them in.

Did that sound smart enough?

What I mean is that the acroymns we used five years ago may be spelled the same, but the ideas they represent - for it goes beyond the physical words they represent - have changed in that time. As well, what one community reads into an acronym is very different than what a seperate community would read into.

Take for example the acronym "DP." In some chat rooms this means "display picture," which can be used to indicate someone's avatar (or also can be used to say you want to switch to video chat or see someone's picture). If, however you were on a lesbian parenting site, and someone said "lurve your DP" that could be taken to mean "I'm planning on stealing your hot female partner from you." Because in that arena DP would mean "dear partner."

So see, it's important to understand that acronymns have meaning in context but also in social setting.

Frankly I think we should stop being such lazy blighters and imbeciles and just type what we mean, but whatever. Here's what I'm going to think you mean when you use these acronyms:

LOL (physical translation: laughing out loud):
If you're writing it when retweeting one of my posts it means "I haven't actually read this, but if I say it amused me than probably she'll retweet one of my posts so here it goes."
If you're telling me something and end with "lol" it means "I know what I just said was offensive but I want to maintain my passive-agressive neutrality and pretend I was just trying to be funny" or "I'm telling an utter lie here and I hope you catch it."
If I say something funny and you respond with "lol" (dear Lord do not do this IRL "in real life") then I hear "I am an automaton that realises you were trying to be funny and am attempting to respond appropriately."

PMSL (physical translation: pissing myself laughing):
If you're writing it in reponse to one of my posts then it means you actually did read it and may have smiled for a second once or twice.
If you're spreading gossip or relaying news to me and end with "pmsl" it means "damn I shouldn't be pleased by this but I am!"
If I say something funny and you respond with "pmsl" (see tip above) then I hear "Yeah I kinda laughed at that one."

IRL (physical translation: in real life):
This is just chock full of sarcasm and lacking in any real meaning anyway. We all know that facebook, Twitter, and our blogs are "real" life. I love it when people say "But you're so busy in IRL, no wonder you didn't have time to blog." That means "Haha. I know you're incapable of handling the millions of things the rest of us mothers do. Chill out cause you're pissing me off with your stress."

NAK (physical translation: nursing at keyboard):
While this is a convienant excuse for your bad spelling and grammar typos or your overuse of acronyms, it just doesn't fly. I'm nursing while I type too. Heck I've nursed while I've had a shit. I don't have to declare it to the world. What this says to me is "I'm breastfeeding and I'd like to point out that I'm breastfeeding. I'm doing it right now. I'm taking a photo with my webcam. Do you want to know why? Because I'm wonderful. Because I'm breastfeeding. I'm giving my baby the best and multi-tasking while I do it. I am the BEST MOM EVER!"

DH, DS, DD, LO (all "dear" members of your family):
There is no other explanation for this than "I'm a tired mom and I've forgotten the names and gender of all my children. I think I'm married. I'm not sure if he's a dear husband or a dreary hole-licker."

WTF (physical translation: what the fuck?):
This one's pretty straightforward, actually. It expresses surprise or disgust. Or in the case of "WTF are you talking about now," general world-weariness (or at least weariness of me). However, some people, probably the same ones I hear out and about saying "and then I was, like, fuck that. And he was all fucking nasty. And I felt so, like, fucking, you know, upset...." overuse it. Their response to everything is WTF? If the world surprises you that much perhaps you should just lock yourself in the basement. In other words: if you don't have brain cells please don't pretend to have opinions.

FTW (physical translation: "for the win" OR "fuck the world"):
First it's confusing that it's got two translations. What's even more confusing is my dyslexic take on it as being "what the fuck" backwards. Therefore I always read it as "fuck the what" which is like the surprise of WTF but with added confusion. I kinda like my meaning more. So I'm not going to change it. Sorry.

IMO (physical translation: in my opinion):
We all know what this means. "I don't agree with you and I think you're an idiot, but I'm going to diminish the pure vehemence of my disagreement (and hatred for you) by declaring that what I'm about to say is just my opinion."

IMHO (physical translation: in my humble opinion):
Again, pretty straight-forward. "I hate you. I hate everything you say. I know you feel the same about me. I know you and all your friends are about to flame me for saying this. But here goes. I'll get my friends to defend me later."

FWIW (physical translation: for what it's worth):
Like the two above it's pretty clear what this means. "I think you're an idiot and can't understand factual evidence vs. anecdotal evidence, so I'm going to do my best to educate you just a little but I doubt it will stick to a brain-dead monkey like you."

That's about it. For more interesting translations, check out Bianca's post on the subject. She knows oodles more than me, LOL!

Meanwhile, leave your favourite acronym and it's real translation for me in the comments.

8.2.11

Last Week Someone Called Me a B*TCH

Oh hi.
Feeling neglected?

Let's face it: I broke my blog. Right? What are you doing here? I've had nothing to say for almost three months.

Well, that's not true. I've had plenty to say, but I haven't been blogging it.

So here's a run down.

Financially, I'm broke - worse than I broke the blog.

I've decided to leave my husband. The reasons for this are many but the primary ones are:
1. Good fodder for the blog now.
2. Will lead traffic to my blog as people tweet out my breakdown.
3. Will give me something to post about in the future when I've got nothing to say - everyone loves a relationship breakdown story.
4. If we're sharing the kids every other weekend I might get a chance to get my haircut and maybe even have a coffee once in a while.
5. Financially we'll be better off.
I'll move into a nice, big 4 bedroom social housing unit and as a single-mom the government will pay me more than I can ever expect to make working. Plus they'll pay my daycare so I can work (but not so much that I'll lose my government money) and if I decide I need retraining because a University degree in English is absolutely useless, they'll probably pay for that too. Meanwhile, we can sell our house and hubs can rent a small apartment, thus saving us tonnes of money and paying off all our debt. It's really a win-win-win.

So this is the plan right now. I'm still somewhat enamoured with my husband so we'll continue to be exes with benefits. However, he doesn't blog and I find that's putting a real crimp in my public life. I'm going to start a blog for him. Probably he won't bother posting to it, but I can just pretend to be him anyway.

He'll write posts about me and our breakup and how lucky he is to be away from me. Then I can write indignant posts in reply. It'll get us tonnes of traffic and pageviews - I'm sure of it.

Meanwhile, I'm planning on heading to a blogger's conference and finding myself a fellow that does blog that I can have an affair with. Then we can blame my marriage breakdown on that. Pretty sure I can exchange sex for extra web traffic. There's gotta be a taker out there somewhere. I've got my eye on Steve, but he says he's not going to CyberMummy - something about not being a Mummy, apparently.

So then my plan is to get pregnant. I'm pretty sure I won't have a problem there. I could go into great detail about my fertility and all that, but I figure that's a future post - gotta drag things out a little so you'll keep coming back.

Meanwhile, I won't of course know who the father is. Seeing as how I'll be banging Steve and my ex at the same time. I figure I'll announce the pregnancy all dewy-eyed and blissful and then after everyone congratulates me and people start sending their friends over here with messages along the lines of "can you believe it? She's left her husband, shacked up with another blogger and split his marriage and now she's got the gall to be happily announcing a pregnancy!" I'll let the big "I got TWO BABY DADDIES" bomb drop.

That's always a good one to keep people coming back for me. Maury Povich ain't got nothing on me.

But the real reason I'm planning to get pregnant? Well it brings me back to first part of this post: I'm broke.

This is ridiculous. I read, like, three of Dooce's posts before I started blogging. That girl is rolling in it and I don't think she's any better a writer than me. I've been blogging over a year now and I haven't made one red cent. Before I even started this blog I ordered up my t-shirts, mugs, and calendars. Now the calendars are a year out of date and no one's bought one.

It's a pretty clear fact that the cute is where the money is. With another baby I'm sure I could get the bottles and bibs companies to sponsor me. Not to mention formula.

And if none of that works, I'll just drown my sorrows in chocolate. I hear Nutella is planning another mommy blogger drive....

So do you think that will do it? I really got to get my stats up so I can start selling advertising and getting sponsors to do giveaways so that I can actually go on with my not writing phase of the blog and just whore out some product. That's so much easier than actually coming up with something to say every day. Plus, for some reason, whenever I do have something to say someone thinks I'm a bitch for saying it. Nobody thinks that product reviewers are bitchy. Well, except perhaps the people who tried the product they're pimping and realised it was a deathtrap and are now pissed off that someone is extolling it's virtues. But really, I'll make sure that the pajamas are fire-proof and the food is less than 50% fat and 50% sugar.

Sound good?

PS: If you believe even a word of this post than you don't know me well enough to even care what goes on in my life or my blog. But if you want to leave scathing comments, that's awesome. Those are great traffic-drivers!

PPS: If you think I'm mocking you in this post, I probably am. But I'm mocking a lot of people. So don't go feeling all important.

26.1.11

Sane Safety or Cultural Coddling?

Last week, a bus driver in Newfoundland was suspended for asking teenagers to get out and push the bus when it became stuck in a snowdrift. Apparently it happened right outside the school -as the bus was exiting. A parent picking up her son or daughter from the school saw what was happening and reported it (not to the school or the police, but the local radio station!)
I listened to the call-in radio shows where all kinds of well intentioned people proclaimed that we're coddling our kids too much -that suspending a man for asking teenagers to push a bus is doing a disservice to the teens who felt capable of pushing. Most of them blamed the parents. And most of them would be the same people to call in if, say, a child was kidnapped walking home from school by himself. They'd change their tune, then, though, and say that the mother was negligent for allowing the child to walk home.

I don't know which is worse:
  • that we've created such fear in parents that they can never do ANYTHING without feeling like they're putting their child at risk
or
  • that we blame parents whenever anything goes wrong; imagining that all tragedy is preventable
or
  • that we blame parents for raising "sissies" and children who don't know how to take a risk and end up moving into their parents basement at 24 because they can't handle independence - financial or otherwise.
In my opinion? A school bus is heavy, very heavy. There was snow and ice on the ground and blowing snow reducing visability for oncoming traffic. They were just outside the school, not stuck on a rural road somewhere with no way to contact anyone. The bus driver should have sent the kids back into the school and called for a tow truck.

But I'm in the minority on that one. Most people's knee-jerk reaction is "I pushed my mother's car all the time as a teenager. Are you telling me 20 teenagers can't push a bus?"

And then they blame the parents. We do horrible things, you know, protecting our children. Well, except when we're doing horrible things by not protecting them.

So was this woman's* compaint a sane and proper safety concern or was it the product of cultural conditioning to expect the worst? You decide:

*********************

Once there was a young woman who desperately wanted a baby. She started taking folic acid – to prevent Spina Bifida – and quit drinking alcohol – because she didn’t want to accidentally drink when she was pregnant but didn’t know yet. Just to be safe, and because she’d heard it was dangerous, she gave up coffee and tea too. Her mother laughed a little at that one, but when she saw a study that showed that caffeine intake could affect miscarriage risk, she knew she was right.

She was pleased to discover she was pregnant a short while later. Her husband took over anything related to the cat – toxoplasmosis could cause birth defects. On New Year’s Eve she enviously eyed everyone’s champagne glasses. Her husband told her one sip wouldn’t hurt. But she said no. The next week, she saw a pregnant celebrity being bashed in the magazines for sipping a glass of champagne at a party. She knew she had made the right choice.

The baby arrived, perfect in every way. She put him to sleep each night in his crib, despite wanting to snuggle with him and nurse him in her own bed. When she read that some municipalities in the United States were considering making co-sleeping illegal because of the risk of death for the infant, she knew she had made the right choice. She put her infant to sleep on his back each night; though her grandmother told her sleeping on his stomach would ease his colic. But everyone knows that back sleeping prevents SIDS.

She bought two car seats, one installed in her own car and an extra in case he ever needed to be transported when she wasn’t available. You can never be too careful. She put covers on all the electrical sockets and modified her stairway entrance so she could add a gate. The cat got relegated to the garage when it refused to keep its food up high.

One day, she had to fill the car with gas. He was in the backseat, asleep in his carseat, sick with croup. It was raining. She lifted him from the car seat, wrapped her own coat around him, and went in to pay. When her husband found out he was angry. But she was validated when the next week the news featured the story of a woman in the same circumstance who had been arrested for leaving her child unattended in the car.

Her son grew older. She sent him off to school with his BPA free lunchbag with an icepack to keep his food cold so he wouldn’t get salmonella. She taught him about strangers and that his private parts were his alone. She gave him a cell phone so he could get a hold of her in any emergency.

When he was six and wanted to go sledding in the backyard, she made sure he put on a helmet. When he was eight and asked if he could walk to the corner store by himself, she said no. Everyone knows a child isn’t safe on the streets by himself. When he was eleven and asked if he could finally stop having a babysitter after school, she said no. She agreed he was mature and responsible enough to take care of himself, but the law says children under 12 years old must be supervised.

When he was fifteen and a friend invited him to his older brother’s party, she said no. She knew the parents wouldn’t be home and that there may well be drinking. He was angry with her, but she wouldn’t budge. It just wasn’t safe. Everyone agreed with her.

She talked to him about sex and particularly safe-sex. She talked to him about smoking and told him of the risks. She spoke to him of alcohol and reminded him that he wasn’t old enough to drink. She told him stories of teens who had died or been injured using drugs. She asked him to please just try to stay safe. All she wanted was for him to stay safe.

One snowy day she picked him up after school. Although he normally walked, the roads were slick with ice and there was no clearance for pedestrians. She knew it would be safest to drive him home herself. As she pulled into the parking lot, she saw a number of his friends pushing a school bus that had gotten stuck into a snow drift. It made no sense to her that these children would stand behind such a large vehicle, in the way of traffic, pushing it. She reported what she saw. All she wanted was to make sure that other people’s children were safe too.

The bus driver was suspended for asking the children to push the bus. And suddenly, everyone accused her and other parents of coddling their children. People called in to radio shows to say that teens should be allowed to push vehicles; that suspending the driver went too far; that parents who complained of this incident were being over-protective.

She doesn’t know where she went wrong. From before the day she became pregnant all she has heard, seen, or read, has been about how to keep her child safe. She has seen parents – well-meaning, good parents – charged or investigated for doing things society deemed was not safe. She has seen parents hung out to dry for letting their child walk alone to the store or trusting their teen to have an unsupervised party. She did what was expected, what felt right after all these years of doing the right and safe thing, and now she is being hung out to dry.

When was she supposed to stop trying to keep her child safe?


*Note: that story is not meant to represent a real person; but I think it could represent all of us.

22.1.11

Why "Good" Mothers are Superior

The parenting world was in shock last week, as Amy Chua’s article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” appeared in the Wall Street Journal and immediately went viral. The backlash has been constant and steady since. It’s not difficult to see why many would be upset reading the essay, an excerpt from her latest book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.


In it, she wrote that her children were never allowed playdates, sleepovers, TV or computer games. They were not permitted less than a B in school (and that with much scolding) or to do any activities other than play piano or violin. She talked of hours spent on homework and the insults she would fling at her children if they didn’t conform to her expectations. Most shocking was her tale of spending 5 hours forcing her seven-year-old daughter to practice a piano piece she couldn’t get right. The young girl was denied food or bathroom breaks, was yelled at, scolded, and threatened until finally she got it right.

Chua related the entire story with smug self-pride showing it as proof of how she is a better mother than most Western mothers. She cares about her daughter’s success and will not allow her to fail. After the torturous piano practice, her daughter cuddled with her and told jokes. Therefore it was obvious that her daughter thrived under this guidance.

My immediate gut reaction was “well, yes, but even the child victim of a pedophile will look for approval from their tormentor.” Really, she did a poor job proving to most readers how it was that her method of parenting was superior. Defenders pulled out the statistics on Chinese education and high scores in International tests, but I’ve discussed the culture that leads to those scores before. It goes beyond parenting choice and is part of a national system.

Most people, however, were not defending her. Most were astounded and shocked by her claims. At first, I too, was among them. But as I read the rebuttals I began to feel the same unease I felt reading her own column.

Parents argued that “as long as my child is happy, I’m doing a good job.” Others claimed that spending five hours a night on homework and piano practice would mean more self-sacrifice than they were willing to give. Yet others brought out the old “good enough” argument.

The polar opposite of Chua’s method of parenting, “good enough” parenting basically states that if a child is fed, clothed, housed and given some opportunity for play and some nagging to do homework, they will raise themselves up while the parents tend to household chores, work, and their facebook accounts and TV schedule. (Please note, I am not talking about Good Enough Parenting - as coined by David Winnicott - but the self-indulgent kind of parenting that says "I don't have time to do this; I don't think pushing her will help; etc. etc)

There are a lot of parents who swear by this method. It is a backlash against all the natural parenting and perfect parenting gurus who urge us to monitor every moment of our child’s life to insure they become successful, happy adults. And, of course, to theories like Chua’s - that you can beat and insult your child into submitting to your desires.

But, let’s face it, “good enough” parenting isn’t really good enough. What it is, is an excuse to ignore the tough parts of parenting. Yes, keeping your children alive is good. But a zookeeper could do that.

As parents it is our duty to motivate our children and to draw out their talents. Not that I’d advocate Chua’s response, but letting our children skate by or do whatever they want – which would obviously be the thing requiring least effort – serves no one well.

Tonight I erased all of my son’s homework once he had completed it. Yes it was done right, for the most part, but it was not done “good enough.” I could see that he had raced through it in an attempt to get back to the computer and when I corrected him he didn’t listen and made the same mistakes again. So I made him start all over.

“Don’t be a tiger mother,” my husband whispered as I raised my voice and informed my son that I wouldn’t allow him to get away with mediocre effort.

That is the fear, of course: that we’ll become harridans that our children hate or that our frustration will lead us to say or do things that are abusive and unsupportive.

In the grand scheme of things, one night’s homework is pretty meaningless. It’s easy to just let it go and let everyone stay happy. But having a child who is happy doesn’t mean having a child who is self-satisfied or will grow into an adult confident of his place in the world. The “good enough” theory somehow believes that children will gain self-esteem, confidence and ability intrinsically.

Loathe as I am to admit it, I have to agree with Chua when she states: “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.”

There is a balance in there somewhere. Between “good enough” and Chua’s way there’s just the good mother: the one who allows her child to play and have fun yet willingly sacrifices her free time to drill him in spelling words; the one who provides challenges and activities but helps her child through them rather than badgers him into achievement. These are the mothers who will raise happy, confident, successful children; the one who understands that each child is different and there is no one parenting “method” that will raise them all perfectly. Every child deserves a good mother – not a superior or “good enough” mother.

21.1.11

The Prodigal Blogger Returns....And Gone.

There I was: notes in hand, photos ready to go, drafting my first post in forever.

Then I heard a dog bark.

Funny thing. I don't have a dog. And the rabbit has never barked.

Then I heard a child cry. Children I have. Enough to come out of my proverbial wazoo. I'm not quite sure what a "wazoo" is, but it's quite likely that's where they did come out of. Except my last; he was cut out after giving the ob-gyn the single-finger salute (that's the only explanation for what his hand was doing down there)

Then I heard a wheezy, barky, tear-filled sob.

And now I'm wondering whether to head to the hospital now and wait in the ER all night; try to call my family doctor in the morning; or wait a few more hours and go to the hospital then.

The first time he had croup, we waited 4 hours in a crowded ER. He had a temp of 102. His O2 levels were around 80 by the time he got in. He was admitted and spent 3 days in hospital.

This is the fourth time. And even though the other two never got quite as bad as that first time, I always worry it will.

I'm a worrier. He started stuttering today. My mind immediately went to "brain tumour." Of course, my mind is more prone to go there given his NF and his recent MRI findings. But it was still a silly place to go.

I worry about this blog. It has been too long. I worry you'll all go away and never want to read me again. I broke a circle of reciprocity.

But I'm just being silly, right?

Right?

Kill the fatted calf. I'll be blogging from home or hospital tomorrow. Promise.