Just me and the kids

13 May

In honour of Mothers Day, I handed off my camera (for once), and got the hubby to grab a shot of Moses, Miri and me. It was a spur of the moment thing, and if I’d planned it I’d have combed my hair and put on nicer clothes. But both kids are looking at the camera, so I’m happy!

Happy Mothers Day! Get out from behind the camera and get in a picture with your kids–you matter too!




PSA: Clearly, we are surviving

9 May

If you meet someone, and it is obvious that they are in a difficult financial situation, don’t ask them how they are surviving.

Just don’t.

It doesn’t matter if you are just curious. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a difficult financial situation too. It doesn’t matter if you are only trying to help. Don’t ask them that question. It is inappropriate, and rather frankly, none of your business. It’s like asking someone how much money they make, or what their mortgage payment is. Just don’t go there.

Since the advent of this economic downturn, the horror that keeps on horrifying, I have met a lot of people who are having a hard time.  After awhile, they will sometimes volunteer information about their financial status and what they are doing to make ends meet. Some of them are borrowing thousands of dollars each month from family members. Some of them live in their parents’ basement, or in low-income housing. Some of them are in school and their grades are good enough that they are receiving a full scholarship for them and their family. Some of them have had to turn to social assistance. Sometimes it’s a combination of some or all of the above.

On more occasions than I can even remember, I have been the uncomfortable recipient of the inquiry, “How do you survive?”

“How much is your rent?”

“How much does your husband get in student loans?”

Really? I mean, really? I should not even have to be writing this post right now, but clearly, people are mistakenly of the impression that this line of questioning is acceptable, so I’m going to throw out a PSA on behalf of all my fellow recession victims and student parents:

Upon finding out that my husband is in school, we have two children, and I only work part time (more on my job later), do not ask me to give you a breakdown of how much our monthly Child Tax Credit is, what we pay for rent, and how much my husband receives in scholarships and grants.

Don’t go there. Just don’t. Does it really matter HOW we are surviving? Clearly, we are surviving, and that is what matters.

End Rant.

The B Word

8 May

Figuring out what to do with your life is hard work. And it’s even harder when you’re doing the work as an adult, and not as a 19 year old backpacking across Europe trying to find herself. The fact that the freedom of youth is more fun than the drudgery of adulthood, though, does not make it any less valid. This is what I realized today, as I puff-puff-puffed my way along a winding trail, on my first run since my son was a baby. Enjoyment is just as valid as struggle. Fulfillment is just as valid as pain. They both have their place in our lives. Adulthood does not have to be equated with misery.

Lately, I’ve forgotten that. It’s not that I want to be miserable—of course I don’t—but in the difficult process of figuring out what I should do with my life (which is very different from figuring out what I want to do with my life, but more on that in another post), I have become very responsible. Being responsible is good. It’s great! Having a calendar chock full of meetings, appointments and obligations is very grown up. And frankly, it’s about time, as I’m a twenty-six year old college graduate with a husband and two children to take care of.

I love that I am working hard. I love that I have been busy trying to piece together a career, and along with it, some financial stability. What I don’t love is my recent, slightly obsessive mindset that unless I am doing something productive, then I am wasting time. I need to ask myself, who defines productive anyway?

How is having a nap, going for a jog, or hanging out on the floor playing trains with my son, not productive? Have I become the kind of person who only categorizes things that bring in revenue (work) or potential future revenue (school) as important? How on earth did that happen?

It happened because, when something is lacking, it is possible to become laser focused on that thing. Thus, being broke, I became obsessed. I spent hours upon hours just working on ways to make money—sending our resumes, looking into the possibility of starting up my own business, helping my husband apply for grants, volunteering at places that I would like to work one day in the hopes that a job opens up. I have been (and still am, to a large extent) consumed. But the fact that money is important (and it is important), does not mean that all else ceases to matter. Furthering my career is important to me and to the future of my family, but it is not the only thing that’s important.

Health is important. Rest is important. Togetherness is important. As is that elusive B-word that we women strive for so hard: Balance.
So today, while I should have been getting some work done, I laced up my shoes, left the kids with their dad, and puff-puff-puffed my way along a winding path. Not because I felt like I should, but because I wanted to, and I could.

More to come on where I’m going with my life and what I’ve been working on–Stay tuned.

Are Canadian winters history?

4 Apr

The History Club from Trent University (of which my husband is an executive) went to the Ganaska Maple Syrup farm. We loaded the kids onto a big yellow bus, and prepared for a blast from the past–every kid in Ontario goes on a school trip to learn about maple syrup, and I was no exception. I was excited to relive that part of my childhood and give the same experience to my kids. They wouldn’t remember it in the future, but they’d enjoy it in the moment, and anyway, they had years of maple syrup farm excursions ahead of them. Right?

My daughter Miri and her dad.

young participants getting a chance to drill for sap.

The day did not disappoint. Trampling through the woods, drinking sap from dixie cups, and sitting around a fire listening to a story by a costumed “pioneer” provided a uniquely Canadian experience.

Moses hiding from the "Pioneer" during the presentation.

The Pioneer.

We saw where the syrup was made, ate delicious pancakes smothered in Maple flavoured sweetness, and danced to a folk guitar band.

My little guy, stuffing his face.

During the lecture, we were made aware of an alarming fact: the maple syrup yield for this year was terrible. And the reason was that it got so warm, so fast before it was even spring, that the trees were not able to produce as much sap as they normally do. The implications of this are pretty clear.

Syrup Farmer telling us about this year's low yield.

First, there is the obvious economic distress that this places on Maple syrup farmers. This is their livelihood. How will they support their families this year, and in future years if this trend continues?

Then there’s the way that their economic distress becomes everyone’s economic distress. Ganaska Forest Centre does not simply provide maple syrup–they also host camps, survival classes, and a variety of other outdoor education experiences. What happens when their reduced income from the Maple Syrup harvest causes them to raise prices of not only their limited supplies of syrup, but the other programs they provide?

Sap collection bucket.

And of course, as a mom, I can’t help but wonder if my grandkids will grow up in a world without maple syrup–a delicacy that is part of our national identity. Something Aunt Jemima can’t even get close to replicating. This thought is unsettling, and it’s not just about of the syrup. It’s the idea of losing the definition of a Canadian Winter that is upsetting. For the past three winters of my son’s young life, we have had next to no snow. It can be counted on one hand the number of times he has used the little sled he received for his first Christmas, under the misguided notion that his childhood would be filled with the kind of winters Canadian children enjoyed in the past.

Today’s children should be able to snowshoe through Ontario’s conservation areas. They should have the quintessential childhood experience of ice skating outdoors. They should know snowball fights, skiing, and the joy of coming inside on a freezing cold day to find a pot of homemade hot chocolate sitting on the stove.

If Canadian children grow up without winter, they will miss out on an important part of our national identity.

Moses and I.

I N.I.P.

23 Mar

I N.I.P.

That’s right, folks. I’m one of those women who is not afraid to nurse in public. It has less to do with making a statement, and more to do with the hungry, hystertical baby who just wants food and has no idea that the source is considered taboo.

Discretion being the better part of valour, I make sure I’m covered up. In fact, 99% of the time you’d have no idea there was anything besides mama/baby snuggles going on. Stealthy like a ninja, there’s a large bag of nip-hiding tricks at my disposal. Listen close, and I’ll share them with you.

(Disclaimer: I fully support the right of moms everywhere to bare all. This is just a list of tips for those who may not be comfortable with that. )

The Wrap:

My son and Me

Baby-wearing Mamas know that one of the most convenient ways to feed an infant is hands-free. The baby is so close to the body, and there’s all that extra material to act as a convenient shield from the public eye. The one pictured above is a Moby Wrap–a similar wrap, The Maman Kangourou, can be purchased at Babies R Us. If you aren’t into all that tying, Soft Structured Carriers like the Ergo work just as well–and it comes with a convenient hood for extra coverage!

The Ergo Baby Carrier

The Poncho:

Ponchos are in, and no matter what you think of this fashion trend, it’s undeniably convenient for nursing moms. This particular style is $27.80 from Forever 21,  and is roomy enough to accomodate a baby, without any awkward “lift the shirt” manoevers. It’s a permanent fixture of my diaper bag.

Fringed Diamond Poncho, Forever 21

The Nursing Top: 

Good nursing tops are specifically designed for discreet feeding. Rather than throwing a blanket over ourselves, or putting on an extremely conspicuous tarp-like nursing cover, they allow for quenching a baby’s thirst with little fumbling or fanfare. Most tanks come with straps that unsnap and can be pulled down, and the blouse-styles are layered with hidden milk-access. They can be bought at any maternity store, but can be pricey if a whole wardrobe is needed for what amounts to being a relatively limited timeframe.

Trendy Tummy Maternity

The Nursing Hat:

This is adorable and perfect for summer. Shield the baby from the sun AND yourself from exposure!

Moboleeze Nursing Hat

Or, if you’ve got a sense of humour and an appreciation for shock value: Behold, The Booby Hat by CheekyChumy on Etsy!

The Nursing Necklace:

As babies get older, it’s harder to keep them on task while feeding. They love to look around, take in their surroundings, and smile at everyone they see. This can make things a little awkward for a mom who doesn’t feel like providing the world with a peep show. A nursing necklace is a great option for to keep baby occupied, and facing mom.

Mommy  Necklaces are colourful, fun and come in a variety of styles.

Smart Mom Jewelry

In the market for a more high-end piece? Julian & Co makes a nursing necklace that’s as functional as it is classy. Bonus: It can be personalized with your baby’s name and birth info! 

 So there you have it. A round-up of products to keep you nursing in comfort and style.  -Durham Mom 

PS: None of these companies pay me anything to promote these products. I only promote what I believe in.

Should a killer go free?

15 Mar

Guy Turcotte murdered his children. His defense is that he was deeply distraught over the collapse of his marriage–so much so that he was not responsible for his actions.

People get deeply distraught all the time–so distraught that they don’t want to go on. Some of these people hurt themselves. Some commit crimes of passion, and unleash their fury on the ex who wronged them. How many people, when faced with crippling depression, take it out on the only ones who are totally innocent–their children?

That is exactly what Guy Turcotte did. And “experts” are saying that he’s no longer depressed, and should be allowed to walk. That he should be allowed to re-marry and have more children (!), go back to practicing medicine. This story sends off so many red flags I’m not sure where to start when counting them.

Turcotte is using his divorce–a situation thousands of people face every day–as the reason why he snapped, and murdered his helpless, trusting babies. This is extremely alarming. Any number of things could cause a person extreme distress–he will likely be distraught again, over and over, in the future, because distress is part of life. What’s to say that he isn’t going to hurt someone again? Is it worth the risk to society, to his neighbours, to the people on whom he’d be practicing medicine?

Then there’s the way that he carried out the murders. Obviously, killing children is horrific no matter how it is done, but he did it in a way that was brutal and ensured that they would suffer. He stabbed his own 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, until they were dead. That is not just distress. That is rage–and it is dangerous.

Now he’s ready to move on. He wants to be released from jail, have a new relationship, new children, and go back to work. Most parents completely collapse at the death of a child. They cannot imagine going on, and many simply don’t. The crushing guilt that would compound that grief, in the event of a parent actually causing the excruciating death of their own child,  should be debilitating. It should not be a situation in which someone says “Okay, great! My trial’s done, I’ve been acquitted, my two helpless offspring are in the ground, I’m ready to carpe diem!”

He has caused pain and devastation to countless people with his horrific actions–the lives of the children’s mother, their relatives, friends and community members will never be the same. Why should he be allowed to move on, when his children can’t? And how can he want to? Even thinking of something happening to my children makes me want to curl up into a ball and hide. I can’t imagine facing that reality, knowing it was my fault, and getting over it. Ever.

Guy Turcotte’s wife–perhaps the person who knew him best–is pleading with the board to see him for the monster who he is. Shouldn’t they listen?

Related Links:



Let Them Be Kids

13 Mar

My kid enjoying the park.

Look at that smile! You can almost feel the whooshing of the chilly air and hear his happy breathlessness–it’s the closest a child can get to the thrill of flying.

That’s not all the playground has to offer. There are slides, monkey bars, teeter-totters and merry-go-rounds. Equipment designed to get little legs moving and little hearts pumping. Kids need at least an hour of good exercise a day, for their health and happiness. Not to mention the fact that it’s FUN–kids learn best while they play!

So why is it that so many Oshawa schools, the very places where our children should be doing the most learning, are lacking playground equipment? This kiddie equivalent of a gym is so vital to the well-being of our children, yet so many go without it on a daily basis.

Let’s face it. Kids spend around 6 hours a day at school. When they get home it’s a flurry of preparations for dinner/bath/bed. Of course parents should make sure their children are getting out and getting active, but with most families headed by two parents working outside the home, and many children being involved in Before and After School programming (making their school day even longer), it’s just not possible for some families to get out and run around for an hour in the evening. Some exhausted moms and dads have to do their best just to keep from collapsing by the end of the day!

School should be a place that bridges the gap. Kids in after school programs should have access to a playground while they wait for their parents. Recess should involve jumping and sliding and climbing–not just standing around. Parents should be able to take their kids to the neighbourhood school on the weekends, to meet with friends and play on the climbers. In Oshawa, especially South Oshawa, that just isn’t a reality.

Village Union Public School in Oshawa recently won the opportunity to build a play structure. They will fundraise half of the cost, and Let Them Be Kids will match it. This is a fantastic chance for the students, but it begs the question–why the heck are kids having to pay for their own playground? And what about the kids who weren’t lucky enough to be chosen for this award?

Play is not a privilege–it’s a right. What is the Durham District School Board going to do about it?

-Durham Mom