penelope and bumblebee

Good grammar costs nothing.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

what he said

before you go any further: printing this does not mean that i am suggesting that there are only 2 ways to do things - that you either co-sleep or you let your baby cry - just that for me, co-sleeping: good. ferber: baaaddd, oh, so bad.

everything contained in this post, from here to the end, came from Slate, by way of that cool mama at the peanut gallery. read it and sleep.

Go Ahead—Sleep With Your Kids
By Robert Wright

Every night thousands of parents, following standard child-care advice, engage in a bloodcurdling ritual. They put their several-months-old infant in a crib, leave the room, and studiously ignore its crying. The crying may go on for 20 or 30 minutes before a parent is allowed to return. The baby may then be patted but not picked up, and the parent must quickly leave, after which the crying typically resumes. Eventually sleep comes, but the ritual recurs when the child awakes during the night. The same thing happens the next night, except that the parent must wait five minutes longer before the designated patting. This goes on for a week, two weeks, maybe even a month. If all goes well, the day finally arrives when the child can fall asleep without fuss and go the whole night without being fed. For Mommy and Daddy, it's Miller time.
This is known as "Ferberizing" a child, after Richard Ferber, America's best-known expert on infant sleep. Many parents find his prescribed boot camp for babies agonizing, but they persist because they've been assured it's harmless. Ferber depicts the ritual as the child's natural progress toward nocturnal self-reliance. What sounds to the untrained ear like a baby wailing in desperate protest of abandonment is described by Ferber as a child "learning the new associations."
At this point I should own up to my bias: My wife and I are failed Ferberizers. When our first daughter proved capable of crying for 45 minutes without reloading, we gave up and let her sleep in our bed. When our second daughter showed up three years later, we didn't even bother to set up the crib. She wasn't too vocal and seemed a better candidate for Ferberization, but we'd found we liked sleeping with a baby.

How did we have the hubris to defy the mainstream of current child-care wisdom? That brings me to my second bias (hauntingly familiar to regular readers): Darwinism. For our species, the natural nighttime arrangement is for kids to sleep alongside their mothers for the first few years. At least, that's the norm in hunter-gatherer societies, the closest things we have to a model of the social environment in which humans evolved. Mothers nurse their children to sleep and then nurse on demand through the night. Sounds taxing, but it's not. When the baby cries, the mother starts nursing reflexively, often without really waking up. If she does reach consciousness, she soon fades back to sleep with the child. And the father, as I can personally attest, never leaves Z-town.

So Ferberization, I submit, is unnatural. That doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. The technique may well be harmless (though maybe not, as we'll see below). I don't begrudge Ferber the right to preach Ferberization or parents who prefer sleeping sans child the right to practice it. Live and let live. What's annoying is the refusal of Ferber and other experts to reciprocate my magnanimity. They act as if parents like me are derelict, as if children need to fall asleep in a room alone. "Even if you and your child seem happy about his sharing your bed at night," writes Ferber, "and even if he seems to sleep well there, in the long run this habit will probably not be good for either of you." On television I've seen a father sheepishly admit to famous child-care guru T. Berry Brazelton that he likes sleeping with his toddler. You'd think the poor man had committed incest.
Why, exactly, is it bad to sleep with your kids? Learning to sleep alone, says Ferber, lets your child "see himself as an independent individual." I'm puzzled. It isn't obvious to me how a baby would develop a robust sense of autonomy while being confined to a small cubicle with bars on the side and rendered powerless to influence its environment. (Nor is it obvious these days, when many kids spend 40 hours a week in day care, that they need extra autonomy training.) I'd be willing to look at the evidence behind this claim, but there isn't any. Comparing Ferberized with non-Ferberized kids as they grow up would tell us nothing--Ferberizing and non-Ferberizing parents no doubt tend to have broadly different approaches to child-rearing, and they probably have different cultural milieus. We can't control our variables.
Lacking data, people like Ferber and Brazelton make creative assertions about what's going on inside the child's head. Ferber says that if you let a toddler sleep between you and your spouse, "in a sense separating the two of you, he may feel too powerful and become worried." Well, he may, I guess. Or he may just feel cozy. Hard to say (though they certainly look cozy). Brazelton tells us that when a child wakes up at night and you refuse to retrieve her from the crib, "she won't like it, but she'll understand." Oh.
According to Ferber, the trouble with letting a child who fears sleeping alone into your bed is that "you are not really solving the problem. There must be a reason why he is so fearful." Yes, there must. Here's one candidate. Maybe your child's brain was designed by natural selection over millions of years during which mothers slept with their babies. Maybe back then if babies found themselves completely alone at night it often meant something horrific had happened--the mother had been eaten by a beast, say. Maybe the young brain is designed to respond to this situation by screaming frantically so that any relatives within earshot will discover the child. Maybe, in short, the reason that kids left alone sound terrified is that kids left alone naturally get terrified. Just a theory.
Afew weeks of nightly terror presumably won't scar a child for life. Humans are resilient, by design. If Ferber's gospel harms kids, it's more likely doing so via a second route: the denial of mother's milk to the child at night. Breast milk, researchers are finding, is a kind of "external placenta," loaded with hormones masterfully engineered to assist development. One study found that it boosts IQ.

Presumably most breast-feeding benefits can be delivered via daytime nursing. Still, we certainly don't know that an 11-hour nightly gap in the feeding schedule isn't doing harm. And we do know that such a gap isn't part of nature's plan for a five-month-old child--at least, to judge by hunter-gatherer societies. Or to judge by the milk itself: It is thin and watery--typical of species that nurse frequently. Or to judge by the mothers: Failing to nurse at night can lead to painful engorgement or even breast infection. Meanwhile, as all available evidence suggests that nighttime feeding is natural, Ferber asserts the opposite. If after three months of age your baby wakes at night and wants to be fed, "she is developing a sleep problem."

I don't generally complain about oppressive patriarchal social structures, but Ferberism is a good example of one. As "family bed" boosters have noted, male physicians, who have no idea what motherhood is like, have cowed women for decades into doing unnatural and destructive things. For a while doctors said mothers shouldn't feed more than once every four hours. Now they admit they were wrong. For a while they pushed bottle feeding. Now they admit this was wrong. For a while they told pregnant women to keep weight gains minimal (and some women did so by smoking more cigarettes!). Wrong again. Now they're telling mothers to deny food to infants all night long once the kids are a few months old.

There are signs that yet another well-advised retreat is underway. Though Ferber hasn't put out the white flag, Brazelton is sounding less and less dismissive of parents who sleep with their kids. (Not surprisingly, the least dismissive big-name child-care expert is a woman, Penelope Leach.) Better late than never. But in child care, as in the behavioral sciences generally, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time and trouble by recognizing at the outset that people are animals, and pondering the implications of that fact.

Friday, July 28, 2006

public display of affection

10 things I love about Chris:
(that’s his name. I’m sick of calling him ‘hubby’)

1. He reads more than he talks. That means that he’s never said certain words out loud. When he finally does, they are pronounced wrong. For example: I am not penelope, I am PENNY-LOPE and a pteradactyl? PETROdactyl.

2. When I have trouble falling asleep, he tells me about how stars are made. That works.

3. He can fix stuff.

4. He (humours) takes my neuroses seriously.

5. He is a terrible, terrible liar. Really bad.

6. He wooed me with a wicked cool jump-shot in pool. I swooned. He got laid.

7. He’s seriously not interested in sports, but he always tries to get leafs tickets for my birthday.

8. he’s held my hand through difficult days, held my hair on drunk days and held my attention since day one.

9. sexy arms, gorgeous face. he's hot.

10.really, truly, seriously amazing dad to bumblebee.

Honourable mention:
-brings me chocolate.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blog Me Baby, Blog Me Baby All Night Long


So, forgive me for my earlier technical indiscreton. I can’t believe that I screwed up posting the interview of the woman that is the brains behind this feat of organizational genius!

I promise I will leave this up as my most recent post for longer than usual so that the lovely Jana of Something Baby Blue gets a nice long moment in the sun – she deserves it. Jana’s a very cool chick who likes hockey. ‘Nuff said as far as I’m concerned, but add to it that she mommed two of the cutest ginger-locked pixies in the blogspere, writes like nobody’s business and cared enough about all of us to help put together this super-fun exchange, and that makes her tops in my books.

And now, without further ado, from Something Baby Blue, I give you, Jana

What is the quality you most admire in a blogger?
I admire people who have the storytelling gene in spades. My ever expanding blogroll is full of people who are witty and deep. I have to be careful not to sneak away during office hours or I will likely find myself laughing out loud or wiping away a heartfelt tear.

How would you describe your blog?
It is full of unanswered questions. If you have the answers please come and guide me. Show me the way. For example I still need someone to confirm if race car drivers wear Depends, have time to go during pit stops or just sweat it out.

What do you most like about your blog?
I like when the words pour out and write themselves.
The support from my new friends is priceless.
I love that it has become the thing in my life that keeps me sane.

What do you regard as the principle defect of your blog?
Whenever I give myself a topic that I want to write about, the words get stuck in my head. Some of the things that are important to me and others that make me who I am seem to be permanently lodged in a zone I can’t reach.

What character of fiction do you most wish had a blog?
Carrie Bradshaw's blog would be full of pop culture, cute boy references and friendship bonding moments. Also the matchmaking escapades of Emma Woodhouse would be a daily read for me.

What historical or real life person do you most wish had a blog?
I would have loved to read the day to day exploration of John Lennon. I imagine the words to be both poetic and thought provoking.

What is your present state of blog?
I've been feeling scattered and thinly spread. I've been worried that meme's are going to overtake my blog as that is all my brain can wrap itself around but I profess to make them entertaining. I've only returned to work from my Canadian super long maternity leave a mere six weeks ago. Eventually I will find balance and get my groove back.

What is the quality you most admire in a person?
My close friends all share the traits of being intelligent and honest. I love spending hours getting caught up in long conversations that flow in all kinds of tangents. They are open-minded and respectful while sharing their opinions and thoughts. I love that these moments give me lasting ideas to ponder.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Being so afraid of getting hurt that you never let yourself experience love would be up there. So would having pride lead you down a road of bad choices.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
The first thing that comes to mind would be the ability to clear my mind of all the racing thoughts so that I could be successful at astral projection. I would zoom over to BlogHer and listen to all the conversations and check out their shoes.

Besides that, I'd love to have the celebrity halo of charm that would attract hordes of people to me, bring about gazillions of dollars and make cool companies send me free stuff. I won't even mind if the paparazzi depict me as a white trash mama.

What is your blog motto?
Write from the heart to hold close memories into the future.

See? I'm not worthy

Special thanks to that bad lady Her Bad Mother for encouraging such a great project. We are still jealous that she gets to go to BlogHer and we don’t, but at least we can rest assured that the Toronto contingent will be well-represented in Cali.

Also, don’t know how a newbie got so lucky, but you can check out my interview over at Martinis for Milk place. Scarbiedoll is so smart and funny that I have always been kind of scared to comment, but now that we are best buds, I’ll drive her crazy with my blather. She certainly is a fave and I thank her for her warm hospitality!

By the way, that’s a little goat sticking her little tongue out. I am a capricorn and a bit of a brat, so I thought it fit. Since I have to explain it, I prolly should have chosen a different picture.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Doesn't Get Better Than This

Transcript of the best conversation I’ve had in ages:

Bumblebee:Gllrr duhnn mmmm, ungh, dat! dat!

Mumma: oh, do you see a doggy? What does a doggy say?

Bumblebee: ooo ooo ooo!

Mumma: That’s right, doggy says ‘woof, woof!’ You are the smartest girl in the world.

Bumblebee: Gor de mum degoy degoy degoy – hi. Hiiiiiiiii. Hi.

Mumma: hi, love. hi, sweetness.

Bumblebee: Up. Up. Up! UP!

Mumma: ok, hi love. Oh, look who’s back! Who’s that?

Bumblebee: Ooo ooo ooo!

Mumma: that’s right! hi doggy!

Bumblebee: Burr unhn, duh dat! mmmmm. Dat! dat!

Mumma: birdies!

Bumblebee: Hi ooo ooo! Urgl boo doo degoy degoy.

(pause to watch shithawks. Shithawks take off)

Bumblebee: Aaah-aaaaahhhhh! Eeeeeeeeee! Aaaaaahhhhh!

Mumma: ok, come here, screamy screamerton. Can I have a cuddle?

Bumblebee: (nuzzling into my neck) Mmmm… hi. Hiiiiii.

Gotta go – buying my girl a pony.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Tin Can Alley

I love walking the three blocks to the subway on Tuesday mornings. It is one of the greatest non-family related pleasures of my week (up there with so you think you can dance Wednesdays and casual Fridays). Is it the early morning birdsongs, you ask? No (I’m more of an evening bird kind of girl). Could it be the morning dew glistening on slowly waking garden blooms? Nice, but nuh-uh. How about the sleepy commuters, still friendly in their sunrise stupors? Nope.

It’s the recycling bins. Yes, I get a kick out of glancing at a household’s recycling bin and discerning bits of information from the receptacles and the contents therein.

Gross, I know, but it’s not like I get down in there and rummage through leaky milk cartons and stinky tuna tins; in fact, I don’t even slow my pace. I just look, and discern. Look, and discern. I’m not a garbage picker; I’m a detective. An urban anthropologist. An explorer, some might say (some might say a whackjob, but I’m not listening to them).

There is a lot to learn about a household by doing this.

I notice mainly 3 things – organization of the bins, number of bins, contents of bins. (Isn’t this fascinating? too bad; you tune in here and this is what you might get – do get – on occasion. I bet the comment count on this one will be through the roof!)

I note the people that separate their paper from their plastic. You don’t have to do that in Toronto anymore, but some can’t break the habit. These people tend to have tidy bins in general – everything is flattened, bundled, stacked and laying neatly within the confines of the bin. These bins also tend to have less variety as far as contents go – one bin is filled mainly with water bottles, the other, a week’s worth of the Toronto Star. I like these conscientious, neat people, even though they would probably be disgusted by me.

Most houses have the requisite 2 bins, standard order, compliments of the city. One gray, one blue, both full. But some people have an extra, tall blue bin. The people with the extra bin usually stack to over-flow, with nothing flattened or separated. Sometimes tissue boxes or frozen pizza packaging spills onto the sidewalk. These people, I think, have kids. One house in my hood puts out not 2, not 3, but 6 bins each week. They are all gray, and they are stacked on top of each other, half-full. I think this is just silly. I think the people in the house should probably be commended for recycling, because they usually tend towards the excess, or at least towards not forcing the full life span onto their products before they deem it garbage.

Then there is what I see in the bins. It’s so interesting, I swear. Like, the people that have millions of single-serve water bottles in their bins – why not just get the big jugs and a glass? The first ‘R’ is REDUCE, people! I like the big, flattened boxes the best – the treats and gifts; the big purchases. A few thoughts from this morning:

· Ooh, #213 got an outdoor tin-man heater!

· That whole box is filled with bits of paper, #119 – smarten up and get a ‘no fliers please’ sign.

· #99 – christ, that’s a lot of plastic garden statues… tylenol, batteries, soda crackers, whiskey, more whiskey… when do I get to be an eccentric old alkie?

· Aww, #75 got the same car seat as us – new baby or growing baby, I wonder?

· Ugh, #43 eats total shit. What are lunchables, anyway? There’s no food in their food! This is what they feed their kids? Gross.

I look for the contents that most resembles our own bins – organic milk, tampons, discarded playstation game manuals and healthy times teething cookies, anyone?
In the empty shell of packaging, the mysteries of humanity. I’m serious here, folks.

I also look into open windows – from the sidewalk, you perv, as I stroll by with my hubby and bumblebee. I’m not a bush-lurker. But I guess voyeur would be apt. Dusk is the best time for this, as most people have reacted to the fading daylight by opening lights, but have not yet drawn the drapes. I like to see what people have done to their space – what colour the walls are; if they’ve torn down all the walls; how people decorate. I love it. I can’t help it. I always, always look. Never mind.

Anyway, to make up for such a loser post, here is a cute picture:

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tiger, Tiger Woods, Y’all

Ready for a good laugh? I golfed yesterday. If you are wondering why that is funny, than certainly you have never seen me play. Or do much of anything athletic for that matter, since beyond yoga and frisbee, I am about as athletic as a… well something that is not lazy but is certainly not athletic. A little help here? It’s early and I was up late, so the metaphors are coming about as quickly as your tax return when they owe you. (see? No good. I’m getting coffee.)

Mmm. Coffee. As athletic as a badger. You know, industrious, but not so good with the golf clubs. Yeah, thanks for your help.

Marrying my hubs, there was practically a golf-playing clause. He doesn’t particularly like the game, but his whole family is nuts about it. My in-laws have made playing golf practically their full-time job since retiring (at age 52 – please god, let that happen to me) a couple of years ago. I know that they are disappointed that we don’t join them more often. I would like to, but I can’t seem to get past that ‘hey, I really suck at this’ phase.

Funny game, golf. Nothing I could say about the actual game could possibly be funnier or more apt than Robin Williams’ take on it in Live on Broadway. Rent it, you’ll thank me.

So anyway, we played foursomes, and thankfully, mine was a tolerant and patient gang, comprised of myself (the badger); one of the marketing directors, who’s not good enough to be annoyed by my lack of talent on the links; dw, credit queen – a decent but flukey player who was more interested in making retarded jokes about balls, sacks, forms and poking it in (I’m so stupid, I was laughing so much) than in improving her game; and our faithful ringer, rh. Rh plays golf, and plays really, really well. And like most of the really good players I know, wants others to play well, and is more than happy to (try) to help. Rh is a good teacher. He’s also full of bravado and not very humble, so when he gets all helpy and concerned and turns into a sensitive boy it’s really cute. Um, sorry ‘bout your loser team.

Most importantly, I drive the cart. You should see me drive the cart. My prowess in cart-driving is not to be beaten. I push that puppy to 25 klicks, and small forest animals run for cover. Bends, hills, turns, bridges, gravel – I leave em all in the dust. We had only one small mishap all afternoon, and that was due to common driver error – multitasking. I was trying to write down a score, point to a bunny, fish my ball out of the cup-holder, swig some brew and drive all at the same time. Anyway, those planters were ugly.

So, where were we? Oh yeah, getting hamm – I mean golfing. We played a scramble, so seriously little pressure. I had only to hit one good drive off the tee. Then I could just be a little badger, running back to the cart for a new club, smelling pretty flowers, making sure everybody stayed hydrated, scouting for trees to pee behind – seriously, you put beer on the course but no bathrooms? I guess the guys could care less if a tree is wide enough to hide their heinie. Golf is so all about the testosterone.

I know, I know, back to the golf. You can see why my game does not improve. Seriously tho, I did try. I tried hard. Those who know me can attest to how competitive I am. I do not like to do things poorly, which probably accounts for the irreverence I show towards the game. Plus, I never know what stick to use.

Did I seriously just call it a stick?

Embarassing admission: my game improved greatly (a relative term here) when I realized I am a left-handed player. Goofy foot! Who knew? Luckily, rh is left-handed, so he let me use his clubs for the remainder of the game.

Team Highlights:
- birdie-ing 2 holes
- bogeying 2 holes
- my 106 yard drive (whoo-hoo!), of course not off the tee and not at the longest drive hole, but at least I kept it out of the drink
- 2 bunnies (there was a deer, but I missed it)
- watching a dog eat a chipmunk (I swear. It was so ‘wild kingdom’. Disturbing.)
- finishing before the sun completely set

Our team did not win, but rh won closest to the pin. Whatever that means. I did, however have a great time, on the course, at the dinner, but most importantly, driving the cart.

But, we got home really late, I had to get up really early, and now I’m kinda brain dead. Hubs is going to tai chi tonight, so it’s all about me and bee. I’m happy because I missed her like crazy, not seeing her for more than 5 minutes yesterday, but I’m going to have a hard time keeping up.
Even badgers get tired.

Completely unrelated p.s. – I love that george w. recently called our loser pm ‘steve!’ ol’ stevie’s so new that people hardly even recognize his picture yet, but georgie’s already on a nick-name basis with him. I guess that’s what happens when you sell your soul (and that of your country) for a shitty softwood lumber deal! Go steve!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I Hate Baby Einstein

I do. I just completely offended a coworker (sorry, it was nothing personal) by stating so when the subject came up, as after I had told her why I do, her only response was ‘well, my nephews love it.’
Well, my baby loves eating sand but that doesn’t mean that it’s good for her, or that I'm going to let her.

So, time to back it up (using my own un-scientific opinions based on lots of stuff I’ve read, intuited [word?] and experienced):

Uno, I think that television is not good for kids, but particularly not good for babies under the age of two. Childhood obesity is on the rise in Canada, and rampant in the US. Perhaps an alternative to having to use so many resources trying to re-educate, retrain and restructure a family’s life (and much of society in general) to undo this disturbing trend, is to put some of those resources towards prevention. As in, mandating healthy food be served in schools, unhealthy food be labeled with warnings, health and physical education be part of every school’s curriculum, and more after-school, summer and family-friendly activities be subsidized or better yet, free. Encourage families to eat together, at the table. Honey, We’re Killing the Kids, with its disturbing scare tactics and personalityless ‘doctor’, should not be a primary source of education. oh yeah, and turn the damn tv off.

Dos, tv is not good for a developing child’s brain. Until the age of 2, a child’s brain is at its spongiest. They need to interact, explore, unearth, question and discover the world around them. TV, even videos sold under the perilously thin guise of being ‘educational’, encourages completely passive attention. Sitting and staring at images flashing by at a frenetic speed does not help fuse synapses, and has been seen to impede the development of language, motor skills, social skills and healthy sleeping habits. I won’t even get into the toxic world of violent images.

Tres, commercials are not good for children or parents. And Baby Einstein videos are nothing but 35-minute long commercials, for the toys they feature and for other Baby Einstein videos. Marketing to children is bad news. Not only does it gear a child up to become a consumer-driven, status hungry, wasteful adult, but it turns them into brats. It makes a parent’s efforts to teach their child about wants vs. needs, the value of things and money, and how not to have a tantrum in a public place over some crap that’s going to be broken or forgotten by the next day, very difficult indeed. Kids will learn about commercialism from other kids, in the schoolyard, daycare, etc. Do they really need to be armed with that knowledge before they’re even potty-trained?

Quattro, the production value of the Baby Einstein videos is so low that it is insulting. My husband being a television editor (ironically), they would be banned from my house for that reason alone. Not ironically, I work for a great company that makes great music and dvds for adults and kids (not babies), with no untoward promises of kiddy intellect greatness, although we do retain a panel of experts to make sure that what we produce for children is appropriate. So I know what can be produced and sold for $15. Now, let’s get something straight – I am not trying to boost the cache of my company. I won’t even tell you who they are, or say that our stuff is made with care and integrity and everybody else’s is shit. Just trust me when I say that the money disney is making off of the sale of these dvds (based on the production value and quantity produced) is insanity. And mickey doesn’t need your bucks. He needs a good art director.

Cincqo (sp?), Baby Einstein markets itself as educational, good for babies, a tool for parents. Is watching an image of a toy really better than playing with one? Is some unknown, unseen person’s hand manipulating the on-screen toy really a good substitute for your own? Is watching ‘music’ being made on the tube better than a child discovering their own rhythm and song in the vast array of ‘instruments’ around them? Is looking at some other mother’s face really better than looking at you? Also, I think that these claims falsely inflate a parent’s expectation of their child’s intellectual development. What happens if, despite hours spent watching, playing with and listening to educational ‘tools’, your kid walks later than other babies. Or talks later. Or can’t get the rings onto the base even though your sister’s baby can. Or does kinda lousy in school. Will that parent be disappointed, and if so, will it be in the child?

Listen, the tv in my house is not always off when my baby is around (I watch my share, but it is after bee is in bed, because really, until then, what’s the point?). I understand the need to park her there sometimes, dear god, so I can just finish getting her breakfast ready, or have her stop squirming so that I can just do up the diaper already without turning these things into half-an-hour ordeals because my munchkin won’t let go of my leg or leave the cat (or cat food) alone. Sometimes I just have to go pee. Sometimes I just need the entrancing, enchanting, all-encompassing lure of the tube for a few minutes so that I can get some food in me.
But I don’t put on baby einstein videos, or any tv show with commercials. Public television where I live is great; all morning they show ‘kids’’ shows that are anywhere from 5-15 minutes in length, and I sometimes employ this station for a few minutes. We’ve even sat and watched zaboomafoo together, because bumblebee loves the animals, and I love the kratt brothers.

I’m not saying that my house will be a tv-free zone, though my hubs in particular would love it to be. Not sure I’m ready to give up so you think you can dance or 90210 reruns yet. But we do try to strike a balance, set limits and strive to be good role models insofar as how we spend our leisure time. But, you bet your ass that my house is a Baby Einstein-free zone, and I bet the real Einstein would be glad.

*For more, and more eloquent, information on this subject, check out Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and this article previously published in Mothering magazine, or the plethora of information out there from real experts on the subject.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

File Under: What Were We Thinking?

So. Bumblebee has officially been on her first camping trip. I was 16 and off with friends of my own before I could say that; my parents not being great fans of the great outdoors. Not so for bee; her parents are intrepid enthusiasts of the great outdoors (ok, dad is – mumma’s learning), and we want her to know how to start a fire, pitch a tent and catch more than a buzz when she goes off on her first adventure with friends.

Camping was a success. We and the family of bumblebee’s partner in mischief and child care set out early Thursday morning for beautiful warsaw, ontario and the warsaw caves conservation area. Car camping at its least challenging, we had a great site that was all wooded, mostly shady and devoid of neighbours. it was a cool place, complete with caves, kettles and a limestone lookout. Of course, we didn’t see any of those, as caves, kettles and a limestone lookout are just not condusive to outings with newly walking, curious one-year-olds. Sure, we intended to see them, but, like renting canoes and having a quickie in the woods, it just never happened.

We still had a jam-packed, fun few days; the kids going nuts with pretty much free reign in the camp. While still keeping an incredibly close eye on them, we really only ever had to direct them away from putting nature’s bounty in their mouths. Even with an abundance of tasty rocks, pine needles, dirt, pine cones and more dirt around, it was easier to watch them there than at home.

They loved the river, bumblebee being bold enough to wade in and make ‘splashy splashy’ without need of clinging to her dad’s leg, and couldn’t get enough of the beach, even though she kept falling into the holes that the bigger kids had dug.

The skeeters were bitin’, as were the blackflies and deerflies, but babies didn’t get even one bite, thanks to the butterfly bush oil we totally slathered on them, head to toe. Between that and the sunscreen (omg I spent $30 on this bottle of totally natural, chemical free stuff from europe because I am so paranoid and against chemicals and drug-store brand crap going anywhere near bumblebee. Btw – check your baby’s sunscreen. If it has an ‘ingredient’ called Parasol in it, chuck it. Stuff causes cancer and has been banned in every country but can and usa), nothing was going to get to those babies.

The fresh air and running around totally knocked her out, so naps and bedtime were decent (for her), allowing us to eat, drink, play some cards and enjoy some adult bonding by a warm and crackling fire. Ahh. Then we all snuggled into the tent, bee getting rights to the thinsulate mat after we couldn’t inflate the huge air mattress we bought for the occasion (found the valve, btw, in the closet in the basement), and slept pretty good, save for the scary howling and bee’s toxic 3am pooper.

Hmm, you must be saying, but I see that it is Saturday night, and it’s kind of weird to be home on a Saturday night instead of Sunday night. What gives, you must be thinking?

Well, I’ll tell you what gave. We ran out of food and clothes.

Let me assure you, I don’t pack light. I spent two days tetris-ing things into the car, ticking things off of a detailed and exhaustive list, and then adding more after a spontaneous last minute trip to canadian tire.

I packed lots of food and lots of clothes. I packed salt and pepper, pots and pans, sunscreen and bug juice, badminton and frisbee, toys and books and balls and shovels and pails and… well, you get the point. I underestimated only two things – how hungry and how filthy camping would make bee.

Really, she spent the whole 3 days eating and getting dirty, but she was kind of picky about what she would eat, and it was a bit cooler than I had expected it to be. So, we’re back. Our friends stayed the extra day as they were slightly better outfitted (this being their second camping trip with their babe). But I was the one that remembered the coffee and individual filters, so no one could ever accuse me of being illprepared. Besides, now we know. Bring at least six of everything for a 3-day trip, and lots of raisin bread, in case that’s almost the only thing your wee crazy one wants to eat in the bush.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well; bee’s first camping trip was a success; we didn’t get eaten by bears, and it is not even 8 o’clock and my girl is totally crashed out already, allowing her weary, but nicely tanned parents the opportunity to commune with all things city, most excitingly, the computer, the tv and the fridge.

Tomorrow we’re going to have an urban adventure at the outdoor art exhibit at nathan phillips square, but we’re already talking about when we should book our next camping trip. Wanna come? I’ll bring the coffee.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I may have mentioned this earlier somewhere, but I have a big shnozz. It’s large. It sticks pretty far out from my face, has a bump in it and ends in a bulbous, well, bulb. When I look down my nose at you, I have a long way to go.

It is my father’s nose, I think. My mother had rhinoplasty years ago, so I’m not real sure.

Believe me, for real, when I say this, but it no longer bugs me. Ok, once in a while I get self-concious, like when I am meeting someone for the first time or I end up in profile in a picture that other people will have access to. But I think (hope) that it is something that people notice the first time, and then it becomes normal and is never thought of again. Like, it really never dawns on me that one of my friends has h-u-g-e gazoongas, even though the first time I met her, I thought, whoa, that girl has huge gazoongas. Or that another one of my friends has kinda bad teeth, or that another one is freakishly tall. It really just took me a few minutes to think of those examples, because all of these friends are so darn beautiful, and I love them.

We all have our physical imperfections, but I won’t go into the reasons why I think that we think of them that way. I’ll just tell you why I thought that, even though all of my ‘imperfect’ friends were beautiful to me, I was not.

I knew my nose was big in grade 5. how did I know? Why, because an older boy on the schoolbus told me, of course. That whole year he and his younger brother called me only by their special pet name for me – gonzo. It spread. Soon, all the other boys on the schoolbus were calling me gonzo.

Grade 5 was a bad year for me, for several reasons. I was 10, and another little ‘gift from god’ had just been added to our family (the second new addition in two years), necessitating a move out of the only house I had ever lived in. I had to change schools. Again. It was to be the 3rd school I’d go to in 5 years, thanks to being classified as gifted. I had to be bussed to the new school, via a school I didn’t even go to, so those boys were not even classmates. My teacher was mean, mean, mean, I was doing really bad in French and my little brother (earlier new addition) started to act out, causing family tension. Oh, and I found out that I had a big nose.

To make matters worse, after enduring the entire year of busrides, I ended up changing to their school the following year, (4th in 6 years if anybody is keeping score), where the taunting continued.

Now, just to clarify: I wasn’t a friendless loser wandering the playground with noone to talk to but gonzo. I had lots of friends. That year I even had two ‘boyfriends’ (we were ‘going around’ – that meant holding hands and dumping them when the wind changed direction, just because I could). But it didn’t matter. The seed had been planted, and I entered those dreaded early teen years painfully unsure of myself and drenched in low self-esteem. The reason, of course, was as plain as the nose on my face.

It didn’t help that it was no secret that pretty much every woman in my family over the age of 20 had had a nose job. It was as normal a thing as getting your driver’s license. It also didn’t help that, when I confided in my mother, the solution she offered was to get it ‘fixed’ when the time came; or that, for my 16th birthday, my aunt offered to pay for it. I guess the time had come. I cried a lot, and as my big nose turned into a big red nose, I just felt worse.

I would see other girls on the street or on the bus and wish that I could trade noses with them. I wonder now what they might have wanted to trade away, and if it was for anything of mine.

But by 16, thanks mostly to my very cool, very influencial older sis, I was already on my way to becoming a feminist of sorts, and for my birthday, I wanted a new phone, not a new nose.

Me and my sis talked a lot of smack about the women in our family (and in our highschool) that had changed their faces; about how they were denying their beauty, their strength and their roots (thank you, god, for matzo ball soup, yiddish swear words and prominent proboscises). We wanted to be ‘real’ women. We didn’t want to be victims of culture and society. We wanted to be positive role models to our daughters.

I soldiered on through high school, university and travel, doing all the things that ‘pretty’ girls do, like bedding hot men, making lots of friends and smiling for the camera. I just learned how to turn my face, ever so slightly, so that my nose would not cast a shadow, making it seem even larger than it already was.

I never got a nose job. I married my seriously good looking aryan prince with height, freckles and a perfect nose. And now we have a daughter. And I want to be an amazing role model for her, and look, won’t I be able to show her that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and that her mother is strong, funny and loving, even if she does look as though she just escaped from gepetto’s puppet shop? But, lord help me, I also want her to have her father’s nose, and have mercy, I have already spent some time comparing photos of myself and bumblebee at age newborn, 2 months, 4 months , 6 months, 1 year, looking for any signs of resemblence in the mid-facial area. So far, she is her father’s child. And I am relieved.

But what if that changes? C’mon, you know this has nothing to do with some warped, out-moded sense of what is and what isn’t beautiful. This is about a mother wanting to protect her child from hurt that she has experienced, from pain that has just as much chance of breaking her spirit as it does building her character.

I won’t be able to shield her from everything; of course I realize that. But I will do whatever I can to ensure that she feels as beautiful as she is, and that the size of her self worth is not wrapped up in the size of her nose, or her waist or her breasts or her bank account. And if I ever see anybody trying to make her feel that way, I will be there to listen and talk and lay a smackdown on anyone I have to. Lord nose.
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