Enter capitalism

When I started writing this blog, it was mostly about breastfeeding.  Well, this post is about as far removed from breastfeeding as you can get.  Which served as a really good reminder to me of just how big my kids are getting.  Sigh.

Little Man has been bitten by the ‘buying bug’.  The other day we went to the store and he used his piggy bank money (actually, a random assortment of change that has made its way into a piggy bank over the years) to buy a chocolate bar.  And now he wants to do it again.

The evidence of Little Man's first purchase... all over his face!

The evidence of Little Man’s first purchase… all over his face!

So now we’re in the position of having to introduce money into his regular life.  And with that has to come some notion of additional responsibility.  We’ve talked a bit about how to do it, and obviously it will change as he gets older, but here are my thoughts so far.

1) The base layer

Some people feel the giving of a monetary reward for everyday activities sets kids up to refuse to do anything they’re not directly compensated for later in life.  I can totally see that.  On the other hand, I know that I’m not the type of person to enforce a wishy-washy sort of ‘there are generally things to do and there is generally money to be had’ existence.  It would end up with the kids doing nothing – or at least protesting everything they did do – and still getting allowance.  So we’ve decided there needs to be a base layer of ‘responsibilities’ to accompany the allowance.  It will be an all-or-nothing deal though, not a chore-by-chore accounting.

2) Room to grow

I read an article in a parenting magazine years ago – before I had any reason to be reading parenting magazines – that gave a bunch of different strategies that parents employed and one of them I loved so much that I remember it to this day.  The basic allowance was modest and required the kids do the things that make the house function.  But in addition to that, they let the kids earn extra money by doing jobs that were larger or occurred more sporadically.  It’s something that I think I can incorporate pretty early on by specifying an extra job that could be done.  Then, as the kids get bigger we can move towards them spotting and proposing their own jobs.

I know it’s pretty much that direct compensation thing I just talked about, but I like that it gives choice, it also encourages the kids to see all of the things that happen in the house, not just what they’re responsible for, and it allows them to develop entrepreneurial skills by identifying those areas of unmet need.  And let’s face it, as adults, we do work for compensation, so it would be absurd to leave that lesson out entirely.

3) Spend, Save, Share

Have you heard of the Moon Jar?  Because if you haven’t, you must go look it up now.  Money management was something I came to quite late in life, after I got out in the world and racked up a bunch of debt.  I don’t want that for my kids.  There will be an expectation that some money is saved and some is shared with those who have less.

So there’s the general plan, but there are still a lot of questions I haven’t answered:

- What is a reasonable amount of responsibility (in terms of chores) for a 3.5 year old?

 – How much money is reasonable for a 3.5 year old? Especially considering he’s going to buy candy with it…

 – What interval for getting allowance is best? Once a week might be too long to hold his attention, but daily seems a bit much. 

 – Is it OK to make ‘give Mommy a backrub’ a chore???

Anyone with older kiddos care to share some wisdom?

Nerd Reminiscings

Just a heads up, this post has absolutely nothing to do with anything.  It’s just that lately I’ve been feeling very nostalgic.  Maybe it’s because of the return to school (after over a decade).  Maybe it’s just because my ever-increasing repertoire of grey hairs is making me feel old.  Or maybe it’s because the kids are getting old enough that we can actually start introducing them to some of the kid things we like.  Who knows.  But I’ve added “Getting Jiggy With It” to my Grooveshark playlist.  And I’ve been thinking a lot about this kind of stuff:

Do you remember Mathnet?  Ya, you know Mathnet.  Monday and Frankley solve “crimes” using geometry and calculators.

I loooved that show.  Because I was a big nerd.  I’m still a big nerd, but now that I’m grown up (and married to another nerd) it doesn’t matter so much.

The nerdy Mr. Fair and I actually bonded early in our relationship over the revelation that we both grew up wanting to be marine biologists thanks to “Danger Bay.”  The fact that Grant Roberts was a veterinarian, not a marine biologist seems to have escaped both of our notices.  Neither of us did become marine biologists, but we’re actually planning to retire to an Island off of Vancouver, and I can’t claim I don’t secretly dream of rescuing seals and busting polluters when we do.

I also loved Star Trek.  TNG, of course.  With Voyager in second place, and DS9 a distant third.  The original series was just before my time.  I’ve always wanted to own a Star Trek uniform.  If I did, it would be blue.  And now that I actually do own an iPad, I totally pretend I’m sitting in 10-Forward, looking at subspace messages on it.  Also, the fact my smartphone has an app that takes my heart rate just by touching my finger to it makes me think of it more as a Tricorder than a phone.

And although this is not nerdy at all… I’ve been seriously jonesing for a Lick-M-Aid lately.  That one has to stay under wraps.  I can’t give Little Man any more reasons to pester me for sugar.

Viruses are jerks

Viruses.  As a molecular biologist, viruses fascinated me to no end.  So tiny and so simple.  Often with such narrow, narrow habitats that you wonder how they can flourish while orangutans, who can live anywhere in the whole damn jungle are dying.  As a parent, viruses piss. me. off.

Case in point, my kids have the croup.  It’s my daughter’s first ever time having croup and it’s the worst croup we’ve ever seen in our house.  Almost ER visit level of croup.  Lady Fair has a beautiful, complex genome.  Her tens of thousands of genes make everything from intestines to eyelashes.  Gorgeous eyelashes, if I say it myself.  Her genes let her walk, talk and think.  Imagine that, we think because of the structures our genes build.  Someday her genes will let her build a whole different person right in her body.

And then she got croup and it kicked her ass.

A teeny tiny virus.  It has like six genes, did you know that?  It has a gene (or two) to make the tools to copy itself.  Basically a microscopic photocopier.  No, not even a photocopier, more like carbon paper!  Then it’s got a couple of genes to sew itself a coat with.  Poor virus doesn’t want to get cold, don’t you know.  And maybe, maybe it’s got a gene or two to help it get around in the world.  That’s it.

Then let’s consider the habitat.  Croup takes up residence in the upper airways of the itty-bittyest people on the planet.  Lady Fair’s whole neck is about 26cm in circumference and this little jerk of a virus has not only found its way in there, it has also found her even smaller larynx.  Think about that.  And think about those orangutans with all their own beautiful genome and all of that jungle.  And really, it’s the virus who wins this game?

Pretty much proof of Darwinian evolution.  If there were a supreme being up there (wherever ‘there’ is) putting all of this together, that being would have done a much better design job.  Then again, maybe the being is there, and he’s a giant jerky virus in the sky.

Parenting Progress

This post is a bit of a sequel to Parenting Pipedreams.  Some of them are starting to look a little less Pipey.


I love babies.  I really love my babies.  I love the squishy-ness, the contact, everything.  Parenting very small people is fantastically delicious.  It’s also INtense.  And as much as I love it, I have to admit that I’m also a little bit happy that the intensity is starting to subside a little.

As of the last time I risked putting a finger into Lady Fair’s mouth, she had 15 teeth.  That makes us 87.5% done teething.

Since Lady Fair is super into doing EVERYTHING like her brother, I estimate we are also about 88% done diapers.

The kids sleep in (read: >6:30 a.m.) more often than not now, so we’re about 75% done with ridiculously early mornings.

We’re 99.9% done with baby gates.  In fact, I had taken the gate down, but Mr. Fair inexplicably put it back up.

I am 50% done wrangling small arms into seemingly smaller shirt sleeves.

Now that I leave the house three whole days a week for school, I get to drink 14% of my coffees while they’re still hot!  That might not seem like a lot, but let me tell you…


School has started, making me officially a midwifery student.  YAY!!!  We’re all trying to get to know our 29 classmates (well, 28 as we’ve had our first withdrawal already) and little by little we’re succeeding.  On the first day of orientation we did the obligatory introductions where everyone, myself totally included, gave the most impressive parts of their resume to the group.  It was intimidating.  But the faculty themselves freely told us that they’re intimidated by the exercise every year.  The faculty have pretty impressive resumes and they’re probably pretty excellent midwives.  So if they’re intimidated by us, what’s the deal?

In our first Working Across Differences class we were asked to introduce ourselves again, but this time not with a credential, with an interesting tidbit.  We all did it.  But again, we all chose something that was impressive even while we tried to be nonchalant about it.  Then we spent a good chunk of the rest of the class talking about Fact Sheets (on groups of people) and how they’re inevitably incomplete.  It’s funny because introductory tidbits are very much like fact sheets.  They’re inevitably incomplete.  That’s not to say they’re incorrect or, worse, deliberately deceitful.  They’re just incomplete.

If we think about my Twitter Profile.  What did I choose to say about myself in 140 characters (or less)?

One time geneticist. Student midwife. Tandem nurser. Feminist. Thinking Mama.

It’s not inaccurate.  That definitely talks about me.  But it’s not all of me.  I could have just as easily written any of the following and they would have been equally true:

Jane Austen lover, crumpet eater, sometimes Royal watcher, all-around Anglophile.


Mediocre gardener, laundry denier. My food is always delicious, but a little too soft.


Nose picker, fart connoisseur.  Many other things too gross to admit publicly.

or even

Trader of stock options, keeper of endless spreadsheets. I already have my cash flow projections for 2063.

So there we go.  Some of the many and varied facets of my personality.  I’m sure the girls in my class will get to know them soon enough… although perhaps not the fart bit, unless they find my blog.  And it will be interesting to find out more about their many faces too.

Yup, Little Man is at the ‘Why?” stage.  Except that he actually asks “How” instead of “Why”.  All day, it’s “How this?” and “How that?”.  And lately he’s also caught on to the fact that I find it a bit… tiresome.  So do you know what he’s started doing?  Asking endless series of “Hows” with a big smirk on his face.  So yesterday, I put my many years of higher education to work to nip this poop in the bud enlighten him:


Little Man: “Hey Mom?”

Me: “Yes, sweetheart.”

Little Man: “How did Dad go boat fishing?”

Me: “He drove in the car.”

Little Man: “How did he drive in the car?”

You want to know how Dad drives the car? I can tell you. How much detail do you want??

Me: “On the road.”

Little Man: “How did the car get on the road?”

Me; “He turned it on and drove it on the road.”

Little Man: “How did he turn it on and drive it?”

(are you seeing now why I find this so irritating??)

Me: “With his hands and feet.”

Little Man: “How did he drive the car with his hands and feet?”


Me. “Well, you see, the nerve impulses, what are called action potentials travel all the way down the neuron from his brain to his hands and feet and when they get there, the positive membrane potential causes acetylcholine to be released into the neuromuscular junction, which causes the muscle fibres to contract so that his hands and feet move.”

Little Man: *blink, blink, vanishing smirk* “Hey Mom?”

Me: “Yes, sweetheart.”

Little Man: “Do you want to see me do a big jump?”

Me: “I sure do!”

Mission accomplished.



PS Many thanks are owed to Charlotte Youngson for her excellent physiology teaching.


With the exception of my year of paid maternity leave with my first son I have never actually been not working and/or studying since I’ve had kids and yet most people see me as just a housewife**.  And you can call me overly sensitive or insecure or whatever you want, but I know it affects the way people – even people who care about me – interact with me.

Because I’m a girl I’m better at shopping than math.

There’s a room in our home (where I’m typing right now) that is set up as an office.  It’s a generalized office, not really ‘belonging’ to either of us specifically.  But, I run my Doula business from home (from this room, in fact) and I’ve been a part-time student for the last year so I do homework at home.  Whenever visitors to our home have reason to reference this room, guess what they call it?  “Mr. Fair’s office.”  Why?  Oh, you know, because he leaves the house every day to earn money and I’m just a housewife, so he must be the only one with important things to do in that room, not me.

We have a special holiday tradition in our family too.  It’s called “Who’s going to hang up the phone on us this time?”  Here’s how it goes: my Mother-in-law asks everyone when they are available to get together for the holiday.  Everyone replies with their work schedules.  My work schedule always comes in the form of “My client’s baby is estimated for X date.  If it’s born then I can make the 2-hour drive out of town, if not I can’t because that’s my job.”  A date is picked to meet everyone else’s work needs – in fact usually the date revolved around my (former) sister-in-law’s cashier job because she’s not a housewife, so her job mattered.  The holiday approaches and we repeat the caveat that I can’t come if I’m working and each and every holiday someone in Mr. Fair’s family slams the phone down on us.  Why?  Oh, you know, because my job doesn’t take me out of the house, so it’s not a real job.  I’m really just a housewife with a hobby.

For me, these things are irritating, but they’re not a substantial hardship in my life.  I’m well educated and confident in my abilities and intellect.  I have a partner who fell in love with me in part because of how smart I am.  I had a decent repertoire of smart, confident role models and I’ve always been surrounded by smart and accomplished female peers.  In fact, I’m the only one from my group of undergrad roommates who doesn’t go by the title “Dr.”

But gender stereotypes shape people’s lives.  My mother’s rural highschool offered girls a 4-year secretarial track or a 5-year nursing track.  My mom grew up with the understanding that university was an option for her brothers (one they both exercised) but not for her.  It’s entirely possible that such a limitation was not in fact in place but whether de jure, de facto or imaginary her perception of that barrier determined what she aspired to and how she progressed through her education.  And she has lived with the consequences of that barrier ever since.

We know from countless studies in countless fields that people, by and large, live up to (or down to) their role models.  It’s in part why poverty and domestic violence are cyclical.  And we know that it specifically applies to girls’ performance and confidence in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects.

When girls see opportunities for themselves in science, technology, engineering and math, they’re more likely to take higher math in high school and more likely to pursue those careers

So if you don’t think that the Children’s Place T-shirt matters, ask yourself this: what kind of role models is a girl seeing if she lives in a house where the parents think that such a message is funny or appropriate to plaster on her?  Do you think the girl whose parents put that T-shirt on her is going to see opportunities for herself in STEM careers?  Will she end up like me or like my mom?

I have a daughter and a son and it’s hard not to raise them with restrictive gender stereotypes.  But giving her options in her life is important and speaking out about these things is the only way to open new opportunities for our daughters.  All of our daughters.

Unfortunately, as Annie from PhD in Parenting has discovered more than once, people don’t seem to want new opportunities for their daughters.  In fact they think it’s so important that no one tries to change things for their daughters that they tell people who do to get lost.

How about you get off twitter and do some algebra?  And if you’re no good at algebra then ask yourself if you think that’s because of your inferior gender.

**N.B. There’s nothing wrong with being a SAHM, I’m using the term ‘just a housewife’ to convey how little value society puts on the role of women in the home, not how much value I put on it.  I think SAHM’s rock :)


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