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Archive for March, 2011

This month Dionna at Codename: Mama put out a challenge – to spread kindness daily through March.  I was totally up for it so I made my list of kindness goals.  I ticked off most of them, or at least made dents in them.  But as it turned out, March became a month of trying to be kind enough to myself to get through the day.

We moved here from Calgary in October and since then it’s been a whirlwind.  We moved into a sublet apartment, then 2 weeks later bought our first house that we moved into just after Christmas.  So it’s taken until this month for the full effect of the move to really sink in.  And boy, did it.

I’m completely alone here.  I mean, we know people.  Every weekend we have relatives visiting.  But as a mom, I’m so desperately alone.  In Calgary I knew so many moms.  And not just any moms, but moms who didn’t look at me like I was insane for doing things the way I do them.  Moms who were actually just like me.

I also had places I could go to and things I could do.  Here, not only do I not yet know where kid-friendly stuff is located, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get there if I did know.  This city is so huge that if you don’t have a car, most of it is out of reach.  The zoo is two and a half HOURS by transit.  Driving Mr. Fair so I can use the car means $30 in 407 charges… a bit steep just to get out of the house.

I’ve applied to the midwifery program for this September.  If I get in (I did get invited for an interview, yay!) I’ll need flexible childcare from someone I trust.  If I don’t, we’ve agreed I’ll offer childcare to cover some bills while I start doula/childbirth educator training.  In Calgary, thanks to those moms I knew and the fabulous local attachment parenting community, either situation would have been a snap.  Here… not so much.  I decided to put some ads out offering my dayhome services just in case I don’t get in.  After 3 weeks, I haven’t had a single reply.

I know I’m wallowing here.  I’m trying to focus on enjoying the time I have with Little Man.  If I get into school I’ll be thrust back into the world so fast I’ll probably be wishing for this quiet isolation.  But the magnitude of what I left behind just sort of hit me like a ton of bricks.  And add to that the fact that I have to sit here and wait for an admissions committee to decide my future.  I feel trapped, lonely and powerless.  So I spent March holding out for a new, better season.

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Disclaimer: If you’re a food-lover and prone to foodgasms like I am, the content of this post may be considered pornographic… although my photography isn’t wonderful enough to do the food justice.

This post could also have been titled “How to make a complicated recipe even more complicated” because that’s precisely what I did.  The recipe is Italian Bread and Cabbage Soup from Jamie Oliver At Home.  One of the best cookbooks in the history of cookbooks, in my opinion.  And this is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.  But Jamie’s recipes aren’t exactly quick – at least not the ones in this book – so it’s a good thing it also feeds us for three solid days.

What’s so complicated about this particular dish is the number of times you have to cook and then set aside, which happens to be my cooking pet peeve because it uses so many extra dishes.  But anyway, away I went, boiling the entire head of cabbage and the bunch of kale and setting them aside.  Frying bacon, mixing in boiled cabbage and setting it all aside.  Rubbing garlic onto a bazillion slices of toasted bread… and setting them aside.

The giant bowl of greens (boiled then set aside) next to the delicious bread (garlic-rubbed then set aside).

But you might know by now I’m a bit picky about my food being real.  I’m positively anal about Little Man’s food being real.  One thing I’m really not ready for to him eat yet is factory bread.  The ingredient list on most bread packages makes me feel sick, so he only eats bread if I make it at home.  Thus, I spent the morning making lovely whole wheat italian bread that I would sacrifice to the soup.  That’s it on the baking stone.

I also don’t love commercial soup bases.  If you get the liquid versions, they’re disgustingly salty.  The bouillon cubes are not only disgustingly salty, but also full of hydrogenated oils and food dyes.  So I make my own.  In this case, 3 quarts of it. I keep a ‘stock box’ in my freezer to collect stems from greens, carrot tops, asparagus bottoms, meat bones…  Every week or so it gets full enough to make a little pot of stock that I stick back in the freezer for days like yesterday.  No salt, no food dye.

So once I brewed up some stock, baked some bread, par-cooked everything else and set it aside, I assembled the whole thing in layers like a trifle.  Whew!  Like I said, luckily it’s a huge dish (as evidenced by the barely noticeable dent made in it by filling my bowl) and a delicious one (just ask Little Man, who scarfed it down)!  Yay for cooking from scratch 🙂

Glass of wine with that bowl of deliciousness? Don't mind if I do...


Don't you take my cabbage!

Enjoying Jamie Oliver's Italian Bread and Cabbage Soup

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A few years ago I started to see the light about our overconsumption.  At the time I was unemployed and broke so, admittedly, my initial reduction of consumption was out of necessity.  But money aside, there were some other daily occurrences that gave me an inkling that I had more than I needed.

Zen copyright of Josefe aka Hipnosapo

I never had JUST clean laundry.  This was in part due to procrastination, but it was also because of a major complication involved with having all of my clothes laundered: I had nowhere to put them.  I had a 4-foot wide closet, a chest of drawers, two IKEA Antonius racks stacked, coat hooks at the front door and a space bag under my bed.  But I couldn’t fit all of my clothes into this space.  I used my laundry baskets like storage.

It took me at least 3 full minutes to pick out underwear in the morning.  I had probably 50+ pairs of underwear (and that’s just panties, not bras!) and most of them I either didn’t like or they didn’t fit.  I had a pair of underwear given to me for Christmas a decade earlier.  A DECADE!  It took me so long to pick underwear because I had to sift through all of the ones I couldn’t/wouldn’t wear to find one of the select few that I could.

We lived in constant fear of friends dropping by on short (or no) notice.  Our house was a perpetual pig-sty.  All the time.  It took several hours of non-stop, team-effort cleaning to get it respectable enough for guests.  There was just so. much. stuff.  There was, in fact so much stuff that we also had to skip a lot of opportunities to do fun things with our friends out of the house.  We often found ourselves saying no to outings because we needed to devote the entire weekend to making a dent in our household upkeep.  We knew if we didn’t, it would only get worse by the next weekend.

But the thing that really nagged at me the most was how utterly immobilized I was by all of the stuff.  I didn’t enjoy my home.  I couldn’t use my space.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t deal with any of it, so I would come in my door, walk the narrow pathway through the stuff to the clear spot on the couch and watch TV until bed.  I never wanted to cook a nice meal.  I had a sewing machine I rarely got out because I’d have to clear the desk first.

I decided it was time to make a switch, a minimal switch.

So when I got a job, I made sure our spending stayed reigned in.  In under 3 years, we’ve quintupled our net worth.  We bought very little for the baby before he was born.  In fact, our biggest single expenditure in that department was the $1000 lawyer fee to have our wills done.  I no longer sift through undies.  All of my underwear, bras, socks and cloth pads fit in ONE dresser drawer.  The remaining 3 drawers house the rest of my everyday (i.e. not fancy or special-function) clothing.

I’m working on getting my home to the point of containing things that make me feel happy, inspired, even a bit zen.  There’s no upper limit on how many things will be in our house, just as long as the stuff doesn’t take me past my upper limit of stress.  I’ve made a lot of progress so far, but there’s still a lot to be done…

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One of the things that has plagued my highly rational mind since before we even had Little Man is the rampant preference of wallpaper paste as a first solid food for babies.  Countless times I’ve seen previously intelligent people stuff it into their babies mouths without a shred of thought.  When Little Man turned six months (actually, even before that) people asked me constantly if I was feeding him wallpaper paste yet.  Whenever I answered “no, actually I’m feeding him food instead” they look at me as though I had three heads.  One very wonderful mom with a baby only hours older than mine actually said “Vegetables?!  As a first food?  Not wallpaper paste?!” with complete shock on her face and indignation in her voice.

It baffles me completely and like so many other things to do with parenting, it can only be called asinine.  But forgive me, because I probably have you pretty baffled by now.  Allow me to clarify: when I say “wallpaper paste”, what I’m referring to is “infant cereal”.  Of course no one actually calls it wallpaper paste, but that would be a much more apt description than cereal.  For starters, it looks, feels and tastes like wallpaper paste.  Furthermore, it’s about as nutritious as wallpaper paste even if you do consider the spray-on vitamins it contains nutritious, which I don’t.  But above all of this, the fact is that you actually could stick paper to your wall with it.  People have been using flour and water pastes for that purpose (not to mention papier machéing and kindergarten crafting) for ages and that’s all that infant cereal is: flour.  Refined, white, flour.

My dislike of infant cereal, though, goes beyond its nutritional inadequacy.  It offends me because it is a hallmark of the thoughtless consumerism that pervades every aspect of our society, including our parenting.  Parents feed their babies this stuff not because they think it’s a good choice, but because they don’t think, period.

If parents actually realized they were feeding their babies a bowl of flour, they would simultaneously realize that the little packets of it with the cute teddy bears is merely a highly overpriced doppelganger of the large sacks of unbranded flours available in the baking aisle and serve their babies from the big pack instead.  But parents don’t realize.  They see the snazzy nutrition claims on the little packet and simply believe it’s special.

If infant cereal were truly a culturally-based decision, then we would see more adults eating gruel themselves because it would be a culturally normalized food.  But I rarely see adults eat anything that resembles what they feed their babies.  In fact, gruel is so foreign to most adults that they probably wouldn’t know how to make it if it didn’t come in the little packet with mixing instructions.

If parents were feeding infant cereal out of a genuine belief of the healthfulness of processed flour, then they probably wouldn’t be spending a good chunk of their adult lives investing in low-carb diet literature.

If parents were following medical advice, then why are they choosing to ignore the section of the recommendations that encourages feeding iron-rich whole foods like legumes and meat?

No, I’m convinced that parents aren’t thinking about these things.  Instead they follow the product marketing of major multinational corporations whose first (and often only) concern is not infant nutrition, but profit.  Or maybe it’s something else.  Maybe our need to fit in in this new parenting role makes us more prone to following trends like sheep and too scared to apply the independent thought we’re capable of.  Either way it makes me sad.  Sad for the babies eating this crap, but also sad for the parents who love them and who will look back years from now when (I sincerely hope) real food will reign again and realize that they fed their precious babes wallpaper paste.

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I frequently have tidbits I feel like sharing.  They’re often off-topic to this blog, sometimes I’ve Tweeted them through the week, sometimes they’re too long for Twitter (but not long enough for their own blog post) and sometimes it’s just a recounting of the adorableness of Little Man.  Either way, I collect them all here and send them out for some Friday fun.

It’s been a long time since I’ve given blood.  Now that I’m eligible again, I’m really looking forward to it.  What I’m not looking forward to is the ridiculously invasive sexual history questionnaire.  Because really, if my ex-boyfriend had been a heroine-shooting gay prostitute in the Congo in the late seventies… do you really think he’d tell me?

It was nice enough this week to spend some time playing outside with Little Man!  So far he’s tried to eat numerous wood chips, rocks and even a worm carcass.  Yup, definitely my kid.

So last week we were making fun of Suri Cruise for having a pacifier in her mouth, this week it’s penis candy.  Poor kid.

My heart so goes out to everyone in Japan.  But I do hope we’re not forgetting that there’s big-ass war brewing in Libya and that Egypt and Tunisia are currently sans government.  Things could go very badly, very quickly and I can’t stop thinking about the millions of already poor civilians who have very little capacity to tolerate this.

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Today I heard a doctor on a widely watched Canadian TV show use one of the many asinine statements that I hear spewed at parents all the time.  Why is it that as soon as someone has a baby, we think we can tell them the most completely absurd things and they’ll buy it?  But more importantly, why do they so often buy it??

It infuriates me to no end when I hear the following things and I really, really wish they’d drop completely from our language.

“Human pacifier” This statement is the definition of moronic.  The pacifier exists to be a plastic human, not the other way around.  Anyone using this term is either a complete idiot or a complete a**hole.  (This is top of the list because it sparked the list.)

“Self-soothe” What a load of bull.  Most adults I know can’t “self soothe”.  They can cope, because they are physically and mentally able to use a number of coping methods.  They exercise, eat, drink, take drugs, have sex, yell…  I’ve never seen an adult who is overwhelmed, terrified, furious, starving, or exhausted simply buck up and “self soothe”.  They certainly couldn’t do it while locked inside the very thing that is making them so upset.  Yet, we expect a baby who can’t even roll over, let alone run, shag or fix themselves a martini to do it.

“They’ll NEVER learn to sleep by themselves” Why is this skill considered to be so different than others?  People don’t walk around moaning that a 12 month old who doesn’t walk yet surely NEVER will just because another baby had already mastered it.  That would be ridiculous.  We know it takes time to learn to walk alone, and that every baby takes a different amount of time.  And why do we put so much emphasis on teaching the skill of independent sleep that we’re willing to do it so harshly?  I’ve never seen anyone put a preschooler on a 10-speed road bike without training wheels because otherwise they’ll NEVER learn to ride a bike without “props”.  Yet I hear parents talk proudly about how they lock their kids in solitary confinement in a bare crib upwards of 15 hours per day (62% of baby’s life!) for that very reason.  Ludicrous.

“Tit” Let’s get this one straight once and for all, people.  This word is VULGAR slang for a breast and it has a SEXUAL connotation.  If you use this word in connection to breastfeeding, you’re implying that the breastfeeder is engaging sexually with the nursling.  I do not “whip my tit out” to feed my baby, my baby does not “suck on my tit”.  We (breastfeeders) are not pedophiles, we’re just mammals.  If you don’t like it, feel free to join another taxonomic group.

How about you, what are the drive-you-crazy words/tips/terms you hear about parenting?

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Luckily it’s not really the half-way mark since March has 31 days, but we’re still two-weeks in and I’ve got a ways to go.  Anyway, here’s a quick list of the commitments I’ve achieved already.

Kiva loan. Check.  Not only that, I convinced my Dad to get in on the action and he mad *wait for it* SEVEN loans!!

Give something away. The Goodwill box is full to the brim.

Sign up to glean. Check.

Reconnect. Two down, two to go.

I’ve also had a couple of unexpected chances come up.  I’ve picked up garbage around my ‘hood a couple of times, pet sat for friends and in-laws, and struck up a conversation with a neighbour.  All in all, not bad!

For some more inspiration, here some of the other participants:

1. http://www.urbanmoms.ca/multiple_musings/2011/03/kindness—day-1.html
3. http://brodogg.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-of-kindness.html
4. http://www.gardenvarietymama.com/2011/03/march-of-kindness.html
5. http://momgrooves.com/2011/03/march-forth-into-kindness/
6. http://schmoopybaby.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-of-kindness.html
7. http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KIYYIMKLWSOIJOBUPPOG6DIYVI/blog/articles/259796?listPage=index
8. http://www.ithoughtiknewmama.com/2011/03/random-acts-of-kindness-month-for-my-husband/
9. http://abeautifulmess-workinprogress.blogspot.com/2011/03/doing-what-is-best-for-my-family.html
10. http://notsoaveragehippiemommy.blogspot.com/2011/03/code-name-mamas-march-of-kindness.html
11. http://livingpeacefullywithchildren.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/29-days-of-giving-and-the-continuing-march-for-kindness/
12. http://www.anktangle.com/2011/02/march-of-kindness.html
13. http://tinyurl.com/4wxpmv2
14. http://mccrenshaw.blogspot.com/2011/03/whats-that-smell-march-of-kindness.html
15. http://touchstonez.com/2011/03/10/march-of-kindness-the-first-ten-days/
16. http://purpledancingdahlias.blogspot.com/2011/03/month-of-kindness.html
17. http://hybridrastamama.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-of-kindness-some-ideas-for.html
18. http://jjgregoryfamily.blogspot.com/2011/03/code-name-mamas-march-of-kindness.html
19. http://talesofatiredmommy.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-of-kindness-week-one-round-up.html
20. http://fineandfair.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-of-kindness.html
21. http://monkeybuttjunction.com/2011/02/28/march-for-kindness-2/
22. http://reedfamilyjourney.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-of-kindness-code-name-mama.html
23. http://becomingcrunchy.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/march-of-kindness/
24. http://redlegsix.xanga.com/742397794/march-of-kindness/
25. http://teslagirl360.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-of-kindness.html
26. http://yayforhome.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-of-kindness.html

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