Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Repost: Making Myself Into a Mother (from Dec, 2009)

To say that there is nothing than can prepare you for the shock of becoming a parent is putting it mildly.  What a shock it is.  You can read all of the books you want, make charts and diagrams for this, that and the other thing, you can research everything from birth to potty training until the cows come home.   But I've discovered that, for me at least, parenting is not so much in these details, in the preparedness or in the doing, but rather it is a crash-course in the feeling.   You can know that skydiving is a scary endeavour, but you can't know what that scary feels like until your ass is plummeting through the sky.  

Becoming a parent is like cutting off your limbs and trying to grow them again, in a weird way that makes them only half yours.  Or razing a house to the ground and rebuilding with new materials, like Extreme Makeover Home Edition, only the end result is much less grandiose.  It is simultaneously elating and depressing; joy and wonder at the new beings we've had a hand in creating, and sadness, even resentment at the seepage of our own selves, the hazing and blurring of our identity as individuals.  

As a bit of an aside, I think it's crazy that we treat post-partum depression like it's an anomaly, something purely hormonal, something that people can/should just "get over".  I think that in the face of the magnitude of changes to our physical and emotional selves and the incredible disruption to our lives,  experiencing various forms and severities of depression and/or anxieties post partum, though undoubtably unpleasant, makes a whole world of sense.   But I digress.        

My life, previously attuned to my own well-being and best interests, is no longer my own.   My time, previously devoted to my own projects and needs, has become someone elses.  I struggle to scrape together moments of solitude, write snippets and thoughts and memories of self on scraps of construction paper and kitchen chalkboards, beside grocery and to-do lists.  The mundane necessity of keeping chaos at bay, dishes clean, babies fed, toddlers and pre-schoolers amused, soothed and loved is an endless, and often unforgiving, pursuit- one that more often than not, I seem to fail at.  

I teeter between anxiety and pride about my small charges, who are at once so fragile and so unflinchingly fearless.  There are so many things to protect my children from in any given day, not the least of which is myself -- my own baggage, childhood and knee jerk emotional reflexes.  These reflexes too, have to be swallowed, thought about, revisited, smoothed over.

I have had my absolute best, and proudest moments as a mama.  I have also been taken to my rock bottom lowest as a mama.  The pendulum seems to swing back and forth between these highs and lows so often.  Motherhood has made me turn myself inside out and pull out my stuffing.  I'm restuffing bit by bit, and learning so much about myself in the process.  What a crazy, amazing, horrible, dark, scary, wonderful, exciting ride.  I have never felt so responsible, so fierce, so protective, so loving, so angry, so helpless, so grateful, so raw.  And we musn't forget so tired.

I've just started reading this really lovely anthology on mothering, edited by Eden Steinberg.  In her introduction, Steinberg writes:

"I realized that if I was going to survive this thing, I was going to have to grow and change. . . I also saw that I was ultimately going to have to let go of my very self-concept, my idea of motherhood, and my expectations of my child.  All of it had to go. . . . I thought that as a mother I would carefully mold and shape my children.  If I did my job right, my children would turn out to be well-adjusted, loving, thoughtful and interesting people.  As it turns out, motherhood is molding and shaping me.  At the end of all this, I am the one who could end up well-adjusted, loving, thoughtful and interesting."  (xv, 2007).

I couldn't have said it better if I tried.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Repost: Being a transparent

Hey all - check out this thoughtful parenting piece on being the parent of a trans child from the Huffington Post.  Good read :)

Body talk

Hiya peeps. My sincerest apologies for being so absent of late. I am going through some pretty turbulent times. But I'm still here. And aim to be back with more thoughtfulness and more regularity.

But - today I want to talk a bit about how to create food and body hatin' behaviours in girls with great body politics who really love food. I know, right? Should be more challenging than it is, really.

I know I've talked about this before. But lately, in the midst of my life turbulence, my body has gotten smaller. Like, by a lot. And everyone and their dog, kitty, doctor, and sales clerk is shooting me the proverbial high- five. (Here- I would like to point out that my totally awesome rad friends do not fall into the aforementioned shrinkage celebrants - they, because they are cool, fall into the 'what-the-fuck-are-you-ok'? category, which between you, me and the lamppost is the only appropriate response to sudden-ish 60 lb weight loss).

At any rate - the high-fiving is fucking with my head. Really. (And if it's fucking with MY head, me a former fuck-you-world, defiant fat-chick - I shudder, really shudder - to think how much it impacts people without the same body politics as me.).

I consistently try to respond to people's 'compliments' with retorts about the divorce/depression/life upheaval diet. But you know what? It doesn't matter. People don't care they say things like:'Well - whatever you're doing, girl, it's working for you! Keep it up!'. I say, 'it's a side effect of the anti-depressants!' And they say 'Sweet! Where can I get some??'

Seriously. No, seriously. That is some crazy-assed shit. I tell you I've lost a huge amount of weight because I'm about to jump off a cliff, and you say, 'you GO, girl?'

Alrighty then.

And so I find myself - a former fat girl - attempting to retain some of her former world defiance and really, quite intensely struggling with it. I find myself longing a bit for the days when I was, objectively, a fat chick, because I liked my body and treated it with so much more compassion then. Because the attention I got back then didn't feel like such a mirage.

I know it feels like second nature to tell people they look great when they get smaller. We're trained well in this area.

I'm asking you to think about that impulse a bit more carefully. It really, really isn't helpful. It isn't useful. It isn't kind. Not even a little bit.

End of rant-age, and back to your regularly unscheduled programming.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, November 24, 2011

At Boy-o's school (it's a lovely, arty place), they frequently hang projects by students in the hall. This particular week, they have these cool self portraits, along with a question about the world each child came up with. Some of my favourite questions included:

I wonder how birds lay eggs?

I wonder how storms make fire? (boy-o, my natural disaster obsessed child!)

I wonder why my tummy hurts? (lol!)

I wonder why bones break?

And, my personal favourite (sorry Boy-o):

I wonder how people survive this life?

(Damn! That is some existential shit, little person.)

Pretty cool project :)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Why You Shouldn't Donate to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers

Re-post on Adoption Awareness Month

Check out this great post on adoption (*and racism) from Alissa over at Offbeat Mama today.  It's a gooder.

Things I know and things I wonder

Things I know:
1.  Kids are happier and reasonably well-adjusted when their parents are happier and reasonably well-adjusted.
2.  Kids adapt fairly well to change, particularly when they are younger.
3.  Kids are resilient, tough little creatures.

Things I Wonder:
1.  How the hell do our kids survive us?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sociological Images: Defining Fat

Kind of a neat post by the folks over at Sociological Images about two projects illustrating how fat gets defined.  Me likey.

happy thoughts

fresh sparkly diamond snow.  wishing stars.  dandelion blowing.
pretty shoes.
friends.  old ones.  new ones.
kid laughter.
girlio 'crushing my head'.
rare moments of hopefulness.  time for a really long run.
wine guerilla.   art.  randomly kind strangers.
forgiveness.  reminders that you are not alone.
dancing my pants off.  songs that really get you.
a good cry.

what I need today - how 'bout you?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another kid lit fave

Ok.  I know I'm on a kid lit roll.  You're probably getting sick of it.  My apologies.  I'm tired and don't have a lot in my head these days.  Ok.  That's actually not true.  My head is freaking crammed.  It's amazing shit doesn't start to bleed out my ears.  But, I don't have a lot in my head that I can write about.  And so, with this excuse, I give you another fab piece of kid lit.  About shoes.  Yes.  Shoes.  As you can tell, this is my kind of book.

It's called A Flock of Shoes, and it's really quite beautifully written by Canadian poet/author Sarah Tsiang and illustrated by Qin Leng (Annick Press, 2010).  The tale follows Abby and her lovely sandals (which are pink and brown with lime green trim) through all of the warm-weather fun together.  When the weather gets colder, Abby doesn't want to part with her beloved sandals, but finds she must.  All winter, Abby wonders about her sandals.  Luckily they send postcards from far-away warm places to keep her posted on their activities and assuring her of their love: “Thought about your heels today. We miss you to the bottom of our soles.”  But Abby eventually warms up to, and then grows quite fond of her winter boots (which are white and blue with purple trim all around the edges, and awfully good for running and stomping in the snow).  When spring rolls around, Abby doesn't want to let her beloved boots go, either (I can so relate to this and, like Abby, will probably be wearing totally non-sensible footwear when I go out tonight in the middle of our first snow).  It's a lovely story, full of footwear fantasy, and beautiful illustrations, and it reads just as well for the two year old set as it does for the five year olds.  Both Boy-o and Girlio are shoe lovers, and they love this book a lot.

But - not as much as me. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Manic Monday Musing

Wondering today, if other people really ever feel like they know what they're doing.  I mean, they look like they know what they're doing.  But do they feel like it?

Surely I can't be the only one who always feels like a total screw-up.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

food and grief blog project

One of the readers here, thenextbeyond, has a really cool blog project up on the site Food Funeral: Stories about Love, Loss and Stuffing Your Face, about the (inter)relationships between food and grief.   The site is just getting up and running, but the format largely depending on guest posters, offers photos of dear and departed loved ones, followed by memories of and relationships to each other and to food.  It is lovely, wonderful, sad, and definitely, definitely food for the soul.  

After relating her intense memories of her deceased father and their familial food rituals, thenextbeyond writes:
My dad’s death was sudden, sad and drug-related. Since it happened, I’ve been looking for ways to keep him close, do him justice, and to heal.  The next step on that journey is to sit down every year and eat some ice cream. I’ve also decided to create a place for all of us to collect our stories — about food and remembering.  So, tell me. Who died? How much did you love them? And what did they like to eat more than anything in the whole world?

They are just getting the ball rolling and seeking submissions - so folks, if you've lost someone you loved, and you have a story to tell about the relationship between food and loss - this is the place.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Colour me happy

Ok.  Christmas is coming.  (Yes, I know.  Gasp, shudder, snow, brrrrr, and all of that).
Anyhow, most of us have kids, nieces, nephews, neighbour urchins, and so forth and whathaveyou and et cetera to buy a prezzie or two for.  And oftentimes, the smalls are hard to shop for.  Because smalls these days have a lot of shit.  Emphasis on shit.  
So in case you’re feeling stumped about what to get for the youngs in your life, and wanted some ideas, be stumped no longer!  Here’s my shameless change-the-world kiddo present linkage blog.  (Yes.  This is actually part of the homosexual agenda.  No, I will not get a toaster oven if you choose to purchase from one of these links.  I have to actually convert you for that.  FYI - I kinda need a new toaster oven.  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  Digressing.)
  1. Normally I am all kinds of anti-colouring books.  The business of colouring inside of pre-fab imagination killing lines rubs me the wrong way.  HOWEVER... these are the coolest, most feminist, queer positive, gender bending colouring books ever by artist Jacinta Bunnell.  There are currently three available, 1. Sometimes a Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon, Girls Are Not Chicks, and Boys Will be Girls Will be Boys.  You should totally gift the smalls with these.  I bought them for my kids, and my nieces (Really a perfect present from the crazy lesbo aunties.  Spot on).   But don't take my word for it... Check ‘em out for yourself and see what you think.   Available at http://pmpress,org and

2.  If you’re wanting to outfit the kids in some feminist-inspired clothes, look no further than pigtail pals.  With tees, dresses, school gear and more, you’ll find awesome slogans like: “Pretty’s got nothing to do with it,” (which Girlio will be sportin’ come January) and “Colours are for Everyone” (which I’ll be purchasing for Boy-o, in pink, natch).  Great colours, good politics.

3.  II'm always flogging kid lit, but I found a new one about appreciating differences called “Spork” by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Aresenault.  Available at  It's a gooder.

4.  The Child Health Website store.  This site combines gifting for kids with gifting kids around the world.  Not only do they sell fairtrade merchandise (for people of all ages), a small portion of everything bought from the site goes to kids’ health initiatives worldwide.   They have neat stuff like wooden kaleidoscopes, handknit kids gear, puzzles and nightlights.  If you have older kids to shop for, they also have a great ‘gifts that give more’ section, where you can give charitably in someones’ name and receive a certificate.  Maybe your tots might appreciate being the gifter of dolls to other kids in refugee camps, or building a well in Afghanistan, or helping to pay for speech therapy for a child in need with autism.

5.  And my last good idea (hopeful not, like, ever.  Just for now.).  Kids love, love, love, love receiving shit in the mail.  Not actual shit.  Letters and such.  Kid friendly magazine subscriptions that surprise them every one or two months? So exciting!  Here's a few that span ages...

1. Chirp - for the littler littles (3-6)
2. Chickadee - for the bigger littles (6-9)
3. Owl - (9-13)
- found at
4.  For tween girls - New Moon Girls
-written by girls and for girls ages 8-13 - AND ad free
- found at

I"m sure there's lot of other great, non-plastic-y toysrus options out there.  Anyone else have suggestions???

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Tell if Your Child Has Difficulty with Transitions

Leaving the House
You are getting ready to leave, going through the same routine as usual.
Child is squirrely.  (Those who have children who also get squirrely will recognize this as a word).
Babysitter arrives, same time as usual.  
Child is happy to see her, as usual.  But still squirrely.  
You put on your coat, grab your bag and your laptop.
“Mama!  Mama!  Are you leaving?  Mama!  I love you!”
“I love you too, sweetie.  I’ll be back right before lunch, just like always.”
“Right before lunch?”
“You bet.”
“Okay.  I’ll see you at lunch-time.”
After a hug and a kiss, you head for the door.
As your hand touches the knob, you hear:
“Mama!  Mama!  Wait!  Mama!  I need a kissing hand.” *
You pause, bend down and repeat the kissing hand sequence.
“Okay Mama.  Bye Mama.”
“Bye Honey.  I’ll see you at lunch-time.”
You once again reach for the doorknob.  This time you make it half-way out of the door.
“Mama!  MAMA!  I’m blowing kisses!  Mama!  I’m blowing kisses!”
You turn around and blow several kisses through the window.
You then turn around and make it as far as the garage door.
“MAMA!  WAIT!  MAMA COME BACK!  I need to give you a HUG!”
And you turn back to the house for another  goodbye hug.
You tell your child that you love them.  Madly.  And repeat once again that you’ll be home at lunch-time.  You make it to the garage and open the garage door.  You pause ever-so-slightly to see if you will be recalled.  Hearing nothing, you step across the threshold.  
You thrust a waving hand out of the door so they can see it and make a run for the car.
* This is a term borrowed from the children’s book called “The Kissing Hand,” by Audrey Penn.  It’s a bit corny.  But it works well for kids that have separation issues.  Also highly useful in this regard is “The Invisible String,” by Patrice Karst.    

(Mostly) Wordfree Kidlit

Dancing Boy by Ronald Himler

Dancing Boy

This book is awesome.  All kinds of awesome goodness.  And totally, completely wordless.  This works well for Boy-o and Girlio these days, as they are really into storytelling from pictures on their own terms.  This book follows the journey of a wee joyful streaker,  who entices other tots into his bare-bottomed happiness.  It's sweet, wordless, streaking fun.  And pretty darned irresistible.

Mudkin by Stephen Gammel

Mudkin(K-3)Mudkin is where the (mostly) part of my title comes in.  There are words, but they are minimalist.  The illustrations are what take centre stage in this lovely story about a world created by a young girl using nothing but a mud puddle and some seriously good imagination.  The pictures are vivid, engaging and do a wonderful job and telling the story.

They are both definite, definite must reads.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Seen and heard

Seen and heard this morning, while having an exceedingly rare moment to myself in the shower: a little blue-eyed Boy-o popping his head around the shower curtain and telling me so so sweetly- "Mama - I'm just checking on you to make sure you're not lonely."

Oh, my heart.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Toopy and Binoo

I think I have already written some about how much I love the kids show Toopy and Binoo.  It is all kinds of weird, and full of gender non-specific fun.  Neither Toopy nor Binoo are gendered, and Toopy's voice is not immediately recognizable as male or female.  Toopy is known to rock the princess gear as easily as s/he rocks the knight in shining armour gear.  It's pretty cool.  But yesterday, while hanging with the smalls, we saw a particularly funny/interesting episode.

Toopy and Binoo, dressed as knights, go on a hunt for a scary wolf and fire breathing dragon, with a bunch of villagers (sheep) in tow.

They eventually find said wolf (dressed in a gown) and said fire-breathing dragon (also dressed to the nines and rocking' heels). Everyone is initially scared of the wolf and the dragon, moreover, the wolf and dragon are scared of each other.

Realizing people are scared, the wolf protests: "I'm not a scary wolf! I'm a PRINCESS!". To which the dragon says, "YOU'RE a princess? I'M a princess, too!"

Toopy, bless his/her chameleon heart, takes this all in stride.

But the villager/sheep can be seen in behind, whispering to each other: "So - is that a wolf or what?!"

Queerest kids show ever...


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Lorax

They've gone and done it.  They've fucked up a perfectly good (possibly the best) Dr. Seuss book by pandering to humour of the lowest common denominator.

Click above and watch the trailer for the upcoming film version of The Lorax.  It ends with a horrible sexist (and gender-fucked) joke.  Really?  Was it really necessary?

Sigh.  BIG one.

thinking positive...

I was having coffee with someone yesterday, talking about some life upheaval or another, and she asked me: "What's your best case scenario?"  This stumped me.  Really.  Stumped.  Best case scenario?  A life in momentary perfection?  Foreign - even in the land of my imagination.

For so long, I've only allowed myself to think in the realm of worst case scenario.  My philosophy has always been - if you imagine the worst, you'll never be horribly disappointed.  In fact, as a teenager I convinced myself that if I could picture something happening, it wouldn't.  So if you picture the worst, maybe it won't happen?  That piece of superstition has stayed with me into adulthood, though I can recognize it as totally irrational.  Yeah - I catch myself getting caught up in that hopeful daydream-y place sometimes, but I generally try to smack it down as quickly as it comes up.

But it occurs, suddenly, that perhaps that's cheating myself a bit.  If you can't even let yourself envision the things you really want, how can you work towards them?   Or further still, if you can't even allow yourself to envision those things you might really want, how do you believe you might actually deserve them?

So -  renaissance project #145 - picture the happy place and see what comes of it.

Female bloggers...

Hey all -

A friend alerted me to this article on the experiences (some particularly crappy ones, I might add) of female and feminist bloggers.  Read and share!  It's important.



Saturday, November 5, 2011

Repost: Study on Lezzie Moms

Here's an article from the Globe and Mail about lesbian families and children's well-being.  Interesting, I suppose... though certainly a few problematic areas of the study, I felt.  (Why will no one challenge the perception that lack of male role familial models is across-the-board detrimental, for instance?  And in some ways the study/article challenge the hetero-nuclear family model, and in other ways it totally emphasizes it.  Anyhoo).  Have a read if you feel so inclined.

Friday, November 4, 2011

When your kids tell you off...

I read a post this morning on Offbeat Mama (that I used to write for before they told me I was too negative... But I'm over it.  You know, mostly.  In a negative kinda way ;) about dealing with the hurt that comes your way when your toddler (or child) tells you off.  You should give it a read.  It's well thought out and really nicely written.  But I'd take it a  mite further, because, let's be clear - my kids do a much more thorough job of telling me off than this woman's kid (lucky, lucky me for raising such 1. passionate and 2. freaking verbose children).

For instance, Boy-o once told me, as I was tucking him into bed after a particularly tantrum-y, challenging, emotional day, that I was, in fact, a rotten and terrible mother.  That is a direct quote.  Rotten and terrible mother.  Holy. Fucking. Ouch.  I have also been "I hate you"ed.  O course these utterances are normal.  At least normal when your kids feel safe enough to tell you, which is, of course, a success really.  But these things hurt.  Really, kick-in-the-pants-kinda-take-your-breath-away-hurt.  Precisely because they manage to tap into your worst fears.  You are a bad parent.  You dealt with things badly.  You hurt your child.  You get an F.  You are ill-suited for this.  You will be paying for years of your kids' therapy.  And your own.  And so on and so forth.  I have been called some shitty assed things in my life.  Fat, stupid, ugly, blah, blah, blahs.  Nothing has ever hurt so much as the horrible mother accusation coming from my then three-year old.  The Books will tell you not to personalize.  To shake it off.  etc. etc. (ad nauseum).

But these thoughts and worries are always, always present for me.  Maybe I'm more anxious than most.  (Okay, probably I'm more anxious than most - who are we kidding, right?!)  But more than that - I wanted to have kids so badly, and for so long, that I am really, really hard on myself.  And unforgiving of myself.  Because the process of planning and trying to conceive these amazing little smalls took so long, and so much out of me.  I have never, never not ever wanted anything more in this world.  And because I spent so much of that journey imagining what kind of parent I would be, could be, wanted to be.  Because my littles were so, so, so wanted.  I thought I would be better at this.  I thought it would be easier, that I would be so prepared.  I thought so many, many silly and naive things.

But the long and the short of it is this:  this shit is HARD (And whatever with a capital W.  Maybe I'm too negative.  But I prefer to think of it as honest...).  Parenting is hard, hard, crazy hard shit.  It will push your buttons - every single one of them.  And you will fuck up.  Big.  And your kids will be right.  You will be a terrible, rotten mother some days.  And you will have to find a way to move forward from that, try to do things differently, incrementally better, the next day, hour, minute.  You will disappoint your kids.  Your kids will disappoint you.  You just have to hope, as with anything, that what sticks with them is that you love them enough to let them tell you off.  You love them enough to hear that you are a terrible, bad mother.

And enough to stuff down any knee-jerk reaction you might normally have when you get sucker-punched and respond with: "That's ok.  We had a tough day, you and I. And I'm sorry if I let you down.  But sometimes I don't get it right. And I love you every second of every day, no matter what.  And sweet dreams."