Flying Solo with a Baby

When I relocated to California, one caveat was that we always go home to Canada for Christmas. I love Christmas. I love celebrating Christmas at my parents’ house. I love snow. I’ll be darned if I miss out on that in California and do Christmas among the palm trees.

This year, however – my husband didn’t have quite enough vacation time to go for as long as I would have liked – so DK and I flew home a week early so we could spend more time with my friends. The Christmas season is hella-busy with family, so unless we get together early – I sometimes don’t even see my friends before it’s time to go back to California.

And so DK and I departed a week early for Canada. It was DK’s first time flying since becoming a mobile toddler and my first time flying alone with a child. I had nightmares of a screaming child running around the plane covered in his own feces. My stomach was in knots thinking that our flight might be delayed or cancelled. I worried that we’d end up sitting next to an unsympathetic grinch. I panicked that we’d have problems at the border because DK and I don’t have the same legal last name.

Sitting with these anxieties, I got busy preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. And thankfully – the travel day went surprisingly well, in spite of a mechanical delay.

Here are some things that I prepared that helped us get through the day, as well as a few things that I did prepare as worst-case-scenario-Andrea:

1. A notarized letter signed by my husband giving his consent that I travel across the border with our son.

Perhaps the most important provision I packed for us – it would be pretty awful to be detained at the border for kidnapping…

2. I wrapped a bunch of little gifts from the dollar store as well as his snacks. Unwrapping the toys and snacks took a few minutes and then the joy of a new toy to play with or snack to eat occupied him for quite a while. Putting them all in a ziplock bag gave me a spot to put the ripped wrapping paper afterwards.

IMG-9801

4. I put some goldfish crackers in a weekly pill-organizer I got at the dollar store. Then I wrapped it.

IMG-9804

5. I didn’t take a stroller, but carried him in a Tula carrier.

As much as I love my compact travel stroller, I can’t push it with one hand – making it impossible to push a cart-load of luggage at the same time. Therefore, I opted to take only my tula carrier, and I’m glad I did.

6. I wrapped a pack of post-it notes…peeling and sticking them to the tray table and seat occupied him for 30 whole minutes!

7. I can’t claim credit for this, but I got lucky and was given a row to myself as our plane wasn’t full. DK entertained himself for a while with the seatbelt.

These ideas worked great to keep DK busy without a screen (although we did watch about 15 minutes of Winnie the Pooh too). By the time we landed and were supposed to get off the plane, I had one tired boy!

Holiday Food Challenge

After Thanksgiving in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I make a lot of plans to celebrate the season. Parties to host and to attend, big meals to cook – and in the midst of all of this socialite planning, I like to also finish off the year by finishing off the food in my house. Part of this is that we will be going home to Canada for Christmas and would prefer to not have a bunch of rotting food when we come back, and part of it is that it feels good to return home in January, turn over a fresh leaf for cooking and fill my fridge with healthy ingredients for new recipes.

To start, I clean out my fridge, which is a true horror story. I’m not sure if the cheese is blue cheese or just unrecognizable brie. I can’t remember buying this soy mirin, but it’s the third year in a row that I’ve thought “does this go bad?” during my annual purge and shuffle it back further in the middle row of shelves. I hold up a bottle of super spicy szechaun sauce that not even my husband could enjoy and the lemon tamarind salad dressing that tasted like a foot and I give myself permission to get rid of it – because let’s be serious, I’m not going to use it again.

Then I prepare my remaining produce. I’m way more likely to snack on celery and carrots if they are cut into bite-size pieces. I’m more likely to add green pepper to an omelette if it’s already diced – hells, I’m more likely to use my eggs to make an omelette if I have a diced green pepper to add to it.

Next, I take stock of my freezer to figure out which meats I have in there that can be turned into meals. I feel like cleaning out my freezer is a time for self-reflection when throwing out freezer-burnt muffins I made from freezer-burnt bananas that surprise-surprise DK nor I ever ate, and I make a promise to myself – during this challenge, I will eat what I make as it is fresh. I will not add more individually-wrapped “burritos” to the frozen pit to feel like I “used” up a can of black beans. Because I know me, and I know I won’t remember to eat them and my freezer will be too full for ice cream. And so I issue myself an I-love-me-commandment: Thou shall not make any more freezer muffins/burritos/pancakes/baby purées/casseroles under the guise of being economical. The exception to this commandment is soups because dang I love a good hearty home-made soup for lunch, and that is the one thing I will pull out of the freezer and reheat for myself.

Then I go through my pantry and re-familiarize myself with my impulse-Costco purchases. 12 cans of lentils? Check. 100 pounds of pasta? Check. 5000 kg of rice? Check. Canned tomatoes, canned tuna, canned chickpeas, cereal, tortilla chips, sloppy joe seasoning, granola snack bars – the list is practically un-ending.

I make a list of the ingredients I want to use up before I leave for Canada (I love lists!) and I start brainstorming/looking in cookbooks for things I can make with them.

Some ideas I’ve come up with:

  • Sloppy Joe Sandwiches
  • Hamburgers
  • Shrimp and pea frittatta
  • Pan-fried tilapia with braised brocollini
  • Spaghetti squash, sausage and lentil stir-fry.
  • Western omelette
  • Chicken taquitos, Chicken tacos, Chicken quesedillas
  • Chicken cesar salad

The thing I like about this exercise is before I started it, I was almost afraid of my fridge and ashamed of what I’ve wasted. But in going through it, starting fresh, and making a plan to not be more wasteful as we head into the holiday season, I’m actually looking forward to mealtimes again and trying these new ideas.

What about you? What do you do in the weeks leading up to Christmas? How to you eat-it-up before you feast-it-up?

Motherlode, a poem

Happy Tuesday after American Thanksgiving! I’m told we are officially allowed to start celebrating the Christmas season, my FAVOURITE season of all. To kick off the season, I thought I’d share with you a little poem inspired by The Night Before Christmas.

Motherlode

‘Twas early one morning
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse.

Mum and babe nestled quietly,
The babe on her breast.
She smiled down at him
A perfect moment blessed.

And then a rip roar tore
through the silence.
The gastric distress
startled like a siren.

Babe’s diaper filled with
A substance nothing like sand,
And mom hopefully prayed
she bought the leakproof brand.

And then came the truth
The diaper wasn’t ready for war
With the hot putrid liquid
That exploded galore.

It trickled down babe’s legs
And shot up babe’s back.
Mum’s outfit was compromised;
Even her hair was full of crap.

Dad came in to do
A post mortum analysis
Of the diaper’s construction
And limits of “infant”esimal calculus

A final report was concluded
But no one is confident
If it was the diaper
Or parental incompetence.

 

 

Long Road Trips with a Baby

We are from Canada but have been living in the SF Bay Area for the last 3 years. We try to get home every summer and every Christmas. We didn’t make it last summer because I was too pregnant, but this year we headed home to celebrate DK’s first birthday with family and friends! And we drove. A 23 hour drive. With a baby. Yeah, I’m sure you’re not jealous.

But actually, it went remarkably well. We are super lucky to have a baby who is not afflicted with car sickness. If we did, we’d probably never leave home. Thankfully that wasn’t an issue, so we already had a head start on the long drive.

But it was still a long time for a little guy to be in the car. Here are some things that we did that I think made it doable.

1) Swimming, swimming, swimming every day

DK loves swimming. He will kick kick kick in the pool until he’s pruney and blue. The BEST thing we did (I’ll admit, by accident) was book hotels with pools. Before we left in the morning, we’d pack up the car and then we’d take him for a swim, which would exhaust him. We’d get him changed and then I’d nurse him and he’d be so drowsy that one minute into the car ride, he’d be asleep…for 3+ hours. It was a great way to get in a chunk of driving.


2) Not overdoing it

Before kids, my husband and I would do long road trips. Like long. My husband is a long-drive enthusiast, happily doing 16 hours at a time. I can go about 9 before I’m squirrelly. Thankfully, I planned this trip and I tried to make sure (through the help of Google maps) that we were only driving between 5 – 7 hours per day.

3) Packing strategically

We needed two suitcases to fit a week’s worth of clothes for three people…one for me (hey, I like light layers) and one shared between DK and my husband. This works for airplane travel…but it is not effective for car travel. You have to lug too many things in from the car to the hotel room. So I got smart and re-packed it all so that we could fit 4 days of road-trip clothes and essentials in one suitcase and the other suitcase for everything else.

4) There’s an app for that! 

The PlayPlaces app maps according to your location where the nearest restaurants with PlayPlaces and rest stops with bathrooms are located. This app was a life saver on the long sparsely populated drive across northern Nevada and southern Idaho. We ate at McDonalds A LOT. But they have change tables, and a place for DK to crawl around, and McFlurries. Enough Said.

5) Toy bag

A few weeks before our trip I gathered a bunch of small toys and books and put them in a bag out of DK’s sight. I also bought a few small new toys to include for something new and novel. After a few weeks without those toys, everything was exciting again! I passed him one toy at a time and when he threw it away or stopped playing with it, he could then have another one. This worked well for most of the trip. The final 3 hours both directions he was definitely DONE with the car seat and the toys – but we got a 20 hour run with them…so I consider it a success!

6) The Honey Song

I don’t know what it is about this Youtube Video, but it’s like a psychedelic baby drug. DK loves it. We downloaded it for offline viewing and in the final 20 minutes of every day when he was just NOT COOL anymore, we’d watch it on repeat. Sometimes we also just played the soundtrack song for him on Google Play on repeat, and that would also work without the screen-time!

 

7) Snacks

So many snacks. Just think of how many snacks are reasonable, and triple it.

 

 

Mental Load and Equality

A few weeks ago a friend of mine shared an article about the mental load many women bear in running a household and how labour is never really “equally” divided between spouses because of all the additional planning, administering and remembering that falls onto the plates of wives and mothers.

I have this love/hate relationship with feminism, and reflecting on what I expect of myself as a feminist and what other women/feminists expect of me as a feminist is an entirely different blog post or, frankly, series of blog posts. So for this post I’m just looking at what equal division of labour and mental load of household management means to me in the context of raising a son who believes in the equality of all people and whose actions reflect it.

So back to the article, the comments and discussion that this article generated were prodigious and I shared the article with my husband late one night as it really did reflect a lot of what I was feeling.

I don’t think of myself as someone who needs a lot of verbal reassurance. Generally I’m pretty confident, probably to a fault. However, the thankless and unnoticed work I do behind the scenes to keep our home running sometimes grates on me. Something simple like taking DK to the pediatrician is not just the time travelling to and from and at the appointment – but the mental exercise of finding the pediatrician in the first place, scheduling the appointment, calling our insurance company to make sure the provider I found was “in-network”, paying the bills afterwards, remembering the correct dosage and timing of his medications. These were all “background” things my husband did not realize I spent any time doing.

My husband works full-time and he provides for our family so that I can stay home with our son. This is what we both want and I’m happy that I have the opportunity to be with my son every day. As such, I don’t really have an issue with taking on the huge bulk of the household management. I’m better at it than my husband and I’m home all day, so it makes sense that I would take it on. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t need some recognition for how much work it actually is and it doesn’t mean I want DK to grow up assuming that household management is “women’s work”.

We’ve talked about me one day going back to work and my husband has always been keen saying we’d split chores more evenly when that day comes, but I’m honestly scared to go back to work because I know that even though the intention will be to equally divide the labour, I’ll still be the one managing the household and deciding, organizing, planning, delegating, asking, reminding, and remembering all of the things on top of my for-pay job. That thought is exhausting and this article was helpful for us to open up dialogue on these real fears.

And then our dishwasher broke. And for three straight nights my husband patiently siphoned gross water out of the bottom of the dishwasher and solved the problem, only for it to come back again with the next wash cycle. The third night after he got home from work he spent over three hours fixing the problem, pulling out the dishwasher and dealing with mucky water.

And I realized that I did not give him enough credit for his mental load in household management.

Yes, my jobs are constant everyday small things – but his house-tasks are usually at super inconvenient times, unpredictable, time intensive and expensive problems often involving grey water or sewage and multiple trips to Home Depot. Toilet clogs? My husband is on it. Shower won’t drain? I don’t even have to ask him. Our bike tires never need to be pumped up because he always makes sure they have air. Our car almost always has gas in it.

I think I am just as much to blame for not noticing all the mental load he carries and all the little things he does around the home for us as he is for not noticing my mental load and all the little things that I do.
When it comes to how we raise our son, I want DK to help around the house because he’s a part of our family, but I don’t know that equality has to mean getting my husband to do my traditionally female jobs and me to do his traditionally male jobs. While hypothetically I like the idea of raising a son who doesn’t consider chores “pink chores” and “blue chores”, but just “chores”,  I think the chivalry involved in picking up a dead mouse in the yard or unclogging an overflowing toilet is nice. It makes me feel loved as a wife and thankful that my husband will protect me from ugliness.  I would be honoured to raise a son who takes his future spouse’s disgusting hair ball out of the shower drain without being asked because he knows that’s what husbands do. And if this means that as a result of teaching him this he fails to learn how often one needs to clean a toilet – I’ll still feel like I succeeded as a mom.

Treating my phone addiction with clocks

Do you remember life before you had a smartphone? I barely remember.

I got my first iPhone in 2010 when I was in grad school studying social cultural anthropology. I needed an audio-recorder for doing interviews and a way to take quick notes in the field for my research. I decided to splurge on the iPhone 3G, which was the previous year’s model when I bought it.

It was probably the most life altering purchase I have ever made.

Before my iPhone, my Samsung flip phone was almost always dead. I would only text the bare minimum because I didn’t understand how T9 worked and typing out messages on a 9 digit keyboard was excruciating. When my phone was charged and turned on, the voicemail blinky light would always be flashing. I never checked my voicemails because I had to enter a passcode and most of the messages were just from my dad saying, “Hi, it’s dad. I’ll try calling you again later.” I remember feeling so irritated when I checked my voicemail that I lost 2 minutes of my time listening to that message.

Image result for samsung flip phone

Now, I waste dozens of minutes per day just checking the homescreen of my phone to see if anyone has contacted me.

I used to be hard to reach; but when I was with you, I was with you.

Now, I’m quite punctual in responding to people. It bothers me to have an unread notification – and if I read it, I have to respond because otherwise I’ll forget and that person will think I’m ignoring them. But I’m distracted when I’m in the flesh.

I used to manage a full-time university course-load and a part-time job. I used to hang out with friends daily, date, read books for pleasure, scrapbook with my mom, and watch TV with my brother.

Now, I take care of a one year old, clean up after 3 people, maintain this blog (and we know that I’m pretty infrequent with that), and check my phone. I rarely read entire books for pleasure anymore. I hardly find time to cook. And I’m horrified to say that my husband and I can spend entire evenings sitting next to each other both looking at our phones.

Something had to change.

When my brother was visiting, he noticed that my phone would send me notifications for absolutely everything: “The University of Calgary (my alma mater) retweeted the Calgary Herald”; “Sally Stranger posted in Mom Group”; “You took 6789 steps today!”; “Have you played 2048 recently?”. It was too much. My phone was buzzing every few minutes, and I’d look at it to see if it was important. But all that brain power, all that distraction for interruptions that I didn’t even care about was sapping me of my time. My brother suggested I turn off all notifications and when he said it, I looked at him like he had three heads.

“You can do that?!”

“Yeah. Just go to settings.”

It was seriously mind-blowing to me that I had the power to affect incoming information like that. Such a tiny action and already my smartphone dependency was becoming more manageable. I turned off notifications for every single app except iMessage, Hangouts and Messenger, because I wasn’t quite ready to become the kind of person who is hard to reach, especially being abroad. And let me tell you, it has been liberating! The impact was immediate – I was looking at my phone less. I was spending less time on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter because they weren’t constantly asking for my attention.

A few months went by, and I adjusted to this new freedom, but my phone still felt a bit too much like an appendage. It was always at my side. It was my best friend, in a way, because it was my support system – linking me to my friends and family back home in Canada. I was constantly pressing that home button and looking at the home screen, like a nervous tick.

I went to my friend Sarah’s house for a playdate and I asked out-loud what time it was, motioning for my phone. Sarah looked at her wall (not her Facebook one, her actual wall) – there was a clock there. A great big clock with a white face and black hands. And this blew my mind. A clock? On the wall of your living room? Like as decor? Is that a thing?

And then it dawned on me that the next stage of separation from my phone was to no longer treat it as my watch.

I used to wear a watch, before DK. After he was born, I found it impossible to transfer him from my arms to his crib without his head chaffing on my watch, so I took it off and began relying on my phone for the time. I put my watch back on.

I used to have an alarm clock on my nightstand that glowed red digits in the dark. But one day I spilled water on it and it died. I had started charging my phone next to my bed, you know, in case someone got in an accident in the middle of the night and I got a phone call. And so my phone easily replaced my alarm clock, my night-light, and my bedtime-reading all at once. I bought a $14 alarm clock on Amazon with big red numbers so I could see it without my glasses on in the middle of the night and not have to check my phone for the time, inevitably seeing middle of the night notifications. I started turning on my lamp for my bedtime reading.

And I bought a $10 wall clock to hang in the space between our kitchen and our living room. Next to it I hung a Gilmore Girls-inspired poster, “In Omnia Paratus”, which means “Ready for Anything”, and a painting of a girl with her nose stuck in a book, as reminders of what I wanted to make time for. And I check the clock – all the time.

I still have a long way to go weaning myself from this life-changing technology. I don’t want to go back entirely to the way things were before I had a smartphone. I think I’m a better daughter, friend, sister and wife when I’m reachable. But I do want to stop putting everyone else in the wide world of the internet on a higher pedestal than my son, my husband and myself.

My next steps to cure myself of my smartphone dependency are to move its night-time charging spot off of my nightstand. Reading on my phone late at night keeps me awake. I know it keeps me awake. Scientific research knows it keeps me awake. And yet, night after night, I decompress from the day lying in bed staring at a tiny glowing screen in the dark looking at Taylor Swift gifs on Tumblr.

Next, I need to determine a resting spot in the house where I will keep it during the day instead of always within arm’s reach and allow myself to check it a specific intervals. The thought of it makes my palms sweaty, which is why I know it needs to happen. Perhaps perching below In Omnia Paratus will be a good spot for it – and then I really will be Ready for Anything because my mind won’t be buried in my phone.

 

 

 

Halloween as a Rite of Reversal

Halloween, in California, is bigger than Christmas. People go all out here with parties, costumes, trick or treating, and house decor. “Graveyards” line front yards, ghosts haunt every corner, cobwebs aren’t swept away, but embraced. Back home in Canada, very few people hosted parties (or at least none that I was invited to), costumes had to fit over snowsuits (hello fat-Cinderella, hello fat-Power Ranger, hello sumo-wrestler), and Halloween decor was minimal. We would put out Jack O’ Lanterns and maybe a few cutouts of ghoulish faces in the windows – but other than a couple haunted houses in each neighbourhood, people did pretty much the bare minimum. Upon moving to California, I learned that outdoor decor is a competitive sport, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps is a feasible costume and you can’t carve your pumpkin until the day of because it will rot if it’s not -20C outside (who knew?!).

In spite of the love of all things Halloween-ey, I was surprised to learn how down on candy many Californians seem to be. Nuts/Sugar/Gluten are almost considered obscenities here and I was stressing about what kind of treat to give out at my door on Halloween night. Some of my mom-friends are going the non-candy route, to be respectful of allergies, but honestly I dread a shit-ton of rubber bouncy balls entering my home more than I dread a sugar-inebriated child.

The thing about Halloween is candy is a major part of the celebration. Halloween is what we anthropology -nerds (yes, many moons ago I graduated with my MA in Social and Cultural Anthropology) call a Rite of Reversal.

A Rite of Reversal is a ritual in which the social order is reversed; the world devolves into chaos and then reverts back to order. These rites are important in human culture because they remind us why we have social conventions and rules in the first place. Sure chaos is fun for an evening, but at the end of the day, when you crawl into bed, you’re happy that when you wake up in the morning, things will go back to the way they were. Trick or Treating on Halloween night is an example of a Rite of Reversal.

On Halloween:

  • Children, who are usually only in public spaces in the daytime, get to run through the streets after dark, often without their parents.
  • Children get to go to stranger’s homes and rather rudely, threateningly demand candy (Trick or Treat!).
  • Children get to dress in costume.
  • Spooky and scary replaces light-hearted and predictable.
  • Children get to eat lots of junk food/candy.

TRICK-OR-TREAT

Every day I try to teach my child to be polite (say please and thank you, do not be demanding or threatening), to dress appropriately (not go out in public in costume), to eat healthily (celery sticks not chocolate bars), and to not ever take candy from strangers. Yet, on Halloween, the opposite of these behaviours are allowed and encouraged. We literally send our kids out at night in a costume to threaten strangers to give them candy or they will play a trick on them.

Untitled presentation (2)

Halloween is special. On Halloween you can break the rules. In doing so, it releases tension between child and parent and also reinforces why we have rules at all. While Halloween is a super fun night and some kids might wish it were Halloween every day, the fact that it isn’t every day is what makes it so fun and so special.

So yeah, I don’t care if my neighbours are giving out rubber bouncy balls. I’m giving out candy that will rot your teeth. And I hope when my son has enough teeth to chew, that he gets candy that will rot his teeth (and learn how glorious it feels to brush your teeth after an over-indulgent night of sugary snacks) because that’s the one night per year where eating candy for a bedtime snack is okay. It’s part of the rite.

Someday, when my kids are older, I hope to extend this Rite of Reversal to include a Ghoul’s Dinner on Halloween night before Trick or Treating. At the Ghoul’s Dinner, table manners don’t matter. The intention is that this fun night of belching, eating with our hands, wiping our faces on our shirts, blowing bubbles in our milk, building castles with our potatoes, banging cutlery on the table and throwing food on the floor will reinforce why we have table manners all other nights of the year. People, and especially our children, are creatures of habit. We like to know what to expect. We certainly wouldn’t want a chaotic meal with spaghetti in our hair every day, so when you do a ritual of reversal for fun on a set day of the year, it reinforces why we care about correct behaviour. Life generally is more pleasant when we follow social conventions and we don’t have to clean globs of food off the floor – but once a year, it’s nice to let loose and reminds ourselves of that.

Of course, I have a 15 month old, so every meal for me is currently a Ghoul’s Dinner. First I need to teach him table manners before I can reverse it to chaos, so consider that a parenting goal for the future.

Happy Halloween-ing!

 

Food Fights with a Baby

My little guy has been really tough to feed solid foods. He’s all about the boob. Which was fine until he lost weight and his pediatrician said, “He needs more calories. Milestones. Milestones. Milestones. Formula. Milestones. Calories,” or something like that…that’s what my spinning freaked out mom-brain could hear during the visit as my thoughts went to the extremes.

Getting him to eat was a struggle. He wouldn’t drink ANYTHING but water out of a bottle. He’d just spit it out, “What is this POISON?!”

I made him so much food that he wouldn’t touch and I was very frustrated. “He’s so PICKY”, I would vent to my husband. “This is your fault. You’re picky, so he’s picky.” I’ll eat anything that doesn’t eat me first, so it’s definitely not my fault.

In addition to the calorie intake problem, he wasn’t pulling up to stand on his own and I was stressed out about that. I was trying to motivate him, putting toys in front of him, cheering him on – but he wouldn’t do it. He’d just cry and crawl away, finding another toy to play with. “Low muscle tone. Physiotherapy. Calories. Calories. Physiotherapy. Low Muscle Tone,” said the pediatrician. And I freaked out anew.

I try to keep DK away from screens as much as possible, but in a screen-filled world in Silicon Valley, that is a major challenge. DK is transfixed by screens. He loves them and is drawn to them like mosquitoes to a light. One day, I had to work on some things on my laptop. So I put the laptop on the coffee table, I sat on the floor, and I began typing away. Of course, DK wanted to see what I was up to, so I was encouraging him to pull up to stand to the coffee table to see. Again, cheering him on, “C’mon DK, you can do it! Pull up! Pull up!,” and he quickly began whining and lost interest. Oh well. Back to my typing.

I heard him babbling away behind me, I turned around to look – and he was STANDING against the couch, with no help or encouragement from anyone. In fact, he did it when I wasn’t even looking.

And then it dawned on me….DK does not like to be pressured. This should have been obvious to me, because I know someone else who hates pressure-cookers. Me. As soon as I know someone has expectations of me completing something, I lose all interest. If I tell friends about a project idea that I’m working on before I’ve actually finished it – I lose all interest in doing it. It’s like as soon as someone says, “Ooh good idea, I can’t wait to read it! I’m like…”Nahhh, I’d rather work on something else.”

Sure enough, as soon as I stopped encouraging him, pushing him, challenging him, he started standing up and cruising around on everything. So I took this newfound and pretty-obvious-to-probably-everyone-but-me wisdom and I applied it to mealtimes.

If DK thought I wasn’t looking and was busy with something else in the kitchen, he would pick up a tiny piece of chicken and he would eat it. This discovery floored me. Of course he didn’t want to eat when I was shoving food in his face going, “Eat it. Eat it. Eat it.” There’s no way I’d open my mouth either if someone did that to me.

Around this same time, I was reading, “How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen” by Joanna Faber and Julie King. In it, there’s a chapter on eating (GREAT book by the way). They write,

“There’s actually a scientific explanation for picky eating. Little babies put everything in their mouths, but around age two they become cautious about new tastes. That caution protects the freely moving toddler from the danger of eating poisonous things. In fact, we’re a species of picky eaters, since historically the pickiest of toddlers survive to reproduce. Picky eating is in our DNA!”

I realized that I was pushing so many new tastes and textures on the poor kid, trying to find something that he would eat – that he was just shutting down all food into his mouth probably on instinct.

And so I had to change my attitude.

First, I started by deciding firmly that our son was not a picky eater. That was no longer a label I would give him. People tend to gravitate towards the labels that we give them so that they feel a sense of belonging. I did not want DK to find his identity among the label of picky eaters as he got older.

Second, I had to re-think what I thought of as “baby food”. I thought home-made was best and that I would fail if I gave my son a premade purchased pouch. And when I did give him a pouch once, he just squeezed it everywhere and made a huge mess, so I wasn’t looking forward to trying that again. But I also couldn’t get my son to eat anything off a spoon. He only has 4 teeth, so while he loved eating anything crunchy (crackers, cheerios, teething rice rusks), my husband and I worried at length that he would choke on the food we were eating. I was also concerned that the food I prepared for my husband and I at mealtimes was too sweet or too salty. I was stressing so much on the quality of what I was trying to give my kid that I wasn’t giving him much at all. I kept reverting to breastmilk as the only safe option. I had to change my attitude to accept that an exclusive breast-milk diet at 13 months old wasn’t going to be healthiest for him long-term and that any food that he will eat (within reason) is better than high-quality homemade food that he won’t eat.

Third, and on a similar vein, I had to accept that it’s okay that he sucks some of his food out of a pouch instead of eating it off a spoon. I had this ill-conceived notion that  my baby should eat purées with a spoon, because otherwise he’s learning to eat food the wrong way. But guess what? He loves sucking Apple Carrot purée out of those pouches while in his stroller. It’s the best way right now to get him to eat fruits and vegetables. I had to change my attitude to accept that first, he needs to get used to the flavours and the textures and then he will get used to a spoon. A few months later, and he eats his purées off of a spoon and even spoon feeds himself.

Fourth, I had to change my attitude and accept that mealtime with a one-year old will mean complete outfit changes for us both and a bath every night. It’s a messy disgusting stage, but he’s learning and I need to let my kid play with textures, and experiment with his food, make a mess and get some food into his mouth. I now accept that my best friend is a steam mop and I am not the only mother who loathes wiping down most of her kitchen three-times per day, but we do it because we love our babies and they need to experiment in order to learn.

Fifth, we had to make enough time for mealtimes. My husband and I are not the kind to lounge over meals. We eat and we move on to other things. But we’ve learned that our son can take an hour or more to eat enough. We thought him throwing food on the floor meant that he’s full…but it really doesn’t. It’s just play and exploring food and he will usually eat more of something else if it’s offered to him. Accepting that mealtime can include some playtime has made it a more enjoyable hour that I spend with my son and he actually eats until he’s full.

Sixth, I had to accept that he’s going to be wasteful while he’s learning textures and flavours and that’s okay. I hate wasting food. I feel so guilty throwing stuff down the garburator or swept off the dustpan into the garbage. But it happens, and I’ve put my energies into making sure that I waste less food when I eat/cook, so that my son can throw a quarter cup of cooked chicken on the ground and I’m no further behind. Soon our city will be delivering our new compost bins, so that will be wonderful in also dealing with the food-waste-guilt.

Last, I shared my worries and dislikes with my husband. I told him that I hated mealtimes. I told him that I dreaded them. Somehow, confessing that out loud to him made me realize that “hated” and “dreaded” were perhaps too strong as words. He sympathized with me and said he disliked it too, but he hadn’t realized that I equally disliked it. Once he realized we were both equal haters, he stepped up to feed DK more often and give me, my clothes and my hair a break so that we were both doing equal time on the front lines of the food fight.

Prior to these attitude changes on my part, mealtimes were a stressful, anxious, dreaded affair. But now, I actually find them to be a fun way to engage with my son over food. So what if I have egg in my hair at suppertime? So what if I had to change my pants three times today? It’s a phase and it too shall pass. And the great development is that my son is gaining weight and is eating a lot more both in quantity and variety without all the added pressure from me to eat enough, eat quickly, eat cleanly,  and eat it all.

When I think back to how I did things before I’m like…duhhhhhh of COURSE he wasn’t eating!!!

Good Judgment

Emergency Preparedness with a Toddler

Recently wildfires swept through homes in Northern California – leaving residents fleeing for their lives. The same week, the South Bay had a 4.1 magnitude earthquake. I started to feel uneasy with how relaxed I am about natural disasters. Non-profits will be there meeting our needs, right? The Trump Administration and the California government will be effective at handling the emergency, right? Google will be prepared and they will have extra food and water for everyone who shows up to campus, right?

The fact that these were some of my assumptions show how laughably unprepared I am for disaster; and the Bay Area has a real chance of having a really bad earthquake. As these thoughts sunk in, I began to panic. Would I be prepared? How would I handle things and take care of the needs of a toddler if shit hit the fan and we had to evacuate quickly or hunker down at home for days without electricity or running water? Of course, my mom-friends had similar fears and one of them re-blogged Silicon Valley Toddler’s amazing blog post about earthquake preparedness with toddlers. I cannot praise this post enough. Everyone should read it. And then when they are done, everyone should purchase their earthquake survival kits using her affiliate links while they slow clap for her thoroughness of thought.

I read her post at 11 pm one night, which was a mistake because I was awake until 1 am stressing. However, it DID get my butt in gear and get my shit together for earthquake preparedness.

I did have enough water in my house, having stocked up a few weeks before when reminded during the hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. However, prior to reading her post, this was my earthquake kit:

I hadn’t even CONSIDERED that I might need to carry this thing with a toddler in my arms. Impossible. It’s awkward. It’s heavy. Oh and the lid pops off if you carry it by its handle. Useless.

It was also in my basement cellar. Which is dark and creepy on the brightest, bluest days let alone during the apocalypse, and not particularly accessible in an instant if we ever needed to leave during an emergency due to fire or flood or gas or earthquake damage.

Contents wise, my earthquake kit wasn’t a complete disaster…but it was definitely missing a few key items to be able to survive off-grid for 3 days.


Some of the items were definitely good to have around: 30 water purification tablets, some cord, a hatchet, lighters, a poncho, soap, insect repellent, a whistle and compass, garbage bags, a deck of cards, earplugs, and a combination lock.

But then I have some items that, with a toddler, are completely ridiculous:

  • 15 wipes. 15. 15 is better than none. But I need a LOT more than 15 wipes to get through 3 days of an emergency.
  • 3 (? Why 3?) decks of cards and no toys or books to comfort DK. 
  • 3 flashlights that are all out of batteries and no replacement batteries.
  • Candles but no candle holder. What, am I going to hold this in my mouth? Craft one out of mud in an emergency?
  • Insect repellent but no sunscreen (hello, California!).
  • Tylenol but no Infant Tylenol.

Additionally, I was missing key things like: food, diapers, a vessel to purify water using my purification tablets, a change of clothes for everyone, a blanket, a crank-operated radio, a knife, and a way to carry it all that wouldn’t be super inconvenient if DK and I had to leave home and meet my husband elsewhere.

Silicon Valley Toddler’s post also reminded me that we are out and about a lot, and we had nothing in the car.

In light of all of these oversights, here are the actions I’ve taken to get our family organized in the event of a natural disaster and we need to live off-grid for a few days.

  1. I bought a backpack. This one was on sale and is actually a really handy one to have around because it folds into a tiny pack. Technically a useless feature, since it should always contain our car-emergency kit, but it was on sale and not a bad addition to our home. It’s not the sturdiest of materials, but it will be fine for our car-kit. 
  2. I replaced all the batteries in our flashlights.
  3. I added a copy of DK’s favourite bedtime story, Goodnight Moon, and a small stuffed toy to provide some comfort to DK at a scary time.
  4. I added in some foil mylar blankets and some handwarmers. Yes, I bought the bulk packs. Technically we only need 3 blankets…but 10 fit in my backpack and I figure in an emergency, maybe there will be other neighbourhood children who need blankets and these can help.
  5. I added a multi-tool.
  6. I added an entire pack of wipes.
  7. I added 10 diapers in the next size up.
  8. I wrote the combination for the combination lock on a piece of tape and stuck it to the back (it won’t be much use to my husband if the combo is in my head!). I’m not sure if a combination lock will be all that useful, but I have one and it’s small and maybe it will be useful at an evacuation centre(?).
  9. I added a candle that I don’t have to hold.
  10. I added some glowsticks.
  11. I added some replacement double A batteries
  12. I replaced my all-natural clove and lemon hand “sanitizer” with some real hospital-grade Purell hand-sanitizer. I don’t want to be wondering in an emergency if my clove-lemon gel sanitized the fecal bacteria on my hands. I just want it to work.
  13. I added a pad of paper, a pencil and a Sharpie marker.
  14. I added some energy bars. I chose the ones with the longest shelf-life…
  15. I added my house first-aid kit which includes: Gauze, non-stick gauze (for burns), bandaids, tape, an ice-pack, alcohol wipes, first aid suture kit, gloves, travel sunscreen, solarcaine, Tylenol, Tums, Advil and Benadryl
  16. I added some clothespins, because they are just handy to have.
  17. I added photocopies of all of our important documents: passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, green cards, tenant insurance, car insurance, health insurance.
  18. I added a sippy cup with a straw for DK because he loves straws.
  19. I added a waterbottle since my water purification tablets are completely useless without a vessel.
  20. I added some cash in small bills and a chequebook.

Additionally, I took some further steps:

  1. I put all of our important documents in one place in an easy-to-grab zippered pouch. My husband and I decided that in an emergency in the middle of the night, I would grab our son and he would grab the documents (unless I’m unable to get to our child and then obviously my husband is in charge of that too).
  2. I put some old shoes under our bed. In an earthquake, windows can shatter and we might be sleeping when it happens. So having shoes at the ready for our bare feet is important.
  3. My husband and I decided on a secondary safe-place that we would go to if we can’t be at the house due to fire, flood, gas or structural integrity. This way, if my husband is at work, he knows where we might be if we are not at home.
  4. I moved our emergency kit to our front hall closet so that it is easily accessible.
  5. I ordered a secondary survival kit for our car. I chose the same one that Silicon Valley Toddler recommended based on her research. It comes with an awesome backpack, which I’m going to put our house-kit contents in, and then use the contents for our car-kit. Silicon Valley Toddler decided to put her primary kit in her car because she’s either out and about in her car, or her car is parked outside the house. My husband and I share a car and he takes the car to work 2-3 times per week. So while it is possible that DK and I will be out and about in the car when disaster strikes, it is more likely that we will be within walking distance of home, so I decided to put our primary kit in the house and our secondary kit, which is also my husband’s at-work-kit, in our car.
  6. I added a change of warm clothes for each of us to the car kit.
  7. I put a recurring calendar reminder in my phone for the second Monday of the month every 6 months to check my earthquake kits and add or subtract as necessary.

I did all this during a few days of my son’s afternoon naps, and YOU CAN TOO.

Hopefully this is all time and money wasted…but I’ll certainly be glad to have spent the time and the money if disaster does strike and the worst happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magazines for babies?

I used to get Highlights magazine in the mail as a kid. Reading the articles and stories was the highlight (pun definitely intended) of my month, especially the Goofus and Gallant cartoon. I felt so grown up, getting a monthly magazine – just like my mom who got Canadian Living and Chatelaine. 

So when I saw an ad for Highlights Hello, a magazine for 0-2, I was intrigued and clicked on the ad (good job btw Facebook on the targeted ads…). I thought, “This is silly. Babies don’t need magazines…DK would just eat it. He doesn’t know the joys of receiving mail. Probably a waste of money.”

But….It was $35 for a 12-month subscription and Highlights Hello promised an indestructible, washable, plasticized magazine just the right size for Devon’s tiny hands and with stitching instead of staples in the seam. They also promised that if I wasn’t satisfied with my first issue – they would refund me my money and cancel the subscription. I figured $35 for 12 indestructible books can’t be beat, so I took the plunge and signed us up. A few weeks later our first issue arrived!

It included a welcome magazine for parents about reading to your baby as well as the little magazine for DK. 


He is obsessed. He loves playing with paper but so often I end up picking bits of shredded soggy paper out of his mouth – but this magazine doesn’t have that problem, so he can play to his heart’s content! This has been his favourite toy this week. He’s constantly flipping through the pages, swatting it on the floor, gumming it with his mouth – and so far it is indestructible. 


The stories and games are cute and can be read/taught at different levels, so we can go back and re-read at different ages and get different things out of it. 

I also love how there are pictures of real babies in the magazine instead of just cartoons. Devon loves seeing pictures of other babies but I can never find board books at the library that incorporate real life images, so this magazine is also great for the pictures. 


I think the subscription is worth it and I can’t wait for our next issue to arrive! Devon is excited too…he just doesn’t know it yet.