Sunday, December 25, 2011

Puke and Monopoly are what make a family a "family".

It's Christmas!

Santa has come and gone, the presents were opened, played with and left behind in a hail storm of ripped gift wrap, scraps of cardboard and shards of plastic (also, what's with the impenetrable packaging on kids' toys these days, it's like saying, "Here's your present, but damn me if you'll enjoy it").

D was up at around 5 am- despite the fact that he isn't a big fan of Christmas, the kids were up by 5:30 am, and I was up at 6. Then the REAL fun began.

Brat had already thrown up on the couch by the time I woke up, so my darling husband wiped it halfheartedly and covered it with a blanket. Wonderful. That will smell awesome come dinnertime tonight I'm sure.

So we handed out the stockings (I got a Bitchin' Kitchen cookbook in my stocking- and I didn't even buy it for myself). Brat continued to throw up, but wouldn't go to the bathroom and "miss" anything, so I have a picture of her sitting on the couch, holding her puke bucket and trying to open her stocking at the same time.

Ah. Family. Isn't it grand?

As of right now, the baby is whining, the older kids are fighting over who said a bathroom word first, and I'm trying to pretend none of them exist at all. But I wouldn't change a thing. Because having a good fight, having a good laugh, smacking someone smaller than you (sorry Soph) and biting are all a part of ANY good family get-together. Just like crying, hiding and playing board games (until Poppy gets mad and slaps the monopoly board into smithereens- which, to be fair, only happened seven or eight years in a row). Board games, stories, food and laughter.

I love everything damned thing about this holiday.

The spirit of Christmas is loving and giving. Just keep saying it until you believe it too. Time for some left over turkey sandwiches, with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side. And maybe a nap.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'm crazy, but not crazy enough to shop at Walmart

I hate Walmart.

I do. Not just because of the shitty corporate practices (you've heard them all before), not just because they force small businesses to close, not just because it's cool to hate Walmart.

I hate Walmart because of everything. I hate the fact that every single time I've had to go to Walmart, it's busier than a Christmas Eve Midnight Madness. Why? Why is it always busy at Walmart? 24 hours a day. I can go any damn time and the whole freakin' place is still packed.

I hate that there are no carts, ever, available for you to use. I think they only have 100 carts, and not once have I ever been able to just walk up and use one. I have to stalk somebody in the parking lot, follow them to their car and ask if they are done with the cart. I had one guy say "No, I chain this one to the fence for later."


Then, there's the people themselves. PACKED to the rafters with people, each of whom is late for something. So, everyone in the store is tense, pushy, muttering about how busy it is, how long the lines are, why the things they're looking for aren't where they should be, etc.

I hate it. There isn't anything I need for one dollar cheaper. Because to me, one dollar off a pack of jello isn't worth the hassle. Walmart makes me crazy.

And that turns me into one of the masses of grouchy, pushy, muttering assholes who clog the aisles.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shepard's Pie (Cottage Pie)

This is my take on a Shepard's Pie. I don't like lamb, so I use beef, but really, you could use any ground meat. So, in actuality, this is a cottage pie.

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (or 1 lb ground lamb)
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, for frying
  • 1 -2 garlic clove, minced
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 beef bouillon cube, or 2 tbsp bouillon paste, or approx 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (I buy the tube of double concentrated paste and use a 1" strip, because I rarely use a whole can of the paste)
  • 1/4 cup flour (you may not need all of it)
  • 3/4 - 1.5 cups water (cold)
  • 1 1/2 cups corn or 1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables 
Mashed Potato:
  • 5 -10 potatoes, peeled (depending how much you love potato)
  • 1/8 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk, more as needed
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional)
  1. Peel and quarter potatoes and set them in a pot of water to boil (on high).
  2. In a large pan on the stove, quick fry the onions in the olive oil (maybe 2 minutes), until they are translucent- NOT burned.
  3. Add the minced garlic to the onions and fry for 30 sec to 1 minute longer.
  4. Add the ground meat.
  5. Fry the meat/ onions until the meat is BROWN. Not gray. BROWN. Some bits might stick to the bottom. That's flavour, that's good. If there is a lot of fat, try to drain some off.
  6. In a bowl mix a couple teaspoons of water with the Oxo packets (I use fresh beef stock), and deglaze the pan with the beef stock.
  7. Add your salt and pepper now too- I find it takes quite a lot of salt. Almost quarter of a teaspoon.
  8. Next, add the flour to the remaining water (or stock) and blend it well. I add the tomato paste now too.
  9. Pour it into the beef/onion/stock mixture and let it thicken for a few minutes. I stir vigorously here so that there aren't any "lumps" in the gravy.
  10. Once the 'gravy' is thick, I add the veggies. Usually I use frozen, and just keep adding them until I think there are enough.
  11. By this time, your potatoes should be ready to mash. Salt, butter, milk and mash, until your potatoes are thick and creamy.
  12. Then, here's my trick (Thank You, Alton Brown)- I add a raw egg and mash the heck out of all of it. The egg helps the potatoes stay 'together' and brown nicely. Try it one time, and if you don't like it, leave the egg out next time.
  13. Pour the meat mixture into a cassarole dish (size depends on whether you like a "deep" pie).
  14. Top with the mash. I have a friend who puts some shredded cheese on top. I've had it, it's pretty good, but I prefer plain potatoes with a smidgen of butter smeared around the top.
  15. Bake at 400F for 20- 40 minutes, or until the top is nice and golden brown. Or, freeze it unbaked, well wrapped in saran wrap and tinfoil. Just remember to take the saran wrap off, because I forgot once, and that's an EFF of a mess you just don't want in your oven.

Neck tattoos and boogers.

I like food. 

Well, I like food that I like. I'm not so big on food I don't like.

There are so many wonderful restaurants in Winnipeg. I've heard that Wpg is the test market for pretty much every single new product/ restaurant chain in Canada. I believe it.

There is a restaurant every twenty feet in this city. Most of them are awesome. Some are terrible.

I'll talk about my favourite restaurant EVER now, with the reasons I love it.

I love Casa Grande.  Casa Grande Pizzeria on Urbanspoon It's a hole-in-the-wall on Wall St. and Sargeant Ave. It's Italian, and it's good.
It's really good. In fact, I don't think I've ever eaten anything on their menu that wasn't tasty. Mind you, I always order 1 of 3 things, so maybe I'm biased. But I'll tell you what, if you order the cream sauce pasta with mushrooms, you'll never finish and you'll not regret it.

My husband and I love to go there (when we can get away from our children), have apps, dinner and spumoni ice cream for dessert. So tasty. Then there is the 'decor'. It's old, it's faded, it's dark, and it makes me comfortable. It's not dirty, it's honest. The 'mama' who works there (I'm sure she's an owner), once came out and shouted at D and I to finish our dinner.

That might sound strange to some, but I like it. We saw a big table coming, and I knew they'd need our table, so we were going to scoot and make room. Next thing I knew, a 60 year old little Italian lady was pushing me back down into my chair and saying. "Nonono, you eat. You eat. Finish your dinner. I bring you some ice cream. You like our ice cream everytime- yes?"

So, I sat, because when someone tells you to eat ice cream, I think a good rule is to just eat the ice cream.

Rae & Jerry's Steakhouse on UrbanspoonNow, a restaurant I don't like? Easy. Rae and Jerry's Steakhouse. It's not good. It's not good at all. In fact, I'll go so far as to say downright gross. I only went once, with two of my friends, and I can say with almost complete certainty, NONE of us will ever go back.

The only thing that we got that tasted 'okay' was the steak. And you can get a decent steak most any place these days. But it was HOLY crap expensive. Which I don't mind- if I am getting good food. I will gladly pay through my nose for delicious food. I only get crabby when I get crap food at overly inflated prices. The Keg has better food than this place (and I think the Keg is pretty crap too).

Okay, the Keg isn't 'bad' but, it's QSM food. There is a HUGE, huge difference between QSM (which is basically tableside fast food), and fine dining. Fine dining, or home cooked taste, is where I am at. But I've discovered that people who think the Keg (or Applebee's, Moxies, Earls, Joeys) is 'good food', well, those people have never had REALLY good food. They just like the decor at the QSM restaurants.

Which is the point. Most of these chain restaurants spend several hundred thousand dollars to make themselves look as 'upscale' as possible, then they hire 1 good, well trained Chef, nationwide, to design their menu. But the restaurant YOU are eating at, it's usually some 20 yr old guy with neck tattoos (if this guy is hard then I'd rather be soft) and an eyebrow piercing making the 'Goat Cheese and Spinach Dip with Mango Chutney Puree and Toast points' that you paid $20 for. And he picked his nose just now. Enjoy that image next time you visit a chain restaurant.

I laugh at you. I'm sorry, but I do. I've worked in so many restaurants, and I know that in order to maintain standards, every single thing you eat at a "big Chain" restaurant comes out of a packet. It's reheated, 90% of the time. But that doesn't make it 'bad'. I don't mind some of the stuff at Earls. I just happen to know that you'll get a better product, with better flavours, better ingredients at a smaller restaurant- and that's almost always true.

Not every 'small' restaurant is good though, some cut corners. Well, lots cut corners. If you want the skinny on the best restaurant in the city, don't ask people who call themselves 'foodies'- they don't know what the back of the house REALLY looks like. Ask waitresses, bartenders and food service reps where THEY like to eat. You'll never be disappointed again.

So, from one food lover to another. Stop thinking YOU know what good food is, and ask someone who actually knows.

Monday, December 19, 2011


That's right. I win.

I'm done. I'm done shopping, wrapping, baking- EVERYTHING. I win.

Christmas is just as much of a race as parenting is. You know it. I know it.

Unlike the majority of my fellow Christmas-ers, I won it.

I do a happy dance everytime I manage to get something just exactly right. And I've been dancing for two whole days now. I WIN!!!

I'm not much of a 'twitter-er', but here we go #IWINCHRISTMAS

Now, I get to sit back, laugh gleefully at my husband who still hasn't started shopping (I'm the only person he has to buy for, so that's not unusual), and at all my friends who are freaking out over the number of things they have left to do.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Bringer of DSi's

Today I want to write about Christmas. The way Christmas makes me feel, the traditions I grew up with, the ones we've started with our kids and the ones I wish would go straight in the garbage bin.

The way I feel about Christmas? I love it. I love every single thing about Christmas. Family, food, presents, laughter, days and days of celebrating. Stockings (that's the best part).

There is something so calming about Christmas for me. Church pageants, collecting toys for the toy drive, spending time with people you love. The lights, the sounds, the smells. Everything. I love every damned thing about Christmastime.

Christmas in my memory always comes back to the year I was 6 or 7 years old. This was the best Christmas ever- and most of them were pretty close to this.

This particular year, every person in my family got together at my gramma's house. All gramma's kids, all their spouses, all the children. And back then there weren't many of us grandkids, so the 3 of us were spoiled completely by all the different adults. Our stockings were so big that they were put into green garbage bags to hold all of it. Awesome.

There was food, delicious food. There were boxes of chocolates on the countertops, cakes, tarts, pies, turkey, gravy, bread, potatoes- well, you probably have all those things too. But when you're 6, and there is such an array of food, you just get absolutely blasted by it.

So, that was us. Crackers got cracked, and all of us have to wear our paper hats, tell the joke to everyone else. Then the stories start. Things my mom and her siblings did as children- told by some of the absolute funniest people on Earth. All of it told at a volume that could deafen an apple. It's incredible.

My family- both sides- have done this year after year. The stories are just as funny today as they were 30 years ago. The food is just as good. The stockings have (unfortunately) gotten less impressive, and they are less of a surprise every year (I now have to buy my own stocking stuffers). But the feeling is the same. Sheer love and joy. Being with people I love, who love me- who always will.

The traditions we've kept with our kids are much the same. My in laws come over, my father and stepmother come over, we invite friends- Christmas Eve is a happy time here.

The new traditions are computer/ tv related. The kids track Santa on the Norad Santa Tracker website. We turn the "Holiday Firelog" on the tv and listen to Christmas music. My children go to bed, and I make the stocking- laughing with the other adults while I do.

There are so many things to be grateful for, to be thankful for. Family is top. Friends, God, gifts (of any size, price point or usefulness), food, love. But here is one thing I don't think we should keep up. I don't think we should keep up the consumerism.

There are so many things I want my kids to have. That's true. I want them to have the best I can give them of everything. But I don't want them to believe that something has to be expensive/ paid for in order to be worthwhile. And I think overall the kids know that- we make gifts every year for the people we love.

But then, the top TV commercials for the last month started me thinking. My daughter keeps asking for a DSi. She can't have one. It's not the money. It's the fact that she's 5 years old. What the bloody buggering hell could she possibly need a DSi for? She doesn't know how to play video games. But, she overheard one of the other moms telling a classmate that "Santa will probably bring you a DS".

I wish Santa brought only a stocking. Apparently, Santa gifts are expensive. I wonder how long I have before Brat points out to me that Santa brings her a 'crappier/ cheaper' gift than he brings her friends.  Ohh, poopballs. What age do kids figure out that the real Santa is the spirit of sharing- NOT the bringer of DSi's???

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Suggestion Box? I've got a place for your suggestions...

I wish parenting came with a pretty little suggestion box. You know, you leave the hospital (new baby tucked into the lastest, side impact resistant, composite infant carrier) and on the way through the front door, a little old lady who raised 15 kids, grandkids and great grandkids gives you a handmade, glitter covered, "SUGGESTIONS HERE" box.

Oh, that'd be helpful. I've got a place for all your suggestions all right.

 I read today, another mom's blog. She was discussing the fact that as parents in the world today, we have a never ending stream of information to digest, filter, and then apply to our own situations.

And she commented on the fact that, as every mother out there knows, someone you love, someone who loves you thinks, "they're doing it all wrong". 

Every other day another study comes out. Don't co- sleep with your kids, it fosters dependence. Co- sleeping with your kids fosters a greater sense of love and self worth. Don't vaccinate- it could cause Autism Spectrum Disorder. Don't vaccinate and you'll be the cause of the next huge pandemic of pertussis (and for MY record, just shut up and vaccinate your children). You'd better be breastfeeding, because the formula could have been made in China with ground up paint chips. Don't breastfeed- wait, no I've never seen anyone say that. But you get the point.

No matter what you choose, every single choice you make as a parent is up for scrutiny by every single person you know. And admit it, you do it too.

I do it. I disagree with some of the choices I see other parents making, thinking to myself, "Oh, God, that's going to bite them in the ass five years from now." But generally, I also know that there are things that I do that might rear up one day and nip my own ass. So, I don't point out 'mistakes' (as I see them) to other parents, because I wouldn't appreciate other people pointing out my failures as a parent (which, I am here to tell you- I don't have. My children are bloody angels).

Because I know how sensitive a mom can be, even when I have a suggestion, I try to make sure the other person understands that I believe it's ONE way; but, I know my way isn't actually the ONLY way. But yeah, I think my way is the best- that's true.

And I try so hard not to judge you for using your own way. Time straightens most all kids out. The way we get a kid from point A (in the here and now) to point B (five years from now) doesn't change the outcome. They will get there, and they won't still be pissing their pants (or being awake all friggin' night long).

I know that there are a thousand ways to sleep train a baby. Or to stop a baby from biting. Or wetting the bed. It goes on and on. I've been lucky to find what works with my children- and it's been different for both the older ones so far. I imagine that it will be different yet for this baby. So, please feel free to share your suggestions with me- IF/ WHEN I BLOODY WELL ASK FOR THEM (or if I don't- you can still tell me, I'm sometimes not smart enough to ask for help when I need it).

With that said, I cannot abide being given advice by people who do not have children of their own.  If you haven't raised a child, from diapers to kindergarten (I also don't want advice from you momma, because it's 30 years out of date- but you did a fantastic job with moi. Love you.) don't share your advice with me.

I heard for years from a childless friend that my older daughter is "bad". She's not. She's energetic, lively, passionate, friendly and loving. Sometimes she's mischievious, but she doesn't have a malicious bone in her entire body. This same friend spent years telling other parents the same thing- that their children were 'bratty', 'too noisy', 'too messy' or all around poorly behaved.  In fact, to listen to that friend, every child under the sun was wretchedly behaved, and should probably be put down for the good of all Mankind.

I don't have an answer to all of the things we were told we did wrong (by this friend without children) but what I do know is that if I took to heart all the criticisms, 'pointers', unsolicited advice, and general helpfulness, I'd believe what this person said. And I'd hate my children as much as she seemed to.

Banana Flax Seed Bread- for H.

I was told today by a friend that a good idea for a post would be some of my recipes. Fine. You can have them. But you owe me a sucker. No, TWO suckers. We'll start with my favourite banana and flax seed bread recipe. I'm leaving out 1 key ingredient- you have to guess what it is. Also, since I have almost zero inclination to continue typing all night, I'm going to cut and paste from my cookbook.

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened is best, or you can melt it completely in the microwave- more like a brownie though than a bread)
  • 1 cup sugar (I also like to sprinkle a bit of sugar over the bread after I pour it into the pan. It caramelizes nicely, and makes everything taste like happiness)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed ______ (approx. 4 ripe _______)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (don't use nuts if you have a nut allergy. Just a suggestion.)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I also like to change it up for any flavour yogurt- it works just as well)  
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed


  1. Grease a loaf pan, or line muffin tin with cuppy thingers.
  2. Mash the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla- they should get sort of fluffy looking, unless you melted the butter (like a jerk in a hurry)- in which case it'll look kinda glompy. 
  3. Add bananas, nuts, flax and sour cream. Mix it up thoroughly, THEN add the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix well-ish. But not too much, because then the gluten sets up and the bread becomes heavy and icky.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Or less. It depends on your elevation, your oven and the size of your pan. I like to use the muffin tins so I don't end up with as much overly- browned edgy pieces.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Underpants anyone?

I'm a big fan of direct speech, and being honest with people. That being said, I found myself plotting a small amount of vindictiveness against my husband yesterday. A small amount of passive aggressive vindictiveness to be exact.

I was irritated by his grouchy behaviour. I know he was tired. I know he works nights, and frequently has a hard time being awake during the day. I get it. And usually I'm the first person to send him to bed when he's tired (he turns into a ridiculous, whiny, snotty baby when he's tired). But yesterday was Bugs' confirmation, so D had to be awake, and gracious, and courteous; but, he was making faces and acting like a child about having to go to Church (Thankfully, he wasn't whining while we were there, just while we were dressing).

So I hid his favourite underpants.

The way he fixates on his underwear borders on weirdo behaviour.

"They're so soft... They've got just the right amount of stretch.... They are just the right size.." And on and on.

So, since I didn't like his attitude, when he went to shower, I 'mislaid' his favourite pair of underwear. He had to wear a pair of his "second string" underpants. HA!

At the time when I did this, I wasn't REALLY angry about anything, more disgruntled. But I'll tell you, it made my WHOLE day better. Knowing he wasn't wearing the underpants he would have chosen- well, it just made me feel happy to be small and petty, especially since he didn't know I'd done anything at all.

And for my bad behaviour? I got rewarded. D decided that the reason he couldn't find his underwear is the ever growing, never ending, slowly taking over the universe, pile of laundry.

So he used his night off and did the laundry. He packed it all up, drove to an all night laundry mat and washed, dried and folded all the clothes. He even took the blankets off the couch and the kids' jackets.

I mean WOW. Well done.

Now though, I feel like a super ass. Not because I did it, I'll probably end up doing the same thing again next time he makes me grouchy. But I feel like an asshat because I didn't think of this sooner. If I hid all of his favourite things, he'd have to do laundry more frequently if he wanted to have clean clothes.

I have spent YEARS, and I actually mean YEARS, begging D to help me with the laundry, to clean up more frequently, to do the dishes once in a while. It truly grinds my crank that after all this time, all I had to do was hide his clothes.

The end result is that I've learned that being honest, upfront, talking through your feelings and trying to be selfless isn't as rewarding as being passive aggressive and hiding underpants. THAT is what gets the laundry done. And eff him for making me do it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Teachers need redbull and chocolate too.

The last time I chaperoned a field trip to the Manitoba Museum, was when Bugs was in grade 4. I'm pretty sure I swore a blood oath to NEVER do it again.

I did it again. But it wasn't bad this time. Yes, the group was Kindergarteners. Yes, it was an all day event. Yes, I had to bring the baby. But I was prepared for the absolute worst this time. And, I brought a huge bag of Cadbury MiniEggs and two cans of sugarfree Redbull. I figured, even if they were crazy, I'd be so hopped up on sugar and caffeine I wouldn't care. I was right.

But these kids were better behaved than I expected. It was me and the other adults who were slightly out of control. And I take responsibility for that. It was the bloody redbull and chocolate. We gave up watching the kids at around noon. It's not like they could go anywhere- we had the coats locked up, and it was cold as EFF outside.

Anyways, we dealt with the children like grownups should. One of the teachers has a purse the size of Texas, so we took turns using it as a shield to hide behind and eat chocolates (we weren't stupid enough to show the kids the candies). The kids were being distracted by the 'magic show of lights', so the other moms, the teachers and I had a blast giggling away and playing "hide the baby". Every time I turned around someone else had the stroller and had wandered off.

It was almost a vacation for me actually. Better than the last bloody time. I still get cold chills of horror about that trip. Oh, God, talking about it has triggered a flashback.

The last time, I had a group of 2. Bugs and one of his blasted friends.

I THOUGHT the kid was a good kid; but, when his teacher forgot to give him his Ritalin, it made my day a nightmare. The boys RAN through the museum, right to the end, discovered that they'd taken the wrong path some place and missed the "Nonsuch" boat. So they turned around and ran back again. It's normally a 40 minute walk through the museum, and we did it in under 20 minutes-TWO TIMES. I'm not that fit. It damn near killed me. Then we had to wait for the other groups to finish. I spent the waiting time physically dragging the young man down from the stuffed bison and off all the other looky- don't- touchy- stuff within our vicinity.

Three hours of full on meth- head, speed freak, ADHD kid behaviour, THEN the teacher remembered the chill pill. Thanks lady. Not my favourite memory of a field trip.  But that still doesn't explain how today, with 45 children aged 5 years old, was an easier, less exhausting day than last time watching only 2 kids. I'm so thankful that my kids aren't ADHD, because I couldn't handle that type of behaviour all day every day.

So, I guess the moral of the story is this: bring redbull and candy on school trips. Let the kids destroy everything. When you leave and the museum staff shoot you dirty looks, make sure they know what school you came with- so they'll never let your school come back. Then you won't ever have to chaperone a class trip again.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

But for the Grace of God go I.

I had a really hard, hard time coping with something yesterday.

Nothing to do with my family, or my friends, thankfully.

But it affected me, and that effected the rest of my evening (and yes, that is the correct usage for both affect and effect).

I was so unhappy, because of an email I received from the director at the daycare my daughter used to attend (I'm the chair for the board of directors, so I am kept in the loop with most things).

This year, a family is without. No money, no food and no winter clothing for the adults, but even worse, nothing for the children, an 11 year old boy, and a 3 month old infant either.

I cried so hard. I just kept remembering what it's like to feel 'broke'- and when I say 'broke' I mean, no money. There were lean years for my husband and I when we first started dating, and our son was little. Sometimes there was no money for anything except rent- and food was dependent on how much I brought home in tips (it's a damn good thing I was a phenomenal waitress).

But hearing about this family brought those days back to me. Even when Brat was a baby, and I was on maternity leave, there were some leaner months- and my parents helped us. But what would we have done without help? Well, I suppose we'd have done what this family did, and swallowed our pride and asked for charity.

And it can't have been easy for this mother to tell the daycare that she didn't have a snowsuit for her 11 year old, or any other winter wear. That she didn't have warm clothing for the baby. That neither she nor her husband had a coat, or mitts, hats, scarves, or boots. It must have crushed her right to her soul to tell another person that if someone didn't help them, there was a good chance that this year, there wouldn't be a day when they didn't suffer.

And I cried. I am crying now. I know how hard it is to worry about your children, and to know that somehow, even if you have to swallow your pride, you need to provide for your kids. I am supremely lucky that my husband has a good job. That I have a good job to go back to. That we have a family that would never let us or our children do without the basics of life.

But the way that it effected my evening is that I posted on my facebook wall (well, plead actually) for used winter clothing donations, food donations and anything that could be spared from my friends and my family. And they responded. Tomorrow morning I'll be dropping off winter jackets for both children (the older boy gets a brand new coat, which he may never have had before) and the mother, along with formula (Thanks again to my lovely friends), clothing for the baby, some food donations for the hamper, and winter gear.

I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. People that I can turn to for help, for myself, or for others.

I'm thankful for the help that has been forthcoming, and I know the daycare is thankful as well.

 I am glad we live in Canada, I love my country dearly. But it shows that even in this awesome country, with social assistance and government programs in place, there are people, children, all over falling through the cracks and landing below the poverty line.

"But for the Grace of God go I".  I try to remember that, because it's so very, very true.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nursing and Newborns.

I was reminded early this morning what it's like to be a first time, new mother with an infant.

It's magical, it's having a loving connection immediately, it's quiet and restful, it's happiness and joy.

Wait, that's what it's like to be ALONE.

Having a new baby sucks. You look at this little bitsy baby who came from you, whom you carried, whom you thought you would look like a perfect cross between you and your partner; and you think, "Why does he/she look like THAT?" They are a horrible let down. Yeah, I said it. They don't look like you thought they would. It's painful. You were so ready to love a perfect little cherubim- and what you got was a soggy looking little old person. Nobody told you that's normal.

You don't have some immediate connection. In most cases, a connection takes time to form- but most of us feel like we're supposed to have it right away, so we feel like we've failed and OH NO, we're bad mothers. Stop it. We're not. We're great mothers. I love my kids- I just didn't think they'd look like my sister in law more than me. But I am a loving mother (now).

Back to newborn letdowns:

The fact is babies don't sleep when you want them to. They're up all night long, or they sleep and wake in intervals that mean you don't get to sleep- ever. Just when you're ready to fall asleep, the baby wakes up hungry again.

Bottle feeding is easier off the bat, because you can pop a bottle in their mouth, and when they're done, you both lie down and get back to sleep- but if you are a nursing mother, or trying to be a nursing mother, you have to stay up and pump, then sterilize the equipment and THEN you get to lie down and sleep again for an hour until the next feeding rolls around. If you are lucky enough to get 2 hours between feedings- some people don't. More on that after.

I've done this twice now. The first time with Brat was much, much harder. She was a preemie baby, and didn't have a suckling reflex, so we had to bottle feed (and intubate) her in the hospital. After that, she didn't have any desire to latch on, so it took a LONG, LONG time (6 wks) to get her nursing exclusively. Bottles are easier for babies, they don't require as much effort to get the milk out. Fact.

During that time, I spent so long on the electric pump, I must have looked like I was trying to provide milk for three babies- but I was terrified I'd lose my milk supply, so I pumped after every feeding/ attempt at feeding before I gave her a bottle.

Eventually, Brat became a pro at nursing, and we were able to nurse, or bottle feed at will. It was overall a wonderful experience. Except for those first 6 weeks of torture.

With Monster, she nursed like a pro from the get go, but will NOT have anything to do with a bottle, or formula, or expressed milk. Nothing will do for her except me- which is frustrating for me some days, as I'd love a day to myself.

But there are other women who have other issues with nursing, such as oversupply, which is painful. Or worse, UNDERsupply. Some lactation consultants try to tell you there is no such thing as an undersupply- but that's not true. There certainly is. I mean, you could, technically, nurse constantly, every hour for 20-30 minutes at a time, and then start again a half hour later.

It's possible- if you had NO desire to sleep EVER again, or eat, or shower, or be human. But if you are trying to avoid postpartum issues, keep yourself clean, and offering care for this tiny baby- then chances are good that you are going to need to offer a bottle once in a while to compensate for lack of supply.

And many of the lactation consultants I've met myself, or heard about from friends, advocate AGAINST a bottle- for any reason. Which is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. If you type 'nipple confusion' into Google, what you get is a whole host of "La Leche Leaguers" and hard core yippies saying you should NEVER EVER give a baby a bottle, or you'll have a baby who forgets how to nurse. Bullshit.

Yeah, I said that too.  Bullshit. This so called 'nipple confusion' apparently occurs in less than 8% of nursing babies who get bottles- and it's reversible if you try hard enough. What isn't reversible is the emotional backlash of having a baby who cries for more, constantly. It erodes your confidence as a mother, makes you question everything you do. It steals your sleep- even when the baby is quiet you lay there worrying that you've done SOMETHING wrong. You haven't.

Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn't come naturally. It takes practice, persistence and patience. All three of which are unavailable to most first time mothers.

Here are some facts: prolactin (milk making hormone) is only produced/ distributed when you sleep. So, you HAVE to sleep, which means sometimes, someone else has to give that baby a bottle so you can rest. Nipple confusion isn't 'real', babies may come to prefer the bottle as it's easier, but 92% will still go back on the boob. The amount of breast 'usage'/ feeding in the first two weeks will determine how much milk you are able to produce in the long run (that's when your breast produce the milk ducts), so pumping builds supply, which gives baby more to eat, which keeps baby satiated for longer, so you can rest, which means you can make more milk. See the pattern? Bottle once means rest, means more milk, means more rest? Nice. In a perfect world, this pattern would work for 100% of us, instead of just 92 %- but if you are one of the 8% who can't, it's okay too.

Regardless of how good breastmilk is for the baby, formula IS NOT POISON. So, if you can nurse, great; but, if you can't, don't beat yourself up about it. Your baby will grow up to be just as happy and healthy as other kids. My advice? Do what works for you.

My pattern of sleeping when I could, nursing on demand, with pumping after each feeding- that's exhausting. So when I hit the wall- and I did- I had my husband give Brat a couple bottles. She's as normal a five year old as I've ever met (and I've met a lot of 5 year olds).  Monster had a couple bottles at the beginning too (when she'd still take them), and I haven't noticed a detrimental effect yet.
I know other kids who were exclusively bottle feed from birth, from 2 months, from 4 months. None of them are anything except perfect. Your baby will be no different. He/she will be happy, healthy and whole because you were a good enough mother to worry about it in the first place.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Our Family Credo

In This House, we:
  Give Second Chances
Live with Grace
  Do Make Mistakes
   Say I’m Sorry
Get Loud (Really Well)
  Give Hugs
  Put Family First
 Welcome You

Most of all,
We Miss You When You're Not Here

It's A Wonderful Life.

Well, hot damn, it's almost Christmas.

"So it's Christmas- and I want EVERYTHING." This song has been in my head for the last week, and I can't seem to shake it. 'Tis the season.

So, normally, because I am such a huge fan of everything Christmas, I start pushing at the beginning of November for my husband to drag out the 'tree'. I say "tree" simply because I am not quite sure that a $70.00 fake tree that is almost 10 years old still qualifies as a tree- in any sense. The bristles are starting to fall, it's a bit threadbare looking, and the box is being held together with several different types of tape. Fact is, the only thing keeping this tree up is hope- and a precarious plastic stick.

But it's already the end of the first week of December this year, and our family just got the tree up tonight.

It's full of lights, glittery stars, icicles, pictures, balls, faeries, a pair of paper skates, and love. Even though it's clearly been decorated by demented, gluebag elves (or kids hopped up on sugar cookies), I love it.

My husband hates everything about Christmas (and if I'd known that when I met him, I might not have gone on that first date), but more than that, he HATES this tree (it offends his sense of colour, order, balance- well probably everything). I think, given the option, he'd launch it off the roof, and pee down on it.

Next year, we are getting a real tree. I love real trees- the only down side is you can only have them up for a few weeks. I would lose out on at least three weeks of treedom. But I still love real trees, there is something so much more Christmas-y about a real tree.

My dad always went and got us a nice big tree. The only thing I remember about Christmas for about five years running is this: dad comes home, with the tree in the back of a borrowed truck. The next five hours are a horror show, complete with screaming, swearing, hacksaws, and threats. And eventually, mom taking me out of the house, so my dad could have a complete meltdown in peace.

The absolute best year though, was the year my dad cut his own tree down at the tree farm. It was a glorious tree. Perfectly cone-ish, full branches on every side, six feet tall, dark green with a wonderful smell.

Dad put the tree up in the living room, right in the centre, spotlighted by the huge picture window. He put the tree into the holder, the leaned back to check the levels. The tree toppled instantaneously. He cursed. Mom went over and helped set it right again. But no matter how dad moved base level, the tree WOULD NOT stay up.  It was perpetually canted to an angle of about 30 degrees.

He had picked a tree with a crooked bole. It looked perfect- but if you tried to secure the base, the rest of the tree had an 'ell' shape in it. Eventually, after almost throwing the damned tree through the window, dad took a hacksaw to the tree, right above the bend.

It was still a perfect tree. Only four feet tall- and missing a chunk of branches on one side where dad grabbed it to throw it.

On second thought, next year we'll buy ourselves a new fake tree. It's probably safer all around.