Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More on Melissa & Doug recall... sigh

So it ends up that the US actually does have barium limits on toys introduced as part of the Feb 2009 overhaul (you might remember it caused a huge uproar on etsy due to testing requirements that put a lot of small crafts people out of business).
While the regulatory body hasn't been testing, the Canadian test results would put the toys above the current US limits as well, it's just not being enforced. I don't have the energy to retype it all and zrecommends says it best anyway:
That's likely to end up being a problem for M&D because while the testing requirements aren't in force, a company knowingly selling goods that are above the limits is breaking the law. And the line they've been giving retailers and concerned consumers is that it's only a problem in Canada and that they're "just" above the limit. Which kind of also sucks for US retailers because by extension they are also breaking the law.
Did I mention before how glad I am that we don't sell these? Sigh.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shit happens... too much

With another wave of massive recalls this week, there's lots of chatter among parents about product safety again (not that it ever really goes away). In particular, many of the parents I talked are disturbed by the Melissa & Doug recall because it's a company whose brand is focussed on the wooden toys that many parents prefer at a price that makes them affordable.
Greenwashing is something that a lot of consumers are becoming increaingly aware of and particularly harsh about because it's a marketing tactic that strikes at the heart of their trust in the companies they buy from. Melissa & Doug makes their toys in China - they say that this makes it possible to sell toys at a price that families can afford and that they control their manufacturing process to prevent breaches like those that caused the massive Mattel recalls. 
So, let's get it out of the way first that no product is ever going to be 100% fail-proof all the time. It's just not. Things will break unexpectedly, there will bad batches and sometimes stuff just happens. I understand and expect that when say, a high chair is recalled due to faulty design or I need to install a new latch holder on my car seat. By large, companies who have these types of recalls have followed procedure and realistically no one has made any profit off the error (maybe the industrial designer?). 
The trouble with these toy paint recalls is that they expose a problem in a global supply chain that's proving very difficult to counteract. Relatively low but widespread contaimination can be dangerous very quickly for little bodies. While melamine isn't exactly good for the adults who consumed candies or other products made with the contaminated milk powder in last year tainted milk scandal, it wasn't deadly. It was deadly (or very harmful) for thousands of babies who drank it - both because they were exposed to more of it and because their bodies had a lesser capacity to deal with it. 
It doesn't take much lead, barium or mercury to have an effect on a child or infant - the way children play and are meant to play with toys means that they are greater risk of contamination upon contact. While national limits vary, the WHO established in 2003 that there are reasonable levels for these and other heavy metals in children's items. 
That doesn't answer the question of why it seems to be so difficult to rid children's products of these dangerous heavy metals - it just explains why it's important. 
To understand why lead and certain other heavy metals keep cropping up, we need to understand a little bit more about how paint works. Lead chromates are added to paint to improve the tone of certain hues like yellow and orange. These same additives make the paint less vulnerable to ultraviolet light, less prone to mildew and more durable against flaking. The lead additives are also very inexpensive and thus allow the production of a similar finish for considerably lower cost.
Other heavy metals have different functions - for example, barium in the form of barium sulfate is used as an inexpensive filler in paint manufacture, again allowing manufacturers to stretch the same volume of pigment over a larger area, resulting in lower costs.
Sounds great? Better performance, lower cost... what's to complain about? Well, nothing unless your kids are the ones playing with the toys in question. 
Lead is a well-known neuro-toxin - causing severe illness (even death) at higher doses. At low doses, exposure result in brain damage that may be irreversible, among other symptoms. All heavy metals build up in the body over time, so that the damage is cumulative - even more worrisome when dealing with children's toys. While this week's recall of Melissa & Doug toys referred to the acute signs of barium poisoning (vomiting, diarreha, cramps), there are also concerns over the long term links of barium to development of multiple sclerosis and other auto-immune diseases.
So that explains why it's bad for your toddler to exercise her new teeth on the toy whose bright yellow colour comes from lead chromates in a barium sulphate base and why the maker of the paints might have an incentive to make that paint anyway.
What it doesn't explain is how a respected brand who is subject to North American rules (both technically and ethically even if they weren't) ends up buying that paint even though the financial incentive at manuacturing ought to be well outweighed by the reputational and legal risk once the products reach consumers.
Can they do better at monitoring? Probably - but the essence of the issue is that mass production reduces cost by reducing the oversight needed on any one particular item. Does Mike Rainville in Middlebury, VT know more about what happens in his plant and his suppliers' plants than Doug Berstein does? Necessarily, yes, he does - and he can act on errors a whole lot faster. Then, again, Mike Lee at Sarah's Silks produces some products in China (and we sell them) and his dispatches from site visits show a very aware manufacturer who controls the critical pieces of his supply chain directly (ie: the dyeing) while creating beneficial economies of scale with home workers in China.
I'm not sure what the solution is, but I know where my dollars will get spent - on companies that absorb the full cost of their products, who have a personal stake in them and who mean it when they say 'from my family to yours'.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Low-tech H1N1 Tips

These aren't mine - they came across from Isabelle's school this evening, but since they were simple, low-tech and made lots of sense, I figured out I would pass along:
The only portals of entry are the nostrils and mouth/throat. In a global epidemic of this nature, it's almost impossible to avoid coming into contact with H1N1 in spite of all precautions. Contact with H1N1 is not so much of a problem as proliferation is. While you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection, in order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps, not fully highlighted in most official communications, can be practiced (instead of focusing on how to stock N95 or Tamiflu):
1. Frequent hand-washing (well highlighted in all official communications).
2. "Hands-off-the-face" approach. Resist all temptations to touch any part of face (unless you want to eat or bathe..)
3. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine or Hydrogen Peroxide if you don't trust salt). H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/ nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don't underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.
4. Similar to 3 above, clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water, or hydrogen peroxide. Not everybody may be good at Jala Neti or Sutra Neti (very good Yoga asanas to clean nasal cavities), but *blowing the nose softly once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down viral population.
5. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C (Amla and other citrus fruits). If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption.
6. Drink as much of warm liquids (tea, coffee, etc) as you can. Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.
Thank you to Mr. Delaune for passing this on to the school community (and for having the foresight to hire an additional custodian!).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Breastfeed your children - especially this flu season

Let's call it H1N1 day at the blog :). Here's La Leche League Canada's press release on breastfeeding and the swine flu.

Does the Vaccine Matter? - The Atlantic (November 2009)

There are a lot of articles out there right now about H1N1 and vaccination in particular. With the approval this week of Canada's H1N1 vaccine, the time for decision-making has come for many of us still on the fence. I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking about this - there's plenty to.

This article from the Atlantic offers some good and original insights - not so much into the decision about this particular vaccine, but just in general about how we approach pandemics and what that might mean at a macro-level. Read it - really before you make the call (or even if you have).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Guess who is in the Canadian Family Toy Guide?

Oh, yeah, baby - that's us in there with Maple Landmark's fabulous, all natural Maple School Bus.

On newsstands across Canada now! And to top it off, it's up just in time to launch with the new site design at

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Forget goblins: it's the (Nestle) candy that should really scare you

A lot of attention has been focussed on the Nestle boybott following a firestorm around a PR junket. I'll let Annie at PhD in Parenting tell the story. I've been heartened by how questions I've gotten about the boycott and reasons behind it. With Hallowe'en coming up, many households are thinking about stocking up on candy - if you're paying more attention to who makes your chocolate these days, you'll no doubt begin to realize that Nestle has much of the market concerned in the typical Hallowe'en candy area.

October 26 to November 1 has been designated Global Nestle-Free Week. Even if you don't boycott Nestle the rest of the year, consider it for just this week around Hallowe'en. Information on how to maximize the impact of your participation can be found at INFACT.

To avoid Nestlé, you need to not only avoid Nestle labelled products, but also Crunch, Cailler, Galak/Milkybar, KitKat, Quality Street, Smarties, Baci, After Eight, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Lion, Aero, Polo and Frutips. It's a long list and it gets confusing. Infact Canada maintains an on-going list and information on the Nestle boycott here.

After you look at that list, you might wonder whether it wouldn't be easier to just list the things that you can give out. Here are a few ideas:

- ok, so toothbrushes and apples are likely to get your house toiletpapered. You might get away with stickers or colourful erasers. How about play dough? The big Play-Doh manufacturer makes tiny containers or you can get in touch with the nice folks over at Dirty Dough for a natural product. For something truly local, try making your own with the kids.

- check out local chocolate makers who make high quality yummies right in your community. My favourite in our neck of the woods is Sitting Around Eating Bonbons . She makes delicious, special chocolates in her tiny little shop - and the only guilt is about my diet with the organic, free trade yumminess.

- if you just need something you can pick up at the grocery store, try Mars products (which include M&Ms as well Mars, Twix and others). Jelly Belly beans are also a long-time favourite here. Now, these brands aren't fair trade compliant and they may contain stuff (like artificial colours) that aren't great for growing bodies and brains - but if it's between Twix and Kit Kat, take the Twix. Smarties vs. M&Ms, take the M&Ms.

Don't forget to have change for UNICEF available - and tell your friends why your Hallowe'en shopping has required a few extra steps this year.

Babywearing Hallowe'en

Proscratinors of the world - Hallowe'en is coming up fast and you have to start planning now if you want your costume to be less lame than last year. So I, uh you, need to get moving. Ok, we need to get moving.
For those with babes of baywearing age, picking a costume can be a bit tricky. But these can actually be some of the funnest out there (if you think your baby can't be any cuter, put bunny ears on him...believe me, he will be cuter).
So, a few ideas:

Kangaroo and Joey
Ok, so not exactly digging deep for inspiration, but this is a really cute one and easy to do with any front carrier. For the grown-up, get a brown/tan sweatsuit (only time this is allowed) - a hoodie sweatshirt is ideal. Then make yourself a headband with medium length brown ears. Take an old fleshcoloured nylon stocking, stuff with poly fill (or rags or toilet paper if you need to) and try off the end. Pin the tied off end to the hem of your pants so your tail sticks out the bottom of the sweatshirt. The joey is in a tan sleeper (or sweatsuit) with a headband of medium brown ears. A spot of black makeup on each nose and you're off.
Credit to for the photo.

Jack in the Box
One of the cutest costumes ever and fairly easy. You can use any front facing carrier. Dress baby up in a colourful sleeper and make/find a jester hat. Find a box about 10cm wider than your carrier and 5cm longer. Cut about a third of the box off with a round cutout at the top and bottom (for head and feet). Apply wrapping paper or paint box brightly (if you have a drooler -consider this in choosing your medium - it will right under them). Firmly tape 10cm of ribbon at each corner of the open side of the box. Once baby jester is in the carrier, tie the box on using the strips and voila - Jack in the Box.
Credit for photo goes to Adam Miller.

Another idea with a front facing carrier, super easy. Using an existing hat with straps, make a cover of white felt and cut a deep zig zag pattern. With more white felt or heavy weight white fabric, cut out a piece slightly larger than the body of your carrier and create a deep zig zag border. Pin it on with safety pins. Dress yourself in all black (you are the background in this one) and baby in a soft yellow sleeper.

Another one from

Itsy Bitsy Spider
The idea for this one goes to Martha Stewart, but is not especially Martha-like in its rigor (and I've great liberties with the instructions!). Take an old bedsheet and cut out a hole for your head. Using a black fabric marker, draw radiating lines from the neck, then carefully draw concentric circles to join them (the web). Your little spider will be under sheet - you'll need to cut a slit for her head to stick out. Just below the slit, glue or sew on a oval "body" made of black felt or fabric. Take eight mens trouser socks (microfiber according to Martha) and stuff with polyfilling. Using safety pins on the reverse side, carefully pin and arrange the legs over the web - use hot glue to make sure they join up well with the body. A black toque tops off the look for baby.

Credit for photo goes to Martha Stewart Living and you can get her proper instructions here .

Sometimes, one of the biggest problems is finding the right colour for a particular costume. How many of us really have a tan coloured sweat suit? (The answer to that question should be ZERO!). One thing you can do rather than try to hunt one down is to take one you already have and dye it. Even if what you have is totally the wrong colour, you can strip using RIT Colour Remover and then redye it.

Have a great idea? A great babywearing Hallowe'en pic? Send it along!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

You can't sleep alone in a strange place, you can't sleep with somebody else

I've been thinking a lot about sleeping arrangements lately as we settle back into a school year routine. Co-sleeping is one of those discussions that leaves me a bit confounded as the kids get older. When they were small and sleep was all we and all our baby-bearing friends discussed, the family bed vs. the cry-it-out (CIO) method was pretty polarizing. And we were largely on our own at our pole.

But now that they are older, like weaning/breastfeeding discussions, everyone assumes that co-sleeping is a thing of the past. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it's not - and the new variable is that the kids have started liking to sleep together, whether one of us is there or not (we take up a lot of room I guess). It seems to be working for us now and like all things sleep related, I figure if we're all resting, I'm not going to mess with it.

So, dear readers, what happens in your house? The poll above probably doesn't have nearly enough variations - so feel free to comment below.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Breastfeeding reduces cancer & other myths

It was widely reported that a study this week found that breastfeeding reduces breast cancer risk, especially in women with a family history of the disease.

Don't be fooled: this is a myth.

The truth is that women who do not breastfeed have a higher incidence of breast cancer. They also have a higher incidence of ovarian, endometrial and uterine cancer - in addition to passing on that increased risk to their daughters and grand-daughters. You'll rarely see the headline you ought to see about breastfeeding, though we have few compunctions about telling parents that they will harm their children by not putting them in carseats or failing to keep them active.

So here are a few more 'myths':
- Breastfeeding reduces your baby's risk of obesity, Type I and II diabetes and childhood cancers.
- Breastfeeding reduces Mom's risk of Type II diabetes, high blood pressure and cardio-vascular disease.
- Breastfeeding promotes optimal palate development, decreasing sleep apnea and other disorders.

Here's the truth:

- Formula-fed babies are at greater risk for obesity, Type I and II diabetes and childhood cancers. These are serious conditions that can result in disability and premature death.
- Not breastfeeding increases your risk of Type II diabetes and cardio-vascular disease. In addition to the attention required in the management of the disease, the risk of complications means you're less likely to be rocking your grandbabies and chasing them through the park.
- Bottlefeeding causes the palate to be malformed, increasing the risk of debilitating and possibly life-threatening conditions like sleep apnea. These conditions are life-long and are incurable, though treatable.

Maybe it seems like semantics to you... but it's important. Mothers who go to extraordinary lengths to breastfeed their babies often have to also contend with family and health care providers who don't "see the point". While we talk a lot about how breastfeeding is a foundation of good health, there are major systemic barriers to success for the nursing pair - birth practices, sleep practices, maternity leave... these are big, broad issues that get white-washed in the "breast is best" message. Diane Wiessinger has done some great work in talking about breastfed being 'normal fed' and is a worthy read for anyone interested in how language affects our view of breastfeeding and how to address it.

Think about it next time you see a health headline.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

New Baby Oatmeal Cookies

To close off U.S. World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I'd post this recipe - especially since I just made a batch for a friend's newest addition. Well, for mom, not the baby - just breastmilk for her!

These ones have oatmeal for more milk, whole-wheat flour to keep things moving, walnuts for healthy fat and finally blackstrap molasses and raisins for renewing iron lost at birth. For fun, you can throw in some fenugreek or flax seeds. I don't think any of the quantities here are therapeutic, but wholesome cookies are a great, eat-with-one-hand snack for a new mom. Much better than flowers - believe me.

2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups oatmeal (large flake is best, but any kind other than instant is ok)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup tablespoons blackstrap molasses
3/4 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
2 tbsp. fenugreek seeds and/or flax seeds (whole)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together flour, oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Cream brown sugar, molasses and butter until well blended - add 1 eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients and combine. Add walnuts, raisins and seeds if using. Drop by heaping teaspoonsful on ungreased baking sheet - bake 12-14 minutes until golden. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Thank you Canadian Family!

Tom was very enamoured with his Staedtler prize pack - even though he fell asleep on the way home from Ontario Place, I couldn't wrench those coloured pens from his grasp. Isabelle is also enjoying her 'professiondal' pencils and has been creating lots of artwork!
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Breastfeeding Goddess

How beautiful is this? Check out the site for the whole beautiful series.

NB: All images are subject to copyright and the property of Akarot Illustrations - see site for more on uses.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Backseat Conversations

I: “Mama, I noticed that I don’t have earrings in my jewellery box.” (Yup, she’s sly.)
Me: “Well, yes, that’s true – you don’t have your ears pierced, so you can’t wear earrings.”
I: “Hmmm… I think it would be nice to wear earrings.”
Me: “Would you like to have your ears pierced?”
I: “Pierced??” as she checks her mental thesarus for what other possible meaning ‘pierce’ might have and comes up empty. “How do they do that?”
Me: “Well, they have to push a needle through your ear to make a hole. So they take a gun and press into your earlobe and shoot it through.” (Yes, I know I could have used a word other than gun, but that's what it's called.)
Silence. Clearly, the road noise must have caused a miscommunication, she thinks.
I: “They shoot it near your ear?” Hopefully.
Me: “No, through your ear – to make the hole.”
I: “NEAR your ear?” Nothing if not persistent, she is.
Me: “No, through your ear so the earring can go through – that’s how they stay in.”
I: “Does it hurt?” Ever hopeful.
Me: “Well, yes – though not for very long. But you have to put alcohol on it and turn them often so your ears heal without sticking to the earrings.”
Silence. Dejection.
I: “I think I will not have earrings, ok?”
Me: “Ok.”

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What kind of pump should you buy?

It seems like these days the breast pump has joined the ranks of baby registry basics: every new mother assumes that she needs one. Like most spaces where breastfeeding and consumerism meet, there are good and bad aspects to this.

The fact that it's automatic is a big YAY!: it means that breast milk is what mothers assume their babies will drink. But breast milk doesn't equal breastfeeding - and there are important benefits to breastfeeding that breast milk from a bottle can't replicate. One of the main ones is the ease of preparation and clean up.

Pumping has a place for mothers who have to be separated from their nurslings for longer periods. It also has a place for mothers for whom latching has proved challenging and nursing supplementers too cumbersome. And for some families, the typical suggestions on how to cope with night-waking and high-needs babies aren't practical or sufficient. In these cases where a mother is maintaining a full supply, a heavy-duty double pump is in order - and that's not a worthy 'just in case' expense (renting a hospital grade is the better option most of the time anyway).

I remember stinging at a speech that Jack Newman gave a number of years ago where he scoffed about the "silly contraptions" manufacturers were coming out with for hands-free pumping. Clearly, I thought, he's never had to pump every three hours around the clock for a baby in the NICU - hands-free pumping meant a lot to me. Not that I had proper hands-free set-up, but I got fairly good at balancing the bottles on my knees while I read trashy magazines to distract myself from the anguish in my heart.

But like all things commercial, what would have been helpful to me when pumping was a necessity has the potential to overreach. Most women who are planning to breastfeed have no reason at all to expect that they'll need a pump in the first few months of their baby's life. Unless they are planning on returning to work within the first month or so, pumping right away has very little benefit at a time when the focus should be establishing a balanced milk supply and good breastfeeding relationship. Stashes can be built, but not at the expense of those early moments.

For mothers who are able to take humane maternity leaves, pumping is even less important. Certainly, for those mothers, an electric pump is probably overkill and even a manual pump will fail to encourage that most basic skill that every lactating woman should have - manual expression. This is so important that I am stunned how few women are taught it, much less properly.

So much as I stung at his cavalier attitude, Dr. Newman had gotten a whiff of the direction in which things were going. Medela, previously one of the very few WHO-compliant gear companies out there, last year decided to take a different step and begin actively marketing bottles and artificial nipples directly to consumers. In the grand scheme, they're certainly no Nestle and they make quality products that have saved and prolonged many breastfeeding relationships.

But so few women are getting good information about breastfeeding - I mean really good information about the practicalities of the day-to-day, not just "Breast is best" - that these kinds of products flooding the market and making it on must-have lists really does have the potential to create a whole new set of breastfeeding problems. Oversupply from over pumping, nipple confusion/flow preference, plugged ducts and mastitis from poor pumping practice (IE: balancing the bottles on your knees can create uneven pressure that leads to plugged ducts) and ultimately breastfeeding ending earlier than nature intended. Maybe it ends earlier because the problems become acute and force the hands of the nursing pair or maybe it's simply because the connection in breastfeeding that evolves between mom and baby is interrupted and there comes a day when "breast is best" just isn't enough.

So, don't be surprised next time you ask "Which pump should I buy? (or "buy for her")" that my answer is no pump at all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mom be nimble, Mom be quick...

Mom jumps over the candlestick?

Well, not quite, but I've always been a light traveller when it comes to the kids. Pretty as those fancy diaper bags are tossed over the giant death star strollers, we pretty quickly discovered that we were minimalists when it came to hauling gear.

I got over the idea that I had to carry Isabelle around in the car seat bucket thanks to my midwife who said, "Uh, you could just, you know, carry her in your arms...". A revelation that came too late to spare us the expense of the giant stroller... alas.

For most of Isabelle's babyhood, I went out with a bank card in my back pocket, a carrier and a diaper tucked into the pouch. That's it - it was enormously freeing to be able to walk around like a normal person and not be relegated to hunting down elevators and ramps. As my husband calls it, the "disabled by children" syndrome.

But as they grow, so do we need to adapt. Tom is still wearable (and prefers to be carried very often), but they have a lot of gear these little explorers. And while I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to carriers, my broken-by-pregnancy body can only haul so much.

With two kids now mobile, I'm often at a loss - do I bring a double stroller? I hate the double strollers - we have two of them and I don't know which heavy, awkward, pain in the butt one I dislike more. I put on quite the show one day this week when we returned to the car after a pleasant amusement park visit and I found I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to fold the freaking stroller up. I tried every which button and lever and the #*!@&$@*#&!@ just wouldn't budge. I tried putting in the car open - no go. Then I took out the doggie bars and tried again. Still no good, plus now I had to figure out where to put the doggie bars. A group with two dads was coming down the aisle and I could tell I was a source of amusement. It's one thing to be locked in my own private battle with a hunk of philosophically questionable baby gear, entirely another to be laughed by strangers. So I threw it. And it folded - and buddy laughed all the way to his car.

I'm not sure what the moral of this story really is? Strollers suck? Well, they kind of do, but they also allow you to carry more stuff than the average human mother can. And while less is more, food and gear for two little people, plus two said little people is more than I can carry most days. Is it that I bring too much gear? Maybe. Or that I put too much importance on being agile and get annoyed at the trouble that the stuff causes more than I should?

Or maybe the moral is that sometimes violence is the answer. Violence against strollers, not strangers who laugh at you, that is.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer is here and the living is easy

Kids hanging out with homemade pink lemonade in the shade. Good times!


Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup grenadine (you can use pureed strawberries/raspberries too)
Sugar syrup to taste (dissolve 1 2 cups sugar in 2 cups water, boil and store in fridge)

Juice lemons, add grenadine - fill jug half way with ice then water to 3/4 full. Taste and add sugar syrup to taste. The sugar syrup makes sure that it dissolves fully.

For grown-up drinks, I make a separate jug sans grenadine with mint leaves and vodka. But keep it labelled!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why the dog is so high-strung

Ah-ha! He has a secret Starbucks addiction - he stole this half empty cup out of my car and snuck off to drink it. Busted.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sometimes I need more than one reminder

I feel like maybe the universe is trying to show me something.
First, a couple weeks ago, I was shocked and distraught to learn that a blogger, Emily McDonald, that I had been following for a long time was alledgedly purposely harming her fragile preschooler in a potentially fatal bid for attention (which all of us on the Internet had given her). Then a similar story came out about another blogger, Rebeccah Beushausen, who just made up her 'sick baby' story.
This week, a fellow mom tweeter came across a horrible, racist employment ad on Kijiji.... in following up, I learned that it was actually a malicious smear attempt. Phew.... sort of. Phew, that no one actually thought it was ok to put "Blacks and Asians need not apply in a want ad, but scary at how long that ad stayed up and how many people might have thought it was legitimate.
So, what's the universe trying to tell me?
Well, I think it's a reminder about thinking critically - that facts aren't always truth, especially when you can't experience it for yourself. How much am I teaching my kids about this? That what they see on TV, in books and on the radio is someone else's representation and that they need to decide whether that representation is right, every time. Do I challenge them to do this enough? Challenge myself? Perhaps not.
I don't blog a lot about the business, mainly because I'm figuring that my readers (if they are any out there!) probably won't find the day-to-day minutiae of running a little online business that fascinating. But these past few weeks have also been a good lesson in brand protection. I've checked my Google Alerts to make sure that I see when our name pops up and kept an eye on analytics to see who is coming to the site and why. The Google tools are easy to use and free - a no-brainer for me.
Battening down the hatches and hiding isn't an option - I need to be "out there" learning and sharing and I enjoy it too. By being out there and authentic, it protects our brand too - because my genuine voice is easily distinguished from those with malicious intent.
I've never been good at paranoia - I believe in karma and that if you think the best of people, they'll usually deliver. And even on the internet, that's true - this is the first time in many years that I've ever encountered truly scary people. That's not to say that caution and good sense won't serve well both in the internet's wild west or the quiet streets of Toronto.
So, ok, universe, I got the message. Back off, now, ok?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NIP, no tuck

Welcome to my contribution to this month's Carnival of Breastfeeding - the theme is nursing in public. Read on, then hop on the Carnival Ride of links at the bottom of this post!
Nursing in public, or NIP as it's known in internet speak, is one of those red herring subjects for me. Just the fact that it has its own internet acronym tells me there is something wrong - after all, there's no acronym for babies leaving the house, is there? In a normal world, if babies leave the house, then they breastfeed in public. Period.
But it's not a world where breastfeeding is as normal as it should be and that leads to all kinds of weird and contradictory dialogue among women and mothers. A very common comment I hear is: "Well, of course, you should be able to breastfeed your baby, but you should be discreet about it."
I would like to meet these legions of women who revel in the idea of shaking their milk-filled boobies and post-partum bellies in the faces of horrified strangers. Those would be interesting mamas to chat with. The reality is that breastfeeding mothers are just that - mothers who are trying to feed their hungry babies and comfort their sad/tired ones.
Discretion is in the eye of the beholder, really. What's discreet and comfortable for one nursing couple might be crazy exhibitionism for another. The trouble becomes that as soon as you allow a third party to decide what is and isn't acceptable, mothers lose the power to nurse their babies when they need it. They just do.
In 2007, I attended the LLLI Conference in Chicago. It was an amazing, fantastic week, so nourishing to be surrounded by women and their nurslings/slinglings - it's how the world should always be. But in the conference materials, there was a little warning box - reminding participants that we would be showcased and to exercise discretion in breastfeeding our babies outside the conference areas. It still bothers me that that was in there - though it didn't seem to change anyone's behaviour.
About that, I don't have a ton of pictures of me nursing in public (or nursing at all, really) - flashes and nursing babies don't get along so well. But here are a few of my favourites from that Chicago conference:

Tom having his dinner between courses at the LLLI Closing Banquet. Look how little his head is and how bald he is!

Nursing at the top of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

Same spot, different angle so you can a bit of the city. One of my favourite pictures EVER.

Want to read more? Hop on the Carnival 'ride':

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Five: Cute Things

I need a little light and happiness this weekend - there's been a lot of dreary, bad news of late. So this week's friday five are things that I find so cute, they make me smile every time.

Little Boys with Big Backpacks

Babies Sneezing

Kids Napping Together

Babywearing Daddies with girly Carriers

Nursing Puppies

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More bad mothers

I've been thinking some more about good mothers, bad mothers and how you tell them apart. And why "bad mothering" gets a better rap in some circles than parents who are doing their level best.

The Boring Mother
She will not play trains (despite having done so for hours this morning), she will not fill up the sand table with water and she insists that paint needs to be applied to paint brushes and to paper only. She sits at the kitchen table sorting papers that have NO pictures, taps at that TV thing that doesn't even make sounds and her pens are boring colours like black and blue. Her children have to make their own fun, apparently - no playful parenting here.

The Angry Mother
She has a short fuse - but no one knows which spark is going to set it off. Transgressions are dealt with harshly and not quickly forgotten. There is yelling. There is intolerance. There is no allowance made for mitigating factors (such as being 2). Stay out of the way, play quietly and neatly and certainly, most certainly, do not whine. Whining around Angry Mother is like waving a bright red flag in front of an enormous, sharp-horned bull - very unwise.

The Worried Mother
With a vague sense that something is amiss, she frets over every detail. She watches her kids like a hawk for any symptom of whatever the diagnosis of the hour might be. She carefully weeds out undesirable toxins from foods, body care products and clothes - and scares off undesirable playmates too. Every new study is taken as the new truth - as long as it includes something new to be worried about. She spends more time researching than playing and certainly more time worrying than nuturing. Eye rolls commonly shadow her at playgroups.

The Devil-May-Care Mother
The other side of the Worried Mother coin is this mother. She knows all the same things as Worried Mother (well, many of them - Worried Mother does a lot of reading), but she's burnt out worrying about them all. And while Worried Mother sees headlines that show risk reduction in %, Devil-May-Care wonders how high the risk really is if everyone is doing it and their kids are just fine. Rather than try to figure out what's important and what's not, she passes the cheesies to the 8-month-old and sips her red wine anytime.

The Lazy Mother
Her kids do nothing but watch TV all day, eating prepackaged foods on paper plates as they sip drink boxes. Their clothes are mismatched and unironed, their hair isn't brushed and no one is checking their teeth either. Her threats of discipline (if any) are as empty as the drawers as the laundry piles up. Plan your own crafts because she's certainly not getting the paint out for you.

There are more: the Self Absorbed Mother, the Tired Mother, the Overindulgent Mother.... but I think you get the point. Any parent who is honest enough could probably write a few of these - or see themselves in the ones I have. Just because we're all there at some point and it doesn't kill our kids, doesn't mean it's good for them or for us. Kids are resilient and they're built to thrive - but mothering matters, too.

A very wise friend responded this:

"I think I'm an ordinary human mother, who like all of us has good and bad moments. I don't think other mammals worry about whether they are good mothers or bad mothers, they just take care of their babies the best they can."
Here, here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

You can't believe everything you read

I've been preoccupied with a story this week - and I've been trying to decide what it means. For a long time, I've followed themcdonaldfive blog about a family with three kids, the youngest a medically-fragile, beautiful 3 year old. I've been reading vigilantly thorough the spring as little Dakota has had a string of health problems and things looked pretty dire. Then, the unthinkable happened: someone sent me this link. Emily Beth McDonald, 23, was arrested after allegedly smearing feces in her daughter's central line, causing a series of serious life-threatening blood infections.
My first reaction was to think that this is what you get when you believe what you read on the internet - I felt silly and duped for having worried and empathized. I wondered whether it makes sense to spend my time reading blogs and twittering with other mothers. But, I suppose it's true that any abuser would gets away with their behaviour is doing so secretly and has a good front story - or they'd never get away with it to begin with. This woman had tricked a good many people in her real life as well as with her internet persona. Her light, beautiful pictures and apparently honest, straightforward recounting of day-to-day life were easy to enjoy - the triumph of family over adversity. Of course, the allegations currently only relate to the last few weeks - so who knows how long it has been going on or in what ways the increasing attention she and her blog were getting fed into her attention-seeking.
Annie, over at PhD in Parenting wrote a post this week about "bad mothers" and had a feature on it. I've been thinking a lot about that in light of Emily McDonald and her family. How good mothers turn bad, how we judge each other and how we protect each others babies when bad really means evil. Hug your babies tight and keep your eyes open.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Planting the seeds to share the harvest

Tomorrow, June 2, is National Hunger Awareness Day: what are you doing to address hunger in your community?

Isabelle has been quite enjoying our little vegetable growing project - while growing it herself hasn't induced her to actually eat lettuce, she's pretty into it and so am I. Thanks to my friend, Rosemary (@sufficiency) I heard about the Plant A Row/Grow A Row project where gardeners plant an extra row to donate to the hungry.

Sounded like a great little project for us - and my parents donate a little space in their garden to do it. Especially with the news this week about the food banks hitting records (not good records), I hope our little project leads to a healthy harvest.

Red Cabbage:

Tomato Plants:

Sweet & Hot Peppers:


Turnip Seedlings:

The whole shebang:

If you've already planted your garden and would still like to do this, try just desginating a little portion of the garden - it's surprisingly satisfying to feel like there's a bigger purpose to all that weeding. Anything can be donated, but it's most effective to stick to vegetables that don't require refrigeration after harvest and can keep for a few days.
You can find details of your local program here: In Toronto, the City has created a brochure to help you plan your row and figure out how to get it to those in need:

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Because that's what mammal means

This is my favourite picture from our 'safari' adventure: this wasn't the smallest baboon nursing, it seems he was more of a 'toddler' nursling.

And he had all the same mannerisms that human toddler seem to show: wanted to nurse on her hip, head leaning against her shoulder as he watched the world go by.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bake Sale

Our LLL Annual Garage & Bake Sale is coming up this weekend and I need some fresh ideas on what to make. My old standby is the cream scone loosely adapted from the Joy of Cooking and some of my mom's Mincemeat Bran Muffins (I call them Raisin Spice for marketing purposes - learned that the first year).

Mom's Mincemeat Muffins (makes 22-24 muffins)

2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk/sour cream
1 1/2 cups mincemeat
1 1/4 cups All-Bran Cereal
2 cups all purpose flour (can also do a mix of whole wheat/all purpose)
2 tsp each baking powder and baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease or line muffin tins. Mix together wet ingredients. Mix together dry ingredients - add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined (will be lumpy). Don't overmix divide evenly among muffin tins - Mom always used an ice cream scoop and it's the perfect size. Bake 20-25 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature. Batter can also be kept up to two weeks in fridge before baking and baked muffins freeze very well.

Ok - so hit me with your best bake sale recipe!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Family Outing - Model Steam Trains

I had never heard of these before, but my friend Jenn's little guy loves trains and so she's in the know about all these things. There are people whose hobby it is to build miniature steam engines that they run on tracks - and you can ride them!

We went out to the Hamilton Museum of Steam & Techonology today and spent a lovely morning riding the trains. We also checked out a Meccano demonstration and a remote control boat demonstration (yeah, it tends to the nerdy, um, scientifically-minded crowd). Thank you, Golden Horseshow Live Steamers!

The whale "driver" told me to line up my camera on Tom as he approached and I got this great sequence:

Whale! Ahoy!

Hmmm... the whale has a sprayer.
But he's wearing a little hat - must be a friendly whale.
Help! I'm taking fire! Hostile whale! Hostile whale!

Humph - let's go look at the trains again. They don't have sprayers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Five - 5 Annoying Baby Products

Adiri Nurser: Yeah, so just because it looks like a breast does not mean that it is anything like a breast. Babies don't develop nipple confusion because bottles don't look like boobies, they develop it because the mechanics of bottle-feeding are completely different from those of breastfeeding. Period. Save yourself the very expensive cost of these (apparently leaky) bottles.

Car Seat Carrier: There are so many ergonomic problems with carrying a swinging infant car seat that I don't think we even need to address the fact that car seats are meant for transporting babies in cars and there's an increasing understanding of the dangers of leaving babies in seats for extended periods. To say nothing of the potential stress something like this might place on the seats. Just pick up you baby and check the seat.

Udder Covers: While I'm all for anything that helps breastfeeding moms, I can't accept that referring to my "udders" is anything less than stupid and demeaning. Same with Hooter Hiders. The one plus is that these loud, graphic patterns do bring attention to how many moms are breastfeeding out there - which is something you can miss when they just pull up their t-shirt and their baby nurses.

Baby Bling Pacifiers: Multiples issues here - first, what about a beautiful, angelic baby screams stuff a loud, sparkly plug in my mouth? Second, given that it is in a baby's mouth, are all these nooks and crannies really hygenic? And isn't it insane to spend $20+ on something that you are nearly 100% sure to lose?

Milk Maid Bottle Holder: With everything we know about human attachment, how is it even legal to sell these things? Put aside the obvious safety concerns with leaving an infant like this - this is inhumane. The 'argument' I've seen in favour of these is that they allow parents of multiples or parents with disabilities to feed their babies without extra help. I don't buy it - if an infant can't be fed with love, then you need human hands to help, not these.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kids aren't grimy, their schools are

It seems like the swine flu (A.K.A. H1N1, aporkalypse, snoutbreak and hamdemic) has lost the collective interest of the media - or perhaps I've just stopped listening because there was nothing interesting being printed about it anymore. Like most big crises, the first wave of hysteria passed quickly and time will tell whether it was warranted or not.
In the lull, it does end up that something very interesting has come to light that matters whether the swine flu is the next 1918 virus or not. Since SARS, we've done a fairly good job of impressing the importance of handwashing - which controls the spread not only of potentially serious illnesses like influenza (of all kinds), but also common colds, stomach bugs and all manner of annoying and time-consuming illnesses. I'm consistently disappointed to see the flu vaccine touted as the primary step in public health campaigns, but simple public hygiene has made inroads. The fact that there's currently no vaccine for the swine flu leaves only hygiene to prevent the spread and I think that's a good thing no matter what - it doesn't matter whether you have a vaccine that works if you prevent the spread to begin with, after all.
I worked in a large office building in Toronto during the SARS outbreak - it was an eye opener for many workers to realize how much simple hygiene could be improved. Suddenly, cleaners wiped down door handles and bathrooms several times a day - and it made you think about why that wasn't done before. Standards rose and stayed that way (at least in our building) because businesses and the workers they employed realized how simple steps could help contain all kinds of grossness.
This time around I work out of my safe little home cocoon, so I'm not worried about grimy elevator buttons. However, Isabelle is in junior kindergarten (society's largest Petri dish) and the outbreak has brought to light serious deficiencies in hygiene within the school. In an informal poll of my mommy circle, it appears that few of us know how often schools are thoroughly cleaned or bathrooms disinfected. While handwashing is a key, in many schools, bathrooms are poorly stocked or kept in a state of disrepair. Children may avoid using them entirely, meaning that they go an entire day without rinsing the building eco-system of germs off their hands. A good discussion of this was on the section of the Toronto Star today:
In other cases, teachers and students end up relying primarily on hand sanitizer because of a lack of facilities - alcohol based hand sanitizers are not the same as hand washing and while they may be safe for an occasional use, try licking your hand after using some and see if that's what you'd want on your preschooler 6 times a day.
Parents of children in their first years of school have learned to expect a year or two of next constant illness running through their house - because, we assume, kids have bad hygiene habits and there's no way around it. Well, having seen enough snotty, drippy noses on the playground and sneezes into the communal cookie plate, I can concede that kids are definitely at a disadvantage over office workers. So, why then, do we freak out about elevator buttons and copy machines, but few of us know how often the counters in the boys' room get disinfected or the tissues are replaced? The very few who have any idea wouldn't be too happy with the answer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Five

Tamiflu safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, in a pandemic.

UK Babies to get new growth charts - new as in from the WHO in 2005, but still better than Canadian and US babies most of whom get measured on charts based on formula-fed babies from the 1960s. Courtesy of our friends at Big Pharma.

Probiotics in pregnancy and lactation could reduce obesity in women - interesting idea. I'm a big fan of encouraging gut health to reduce the risk of allergy-triggering proteins passing into the bloodstream then breastmilk... but this is another reason to pay attention to how we digest, not just what we do.

Pumping doesn't replace respect and rights for working mothers.

Protein content may contribute to obesity difference between breastfed and formula-fed infants. Uh, yes, because baby cow's need less lactose and more protein.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oh, my aching nipples - on grating teeth and gratitude

The term eruption is a good one to describe teeth coming in. Especially the molars of a toddler - he's erupting all over the place. When we were at the dentist last week, she commented that he had one just peeking through the gum and another one working on it, so we might be in for a bad week. I smugly thought, 'ha! my kids don't complain - the first I noticed Isabelle's tooth was when it bit into my finger!" I should know better than to be smug about anything by now, but I'm not.

Tom has been nursing and asking to nurse constantly since yesterday - it's like having a newborn all over again. Oh, except that newborns don't have front teeth... And they don't want to watch "Max & Ruby" while they nurse - well, maybe they do, but they get CBC Newsworld instead. And they certainly don't try to walk around while nursing...Oy, my nipples! the amber teething necklace is out again - and seemed to help a bit - but all he wants is na-nas really.

On the positive side, newborns can't tell you where it hurts... Tom can and does "My mowf hoits hee-ah"(translation: My mouth hurts here) as he points very precisely to the red bulging gum. None of the worry about mystery suffering that plagues the early weeks of mothering. There's also none of the switching sides doubt that also plagued my early weeks - the books suggest "when they are done", but what on earth does that mean??? Are they done? What if they fall asleep? What if the breast still doesn't feel "empty"? What if they are in marathon nurse and both feel empty? Oh, no, none of that with the nursing toddler - he'll tell me he wants the 'big one' and switch sides himself when it's 'that na-na is all done'.

A newborn does have the advantage of looking remarkably appealing in the "drunk with milk" coma - we used to sit up and revel in Isabelle lying between us, with a pool of milk around her mouth, as sedated as if we'd shot her up with valium (ok, maybe not quite). A toddler generally doesn't allow for any such waste of his precious milk... and Tom's particularly irritating habit of guarding/prepping the opposite side is one that I haven't yet been able to break. But, there's possibly nothing more heart-melting to a mother than the gentle pat of his little hand as he nurses his pain away - or the sweetness in his wide eyes as he nods a yes when asked "Good milk?".

There are times when nursing a toddler seems nuts - inconvenient, time-consuming and hardly worth the rolling eyes and ever-higher rising eyebrows (yes, I do see them though I'm now a master ignoring them). You'd think that at the end of a day like today, weaning would seem an appealing option.

But that I can still give him this familiar comfort on this ouchy, grumpy, all out of sorts day is a gift to him and to myself. It's a gift that mothers who wean 'when they get teeth', 'when they can ask for it' or 'when they're 3months/6 months/a year' don't ever get the chance to receive. It's a gift that he can tell me know with words that my milk is good, sweet and "wah-umm" (warm) in his belly. It's a gift that he has learned patience to wait and compassion not to hurt even though it feels good to him - and that I have learned patience to give when I could withhold and compassion to give though it does hurt. I am grateful today above other days for my curly-headed, foot stamping, loud talking acrobatic nursling... and I know he is grateful for me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On guilt and the breastfeeding police

There's a lot of guilt involved in mothering - not least when it comes to how and what we feed our babies. A constant tension among breastfeeding advocates is ensuring that mothers are getting the information they need to make the right decision for their babies, while respecting their authority as parents and not devaluing their experience. It's heavy emotional stuff - and never straightforward.

For some out there, enough has been said about breastfeeding - anything further is meant to guilt and shame mothers into making the consensus choice. I have trouble with this on a number of fronts.

First, the notion that every new parent knows about breastfeeding and the risks of formula is absurd to anyone who spends any time discussing these issues with mothers. Front-line contacts from obstetricians to nurses to family doctors and pharmacists ought to be the foundations for good decisions, but too often they provide information that is out of date, coloured by their own professional bias or simply incorrect. Mothers need accurate information about the importance of breastfeeding and how to maximize chances of success: somewhat by definition, this means being clear about the consequences of not breastfeeding.

Second, while I believe strongly that a woman must determine the use of her own body, the 'personal choice' argument isn't quite so strong to me when it comes to breastfeeding. A mother who has chosen to birth and raise her child takes with that joy a burden of care - a child isn't owned, she is entrusted. Every baby deserves to be breastfed - as parents, we do countless things that are hard, uncomfortable and intrusive to care for our babies and children. Breastfeeding through challenges is no different than enduring the aches, pains and indignities that pregnancy brings - except that the pay-off is immediate.

Third, because breastfeeding is the biological norm, practices that encourage breastfeeding are good for babies and mothers whether they are ultimately successful at breastfeeding or not. Birth practices that empower women to remain in control of their bodies and their babies, engaging experienced empathetic attendants and post-partum care that recognizes the unique mother-baby dyad are the first steps to avoid many of the problems that lead to frustration and failure of breastfeeding relationships. But they are also the first steps to nuturing the mother so that she can in turn nuture her baby and feel confidence in her competence in that new role.

Advocates for breastfeeding whether health care professionals, volunteers or simply interested parents end up taking a lot of flack that's largely undeserved. We don't get any kind of bonus for helping a mother to breastfeed, spending hours encouraging her or researching a particularly thorny issue. Nor, to my knowledge, are there any posses hunting down formula-feeding mothers in public places to shame them or door-to-door solicitors trying to recruit pregnant women. There are many more mothers needing help and support than public health departments, clinics and La Leche League volunteers can help - they don't need to hunt them down.

Why don't we focus our collective energies on supporting mothers so that their pain and guilt can be avoided entirely?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

PJ solution revealed

I have a thing about natural fibres, especially for the kids and especially for nightwear. It turns out for us that this is a good instinct, because Isabelle gets awful, itchy rashes when she overheats at night. It only took us a whole winter to figure out that fleece footed pjs weren't good for her - we're a little slow on the uptake sometimes (I suspected shrimp).

I used to love a company called Hanna Andersson - still do for lots of things. Their playdresses are a staple around here. But since they were bought out a couple years ago, they've changed the fit on their famous "zippers" and long johns so that they're tighter than a wet suit on a whale.

Yes, before you start emailing me, I know it's a safety standard designed to protect kids from catching fire near open flames. I also know that instead of wrestling my little ones into skin tight cotton pjs, I could instead buy pjs made of polyester (but see above) or buy cotton ones coated in toxic chemicals many of which are known carcinogens.

So you can see why Isabelle is wearing pjs that are so small we had to cut the feet off and Tom prances around in his sister's pink nighties and old-style 'zippers' (in addition to his dad-inherited dandiness). My mom has also been called into duty to sew some pjs, but other than nightie, each one is a lot of work.

My dad came over today with 100% cotton pjs, not treated and I couldn't figure it out. They were called "loungewear" and were European brands (Petit Lem)! ah-ha! So that's the secret - I'm stocking up before the pj police figure it out!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mom was right - WASH YOUR HANDS

With all this talk about swine flu, I had a brief moment where I wondered whether I had doomed us all to death by vetoing the flu vaccine - what's a little mecury compared with a deadly pandemic virus? In my past life as an employee benefits manager, I did lots of planning work on pandemic preparedness. I have had plenty of exposure to the doomsday scenarios that most people are just beginning to think about again.

Well, I'm feeling a little better now - it looks like the flu vaccine will have no impact on the swine flu. So, I haven't doomed us... I think.

And I have taught the kids some good lessons that should serve them well. It's the same stuff I always sent out the flu vaccine clinic emails at work - I felt ethically obligated to do something that would actually be likely to keep our employees from getting sick since I was inviting them to get stuck with a needle that probably wouldn't).

- Wash your hands frequently with mild soap and water. Washing hands is less irritating to your skin and highly effective - bacteria and viruses don't 'stick' well and water will wash away germs that are not killed.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be a back-up when there's no running water - but proper washing is always best. Frequent use can be irritating and cause cracking skin (not good when you are trying to keep germs out of your body, plus ouch!). Use only as needed, rub hands well and stick to unscented versions that are at least 60% ethyl alcohol. Rinse your hands as soon as you can thereafter, too.
- Cough into your elbow - not your hands.
- Don't shake hands if you are ill and politely decline if someone appears ill (pretend you are sick).
- After contact with others or surfaces in public places, avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes. Many viruses (like colds) are easily introduced to your body from your fingertips to your eyes because by rubbing your eyes you circumvent many of the bodies natural barricades to infection. Pay attention!
- Finally, if you are ill, stay home. As important as each of you are, if you fell your entire department with that nasty cold, you'll all regret it more than using up a sick day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday 5

A woman in Australia is awarded damages of almost A$50,000 after a 2003 sexual assault results in nipple damage that makes breastfeeding difficult.

Leave it to the AAP to claim defamation for being called more ethical than they actually are.

Nice to see things are changing in the back rooms of Washington - but no talk of seeing mothers nursing their babies where they belong - the front halls.

Hopefully, it's the beginning of a trend that sees cosmetic surgery on newborn boys stopped in our public hospitals.

I'm all for research that improves the well-being of babies, but do we really need research to tell us that cow's milk (no matter how scientifically packaged) is designed to meet the nutritional needs of.... calves?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mother's Day Gifts on every budget, including $0

Top Gifts at 3 prices
The top gifts for any mom at three price points (for any giver, including those who can't yet count).
Free: A home-made gift certificate for an interruption-free bath at the time of Mom's choosing.
Under $10: Add one or two magazines. Think People, not the Economist, here. (Unless your mom finds the Economist relaxing, in which case, I'd like to meet her).
Under $50: Add some great bath essence or bath products. For a year's worth of inspiring bathtimes, give her a subscription to Mothering magazine.
Style in transition
Free: Take the ratty old underwear, spit-up stained t-shirts and bras that are like thongs to the post-pregnancy breast and get RID of them.
Under $10: One of those cotton scarves that are so a la mode this spring, some hair clips or even a pretty new lipstick/nail polish can go a long way to brightening up a dreary t-shirt and yoga pants wardrobe.
Under $50: Buying clothes for a body in flux (which is pretty much from conception to oh, menopause) is tough. Jeans that are tight in all the wrong places and shirts that bulge open over the lactating breasts are one thing, but just as demoralizing are the baggy pants and too big underwear! Stick to something that will freshen up her look no matter what point on the continuum she is: the Belleze Band is just the ticket with lots of style (and a hidden adjustible waist).
Looking for more ideas? Have some great ones to share?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

April Snow

"It's snowing, Mum - LOOK!" she says with all the awe of her very first snowfall. I am having more trouble getting excited about this unexpected spring bounty. When spring officially arrived, we were off in Florida - and Isabelle seems to have taken the notions about seasonal weather patterns as hard rules. This means that in winter, it is cold and it snows. In spring, it is sunny and a bit warm and there are flowers. In summer, it is hot and we swim. In fall, it is cool and the leaves fall off the trees. And all the myriad parts of nature obey our calendar exactly.
But having some 30-odd Toronto Aprils under my belt, I know that there's always at least one good snowfall in April. My birthday is at the end of the month (32 this year for anyone wondering how odd odd is) and I can recall there being snow on the ground - and not just way back when we walked to school for 5 miles uphill both ways.
To be 5 again. To think that the world is governed by absolute rules. I remember being quite unnerved when Trudeau was replaced by Mulroney. We weren't a particularly politically active family, but my mom had a place in her heart for the dapper intellectual who could cut a rug and it was a fairly big deal. I thought Prime Ministers were like kings and ruled until they died - age has taught me that we are very lucky that my five year old vision of absolute monarchy was wrong. Fresh blood is a good thing - a notion that's probably lost on a five year old to whom everything is fresh.
Back to the snow - it's pretty really. And fun. And telling - in the summer, I'd never be able to see the bird prints that hopped across the front porch, then down the steps and around the house, eating up the goldfish crakers crumbs we trailed in yesterday or the squirrel prints leading suspiciously up to my empty bird feeder. Hey, if it's going to be cold, I'd rather have snow to entertain us.