Friday, October 28, 2011


Sitting in my living room, at this moment I hear Peanut's voice laughing and screeching as she chases our dog, singing nonsense songs while she 'cooks' her pretend food in her play kitchen. I hear Bubby, lying on her belly and spinning in pre-crawling circles, cooing and babbling to herself. I hear the clatter of toys and the crunching sounds of our dog eating her breakfast.

Somewhere, under all that happy din, is my voice. It's somewhere buried in my head. It is speaking, or trying, with too many thoughts to even be coherent. It is trying to get out, but most days I simply cannot find it.

Such is the problem with writing while being an at-home parent. Finding the opportunity to construct a coherent thought let alone actually write it down is challenging at best. And it's frustrating, knowing that there are potential posts, articles, goodness knows what else, locked inside, simply waiting for the chance to break free and come to life.

I may need to start having weekly Bridgehead wifi dates with myself in order to get the words out. I adore my girls, but it's important to listen to - and speak with - my own voice, too.

on the floor

Sunday, October 23, 2011

what happened to community?

Have we forgotten how to live in community? Have we forgotten that we are social animals?

Last night I got to hear Rodger Nishioka speak about why young people - particularly young adults - aren't going to church. It isn't a lack of faith or spirituality, but still they don't come. Why? What are we - the established, main-line churches - doing wrong?

In the course of his talk he told a story about one young couple he met while researching this topic in focus groups around the U.S. who actually were members of a Presbyterian church in Iowa. After attending one Sunday morning, they were astonished by the outpouring of care and support from the congregation after the young woman was diagnosed with breast cancer. They had no idea that such community involvement was common. As a result, they are fully integrated, grateful, involved members of that church community.

What struck me was, really, the sadness of it. Have we become so entirely nuclearized that we have forgotten to pass on to the next generation (not even really the next generation: the young couple Nishioka mentioned were only about 6 years younger than me) that this is how community functions? More fundamentally, have we neglected to tell people that we are social creatures who, by and large, crave and need community in order to be fully functional, joyful people?

Friday, October 21, 2011

On wet-nursing and unconditional love

Earlier this week, I met a baby who, at five days old, had lost two pounds.

And I nursed him.

His mother had an unexpected caesarean section and her milk production was delayed, which isn't particularly uncommon following surgical birth. But her baby proceeded to lose two pounds. Though she nursed and they were making every effort, she and her husband watched their little boy shrink. So her midwife put out the call: this baby needs milk. And my own doula and friend sent me word: a baby needs milk. She also said, "mama would also be open to cross-nursing." A few phone calls to arrange a time, and I went. With my one tiny bottle of stashed milk and my own two breasts, I went to meet some total strangers.

I wondered what it would be like to nurse someone else's child. The first time I nursed my own child it felt a little strange, such a new and singular experience: would it feel odd when the child was not my own, when I'd only met the family moments earlier? I wondered if I would feel a sense of betrayal to my own little nursling, at home with her sister and father, to be sharing my breast with another child, to be giving another child the milk originally destined for her. I wondered if the mother, who had undergone a difficult birth and was now struggling to breastfeed, would feel resentment or rejection at having me, a total stranger, nurse her child. I am certain that I would have felt so.

There are no Emily Post instructions on the correct etiquette for visiting someone's home for the first time with the intention of breastfeeding their newborn. I went, met Father and Mother, introduced myself, congratulated them on their baby, gave them the one bottle of expressed milk I had, then asked, "Do you want me to nurse him?" 
"Sure," Mother said, "that would be great." So we sat together, she and I. She handed me her tiny treasure and I bared a breast.


People talk about unconditional love. The Church talks about it a lot. Parents talk about it, too. There's even a particular strain of parenting theory named for it. When we talk about loving unconditionally we generally mean that our love is not contingent on the actions of the person who is loved. But it can mean something else, and should. It means that whoever you are, I will love you. My love for you is not contingent on my relationship with you. It simply doesn't matter.

One of my many acts of mothering love for my children is nursing them. Through that simple act they are comforted, reassured, nurtured and nourished. They know love. To nurse another's child is also an act of love, but differently so. In taking that little boy in my arms and nursing him, I told him he was loved. I told him that he was loved unconditionally not only by his parents - who love him for the mere fact of his existence - but by me as well, also for the mere fact of his existence. And that loving would extend as far as it needed to, even to feeding him from my own body.

Nursing him didn't feel strange. It was simple: here was a hungry child who needed milk and I provided it. I was struck by how entirely commonplace it felt in that moment. Afterward, as I reflected on my encounter with this family, I felt sure that this is, without question, what we are meant to do. Later, when I was home again with my own nursling, I looked at her as she glowed and grinned up at me and felt nearly proud of her. Unbeknownst to her, she had shared something of hers which was precious and dear. I don't know how the mother felt about watching me nurse her new and only child. It seemed too intrusive to ask. I imagine it was at least a little strange for her, to watch her son share an intimate moment with another woman, some other child's mother. Because nursing is wonderfully, beautifully intimate. But so is love. And it's meant to be shared. Like breastmilk.


There is something particularly delightful about nursing a newborn. Their lives are so consumed by consumption that newborns are very avid feeders, focussed and determined. This little boy, fists clenched against his cheeks, eyes closed in rapt attention to the task, mouth wide, proceeded to give a perfect example of precisely how a baby should nurse. Surely, he and his mother are destined for a happy and successful nursing relationship. Gulping and pausing, pausing and gulping, he drank until he was full and could not be cajoled into taking more. Entirely milk-drunk, he subsided into his mother's arms, smiling in his sleep. Sated.

"Thank you," she said.

"Thank you," I replied.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Remember this? At the time I was wheat, dairy, soy and egg-free. Now we've added corn to see if we can't get Bubby's rash to finally clear up. Here's a head's up: in North America corn is. in. everything. It's madness.

Anyway, there are some obvious, common sources of corn that this totally eliminates. Until now, I had been sort of desperately clinging to the fact that while I couldn't eat bread (sigh) or cheese (whimper) or cake (sob) I could, at least, have corn chips and Coke. Yeah, yeah, I know, cola is death blah blah blah. I ran out of vices so I cut myself some slack. Today, though, I really wanted nachos and a Coke. You know, dairy-free, wheat-free, corn-free nachos and Coke. Made of what, exactly? Made of this:


And you know what? It's awesome. My inspiration was this recipe from my friend Alyson. Here is approximately what I did:

1/2 can black beans, rinsed
1 clove garlic
2 tsp onion powder
1/ 2tsp cumin (I freaking love cumin)
2 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp rice flour

Throw everything in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Spread on an oiled, foil-covered cookie sheet to about the diameter of a dinner plate, or 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Top with Daiya Shreds ( I used cheddar flavour because it was all we had, but pepperjack or mozzarella would make more sense) and bake at about 340*F until the edges look dry and the shreds are all melted, maybe 20-30 minutes. Serve by topping with salsa, shredded lettuce, more salsa and cashew cream. Drink a Blue Sky Cola alongside to complete the feeling of guilty indulgence.

edited 10/15/11: I have just discovered that while Blue Sky is HFCS free, the caramel colour and citric acid in it are manufactured using...corn! And the Daiya Shreds? More citric acid from...corn! ARGH! Well, we'll keep trying. It was still delicious, though.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An autumn afternoon at the arboretum

A friend recently posted a photo on Facebook of the green, vibrant campus of a Florida university. "When I see pictures of Florida," I commented, "I think, 'I live in Ottawa because...?'" Summer is decidedly over, here. Some days, though, remind me why we enjoy life here.

We took an outing yesterday afternoon. An honest-to-goodness, physically active and educational outing. Ottawa has an urban farm, the Central Experimental Farm, and it includes a sizeable arboretum. It's 26 hectares, which is about 64 acres making it around 1/13th the size of New York's Central Park, but it's large enough to be quiet and calm and get a good stretch of the legs.

Autumn in Ottawa being what it is, it was a gorgeous afternoon. The fall foliage was colourful but still mostly in the tree-tops, but the unseasonably warm weather made it a perfect day for running around outside.

We watched mallards on Dow's Lake.

collage 1

We walked. We ran. We followed some dogs around. We climbed on large rocks.

collage 2

We enjoyed the sunshine.

Bubby was there, too, of course.

mommy and scarlet

Before we left, she needed a nurse. 


I asked Peanut where we should sit. "Which tree should we sit under?" I asked her. 

"Under the yellow tree." Hickory it was.

hickory tree

I love this city. And I love my girls.

glynis portrait

Thursday, October 06, 2011

sometimes it's all pretend

I read a lot of so-called mommyblogs. I gravitate toward the ones that are positive, optimistic. Peaceful. I yearn to feel like that every day, to revel and celebrate every moment with my children, with my husband, with myself. To live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, as Thoreau so beautifully put it. So, in turn, I try to write posts that do precisely that with pictures that reflect just how lovely this life - our life - can be.



Sometimes it's all pretend. Or at least the attitude is. Sometimes the optimism is missing. Sometimes the inspiration falls short. Sometimes, instead, I just crave a good long break. Like a week. Alone. Or several very big, bountiful glasses of wine. Or a good scream. Sometimes my day loses it's shine and all I seem to see is dusty surfaces, grimy tables, a crumb-covered floor in desperate need of a good sweep and mop and two children who need a lot out of me. Sometimes I just. feel. spent.

So sometimes I'm just pretending. And the pretending gets me to the end of another day, and while I feel like I'm clinging white-knuckled to my sanity, something unexpected happens. Peanut brings Bubby a toy, apropos of nothing. Bubby glows at her sister. She smiles at me. Peanut rushes up to me, throws her arms around me and murmurs, "Lovee you," and then goes back to playing. The sun shines through the window in a way and at an angle that marks that we have entered a new season, a season of scarves and sweaters and hot drinks and Peanut's first trips to football games with Daddy and the comfort of crawling into a warm bed on a cold night.

blog pictures edit

And then, without even realizing it has happened, it isn't pretend. It's real, and we've lived a warm, glowing day, one that shimmers in my memory, ever so briefly, not because it was particularly notable but just because it was good. Because I accepted it for what it was and what it brought.

What has your day brought you?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

100 word birth stories

The ever-thoughtful and thought-provoking Bluebirdmama recently put out a call for birth stories in 100 words or less. Since my own birth stories are decidedly un-short, I welcomed the challenge. Here are the girls' stories:


Wake at 5am. OMG I’m peeing my bed! No control.
5:30am cramping. OMG and I’m constipated, too?! 

Call the midwife. “Not even 36 weeks! Not good,” but I know: we’re fine.
Labouring around the house, shower, resting, working.

This is what we do.

Midwife arrives: time to go NOW.
Doula, midwife, husband, me in the room, laughing between contractions. So excited:

I’m going to meet my baby!!

1:40pm: Now pushing on my feet, on my knees, on the bed. Happening quickly. Everyone hollering, “Slow down!” Oops: burning and pop! Relief. Head, now body. She’s here.




7pm:  hint of contractions. Slowly, things beginning. Powerful.
Body working, mind excited, sure: another early baby.
Cuddling Glynis. Belly henna. Laughing.

Then: not good. It’s all wrong.
Terrible stomach pain. Calling the midwife.
Kneeling on the floor. Praying. Pleading.

“This is not how I die.”

1am: call doula, call Mom, wake Glynis. No homebirth: rush to hospital.
Midwife waiting. Bloodwork. Monitors: baby is fine, body still working hard.

Severe pre-eclampsia and HELLP.

Break waters.
Acupressure.  Swaying... s w a y i n g
So sick. But strong.

I AM going to do this.


Sleep. Bear down. Sleep. Then p u s h
…through fear, tissue.



“You're real!"

scarlet two weeks


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