Thursday, December 29, 2011

Five secrets

1. I religiously follow quilting blogs even though I know nothing of quilting needles and fat quarters. But I see these quilts, made by the hands of so many talented women, and I am inspired. The colours, the textures, the way I imagine it feels to tuck a child into bed at night under the weight of a homemade quilt, I love it all. I might even qualify as a quilting-stalker. I blame my childhood obsession appreciation of How to Make an Amerian Quilt. Also, I don't even own a quilt. I need help.

If you want to begin your own stalking, you can start here, here or here. Any other suggestions?

2. When I was eight I begged my mum to legally change my name to Priscilla. With respect to all the wonderful people in the world named Priscilla, I'm grateful that my mum denied my frequent requests.

3. I am Canadian and I hate hockey. I also prefer NPR over the CBC, detest Tim Horton's coffee, and I probably can't name more than four Canadian Prime Ministers. That being said, I do love Margaret Atwood, Canadian National Parks (and even spent some of my honeymoon in one of them), and saying sorry even when someone else bumps into to me at the grocery store.

4. Life is chaotic, my husband and I are both unemployed, but I still wish that we could have five or six children. Call me crazy, because clearly I am, but it's still what I want. Even on a day like today when Shira spent most of her energy trying to climb back in my womb, making it impossible to get anything done. Even still. Also, I secretly wish that I could homeschool my kids.

5. Last night I escaped Matt and The Children and spent the night drinking wine, eating salmon and bok choy, and devouring chocolate cake. I also devoured the company of two of my best girl friends and it was something else. Isn't it amazing how certain people restore you, nudging you to remember the things you love about yourself and the people who surround you?

Care to share your own five secrets? Or maybe just one?

Hope it's the best of weekends!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

And there were goats


It's been a week or two since my last photo of sleeping Shira, and I thought you might be worried.

Rest assured, she is still sleeping, and as much as I've clearly stated my preference that she sleep in until six in the morning, I'll take her sleeping through the night any day of the week, no matter how much my brain hurts when I swing my legs out of bed at five. The photo above was taken yesterday while I was being spoiled by my mum, who not only gave me the gift of a hair cut at my favourite salon in Toronto, but looked after Shira while my hairdresser worked his magic. Shira grew bored of the whole thing and promptly fell asleep.

Now excuse me while I stare at those lips. Delicious.

Speaking of being spoiled my mum, she took me to see the Marc Chagall exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. We made a date of it, just the two of us, only to readjust later when it became clear that Shira was not having any of our plans. So the three of us stood before some of my favourite paintings, with even Shira appreciating the vibrant blues, purples, and reds. Fortunately for her, Chagall includes a goat in almost every painting, and since she's recently learned the word goat, it was a big day for her.

Also, she appreciated Chagall's work from the cozy pocket of my sling, nursing the entire time we wandered through the exhibit. Who says you can't breastfeed and simultaneously point out the goats? Not Shira!

It was a good day, and I have my mum to thank for the entire thing. It's hard not to feel down in the middle of all this reality lately. We're heading into month eight of the job search and the world feels awfully hard some days. Every single day I'm grateful that we have been welcomed in my mum's house while we continue to try and shape this new life of ours, but that doesn't mean that it's easy--for any of us. But yesterday felt easy and I always feel so motivated after visiting a gallery. I have less than zero artistic talent, but I'm convinced that being close to such works of art rubs off on me, even if it's just to see my own world a little differently.

Where was Alyce during this day in the city? Home with her Papa, who sent me text me the following text midway through the day: "One kid is easy!!!" Amen to that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

But I forgot number nine

What good is a list of ten things that only includes nine? I do hope it's still worth something, but in the end I'd rather a complete list as much as the next girl. So in order to amend my list of ten things you ought to know about breastfeeding a toddler, here is the missing number nine:

9.  Toddlers are crazy, tiny human beings who often have trouble communicating with the rest of the world. For instance, Shira spent approximately twenty-three hours of the previous twenty-four yelling, screaming, whining, and all the while seemed incredibly annoyed with my inability to figure out what she wanted. Some toddlers are verbal from a young age, while others, Shira included, are a bit late to talking. Shira knows many words, yet she struggles getting her messages across. How does this relate to breastfeeding? Be patient. I'm getting there, you see, because one way to help Shira cope with this frustration is to offer her some milk. Does it help her communicate more clearly? Of course not. Does it temporarily trick her into forgetting that she's annoyed with me and offer me a few moments of quiet? You bet it does. Nursing=Superpower.

I hope this more complete list makes you sleep a bit better tonight. You and I both know that list-making is a serious business. Let's not stand in the way.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ten things you ought to know about nursing a toddler

UPDATE: This list of ten things is missing a number nine! Find it here.

1. Let's just get this out of the way first. Some people are uncomfortable when mothers breastfeed their toddler. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone tell me, "If they can ask for it, they should be drinking out of a cup," and then they laugh uncomfortably.  Shira and I have one thing to say to those people: we disagree. Shira most certainly knows how to ask for it, and you might even hear her request for milk if you are anywhere in the Greater Toronto Area, since she declares her request for mee--eelk in much the same way (though in a much louder voice) that a donkey might yelp in pain. There is no chance that after such an eloquent request that I am going to turn her down.

2. Shira would also like me to tell you that she can absolutely drink from a cup, whether it be water, a little juice, or more recently, chocolate soy milk. All of these things are delicious in a cup. However, breastmilk, she reminds us, comes from the breast, and in the breast it shall remain. But let's not get down on her mad cup skills. Breastfeeding for a toddler is about many, many things, so let's not get overwhelmed by issues of cup competency, shall we?

3. In the beginning, there was a sweet and soft little baby in my arms as we nursed. Once we got past all of the initial challenges of feeding a tiny new human, we developed a wonderfully sweet and soft little ritual of breastfeeding every twenty minutes or so. Things have changed. Fortunately for everyone involved, toddlers do not breastfeed every twenty minutes. And fortunately or unfortunately, depending on who you ask, it's rarely sweet or soft. Ok, it's still mostly sweet, but soft? I guess you could describe the headstand she performed yesterday while nursing, nipple still in mouth, as graceful, but soft it was not. I kid you not, she turned herself upside down.

4. Oh, and that part I just wrote about toddlers not nursing often? I lied. Sometimes they ask to nurse a lot, all the time, all over town. And sometimes you acquiesce.  But one of the nice things about breastfeeding older babies is the absence of guilt. Seriously, you know how much you worry about feeding infants, worrying about whether or not they are getting enough milk, or enough of the right milk, at the right times of day, from opposite boobs (did I nurse on the right or left last time)? Nursing a toddler is so freeing! As long as they are eating regular food alongside breastfeeding, it doesn't really matter how often or not they nurse. And since feeding toddlers food is never stressful, you're laughing!

5. I love, love, love breastfeeding Shira, and I loved breastfeeding Alyce, and I'll get that the reasons I love it soon, but there are some things you should know, and they aren't always pretty. At least once a week Shira pulls my shirt down in public with hopes a quick snack, and I'm almost always trying to pay for my groceries at the time. And on account of her sometimes acrobatic approach to a snack, I sometimes incur injuries not just to my breasts, but to my face or arms. Just last week I sported not a tiny scratch along my chin, the nastiest toddler toenail scratch I've ever had.

6. Yes, sharp teeth are a hazard in any toddler breastfeeding relationship. But Shira's only bitten me a few times, and frankly, I find her recent mastery of screeching every time I turn my attention away from her much more painful than the rare bite. Maybe I have nipples of steel, or maybe her screeching is just really annoying.

7. Breastfeeding mothers often shy away from discussing what they get from nursing a child, infant or toddler, but I wish that would change. Snuggling up with Shira first thing in the morning or after a nap, under the covers, feels wonderful. Breastfeeding a child is food and nutrition and comfort, but it is also intimate, and as the girls grow older I don't think I'll ever forget how lovely it felt to snuggle close with them as they breastfed. 

(8. I am lazy, and sometimes I don't feel like walking all the way into the kitchen to pour her a cup of something else. Boobs are always close by and at the ready. Ease of accessibility is not just a perk of breastfeeding an infant.)

10. If you've ever met a toddler you'll know that they won't do anything they don't like. You cannot make a toddler breastfeed if it isn't the exact thing they want at that exact moment. Try nursing an uninterested breastfeeder and you'll see, just make sure you wear protective gear. So if your toddler wants to nurse, and you're still up for it, I hope you'll do it. There are no rules about how long you have to breastfeed, and no rules about when to wean. Just remember that mothers make some pretty amazing milk and it's a shame for it to go to waste if there are takers around looking for some good food and good company. There are many good reasons to stop breastfeeding and by all means, do what is best for you, but I just hope you won't let your child's ability to badly pronounce the word "milk" (or some other variation) stand in your way!

See here for a post of actual helpful suggestions for breastfeeding a toddler, over at PhD in Parenting.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hanukkah, around our house

We've had five wonderful nights of Hanukkah, although a little too eventful if you ask me. Things started off swimmingly, with school presentations, candles, a Cinderella doll, lego. The usual good stuff. This was the first year that Alyce understood the story of Hanukkah and has more than once gone on about that mean king who didn't Jews read their special books. There have been crafts done at school and at home, now hanging all over the house. But as soon as Hanukkah really got rolling, things got a bit messy around here. Alyce was sent home from school on Wednesday morning having complained of sore ears, and it wasn't long before she was on fire with a ridiculous fever. She'd been sick for a week or so, but since The Children are sick with colds about 98 percent of winter, we hadn't paid much attention. But this fever told us to snap out of our germ complacency and we found ourselves begging the doctor to see us, which she did on Wednesday night. Just as Alyce's antibiotics were kicking in, Shira started to look as though she were possessed by a cranky zombie, which led Matt to spending Friday morning at the emergency room (all the doctor's offices were closed for the holidays). Shira, too, is now slowly on the mend and less zombie-like. Let's hope the next few nights aren't quite so eventful.

For those of you lighting your candles each night, happy fifth night of Hanukkah! Do you have any parties left to attend? Have you made your latkes? And for those of you waiting around for Santa, I hope your Christmas day finds you with good family, good food, and a much needed day off from the rest of the world. Merry Christmas to you!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Be warm and kind and understanding

You know when you just need to go upstairs and apologize for a stupid argument, but you're too headstrong and you just end up making it worse, and so you stay downstairs, steaming, even though you know it is not only the wrong thing to do, but that it is exactly what's stopping you from being there for the love of your life? All that's being asked from me is to be warm and kind and understanding, and all I'm doing is shutting down. Do you know what happens when you shut down? Nothing. You don't move forward, you don't feel better. So now, rather than write anymore here, I am going to go upstairs and apologize. Because both kids are asleep, the work of the day is done, and I will not let this lovely night go to waste.

This night will certainly get better. And to you, good night.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Guest post: Kim Jong Il, Hanukkah, and Kindergarten

I am happy to introduce you to my husband, Matt, who has kindly agreed to write a guest post here at Most Days I Win. I've been asking him for ten months a little while if he could share some of his own perspective as a stay at home parent, and I'm so happy that he's agreed to join me here! I mentioned earlier that Matt was heading into Alyce's kindergarten class this week to introduce them to our Hanukkah traditions, and I'm delighted to report that he made it out alive and can share with us his adventures. Fortunately for us, he can go on forever. Thanks, Matt! Come back anytime. Also, thanks to Alyce's teacher for taking the video of Matt and Shira below.

Look, this is a difficult time. We will, each and every one of us, miss his winning smile, infectious laughter, love of impossibly twee indie rock, and the way his nose would wrinkle when he would condemn millions to starvation. Today, we mourn Kim Jong Il (here he is interviewing RenĂ©e Zellweger). To borrow the title of Mr. Burns’ autobiography, “Will There Ever be A Rainbow?”

How will we go on? We may rend our clothes, don sackcloth and ashes, or build a funeral pyre, but we must soldier on, for him. How, then, shall we find light to dispel the darkness? How ‘bout a barely literate former professor talking to a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds about Hanukkah? That’s the ticket.

First, enjoy Shira dancing to the Canadian National Anthem, which is not, contrary to popular opinion, “SK8TR BOI” (a song with lyrics almost as stupid as “Hey, Soul Sister”):

 Alyce’s teacher kindly allowed me to speak to her class about Hanukkah. Alyce’s school is quite old-fashioned in its unbuttoned celebration of Christmas, despite the fact that there is a growing non-Christian, especially Muslim, student body. It’s harmless enough, but I doubt this situation would pass muster in a larger, more diverse city. Anyhoo, here’s what happened:

With Shira packed in the stroller and Alyce strollin’ at my side--and by strollin’ I mean her foot speed might be a negative number--we padded down to the school. I had to wait out in the hall for about 20 minutes after class started so that the teacher could calm the usual madness and tears that accompany the beginning of any school day. This is when Shira took the opportunity to dance interpretatively to “Oh Canada!,” warbled out over WWII-era speakers by hundreds of grade schoolers. It sounded like they were singing underwater, but don’t think for a minute that sound quality stopped Shira from getting her groove on.

Called in, Shira and I encountered several dozen of Alyce’s classmates, all of whom were very intrigued by the trespass of a toddler, especially one wearing snow boots roughly the size of engine blocks. I started by asking if anyone knew something about Hanukkah. I received two answers: that Alyce celebrated it (as the class said in unison) and, from one rather intrepid student, that it was the time when Jews wrote on their hand, confusing the Hindu/Jain “festival of lights” (Diwali) with the Jewish holiday. Wrong, but fortune favors the bold, my friend. Clearly the teacher has made an active attempt to incorporate an idea that there are those who celebrate differently, and this is all Jews can ask in a great land of malchut shel hesed. Alyce’s teacher mentioned that a lot of Christmas specials she has seen this year have brought in Hanukkah, remarking in particular about this year’s Caillou movie.

(Side note: Caillou--what a putz. Here’s some dialogue from a typical episode:
Caillou’s Dad: Hey Caillou, want to learn to roller skate?
Caillou: I do, daddy!
Caillou’s Dad: Great! Watch this 15 minute dubbed Dutch roller skating safety film, and then will talk about it and all the bulky padding that you get to wear that will impair your balance and ruin any chance that you might enjoy it.
Caillou: Great! I’m gonna have a nap.)

So, we talked about the Hanukkah story, the students especially enjoying the wicked King Antiochus. Alyce piped in with, “Is there a pretty princess in this story?,” and, my favorite non sequitur, “Did you bring my Princess book?” We discussed the hanukkiyah (menorah), candles, foods, and games. They learned that Hanukkah lasts eight crazy nights. I asked them how many days Christmas lasts, and the eager responses ranged from six days to two weeks. Good times, good times.

The students, a really nice group, were especially enthusiastic about Hanukkah treats. Danielle and I prepared sufganiyot (powdered doughnuts, often filled with jelly) for the class. When I asked them if they would like me to sit there and eat all of the doughnuts by myself in front of them, I nearly caused a riot. Lesson: Don’t mess with people’s doughnuts. Check.  We also purchased some lovely colored, translucent dreidels for the students. I explained to them the rules of dreidel, which will prepare them for a life of gambling, a safer bet, to be fair, than a BA in the humanities.

When it was time to ask questions, students came up with these gems: “It was my birthday yesterday,” “Can I go to the bathroom?,” and “Is Alyce’s sister allowed to eat markers?” The answer to the last question, if you are curious, is “no.”

Lastly, no class-wide Hanukkah discussion is complete without a screeching 19 month old who treated the classroom like Godzilla treated Toyko. Although barely mobile in her engine block shoes, Shira terrorized Alyce’s classmates, sitting on their laps, yelling in their ears, pilfering their dreidels, and just generally wreckin’ up the place.

All in all, though, a rousing success. I look forward to talking to the class in September 2012 about the Fast of Gedaliah.

Editor's Note: Proof that he actually did this.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Hanukkah

Of course everyone knows it’s the holidays, but in our house this means Hanukkah, not Christmas. Actually, because we’re living with my mum and stepfather, it means Hanukkah and Christmas. Not a combined celebration (in the way many interfaith families celebrate), but side-by-side celebrations that are sometimes a bit confusing for everyone involved. Especially this year, when Hanukkah and Christmas overlap on the calendar, we’re are in full-blown double-holiday season. There are presents wrapped in silver and blue and red and green. There are menorah and dreidel crafts and Christmas Trees. My Jewish family is giving Christmas parents to my family, and my Christmas-celebrating family is offering Hanukkah presents to The Children. But like I said, our family doesn’t celebrate Christmas; we celebrate Hanukkah. I’m so confused some days.

Let me start at the beginning. I wasn’t born Jewish, but converted shortly before I married Matt. I didn’t grow up in a home that identified with a particular religion so I didn’t quite leave a tradition when I spent a year learning Hebrew, learning how to make challah, or when I promised that panel of three rabbis that I would raise my children in a Jewish home. I had developed a closeness to Jewish traditions before even meeting Matt, when I was working for a Jewish professor during my master’s program, spending a lot of time with his family on Shabbat and holidays. A couple of years later, around the time that I knew I would marry Matt I realized, too, that I would become Jewish. It wasn’t a simple decision, but an easy one. My immediate family was completely behind my decision (while the rest of my family oscillates between indifference, curiosity, and slightly offensive comments). But no matter how much I adopted these traditions as my own--welcoming Shabbat on Friday nights, following a new calendar of holidays, committing to a lifelong cycle of learning--it wasn’t always easy to separate myself from my non-Jewish family. Of course no one asked me to put up a wall between my Jewish and non-Jewish life, but becoming Jewish meant not being and not doing other things. While we didn’t observe all of the laws as Orthodox Jews, we still kept kosher and marked Shabbat as a day more special than the others, and this meant that we often couldn’t share the food my family prepared and said no to going shopping on Saturdays.  No matter how much I maintained a bridge between the two worlds, roadblocks still happened sometimes, and that’s just the way it was going to be.

Let me start even more at the beginning. Matt wasn’t born Jewish, either. I won’t share with you his reasons for converting, but I can tell you that he converted on his own (not in preparation for marriage, which is the most common reason for converting) four years before we started dating. It’s not very common to meet two married Jews with no Jewish family, but here we are. In practical terms this means that we make our own party, so to speak. We have no family traditions on which to build, no challah recipe to pass down, and no mother-in-law to remind me that I’m supposed to make brisket this way. It also means that when holidays come around (which they do a lot, because Jews know how to mark historical events like nobodies business), we find ourself in this strange new world of wanting to share our celebrations with a family that doesn’t share our traditions.  There are many wonderful things about our unusual little family, including the freedom to create our own traditions and habits, and the pure amazement both Matt and I feel as we watch Alyce recite a prayer in Hebrew or play Shabbat with her dollies. But December presents some challenges for everyone around here.

It’s a little easier for Matt because he doesn’t have many opportunities to interact with his non-Jewish family. Maybe it’s because he converted long before me, or maybe it’s just because he’s always been an independent sort (that’s the polite way to describe his anti-social tendencies), but whatever the reason Matt finds it easier to draw a firm line between Christmas and Hanukkah. And we do draw a firm line in our own home, where the only mention of Christmas comes in the form of Dora’s holiday special. But even when we’re not living in my mum’s Christmas house, we still have to negotiate how the two holidays will mingle because we do see a lot of my family (hi, mum) and a lot of our friends aren’t Jewish. How do we share in gift-giving? Are they Hanukkah or Christmas gifts? Are we participating in someone else’s holiday or just in the same room for moral support and a good meal? And while Alyce has no problem telling strangers on the street that her family celebrates Hanukkah, and they say isn't she just the sweetest thing, I’m terrified that she’s going to march up to a bunch of children and tell them that Santa isn’t real. I’m really afraid of that. I don’t want my child to be the one who spoils Christmas for her entire kindergarten class.

Most of these details are just that, and ultimately there isn’t much to worry about. But some days Matt and I struggle trying to define our own traditions in the middle of all these competing forces. Sometimes I wish people didn’t assume that everyone celebrates Christmas or that my children are somehow missing out on the (M. Bloom wrote about this earlier in the week and it got me thinking), like when my sweet uncle begged me to let Alyce and Shira believe in Santa. To him it has nothing to do with being Jewish or Christian, but only with magic. I get that, I really do. But Alyce and Shira have a lot of magic in their life and they are not made any worse for not having Christmas. They receive plenty of surprises on the eight nights of Hanukkah and love lighting the candles each night. And they have the magic of lighting the candles each Friday night throughout the entire year, so there’s that, too.

But from all of this confusion comes good things, new traditions. Tomorrow morning, for instance, Matt will be teaching Alyce’s entire kindergarten class (and some older students, too) about our Hanukkah traditions. Alyce’s school is pretty old-fashioned when it comes to marking holidays, and Christmas is a big deal there. But her teacher tries hard to incorporate her Jewish traditions, and this is why we found ourselves making an enormous batch of sufganiyot tonight, ready for Matt to share them with 30 four and five year olds. He is also bringing a bag full of dreidels, and an episode of Sesame Street where Elmo learns about Hanukkah. I’m sad that I can’t be there tomorrow (but not sad that instead I have a job interview!), but I’m already smiling at what I imagine will take place in Alyce’s classroom tomorrow. Matt is an excellent professor, but a room for of kindergarteners might prove a bit more challenging!

For those of you celebrating Hanukkah, chag sameach! For those celebrating Christmas, you might want to stay clear of Alyce. Or at least keep her away from your children.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

How we roll on a Saturday night

Kids asleep, on the couch, each with a laptop doing our own work, occasionally sending each other messages through gmail chat. We're applying for jobs, checking Twitter, knitting (that's me), watching some preseason basketball (that's mostly him), collectively daydreaming about a time when we will both have jobs again. I know multitasking isn't always the best strategy, but I love these nights. And if we hadn't already finished that bottle of champagne last night, I'd suggest that we have a glass tonight. Because even though we don't have anything in particular to celebrate, we always have fun together, and that's reason enough. Somehow we are still married after seven straight months of complete uncertainty. Our secret? I'm not sure, but I know it does involve some pretty terrible jokes and the occasional random bottle of champagne.

P.S. Dear Immigration: pretty please send us some good news soon. It would do wonders for our little family. We love you immigration! You're the best! We know you can do it! xoxo

Our week

This week was, you guessed it, a bit hectic. I'm not sure why I ever think it will be otherwise, but ever the optimist, I always have big dreams. Like this will be the week that I don't spend hours going in circles trying to organize my day, or this time I'll finish everything on my list early enough that I'll have some down time with Matt before bed, or maybe this will be the week that I develop enough discipline not to eat the entire tray of holiday baking that seems to appear everywhere I turn lately. My chances are not looking good, I admit. But baking aside, I think dealing with all this chaos is really more about perspective than anything else. I can't make The Children stop being The Children (and most of the time I don't want them any other way) and I can't force them to sleep through the night. I can't prevent the toys/blocks/crayons invasion that creeps its way into our house each and every day. I can't make little Shira move any faster on our way from the house to the car (she does have very tiny feet, you know, though you wouldn't know the size of her winter boots). And so I'll embrace the chaos, if only a tiny bit, and hope that a little change in perspective might make the week feel a little smoother. As my husband tells me constantly sometimes, I need to reframe my expectations.

No matter the chaos, my little family makes me laugh a lot. Like when I skipped out of work early this week to watch Alyce's first ever on-stage singing performance at school. Sure it was a Christmas concert (and we don't celebrate Christmas), but Alyce loved belting out Jingle Bells no matter what. I was an exceptionally proud mama, and before I realized what was happening, I was actually crying in the audience. I think hearing Alyce's warbly little voice singing alongside all her little kindergarten friends struck a nerve in my uterus and brought up an uncontrollable urge to return Alyce to her baby state. Because there is no way that the baby I grew in my body is now old enough to perform all the hand gestures to songs about Santa.

This weekend is about spending time together, the four of us. Last weekend Matt and I spent most of the time packing up the old house and packing everything away in storage, and getting even more settled into mum's house. It was a lot of work and Alyce and Shira spent a lot of their time with mum while we packed. This weekend we have no lists, a date with friends (and Liz, Alyce would like to know if the indoor park has any girl toys), and our only responsibility is to enjoy some quiet time however which way we please. We'll also (fingers crossed) enjoy some naps. Even the dollies around here are looking forward to a good nap or two.

How are you spending the weekend?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This conversation actually happened

Alyce: Mama, what's your favourite princess?

Me: I think Belle is my favourite (editor's note: I don't actually have a favourite princess).

Alyce: What is your other favourite princess?

Me: Well, I think I only have one favourite.

Alyce: No, no, no, you have three favourites. I have three favourites. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Belle. Who else is your favourite?

Me: Ok. My other favourite princess is Elizabeth, from The Paper Bag Princess.

(Wait for it.)

Alyce: No! She's not a princess! You need to pick a pretty princess.

Me: Elizabeth is beautiful. And she saves her prince from a very large dragon. A VERY large dragon.

Alyce: But she's not a BIG princess! And she's not pretty enough! She needs to be prettier!! Mama, tell me your other favourite pretty princesses.

Me: Belle and Elizabeth. Those are my two.

Alyce: NO. Elizabeth does not have a pretty dress. And she's not pink or purple. AND SHE'S NOT PRETTY.

Me: (Head explodes.)

The End.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oh, internet, you did it again: some updates

A lot has happened lately on account of this little blog. Can I just start out by saying, can you believe people read this thing? I'll always be amazed. Whatever your reasons for finding yourself here, thank you for visiting.

The internet is a crazy place, isn't it? I prattle on about The Children and boobs and figuring out life with my family, and then (some) people read it. I've mentioned before how grateful I am for the space that the internet provides me for working through the crazies and sharing a little bit about the world as I see it, but I'll say it again: the community of bloggers, of people who parent, cook, eat, create, read, and think, is an amazing place to inhabit. I've learned a lot, shared too much a bit, and regularly spit coffee out of my nose (the good kind of nose-spitting, I promise). Most Days I Win is a place for me to practice my writing, seek advice, and generally just share in the amazing things that arise from the day-to-day business of growing our family. It is most of all a space where I can think through the things that count most to me, including the world in which I raise my children. And this is why I have recently used this space to write about my feelings on discovering that my Alyce and Shira's doctor has been charged with producing child pornography, and about my decision to leave a hostile working environment. I wanted to give you some updates on both of these situations:

1. My children's doctor might be a child pornographer. After posting a few weeks ago about how frightening it was to consider that my children might have been in danger from their own doctor, I was contacted by the head doctor of our medical clinic. She reached out to me after having read my post and shared with me how, as both a doctor and a mother, she was devastated by the charges against Dr. Speight. And of course she was, but it mattered to me that she said so. She also offered to find our family a new female doctor, and as I mentioned before, finding a new doctor not an easy thing to do around here. In a matter of days we have now secured a new doctor who is ready and willing to help us move forward. Thank you so much, from our entire family.

2. So I quit my job. If you read my original post (to which I have since made changes), you'll already be familiar with my experience working these last couple of months. Last week I told you about how the working conditions at my office were such that I heard racist and hateful comments throughout my day. I was regularly offended, uncomfortable, and ashamed that I remained silent. Although I have never mentioned the name of the company I worked for, or even hinted at the industry, my post made its way back to my former office and made some people very unhappy. I was contacted almost immediately by my temp agency (on behalf of my former employer) and asked to remove all sections from my post that suggested any hint of the unprofessionalism or racism I witnessed there.

I was taken a little by surprise by their request. First I had to come to terms with the fact that anyone outside my circle of friends had even read my post, and then I immediately became very stubborn about the whole thing. I had taken what I thought were the steps to ensure that I was respecting the boundaries of my colleagues, never once referring to individuals, or characterizing anyone in the slightest. I didn't exaggerate a single comment (not that I'm ever prone to, ahem, exaggeration), nor did I reveal anything that hadn't been said in front of my entire office--about thirty people. I did not betray anyone's confidence or say anything out of turn. My intent was only to describe the environment of my former office while making a larger point about how racism in the workplace (or in any place) can't be tolerated. I wasn't splitting the atom, but just pointing out what should be obvious to everyone at this point. Except, it turns out, it wasn't obvious to my former colleagues.

Then why did I make changes to my original post? Why did I remove the specifics about what I heard in my office? Because ultimately my blog is a positive space, and I want it to remain that way. I see this blog as a place where I settle in and share with you a few things that have stuck with me throughout the day, or about things I hope to do and learn and enjoy. My original post was angry--for good reason--and though my observations were truthful and respectful of my colleagues' privacy, I didn't feel comfortable with the tone of my post. I had wanted to share my experiences with you, the internet, because I was so horrified that young professionals--educated and of this generation--could speak this way about other people. I was disappointed in them for behaving this way and disappointed with myself for not standing up for others. I turned to this space to share these feelings, but what ended up happening sounded a bit too much as though I was just complaining to complain, as though I'd left a job and wanted to gossip. Another reason I felt comfortable removing some of the specifics? Because I was heard, loud and clear. I can't offer you any details, but I will tell you that my complaints have become, um, "actionable." Amen to the internet.

I'm still a little uncomfortable with having edited my original post after the fact, but it was the right thing to do, for me. I like my space here, and I hope you do, too.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Like a drunken Snow White

Found here, via A Cup of Jo

For your Monday, in honour of your upcoming holiday party circuit. May your parties be filled with good wine, sparkly shoes, and good cats friends.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We saw the butterflies

At the Butterfly Conservatory today, Alyce was a little disappointed that there were no pink or purple butterflies. She got over it. I told her to be grateful that we weren't with Papa packing up all of our things into storage. No matter how you spin it, we had the better deal.

Shira got down to business assessing the butterflies. She was immediately suspicious.

Alyce was telling me something important about butterflies, but I was too busy wondering where she got those eyes.

And then Shira thew all caution to the wind and then threw herself at the unsuspecting butterflies (if you look closely you can spot the butterfly snacking on an orange).

Alyce, always a generous sort, spent a most of her time building beds for the birds and butterflies out of fallen leaves and flowers. 

While Alyce was telling strangers about the butterfly beds she was making, Giant Monster Shira was preparing to crush a tiny Alyce with her Giant Monster fingers. And then eat her. 

As hard as she tried, Shira never did reach that turtle.

It was a good Sunday. How was your weekend? Do tell.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Knit hat: done and done

Remember that other knitting project I mentioned having in mind once I was finished with the blanket? My first hat! Alyce loves, it was so easy to knit, and now I'm hooked. I'm already working on another one for a friend's little one. The hat I chose was from this book, one suggested to me by the knitting wizards at Loop in Philadelphia, as a great beginner book to learn knitting for kids. I did not make the hat Shira is wearing (it is courtesy of Mexx Kids), but I was forced to include her photo because she is far too delicious to ignore. I tell you, her cheeks are as soft in real life as they appear in photos.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It feels like more things have happened in the last two weeks than I can even begin to explain here.  Lucky for you I'm an oversharer, so I'll try my best.

If I had to chose a word to describe these weeks I would choose the word vortex, as in turbulent swirling and spinning around our little family, emphasis on us being stuck in the middle of it all. There is movement and chaos all around, both emotional and physical. Every few days or so I make everyone stop, just for a moment, so that I may account for all of our whereabouts. Shira's still here? Good. Is she eating dog food again? Gross. Whatever. Matt, you're doing ok? Have the girls driven you to madness yet? No? Yes? Probably? Alyce, you're four, right? You haven't had any other birthdays? Alright then, let's get back to it. 

Truthfully, the ground started spinning when we decided to make Canada home back in MayThere was moving in with mum while Matt taught in Europe, the beginning of my job search, moving into our new place, more job searching. There was junior kindergarten and recruiters (but not recruiters for junior kindergarten). There were immigration applications and waiting around for letters that tell us Matt can stay. Most of the spinning was fueled by my lack of job. After five months of looking unsuccessfully I took a job at a Large Bookstore that required getting up at 3:45 am in order to start the early shift of unpacking a thousand copies of The Help. That job was interrupted after only two weeks when I was offered a temp job in an office, that from this point forward will only be referred to as The Abyss of Misguided Souls (TAMS). It was not a nice place to work, and for the time being, I will leave it at. (Update: I have made changes here since the original post.)

So the other day I had had enough and I quit my job at The Abyss of Misguided Souls, but only after finding another part-time job and after telling my recruiting agency about the conditions at TAMS. There have been apologies issued, investigations launched, and most of all, I DO NOT WORK THERE ANYMORE! My heart feels lighter and my shoulders have relaxed a bit. For now I am happily working for my old boss who runs a delicious catering company and burger joint. She has offered for me a job for as long as I need it, with the freedom to drop it as soon as I find a permanent, full-time job. She is good people and I am grateful.

But there's more. After seven months of no income/low income, it was becoming difficult to support a household. Did you know that it is difficult to pay bills when you are making zero dollars an hour? Starting work at TAMS helped, but the salary didn't anywhere near cover what our family needed. Can I, just for a moment, let out a whimper over the last seven months? In the end being here is the right thing for our family, but it has not been easy. Between wanting to find a job that makes good use of my skills and experiences, waiting for Matt's immigration papers, and not having money to pay bills, the collective stress levels of our family were on the rise. And so the world kept on swirling and we moved back in with my mum and stepfather. They were generous and gracious and welcomed up back home. The move is almost complete and we are settling into our new space. Of course it's not easy some days, but it's what our family needs until we get ourselves settled in paying, non-terrible jobs.

I think that's enough about our little vortex for the time being. We are all well, moving forward, and just a little bit dizzy.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I will always remember Montreal

Twenty-two years is a long time ago, but I won't ever forget learning about the fourteen women, who were murdered at L'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. They were separated from the men and gunned down. The killer declared that he was angry at feminists for taking things that should belong to men. I will never, ever forget that day.

Around these terrible anniversaries we tell each stories about where we were when we heard the news, or we reflect on the bigger picture. What happened in Montreal is usually discussed in the larger context of violence against women, including both domestic and sexual violence. We use this anniversary to remember, but we also use it to remind ourselves that women are the victims and survivors of violence all over the world. We take the time to remember because we want this violence to stop.

This year I want to do something a bit different. I want to remember the 14 women who lost their lives by thinking about how my life was changed by the events of that day. The path of my life was influenced by the death of these intelligent, young women, even in the smallest ways. The Montreal Massacre forced me to realize that we live in a world that can be very dangerous for women and it pushed me in a direction of feminist awareness, social activism, and education. It led me to high school projects about violence against women, facilitating workshops on university campuses that used the events of that day as a starting point for larger discussions about domestic and sexual violence, and, in graduate school, to researching the way in which religious and cultural norms influence gender violence around the world, to teach my own students about the importance of challenging these norms. The events of that day led me to volunteer at The Women's Centre at Queen's University, where I met some of the best friends I've known in my life, women who continue to challenge the way I live in this world. I learned not to take for granted the safety of my friends, to offer help when I could, or an ear to listen if that's all they needed. And today it reminds me to raise my children in such a way that models the world in which I want them to grow. 

These are all good things that have come from a terrible, terrible day. I will remember these good things, too.

Some articles commemorating the Montreal Massacre:

Engineering students host a memorial at Queen's University (in Kingston, On)
Last year from Ms. Magazine
The Feminist Legal Forum

Monday, December 5, 2011

You might want to take notes

This is Alyce. Alyce is now four years old. Alyce has some interesting things to tell you. You might want to take some notes. Note: Please disregard the extremely annoying interviewer, who has not yet learned that you do not have to yell into an iphone in order to be heard.