Category: Parenting

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives

ADayintheLifeWelcome to the second year of A Day in the Life, hosted by Trish of Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity. At first glance, this is not my type of blog event. What do I care what people do with their days? Yet, somehow, I do care. I guess it’s true that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, which is not a quote from Days of Our Lives, it’s from a serious book (The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.) I participated on a whim last year, and read every single post linked up – more than fifty. This year, seventy two bloggers have already linked up, so I’ve got some reading to do.

My day in the life was not a standard one at all; I was on vacation, the kids were in school, and my sister arrived from Minneapolis.To mix things up, I documented my day with Snapchat*. I kind of messed up, though. Instead of saving all the individual snaps I did that day, I saved my story as a video. So take a little look see, or read on for the text version.

Wednesday, March 23 2016

6:07 am: Wake up for the day. This is a sleep-in, I’m usually up for the day by 5:30. Leisurely breakfast (green smoothie), get ready, catch up on social media.

6:57 am: Wake Benjamin up, give him breakfast (dry Cinnamon Toast Crunch)

7:00 am: “Wake” Henry up, as in, dress him and brush his teeth while he sleeps

7:24 am: Make school lunch with disgusting soy-based “peanut” butter

7:43 am: Henry still sleeping, Benjamin is ready to go

7:48 am: Benjamin dropped off at school. Benefit of living across the street is that I can go from “one child still asleep” to “at school” in five minutes.

7:53 am: Henry eats breakfast (Cheerios, he must pour his own milk, and the milk must fill the bowl)

8:20 am: Henry dropped off at daycare. FREEDOM… to do errands. Also, snow.

8:45 am: Errand number one: get car washed at fancy car wash. This is a once-per-year treat. This year I let them upsell me on the vinyl package. It’s so shiny! I read a devastating chapter of Cat’s Eye while I wait.

9:27 am: Errand number two: I am the Easter Bunny. I love London Drugs. I contemplated buying a copy of Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (I got it from the library,) not knowing it had been kicked off Canada Reads just a half hour earlier. Rude!

10:03 am: Errand number three: groceries. First time in Oliver Square Safeway since they renovated; it’s pretty uppity now. I’m also pretty sick of Jamie Oliver’s smug grin everywhere I look.

10:38 am: Pit stop: I pay almost ten bucks for a cup of tea and toast with peanut butter and jam in a fancy cafe (Cafe Blackbird) because I’m on vacation, damn it.

10:58 am: Errand number four: stock up on bras at My Filosophy. When you find the one, you just know. And you go back to buy it in multiple colours. I also tried on some clothes (vacation!)

11:29 am: Pick up Benjamin at school. I could pick up Henry at this time too, but, decide to have some one-on-one time.

12:03 pm: Lunch at Delux. Benjamin enjoys watching soccer highlights on the big screen (“why do they take their shirts off when they’re happy? Do girl soccer players take their shirts off?”) and free cotton candy.

1:21 pm: Emails and stuff while Benjamin watches some bizarre BBC Kids program.

2:45 pm: Screen time continues; blog for me, TV for him.

3:00 pm: Hide and seek. Neither of us are very good.

3:15 pm: Pick up Henry at daycare.

3:44 pm: Head to the park. Drama ensues when they don’t want to play the same game, and Benjamin finds a friend to play with and Henry doesn’t, and I end up carrying Henry home crying. Henry weights almost 50 lbs, so this counts as cardio.

4:30 pm: Read the boys a Star Wars book they bought at yesterday’s book fair.

5:00 pm: Jason arrives home with 24 beers in preparation for my family visiting this weekend. Not clear if the beer is for them, or him. I start making supper – trying a new recipe from Simply Nigella (out from the library and I’ll likely purchase; I’ve now made five recipes and they’re all great! Tonight I made Cauliflower & Cashew Curry.)

5:41 pm: All three boys refuse to eat the DELICIOUS curry. Jason barbecues hot dogs.

6:00 pm: My review of The Wake goes up on The Rusty Toque. This is the first ever piece of writing I’ve been paid to do. I’m a little excited!

6:30 pm: Boys are back on screens after supper. I spend some… alone time with Jason. Five minutes later, Henry needs his butt wiped. So much for romance. No snaps of either of these events.

7:16 pm: Board game with Benjamin. Sequence Letters is great for letter recognition.

7:43 pm: Snack time. The boys made me buy a dragon fruit yesterday, so today I make them try it. I end up eating most of it. Very mild. Then we hang out and read/ have screen time for a bit.

8:15 pm: Jason puts Benjamin to bed. Benjamin goes down easy (always does.) I begin the nightly rigmarole with Henry, which includes stories, additional snacks, bathroom trips, stuffies, back rubs, and sometimes, all-out tantrums.

9:05 pm: Henry demands warm milk.

10:19 pm: Almost done. We’re in the “lying in bed beside him in a dark room, breathing steadily, trying to fake sleep/not really fall asleep” phase.

10:38 pm: He’s down. FREEDOM! (i.e. wasting time online)

11:30 pm: My mom drops my sister off at my house. She’s just picked her up from the airport; she is visiting for a couple days over Easter. Oh yeah, I bought a signed copy of Freedom and had it shipped to her house in Minnesota to avoid international shipping, and she’s brought it with her. Eeek! We stay up yakking for an hour.

12:30 am: To bed, more wasting time on my phone.

1:00 am: To sleep.

*It’s totally cool and normal for a 35 year old to be on Snapchat. Here are some tips for elder Snapchatters I found. Follow me, I’m lauratfrey!

Snapchat-7582390527469711202

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring break at Edmonton Public Library: a guide for working parents

I love that our library will use any school break as an excuse to put on a bunch of free programs for kids – or, more than they usually do, because they always have free programs for kids. Spring break is next week, and those in the Edmonton area should go to the website or check out the program guide, and read on for my picks.

I have a contentious relationship with kiddie events and programs. Working parents of younger-than-school-age children probably know where I’m going with this: the vast majority of programs for preschool age kids, with the notable exception of swimming lessons, are offered on weekday mornings or afternoons. That means you don’t get to do mommy-and-me yoga, and your child doesn’t get as many opportunities to learn with you outside the house.

Kim Bates, a Digital Literacy Librarian at Edmonton Public Library, has heard the same complaint from parents. “We have had customers request more evening and weekend programming and as a result we have been scheduling more of our programs at those times with the working parents in mind.”

May I just say thank you? Here are a few spring break highlights that’ll work for you if you work nine to five (or 8:15-4:45, in my case.)

One Book, One Break, Many Adventures! Lumberjanes Vol. 1Lumberjanes

I loved last year’s One Book One Edmonton project so much that I wrote about it twice. One Book One Break is a child-friendly take on the concept: make a book available to everyone in Edmonton, and give them chances to talk about it and win prizes.

There’s been so much buzz about comic book Lumberjanes on book blogs and Booktube that I wasn’t sure if it was for kids. Kim says Lumberjanes appeals to a “wide demographic” but cautions that “some preschoolers have found the creatures in the book a bit scary.” My four year old cannot abide Goosebumps reruns, so I’m going to take Kim’s advice and check it out myself before I share it with him. It sounds like it’ll be perfect for my six year old.

Everyone in Edmonton can download a copy of Lumberjanes on Hoopla, and the library is ordering extra physical copies. Each day during Spring Break, libraries will have a new activity sheet that doubles as an entry to prizes which include an iPad Mini 4 and an autographed edition of Lumberjanes to the Max Edition Volume 1. Details at epl.ca/onebookonebreak.

Working parent friendly dates: this one’s on your own time, and many branches are open till 9pm weeknights, so there’s plenty of time to get your entries in.

Minecraft Madness

minecraftMinecraft at the library is nothing new, but given the popularity (bordering on obsession in my house), three branches will set aside a Minecraft-dedicated computer for the whole week of Spring Break. I asked Kim if kids get as crazy as mine do when they’re playing Minecraft at the library, and she said that while there generally aren’t fights over the computers, “kids do often like to talk to each other as they play so I do expect plenty of strategizing and cheering!” My kids could use this good example. Oh, the horror of being a one-iPad household!

Working parent friendly dates: Drop in during opening hours at Stanley A. Milner, Woodcroft or Sprucewood branches.

Lego at the Library

lego

Awesome. (via hollywoodreporter.com)

Lego without risk of stepping on a rogue brick at 6:00 am? Sign me up. For kids 6-12.

Working parent friendly dates:

  • Saturday March 26, 2:00 pm at Capilano
  • Saturday April 2, 3:00 pm at Meadows
  • Saturday April 2, 3:00 pm at Woodcroft

Minion Movie Marathon

The downtown library is showing all three Minion movies (does anyone even call them Despicable Me?) over Spring Break. Yeah, you might own them at home, but sometimes a change of venue works wonders. All ages.

Working parent friendly dates: Saturday April 2, 2:00 pm (The Minion Movie) at Stanley A. Milner

Puppet Adventures

Great for younger kids, as long as they can sit still for more than a minute at a time. Look, we’ve all been that parent dragging their kids out of a library program, there’s no shame. All ages.

Working parent friendly dates:

  • Saturday April 2, 2:00 pm at Calder
  • Saturday April 2, 2:00 pm and Sunday April 3, 2:00 pm at Castle Downs
  • Sunday April 3, 2:00 pm at Clareview
  • Saturday March 26, 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm at Lois Hole
  • Saturday March 26, 2:00 pm at Stanley A. Milner
  • Saturday April 2, 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm at Whitemud Crossing

Bonus (and shameless self-promotion; I work for the city and helped develop this): If you’re looking for more kids’ programming in Edmonton, check out myrecguide.ca and create a custom guide to City of Edmonton registered programs – swimming lessons, daycamps, arts, yoga, kickboxing, and much more. You only see the ages, interests, and locations that work for you. And, there are more and more options for us working parents on evening and weekends. We’re working on it!

This post was inspired by, but not paid for by, Edmonton Public Library. I mean… they’re a library. What did you expect? They do lend me free books though.

 

Just one of them days (that a blogger goes through)

Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting A Day in the Life, a blogger event where you can see how bloggers really spend our days, and how we fit it all in. The idea started when Trish posted her own “day in the life,” first as a stay-at-home parent, and then as a working parent. I admire Trish because she has a nice mix of book stuff and personal stuff – something many bloggers struggle with. There are nearly 50 bloggers linked up already and it’s just after lunch here in the Mountain Timezone, so clearly this is an idea the blogosphere was ready for!

So get ready to dig deep and peel back the layers on what really goes on in the life of a book blogger. Continue reading

Remember Me

When you think about memory, do you think of the distant past? In CanLit, many classics are written from the perspective of a character at the end of life, remembering. The Stone Angel comes to mind. It’s a popular frame for contemporary authors too. Carrie Snyder’s Girl Runner, for example, or Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table.

These days, I’m more interested in the beginnings of memory.  My boys are three and five. What can you remember of these ages? At three, maybe nothing. Maybe a still image or someone’s voice. At five, you start to make sense of things. You remember chains of events. It’s pretty heavy, this sudden ability to remember and integrate and communicate your own life story. And as parents we wonder, how will my kids remember me?

With babies and toddlers, we’re afraid that we’ll do something to put our children in danger. We’re sleep deprived and don’t know what we’re doing. A couple years in and you realize: they survived. It’s okay. You think it’s about to get easier, now that they’re in school and potty trained (almost.) But it’s not easier. I was recently in a parenting class. Triple P, if you’re interested, and yes, I’d recommend it. The participants ranged from people like my husband and me, who’re basically okay, but run ragged and looking for some help, to people who are really floundering and some who were probably compelled by the court to be there. The thing that struck me is that we all had similar issues, and we all, with perhaps one exception, had at least one child in the three to five range. I think (part of) the reason these ages are so hard and so fraught is that we are starting to feel a whole new kind of fear: the fear of being remembered as something less than a perfect parent.

Maybe it’s coincidence that I’ve read a couple books lately that teeter on this edge of memory, but each of these helped me understand my kids and my fears.

The Bear

the bear

I thought I was afraid to read Claire Cameron’s The Bear because it’s a kids-in-danger story. I was tempted to flip ahead several times, to make sure Anna and Stick were alright (couldn’t indulge as it was an ebook,) but what really got me was five-year-old Anna’s memories of their parents.

Parenting media (ugh) tells us how to be afraid that something will happen to our children. They’ll be stolen from you if you turn your back for an instant. They won’t make it in life if you don’t interfere in their education. The Bear makes you confront the fear of something happening to you. We assume our kids need us – not just any adult, but specifically us – to survive, even though it’s clearly not true. We want our kids to remember us and carry on our legacies.

The Bear reminded me that, even at three and five, my kids are not just extensions of me. They can survive without me. And, that even if they don’t remember me the way I wish to be remembered, if their perception of me doesn’t match my own, it’s okay. It’s more than okay, it’s a necessary part of growing up. Kids can’t just be a mirror of their parents.

The Bear wouldn’t have worked if Anna hadn’t been old enough – just old enough – to remember her mom’s instructions, and her dad’s stories about the tail of the moon, and her brother’s tendency to run away and hide. Without any of that, she and Stick wouldn’t have made it off the island. But they also wouldn’t have got very far without Anna’s misinterpretations or her flights of fancy which reminded me so much of my five year old’s. Anna relies on memories of her parents’ but she relies on herself an awful lot too.

If you’re scared of this book too, well, you should be. There’s some hope for us parents, though. Without her parent’s quick thinking when the attack happened, and without the foundation of trust Anna obviously had, she wouldn’t have survived. Her parents mattered. They are remembered.

Detachment (my review)

detachment

Sometimes being too young to remember is a blessing. In Maurice Mierau’s Detachment, Mierau and his wife adopt two boys from the Ukraine – ages three and five. In The Bear, I wept for Stick because I knew he wouldn’t remember his parents. For Peter, the five year old in this story, his memories of an unstable home life and then an orphanage are a burden, and might have triggered his detachment disorder. Three year old Bohdan doesn’t remember anything before the orphanage. The difference between the boys and their ability to settle into life in Canada highlights the power of memory, and vulnerability kids have at these particular ages.

Unlike The Bear, we hear from the adoptive parent in this case, which doesn’t mean it’s 100% reliable narration. I was often wondering, “what would your wife say about this” of “what do Peter and Bohdan think about this now, ten years later?” This being non-fiction, people have asked – Miereau wrote about the strong connection readers have with this book in The National Post and I admit I felt like writing him an email too!

There’s a subplot about Miereau finding his own family history in the Ukraine which means we get memories flowing from all directions – none of those memories being his, exactly, but I recognize the urge to gather it all together and make it make sense. This book taught me about patience and listening and that we never have the full story, at age three or five or thirty five.

Yell Less, Love More

Yell Less Love More Orange Rhino

This blogger-turned-author, known online as The Orange Rhino, shares an “a-ha” moment that forced her to admit that she was a yeller, and it was not okay. Thinking she was alone in the house, she unleashed on her four kids one day. Nothing I wouldn’t have done in the same circumstances (and half as many children.) The momentary relief turned to shame when she realized her handyman was in the house and heard the whole thing. Her epiphany was based on wondering why it was acceptable to yell at children when you’re at home alone but not in front of an audience. What struck me is that her kids were all under the age of five – that is, approaching the onset of enduring memories. Do you want your children to remember you yelling and screaming? Suddenly everything is higher stakes when your audience can remember and communicate.

I do hope to write a full review of this book, but in the meantime, yes, Yell Less Love More worked. Since January 6 I’ve had two slip ups. Not yelling hasn’t magically fixed all my other problems, and actually illuminated some new ones, but it feels good. And I hope it goes a little ways toward being remembered by my boys, if not exactly as a perfect mother (whatever that means,) then as someone who was quiet enough to listen and calm enough to go to for comfort.

The M Word edited by Kerry Clare

m-word-cover

My rating: 4.5/5 stars
Goodreads

Synopsis:

A Dropped Threads-style anthology, assembling original and inspiring works by some of Canada’s best younger female writers — such as Heather Birrell, Saleema Nawaz, Susan Olding, Diana Fitzgerald Bryden, Carrie Snyder, and Alison Pick — The M Word asks everyday women and writers, some of whom are on the unconventional side of motherhood, to share their emotions and tales of maternity.

Before I sing the praises of this book, I must point out that the subtitle, “Conversations about Motherhood,” is not accurate. These aren’t conversations. They’re essays. They could be conversation starters, sure. But the subtitle made me think Q&A, or point and counterpoint, or maybe multiple authors responding to one question, and that’s not what this is. I realized, though, that I want to have conversations. These essays inspired me to think and remember and empathise, and I want to talk about it!

Conversations about motherhood ARE taking place, of course, and largely, it’s online. For me, it’s not so much in the social media world, but in online forums. Parenting forums have changed very little in twenty years. I first ventured into an iVillage pregnancy forum in 1997 and was extremely creeped out by the slang and abbreviations, like “baby dust” (good vibes for someone trying to get pregnant) and “baby dancing” (…trying to get pregnant. UGH this one is the worst.) Those terms are still used in forums today.

I think The M Word could benefit from a discussion forum. Lots of publishers are using online marketing in innovations ways (I love this tumblr for Cutting Teeth, for example.) and wouldn’t a forum be the perfect social media marketing campaign for this book? A “M Word” forum, in the spirit of the book, a place to actually converse about motherhood?

Maybe it’s just that traditional parenting forums bore me lately. I don’t care about must-have baby gear or any of the debates that come up every few months (vaccination vs anti-vax, circumcision, breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding vs formula feeding, baby-led weaning vs purees, hospital vs home birth, cloth vs disposable diapers, I COULD GO ON.) The M Word is great because it talks about these topics, but drops the “versus.”

While someone with more technical skills and ambition whips up this dream-parenting-forum, I’ll tell you about my favourite pieces in The M Word.

Truth, Dare, Double Dare by Heather Birrell
I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed Birrell’s short story collection, Mad Hope. It’s so good. My favourite short story collection of the year. I wrote in the margin “this essay is everything” and I hate cutesy sayings like that. But it is, to me: traumatic birth, post-partum depression, co-parenting through PPD, strain on the marriage, adding a second child despite all of this… it says so many things I cannot.

Those first few months we spent together as a family feel so far away: a desert island populated by three castaways, veins coursing with hormones and history, a treasure map we’d go cross-eyed trying to decipher.

A Natural Woman by Amy Lavender Harris
A story of infertility and motherhood. Speaking of parenting forums, the #1 topic that causes drama, heartache, and bannings is infertility. The feelings are so raw and so personal. My years in forum-land opened up this world to me somewhat, and I’m much more careful about how I talk about fertility and reproductive technology. This essay is a succinct way to get that insight. It’s also incredibly well written.

To hell with biological determinism, “natural” motherhood, binary feminisms and gender dualisms…we are all cyborgs, made of mitochondria and bits of metal, elements absorbed from the atmosphere and the cells of every child we have ever carried.

Robin by Alison Pick
If you’ve had a miscarriage, this will be a tough read. It’s worth it.

There is nothing to be done, and so we do nothing. We bear the pain, which is much worse that I could have imagined. The offense of the phrase, “You can have another.” What would I want with another? I want that baby, my baby.

Footnote to the Poem “Now That All My Friends are Having Babies: A Thirties Lament” by Priscila Uppal
This essay rubbed me the wrong way but I loved reading it. I want to give it to my child-free-by-choice sister so we can argue about it.

I find myself contemplating, not for the first time, why it is that same group of people who will have a conniption if you don’t bring your own thermo to the Second Cup, or label you a criminal for eating a hamburger, don’t have any patience for the argument that the planet could have saved by having fewer babies.

I can’t help but compare this book to The Good Mother Myth, reviewed here in February. The concept is so similar, but the execution is different and the things that bothered me about TGMM aren’t present here. Some of those pieces felt more like a rehashed blog post than an original essay, but these essays ring so true. Each author brings not only experience and honesty and original ideas, but excellent writing. And where TGMM tried to tie each essay in to a central concept, The M Word is delightfully random, arranged alphabetically so we jump from birth to adoption to single parenting to grandparenting.

Whether you pick up the book or not, make sure you check out editor Kerry Clare’s book blog, Pickle Me This. It’s a favourite of mine and is such a wonderful mix of personal and bookish posts. She reviews all the best CanLit books. Oh, she also edits The 49th Shelf, which is dangerous for the ol’ TBR but also a lot of fun.

Thank you Kerry, and Goose Lane Editions, for the review copy!

What the hell is a Liebster Award?

leibster

The Liebster Award is making the rounds. I got nominated for one years ago, and ignored it because it read like some kind of chain letter, and well, it is, but the questions going around these days are much better. I’m old enough to have received chain letters via email and *actual mail.* You know, the ones full of promises of death and dismemberment if you didn’t reply within seven days. The Liebster does not ask about the last person you kissed OR threaten you with death, so it’s already an improvement.

I am nominated by Tania of Write Reads. Thank you Tania! Check out her award post here.

Before I get started though, I have a question…

What the hell is a Liebster?
Apparently NOT a guy named Lieb who insists on being called The Liebster, which is what I always pictured. The Liebster is tough to pin down. If infiltrates a group of bloggers for a while; you feel like your whole feed is Liebster posts. And then it’s gone. Who started it? Is it a book blog-specific thing? Why do the rules vary (it’s supposedly for blogs with “few” followers, and I’ve seen that defined as under 200, 300, 500 and 1000?)

Book blogger Sopphey Says traced it back about as far as you can go, to a German book blog circa 2010. (Her Google-translated bio describes her as a “book rat” which is something we should make happen in English.)

The most surprising thing I learned is that Liebster is not someone’s name, it is German for “darling.” Isn’t that cute? We are all darlings!

Anyway, this is a chain letter, so let’s get down to business:

The Rules

  • State 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions about yourself that were given to you by your nominator
  • Nominate people yourself
  • Give your nominees 11 questions to answer

11 Facts About Me

  1. I have two children with a combined birth weight of over 23 pounds. I have learned a few things since birthing freakishly large children: that the medical term for “big ass baby” is macrosomia, that 13 lbs will get you media attention, but 12 lbs will only make you a side-show for the hospital staff (and no one bats an eye at 11 lbs) and to never spend money on newborn-sized clothes.
  2. The first time I met someone off the internet I was 14 and it was 1994 and what were my parents thinking? Yes, I was in to BBS…and yes, the person I met turned out to be a 14 year old as well and not a 50 year old pedophile, which was basically good luck.
  3. I met my husband on Lavalife ten years ago. This was waaayyy less socially acceptable back then.
  4. I’ve only had two jobs since graduating University. Seems odd these days. As Samir says in Office Space, “it would be nice, to have that kind of job security.”
  5. I haven’t been on a bike in almost 20 years because last time I was on one, I was hit by a van. I wasn’t wearing a helmet and took the impact on my left eyebrow… which fell out from the trauma. And the doctor told me if might not grow back (it did.) I was pretty much unharmed otherwise. I remember being a lot more concerned about my eyebrow, and about the illicit items in my pocket that I hoped the doctors wouldn’t confiscate (I was 15!) than the fact that I could have died.
  6. I worked in a haunted castle. We also had glow in the dark golf and go karts. I was a mall carny 😦
  7. I was bullied in junior high. I wonder what the incidence of being bullied is among book bloggers? I’m gonna go with “high.” I was a target for a number of reasons and reading books was a big one.
  8. I haven’t watched TV in over a year. Let me clarify: I haven’t watched TV *for myself.* I am well versed in the worlds of Umi Zoomi, TMNT, and Tinkerbell. Notable exceptions: Pride and Prejudice, Olympics, Blade Runner (for a blog post!)
  9. I don’t want anything for Mother’s Day. Or any holiday. My husband and I stopped buying each other presents for birthdays, anniversaries, everything, a couple of years ago. Terribly unromantic, but I love not having the pressure.
  10. I live three blocks from where I grew up. I realize this is unremarkable is you live in a small town, but I don’t, and never intended to come back here. I am totally that person that walks by the old house and tries to look in the window.
  11. I’m participating in my second Slutwalk this year. I’m pretty open about being a feminist and this is the issue that is most polarizing between me and people I know in real life. Bottom line: I’m raising boys and I want them to learn not to rape; rather than learn that girls need to do X Y and Z to avoid being raped.

Continue reading

The Good Mother Myth edited by Avital Norman Nathman: Review + Giveaway!

thegoodmothermyth

The Good Mother Myth edited by Avital Norman Nathman | Published in 2014 by Seal Press| Source: Review copy from the publisher

My rating: 3/5 stars
Goodreads

Synopsis:

In an era of mommy blogs, Pinterest, and Facebook, The Good Mother Myth dismantles the social media-fed notion of what it means to be a good mother. This collection of essays takes a realistic look at motherhood and provides a platform for real voices and raw stories, each adding to the narrative of motherhood we don’t tend to see in the headlines or on the news.

From tales of mind-bending, panic-inducing overwhelm to a reflection on using weed instead of wine to deal with the terrible twos, the honesty of the essays creates a community of mothers who refuse to feel like they’re in competition with others, or with the notion of the ideal mom — they’re just trying to find a way to make it work.

It’s been years since I read a collection of feminist essays – probably since Dropped Threads in the early 00s. I love reading and I love feminism, but these days I tend to get my fill of non-fiction essays on blogs. Many of the contributors to The Good Mother Myth are bloggers and the book didn’t quite exceed the sum of its blog posts, but it was a good attempt. Rather than my usual list of favourite stories/pieces, here are the things I look for in a nonfiction anthology, and how this book stacked up:

Credibility
Anyone can write a blog (hi, case in point!) but a book has some credibility attached to it. Then there are the little extras to add an ever greater sense of it – blurbs and forewords and introductions. Continue reading

Attack of the 11 Pound Baby: VBAC Edition

A conversation on Twitter inspired me to write Henry’s VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) birth story. Reading positive VBAC stories was really helpful for me, so I hope I can help someone, or at least entertain those of you “birth nerds” who are into this sort of thing! For the “AC” in “VBAC”, see Benjamin’s birth story

Short Version:

Feb 14

  • 4:30 am – Wake up for the day. Irregular contractions
  • 8:00 pm – Contractions nearing 5 min apart. Leave for hospital
  • 9:00 pm – 4 cm, admitted

Feb 15

  • 4:00 am – 6 cm, epidural
  • 8:00 am – Water broken, 8cm
  • 3:15 pm – Start pushing
  • 6:42 pm – Henry Keith Frey born, 10 lbs 14 oz 23.5 inches

Attack of the 12 Pound Baby

A conversation on Twitter last night inspired me to write Henry’s VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) birth story. While I work on that, here is “AC” part of that equation, Benjamin’s c-section birth story, as written in April 2010 and originally posted on a parenting forum. Lots of TMI, mentions of mucous plugs, poop, etc. etc. – fair warning for those of you who don’t usually read this sort of thing!

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Don’t Wanna Be A 19th Century Russian Idiot

The Idiot is #861 on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.

First things first. I know that I never post regularly, but this time I have an excuse. An adorable excuse!

Baby Henry

Henry Keith Frey, born February 15th 2012.

With my first son, I didn’t read one word (other than baby books, which, yuck, that’s a whole other post) from about eight months pregnant to six months post partum. I also suffered from a severe case of mom brain. I used to think the whole baby brain/mom brain concept was sexist, but having experienced it, I can say that it’s true – pregnancy and child birth makes you dumber. That’s why I was so determined to reach 100 books, and to make #100 a doozy, before baby #2. I was afraid that this time, it would be worse. I might never read from the list again. I might have to start reading chick lit. Or The Hunger Games. Or 50 Shades of Grey. *shudder*

After triumphing over The Magic Mountain, I put the list aside, and ended up reading some great books (Half Blood Blues, Slammerkin, The Lover’s Dictionary) and some so-so books (The Virgin Cure, The Happiness Hypothesis, Juliet Naked, The Help). (Psst: Hover over titles for mini-reviews.) All this while in the end stages of pregnancy or with a very demanding newborn. And all thanks to TECHNOLOGY!

Henry and The Idiot

Not a great shot, but I will not risk him waking up to take another. That’s “The Idiot” on my Kobo. Trust me.

And I don’t even like my Kobo. The buttons are clunky, it’s slow to load, it’s a base model with no wireless and no touchscreen, and the free books don’t work. It doesn’t have the look and feel and smell of a real book. It makes Jonathan Frazen cranky. BUT I CAN READ WITH ONE HAND. And that has made all the difference in the world.

FYI, if you use Spark Notes, be prepared for spoilers. Yes, it’s still a spoiler even if it was written 150 years ago!

There is NO WAY I would be reading a heavy, thick book like Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot in traditional form. The only time I get “to myself” is while nursing (if you classify having another human being attached to you as time to yourself) and now I can read!

Until I started The Idiot, I was pretty smug about the mom brain thing – not this time, reading will keep my mind sharp. But the Russian names and complex plotting and character development are throwing me a bit. I’m having a hard time keeping the characters and their motivations straight. So now, I’ve got my Kobo in one hand, and SparkNotes on my phone so I can refer to the character list and read plot summaries. I’m not proud that I need this much help, but, I’m working on the list… on very limited sleep… and feeling pretty good about it.

I need to finish before I can fully comment, but, I’m finding similar themes as in The Magic Mountain – a naive young man meets and unconventional woman; corruption through drinking and disease; you know, light stuff. But more important that the ins and outs of this book – I won’t be an “idiot” on this maternity leave. I’m excited to get through even more great books in between Curious George and Little Critter’s adventures.

“A fool with a heart and no sense is just as unhappy as a fool with sense and no heart.”