Defining Motherhood

Brandie Weikle, a long-time parenting editor and writer created The New Family to speak to a new generation of parents. The blog is a resource for today’s modern family and the 1,000 Families Project was born from Brandie’s own modern family and is an inspiring collection of stories highlighting the many ways we can be a family.

Today my story is featured on The New Family and I am grateful for the opportunity. Writing this essay allowed me to reflect on my experiences as a mother and how I define motherhood for myself.   Thank you Brandie!

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I always knew that I wanted to have children, but I didn’t know that I wanted to be a mother until my first son was 5 months old.

I was a child of the eighties and early nineties. Latchkey kids were commonplace; I can’t remember a single mother who wasn’t juggling work with raising a family. A frozen pizza pocket and a reminder note to take the dog for a walk is what greeted most of us after school. The few moms who were not bringing home the bacon were buried deep in text books studying for a Masters degree in nursing, social work or education.

When I learned that I was pregnant for the first time, I was heady, simply thrilled that I was growing a life, a little boy half me and half my husband. While I debated the merits of cloth diapers versus disposable, and formula feeding over breastmilk, I never once doubted my plan to return to teaching the fifth grade just ten months after my son was born.

I had gulped down the Kool-Aid, just as many of my key-wearing friends had done. I consumed every ounce, licked every drip.

To continue reading, click here.

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Beth-Anne with her son, age 5 months.

Best of The Blogosphere

office-625893_640We’ve scoured the Internet and brought you some of our favourite posts from the blogosphere. Do you have something to share? A must-see blog, a must-read article or a must-share video clip? Let us know about it! Send us an email or leave a message in the comment section.

From Beth-Anne:

My life with my three boys can best be described as a whirlwind. They never stop moving. They’re loud. They’re physical. Someone bleeds every day. I once visited the emergency room three times in one month (one visit per boy) and by coincidence had the same doctor twice. He informed me that I should have purchased a monthly parking pass. I would have saved myself money. Holly Pevzner wrote 10 things I wish I’d known about raising a boy but my heady first-time pregnant self would’ve never heeded the advice. Sometimes you just have to live it.

Last year I discovered What If Famous Paintings Were Photoshopped to Look Like Fashion Models? Lauren Wade took iconic paintings featuring nude females and morphed their bodies to reflect the current body image en vogue. My reaction surprised me – what do you think?

And while we are talking women’s bodies, Christine Burke writes about a hilarious conversation she had with her toddler about her naked body. Oh, from the mouths of babes!

To finish off my round up, in the spirit of humour month, here’s Jerry Seinfeld’s take on trying to sleep with kids in your bed.

From Nathalie:

If, like me, you cannot get enough of children’s books, check out this list of 100 Great Children’s Books from The Guardian.  There were many on here I’d never seen.

If you are a mother of a teen or nearly teen, I can’t recommend this article on parenting teens by Rachel Cusk enough.  Her memoir of early motherhood, A Life’s Work, is one of my all-time favourite reads.

Be forewarned, there is adult content in this next link, which takes “book lover” to its literal extreme.  An animated felt short film set in the famed Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company in which books come to life.

April is Poetry Month, and if you live in Toronto, you can locate yourself poetically with this poetry map from the Toronto Public Library.

And here’s a poem about motherhood by Chantel Lavoie that’s not yet on the map: “The Lane.”  It riffs on this poem by bpNichol that’s inscribed into the pavement on bpNichol Lane.

Best of the Blogosphere January 2015

home-office-336378_640Baby, it’s cold out there! What better way to kill a few hours than cuddled up near the fire with the Internet? (Actually, there are many other better ways, but then that wouldn’t make for a good intro to this post.)

Here’s what has caught our attention on the blogosphere.

Nathalie

Roseanne at The Lunchbox Season also wrote a word of the year post.  Check it out.  Defining Motherhood did an interesting take and chose three words.  She has me thinking about “year”.  And Carrie, our inspiration for our week of posts on our words of the year, has chosen her word for 2015.

OK, this is hilarious.  You’ve seen the 40 Under 40 lists, right?  Here’s the 3 Under 3 list!  Overachieving parents, listen to yourselves!!

Every year, we collect the funny things our kids say and send it out as our holiday letter.  This dad takes it one step beyond, into seriously awesome territory, by illustrating his daughter’s humorous quotations.  Check out Spaghetti Toes for some great laughs.  You can also shop his Etsy shop if you want a print of your very own.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or your special drink of choice and settle in for a great new year’s read with this blog post from Girl’s Gone Child.  It’s a lovely piece on travel, choices and taking the chance to let chance spin its magic. Thanks to Kerry Clare on twitter @kcpicklemethis for pointing me in her direction.

Also, thanks to Kerry, who should maybe add internet curator to her list of talents, I disappeared down the rabbit hole of all the great posts on The Ugly Volvo, having gotten there because of a post on all the things wrong with Goodnight Moon.  Hilarious.  So is the Knuffle Bunny post.  (I can’t link to it for some reason.  I hope you can link to it from her home page.  It’s really, really good stuff.)  She also gives really good advice written on bananas.

Beth-Anne

Have you ever forced your kids to say “I’m sorry” and the result is a pitiful, insincere mumble?  Here’s how to teach kids the right way to apologize.  I’m loving this and have already started doing it (to the chagrin of my boys) with success.

One of the questions I am most asked by friends with 2 children is, should I go for the third?  That’s like asking me, should I tattoo my forehead?  It’s a life long commitment and it ain’t for me to say.  But I will say this . . . remember before you had your first baby and you thought that you knew everything and that life would go along swimmingly except now you’d have a baby Bjorn-ed to your body?  And then that baby came and upended your life to the point when going to the washroom alone was a massive accomplishment?  A third baby is kinda like that but times 100.  Here’s what Shannon Meyerhort from Scary Mommy has to say on the topic, and I think she nailed it.

Hear ye!  Hear ye!  A new parenting study has been released and you must read about it!

And for all of us not on a diet this month, don’t these coconut chocolate tartlets from lark & linen look sinful and oh-so-perfect while sitting on the couch, in front of the fire, surfing the Internet?

Best of The Blogosphere

home-office-336378_640Photography is one of those art forms that seems easy . . .until you try to perfectly capture a moment in time with a camera. Good photography manages convey emotion and beauty with one click and for this very reason, I remain in complete awe of good photographers. Elena Shumilova, a Russian artist and mother, photographed her boys with animals on the farm that she runs and the resulting images are simply breathtaking!

Someone I know recently lost her husband to cancer. She is a mom to three young children and for the past few years balanced caring for them and caring for her husband. There were times that I would snap myself out of a funk by thinking of her family and being inspired by the courage they demonstrated while faced with such incredible adversity. Paul Kalanithi wrote How Long Have I Got Left for The New York Times and so eloquently expressed his feelings about mortality, specifically his own. It’s a stark reminder of just how precious each day really is.

Have you ever called someone the wrong name, repeatedly? Even after being corrected? Or worse, like me, maybe you’ve chatted with someone so many times but have no clue what their name is? You can’t remember it for the life of you? I am guilty of this. I called my former neighbour, my neighbour for goodness sake, Michelle (repeatedly) but her name is really Sandra! It was comic relief for me to read Deanna’s account of Mistaken Identity on her blog A Mother’s Tonic.

Take a minute to watch this video by Kid President but don’t watch it alone; invite your kiddos to join. My middle one busted a gut laughing, and repeated “so true!” over and over, which begs the question, where on earth did he pick that up?

While your kids are at your side take a minute to flip through this slide show courtesy of Take Part. DIY World Change: 14 Kids You Should Know About and Their Incredible Projects is nothing but inspirational! There is the 12 year-old food blogger who is encouraging kids to eat healthy and the several teens dedicated to raising funds and awareness about a variety of worthy causes from Alzheimer’s disease to poverty. I was especially moved by Jessica Water’s Cupcakes for Camp benefitting kids and families with epilepsy – a cause close to my heart.

From Nathalie

Experience the power of a bookbook, a spoof commercial from IKEA for their catalogue (that paper thing that comes without cables or batteries).

We recently repainted all the boys’ bedrooms and included chalk walls for them to write and draw on.  Last year, Eldest did a unit in his art class about graffiti, and it’s been fun to seek out street art in the city and to think of ways to include it at home.  Here is a great article about ten female street artists from around the world.

We are going to try to keep up our drawing routine that we started in the summer.  (I’m going to need an intervention to stop me from buying any more absolutely adorable how to draw books.)  Good news: there is some absolutely adorable on-line instruction from Luke Pearson at The Guardian.  His is one in a series from children’s illustrators.  So great!

Best of the Blogosphere

home-office-336378_640The Internet is chock-full of information and entertainment and everything in between.  We like to share with you some of our favourite posts –sometimes whimsical, sometimes wonderful and always worth the second or so it takes to read.

From Beth-Anne

When my boys were infants I could sit and watch them sleep for hours.  Most of the time, I was marveling at the fact that I. Made. Them. When they were toddlers and would fall asleep, I would steal quick wistful glances at their sleeping pudgy faces but mostly, I prayed they wouldn’t wake up.  Now every night before I can go to sleep, I have to peek at them deep in slumber.  There is something so peaceful about watching them sleep.  On more than one occasion I have been brought to tears; overcome by emotion.  When this video of Theo (The Dog) and Beau (The Toddler) Star In A Naptime Love Story, I found it adorable (as did the hundreds of thousands of other people) but I also longed for those toddler days when I didn’t really appreciate their boundless energy and blissful sleep.

Do you know anyone who is pregnant?  Or has just recently had a baby?  No Airbrushing Allowed: This Is What a Mother’s Body Really Looks Like by photographer Jade Beall is mandatory viewing.  Similar to 4th Trimester Bodies photographed by Ashlee Wells Jackson that I told you about in the last Best of The Blogosphere, this collection of images is an intimate reveal of what a woman’s body is capable of and how beautiful it can be – even post-baby.

Very few people know this about me but I have strong views on baby names and this article by Drew Magary for GQ sums up all of my points quite nicely from Do Not Invent A Name to Don’t Abuse The Letter y.

If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you know by now that I have a renewed interest in all things green and the environment.  While I am not about to ditch my deodorant or make my own shampoo, just yet, I have taken to subscribing to takepart an Eco blog.  Way back in January they featured this incredible story about recycled cans being morphed into furniture.  Check it out – you won’t believe it!

I am not a single parent, but I enjoyed reading 10 Things I Love About Single Parenting by Maria Mora.  Single parents: Did this one resonate with you?

From Nathalie

Snark.  Good snark.  Clever snark.  The internet is great for providing it.

I recently discovered a great blog called Manfeels Park, a wonderfully snarky mash-up of Jane Austen and feminism, in which Austen’s men try to mansplain gender politics.  Not to be missed!

And in a similar vein, check out this great series of annotations of painting of women listening to men.  Priceless.

So do you see what I mean

yeah i definitely understand 

because its kind of complicated

no I’m with you 

ill explain it again

Decidedly not snarky, but ever so cute: birthday cakes inspired by classic kids’ books.  Via Cake Wrecks, a great (usually snarky) place to go when your baking goes wrong.

Do you know of something that has to make the Best of The Blogosphere list?  Send it to us!  Our next list will be published in October.::

A reminder that voting is open for the best mom blog of 2014, for which we are thrilled to have been nominated.

Please head over to Toronto Mom Now and check out the other nominees.  You can vote for your favourite three.  Voting closes on Monday, July 14.

Exciting News!

imgres-1We’ve got some exciting news to share!  4Mothers1Blog has been nominated for Toronto Mom Now’s Toronto Mom Blogger 2014 Award!

Please head over to Toronto Mom Now and check out the other nominees.  Lots of great reading out there!

We love what we do, and we are so grateful that one of you nominated us for this award.  (We’d love to thank you in person if you’d like to send us an email!)

Please check out the blogs on the list, and vote for your favourite three.  Voting closes on Monday, July 14.

Best of the Blogosphere

home-office-336378_640Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy these goodies!

Did you read Charlotte’s Web as a kid?  It was one of my favourites.  Last year, Letters of Note featured a letter written by E.B. White explaining why he wrote the book.  It’s a delightful letter and made me yearn for the days of typewriters and when the word “dandy” was used with more frequency.

If you’re a child of the 70’s or 80’s you may have been a latch-key kid or if you weren’t a latch-key kid, you were probably a child of the “laid back” parenting generation. Translation: your parents let you play with lawn darts, eat microwavable meals and watch pretty much anything on television. In today’s world people gasp and call child protective services if your toddler has a complete collection of Happy Meal toys, but in the olden days our parents were teaching us basic survival skills, like how to pour your own cereal.  Lady Goo Goo Gaga reminds us that those days are long gone in her blog post Pottery Barn Lunches.   If you are a mom that makes tic-tac-toe sandwiches or cheese into the shape of a daisy, you may be slightly offended.  If you’re like me and think that you’ve packed a killer lunch for the kids if it covers two of the food groups, then read on . . .read on!

This post by comedienne Kelly MacLean about Surviving Whole Foods made the rounds a few months ago but I recently re-read it and I can honestly say that after a good belly laugh about the craziness that is Whole Foods (even though I have only been to Whole Foods once), the gloomy, winter day was a bit brighter.  Best lines:

“Whole Foods is like Vegas.  You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the newfound knowledge that you have a vaginal disease.”

“You know you’ve really made it in the world when you get Candida.”

And my favourite laugh-out-loud, snort your coffee line:

“I went on a cleanse once; it was a mixed blessing.  On the one hand, I detoxified, I purified, I lost weight.  On the other hand, I fell asleep on the highway, fantasized about eating a pigeon, and crapped my pants.  I think I’ll stick with the whole eating thing.”

In the age of post-baby bikini bodies gracing the cover of every tabloid that line the grocery store check-out stand, it’s refreshing to see what a post-baby body really looks like for the majority of women.  Photographer, Ashlee Wells Jackson, documents several women in their 4th trimester for her intimate and evocative 4th Trimester Bodies Project.

The Truth about the Rainbow Loom by Kim Bongiorno for In the Powder Room had me thinking one thing: F’ing right!

I have spent years and years and years and spilled countless tears trying to get my husband to understand how to be there for me.  When I saw this video by Katy Davis and Dr. Brene Brown, I emailed it to him and do you want to know what he said?  Thank you, I get it now.

He said that he get’s it!

And the Heavens rejoiced.

And if you live somewhere that hasn’t experienced this ghastly winter, watch this video by Rick Mercer for a taste of what we’ve experienced.  I would like to say that it’s an exaggeration, but honestly he’s not that far off the truth.  Hang in there East Coasters!

Our Most Popular Post of the Year: The Honeymoon is Over: 20 Things Your Child’s Teacher Wants You to Know by Beth-Anne Jones

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And the survey says . . .  an informal poll of teachers representing various grades, school districts and both the public and private reveal what teachers want parents to know now that school is in full-swing!

The Early Years

Your child is excited to see you at pick-up.  Get off your cell phone.  In a few years time, they won’t want a bear hug and to be smothered with kisses in plain sight of their friends.

Remember, “school clothes” and “play clothes”?  Unless your child wears a uniform to school, school clothes should be play clothes.  Don’t send me a note about how paint splatters stained an expensive shirt.  Learning can be messy!

That includes footwear!  Yes, I know those red-glittery Mary Janes are adorable and that Crocs are a favourite, but appropriate footwear for running around the gym, they are not.

When a four year old has to pee, they have to pee yesterday.  Fiddling with the likes of zippers, toggles and buttons means that there will be an accident that I have to cleanup, while simultaneously teaching 19 additional children.

The same goes for snack containers.

Don’t badger me at drop-off and pick-up.  I know you have concerns.  I read your emails and listened to your phone message but let’s arrange a time to talk without the ears of other parents and children around.

The Tween & Teen Years

I am not calling/emailing/texting/courier-pigeoning you if your child didn’t do his/her homework.  Especially, if they are in grade 12.

It’s okay if your child makes mistakes.  Let them.  That’s how they will learn.

I know when you do their homework.  It’s no great mystery that you did it when their report on Mayans is thirteen pages, double-spaced, APA formatted and bound in a Dou-tang when in-class it’s a miracle if I can get a legible and coherent three paragraph response.

Stop comparing your kid to another’s kid.  Furthermore, stop comparing yourself to the other parents.

Let kids be kids.  They feel enough pressure to grow up quickly.

Stilettos for a grade 8 Graduation are not appropriate.  Neither are skimpy dresses.  Or professionally done make-up.

It’s okay if your kid doesn’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend.  There is a lifetime for relationships like that.  What’s more important is your child being a good friend to others?

Learn to say “no” to your kids! Believe it or not, they want you to!

For All The Years

Teach your child to be independent.  Teach them to put on their own shoes, pack their own packs, return their own forms and manage their own projects.  When you do things for your child that they can do for themselves, you’re doing them a disservice!  Chances are they are capable of a lot more than you are giving them credit for.

Buying your child a new agenda, backpack, iPhone, computer, fancy jacket, boots, running shoes . . . .  the list could go on . . . just because they lost the first doesn’t teach them responsibility.  Did they even check the Lost and Found?  Chances are, no!

Sometimes it is inevitable that you will need to book an appointment for your child during school hours but book these with discretion.  Haircuts are not critical and do not count!

Remember that I am a human being too.  Sometimes I make mistakes.  Don’t trash talk me in front of your kids.  Cut me some slack and I will cut you some too.    

Spend time with your kids.  Turn off the TV, the computers, and the social media and just be together.  Go for a walk, play a game, make dinner together.  Your child will perform better in school

Most Importantly . . .

Your child is not a genius.

Nathalie’s Favourite Post from 2013: Dieting 101

 

dietYou want to lose weight?  It’s really very simple.  Just go to the bookstore or library and pick a fad diet.  Then stick to it for the rest of your life.  The fact that we have fad diets that soon go out of favour should be no cause for concern.

Try The F-Plan, the high fibre solution to shedding excess pounds.  You’ll eat more bran and beans than you ever thought possible.  Basically, you’ll shit yourself skinny.  And add more methane to the atmosphere than a herd of cows.

Odd, actually, how so much of the diet lingo plays on our resembling a cow.  You wouldn’t think that it would work in a diet book writer’s favour to liken us to our ruminant kin, but a lot of diets recommend “grazing” in place of “eating.”  Rather than sitting down to a filling meal, we should graze small amounts of food all day.  If thinking about yourself as a cow is up your alley, try any diet that promotes grazing.  (Draw the line, though, at the whole regurgitate and rechew the food.  Unless you’re a model.  Then, by all means, barf up your lunch to keep stick thin, since this is really the only way to achieve your birth weight of 8lbs 6oz, but keep quiet about it lest you give the girls and women who look at you eating disorders, because, really, when we look at you we are not supposed to think “vomit.”)

But why stop with cows?  Why not go further back the chain of kinship to our hunter-gatherer ancestors?  The Fast Diet has a simple premise: our ancestors lived by feast and famine, and so should we.  We are not grazers, after all, and we need to experience real hunger.  Famine.  Progress has brought us indoor plumbing and the internet, but the famine of our ancestors is the way forward.  The pangs of hunger are a good sign that you are losing weight.  Therefore, on just two days a week, you will not eat.  Well, you can have dinner.  As long as it’s only 600 calories.  The whole family has to be fast on the fast diet: the adults will fast, and the kids had better learn to run fast from the really nasty Neanderthal creature that seems to have take over their mother’s body on the days she does not eat.  She may or may not return to normal on the days she’s actually allowed food.

Let’s try a different cave-dwelling ancestor: The Paleo Diet.  (AKA The South Beach Diet.  AKA The Atkin’s Diet.)  Our ancestors ate a plant- and protein-rich diet, and so should we.  The fact that their life expectancy was 30 should not deter you at all.  Live fast, die young.

Actually, while on the topic of ancestors, don’t forget the arguments in Wheat Belly.  Our forebears did not eat the strains of wheat we currently grow and that are currently the root of all evil.  Eliminate gluten.

Back to the cows for a minute.  We are the only mammals that drink milk past infancy, so you should probably also eliminate dairy.

A cleanse!  A cleanse will cover all these bases.  For just four short weeks, eliminate: solid food for breakfast and lunch, caffeine, sugar, alcohol, dairy, wheat AND the will to live.  If that does not help you lose weight, I don’t know what will.