A Parenting Trial

I thought for a good while about what I’d like to post for today and realized I couldn’t do much better than to re-post an anecdote I wrote almost five years ago (five years ago!).  I’m not sure how to introduce it, except to say that sometimes life’s like that, and to give thanks to my husband’s robust sense of humour, which helped him through this and many other trials.  And, of course, if you have your own, please do tell!

~~~~~

It happened on the way to the cottage.  We got stuck in traffic, as we often do, in congestion worse than usual.  Also worse than usual was the mood in the car, due to bickering between my husband and me.  We were headed for a long, long drive.

My husband tried to pacify himself with an extra large coffee at the Tim Hortons drive-thru.  I don’t like coffee but used to take a mouthful or two when he would douse his Tims with double sugar and double cream.  Lately my husband had cut these indulgences out though, so he alone made short work of the bitter blackness.

As we continued to idle in the middle lane going pretty much nowhere, our then 4 year old son announced that he had to pee.  No one can really agree on whether it’s better to have boys or girls (thank God), but there are indisputable advantages to sons when it comes to peeing in a pinch.  Seizing the day, and the fact that we were barely moving, I unhooked the boy from his car seat.  In inspiration I grabbed the empty Tim Horton’s coffee cup as a urinal while he stood up in the car and peed into it.  My son silently followed all of my instructions with the acquiescence of the child aware he is in the midst of unusual and interesting permissiveness.  When he was done, I snapped the plastic lid back on the cup, returned it to the cup holder, and re-buckled my son, feeling pretty satisfied at the efficiency of it all.

As the going nowhere waxed on, my husband got bored.  He pulled out one of the harmonicas he keeps in the car.  He likes to play them when he’s driving.  I think it’s unsafe driving practice to play an instrument while driving, but my husband ignores me and it’s not illegal and I have to pick my battles.  That’s why we have a full set of harmonicas in the car.  Except that it’s rarely full.  There is usually at least one harmonica missing because the kids love to play on them, and freely I allow it, and reluctantly so does my husband, and somehow the little instruments don’t always make it back to where they belong.  And when they don’t, my husband blames me for it.  It’s kind of The Harmonica Issue.

Anyway, on this motionless car trip, during which my husband and I have given up trying to talk to each other, he tried to entertain himself by making a little music.  I was looking out the passenger window, but still saw his arm lift to bring the little silver instrument to his lips.  I heard his deep inhale.

But the expectant brassy blast of sound didn’t come.  Instead, flipping his head from left to right, my husband was sputtering in disgust.  There was some old mushed up peanut butter and jam residue in the harmonica, and he had sucked it right into his mouth.

I knew he wanted to blame me for this incident (if I didn’t give the harmonicas to the children then they wouldn’t be able to input their lunches into them for later resurrection, blah, blah, blah).  But since he wasn’t talking to me, he couldn’t.  So he said nothing and I continued to look out the window, trying not to laugh.

Then, suddenly, from the corner of my eye I saw his arms waving  all over the place.  I turned to look.  My husband’s face was red, eyes darting.  There were more sputtering noises, louder and more dramatic than before.  Also a good bit of cursing coming from him.  His window went down, Ben stuck his head far out of it, and spat and spewed and then spewed some more.

He had tried to cleanse his mouth of the peanut butter and jam residue in his mouth.  By drinking from the Tim Horton’s coffee cup.

Post printed with reluctant permission of husband.

Yoga With Kids

270Along with pretty much everything else, yoga has been on a hiatus lately and I’ve been feeling it.  But I fit in it yesterday.  I was with my youngest babe, and for whatever reason, he suggested it.  It’s been a good long while since we’ve done any yoga and honestly I don’t even know how he would know to ask for it.  But I’ve been meaning to get back to it anyway, and there’s no time like the present, so in popped the video.

I did this even though in exactly six minutes I had to pick up my older boys from school, but I figured six minutes is a huge improvement on the nothing I’ve been doing, and my body would benefit from anything.

And then I had the happy (and kind of surprising) experience of mentioning it to the boys after school and hearing:  “Yeah!  Yoga!  Let’s do yoga!  Yoga, yoga!!”

So we traipsed up the stairs and into the bedroom where the computer is and got started.  There is absolutely no room for four of us; there’s barely room for two.  We squished two (sometimes three) on the floor, and one (sometimes two) on the bed.  Yes, my children did yoga on the bed.

Yoga with the kids is also more vocal than when I do it alone.  I heard:

I’m the best at this!

Is this supposed to hurt?

What does she mean take 5 breaths?  I already took 5 breaths!

My feet smell too bad.  I’m too close to my feet.

There’s space right here on Mommy!  See?

Who wants to play the game where we run and bump each other?

Meditation is not the name of the game when I do yoga with the kids, but it’s hard to imagine enjoying it more.  I am in awe of what practicing yoga can do for the body, mind and spirit, and yet there really is something to be said for a good belly laugh (or six).  I’m thankful for all of it.

Ladies, do you think you know your vagina? Think again!

imgres-1As a teenage girl, I would cringe if my mom talked about periods when my dad was within earshot. Clearly much has changed because as a grown woman, when I learned about the annual Kegels and Cocktails event hosted by fitness expert Samantha Montpetit-Huynh, certified Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist Julia Di Paolo and Kim Vopni, The Fitness Doula, I had to buy tickets. And drag along two of my close girlfriends who can yap about vaginas with the best of them.

When we arrived we were greeted by a cheerful woman at the door who was eager to make us feel welcome, “Let me get you some punch! With alcohol or without?” She sped away and I surveyed the crowded room noting several pregnant bellies and more than a few teeny infants. Our perky hostess returned seconds later balancing three fruity, pink punches expertly. “Here, have some pussy punch!”

And with those words, the night began.

To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had interviewed Samantha for an article I wrote last year for Viva Magazine and loved her energy. Immediately we bonded over our mutual hatred of “bump watches” and “post-baby body” stories that dominate the tabloid newsstands and breed unrealistic body expectations. I figured anything she was involved with, was something that I wanted to learn more about.

Boy, did I learn.

I walked into the event thinking, what are they going to tell me that I don’t already know? I do my kegels! I have three kids! I (and everyone on the 7th floor of Mount Sinai Hospital, and that stunned gift shop employee) know my vagina.

You know how Oprah talks about having an Ah-Ha! moment? Well, I had an Oh-Shit! moment.

Certified Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist Julia Di Paolo captivated everyone’s attention when she stood at the podium and made an impassioned plea for women to make pelvic wellness part of their overall healthcare. Di Paolo explained the importance of a well-functioning pelvic floor. She likens the pelvic floor muscles to a trampoline. A trampoline is taut and firm but it has flex, and will give but it will always return to its original form. Well-functioning pelvic floor muscles act the same. They have just the right amount of give (not too much or too little) and they retain their elasticity. If the muscles slacken too much and sag, they can’t effectively do their job, and internal organs like the uterus, rectum and bladder can shift and fall.

Then she dropped the bombs.

50% of women who’ve had children will have some prolapse. (Hagen & Stark, 2011)

Women who’ve had one vaginal delivery are at 4 times the risk of developing a prolapse and the risk increases 8.4 times with two or more vaginal deliveries. (Mantal et al. 1997)

But I don’t think I have a prolapse. Actually, I’m sure that I am fine; I generally have very good luck. I think this as I squiggle in my chair and straighten my posture acutely aware of my vagina.

Di Paolo clicks the mouse and the slide changes. There is audible murmuring from the room of women and my girlfriend who’s seated beside me lets out a deflated sigh.

Symptoms of a prolapse:

  • Feeling pelvic pressure
  • Feeling uncomfortable within the pelvic cavity
  • Rectal pressure
  • Constipation
  • Feeling like your insides are falling out
  • Incontinence or retention of urine
  • Tampons do not stay in place
  • Some women are asymptomatic

Oh-Shit!

Di Paolo has made it her mission to empower women before, during and after pregnancy about the importance of a healthy pelvic floor. She maintains there are many ways to help prevent or reduce the severity of prolapse.

What to do?

  • Learn to do kegels the right way (Note: I was doing them wrong and judging by the collective gasp in the room, I wasn’t the only one)
  • Modify your workout routine since many popular exercises can actually exacerbate pelvic floor weakness and prolapse
  • Stay hydrated
  • Stop being so sedentary, get out and walk more!
  • If you’re thinking of getting pregnant or are pregnant, see a pelvic floor physiotherapist before you give birth!

Most importantly book an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist and learn about your body. Don’t assume that the damage is done or that you have to live with discomfort. Di Paolo says with treatment most of the time patients are able to restore their prolapse by one degree and learn how to prevent further damage.  Bottom line: be informed, be proactive so that you are not dealing with issues years down the road.

To find a registered pelvic floor physiotherapist in Ontario click here. To contact Julia Di Paolo or a member of her team of Pelvic Floor Physiotherapists, visit her Women’s and Pelvic Health clinic PhysioExcellence located in Toronto, Ontario.

CBC Kids’ Programming: Combining Learning and Fun

kids_cbc_program%20logoFile this under things I never thought I’d say: if I had it all to do again, I would let my preschoolers watch more television.  At least, that’s how I feel after meeting some of the great minds behind CBC children’s programming.

I love meeting people who are infectiously enthusiastic about their jobs, and that was very much the case at CBC Kids’ Days when I met Kim Wilson, creative head of CBC children’s programming, and Dr. Lynn Oldershaw, child psychologist and children’s’ programming consultant for Kids’ CBC.  They were introducing three new shows coming to CBC Kids– Chirp, The Moblees, and You & Me–and they invited 4Mothers along to their Very Important Picnic, where parents and kids could mix and mingle and meet some of the people in front of and behind the camera.

(Confession: I have a crush on Mamma Yamma and I got to meet her!  In the potato flesh!)

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Almost as exciting as that celebrity spotting, I learned a lot about their whole child approach to children’s programming and how their shows fill their mandate to educate and empower children.

“We are not just making content, we are making a difference.”

Kim Wilson

Both Kim and Lynn emphasized how television can make a positive difference to preschool-aged viewers, and, I confess, I was a bit skeptical at first.  As a rule, I place tight limits on screen time because I’d prefer my kids to be active, but as Lynn pointed out, preschoolers do not watch television passively in the way that adults and older children do.  Their minds are constantly working as they watch, and they are active consumers of what’s on the screen.  If you make sure to put them in front of quality, interactive programming, then they will engage and learn.

The team at CBC ensures that learning happens with their Whole Child Development Approach to programming, in which five areas of development are being targeted in shows that are very interactive:

1.  Cognitive Growth (science, spelling, numeracy, learning to read; Bookaboo, Monster Math Squad)

2. Social Skills (equally important in preparing for academic success is how to get along with other children; Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood)

3. Emotional Intelligence (empowering kids to identify and regulate their emotions and then problem-solve to cope with powerful emotions; Poko, The Adventures of Napkin Man)

4. Creativity (music, art, storytelling–children have an enormous capacity for creativity, and quality programming will stimulate it, not stifle it, by enabling kids to extend on what they see and hear; Artzooka; I noticed how simple the monsters in Monster Math would be to draw ourselves)

5. Physical Development (many aspects of the programming encourage, and even require, kids to move in order to propel the story; Bo on the Go)

I was thrilled to learn that John Mighton, of Jump Math fame, was a consultant on the numeracy content in Monster Math Squad, and Mary Gordon, who founded Roots of Empathy, was a consultant for the emotional intelligence content of The Adventures of Napkin Man.  These are thinkers and activists whose work I have long admired, and to hear that they are contributing to children’s television is nothing short of delightful.

We had a great day at the CBC studios, and I left feeling really grateful to have had the chance to look behind the curtain.  It has given me a much rosier view of how the small screen can be a positive part of at home learning.

 

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.

Funny Quotations: The Grown Ups’ Version

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Every year, we collect the funny things our kids say and send out the list as our holiday letter.  We’ve been doing this for a decade, now, and it’s one of the highlights of my year to put the list together and send it out with the Christmas cards.  This year, I thought I’d collect some of the funny things the grown-ups in my life have said.  Intentional and non-intentional parenting wit.  Enjoy!

My son couldn’t find his favourite soccer shin pads this morning, and I took them to him at lunch time.  I was creeping around, trying not to get caught.  We’re not supposed to be rescuing them anymore.  We are supposed to let them experience non-catastrophic failure.

I find myself giving my son the finger, with both hands, when his back is turned.  He’s a teenager.  When hitting is totally taken out of the equation, I find that profanity really is the only release.

Put away the weapons, boys.  The housekeeper will be here any minute.

Kindergarten teacher to the parents at the start of the school year: I’ll make you a deal.  I promise to believe only half of what they tell me about you, if you promise to believe only half of what they tell you about me.

“Mommy, you’re the bad cop.”

My extroverted husband picked up Quiet and said, “I feel like you come with a manual that I haven’t read.”

Don’t Quote Me: 5 Things I Never Thought I’d Say

As the mother of three boys, there are times when I speak and do not know myself.  Here are some odd utterances from our hockey-filled weekend.

  • I’d rather stick a hot poker in my eye than ride for five hours in the team bus to the tournament.

And on the very same weekend:

  • Maybe there’s room for your brothers and me to take the bus to the tournament….
  • Our renovation plans will have to include a separate entrance and a room for the hockey equipment.
  • What is that smell?  I’ve washed all the equipment and it still smells.  I’ll have to hunt it down, piece by piece…
  • (In the car, on our way home from the 9th trip to the rink.)  Please.  Just.  Don’t.  Speak.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

boy

One thing that I am very happy to say: Thank you for helping us make our goal of 100 likes on facebook!  Keep on spreading the word. 

Date Night Gone Awry

I was really hoping to write about a new-ish restaurant in the city that my husband and I went to in celebration of our ninth wedding anniversary.  What I can tell you is that tucked-away, much buzzed about Patria is artfully designed.  The menu, at a glance looks delicious, as did the few plates that passed by our intimate table for two.

However I cannot write about what we ordered nor if the food critics are right in dubbing this tapas bar one of Toronto’s Best Restaurants of 2013.  I cannot tell you, because our ninth anniversary came and went and nary a morsel of food was consumed at Patria.

Let me start off my story by stressing that while summer vacation may be the days of folly and freedom for youngsters, it is for this stay-at-home mom, two months of intense togetherness that has me praying for bouts of dysentery* just so I can seek a few moments of privacy from my three boys.

Who am I kidding?  They’d follow me in there too.

The day of our anniversary, the babysitter arrived early with ample time for me to shower, shave my legs and tame my tresses.  Basically, I went from looking like this:

Portrait of very surprised bizarre screaming housewife

(With some creative liscence) To this:

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A cab picked me up from my front door and like Cinderella, I was shuttled off to the ball.  The whining, complaining, and incessant bickering faded in the review mirror.  Even the grueling stop and go traffic along Avenue Road couldn’t dampen my spirits.

I wanted to lean out of the rolled-down window, hair blowing in the breeze and call to the babysitter with a sinister sneer, “You’ve been duped!  They are not the loveable boys of school days.  These beasts are feral!  These boys are urchins!  These boys will wear you down, defeat you, make your ears beg for quiet!”

As the cab slowly navigated the downtown streets, I excitedly texted my husband that soon we’d be eating – in a restaurant!  With cutlery!  Where chicken fingers are a thing of lore!

I was giddy.  Like a parolee, I was relishing in the sights of the city.  When was this skyscraper finally completed?  What kind of art is that new installation?  When did men in suits start wearing full beards?

Upon entering Patria, our hostess lead us to our table and we followed behind like obedient school children relieved to finally have some time alone.  Just as my husband’s knees bent to sink into his chair, his iPhone buzzed to life.

A glance at the screen revealed a call from the babysitter.

She never calls his phone.

He answered it, and I can immediately tell from the way he casually walked away from the table, from me, that this wasn’t good news.

Back in the cab, it no longer feels like a shiny chariot but rather a jalopy with cracked vinyl seats, rank with fetid air.  The inching traffic nothing but a taunt.

He’s doing great mom!  We hope to have his thumb dislodged as soon as the fire department get here.”  The kind paramedic, used to placating frantic mothers on the verge of tears, said calmly into the phone.

My youngest son was stuck.  His tiny thumb had somehow managed to wedge itself tightly into the hinge of the glass shower door, thereby entrapping him on one side and his freshly scrubbed brother on the other side of the glass.

One frantic babysitter, one flummoxed neighbour and a host of EMS workers descended into our en suite washroom in attempt to free the compressed thumb.  Forty minutes later he was liberated with nothing more than a tiny gash and a throbbing digit.

After hours of soothing (the little guy, his empathic oldest brother and a devastated babysitter) my husband and I collapsed onto the couch with a bottle of wine.

Just over his shoulder I could see our wedding picture – the young, fresh faces smiling naively into the camera.

We couldn’t help but laugh.  Those people had no clue, no clue at all what kind of maelstrom was lying in wait.

Once the last drop of wine was consumed, we tip-toed up the stairs to check on our feral little urchins and to get some much needed rest, because in this house the only certainty of tomorrow is that it will leave me exhausted.

*Okay, maybe not.  But you get the idea.

pictures courtesy of: The Inklings of Life and Emphasis Added

Breakfast for Dinner

muesli-668519_640I feed my kids breakfast for dinner more often than I’d like to admit.  Sometimes breakfast for dinner means scrambled eggs and toast and maybe even steamed green beans.  Mostly, though, it’s the same cereal they had for breakfast, and I don’t always ask more than once if they want fruit or yogurt with it.

Do you know what kind of a mother I am on those nights?  A relaxed mother.  Relaxed because I have not had to cook at the same time as I supervise homework and piano practice and play a board game.  I’m not setting the table at the same time as being a referee for the hockey in the basement or the fighting on the stairs.  I am not doing dishes while the momentary peace that reigned around the dinner table falls to pieces in the post-dinner scramble of bathsbooksbed.  I can read with one or even two children right up until “dinner time” and I can resume reading five seconds after “dinner” is done.  No child has ever complained about breakfast for dinner.  The guilt I feel about not feeding them a cooked dinner is never more than fleeting.

Of course, the kids could help cook, set the table and wash the dishes.  And they do.  And they like to cook and make their own food.  But you know how it is: some nights it’s easier to do it all myself, and some nights doing it all myself is a mistake and I resent it.  Breakfasts for dinner cuts all of that out.

Breakfast for dinner is a regular sin in my house, but, like all the best sins, it’s one for which I feel absolutely no regret.

The Banter of Barf

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I’m grateful that my kids don’t get sick very often or very seriously (knock on wood).  Of the three, though, my oldest has the most sensitive stomach.

Still it was a surprise yesterday when my in-laws brought him home after a visit and reported that upon getting out of the car, my son threw up on the sidewalk, tidy as can be.

We went about our business today.  He didn’t seem particularly sick, but he stayed home from school anyway.  I felt it might be good to stay on the safe side for the other kids, he wanted to stay home, and I thought we’d both benefit from some rare one-on-one time.  (For the record, he worked on his early literacy skills book and math pages for almost two hours on his own accord.  I could hardly believe it.  He probably got more accomplished this afternoon that he would in a class setting for a week.)

Anyhoo, upon coming home from an outing with his dad, we had the following exchange:

Son:  I was easing up in the car.

Me:  What do you mean, “easing up in the car”?

Son:  (pointing to his throat, making an unpleasant face)  Feeling sick.

Me:  You were getting queasy in the car?

Son:  Yeah.

Me:  Do you want to lie down and rest or try to barf it up?

Son:  I want to barf it up.

Me:  Okay.

Son:  Will you come with me?

Me:  Sure.

Son:  I have to pee.

Me:  Okay.  Pee first and I’ll come join you for the barf.

That last sentence in particular, why is it not too strange to come from my lips?