12.31.2011

Exodus



I feel like I am betraying them, the millions of Jews that travelled, what little they owned literally strapped to their backs, from the hostile countryside across a desolate ocean, to the promise of an unknown city.

Beckoned by a brother or an uncle who had journeyed before them, the Jews moved into the smallest, most cramped and least wanted areas of the city, toiling in the windowless basements of the shmatte district, or on the bloody floors of the kosher butcher or by the sweltering ovens of the bakers.

They swept the floors of the dry goods stores, telling the shopkeeper their name was Saul, but answering only to the whispers of Shmulie from their wives once they finally crawled into bed at night.

They worked tirelessly, the women too, at home with children or in the backs of shops, or dressmakers’ basements, never speaking to customers but to the other women in their common language. Yiddish and laughter and shared secrets the goyim didn’t understand were merely the survival tips of the displaced hopeful.

They left the old country one step ahead of force or confinement, or maybe two steps behind, entire families or the tattered remains of families that once were, flocking to new cities in new countries, entering gates with entirely new lives or the tattered remains of lives that once were.

The parents worked in the laundrymats and the children went to high school. Then the children bought the laundrymats and the grandchildren went to university. Then the grandchildren became lawyers or doctors and pointed to the condos that used to be the laundrymats they practically grew up in. Every corner in the city holds a piece of a Jewish child’s history.

I have pointed to my own historic corners to my own husband; the synagogue in Kensington Market that my great-grandparents attended. The stretch of College Street that the bakery was on. The store on Parliament that my Zidy worked in. The house on Major Street that is practically mythologized in my family’s history.

And the city holds a triptych to my own more recent history as well; the houses I lived in with roommates; the apartments I shared with the boy that would become the man I would marry. The places I have worked; the places I have played; the places I have cried.

All those places, almost a century’s worth of my family’s places, and I have walked away from them.

The Jews, my people, came to the city where being a Jew was not always easy, but it was better. Where community would always exist, where shared understanding, shared tolerance and shared history were at least present, regardless of what else was also present.

And I have left it, in a fit of idealism and practicality and what I sometimes consider spiritual evolution and I sometimes consider treachery.

And I hope only that my children are happy here, that the choice I made to bring them here will prove to be the right one. And that if I had the chance to talk to my great-grandparents about it, to my grandfather or even my dad, that they would tell me that the sad miles they crossed to bring us to the city were for this very thing; for the ability, almost 100 years later, to head out of the city, freely and happily, in whatever direction each of us chooses.

 ***

12.08.2011

Love Is...



hot coffee * how beautiful my daughters look when they are asleep * birds on my birdfeeder * an unexpected package in the mail * laughing with my husband at jokes only we get * the first day in spring that you don’t have to put a coat on * the light in my sunroom at 2pm * that I get to be home to see the light in my sunroom at 2pm * anything turquoise or watermelon colour * good gossip * bbm * the girls I bbm with * the big Mr. Peanut jar on my counter * the warm spot on the couch after the cat has been lying there * newly washed floors * tea and cookies * the feel of my daughter’s bum against my back as we nap together * knowing that I’m going to love the book after only 1 page * when ice cubes crack * sitting in the living room with a good book and a fire going * making up the words * 2 good songs in a row on the radio * hearing strangers speaking Hebrew * sweaters * hot showers * mint chocolate chip ice cream * the tips of the cat’s ears * soft leather purses * riding my bike at the perfect speed * green grapes * a daughter’s hand in each of mine * road trips * the big crossword puzzle on boxing day * bare feet on soft carpets * finding a show we both want to watch * discovering that it’s warmer than you thought it would be outside * not having to go to work anymore * weekends with friends * my yellow deer lamp * pictures of my dad * games night * walls the colour of the sky after it rains * butterflies on the butterfly bush * my sisters and brother * comfortable silences * the perfect title * pink melamine bowls * the weight of my favourite mug  in my hand * jeans that fit * laughing in a changeroom with a friend when they don’t * getting carded * pocket doors * hydrangea * after-dinner walks * looking at the stamps in my passport * remembering our honeymoon scooter trip * pedal boats on Lake Nipissing * campfires * teaching my girls my favourite songs * finding a great movie on tv * being inspired to cook

This post was inspired by Schmutzie's 400 Words About Things I Love. What do you love right now? 

***

12.06.2011

Who Wants To Win A Coffee Maker? I Do! I Do!


Well, it's the holiday season, and we all know what that means - we're T I R E D. And probably sick of shopping and maybe even broke.

But I HAVE A CURE FOR ALL OF THAT! I do!

Well, maybe not all of it, because I'm not parting with any of my husband's hard earned cash, but I can at least help maybe two out of three of those things.

So -

I am very excited to announce that I am giving away a TASSIMO T46 brewer as well as 2 sets of T-Discs to one of my lucky readers!

Isn't she a beaut? Keep it for yourself or give it to a coffee lover on your list. The Tassimo T46 brewer features cool bar code technology, Mavea(r) MAXTRA water filtration system and one-touch brewing   ensuring a perfect cup every time.

Aren't I pretty? I could be yours, all yours. Or maybe someone else's.

To enter, simply leave a comment letting me know who this lovely thing would be for, and why you/he/she needs it so badly.

Winner will be randomly drawn on December 15, 2011. Canadian participants only. sorry :(

Good luck!

Full disclosure, of course: I am hosting this giveaway because I love you and also because I get a free Tassimo T46 as well.

***


11.22.2011

Today You Are Four


The first snow of the year was on the day you were born. The snow, like my labour, had threatened to come for days, but had held off, teasing nervous drivers and weathermen alike with slate coloured skies and the ominous stillness that seems to precede the flakes. Nobody, it turned out, was threatened by my labour but you, something we knew only after my midwife had palpated my bulging stomach in concentrated silence, pursed lips alerting me that something was not as it should be.

You were nearly ten days overdue, and you were transverse. Again. But this time, we couldn’t wait for you to turn yourself around. This time, we had to go to the hospital. This time, birth was not going to be as planned.
 
Some might say that the snow, the unexpected hospital birth were a sign. I think they’re right, but the sign was not of something nefarious. The sign was that you, like the snow, would not be controlled, predictable. I could always speculate on how you would behave, react, respond, but I would not always be right.

And I am so much the better for it.

You, at four years old, are not the child I thought I would have. You came to me at a sad, confusing time, but you have given me not a moment of doubt or sadness. Fear, yes, laughter, yes, frustration, yes, joy, oh yes, and wonder, but never a moment of doubt.

You have surprised and delighted me every day of your life, from your ability to sleep so well as an infant and the shock of blonde, blonde hair you sprouted early, to your capacity for empathy and your ability to say sorry when you think you’ve done something wrong – not a trait you learned from me. Your sweetness is matched only by your absurd sense of humour, which, coupled with a laugh that could melt the steeliest of hearts, I am fortunate to get the chance to enjoy every day.

I hope I am doing well by you. I hope that I am nurturing your sensitive as well as your mischievous instincts, for those are things that I cherish in you most. I hope that you will always treat people and spiders with the love that you do at age four.

I hope that your sister will always be your best friend and that you will always say, Come here, you! before diving in for a hug. I hope that you will forgive me for telling you that your hair was darkening, and that you will continue to ask me to wipe away your tears. I hope you always want me to sing to you before bed.

I hope that we are giving you a cozy, safe childhood in a cozy, safe home. I hope you will always want to be here, or at least, to come back here. I hope you will eventually let me brush your hair without screaming.


I hope that, like the snow, or your birth, you will always remain unpredictable and in control of your own destiny. I hope you will always be as happy as you are today, the day you turn four. 








***

11.04.2011

These are a few of my favourite things - Fall Edition




I have been searching for the perfect butternut squash soup recipe for ages, staying true to recipes, tweaking recipes, forgetting recipes altogether and just winging it.  Well, I think I’ve finally found it. I made it on the weekend, and it was awesome. Fall perfection in a bowl. It even looks like fall. Dig in.

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
3 cups chicken or veggie broth (I used homemade chicken broth and I really think it’s what put this recipe over the edge)
1 small onion, diced
2 apples, chopped
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp curry powder
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400.
Place butternut squash chunks in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet
Drizzle generously with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes
Meanwhile, add apple, onion, broth and spices to the slow cooker
Add squash and cook on low 7 hours or high 4 hours
Before serving, puree with an immersion blender (or 1 cup at a time in a stand blender)
Dollop with sour cream or yogurt and sprinkle with roasted pepitas (optional)
Enjoy!

* * *

There is nothing quite like the thrill of responding to a knock on the door and seeing a deliveryman standing there with a box for you. Especially when that box contains your new NAOT booties! Especially when that box containing your new NAOT booties arrives on the exact day you are going for your first GNO in a new town and you want to feel particularly good!

Just look at these!:



(mine are in brown, or more aptly, ‘Oak/Mother Earth/Hash’ – ha!)

These ankle-high wedge booties are made of the softest leather and suede I may ever have wrapped around my foot, and of course come with the removable cork and latex footbed – something I absolutely love about Naots. After less than a week of wear, they are already molding deliciously to my foot. I wore them trick or treating, and while hoofing it around the neighbourhood in brand new boots rarely ends well, I did not regret wearing them for a minute. Totally comfortable from the get-go. And I guarantee I will wear out before these boots will. After less than a week I have already scuffed both toes, but that is because I rush and am a klutz. I actually think they look even more rugged and handsome with the little scuffs, but I can easily fix them with a little protective polish.

I always like to order Naots in a style that is just a tiny bit outside of my comfort zone – a bit away from my usual. In the summer, it meant that I had to forgo my usual cutesy flats and opt for my Bonds, which I am so glad I did.

This season, it meant that I went away from last year’s pick, even though I was tempted to order something similar. But what I love is that there are so many styles to choose from. And although I’ll be enjoying my new Let’s Go boots for many months to come, I can’t wait until the next time that delivery man knocks on my door.

Full disclosure: I receive my NAOTs gratis, in exchange for raving about them here and wearing them, of course, but this is something I would do, and have been doing with NAOTs that I have paid for, for years. I love the product, I love the company, I love their PR firm, and I love the way they conduct themselves with bloggers and social media types. I’m picky about this type of thing, and Naot and Iambic are a great example of doing it right. 

* * *

Maybe it’s just that the weather is getting colder and I feel like hunkering down, but after a summer of pretty light reading, my bookshelf – virtual and real – runneth over. I don’t even know where to start. I’ve already finshed something old and something new, and have all of these in the queue:







What about you? What are some of your favourite things this autumn?

* * *

10.25.2011

The Politics


Whatever community you find yourself in, there’s always politics.  And I don’t mean Politics, I mean politics. It’s present in social media, in the family, in the schoolyard. Eventually, you realize the politics have become so familiar that you hardly have to navigate; you just have to remember the rules. This person doesn’t get along with that person, so don’t invite them over for coffee at the same time. That writer was wronged by that group blog, so maybe don’t send them a link from that particular site. Their friendship went down in a blaze of glory so maybe think twice before trusting either side’s version.  There’s always politics.

Happily, I usually find myself in a unique position – just out of the loop enough not to know (and therefore, not to care) about other people’s personal politics, and just clueless enough to be able to be friends with everybody. There are very, very few people in my life – online or off – that I have a personal beef with. Yes, I like to hear the odd bit of gossip, but I prefer to meet people in a bubble. Nevertheless, one eventually learns of all the seedy threads that tentatively bind the people you interact with to one another, and it would be foolish to tread heavily on some of those threads.

So now I find myself in a new town, with only a very small network of friends. The web of community is unknown and vast (relatively speaking) and I find myself on the outer threads, trying to figure out where the gossamer lines of silk intersect, and whether those intersections lead to safety or scandal.

In other words, as I meet people, I am blissfully unaware of who they like, who they hate, who likes them, who hates them and/or the myriad of other ways they may or may not already be connected to people I have or will meet. I have been blissfully unaware of the politics in this town.

But all that is changing.  

The ties that bind people together – as well as the rifts that keep them apart – are starting to show. I’m meeting somebody in the schoolyard, then realizing that I already know her brother/uncle/cousin/butcher. Connecting these dots has made me feel more enmeshed in my community, more like I am tethered to an actual planet and not just floating in the cosmos. 

But as I try to become more involved in my community, I am discovering quickly that not all of the dots connect to make a clearer picture. Sometimes the connections overlap in an unpleasant and unwelcome way. I don’t want to know that the storeowner I had a wonderfully friendly conversation with and looked forward to chatting with again, had wronged my husband’s cousin in a bid for curling club president 15 years ago. I don’t want to know that the mutual friend I was introduced to through one of my (very few) real friendships here has a beef with one of my only other real friends here. I don’t want the warnings that the people I am meeting will keep me on the outside, longer.

So many things we do as adults are compared to being in high school, a time so traumatic, so self-emolliating, so fraught with social anxiety, that 20 years later it is still our compass point for any uncomfortable social dynamic. This is totally like high school, I could say of the politics. Except – I didn’t find high school all that terrible. I was friends with people from all groups, yet belonged to not one specifically. I was a bit of a Nomad, hanging out after school hours with kids that didn’t go to my high school (or any high school, but that’s a different story), and caring not enough to get caught up in anybody’s bullshit  drama.

I guess I’m going to have to treat this community the same way.  I’m going to have to make my own new friends in a bubble. I am going to look all around me to figure out where it is that I am, but I’m not going to peer so hard that I see the things I heard others whispering of. I am going to just have to be strong enough not to take other people’s opinions of whomever I socialize with, to heart. And hopefully, I won’t always feel like I am walking the perimeter of this community, kept out of the part of the web that is more tightly woven, safer, as I am left adrift by my otherness and my refusal to be swayed by the politics. 

9.29.2011

Busy Season

Feels like I've been everywhere but here lately!

Here's a peek at what I've been up to:

I'm telling the story of why we decided to move to the country over at Everything Mom

I'm wondering if you consider your kid's choice of dress a wardrobe malfunction or just a rite of passage over at The Bad Moms Club

I'm still talking about #momthevote online and in the media

And I'm getting ready to be a speaker/presenter and Tribe Leader at Blissdom Canada!

I'm also trying to finish unpacking my house, get into the groove of our new routine and work on a few other exciting things that I'll be able to share soon.

How's your autumn going?

***

9.15.2011

My #140 Conference Talk: Three Little Words

Today I had the great pleasure of speaking at the #140 Conference. Below is the text of the talk I gave, entitled, Three Little Words: How one tweet changed an election (unabridged version).



Three little words. 

You can put a lot of power and meaning into three little words. 

I love you.

It's a girl.

Up yours, lady - I've heard them all.

But in April of 2011, at the onset of - what? - our fourth election in seven years? What I wasn't hearing - at least, not on Twitter - was any real discussion of that crucial election.

And that was troubling. Because we talk about everything on Twitter. And women on Twitter, well they really talk about everything. And MOMs on twitter? Well, you know there is no subject verboten to the moms on Twitter. 

So one night - April 5, 2011, I was having my regular BBM chat with the women that save my life every night - and these are smart, smart women - and we started talking about it. Why? Why aren't the women on twitter - why isn't our immediate community, the moms on twitter -talking about the election? Why, in between talking about everything from the completely mundane to the totally profound (in 140 characters or less, of course), hadn't our community been talking about the election? Where was that conversation? It simply wasn't there.

So we decided to start that conversation. 

On April 6, I tweeted the following: 

Do you know who you’re voting for? Do you know the parties’ stand on family issues? We need to #momthevote.
Mom The Vote
Mom the vote, that's it; three little words, with the goal being that the moms on twitter start sharing information and asking questions about platform issues that are important to families - which, by the way, is every issue. 
When my little mommy mafia BBM group discussed the plan, we thought that maybe everyday we could tweet some of the most important family issues from each of the party platforms, and start a meaningful discussion. We thought that information was power, that we did not want to see a fifth election in eight years, and that, quite frankly, the current voter stats were nothing less than shameful. 55.8% of my demographic voted in the 2008 election. That's gross. I knew we could do better. 
So of course, we turned to twitter and challenged my community to get involved. I told my community that we needed to Mom The Vote.
My community listened.
My tweet was retweeted, and retweeted and retweeted.
The momthevote hashtag was all over twitter and within days the conversation had exploded, so we did what anybody with the internet and a message would do and we started a Facebook page. And if we thought that the conversation in 140 characters or less had been fruitful, well, we had no idea what kind of bountiful harvest the FB page would bring. Within days we had hundreds of fans and had reached out to a completely different, completely engaged Facebook community. These were not my twitter peeps, and the ride we were on was nothing short of thrilling. 
Within 4 weeks, the Facebook page netted over 60, 000 hits and nearly 2,000 impressions per post, and the momthevote hashtag was hitting 4 million impressions - weekly. There were some pretty amazing things happening - Margaret Atwood used our hashtag repeatedly, pundits and professors were commenting on Mom The Vote - noting that they expected the movement to account for a 1% increase in voter turnout - 1% - it may not seem like a lot, but when the total voter turnout in 2008 was less than 57%, 1% is a significant number - and most importantly, the politicians were noticing. The Liberals were the first to capitalize on the momentum of Mom the Vote, reaching out almost immediately and making themselves completely available to voters online. We also heard directly from The Green Party and the NDP, both of whom incorporated the movement directly into campaign materials and press releases. No word from the Conservatives, despite reaching out to them directly. And whether or not the parties were simply paying us lip service, one thing was clear - Mom the Vote was making an impact with potential voters, and the politicians knew it. Apathy, it seemed, truly was boring, and thousands of women in social media and beyond were telling the politicians precisely what they wanted out of this election.
 And then the traditional media took notice. 
now before I get into that, I think I should tell you just a tiny bit about myself. I have been a professional copywriter for more than 11 years, and I have two speciaties: one is writing very prosaic, very flowery liner notes for nature sound classical and ambient music CDs, and the other, is advertising. And in my capacity as an ad writer, my most important job is to come up with a hook. A headline. An attention grabber. Something catchy. 
And I knew, that if I wanted people to not just listen, but to talk, I had to give them something to talk about. Something catchy, something engaging, and something that everybody I wanted to reach could claim equally as their own. In the weeks following my initial tweet, I was asked many times how I cultivated this movement, this phenomenon. And I answered the question the same way every time - I didn't. I came up with three iittle words. I came up with a catchy tagline and  everybody else did the rest. 
When the globe and mail called me within days of launching the momthevote hashtag, I was pretty excited. I did an interview over the phone, and then they came over to my house to do a photo shoot. You'd think the photo shoot would have been less nerve-wracking than the interview, but it wasn't. I absolutely hate talking on the phone, but I know how to be professional and articulate and get the job done well. But a photoshoot? I'm a social person, but I am a blogger - I really do prefer to stay on the safe side of the screen, and honestly, I have a face for twitter. I also have the housekeeping skills for twitter, and because I am a blogger and a social media junkie, I am also somewhat of a narcissist, so I was convinced that whatever photo was published would be completely scrutinized by readers and that my appearance and that of my house would be judged. Oh, the interview I wasn't worried about; the words I said I wasn't worried about. What I was worried about was that somebody would see the picture including my two very adorable children sitting on the dining room table while I typed at my netbook and think, Oh, she's one of those mothers that lets her kids climb on the furniture while she's on the computer!
Luckily, that's not what happened - at least, I don't think it is - and anyway, I had to get over it pretty quickly, because next up, the CBC called. And they wanted me for a segment on the National - the National! You don't say no to the National no matter how much time you're going to have to spend cleaning your house beforehand. And then a radio station in the Maritimes called and they wanted me for their morning program, and then the Star called and then CBC radio called and they wanted me for Metro Morning, but I let Emma Waverman do that interview on Mom the Vote's behalf because they wanted me to be there at 5 in the morning.
Mom The Vote may have began as a social media campaign, or more correctly, a campaign on social media, but that's not where it stayed. And think about Twitter, about Facebook, about Blogs even to a certain extent - most of what we do online is totally reactionary. We can be eloquent, we can be smart, we can be passionate and we can be clever and dramatic, but usually we are being those things in reaction to something that has happened or was heard of in traditional media. Look at the trending topics on any given day on Twitter - ok ignore the ridiculous #Whoyourbabymama hashtags - and you'll see that almost everything we tweet about is in reaction to some current event or news. And that's amazing; I love knowing which celebrity died before my mother can call and tell me, but Mom The Vote was truly different. Mom the Vote was something that was created, that had its start on Twitter and in social media, and that the rest of Canada reacted to. And that's the part that really blew my mind.
And we did it all on virtually no budget. Our budget was about equal to the price of a Starbucks coffee, and that was, in fact, spent on a Starbucks. The political parties spend thousands - millions - on advertising campaigns and election outreach, and we got an nation talking about our platform, the Mom The Vote platform, on the price of a Starbucks coffee. 
But this couldn't have happened if I hadn't stayed engaged, if I hadn't continued to be the persona behind Mom The Vote. I could have just put it out there and let it go, but there is a social aspect to social media, and that's where the politicians and the mainstream media get it wrong, and we get it right. 
Staying non-partisan was certainly a challenge, mostly on the FB page where different rules apply and passions run deep and hot, but if I wanted this to work, I had to own it. I had to remain non-partisan because that's what I said I was going to do, and I had to keep tweeting because that's what I said I was going to do, and I had to keep talking to the politicians and the media because I said we should Mom The Vote, and when you put it out there, it's out there. People will hold you to your statements, especially political statements, especially political statements that are supposed to be non-partisan. It wasn't always easy. I can move a lot of experiences from that whirlwind month into the "Lessons Learned" category, but they won't all be cautionary tales (like, you never know which angle they're going to shoot from, so do the dishes). 
And one of the most important things that I learned was, you can start a social media campaign and you can spend thousands of dollars and you can have press materials and marketing materials and you can have flashy websites and a manifesto and go to the ends of the internet to make sure your campaign gains momentum. 
Or, you can know your audience, trust your timing, own your message and simply come up with Three Little Words. 

Thank you.

If you're interested in watching the footage of the talk, you can find it here
***















9.11.2011

Surviving School Lunches - Week 1

My daughter started grade one last week, and with it came her first opportunity to eat lunch at school. In other circumstances, I probably would have brought my daughter home for lunch (we are a 10 minute walk or 1 1/2 minute drive away), but her school operates on a 'balanced day' schedule, meaning that the kids get two forty-minute breaks in the day, rather than the usual 15-/60-/15- minutes breaks.

I like the idea. The two breaks are each divided into 20 minutes for 'nutrition' and then 20 minutes to run around outside, and they come at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm. When I asked the principal whether or not they felt this approach was working, she was enthusiastic. The kids generally treat the first break as snack time and the second break as lunch time, but it means that the kids are less likely to rush or skip eating time simply because playtime is too precious to waste on eating. And better nutrition and management of eating time means that kids experience less highs and lows during the day, while longer breaks outside of the classroom help keep energy, behaviour and attention levels more steady inside of the classroom.

But it also meant that eating lunch at home was pretty much out of the question for my daughter. Students are permitted to go home during the second break, but I felt that travel time, prep time once home and the stress of having to be back at school within 40 minutes would essentially override all of the advantages of having a balanced day.

Plus, my daughter begged to eat lunch at school. She is also begging to ride the available school bus (unsidewalked country-ish roads mean busses despite the close distance). I'm not quite ready for that one, however.

Anyway, back to lunches.

You all know that I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Planet Box lunchbox, and I have to tell you, it has been worth every penny. I realize it's not a necessity for everybody, but it makes me excited (or at least, not dreading) making lunches, so it's a gem to me.

The planning for lunches began before the school year began, and I did the planning with my daughter.
She sat beside me for about an hour, and together we scrolled through scores of pictures of lunches. As we did this, we wrote a list of all of the things that she would be happy to see in her own lunch. Hard boiled egg? Check! Mini muffins? Check! Goldfish crackers? Blech. And so it went, until I had two pages of acceptable ingredients to mix and match.

And so we began. Apologies for the low-res images; I don't have an iPhone and the camera was out of batteries, and yes, it takes me a week to change the batteries in the camera.

Tuesday

2 slices nitrate-free chicken breast, Pillsbury whole-grain croissant,
grapes, tomato and cucumber slices with hummus, one square organic
mint chocolate.


Wednesday

Smoked salmon, grapes, mini pizza slices (aka one left-over pizza
slice cut into 3 'mini' slices), frozen corn, organic mini cereal bar,
two liquorice all-sorts.



















Thursday
Organic cheese with melba crackers 2 slices nitrate-free chicken
breast, carrots, Pillsbury whole-grain croissant, pear and cucumber slices,  
Annie's organic gummy bunnies


















Friday

Hard-boiled egg, grapes, homemade applesauce, mini chicken-
veggie wrap, melba crackers, mini-marshmallows


















Hope you all had a great first week back at school!

A few other places for great lunch ideas:

These 10 lunches they'll actually eat via Parent Central

This comprehensive guide to school lunches via EverythingMom.com

These fantastic lunch plans via Today's Parent

These great tips for picky eaters via Canadian Family










9.07.2011

My September 11





It's hard for me to see to hear to read all of the rehashings of September 11 each year. I empathize, I sympathize and I sometimes even pathologize their pain. I didn't lose anybody in the attacks, but when the sun sets on September 11, a day full of pain and sadness for so many, it will then dawn on the saddest day of the year for me.

My September 11 is September 12, the anniversary of my father's death. 

Am I comparing the two events? No. Yes. No. I marry the events, a pall cast and spread over just so many hours more; a national day of mourning and remembering and railing at the unfairness of it all. I share those things as I think of my father, on the fourth anniversary of his death. 

My father was an American, a Vietnam Veteran and an objector to much of what America was about. His death was not sudden and unexpected, if you count the 4 weeks we had to prepare for it, not sudden and unexpected. He died an ugly, horrible, painful death. We lived through it, we think about it nearly every day. We have survivor's guilt, though his illness was his alone. 

He was one of the most important people in my life, and he is no longer here. 

Grief is grief. Pain and sadness is for the living. 

September 12 marks four years. How, I wonder, can that be? I feel like a lifetime has passed since he went away. I have a child he never knew, for chrissake. Missed knowing her by less than 2 months. She'll miss knowing him forever.

I have a new life he knows nothing about. I had many conversations with my father as we contemplated this huge change, but he didn't have to be there for me to know what he would say. I want you to be happy. Do what you think will make you happy. Your kids are the most important thing in the world. 

His kids were the most important thing in his world. I knew that.

September 11 is fast approaching, say the calendars the newspapers the TVs the magazines. The season of grief is upon us. 

And then comes September 12. 

***



8.25.2011

Life In The Country


I am incredibly not good at writing about my day-to-day, but I realize that after dropping the bomb that we were leaving Canada’s biggest city for South-Western Ontario’s biggest cornfield, you deserve an update.

I can’t talk about the actual move, because it still might end in litigation (yes, moving day was that fucked up), but I can tell you a few things about being here. I’ll save the mundane shit for Facebook, like how much I love – LOVE – my house, but here are a few nuggets from the country:

It’s LOUD here! I am used to city-loud: traffic, sirens, streetcars, teenagers getting high and yelling stupid things in the park across the road – that kind of loud. The loud you can sleep through. Here, though, I am not used to the loud. Country loud is all sorts of crazy – crickets and owls and toads, and the cicadas! The cicadas are friggen insane. They (what? Sing? Ok.) sing constantly, 24/7, but really kick things up at night. I am getting used to it, in fact, I really enjoy it, but anyone that says it’s quiet in the country is a liar. It’s not quiet, ever.

Oh, and I’m not really in the country. I’m in town, on what might look like a really nice, old suburban street (for TO peeps, think Blythewood. Gorgeous, old stately houses on beautiful lots, with some really weird 1970s renos, some really quaint little places and a few McMansions in between.) We’re in a 1940s rancher. The lots were all originally ½ acre, in accordance with a VA stipulation that soldiers returning from the war get ½ acre parcels of land, but our lot was divided in the 70s, and we have about 2/3s of that ½ acre, and I have no idea what that fraction/percentage actually is, because I’m a writer, not a mathematician.
‘The country,’ is three houses down and to the left.

We kept the cat that lived here before we did, because the owners could not bring her with them.  And I really want another baby or maybe just a dog or maybe just a new purse, but I know I want something, so without consulting anybody I sleep next to, I said we would keep the cat. Our old cat, Miko, and the new cat, Mouse, are getting along famously. And by famously, I mean that Mouse – of the Siamese variety – ponders Miko with a Buddha-like tolerance, wondering how this thing could not possibly adore her already, and Miko – of the Scaredy variety – literally shits herself every time Mouse comes within 10 feet of her. We had sequestered Miko in our room, with our things and our smells, but after 10 days and me getting tired of bribing Chris with x-rated favours to once again be on cat-shit-in-the-closet duty, they need to just get along already.

This is not a pedestrian-friendly town. New York is a pedestrian-friendly town. Toronto is a pedestrian-tolerant town, and right now, that would be good enough for me. People do not walk here. They barrel down the road in the biggest honkin pickup trucks you’ve ever seen, or meander along in tractors (true), but they do not walk. We just can’t shake the city-centric urge to get off our asses and out of our cars, so being a pedestrian is risky. Drivers are just not used to having to wait for people to cross the road before they can turn, so if on legs, it’s best to be vigilant. Because it’s like they aim for you.

There’s not much to do here. But you knew that. So did I. It’s a big part of what I wanted, since what I wanted was not to be distracted by things like a full-time job or you know, something to do.  Still, I have steadfastedly sought out things to do when, by late afternoon, I get tired of unpacking and of the kids whining that they’re tired of playing without me, and we explore. So far, we have explored every park, plaza and farm stand in the vicinity. Ok, there may be a farm stand or two we’ve missed.

Of course we talked at length about this before making the decision to come here, but at this moment, I am scared to raise my kids here. Everybody says that it is a great place to raise kids, but do they mean Jewish kids with a mixed faith background and very progressive parents? We have been in a glorious little bubble where the only people we have had to interact with are people we know and love. I hope I will not see some of my fears come true when school starts and I am more ingrained in the community.

I have not yearned for a Starbucks mocha lite frappucino. I know! Maybe out of sight does equal out of mind, or maybe out of luck just equals out of fight. Whatever it is, I barely even wanted the one I got when we drove to London last weekend to get my new computer.

I love my house. I know, I said I would save the mundane for Facebook, but I really, really love my house. It’s more house than I ever thought I would have. That doesn’t mean it’s huge – it’s not, really, I’m not bragging – but I have never lived in a house that was bigger than about 1500 square feet (with 5 other people), and I have never had ‘good’ things. I’ve also never wanted for anything, and never counted a French-door fridge or a fireplace as a necessity, but now I have both and I will be thankful. SO thankful.

Biggest surprise: I’m not bored. True, there is not much to do here, but that doesn’t mean that I’m bored. I’m really and truly not. I know, it’s only been less than two weeks, and I’ve had a house to unpack and get to know (there are still light switches that I cannot figure out the connections to), but in a couple of weeks school and preschool and gymnastics and routine start, and I won’t have time to be bored.

But I will have time to pick my kids up from school and preschool and gymnastics myself. And to work in my marvelous garden. And to cook with the marvelous bounty of goods that are grown in the rich soil here. And to write, hopefully marvelous stories, but whatever they will be, at least I will have the opportunity to see them through. 

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7.22.2011

Co-Sleeping And Intimacy

Recently, I had the pleasure to speak with Hallie Cotnam on CBC Ontario Today on the subject of co-sleeping and intimacy. The piece was produced in response to this article by Erica Jong in the New York Times, where she states, among other things, that women are hiding from their men in an ‘orgy of multiple maternity’ and ‘man-distancing slings.’


I suppose Erica Jong has done a lot of good things for women and the notion of a woman’s sexual freedom, but she’s never really represented my brand of feminism. She certainly wasn’t representing me when she said that the older generation (presumably, hers) discovered free sex, and that the younger generation (presumably, ours) are rebelling by fetishising motherhood and monogamy.

Her point, it seems, is that women these days are choosing motherhood and monogamy over sexual pleasure and freedom, and that the two are incompatible. She rallies that there can be no room for intimacy in a bed full of children, and indeed, that we have sterilized the notion of sexuality back to a 1950s ideal, after her generation worked so hard to turn us all into sluts.

My first reaction to the article, as I mentioned to Ms Cotnam in an earlier conversation, was that Ms Jong was simply on the defensive. She states early on that her own daughter is living and parenting in a very different way than she herself parented. Ms Jong patronizingly calls it rebellion, but I think a more accurate analysis would be that, in the mirror held up in front of her, Ms Jong sees her philosophies and values being rejected by her daughter, which smacks of disapproval of her own parenting skills. In other words, Erica Jong is afraid her daughter doesn’t think she was a very good mother, as evidenced by the 180 degree difference in their parenting styles. I'm not saying that this is indeed the case, but I know that if my kids do everything differently than I did, I might feel a little rejected.

I completely get it. When Jong had her babies, as when my own mother had hers, formula was new to the market and hailed as a feminist breakthrough. Mothers had the freedom to be away from their babies for as long as they wanted to be, now that they were not tethered to them by their breasts. It seems that Jong is angry that our generation is ‘undoing’ everything she did for us, as evidenced in statements vilifying women who ‘breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him.’ Gee, Erica, how forward-thinking.

What she fails to accept is the simple reality that times have changed. Instead of lashing out at all of us ungrateful puritans, she could instead enjoy the notion that her (gag) trailblazing led us to a place of choice, where we are all comfortable to make our own.

As for the question of whether one can be intimate with their partner while they co-sleep, I am almost insulted by Jong’s lack of imagination. Sex, only in a bed, only at night? C’mon Erica, is that what your generation fought for?

Then again, Ms Jong does speak from a place of expert experience – she’s on her fourth husband; I’m still on my first.

***

7.06.2011

House, Sold. Heart, Heavy.

We signed our names, shook hands, congratulated each other and then, after a whirlwind 4 weeks of prepping and packing, storing and staging, it was done. Our house was sold.

Our house was sold.

A wave of exhaustion washed over me but it was quickly displaced by a rising tide of emotion. Our house was sold, to a nice young couple with a small daughter – exactly who we expected to sell our house to. They were excited, elated, relieved, and I couldn’t help but be taken back to the night that the young couple elated, excited and relieved that this house was now theirs, was us.

A little more than seven years ago, we were the young couple moving into this house. We were the young couple mere weeks away from beginning the task of populating the empty rooms with the pregnancy of our first daughter. We were the ones looking at each other in a slight state of shock and proclaiming to each other, The house is ours!

We’re not leaving our house because we no longer want it. Yes, we’re trading in our lifestyle, our city, our habits and priorities for something that we feel will now fit our family better, but it’s not because of the house. This house, our house, still feels right. The walls have been painted and the counters cleared for showings and sale, but as soon as I turn away from the quiet of uncluttered surfaces, I still know the house as ours. My children’s footfalls echo through the rooms and despite my best efforts at keeping hands and home free of grime, errant fingerprints reveal themselves on refrigerator doors and window panes.

And I am still tucking my children into their beds, in the only rooms they have known, and when I lay down at night it is still in our house, in our bed, in our room, the room my daughter was born in.

As I straightened the never-straight rug in front of our bed before a final showing yesterday, I saw my midwife kneeling on it, saw my sister sitting attentively behind her, saw my husband at the edge of the bed, saw my keening body as I brought my daughter into the world. This, our room, the world.

I’m ready to leave my life in Toronto, my job, my proximity to friends and family, but as I closed the door last night, exhausted, I was assaulted by the realization that I will also leave our house. We get to bring our things with us, the too-many books and clocks and chests and flotsam and jetsam of seven years of accumulated living, but I will be leaving behind this place. This place where we have laughed and fought and grieved and celebrated and watched and listened. This place where I gave birth to my first baby.

And how can I do this? How can I leave the only home my children have known; the hydrangea planted over soil rich with my first daughter’s buried placenta; the tree in the front yard, planted there after the birth of my second daughter; the divet in the wall of their bedroom, made by the repetitive motion of a rocking chair, heavy with the weight of mother and baby, gliding back into the same spot over and over and over.

How can I leave this house, already being emptied of belongings but still so full of our lives?

We have made our choice, we have signed our papers and we have so very much to look forward to. But even as I tell my children tales of what’s to come, I am already filing away tales of Where We Used To Live to tell later, when the limits of a child’s memory have been exceeded and appetite for personal fable realized. I’ll tell them stories of wobbly babies running down the hallway as though it were a racetrack, and older sisters convincing younger sisters to hide in dark and crowded closets. I’ll tell how one was born in the very bed we slept in and how one was supposed to be, but was always a monkey and had plans of her own.

***

I can’t sleep, my daughter told me last night, after everybody had left and the house was still. I keep thinking about the little girl.

What little girl? I asked as I smoothed her hair back from her face.
The little girl that’s going to sleep in my room.
Don’t worry, I assured her, she doesn’t sleep here until you’re all cozy in your new room. She won’t be here when you are.
Oh, that’s good, my daughter replied. Because you know my sister likes to crawl into bed with me, and there wouldn’t be room for another girl here too.

Having assuaged her concerns, I ventured a question. Will you let your sister sleep in your bed in the new house?
Of course, mum, said my eldest. She’s still my sister. We’re not leaving her here; we’re just leaving the room here.

I kissed her goodnight and walked out of her room, a room that she so willingly bestowed to a stranger, so long as she could still have her sister. I filed our exchange away, another tale to tell her later, and went downstairs to call our family with the good news.


***

6.29.2011

Bidding Kindergarten Farewell

I recently suggested writing a letter to your child's teacher as part of his/her end-of-year gift. This morning I sent my daughter off to her very last day of kindergarten, packing a smile, some fresh-cut lilacs, a gift card and a letter for her teacher. I know Ms B will like the LCBO card, but I'm hoping the letter will let her know how much she has truly been appreciated. Good teachers are gold.


Dear Ms B,

Thank you for another wonderful year, and for helping to end M's kindergarten experience with the confidence and enthusiasm she will need as navigates full-time school and grade one. We won't be at [this school] next year, but we have no doubt that as our family embarks on a new adventure, M will relay many stories to her new friends about her first favourite teacher.

We wish you all the best in your new classroom, and hope that you'll find that the unexpected turns in the road often yield the most inspiring views.


Thank you for being a part of our story.


K&C

Have a great summer, everyone!

***

6.10.2011

5.25.2011

Restless

What is it you really want? my husband asked me one night. We were laying in bed, books in hand, but before either of us could turn a page (or, more accurately, press a button since we were actually holding e-readers, which leads to a much less romantic opening line), I had told my husband, not for the first time, that I was restless. Unhappy. Dissatisfied.


When somebody asks you what you really want, it’s best not to think about it too much. Thinking about it too much leads to dishonesty. Thinking about it too much leads to confusion. You want to say, Money, but you’d feel guilty saying that in the face of the horrors that plague our fellow humans, so you say, Peace. But you don’t mean it at that moment, you mean, Money. So don’t think about it too much. Be honest and immediate when your husband asks you why the 15 minutes before you go to sleep has turned into philosophy time and not reading time. (Or, given his choice, something-else-altogether time.) And don’t think too much about it.

Success, I tell him.

That is what I want. I want success. I want achievement.

My husband gently pointed out that I had just been part of a widely-recognized national campaign during election time. That I had been on the radio and on tv and in newspapers and websites. How many people get to do those kinds of things? He asked. That, he said, was success. I should be proud.

And I was. Proud that I helped create something that got big. Really big. Even if only for a few short weeks. But I had a hard time seeing it as success. It was fun. It was no big deal. I came up with three little words, and it caught on. I also come up with clever words that help sell millions of dollars worth of products every year. That’s not success. That’s a job. Most people have one.

You’re a little hard on yourself, my husband said. He may be right. I think I may have a disasssociative-success disorder. I recognize it in everybody but myself.

But it’s out there. And I want it. I’m just not sure what it is.

***

5.10.2011

Sisters

I was already in early labour, and would have my baby just after midnight. I love this pic of me and my sisters, and love that we are all together again this year to celebrate that baby's sixth birthday.

(I'm the pregnant one. On the right.)

***

4.13.2011

Mom The Vote

Mom The Vote


Buttons are now available!

With less than three weeks before we head to the polls for the fourth time in seven years, we need to arm ourselves with enough information to make the best choices for our families. There’s a lot of rhetoric out there and not a lot of hours in the day for wading through election campaign material, platforms and promises. We came up with Mom The Vote is to help spread relevant election information to all the other parents out there, and to show the Canadian politicians that we're paying attention. So add this button to your blog or election-related posts and use the #momthevote hashtag on twitter. We have a voice, and it's strong. Let's use it!



Mom the vote – because this isn’t kids’ stuff.

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4.11.2011

Once Upon a Time, I Wrote About Food...

I love to cook, and I used to love to write about cooking. In fact, I used to do it weekly at Better Than a Playdate, which unfortunately ended a couple of years ago.

Since then, I've felt like there are way more, way better food bloggers out there, so out of fear of being called a hack, or being judged for not developing a recipe the right way, or being too healthy, or not healthy enough, I just haven't really written much about food.

But I was going through my archives, and have decided to reprint some of the pieces I originally wrote for Better That a Playdate, in my column called, Eat Me. Because the writing is good. And so are the recipes. And they were, like the best, most delicious meals, a labour of love. 

Bon Appetit!

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All In Together


I am a firm believer that whenever possible, families should eat the same food for dinner, at the same time. Not only does this allow a busy family to sit down and spend time with one another, but it enhances another firm belief that I have – that your children should have to suffer through endless questions about their day and their life as payback for all those sleepless nights. Oh yeah, and that as parents, it is up to us to model good eating habits for our children. If that means that you have to suck it up and learn to love your veggies or how to put up with the often anarchic table manners of a toddler, then do it. With a smile...

This doesn’t mean that each member of the family isn’t allowed to have their preferences – we are individuals after all, but if you introduce a wide range of food to your kids early on, it should be easy to come up with meals that everybody loves with little or no substitutions necessary due to pickiness. That said, I also give us leeway in the form of the two-thirds guide: if my kids like and will eat two-thirds of the healthy meal I’ve put in front of them, I will be happy and consider the meal a success. And if they don’t want to eat any of it? Well, at least I’ve tried, and will try again tomorrow. A small child’s eating whims (or outright refusal to eat anything at all) usually pass quickly.

Here’s another reason that I think it’s nice to eat together – your kids are vital, important, worthy members of your family. Why should they eat plain spaghetti and frozen corn at 5 o’clock while you dine on steak at 7? How ‘bout you meet in the middle and have fish at 6?

Sounds good to me. Here’s a recipe that’s easy, healthy and yummy, and is prepared in no time.

No more excuses. Tonight, you’re not just setting the table for two.


(s)Mothered Haddock

Prep time: 15 minutes (30 if you’re being harangued by a toddler the whole time), plus 20 minutes for marinating
Cook time: 12 minutes

4 generous portions

  • 1 lb fresh wild haddock filets
  • 1 leek, diced
  • 1 med. tomato, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smushed
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • dill, salt & pepper to taste

- Preheat oven to 425

- Cut haddock into 4-6 pieces

- Combine remaining ingredients and smother haddock with them

- Marinate for 20 minutes

- Bake for 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily

I served this atop a scoop of quinoa, with a side of steamed spring asparagus garnished with almond slivers Deelish!

*SoundBITE*

Haddock is found to be lower in mercury (approx. 0.031 parts per million) than many other white fishes, including halibut (approx. .252 ppm), but a good rule of thumb regarding mercury levels in fish is to try to stick to coldwater, wild choices.


Source of data: FDA 1990-2004, "National Marine Fisheries Service Survey of Trace Elements in the Fishery Resource" Report 1978,_"The Occurrence of Mercury in the Fishery Resources of the Gulf of Mexico" Report 2000

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