Monday, December 03, 2007

My Baby Likes That Baby

Finding music for toddlers that doesn't make adult ears bleed is hard. Way hard. Babies are no problem: they don't care what they're listening to, and worst comes to worst you just throw on some Vivaldi and they fall asleep. Toddlers, on the other hand, have preferences. Wonderbaby, for example, is deeply attached to her Sesame Street Classics CD, which I bought in a fit of nostalgia (I could list to 'Rainbow Connection' for HOURS, I thought. I thought wrong) and has been known to throw a fit of protest if one puts on any other music (except, oddly, the Mika CD. She luuuurves that one. Sings along and totally grooves. If I weren't so sick of that CD now, I'd totally find it adorable.)

So although I was hopeful about the That Baby CD and DVD, I wasn't falling out of my chair with optimism. It was more of a shoulder-shrugging we'll see. It was worth a shot, I figured, if only because it would provide an hour's respite from 'Elmo's Song.' So what the hell. And if I liked it, well, that'd be cool. If she liked it, awesome.

She did like it, as it happened. She didn't freak out and dance and sing along to every word, but she happily joined in when I started singing along with the songs that I knew (omg 'Brass In Pocket'! 'These Are The Days'!) And it was so gratifying to NOT be singing along with Big Bird that it didn't even bother me that these were covers - however well-performed - of some of my favourite songs (I usually hate covers, unless they're really witty in some revisionist way, like Mike Flowers doing 'Wonderwall.') Who cares if that's not Natalie Merchant singing 'These Are The Days'? It's not Cookie Monster or Prairie Dawn! (The covers really are well-performed, FYI. Better than I expected. And I'm usually really picky about these things.)

The DVD was also good, although Wonderbaby did lose interest faster than she would with, say, Elmo's World. But it's not like I need her to be sitting down and watching; I'm happy with some visual and aural ambience that is grown-up friendly. So for those afternoons when she's fussing about having the TV on, and I just can't stand one more episode of Wonderpets, this is the perfect thing. Cool visuals and good music: she's content because she's got the 'treat' of having a DVD on, and my ears don't bleed. Win-win.

So the DVD has been included in our tiny stack of 'DO NOT PACK' discs - the ones that are being kept near the TV until the very last minute of our move - and the CD is in the car for repeat listening. And it's on my gift list for new parents this holiday season, for sure. Waaaay better than Barney.

(Check out the tunes and some video HERE. And check out PBN's coverage of the campaign for a coupon code for 20% off the product, which is a great gift for any parent in your life who just can't stand to listen to one more minute of Elmo's Greatest Hits.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Daring Is As Daring Does

It's been forever since I posted here, mostly because I've been sick, sick, sick and then sick again, and the reviews are the first thing to go when I'm not feeling well (hard to remember what I'm even supposed to be writing about, let alone whether I liked the thing or not, when my head's hovering over the toilet.) But I'd been dying to write about The Daring Book For Girls, because I so loved The Dangerous Book For Boys and because, well, I just love the spirit of the whole thing. Every girl and boy probably needs one or both of these books on their bookshelf, if only so that they'll know that, sometimes, the coolest information isn't the kind that you Google, but the kind that's preserved between two dusty hard covers, on dog-eared pages that beg to scribbled upon with personal notes. I may well end up buying both of these books in bulk, just so that I'll always have just the perfect gift for any adolescent - or adolescent-at-heart - that crosses my path.

But it's been an exceptionally hard week, and it's hard to fully summon review-friendly enthusiasm for anything, least of all a book that celebrates childish joie-de-vivre. There's not much joie in my vie right now, because I've been forced to contemplate what the life of my future child will look like if certain genetic/chromosomal test results hold up. How could I celebrate 'daring' when there's now every possibility that my child's life will not, could not, be 'daring' or 'dangerous' or involve any of those wonderful words that evoke stolen horses and secret hide-outs and covert missions and great adventures?

So I wasn't feeling particularly enthusiastic about this review-enterprise when I flipped open The Daring Book this morning, weeks after first reading it, having forgotten everything about it and well in the midst of a deep, dark funk. But then I found myself lingering over passages about how to make the coolest paper airplane, ever, and about palm-reading and making a willow-whistle, and then scrolling down a list of books that could change a girl's life, and it occurred to me that daring is not necessarily all about great physical adventures. It occured to me - rather banally, I suppose - that a daring life might just be one that is well-lived, whatever the terms. My child might (might) never jump rope or climb a tree - but she might exult in a willow-whistle, or thrill to stories about Artemesia or Boudica or Cleopatra or Josephine Baker. Daring doesn't always mean stealing horses. It sometimes means just living, in the very best way that one can.

The Daring Book For Girls skews heavily toward the stealing horses (not that they advocate that, though I do) kind of daring. Climbing trees, doing back-flips, plotting spy missions, skipping rope, playing four-square, paddling canoes - independent spirit understood here, mostly, as physical spirit. But not entirely. Alongside female adventurers are female inventors; alongside daring feats of strength and agility are feats of intelligence and creativity; there are books to read and codes to write and many, many a story of incredible women who have changed history (and a solid reminder to keep a copy of Herodotus' Histories - history's first equal-opportunity story-teller, and one of its finest - on your child's bookshelf.) Would I keep this book on the bookshelf for my special-needs child (if I have one)? I don't know. I might just go straight to Herodotus and Little Women (wherein it's useful to remember that Beth is, in her way, just as daring - if not more daring, in bravely facing death - a girl as Jo). I'm having trouble viewing anything through any lens other than what if? right now, which maybe isn't fair to the book, but still.

So maybe this book wouldn't be ideal for a girl who can't run or jump or skip rope or steal horses. It doesn't, end of the day, really matter. It's still a fabulous, life-affirming book. And today I found that this book was good for me. It reminded me that taking joy in life takes many forms, and that folding a super-awesome paper airplane can make one feel pretty good. And I needed that.

(Part of the Mother-Talk book tour for The Daring Book For Girls.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Freedom Comes In A Little Black Book

You know how when you read fashion magazines, it sometimes feels like you wade through miles and miles of adverts and useless profiles on New York socialites - which was fine when you had all the time in the world to hang out in coffee shops and read Vogue, but now that you're a mom you have other shit to do and those ads get old real fast - before finally landing on some precious snippet of fashion advice, something that jumps out from the pages because it is just so clear and true? Maybe it's an actual piece of advice - like, 'don't feel that you must wear skinny jeans just because everyone else is, including all of the models in this magazine' - or maybe it's just a certain take on a book or a film or a piece of art, or maybe it's an Irving Penn photograph of a fifties model looking just so chic in a skirt that covers her knees.

Whatever it is, you save that whole 800-page issue of Vogue Magazine for that one tidbit of inspiration. And then, two months later, you do it again, because there, again, was some precious bit of information, and maybe you tell yourself, oh, I must write that down, or perhaps I should tear out this page and tuck it in a notebook, but you never do because somehow it seems more energy-efficient to carry that 3lb magazine - and stacks and stacks of its sisters - around with you for the rest of your days (during which time you will have forgotten what piece of precious advice jumped out at you and you will thumb through the pages vainly, wondering why did I save this? but refusing to toss it because you know that it must have been something important.)

Until now. Now, you have Nina Garcia's Little Black Book of Style, which has collected and distilled all of those tidbits of fashion genius and all of those precious bits of timeless advice into one slim, pretty volume that you can carry in your bag or keep on the vast expanse of shelf-space that is vacant now that you are able to toss your dust-gathering collection of old Vogue (and Harper's and W) magazines. It's all in there - from discussions of why it is, exactly that Debbie Harry is a fashion icon and Scarface a defining film for fashion to tips on how to purchase a good-fitting bra to the reasons why a good tailor is indispensable to how to dress for a wedding, really. So you don't need to keep your old magazines anymore. You have Nina's book.

There. I have freed you from your dusty paper chains of magazine collection tyranny. Go forward and be free, and stylish.

You can thank me - and Nina, and the Parent Bloggers Network too, I suppose - later.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Stay Tuned

The first-trimester sicky-blues have been keeping me from my all-important mission to provide scintillating product and book reviews, but fear not! More are coming:

* CleanRest mattress covers and pillowcases keep the bed bugs (and dust mites and other sleep-bogies) away! For realz!
* Printakid Personalized Books! Wonderbaby loves the book, but loves the CD even more. Loves the sound of her own name, I guess. Takes after her mother.
* Crayola's new line of toddler-friendly paint-pens and markers: ARE GENIUS. They're also all over my wall, but at least they're washable.

More on these cool things as soon as the nausea subsides. In the meantime, remember that Farzzle giveaway? MomOnTheGo won the draw (ceremoniously performed by Wonderbaby, having created name-stubs with her Crayola 'punts.') (Send me an e-mail, MOTG - I haven't been able to open your website for some reason.)

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Love Shakespeare? Read This

I'm a sucker for what's used called an 'intellectual mystery.' This genre used to be the domain of writers like Umberto Eco (at the brain-achingly intellectual end of the scale) and Arturo Perez-Reverte (at the mystery end), who wrote thick novels with multiple plotlines involving books and scrolls and letters and more letters and conspiracies involving the Church and occult organizations and the what-not. Then it was hijacked almost entirely by That Guy Who Wrote That Book About That Code and car-chases were thrown into the mix and the genre, to my mind, lost a little bit of its appeal (although I did, for the record, blaze through That Book in one sitting and enjoyed it.)

So I'm always on the lookout for novels that are throwbacks to the genre that was perfected, in my opinion, by writers like Eco and Reverte (and Iain Pears and Katherine Neville) in the late eighties and nineties of the last century - when, that is, I'm not reading the latest releases from those authors. I haven't discovered any contributions to the genre that would rank as 'classic' lately, but my most recent read came close.

Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell ("A long-lost work of Shakespeare, newly found. A killer who stages the Bard’s extravagant murders as flesh-and-blood realities. A desperate race to find literary gold, and just to stay alive. . . . ") came very close to ranking with the classics. It has all the right ingredients: interesting historical mystery involving real history (Shakespeare), lots of esoteric interpretation of real and fictional texts, and excitement and adventure and all the things that make a classic. It also, however, has car chases, and more than a few implausibly narrow escapes from death, and the de rigeur plucky heroine who is determined to see the mystery through on her own, dammit, but who nonetheless needs to be rescued, time and again, by a hunky male help-mate (with a mysterious background, no less) when her pluckiness gets her into trouble. These aren't bad things, per se, but they do ring a tinny formulaic note in a book that is otherwise rich in plot and ideas. It's almost as if the author had the movie pitch running through her mind as she was writing - it's Shakespeare In Love meets The Da Vinci Code! It's Indiana Jones for girls who love theatre! - and shaped her characters and directed their actions accordingly.

I can forgive all of that - there are worse literary sins than evoking movie templates. And the author goes a long way to making up for it by weaving a fascinating story around the mystery of Shakespeare's real identity. Her real accomplishment with this novel is, I would say, her success in making the mysterious Shakespeare jump off the page as a character in his own right - even as she preserves the sense of mystery around the question of who he really was. This can't have been an easy task, given that the thrust of the mystery relies entirely upon that uncertainty concerning his identity. This is what kept me turning the page, wanting to discover more - not the fate of the characters pursuing the mystery (I had little invested in these characters, and guessed the identity of the real villian early on), but the fate of the mystery itself. What would the story reveal? What would be Shakespeare's fate?

This is no small accomplishment, not least, as I've already said, because the narrative tension depends upon the reader not knwoing who or what Shakespeare really is. That Shakespeare lives and breathes as a full-fledged character in this novel under those circumstances is tribute to the author's investment in that character and to the story and to her skill in telling it. It was what kept me glued to the book, even as I rolled my eyes a little bit at some of the characters. It was what elevated this book, for me, above some of the more popular contributions to the genre (coughDaVincicough).

It's no Foucault's Pendulum or The Name of the Rose, and so it's not an immediate classic for me, but it's good enough to compare the classics of the genre. And that's saying a lot.

This review is part of the MotherTalk tour for Interred With Their Bones. You can follow more reviews here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Greatest Blogging Tool EVER. After Computers. Oh, And The Internet.

I brought a little friend with me to BlogHer this summer. No, I'm not referring to any vertically challenged Toronto mom-bloggers, nor am I being coy about anything, you know, dirty.

I brought this:

It's a FlyFusion computer pen. And it rocks.

I did this with it:

And this:
You can check out the original posts in which they appeared here and here, but the upshot is this: I was tired and overwhelmed for most of the conference and couldn't be bothered to lug my computer around with me wherever I went, and the FlyFusion allowed me to write and scribble and compose all manner of blog post while sitting through panels in hot rooms, all without ever touching a laptop case or fiddling with a single computer cord or struggling to get a wireless connection.

Which is exactly what I did. Scribbled, that is. I could have written lengthy, descriptive posts in longhand, and then uploaded them from the pen and converted them to word documents that could then be copied directly into my Blogger template (because it does that, people!!!), but I didn't. I doodled, a lot. It's fun to doodle. All the more so when you know that you can save your doodles and put them on your computer and fiddle with them in Photoshop. (Somebody commented on one of those doodle posts that I must be an art professor. Ha! Behold the magic of technology, that it can make me - all-thumbs me - come off as artistic.)

I was introduced to the FlyFusion at a little press event for LeapFrog products. Yeah, that LeapFrog - the folks who make all the edumacational toys for tots. Motherbumper and I had been checking out all the merch, when a man who had been lurking in the corner of the room near a desk of what looked like homework supplies asked if we wanted to see the FlyFusion. We shrugged at each other and sat down and the man began to speak about pens and computers and pen computers and blah blah blah and we were this close to saying something to the effect of yeah, and? when he pulled out one to demonstrate.

And blew our minds.

The FlyFusion Pen writes in a digitized notebook (which doesn't cost all that much more than some higher-end regular notebooks, but which comes with extra features like, um, built-in calculator and built-in translator and built-in music mixing program. NO LIE.) You can use the programming in the notebook to help with translations and calculations and other tricky stuff, and then upload whatever you've written to your laptop or desktop as a Word document or as a JPEG or both and then do with it what you will. It's what you've dreamed of, all those times you've sat in a cafe or on a train or in a super-boring lecture writing your deepest thoughts or silliest jokes or most heartfelt letters in longhand and wished that there were some way of getting the ink onto your computer so that you wouldn't have to type it all up. It's what I dreamed of, back when I was an undergraduate and taking all my notes longhand and drafting outlines for papers in longhand, etc, etc. And now it's here. It's like, totally, Jetsons, without the flying cars.

LeapFrog is marketing FlyFusion to parents of high-school kids, and to the kids themselves, as a homework tool, which I think actually misses the biggest potential market for this thing. The undergraduates that I teach take of all their notes on their laptops - they do everything on their laptops. They're not a generation that cleaves to pens and paper. I'm the generation that cleaves to pen and paper. I (and my peers, and my husband and his peers) carry Moleskine notebooks with me wherever I go, jotting ideas and keeping notes and drafting blog posts in longhand, not just because it's easier than lugging the laptop, but because it's habit, and, moreover, because I love the feel of paper, and the feel of pen rolling on paper. My husband, who works in the film industry, also carries notebooks with him wherever he goes, to keep track of job details and accounting and random bits of information about whatever it is that goes on on the sets of TV commercials. We're not giving up our notebooks anytime soon - we're children of an ink-and-paper era - and so the prospect of some technology that allows us to keep our notebooks and integrate those notebooks with our computers is like the promise of chocolate that makes you skinny, or vodka that doesn't give you hangovers.

And for bloggers? This is the ultimate blogging tool. Write blog posts anywhere, anytime. Make doodle-art. Mix music. Invent, create, scribble - and then upload it all to your blog, at your convenience. I get giddy just thinking about it.

Most of the readers of this blog, and my home blog, are parents, and I'm guessing that those of you who are parents of older children might want to buy this for them. But you'd be happier if you bought it for yourself. Or for your spouse, and then appropriated it for yourself. Because it's the single most awesome piece of technology that I've seen in a long time, and you'll appreciate it more than your kids will.

You heard it here first.

Check out FlyFusion here. Now available in Canada.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What's On YOUR Tube?

I have no problem with allowing children to watch television. I had never intended to let my daughter sit in front of the screen as a baby, but that lasted all of about four months - the need to make solo, uninterrupted trips to the washroom overcame my desire to shield her from the cathode rays before she was a toddler. In any case, I was none too fussed about breaking that particular rule because, as I said, I don't have a problem with television (or, as was/is more usually the case, DVDs). Television is part of our culture - a big part - and part of becoming culturally literate in our society involves become literate in and critical of the narratives of television (and, of course, film.)

Good television, that is. What I do have a problem with is bad television, and with mindless channel-surfing and TVs just being left on as background-filler. Becoming literate in media like television and film requires engage with their content, and I'm simply not interested in a) having my children be unengaged, and b) having them be engaged with bad content. So I've been picky about what goes in our DVD player, or what channel gets flicked on, when Wonderbaby is in the room.

We're lucky, in Canada, to have a cable channel - Treehouse - that is devoted entirely to programming for younger children and that is almost entirely commercial-free (I say almost, because although they air no commercials, they occasionally flash an brief and unobtrusive message stating that a certain company has sponsored a certain show.) I luuuurve Treehouse. LUUURVE. While it does air some shows (*cough*Wonderpets*cough*) that make me want to tear out my own eyeballs and/or eardrums, it has a fairly good roster of shows, many of which are Canadian, that more or less insures that if I need ten minutes in the bathroom, sola, I can turn it on and be secure in the knowledge that Wonderbaby will be distracted and will not be exposed to any Bratz commercials.

Among the very good shows - among the very Canadian shows - featured on Treehouse: Farzzle's World. Farzzle's World tells, in very short animated segments, the story of baby Farzzle and his adventures as he explores his world, all from his imagined point-of-view. So it is that toys become real (a stuffed dinosaur growls ferociously but affectionately), pots and pans become an orchestra, and the world, literally and figuratively, becomes a playground. It's a brilliant little show, remarkable in its simplicity and touching in its sweetness.

It's not, I should say, a show that Wonderbaby asks for (she rarely asks, and when she does, it's for Teletubbies or the crazy Your Baby Can Read dvd). But it is a show that she'll slow down for, and one that holds her attention for at least a few minutes. The real appeal of the show is that I like it. There's no dialogue, just lovely animation and the occasional Farzzle giggle. On days when I have a headache or am tired or over-stimulated, it's something that is a pleasure to have playing on the television. I can sit on the floor and narrate the story - which is, after all, just visual - in whispers to Wonderbaby ('look -Farzzle's dino is real!') while we snuggle, with no danger of high-pitched singing ('The phone! The phone is ringing!') breaking our revery and making my ears bleed. It's almost zen.

(Another piece of children's Canadiana that has the same effect on me - Co Hoedeman's Ludovic series. Seriously zen.)

The lovely people behind Farzzle sent me some DVDs - obviously, in the hopes that I'd write about it and recommend it to you. Which I am - because I love Farzzle. I selfishly love Farzzle. There is no end of DVDs that are effective in distracting children (Barney, after all, will do the trick for many kids, as will the execrable Wonderpets) - but there aren't so many DVDs/shows that are really a pleasure for parents to watch, too (if only for the sweet, simple animation that harkens to a time when animation was just drawings come to life.)

You can find an excellent example of Farzzle animation here, or you can check him out at the Farzzle website or at Treehouse. Or, you could write a post about what children's shows or DVDs you like (not your kids - YOU) and link to Her Bad Mother and this site and I'll randomly draw two names and send those folks Farzzle DVDs. And, I'll make a list of the posts for the sidebar, as a running list of kid's stuff that has some aesthetic or intellectual appeal to grown-ups, or that simply doesn't make us want to poke ourselves with sticks.

I'm telling you: you'll like Farzzle. Now tell me about something you like.

(This is, FYI, my very first give-away. I get lots of offers to give stuff away, but because I won't give anything away that I wouldn't actually buy, myself, to give as gifts, it hasn't happened. 'Til now. Woo hoo.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Everybody Say Wii

I love my Nintendo Wii. Love. With a passion. But to date, the only games that we've gotten into here in the Bad household have been golf, boxing and baseball (all of which come with the Wii package) and the Mario Bros. Wario Smooth Moves game (which is just retroliciously anarchic that the husband and I played it for days after we first brought it home and still giggle when we look at the package). There's just not a lot of games out there for Wii - or, at least, not a lot of games that make use of the Wii interface in an interesting way. So you'd think that the prospect of a Wii dancing game - Wii Boogie - would have grabbed my attention immediately.

It didn't - but only because it involves karaoke. I hate karaoke, with a passion. I have to be good and drunk to get into karaoke, and even then I only get into it by laughing at people. So the prospect of getting down to some karaoke in my living room didn't, initially, appeal. Still, Wii gaming opportunities, because of their relative rarity, are not to be sniffed at. One can't play virtual golf forever, you know.

So it was that we bust open the Wii Boogie, hubs and I, and gave it a whirl. And, as I expected, it made me cringe and recoil. But it also made me laugh out loud in the process. Laugh hard. Really hard. Despite myself, I had fun (granted, I had been drinking, but this game invites that. Unless you're playing with your kids, in which cut back on the liquor and just laugh at your offspring.)

And that's the thing about the Wii - it invites and embraces the ridiculous. The more absurd or mundane the game, the better suited it is to Wii. This is the platform for Mario ping-pong, or Donkey Kong, or virtual boxing. Or karaoke. Or disco boogie. This is the game system that you want if what you're looking for is a little exercise, and a lot of giggling. Wii Boogie delivers on both of those counts. Sure, the playlist leaves much (much) to be desired, and as a competitive game it's lacking (although if you add a liquor component - Boogie Shots? - to up the ante, that helps), but good music and robust competition miss the point of the Wii entirely. These are games of the ridiculous, meant to provoke the absurd and leave participants gasping from laughter. If you take karaoke, or disco dancing, seriously (and god help you if you do), you probably won't appreciate Wii Boogie. Hell, if you take gaming seriously, you probably won't appreciate Wii Boogie.

But if you like to laugh at yourself, and at your spouse, and at your children (and who doesn't like these things?), then I can pretty much guarantee you that you'll have yourself a good time with this thing. Break it out at your next party, and if it doesn't cause at least one guest to wet their pants, you don't have fun friends.

Check out the deets on the game HERE, and check in at PBN here for more reviews.

Monday, August 20, 2007

There's A Reason Why Seals Don't Tan

I love the sun. The sun is my enemy.

I have very fair skin. In winter, I am practically translucent. In the full glare of summer sun, I am vulnerable to bursting into flame. So I never go outside without sunscreen. Nor do I ever take Wonderbaby - who is similarly pale - out of doors without full complement of hats and sleeves and layer upon layer of sunscreen.

Problem is, sunscreen is messy. It's gloppy and goopy and it makes your skin all greasy and your hands sticky and have you ever tried getting it on a recalcitrant toddler? It's like lubing a seal on the side of an oil-slicked iceberg. Not easy. Spray sunscreens make the whole project somewhat easier, but one still always ends up feeling somewhat greasy - and the child always ended up coated in sand or dirt or whatever material is closest at hand to stick to her sunscreen-slicked skin.

KINeSYS sunscreen goes a long way to combatting these problems. Its childrens' spray-on, fast-dry sunscreen does indeed spray on and dry quickly - two things that make the ritual of sunscreen application immeasurably easier. We've only had the products for a week - and not a sunny week - but the few times that I've used it have been immeasurably less messy than any other sunscreen-applying episode that I've experienced. The product is similar in composition to a light oil - but one that seems to dry within moments of hitting the skin. It stays fluid long enough to spread it around a little - which is important to Wonderbaby, because she likes to rub creams into her skin, and gets frustrated if she can't be involved in preparations for going outdoors - but it dries quickly and seems to leave no residue. Which - fabulous.

The only thing that would make this better - and perhaps I'll change my mind about this once I've used the product a bit more - would be if it sprayed on with some tint, so that I could be certain of where it has been applied. It dries so quickly and imperceptibly that it can be hard to tell what parts of the skin have been covered (a problem that I've remedied by spraying twice.)

We've already packed up the samples to take along on our camping holiday - if it turns out to be a surefire mosquito-attractor or happens to cause us to break out into spots, I'll let you know. But I'm guessing that it's going to make our recreation a lot easier.

A lot less sticky, at least.

Find out more about KINeSYS here. And check out more KINeSYS reviews at PBN all this week.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Come On Vamonos!

Wonderbaby speaks Spanish. Sort of.

She speaks Spanish - is being raised to know some Spanish - because I speak it. I'm not Spanish, nor any strain of Latin, but I did live for a couple of years in Spain and because some of my very dearest friends (Wonderbaby's godfamily) is Spanish and because we're all going back to live there one day (well, that's the dream, anyway.) So she's going to need it.

So far, her education in Spanish has consisted of me reading to her in Spanish, listening to Spanish and Latin-American music with her, and - not least - using the services of a part-time Spanish-speaking nanny. And it's been more or less successful: Wonderbaby communicates easily with her wonderful nanny, who has spoken to her only in Spanish since WB was nine months old. (And, from time to time, WB tosses in some Spanish with her English just to keep things interesting: bye-bye sometimes becomes adios (or, 'ciao,' for some Italian flavour), cow becomes vaca, water becomes agua, etc., etc.) But I've worried about how we'll keep this up once the nanny goes (which she must, because we can't afford to keep her full-time) - I'd read that children learn best when one person speaks the second language to them exclusively, and although my Spanish is good, I don't want to use it all the time.

Enter The Bilingual Edge, which tells me, to my very great relief, that this is not necessary. I can use all variety of methods to keep up WB's language skills - music and reading, in addition to conversational speaking. Indeed, TBE insists that parents don't need to be native speakers of a language in order to introduce it to their children. Rather, parents just need to be committed to exposing their children to that language at any opportunity - and willing to perhaps look a little silly, sometimes, doing it (as when, as the book recommends, reading in a language that one does not know. My husband - who does not speak Spanish, but who gamely tries to read it to WB, found this very reassuring.) And it dispels the myth that 'mixing' languages (one person speaking more than one language to a child) is counter-productive to language learning. (Children, they insist, sort through differences in language on their own, and this exercise can actually be developmentally advantageous.) Which, again: big relief.

This, I found, is the book's singular strength - it aims to help and encourage parents who are confused by the whole issue of language learning, parents for whom such training is desirable but not straightforward. If we were truly a bilingual household, and spoke Spanish regularly in front of WB, I wouldn't concern myself too much with 'how to's'. But we're not such a household, and because of this - even though we're not exactly an entirely unilingual household - we needed some help. And that help and encouragement was very welcome - not least because it came wrapped in the message that learning second languages needn't be, nor should be, stressful or challenging. Just welcome that language into your home, and enjoy it. The rest will fall into place.

How often do you get to hear that message in relation to your child's education? That's what I thought.

(With thanks to the Parent Bloggers Network!)

Monday, August 13, 2007

So You Think You Can Teach Your Baby To Read?

Do you want to teach your baby to read? It is, after all, not all that difficult if you've got Dr. Titzer - with his handy lesson plan and multi-media support - as your partner.

We tried Your Baby Can Read! Volume I some months ago, and discovered that, yes, it does seem to promote early reading ability. It was limited reading ability - WonderBaby was recognizing words - but still, much more than I'd expected for a child barely 14 months old. The question, however, was whether I wanted to teach my baby to read:

Sure, (I said) I might get WonderBaby to read the words in her books, rather than just fondle the pages and kiss the pictures, but to what end? Shouldn't she love her books for the simple joy of being able to embrace their bookiness, before rushing to decode the letters inside? Shouldn't the relationship begin as an erotic one, such that her intoxication with the book compels her to explore every inch of its mysteries, from form to image to word and beyond?And, how could I overlook the disconcerting irony that attends to teaching one's child to read with a DVD?

I still have these concerns. Reading is for loving, not for rote learning. That said, however, I've come to realize that singing and dancing along with a DVD program - in this case, Your Baby Can Read! Volume II - that pushes words isn't necessarily an exercise in rote learning.

WonderBaby loves this DVD. LOVES. As in loves it so much that she asks for it by name - baby read? Peez? - and shoves the Teletubbies (oh beloved Po!) aside in its favour. She shouts along as words are read - COW! CUP! HAT! - and then sings and dances when the songs come on. She seriously, seriously loses her shit for this DVD. How can something so much fun be rote?

She throws her little self right into the fun of shouting words and singing words and dancing to words and - yes - learning words (many of which she can now recognize). But what's most important about this, I think, is not the learning so much as it is the passion-building. In the process of having so much freaking fun, I'll venture, she's developing a passion for words. (Which is not necessarily a passion for reading, nor for books, but those, I think, are somewhat different matters.) Loving words - thinking that words are fun- is the first and most important step to loving reading and books and all the wonderful things that words make.

And although I can and do do everything that I can to encourage this love myself, it certainly doesn't hurt to have to some big guy in a doggy suit jumping around and pointing out the words to Old MacDonald Had A Farm as back-up.

Posted as part of the Parent Bloggers Network series on Your Baby Can Read. *You* can read more about YBCR at

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Coming Attractions

Review blogs, like math, are hard. I have plenty of stuff to review, but so little time to review that stuff.

So, in lieu of a review this week, here's a Pending List! (yay!):

Printakid personalized books (preview: a big hit with WonderBaby, but the CD is key with toddlers.)

Brighter Minds Media books for tots (preview: another big hit with WonderBaby, who loves her books, but especially loves books with cows. Bring on the cows!)

The Bilingual Edge (preview: it was useful as a handbook, for hints and tips, but didn't change the approach to bilingualism that we already use here.)

Your Baby Can Read, II (preview: damn, but does WonderBaby ever freakin' love the DVDs for this program. I'm not sure that they're teachin her how to read, but she now knows all the words to Old MacDonald Had A Farm.)

KINeSYS sunscreen system (preview: I'll let you know when I have more than a tablespoonful to try out.)

Fly Fusion Pen Computer (preview: this is the BEST thing that I've seen in, like, forever, and am BUSTING to write about it. It rocks, but it's totally pitched at the wrong market. You want this thing; who cares what your teenager wants? You can see how I used it during BlogHer here - I know, hardly inspired, but cooool. That's a jpeg from my FlyFusion notebook, doodled during a panel session and uploaded later. SUH-weet.)

Later, skaters.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Abandon Biases All Ye Who Enter Here

I'm generally not one for touchy-feely medicine. I'm well familiar with it, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, where there's no ailment that can't be cured in a sweatlodge or with pot and ginseng tea, but it's not really my bag. Give a me good old-fashioned medical doctor, complete with white coat and stethoscope and grouchy bedside manner.

So although I was open-minded about Body, Soul and Baby, I have to admit to a wee bit of scepticism. Oh sure, I thought. "Integrative Medicine." It's gonna tell me to drink wheatgrass juice and get acupuncture and 'journal.' But the credentials of the author, Tracy Gaudet, were impressive - bona fide doctor! from Duke University's School of Medicine! - and so because these things matterto me, I decided to give it a chance. If a real doctor - that is, not a graduate of the West Coast School of Alternative Hemp Therapies - can make a case for touchy-feely medicine, I'll be sold.

My interest was specifically in the TTC (trying to conceive) material, so after the reading the introduction (which confirmed my suspicions that this would the sort of book that uses nouns as verbs - 'journalling,' 'dialoguing,' argh) I headed straight to the section on preconception. Here, Dr. Gaudet promotes what she calls 'conscious conception,' which, not surprisingly, pushed my anti-woo-woo buttons. 'Conscious,' 'intentional,' meh. Gazillions of women get pregnant every year without the slightest bit of conscious intention.

However, however... upon reflection, I realized that there was something important to this idea. My husband and I have been 'trying to conceive,' but not very hard. It's been a matter of simply throwing caution to the wind and not paying attention. Which means, really, that we haven't been trying. Should this tell us something?

I don't know that our lackadaisical approach means that deep down we don't want another child. But it certainly points to some ambivalence, and Dr. Gaudet is right to urge women to be as conscious as possible of any ambivalence, not least because it will certainly colour one's experience of pregnancy and of the post-partum period. As someone who struggled with a bad case of post-partum depression that actually started pre-partum, I learned the hard way that staying aware of my feelings - no matter how negative they seemed - was absolutely necessary for pulling myself out of the darkness. Gaudet calls this staying conscious, and she's right to emphasize its importance. If I'm to make it through - make it happily through - another pregnancy and birth, I do need to remain conscious.

She's also right to promote things like journal-keeping and engaging in dialogue. I avoided both of these in the late stages of my pregnancy and during the early post-partum weeks, against the advice of my psychiatrist, and definitely suffered for it. It wasn't until I discovered blogging - an exercise in 'journalling' and 'dialoguing' if there every was one - that I was able to begin bringing about a sort of consciousness, and so pull myself out of the dark.

All of which is to say - I might have been much better off had I read this book before my first pregnancy. The problem is, I might have avoided this book for all of the silly reasons that I note above. Which really is a shame.

So - for all you skeptics and anti-woo-woo types out there - take the advice of this Bad Mother: in pregnancy and motherhood, more than any other experience you've ever had, you need all of the gentle, loving help that you can get. And you need to set aside your biases in accepting that help. This is like nothing that you've done before, so abandon all your preconceptions and embrace this adventure, body and soul.

And a good first step in this would be to read this book.

Part of the Parent Bloggers Network review series on 'Body, Soul and Baby' by Tracy W. Gaudet, M.D.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pharmacists Need Love, Too

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not a professional product reviewer. Hell, I'm barely an amateur - I don't so much review things as tell silly stories about them. Still, I do strive for some balance. I try to be critical. I try to point out negatives and positives. I try to provide useful information, at least some of the time.

Hence my difficulty with writing about The 24-Hour Pharmacist. I can find nothing negative to say about it. I love it. I want to marry it. I am absolutely biased about it. It can do no wrong. So I cannot pretend to have any critical perception here. All that I can do is share my love. To wit, this letter, that I wrote to my beloved last week:

Dear Pharmy:

Oh, 24-Hour Pharmacist! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! You have brought light to my days and sleep to my nights; you have taught me about Vitamin D and calcium and B12 and melatonin! You have brought a glow to my skin and a twinkle to my dark-circle-free eyes with your coy introduction to Vitamin E and lipoic acids and fish oils! (Oh, the fish oils, the lovely, glow-bestowing fish oils, hitherto ignored as stinky! How wrong I was! How little I understood before you came into my life!)

You have enlightened me about low acid, and calmed my gastrointestinal tract!

You have steered me away from unnecessary pharmaceuticals, except for Botox, which I didn't quite understand, but which I happily overlook because your other virtues are so many!

You have saved me from the drug muggers, who were covertly stealing my folic acid and my joy.

I carry you close to my heart - or at least in my handbag - at all times, so that I might bask in the light of your wisdom as I stroll the colourful but confusing aisles of the pharmacy, the Market, Sephora!

I love you, 24-Hour Pharmacist. I love you to the breadth and depth and height my soul can reach. We will never, ever be parted. Even though your soft white cover may get tatty and stained, and even though your pages might tear and become defaced by toddler graffiti - I will carry you with me. I will lovingly bind you with tape and wrap you in brown paper like a much-loved English textbook and carry you with me. Always.


Her Bad Mother

PS - I have been told that I must share you, which would pain me deeply but that I know too well the magnitude of your wonderfulness and know that sharing you in no way diminishes the light that you have given me. Go, help others, but know that I am your first true love, and make certain that when your wisdom blossoms into a sequel I get an advance copy.

Leave a comment on the campaign launch post or mid-campaign post at PBN - you'll be entered to win a $50 CVS gift card and a copy of the book and can enjoy your own forbidden pharmaceutical love.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Easy Rider

This? Is awesome:

No, not the husband, although he is pretty awesome, if a bit girly riding my bicycle.

It's a Wee-Ride: a front-mounted child's bicycle seat. Toss your kid in and go!

I can't even find the words to express how awesome this is. WonderBaby took to it like she was born to ride: she didn't squeal, she didn't scream, she just smiled contentedly as we sped down our street and through alleys and across parks. This - she seemed to be saying - is how we're supposed to roll.

And roll we did. Freed from the bulk of the stroller (even the feather-light Maclaren Volo, which I love, is just one more thing to push around) we zipped casually around our neighbourhood, exploring side-streets and alleyways and mysterious dead-ends. It was fun, and it was exercise (fun exercise!), and it renewed my love for my sweet little buttercup bicycle, which has been languishing in our shed since my pregnancy. The Wee-Ride seat lets me include WonderBaby in what used to be one of my favourite activities.

Ah, summer. So much the better when viewed from between the handlebars.

(For what it's worth, we purchased the Wee-Ride ourselves - it was not sent to us for review.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Nicer Shade Of Fairy Tale

WonderBaby is a little young for fairy tales and folk tales, but I stockpile them anyway. I still have all of my old collections of Grimm's fairy tales, and Hans Christian Andersen, and some collections of Italian folk tales and Chinese folk tales and at least one copy of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Gimpel The Fool. I loved fairy tales when I was young - the darker the better - and I'm hoping that WonderBaby will love them, too. So I want to be ready - books all lined up on the shelf, ready to go - when she is.

The fairy tales that I received in the mail last month are not in the vein of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen. If there is any hint of darkness to The Fairy Chronicles, it's the sort of darkness that just creeps in at the edges, only to be shooed away, quickly and efficiently, by sweetness and light. So I was not disposed to like these stories, preferring, as I do, dark morality tales featuring witches and trolls and other forces of evil that come perilously close to prevailing every time.

The thing is, I'm no longer a child - I'm a thirty-something curmudgeon - and so I'm probably not the best person to evaluate fairy stories aimed at the pre-tween girl market. At the least, I'd need to set aside my curmudgeon cap and consider the stories on their own merits. Which is exactly what I tried to do.

And I can say this: The Fairy Chronicles - a collection of fairy stories that hold in common the conceit that real girls might themselves be fairies - provide an interesting twist on the fairy genre. The main characters are young girls who discover that they have special fairy powers like speed and agility and 'ferocity in defense of others' - good, solid grrl-power stuff - and who embark upon a variety of fairy adventures in which they have use their special powers to resolve some problem or address some threat (in one case, a Web of Dreams has been broken, allowing nightmares to enter childrens' sleep too easily, and needs to be repaired.)

As I've already said, these threats do not stir any real fear (and, for the record, I AM as easy to scare as a nine year old girl) but end of the day, there's really nothing wrong with that. I shared one of the books with my sister, who has a daughter who is close in age to the target audience here, and she commented that her daughter would appreciate an adventure story that could be read at bedtime with no worry of nightmares. (Point well taken.) She also said that her daughter would love the premise that quote-unquote ordinary girls might be fairies - a welcome change from the usual run of Disney stories that feature princesses.

The stories told in these books are very much of the ilk that my mother told my sister and I at bedtime and around campfires: all the adventure and colour of a classic fairy tale, with none of the death and dark evil. The adolescent me might have loved the darkness of Grimm and Andersen while curled up in the bright comfort of our family sofa, but I recall well that I preferred the sweet security of the fairylands that my mother conjured for us when it came time for bed.

My sister (as always) absconded with The Fairy Chronicles, and this is, as I've said before, probably the highest praise that she could offer (thievery being the sincerest form of flattery.) When WonderBaby comes of fairy tale age, I'll probably still start with the classics. But if she starts crawling into bed with HBF and I after night-time readings of The Snow Queen or The Tinder Box, I'll ask my light-fingered sister to send those books right back.

Read more about The Fairy Chronicles here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Green Is The New Black

For a while, when I was in my twenties, I was, like, a rabid Marxist eco-warrior type. And vegan, to boot. Which means that, you would only have found me fun if you were also a vegan Marxist eco-warrior type, which itself means that you probably living, like me, in the Pacific Northwest and studying something useless like philosophy or cultural studies or the history of new social movements and prone to get drunk on organic wine coolers and pontificating loudly about how cow farts were burning holes in the ozone. (Or, in one case, getting drunk at a wedding at the Georgian Club in Vancouver and lecturing the entire room on the evils of veal. That My Bad Husband stuck with me after that is testament to his deep and abiding love for me, and his tolerance for my weirdness if it means that he'll be gettin' some later.)

Anyway. I grew out of it. Which is not to say that I grew out of my concern for the health and well-being of the planet, but that I realized that - once the baby-doll-dress-and-army-uniform of the vegan grunge grrl squad passed out of fashion - I didn't like the clothes. And that I did, actually, really like cheese, and that I had a weak spot for leather bags and shoes and that it was, accordingly, getting harder and harder to (literally and figuratively) walk my talk. Also, I figured out that Marxism really had very little to do with Marx, and that Nietzsche was far more interesting, but that it's far less interesting to get drunk and stand on chairs and ramble on about what he really meant when he said that God was dead than it is to get drunk and be all militant about some cause or another.

So I gradually became a quiet environmentalist. And, I gotta say, a sorta lazy environmentalist. It's easy to be rigorous when you're militant, because rigor is your schtick. But when you've already slid partway down the slippery slope of leather shoes into complete environmental irresponsibility, you find that you're more likely to lay back and slide on your ass and hope that the reverse traction caused by your butt-cellulite - packed on by all that cheese - slows your descent.

It's the lazy environmentalist in me that loves The Green Book, by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen (with contributions from people like Will Ferrell and Jennifer Aniston and Tyra Banks and other people who have no cellulite and so need more effective ways to keep from sliding down slippery slopes). It's cute and (yes) green and it fits in my Coach bag and its exactly the sort of cunning little book that I can whip out while I'm on the subway or pushing the stroller through the park and peruse tips for making my life more green. Easy tips. Tips like, don't take your ATM receipt. And, brush your teeth in the shower (this from Jennifer Aniston, who, you know, could probably afford a whole separate tooth-brushing room complete with on-call dental hygienist). And, ditch your answering machine (though really, who hasn't done this already?) And, use Blu-ray discs instead of traditional cds (more storage, more recyclable - I did not know this). And - wait for it - look for shoes and bags made with recycled materials (there're all variety of cute ones out there - Matt & Nat, based in Montreal, make gorgeous stuff.)

Like I said, easy. And easy makes it more likely that I'll act. And acting more... well, that takes me a step further. That takes me closer - back to, forward to - that place where I get really, really passionate about these things. Where I want to do more, regardless of whether it's easy or not.

Where I get drunk and preach the virtues of caring for our planet.

That's a good place to be. And if The Green Book works as a little bit of guidebook for that journey, and a little bit of kick in the pants, that's a pretty awesome thing.

Go, find it. Read it. Use it. It beats calling for a culling of old people.

Loving the earth doesn't mean you can't wear hot pink boots.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Garage Sale America: Your Field Guide to Pop Anthropology

It's a good thing that I read this book thoroughly when I first received it, like, weeks and weeks ago, because someone stole it. Probably my sister, because she loves garage sales with a passionate intensity akin only, I think, to that felt by little old church ladies for bake sales (weak in the knees for a good shortbread, these women. I know it.) Anyway, to report that the book was stolen is really to give it the highest recommendation possible: she wanted that book bad. Which is totally understandable, because if you like garage sales and you like smart and funny and aesthetically delightful books, Bruce Greenfield's Garage Sale America is totally for you.

I like garage sales. Not as much as my sister, but enough to have accompanied my sister on umpteen gazillion garage sale hunting expeditions over the years. (For the record, I do not like hosting garage sales, or yard sales, or anything of that ilk. I am allergic to selling things. I break out in a cold sweat and a rash.)

For me, though, the whole point of a garage sale is not to buy things (though I have done that, for sure - have I ever told you about the time that I found a set of perfectly preserved, art deco New York postcards? Complete with personal messages to Mildred in Salem on the back? Awesome.) The whole point of a garage sale expedition is to conduct social sciences research. It's to engage in sociological analysis. It's field work in cultural studies. It's anthropology in action.

This is what Bruce Littlefield, author of Garage Sale America, gets, and this is why I love his book and his website. Garage sale enthusiasts are not (just) junk junkies, not (just) Bargain Betties - they're anthropological warriors. They are burrowing deep into the soil of North American (I'm adding the 'North', because Canada has garage sales, too) culture and digging up artifacts and reflecting upon the evolution of a living civilization.

Remember when people wore roller skates, rather than blades? (I do, because I once found a pair of lightly scuffed 70's vintage white roller skates with red wheels that transported me back to Xanadu and doing turns in my suburban driveway to My Sharona and pretending that I was Olivia Newton John.) Remember Super-8 movie cameras? (My husband and I have three, along with a vintage Super-8 compatible projector, on which we have screened our Super-8 short films, because, yes, you can still buy Super-8 film and is anything more unbearably hipster than shooting Super-8 films and screening them for your unbearably hipster friends?) Remember polyester pantsuits? Polyester shorts pantsuits?

Polyester shorts pantsuits for children?

If you find a polyster shorts pantsuit for children, you can buy it, and put it on your child, and take pictures. For the purposes of anthropological analysis, of course. Just take care to not allow your child out into sunlight, lest the outfit burst into flame.

If I could find a pair of tiny vintage white roller skates and The Knack on vinyl, I could have WonderBaby re-enact entire scenes from my childhood, which I could film on Super-8 and screen at dinner parties where I'd serve Kraft Dinner and Wonderbread with Hawaiian Punch and make everybody discuss whether it's better to be able to roller skate to music or to crunk to it and whether we have indeed come a long way, baby. It'd be a super-awesome anthropo-po-mo-pop-culture salon, and it'd rock.

And I'd totally invite Bruce Littlefield. Because if I can find those skates and that vinyl, it'll be entirely due to the inspiration derived from his field guide to pop anthropology. (I'll be getting my tips and assistance from his website - which is almost as much fun as the book, and has the added advantage of an anthropological warrior blog - until my sister sends the book back. But I'm not holding my breath.)

What are/were your best finds? Tell me in the comments!

(This review is part of the Parent Blogger Network's Garage Sale America tour.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

True Blue Summer

We loveses the blueberries here at WonderBaby World Headquarters. LOVE. It's one of the very few things that WonderBaby will eat without hesitation, and so there are always, always blueberries in the fridge, or preserved in the freezer for thawing into granola or smoothies. WonderBaby eats them, I eat them, and Her Bad Father eats them by the fistful.

So when a package filled with bottles of TrueBlueberry Juice arrived on the doorstep we were all pretty excited. (WonderBaby: "Boo! BOO!" Knows her colours, she does.) Her Bad Father immediately absconded with the smaller bottles of blueberry and pomegranate and blueberry and blackberry blend and downed them before I even knew what had happened.

I, however, was a little more reticent: there's added cane sugar, and I try to avoid sugars (I generally exceed my sugar quota in my illicit consumption of chocolate.) I've never understood why fruit juices need added sugar - fruit is plenty sweet as it is. That, and I'm glucose intolerant, so any unnecessary sugar in my diet needs to be avoided. So I limited myself to small glass of the stuff. Which was, I have to say, very good. And, we are talking cane sugar, after all. Waaay down on the ingredients list. And no other additives, at all. So even a purist should approve.

It was just as well that I didn't claim it all for myself, because Her Bad Father loved it. Drank it straight, drank it with sparkling water, drank it with vodka. LOVED it. Loved it especially with the vodka, I think, but still. LOVED.

And really, how can one go one wrong with sparkling blueberry drinks in the summer? With Bluetinis? Please. You know you want some.

(Check out Ruth Dynamite's Dynamite TrueBlueberry Blueberrypolitan recipe, too. And her other ideas for using the juice. In salad dressing! In homemade popsicles! Yum.)


On the topic of summertime goodness, you may be interested to know that Oroweat is having a contest for a $50,000 Perfect Patio Kitchen (and no, they did not send me one. Nor did they give me any kind of bread - green or whole wheat - to link to them. I just think that it's a wild promo.) They're pushing the healthy eating, and who doesn't want a patio kitchen, on which you can, like, grill blueberry burgers for 200 hundred of your friends and neighbours? Seriously. It's a BIG KITCHEN. With a Bose entertainment system and flat screen TV and mega-grill. It won't fit in my backyard but it might fit in yours. For some dad out there, this is the ultimate Father's Day gift. Check out the details on the Ultimate Grill Tour and the contest at

Summer is blue sky and blueberries and big barbecues. And ice cream.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Time In A Bottle. Or A Boobie.

In the early days of WonderBaby, my time was measured out in a tidy little journal that I tended to obsessively. Every nursing session, every nap, every shit and piss and spit was dutifully recorded: when, where and how. My time, in other words, was managed retrospectively: I was flying by the seat of my maternity pants, and then carefully applying a schedule to that flight after the fact.

It wasn't particularly elegant, but it was a system, and it worked for me.

It worked, in part, because WonderBaby was pretty predictable in every respect save for napping, and in (larger) part because I had absolutely nothing to do but nurse and change diapers and wipe up shit and and tend to ravaged nipples and maybe get in the odd weekly shower and generally try to keep from going insane. It also worked because there was no time in the interstices of those activities: I just did the work of mothering, I didn't think about it, I didn't plan it, I didn't schedule it, I just did it. Where there is no time, there is no need for a schedule.

Now, however, things are different. The work of motherhood is, in many respects less intense, less filled with anxiety, but it is, at the same time, more difficult to manage. My boobs don't tell me when it's time to feed WonderBaby, as they used to. And they certainly don't tell me when swim class begins, or when our next appointment with the pediatrician is scheduled, or when we're due to meet her posse at the park. Which is a shame, because that would be really convenient, except for the leakage part.

Which is to say: I can no longer follow the rhythms of my own time, and apply order to those rhythms after the fact. WonderBaby's rhythms and my rhythms are no longer in tune, and our time is no longer completely our own. We have lives now, mother and daughter, outside of our cave, and with those lives come schedules and timetables and appointments and watches and clocks. With those lives comes time, and goes time.

With this life, my feet have become tangled in time. It comes and it goes and it swirls around me and I cannot pin it down, hold it firm, keep it still long enough to seize control of it. So I fly by the seat of my pants (mercifully, no longer maternity), but am now unable to impose order retroactively. I no longer have my little book. I am no longer in control of my chaos, because it lives outside of me, and beyond the reach of any little book. It's just chaos.

But we manage. We make it to the park, to the playgroups, to the pediatrican, usually. WonderBaby gets her meals, and (knocking knocking knocking SO LOUDLY on wood right now) her naps (yes, she naps, after such a long period of abstinence. A miracle. KNOCK WOOD), and everything else that she needs for a good life, a rich life. And I manage. I meet most of my responsibilities. I tilt and spin through the day trying to keep track, trying to remember, trying to stay ahead of everything that I have to stay ahead of. Always, I fail, in big ways or in very, very small ways, but the days still go by and we keep moving on and every day still feels pretty awfully good. But still - at the end of each of those days, I ask myself, where did the time go?

I know: it didn't go anywhere. It spun around me and it tripped me, or tried to, and at the end of each day its memory sticks to the heels of my feet like so much tattered, wasted toilet paper.

Which is where it will be tomorrow, too.

And the next day, and the next, and all our yesterdays, too.


This is posted as part of the current Parent Bloggers Blog Blast: 'Where Does My Time GO?" which celebrates both BlogHer (could win a registration! will give away! whoot!*) and
Light Iris – a site for moms featuring a specialized Google search which will - YES - help you to get more control over your time.

*Yep. Will give away the BlogHer registration if this post is drawn as a winner. But if not - there's still one to give away over at
MommyBlogsToronto... Check it out - you have until June 15th!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Politics of Hot Dogs

School cafeterias always terrified me.

My family moved frequently, and so I was always the new girl, and while it's a pretty straightforward thing to get your bearings in the classrooms where there are well-meaning teacher saying things like 'look, class, we have new student today; please don't terrorize her,' it's quite another story in the cafeteria.

The cafeteria is anarchy. The high school cafeteria, in particular, is the social epicentre of a naturally lawless society that strains against the rules and strictures that are imposed upon it in every other corner of the institution to which it is confined. In the classroom, the inmates follow the rules. In the hallways, in the gymnasium, in the library - the norms are set by the adults. In the cafeteria, however, the students rule, with no greater restraint than that offered by a few hair-netted food service professionals. It is their space, and their time, to do with what they will, and they organize themselves therein anarchically - no law, just conventions, those informal but nonetheless intractable social mores determining where people sit and with whom people speak that are usually impossible for outsiders to decode. It is, for a newcomer or an outcast - terrifying.

So I almost always, in the first weeks of my attendance at a new school, and sometimes for much longer, brought my own lunch and sat in the hall with a book and affected nonchalance. I would nibble at my peanut butter sandwich or my crackers and cheese and keep my nose well-tucked between the pages of Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, or, later, The Bell Jar and pretend to not hear the hoots and hollers and not smell the hot greasy fries from down the hall. My mother was well-pleased that I insisted upon bringing my own lunch - she, too, had a horror of school cafeterias, although hers was culinary rather than, like mine, existential or social - and gladly spent an extra twenty minutes every morning fashioning sandwiches and fruit boxes and murmurming to herself about how wonderful a thing that I did not like hot dogs and soda pop. As it goes, I didn't like hot dogs or pretty much anything that was ordinarily served in school cafeterias in the late eighties, but this was not why I avoided them. My distaste for cafeteria cuisine only served as a convenient truth, facilitating my efforts to avoid the cafeteria without alerting anxious grown-ups to my social fears.

I always got to the cafeteria eventually. I inevitably made friends and formed bonds and became attuned to the language and the mores of the tribe and was able to move among them and, eventually, enter their social arena without fear. So it was that I, too, would move slowly along the food line, refusing the hot dogs and the limp fries and maybe, maybe, selecting a yogurt to accompany the home-packed lunches that I still brought with me, every day.

Just in case. And because I never developed a taste for hot dogs.

Too cool for hot dogs, but not too cool for ice cream and shaaaades. Basically: NOT TOO COOL.

I went to some pretty nice schools - some public, some private, some Catholic - and none of them ever had a school menu program or an program that got families involved in the business of feeding the kids. The cafeterias at every school that I attended were strictly utilitarian, and tended toward menus that featured fries and hamburgers and hot dogs and all the things that as a casual vegetarian and wannabe epicure I hated as a kid (I know. GEEK.) My experience, then, might have been different had there been programs that looked anything like School Menu or Family Everyday , sites that work together with School Food Services Directors to provide and promote healthy eating and physical fitness for kids and their parents. Which is the sort of thing that kids roll their eyes at, usually, but which would have made a tremendous difference to my experience as a kid. Cafeterias were not for eating - and how could they be, when they didn't really serve food? Why NOT throw greasy fries around, or cold hot dogs?

I'm not saying that a healthy eating program would have changed the politics of the cafeteria - I'm certain that it wouldn't - but it would have given me more of a reason to fight my way in there (or have my mom shove me in. Which, now, as a mom, I think is a really good idea.)

Check both of these sites out: they're worth supporting.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blueberries and Fairies

Am so, so delinquent. Have not posted in, like, over a week. Or longer. Am ashamed.

Should have cross-posted this, because, well, it was in honour of this and that sorta counts as a review, no?

But! Have book reviews coming - sort of! Deconstruction of fairy tales! Analysis of garage sales! And a mind-blowing, life-changing report on blueberry juice!

Blueberry juice makes children fly. Consider yourself warned.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pretty. Simple.

I have never wanted to be an Ivory Girl. I've never really been able to pull off that fresh-faced, well-scrubbed, pink-cheeked look, largely because I've spent most of my life dressed in black with my hair dyed several shades darker and redder than it is naturally and cut into a more or less severe bob. Shirley Manson has long been much more my aesthetic speed than Jessica Simpson.

Then I had a baby, and discovered that spit-up really stands out on black and that it's a bit harder to get to Vidal Sassoon for bob upkeep when you're on baby duty 'round the clock. So I had to simplify my look.

So it was that when a representative from Ivory contacted me about doing a quote-unquote makeUNDER as part of their Low Maintenance Revolution promotion (which includes a contest to win a makeunder), I really had to laugh. Really. Like, ha ha ha ha ha ha. Because, really, who needs to be made under less than a new mom? A new mom who rarely pauses to even put on lipstick anymore, and considers herself groomed if she brushed her hair. One's look just doesn't get any more low-maintenance than bare face, unkempt hair and yoga pants.

But they insisted, so I went for it. Hell, I could use a haircut. And if it was going to be a low-maintenance haircut, all the better. I can barely remember how to use the flat iron anymore.

Which is not so good, because after this haircut, I need it more than ever.

To be fair, it's a good haircut. It's still a bob, which is important, because I'm not so good with change, and it's short, which is generally easier to care for, but there's this funky flippy part at the front that I will NEVER be able to reproduce in the comfort of my own bathroom. It's not exactly low-maintenance. Nor was the make-up that they put on me as part of the makeunder - in particular the eyebrow powder (apparently I need to darken my eyebrows for maximum eye impact). It looked really good - if a bit more 'done't han what I'm used - but who has time (and steady hands) to put on eyebrow make-up when a toddler is climbing your leg? (The make-up artist said that the whole routine would take me less than ten minutes, but that assumes that a) I know what I'm doing with an eyebrow brush and b) that I care about the eyebrow brush.)

So it wasn't exactly a makeunder. But it was still pretty cool. And I can totally get behind the idea of reducing one's beauty routine to a few simple steps so as to save time for a totally chilled-out bath or shower. And when I got home that afternoon and ran the bath and poured in, like, a pint of the Ivory WaterLily shower/bath foamy stuff that they gave me... that was nice. Really nice. (WonderBaby, I should say, luuurved - LUUURVED - the WaterLily shower/bath stuff. 'MORE MORE MORE!!!' It pours out like opalescent syrup and pools up in your hand before you suds it up into a fistful of bubbles. Toddler heaven. But she can't have it - it's mine.)

Anyway. What matters is, I look good. And I - and WonderBaby - smell really, really nice. And maybe it's about time I reacquainted myself with that flat iron.

Friday, May 11, 2007

This Mother's Day Moment NOT Brought To You By Hallmark

I've been reading some books, lately, by parents who came to parenthood awkwardly, who donned parenthood like an ill-fitting suit that they belatedly managed to grow into, a suit that they only got comfortable in after many washings and maybe a bit of alteration here and there (letting out where it's snug; taking in where it sags and billows.) They all say the same thing: that it felt strange and awkward and uncomfortably new. Unfamiliar. They didn't know what they were doing. They weren't sure that they were cut out to be parents.

But they were. Of course they were. They're cut out to be parents because, simply, parents are what they are, regardless of how comfortable or uncomfortable that experience of being is. They simply are parents. A parent is what I am. A mother.

And the only criterion for motherhood - for parenthood - is this: LOVE.

My love for this incredible little being is what makes me a mother. Not the tear in my nether regions, not my saggy tits, not my ability to change a diaper on a moving baby in the middle of a playground, not the the fact that I've read every single freaking parenting book ever published. My love is what makes me a mother.

That's all.

And that's all I need. It's all she needs.

This Mother's Day moment is part of the Parent Bloggers Network blog blast, supported by LightIris, which launches on Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Baby IQ Saved My Brain

I love Baby IQ.

I have no interest in using multimedia to boost my child's brainpower. I have no interest in doing anything to boost my child's brainpower, other than love her and engage her and encourage her to be engaged with the world around her. So, DVDs that purport to make my kid smarter? Bah. Not interested.

But Baby IQ is not that DVD. Sure, they bill themselves as educational. Sure, they market themselves to the same sort of aspiring-but-very-possibly-very-lazy competiparent that is Baby Einstein's target market. But they've done a couple of things differently - a couple of things that make all the difference:

1) They've put together a DVD that is lovely to watch and listen to. Zen, even. Gorgeous images, and the Londony Symphony orchestra. No harpsichord. No tinny canned piano. No musical abridgment for little ears. This is real music. This is good.

(I can't emphasize this enough. So much of what is produced musically for children makes my ears bleed. To have a CD or DVD that I can stick in our stereo system and enjoy with WonderBaby is huge. HUGE. I played this DVD over and over again, in place of some of our usual classical music CDs - we enjoyed the music together and named the images as they came on screen and it was pleasant and relaxing and no-one had to punch themselves in the ears at the end of it. Nice.)

2) The Baby IQ organization partners with other organizations - in particular, the UK's National Literacy Trust - to support literacy and early childhood learning.

3) Did I mention that the music is really, really good?

4) Oh, and WonderBaby enjoyed watching it for minutes at a time. Sweet, sweet minutes of a wonderfully still WonderBaby, directing her hoots and hollers to the screen. And! No dancing purple dinosaurs!

5) The music is really good.

Again - I don't care if this DVD boosts WonderBaby's brainpower. I don't expect it to, and frankly, I could stand for her brain to actually slow down a little bit. And, in any case, I don't fish out the DVDs for learnin' - I pull out the DVD's so that we can have a little distraction, a little respite from singing and dancing and playing jungle-gym on the dining room furniture. And Baby IQ does that job beautifully.

And that's all they promise, really - to make your baby smile while not causing your brain to dissolve and ooze out your ears onto your freshly-Swiffered floors. (Okay, so they only claim the 'make your baby smile' part. But isn't 'brain-won't-dissolve' part just as important? They should put that on their promotional literature. Because making my baby smile is the easy part.)

Check out more reviews of Baby IQ through the Parent Bloggers Network over the coming weeks, and check out the Baby IQ website to watch a demo of the DVD.

Friday, May 04, 2007

'Fabulous' Isn't Saying Nearly Enough

You have to go buy this. Buy it HERE. Just do it. Because I said so.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mama Dice Comprobarlo

WonderBaby speaks Spanish. Not quite as much as she speaks English - and her English is pretty limited, seeing as she is 17 months old - but still, it's there. Water is agua, cows are vacas, sometimes bye-bye is replaced with ciao (not Spanish, I know, but idiomatically latin) and yes with si. Once, when I asked her where her Pablo (don't ask) was, she said alli esta (over there).

She speaks some Spanish because her caregiver speaks Spanish, exclusively, with her. I wanted her to learn Spanish because I speak it, and because her godfamily is Spanish, and because I fully intend for her to spend time in Spain, it being a place very much of my history and very dear to my heart. So, we've been taking every opportunity to expose her to the language.

Boca Beth was just such an opporunity - a Spanish-language learning program for children, something to pop in the DVD/CD player to augment what she's learning from her caregiver and (much more casually) from me - so I jumped at the opportunity. Our Boca Beth package included the musical CD My First Songs In Spanish, the DVD I Like Animals, a Boca Beth Coloring and Activity Book, a Boca puppet and a maraca, and WonderBaby appropriated all items immediately. Puppet was flung about, maraca was shaken and CDs and DVDs were thrust at me aggressively: ya ya ya ya ya! (WonderBaby also knows some German.)

The DVD was great - simple and engaging and just the right amount of crack-like rhythm to keep WonderBaby bouncing and hooting. (And, as I've said before, anything that distracts her from Teletubbies is GOLD - oro - in my books.) Add some maraca, and you've got a dance party with video back-up. Afterwards, chill-out to some mellow moments with the puppet and the colouring book and there's one afternoon well spent. Siesta, anyone?

My only reservations were with the musical CD. For one, I personally didn't like the music (that said, I also don't like WonderPets and I loathe Barney but I won't turn them off if WonderBaby grooves to them. And she did groove to the Boca Beth CD.) For two, I found that the repetitive transition between English and Spanish in the songs made it a bit difficult to really get into the rhythm in sing-along. As a Spanish-speaker myself, I found bouncing between languages awkward - I would have rather heard and sung-along with one whole song in Spanish, and then heard and sung-along with the entire English version, than heard one line in English, then in Spanish, then another in English, and so on and so on and so on. And I'm not convinced that this is actually effective for language development - from what I understand about second-language learning, the more immersion and the less 'back-and-forth' between languages, the better (this is why Dora isn't effective as a language learning tool - children might learn some select vocabulary, but not 'whole language.') So we'll probably stick to The Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack and the old Spanish pop songs from my iTunes library for the music part of our program.

But, still, WonderBaby liked it, and so I'll certainly pop it in the player when she asks for it. And, as I've already said, the DVD was very good, as were the colouring book and toys. We'll totally keep using them to augment our own Spanish program.

Y por eso, todo es bueno. Gracias, Boca Beth.

All of these products can be found on the BOCA BETH official website and the CD and DVD can also be found on More reviews can be found through the Parent Bloggers Network.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Spread The Word

Have I said lately about how much I love BabyLegs?

When you are travelling in uncertain climates with a toddler who insists upon climbing every elevated surface that she sees, an tiny (read: easily packable) item of clothing that provides extra warmth and knee coverage is worth many, many times its weight in gold.

BabyLegs, Overnite diapers and Children's Gravol: keeping travelling parents happy since whenever it was that someone figured out their special travel magic.

Why didn't someone tell me sooner?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Whatever Gets You Through the Night... Or the Flight

So, this review is shamefully late, due to circumstances beyond our control. BUT, but... the lateness of this review afforded further opportunity for product testing. So - all's well that ends well, no?

The product: Huggies Overnites diapers. The tester: WonderBaby, she of the exuberant bladder. The testing conditions: long nights, one long flight and one super-long car trip.

It was clear from the moment that we began using the overnight diapers that this would be an easy review to write: they worked, totally. No wet bursts in the night, no overflowing pants in the morning. Perfect. So it was that I thought that there really wasn't anything to say, review-wise: the overnight diapers work beautifully overnight, and I would totally buy them.

End review.

But then we - WonderBaby and I - took a cross-country trip involving airlines and road trips and lo, the overnight diapers revealed themselves to be useful for more than just nights. (Insert astronaut joke here.) One Huggies Overnite diaper lasts longer than a flight from Toronto to Vancouver, and longer than a road trip from Vancouver to the north Okanagan of BC (a four hour drive), and certainly longer than a flight from the Okanagan back to Vancouver, and (I'm presuming) longer than the flight from Vancouver to Toronto.

I'm actually pretty certain that we could fly from Vancouver to Japan or Toronto to Capetown or anywhere to the moon and - barring any unnecessary poo - be fine with one Huggies Overnite diaper.

It's not that I'm averse to in-flight diaper changes (well, actually, I am so averse), and it's not that I would altogether avoid diaper checks - but knowing that we can stretch the time between changes on long plane trips and road trips and the like makes travelling a lot easier.

So there you have it: Huggies Overnite diapers... not just for overnight.

And... if you leave a comment HERE, you could win a package of Overnights of your very own! Enough for a trip around the world, or two.