Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labour Day Feast

This post is filed under SAVOURING!

Here was our Labour Day Feast which turned out to be an amazing feast with little planning. We made roasted veggies with fresh herbs from our garden, locally grown green and yellow beans, homemade fresh bread, for dessert pumpkin scones with spiced icing which were better than Starbucks and the piece du resistance: Beer Can Chicken! My husband first attempt at the Beer Can Chicken was delectable especially as it was naturally-raised organic Beretta Farm Chicken (which aside from being the tastiest chicken I've ever bought are raised and farmed in a humane and sustainable way- all locally they are located in King City ON).

We also had a lovely glass of Chardonnay (which I'm not sure pairs well but tasted great to us!) All in all a lovely meal made even more special by sharing it with my family!

Sometimes the best dinners are ones that aren't planned and you end up eating in your sweats and it's the most beautiful meal you've had in a long time.

This was one of those meals and I will cherish the memory...especially how wide the Mouse's eyes got when she saw that bird!

Here are some pics....leftovers tonight were even better...yum!


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hello Bangs!

(This picture has been styled by my creative stylist, Jessica

and in no way do I plan to do this pose in every picture

from here on in and post them on Facebook

just in case you were wondering!)



My bangs are back and I am so happy. They are like old friends coming back to visit, I missed them and we have so much to catch up on. (Now they didn't arrive from the Great Style Fairy overnight but close, I must credit the talented Jennifer from W.A.C Hair Group on Main Street Markham for giving me a kick-ass do! Seriously, I barely have to do anything and my hair is normally wavy to curly!)

You see after I had my daughter, I let things go for awhile. As new mothers know all too well, previously impeccable personal grooming is the first thing to go. Even if your intentions are strong and the support systems are in place, there is just no way you'll trade an hour of sleep/eating/showering/reading/staring blankly into space in a shell-shocked daze for pulling out that flat-iron!

Now, although I have always been rather fussy about my hair (one friend joked that I went to the hairdresser practically every 2nd week to which I replied, "Doesn't everyone?") I knew going in that I wouldn't be able to maintain anything close to what I used to do so I pretty much gave up.

When you give up on your hair, you basically have given up on most of your personal pride. At least in my case that's true.

I did try hard to look my best while on my maternity leave even if I was just going for a lap or two around the park with the hounds but the level of fatigue usually didn't allow much coiffing. So I just gave in and gave up!

Now that the style is back, I feel like a new woman! Some mothers have said they feel sexier after having their children, the power of their bodies and inner strength bolstering their self-confidence which I get. I feel it too –sometimes-but mostly I just felt rather dishevelled. During university exams to take an hour just before leaving to write to shower, put on some make-up and nice clothes instead of showing up in my pyjamas like other students. I was always of the belief that if you look your best, you will perform your best too.

Looking good is more than mere vanity, it's the outward and inward commitment to the self that you are important too and should be cared for –whatever that means to you.

It's no wonder that many women would pick a perfect hair day over great sex! What's the point in pure ecstasy if you feel like a frump queen?!

It's good that I didn't obsess over my hair when I was home with Miss Mouse but it's equally as important that I remind myself that along with my new role as Mummy, my return to working girl life and continued devoted wife, daughter and friend, I can still be rather foxy....

Or at least my bangs can!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The best thing I've found online in awhile...

Thanks to Rambling Renovators who introduced me to my new addiction!

Lovin' it! Guess what I'll be doing for awhile?


Monday, August 23, 2010

Lessons I’ve Learned from Twitter

I know it's been awhile since I last posted. Maybe you thought I had given up marveling and savouring life.

I haven't. Actually quite the opposite.

I decided in July to go forward with a thought I had had to start a blog celebrating Canadian children's books and authors/illustrators by reviewing a book a day. I also had hoped that this new and exciting venture would keep my mind occupied during the time I was away from my precious Miss Mouse.

It's working. My blog Word of Mouse Books has been a saving grace. I am not required to use all my extra moments, whether commuting by train or downtime at work to plan and execute what I will do for each nightly post and that leaves little time for wallowing in the separation time. Plus, I am "forcing" myself to write each day and to find my own voice as I muddle through.

The added boon, besides all the great books I get to read and my small but loyal readership, is the amazing on-line community I have met and become part of.

I'll be honest; while I love many of the social media tools (obviously blogging but also Facebook) I have been resistant to Twitter. I had this notion (probably from media portrayals and thanks to Ashton Kutcher) that it was a cyberspace wasteland of narcissistic individuals tweeting about their bowel movements, what they were eating, and what sort of underwear their wife had on today.

Boy, was I surprised.

Not only is Twitter a valuable tool for getting the word out about your product, service or brand (in my case my blog is my brand) it has become a valuable source of information and connections to various authors, illustrators, book enthusiast and bloggers. For me, Twitter has also been a way to engage in a meaningful dialogue about children's literature, local events and parenting styles. It's a limitless forum to build awareness and start a conversation.

So I just wanted to share some of the life lessons I've learned from Twitter:

Finding success at life or through Twitter is more than coming up with witty repartee and zany one-liners. You have to have substance:

Sure everyone loves the guy/gal with the sarcastic quip or the ability to make us laugh but people on-line and off only want that for so long. If you have nothing valuable to say after awhile, people will tune you out.

Vapid people get very tiresome really quickly just like tweets about nothing and the disingenuous get sniffed out fairly quickly too. For some reason the same tool that allows millions of people of any socio-economic, cultural, racial, religious, national group or affiliation allows those same folks to weed out those with self-serving gains or ill-will faster than you can say "tweeps"! I think there are some universalities when it comes to human behavior which is paradoxically evidenced in cyberspace. I also think the world is hungry for more (but that's a whole other post!)

If you aren't here to participate you might as well stay home:

Like life there are always those more engaged than others. Some of this is personality or upbringing while some of it is just laziness or as Seth Godin's coined our Lizard Brain. We are afraid of failure, fearful of taking a stand, cautious of being taken seriously. Why? Because it means we up to this point, we haven't been living up to our potential and that's tough for some people to take in.

This fear is not only reserved to the individual but to companies and organizations everywhere. They are afraid to get on-line and build a presence. They hire expensive consultants and assemble teams and meet ad nausea to plan and plan and plan. These aren't bad things but the worldwide web doesn't wait. Why, you ask, because it doesn't have to! If you are not there to add to its need for frequent, relevant and generating conversation don't bother even coming out.

It's like the guy who attends every single meeting, keeps his head down, takes only notes and never says a word. It's almost better that he didn't come because all he'll be remembered for is as the guy who never adds anything of value.

So if you plan to go do more than show up, contribute! And if you plan to go on-line to contribute, be prepared to contribute something of value often.

You don't always have to be right you just have to be willing to talk about it:

Here is another thing that happens to people when the fear takes over they ascribe to perfectionism especially those who look at life as a dog-eat-dog world. If I'm not cool/hip/au courant/chic/ insightful/innovative/creative all the time I will be laughed off of Twitter (or the boardroom, or the classroom, or out of this group). I've found that on Twitter most people just want to talk about things-whether it is parenting, breastfeeding, kids' lit, writing novels, learning how to be more environmentally responsible and even how to be more successful at Tweeting!

If you are not ready to put your opinions out there then you're missing an important part of the tool, it's to facilitate conversation. Sure you only have 140 characters in which to do it which makes it harder but also forces you to really look at what's the important crux of what you want to say. What are the bare bones of your argument and how to get it across to others in a meaningful way? It's brilliant really, technology forcing us to be more mindful!

I often wonder how much better international relations would go if world leaders were only allowed to Tweet to each other!

And lastly, good manners go a long way:

Never was I more acutely aware of the power of good etiquette than when I joined Twitter. While I can't honestly say that bad manners will do you in (I'm sure there is someone out there who has some insightful musings on this) all I can tell you is that paying attention to how you treat people makes a HUGE difference in your ability to generate goodwill on line which means more Re-Tweets (RTs)of your tweets (which is how this whole thing works) more followers and thus more recognition and how much more I want to help others who engage in a friendly, polite manner with me.

This type of relationship currency is invaluable for the success of anything you want to do in life or on Twitter.

Speaking of which, I have some RTs to do and thank you DMs to respond to!

Hopefully I will meet you there!



Friday, July 16, 2010

Ch-ch-cha Changes!

If I have learned anything it's that change comes whether we like it or not. It comes when we are not expecting it and it comes when we are coasting along contentedly loving the status quo.

Change can be hard but it is a necessary component for personal growth. I know this sounds trite but it is true.

Having faced a whole host of change the last fourteen months with the birth of the Mouse and now with my second week of returning to work under my belt, I have had to *try* and make peace with this change. My daughter spent the first week with her Daddy and my mother, her Oma, and has now started home care (daycare in a home setting) with a lovely woman down the street.

I am composing this post for no other reason than to convince myself to stay calm and carry on and hopefully help some other moms who are due to return soon. (Actually, I think this post is an attempt to bolster my resolve not to walk into work every day and quit my job and stay home with her forever; to transform my maternity leave what I've heard one hip mom blogger call an “eternity leave”.)

Here’s what I have discovered about major transitional periods:

1.Growth can only come with change

Bottom line: if it’s comfortable then there is no personal growth. Just like plants pushing through the earth and chicks learning to fly, if there is risk involved then you can gain growth (new skill, new perspective, greater confidence, more money, etc.). Without exposing yourself to occasional discomfort you may even regress.

Growth is a good thing right? One positive outcome of having to return to work is that I have forced time to focus on some of the things I need to in order to put myself in a position to be home more with my child. Although initially I have to be apart from her, I might not have put in the time because I felt guilty working on these projects while I was home with her. This time apart has allowed me to focus on tasks that will get me closer to my end goals in a way I am not distracted. So, when I do get to be with her I focus completely on her.

Another postive is that The Mouse learns how to be cared for and interact with other people in this world besides her family and she may even learn more advanced skills from exposure to other children. She would not get this opportunity solely from being with me, unless I managed to adopt a couple of slightly older children really quickly!

2.No matter what type of change it is human nature wants to adjust

I have been so concerned about how the Mouse would respond to my return to work. Would she feel abandoned, would she feel insecure in her world now that things shifted from being with Mummy to a strange new environment? I feared the worst. The reality is that the past couple of weeks have been the hardest on me!

Children are wonderful creatures to be around because they live more in the present. Instead of focusing on what was (her and I together all the time) she just accepts that I am gone more now. Sure she cries a little when I leave and is stuck to me when I get home but otherwise she just goes about her day. The new experiences push her forward and cause her delight so she just moves on.

The thing is humans are always seeking homeostasis, a way to return to normal so our basic drive always compel us to try and get as comfortable in a new situation as possible.

In our dyadic relationship, I am the one who is able to understand our separation so therefore it’s worse for me. Strange as it is, the more you know the more you resist the urge to change. Maybe it is over-intellectualizing or over-rationalizing that inhibits a willingness to suspend our expectations and be more emotionally flexible. Buddhists often talk about living without expectations as a path to enlightenment and toddlers just don’t cognitively see the world in the way adults do, they have expectations but not the complex ones we do so they are better able to go with the flow.*

*This is an extremely reassuring concept for any Moms out there who are facing return to work anticipatory pangs and stresses of separation and fear for how their child will handle it.

3.When you feel secure its easier to weather the changes

The main thing that has helped me through this transitional time (aside from the zillion calls to my husband every day to check on The Mouse and the gazillion pictures I carry of her everywhere I go) is that I know she feels secure wherever she goes and whatever she does because I/we worked tirelessly to create a strong attachment bond with our daughter.

I continue to breastfeed, we co-sleep, I believe in baby-wearing and I always pay close attention to her needs when it comes to separation or closeness. People call this “attachment parenting” nowadays but I think of it as a normal visceral response to caring for your child. I will continue to respect and honour where my daughter is in terms of her individual growth and support that as much as I can and not worry about where she “should” be according to the well-meaning standards of others.

We are reaping the benefits of having a secure bond with our daughter; she trusts us implicitly and knows that if she is in a situation that is uncomfortable her parents are always looking out for her even if they are not in the room. I can sense this intuitively with her (another benefit of a secure attachment!)

I know this because I feel this security myself. I am very lucky and this helps me to weather these changes. I have a very empathetic and steadfast husband, loving parents and in-laws, caring friends and I have been especially fortunate to have found a wonderful set of like-minded moms who have similar parenting styles and who are an endless fountain of compassionate support, well-times humor and guidance. I wish every new mother could have such a group of women in their lives, their presence is an invaluable source of strength to me.

I am desperately trying to posit this challenging time in positive terms. Using techniques I have learned long-ago about optimism and positive self-talk, I am trying to use this time to learn all I can while I have to go through it.

As I've just begun to learn, this too shall pass.


*Note: photo of the Mouse and I in the carefree days of maternity leave. SIGH!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why wait? My Own Questionnaire…ummm… to myself

I love magazines!I especially love reading the bits where the interviewer asks questions of someone famous about their likes and dislikes and recent activities. I find this so interesting, a glimpse into the lives of the otherworldly and I’ve always secretly fantasized about being asked to do such an interview myself. I am the first one to diligently fill out those email questionnaires and zip them off to family and friends while others are bemoaning even getting one.

So instead of waiting around until I get famous (or another email questionnaire from a bored buddy) I decided to ask myself and post it. (I’ve borrowed some of the questions from interviews I have read and thought “What would I say if I was asked that?” This exercise was a fun reminder that my opinions and likes should be as important to me as reading anyone else’s. You should try it yourself, even if you don’t post it or share it.

Check out my answers below:

1. What was the first concert you attended (without your parents) and do you still listen to the band/artist today?

I have got to a place in my life where I am completely comfortable with myself so I can admit out loud that it was MILLI VANILLI and it was the summer of 1990, just months before they were exposed as gorgeous lip syncing fakes. SIGH!
I still know all their moves and I will drop a little Rob & Fabian when Blame it on the Rain comes on the radio.

2. Have you ever lied about reading a particular book to impress someone? What was the book?

I’ll admit I have lied about reading books but I’ve never done it to impress someone. Usually I’ve lied when I know the other person is lying too, stops a pretentious conversationalist in their tracks.

3. What was the most recent show you watched on television?

My guilty pleasure from my hausfrau days: The Young & the Restless!!!

4. Who would play you if your life was adapted for the big screen?

I would love to say Eva Mendes or Salma Hayek but let’s be real people, it would be Sandra Bullock or someone who is less super perfect, more down-to-earth and combines humour and slapstick effortlessly.

5. Have you ever walked out of a movie theatre?

Never, if I’ve paid I’m watching the whole thing!

6. Which film is your guilty pleasure or you are most embarrassed to love?

Legally Blonde – that movie always makes me happy.

7. Who's your favourite female protagonist in books or movies?

Anne Shirley, of Anne of Green Gables. I love spunky women, especially when they have all the cards stacked against them.

More recently, I have enjoyed soon to be highschool grad, Carrie Bradshaw in Candance Bushnell’s The Carrie Diaries. If I thought I loved Carrie in Manolos I love her more in white patent leather high boots!

8. What’s the most overplayed song on your iPod at the moment?

My iPod is really my husband’s but I have been rocking the Raffi, Animal Songs with the Mouse. It’s creepy how addictive his music is!

9. If you could live the life of any fictional character who would it be and why?

Wow – I think there are way too many great characters in fiction that I could never settle on just one but I have always fancied myself as more of background scene-stealer type.

10. Team Jacob or Team Edward?

JACOB!!! I’d pick warm and furry over cold and pale any day!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Jumping hurdles the path to bliss?

I haven’t posted anything in a couple of weeks because I have been undecided about what to write about. Miss Mouse’s birthday passed at the end of May with much fanfare and feelings of wonderment. Gone is the little baby, now is a busy little girl, making me a very busy Mommy. Or perhaps I have just been savouring this time, letting it digest. It is a milestone for me and my little family.

The Year of the Mouse, as I have coined this past year, has been unequivocally the best one of my life yet it has also been the most challenging. In fact, from the time I found out I was pregnant my whole being has gone through upheaval, inside out and top to bottom. From my expanding waistline to the expansion of my own mind; once you witness the unlimited potential of the body your thinking cannot help but follow suit.

The main epiphany I have had this past year is that:

When you are doing what you love, challenges become joys.

Yes people, I have finally experienced what others have referred to as BLISS and by George it feels good. Sure I’ve had moments of it. While painting, reading a great novel or perhaps falling in love I have felt like I have lost track of time and been completely and wonderfully absorbed in what I was doing, but nothing like this. My experience has taught me that bliss comes when you feel fantastic not from strife.

So imagine my shock then the most interesting thing I’ve learnt is that the greatest bliss comes when you get over the hurdles. Who knew? True bliss comes from labouring of love.

I ruminate often of the story of the Russian math genius, Grigori Perelman, who locked himself in a room in his St. Petersburg apartment for five years working everyday determinately to solve the Poincaré Conjuncture theorem. He did and then posted it on line. Citing no desire for fame and fortune he refused a prestigious medal and million dollar price, he just wanted to post it on the Internet. Perelman just wanted everyone to acknowledge that the proof was correct and that was enough for him.

After hearing his story, I had often wondered if I would ever feel the deep desire to do something just for the sake it like Perelman did. Could I ever struggle hard and dedicate my life everyday to something where the only joy and recognition you get is from doing the thing you love? After a year I know I have and it is truly something to marvel at.

When you are pregnant the level of physiological changes that assault can be daunting. You don’t know whether to lie down, throw up, eat strange things, argue with everyone, and clean your entire house from top to bottom or just cry. Some women get glowing skin, high sex drives and luxuriously shiny hair. I got bad acne, heartburn and cankles. Some days it just plain sucked. But many moments were beautiful; a shared secret between you and the blossoming creature inside; to feel my little one growing in my stomach and to sit in amazement wondering just how big my skin could stretch.

Before I could truly wrap my head around the idea of giving birth, there I was five weeks early, in the hospital giving birth. I was petrified for my unborn baby's health, praying all would be well and I was petrified for myself, how could I do this when my whole goal that day was to lie down as soon as I got home from work. I just had to get her out but was there no other way!

After eleven hours of induced labour with the epidural wearing off and in front of about fifteen people watching, she came into this world screaming and I breathed a sigh of relief. The power of the body is humbling, it knows exactly what to do and it guides you. (Side note: once you go through that experience you never quite feel the same anxiety about public –ahem-performances)

And just when I was trying to reconcile the most challenging day in my life with the fact that it was also the most wonderful day of my life, all while trying to reorient my body back to daily functioning, I was told you can go home but your baby has to stay here.


I will never forget the feeling of the floor falling out from under me taking my heart with it.

But, we both not only survived but also gained unexpected benefits: the Mouse got the best darn care and attention she needed to become the healthiest one year old I know and I literally got hands on breastfeeding help every single time I went to nurse. You can’t pay for that type of lactation education (well actually you probably can but it would wager it would be pretty pricey).

My husband and I also really bonded during those first two weeks of becoming new parents. We discovered that we could make it through some trying times together. We had some scares and some tense times going back and forth to the hospital, but we did it and that made bringing the Mouse home that much more special.

Then the real work began.

We were on our own and we had to figure it all out as we went. As a new bleary-eyed and battle-worn parent you really have to tap into new creative juices to get that newborn to sleep, to eat, and to change the seemingly endless diapers and outfits. We had to figure out why she is mewling in the middle of the night, we had to clean up thousands of spit ups and spills and wash what felt like a billion loads of laundry. I won’t lie, its hell while you are going through it, when you come out the other side, the confidence you feel and the pride of your accomplishments is magnificent.

Despite all this I have felt excited to start every day even when I have barely slept the night before or when I knew I might face all the same struggles as the day before. I have been invigorated to meet all the challenges I would face and I feel like I have grown as an individual, the joy has come out of the struggle.

Of course, now I want more. Yes, I am saying I want more struggle. The kind that enlightens and the kind that can transform because that is exactly where bliss is found and it changes everything. Why fill my finite time on earth with things that bring me little to no bliss? Why not actively seek it out and add it wherever I possibly can and in whatever fashion I can?

And hey, if someone wants to give me a medal and a million dollars for following my bliss, I think I may just have to politely decline.