Love Letter to my Body

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To my head case and soul basket….

I’m sorry I don’t appreciate you enough. I’ve called you flabby, pasty, clumsy, and weak. I’ve torn out your hairs, baked your skin and painted your nails. Sometimes I feed you garbage and keep you up too late at night. I’ve occasionally drowned you in alcohol and once threw you out of an airplane, but you haven’t abandoned me yet.

You never complain when I scowl at you in the mirror, curse your aches and pains, or pick at your spots. You merely sigh, and put up with me plucking out white hairs and dressing you in skinny jeans. You must be feeling your age, because sometimes you leak gas or fluids. I compare you to others, when in fact none can compare to you.

I’m disappointed when it appears you are not on board with my plans-like being unusually fit, fabulous and fertile. I’ve railed at you for seeming dysfunctional, broken and abnormal, when in fact you’ve taught me perseverance and have healed from incredible wounds.

You keep giving. You’ve given me a son. You’ve stretched like a rubber band and (mostly, amazingly) have snapped back into shape. You carried me over mountains and through a marathon. You can stretch and bend and lift and carry and hug. You are the vessel God crafted for my soul, and I thank you for teaching me patience, acceptance, and love for myself.

Bring on the wrinkles and grey hair already. You deserve it.

Note: This post was inspired by another of a similar nature. I liked the idea, so decided to write my own “love letter”.

Early Bird

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I’ve become a morning person.

I’m not sure how it happened. Not that long ago, my entire weekend was planned around sleeping in as much as possible. And it WAS possible. Then. But not now.

As any parent will tell you, kids mess up your sleep. At first, when they are wee and screaming, they just rob you of it completely (not their fault really, they’re tiny and helpless). Then, as they get older and craftier, they slowly give it back  to you in fits and spurts, just enough at a time so that you think life might be getting back to normal….and then they grow out of night time feedings right into the stage where they learn how to climb into your bed at night. And they do this, regularly, for all sorts of reasons:

It’s scary in my room. My toe hurts. I’m thirsty. I need some lip stuff. I have to pee. I don’t like my pj’s. My closet door is open. My butt itches. Mom. Mom! MOM!!!

ARRRGGGHHH! What! I’ll give you anything. Anything! Just go back to bed. You’re scared? Ok fine. Come sleep with me then. I give up.

Things are fine for 10 minutes. Little D snuggles in under the covers in the middle and promptly falls back asleep. “This won’t be so bad”, you think to yourself. You start to doze off…and BAM! Heel to the solar plexus. Troll bogeys! Why do toddlers insist on sleeping perpendicularly? You roll over. Now he’s kicking you in the kidneys instead. Awesome. You gently slide him over to where Big D is snoring away, oblivious to the circus going on at the north end of the bed. Ahhhh, much better.

The next time you wake up, the boy has managed wedge his entire length snugly against you. How did that happen? Awwww, snuggles. You’re thinking, “How lovely! An early morning cuddle, this isn’t so bad”….then BAM! Head butt to the nose.

I give up. There is clearly no room for me in my own bed, I’m going to get up and make some coffee before anyone else wakes up and starts bugging me. Maybe I’ll even get to do the crossword puzzle.

I think I know how I became a morning person now.

Food vs Phoode

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It’s been said that you either “Eat to Live” or “Live to Eat”. I am definitely in the latter category. I enjoy shopping for, cooking, and eating food. However, when you are a busy working parent, these food-related activities are unfortunately often rushed, neglected or ignored. But since we still need to “Eat to Live”, we resort to eating what I now refer to as “Phoode” rather than “Food”.  Since “Phoode” is not being recognized by the spell checker, perhaps it needs proper defining:

Phoode. n. combination of chemical substances processed to resemble something edible that are consumed because you are either a) too tired to cook, b) to starving to cook, c) too rushed to cook, or d) the family is hungry and there is nothing else in the fridge.

Phoode did not grow, or have a mother. It lives in the centre aisles of the grocery store. It makes health claims, and has ingredient lists. It’s wrapped in plastic, and it’s expensive.  Phoode does not wilt, die, or rot. It comes in two colours, a bland off-white, or some shade of neon. It has undergone mechanical separation, extrusion, breading, frying or sterilization. If you’ve watched Lost, Phoode would be what the survivors discover in the hatch pantry-covered in white “Dharma Initiative” labels with a shelf life of 30 years.

We often eat Phoode at our house; I’m not ashamed to admit it. I wish I was that mother who made everything from scratch, always had a meal plan, and was never short of energy for shopping, cooking and stocking the freezer. But I’m not. Sometimes we have chicken fingers or macaroni and cheese from a box. And let’s face it. Kids like Phoode. Sometimes all they want to eat is Phoode, even if you don’t have it in the house. “But MOM! Tommy gets to eat pop tarts! That’s not fair!”. My parents apparently had this Food vs Phoode thing figured out. Growing up, we were never allowed convenience snacks like fruit roll ups or sugar-coated cereal. Not even Raisin Bran! My Dad said we could buy Bran Flakes and just add our own raisins.

Luckily, I have learned to recognize Phoode when it is lurking in my shopping cart, pantry, or freezer, just waiting for that moment when I’m too tired, hungry, or rushed to hunt down something real to eat. I’ve started keeping a food diary. Nothing fancy, just a notebook with a line down the centre of the page. On the left side is “Food”, and the right is “Phoode”. If I’m not sure if what I’m eating is Food or not, I put it in the right hand column since it’s probably actually Phoode in disguise.

I’m also trying to be more diligent with preparing a weekly meal plan. One day per week (when I remember), I sit down with my cookbooks (currently enjoying Sandi Richard, Dinner Survival), make a list of 3-4 meals for the week and a grocery list. This makes the after work “I’m-tired-and-starving-and-don’t-know-what-to-cook!”-times much simpler. My goal in recognizing and reducing the amount of Phoode in my diet is not to undertake some impossible, extremely restrictive fad diet, but to hopefully make what I eat a) healthier, b) less expensive, and c) better for the environment.

Aside
I am pleased to report that of my two “sorta-crunchy” experiments (see post on hair), the oil cleansing method is thus far a success. I haven’t used soap on my face for about 3 months now. I also came across this idea on Pinterest and did some additional Google “research”. I had been using a fairly expensive cleanser and moisturizer from a direct-sales company and was satisfied, but not overjoyed with it.The oil cleansing method works like this: gently massage a quarter sized amount of the oil mixture into your face, concentrating on the t-zone if you have large pores or blackheads, but don’t neglect the hair or jaw lines. Next, place a washcloth soaked with very hot (not scalding!) water over your face and just hang out for a few minutes (maybe do a few kegels while you’re waiting-never hurts!). This will open your pores, releasing dirt and bacteria. Once the washcloth has cooled down, use it to gently wipe the excess oil away. Oil dissolves oil, so in theory you will be wiping away all of the released gunk from your pores, as well as any makeup.I am using 1:1:1 olive, grape seed and jojoba oils, but other combinations will work too-1:1 olive and castor is commonly recommended. I hardly have to use moisturizer at all (just sunscreen), and my skin feels soft and supple. The best thing is that my ‘cleanser’ hardly costs anything and lasts forever. I also enjoy the mini-spa feeling of steaming my face every night. More often than not I can hardly wait to lock myself in the bathroom and hide my face under a hot steamy washcloth after a long day.

Stop! Don’t put that on your face!

My Hair Experiments

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Via Pinterest, I recently came upon the idea of using baking soda and apple cider vinegar (ACV) instead of shampoo and conditioner, respectively. It sounded very simple. First, mix 1 tbsp baking soda with 1 c water, massage into scalp in place of shampoo and follow with a rinse of 1 tbsp ACV in 1 c water in place of conditioner. “Awesome!” I thought. I tend to prefer simple, inexpensive alternatives to everyday commercial products if they are effective.As a scientisty type, I did some internet “research” on the “No-Poo” method. There seemed to be a general consensus among the sorta crunchy-type bloggers that this method worked, although it could take about 2 weeks for your hair to adjust. I figured I would give it a try.I have long red hair that tends to be on the wave/curly side. It’s no corkscrew perm, but left to its own devices would generally look sorta poofy. My current hair routine was generally shampoo and conditioner daily, followed by strong hold gel and drying with a diffuser. After sleeping on the ‘curls’, they usually look like trash, so I have to wash everyday or wear a ponytail on day two.

After Day 1 of No Poo followed by blow drying my hair straight, it felt pretty dry but looked ok. Day 3 I used less baking soda and more ACV and did a curly ‘do with gel. Hair still looks ok, but is feeling dry at the ends, breaking easily and feels weighed down at the roots. This continued until the end of week one. At this point my hair felt so gross that I was actually having fantasies about lathering up in the shower. I figured I must be experiencing withdrawal after being brainwashed by commercials where women have hair-gasms while massaging chemically laden products on their heads.

This is when I decided to try making my own shampoo after finding a recipe on, you guessed it….Pinterest (I am undecided if that site is Evil or Awesome). I mixed it up- 1/3 c castile soap, 1/4 c coconut milk, 1 tsp jojoba oil and 20 drops essential oil (I used orange). The shampoo feels and smells amazing and lathered up really well.

Unfortunately, I used full fat coconut milk from a can, which contains a lot of oil (coconut oil has a higher melting temperature than most oils and is solid at room temperature). After using this shampoo for a few days, my hair was so weighed down with oil I was having the hair washing fantasies again.

So I gave up.

I think if I used non-fat coconut milk, it could be a lot better, but I am no expert in concocting shampoo, nor am I a chemist. After the coconut oil fiasco, I managed to find an all natural shampoo and conditioner (Pink Grapefruit, Kogi) that leaves my hair super soft and awesome and doesn’t leave me feeling deprived of the orgasmic hair lathering shower experience. Unfortunately, I can’t find this Kogi shampoo in Saskatoon (bought it in Edmonton at Rocky Mountain Soap), so when I ran out I decided to try the DevaCurl line (also not cheap!). I’m using the Low-Poo, Conditioner and Gel and it is working really well. The key to no-frizz curls seems to be gently scrunching your hair dry with a microfibre towel and combing in the shower only.  I have a friend with VERY curl hair who has stopped washing (her hair) completely and uses only the DevaCurl conditioner and gel and her hair looks great.

Overall, the hair experiment has been worthwhile; I’m much happier with the current routine and I no longer have to wonder if the extreme No-Poo method works for me.

10 Great Things About Italy

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1. Gelato

It’s cheap, delicious and plentiful. Never more than 2€ for a waffle cone with two scoops, even at the ‘gourmet’ homemade shops. Our favourites were Grom and Gelateria de Piazza. I tried some crazy flavours, including Saffron, Cherry and Ricotta, Lemon, Grapefruit and Licorice. All amazing. Often, we substituted gelato for lunch. And sometimes dinner.

 

 

 

 

2. Simple Food.

Good food in Italy-not the kind you find in the restaurants on the tourist strip, where there is an over-priced tourist menu and waiters trying to snag people off the street- but real, authentic food is not hard to find if you take a turn down a side street and look for a place without table cloths. The menu should be in Italian (not translated into 6 languages), and every dish should have no more than 5 ingredients-all fresh, in season and local. That’s real Italian food, and it is worth getting lost for.

 

 

 

 

3. Coffee.

There is no to-go coffee in Italy. It’s never served in paper cups, and only invalids and small children would drink it with milk after 11 am. It’s strong, black and flavourful. Most Canadians who are used to their Tim’s coffee don’t seem to like it, but if you are a real coffee snob (like me), you will be in heaven. For 1€, enjoy an espresso or a macchiato (really just espresso with a bit of milk) standing at the bar of any cafe. Drink it from a proper little cup (with a saucer, how sophisticated!) with a bit of sugar, and be on your way. If you want to sit down, your coffee will be more expensive. And no, they are no ripping you off by not filling the cup up all the way. It’s about quality people, not quantity.

 

 

 

 

4. The Man Purse.

Aaahhh, the man purse. Nothing else to say really. Part of the Italian experience. I didn’t see this particular guy, but I wish I had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Old Stuff.

It’s everywhere. Especially in Rome. Coming from a country where nothing is older than 200-300 years, it’s amazing to see what our ancestors could accomplish despite the odds. Makes me wonder what we are building and leaving for future generations to marvel at. Suburbs? Fast food restaurants? Big box stores? Super Wal-Marts?

 

 

 

 

6. Art.

Sculptures, paintings, mosaics, frescos, you name it. Italy has all the big names-Michaelangelo, Bernini, Botticelli, Da Vinci…plenty to see even you are simply an art appreciator, not an aficionado. My favourite was Michaelangelo’s statue of David. I could admire him all day.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Bikes.

Cars are fairly impractical in most cities, so most Italians opt for a scooter or a bike. Interestingly, most of the bikes were what we would call “vintage” and not the “mountain” variety. People could be seen riding bikes in skirts, high heels, and suits. And never with a helmet. I was in heaven! Hopefully someday I can return and see the country from a bicycle seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Wine

Drinking wine in Italy is like breathing. You need to do it everyday, and often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. High Heels

Italian men have their man purses, and the women have their high heels. The ability to walk in them all day on the cobble stone streets must be part of Italian DNA or something.

 

 

 

 

 

10. Streets

The streets in Florence were probably designed by an artist. They have a slight curve to them that invites you to wander down and see what’s around the corner. In Venice, the main streets are made of water of course and the rest are designed to prevent invaders from penetrating the city. In Rome, they take you from ancient ruins to religious meccas. Walking through these city streets was the highlight of my time in Italy. Luckily, I wasn’t wearing high heels.

Sanity lesson from a flight attendant

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It all started with a morning temper tantrum. Not completely unusual in our house I’ll admit, but trying nonetheless. I was planning to bike to work so Big D was going to drop Little d off at daycare.
No problem, right?
Ha! We were all in a rush, and Little d is doing everything in his power to avoid getting his clothes on. I swear toddlers grow eight arms when you try to get them dressed without their permission. Then we fight about what shoes he’s going to wear whether or not I’ve inadvertently opened his yogurt cup (this is strictly forbidden).

Here’s what was going on in my brain: “We have to get him to bed earlier, if only I didn’t have soccer last night and Big D wasn’t working late Little d would have been in bed on time and we wouldn’t have slept in, and I didn’t want to bike to work this morning and Big D wasn’t in a rush, then Little d wouldn’t be cranky and this whole thing could have been avoided.”

I blame myself (and maybe Big D a little). I blame myself for wanting, NEEDING, to get out on my own and for some exercise and adult interaction. No wonder moms find it nearly impossible to exercise or socialize without their kids. The moment we leave the house, the chaos we’ve been holding at bay takes over. Toys jump out of the closet and throw themselves on the floor. Laundry and dishes pile up. Dirt un-vacuums itself onto the carpet. I walk into the house, full of exercise induced euphoria and spend the next 30 minutes stomping around picking things up and restoring order; plugging up the holes in the dam that I left unattended for just a few moments to myself. If it’s not the mess, we give ourselves guilt trips over spending our time, money and attention on anything other than our families. And I think, “Why do I bother?”

Why DO we bother?

We bother spending time and money on ourselves because the alternative is a million times worse than a messy house or tired children. The alternative is that I lose my mind and try to strangle the cat (luckily we don’t have a cat). Or worse. It seems that every week I see a story about parents, suffering from mental illness or extreme depression, who harm their families and themselves. I feel sick, and a little terrified whenever I read these stories. Mostly I try not to read them at all. But like watching a disaster unfold before you, sometimes it’s impossible to turn away. The underlying truth in many of these stories is that often people who knew the families involved in the tragedy say that “they seemed so normal”.

As a society we seem to be lagging when it comes to recognizing the signs of mental illness and depression. It’s easy to see when someone is physically sick, but much harder to really “see” when someone is hurting inside. Especially when as mothers and parents, we are constantly trying to “keep it all together”. We are terrified of becoming that “crazy mom” who finally lost it and strangled the cat, so we try to keep up the appearance that we have everything balanced on one plate, not realizing that we are not only injuring ourselves, but our families in the process.

So the next time my mind starts thinking those guilty thoughts as I head out the door for some exercise or time to myself, I’m going to try and remember this sanity secret that I learned from a flight attendant: “Please apply your own oxygen mask before assisting another person”. I’m a better person, mother, and wife, when I’ve put my own oxygen mask on first. If the plane starts going down and I run out of air, I’m no good to anyone without first taking care of myself.