the cheeky goat

parenting. feminism. philosophy. family.

a life well lived

Yesterday, I read this story about a woman who vanished from existence, the lives she lived and the people she knew. It is as if she did not die suddenly or without warning, she simply ceased to be and though people wracked their brains, their memories and even their journals, there were countless people who simply could not remember seeing her pass from living to the count of dead. There is a tremendous amount of sadness in Joyce Vincent’s death, the fact that no one knew she had died and had instead imagined her off somewhere living an extravagant life and chasing after dreams, does this mean that she was not really dead until someone knew? Floating in an existential soup of BBC 1, old washing and 3 year old yogurt. She lived on in some way because the people who knew her believed her alive but that knowledge was nothing but a lie.

In this time of gross communication (obviously, not disgusting but tremendous), it seems so… inconceivable that a person can just disappear and no one noticed. It’s not like there were reports of her disappearance, that someone cried at night because they did not know where she was, what she was doing. They simply didn’t know so the believed her alive. It begs the question, if you have all the means of communication, besides the obvious telephone, does it really matter? That smart phone at your hip, with its insistent red light or flashing icon to signify that someone in the world is looking for you, does it matter if you are so isolated that the phone ceases to be?

To all appearances, until she vacated life – I have difficulty using the term death in relation to Vincent because she simply ceased to be, like an Olympian god whom no one believes in so she fades into nothingness, Vincent lived a full life. Friends. Wild experiences like meeting Nelson Mandela, lovers. Somehow, it wasn’t enough. The cause of her death is unknown. Fitting to the death she experienced.

She was young, only 38 at the time of her death. She did not outlive all the people her life accumulated. I originally set out to write about quality of life and the fact that it in so many ways our obsession with the length of one’s life overshadows a life well lived. As though finally succumbing at the age of 97 after 30 years of sickness and heartache is a triumph. My father died young (it’s interesting what we consider young), at the age of 65. He had sworn his entire life that he would live to 68. It was just the way it was supposed to be. When he did not fulfill that promise, I was stunned, as though he could somehow fulfill his macabre promise. I   have an idea that age does not matter, that clocking in time at a cosmic punch clock is not quite the same as big “L” living.

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monday kids’ activities: give crayons a second chance

preparing the crayon cookies

Miss N and Boy are crafty little people and with a lot of crafting comes many broken crayons. The kids are a bit fussy about their crayons and once they become tattered, broken and the crayon equivalent of a Victorian street urchin, the kids abandon them. Since I am the type of mother who refuses to just throw them away, we have a few crafts lined up to take care of the waifs.

You will need

an old muffin tin (I use the silicone variety so you can pop out the crayon cookies)

crayon stubs, peeled and broken

willing participants to peel said crayon stubs

How

Think about whether or not you want to make rainbow cookies (fun!) or all one colour.

1. Preheat oven on the lowest setting (approximately 200` F).

2. Organize the crayon stubs into your desired colours.

3. Fill the muffin tin with the crayons and place in the oven. Keep a close eye on them until they start to lose their shape but are not liquid because they will soon scorch. Approximately 20 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. The rainbow crayons benefit from a swirl with a toothpick.

5. Pop ’em out!

crayon cookies stack
 

kids’ activities: salty pictures

A couple of weeks ago I was in a bit of a jam trying to come up with an activity for Boy. He’s active and when Miss N is away at school, keeping him entertained is a full time job of hair pulling (mine) and rolling a lot of Play-doh into snakes. I needed about 30 minutes to wash the dishes and forego the inevitable allure of the television, particularly since I am that mom who sneaks in the living room and unplugs the tv so there’s no sneaking it – yes, this can screw you too when you go to bed and want some veg time to yourself. Be warned.

Mr had recently found out I was using his shaving cream in an activity with Boy and since I was in a smidge of trouble for doing so,  we had to adapt (seriously? it’s not like he buys the expensive one). The idea is that you cover a cookie sheet in a layer of shaving cream, add food colouring and let the kid at it to draw pictures, shapes and letters. Since it’s all a movable, swirlable mess, they can play with it for a while without needing too much intervention from you. But, since we’d been caught we had to improvise.

Boy voted for sugar. I vetoed that one.

It’s all very simple:

Use a cookie sheet with at least one inch sides.

Pour a layer of salt over the entire thick and tap or shake lightly so it settles evenly.

I don’t always let Boy at it, sometimes we draw words in it together. Or, he’ll make a treasure map and we have to hunt pirates, thus defeating the purpose of me giving him a seemingly solitary activity to do.

A salty squid, by Boy.

salty squid picture

the teacher that mattered…

…Dorothy Mahoney. A published poet in flowing hippie skirts with a “goop” timer for our writing exercises, she was the teacher who looked over my writing and saw talent where I saw words strung together and defying my will to behave. She believed my writing was a serious option for me, even when I did not and she challenged each and every one of her students. The building blocks of my writing habits, the timed writing and the ever present small notebook in my bag to jot down ideas and notes came from her.

I went to a typical rural Canadian high school where hockey and drinking cheap beer in barns reigned but in the upstairs English hallway there was a quiet room for kids like me. The kids who wore different clothes, didn’t go to the games and huddled near the smoking fence in the back, whether they smoked or not. Three times a week for 56 minutes each day there was a class for me to fill a notebook with my own thoughts and surprise the confused jocks who wandered in to that classroom that yes, the quiet girl could do something besides ghost through the hallways at the corner of their eye.

Each term, somehow I managed to take a class with Mrs. Mahoney every semester for the last two years of high school, she would bring in a fellow poet from the area to give an inspiring talk to us. To wrap their words around our ears and weight us down with their lightness of being. I felt like every class was for me and all the other misfits but most importantly, I finally had somewhere to go where I was at the top. I had confidence in that classroom and that was because of Mrs. Mahoney.

Last I heard, she wasn’t teaching at EDHS anymore, she had moved on to another school as teachers are wont to do. I’m willing to bet that whatever school she ended up at, there is a shy and kind of awkward student sitting off to the side in her classroom, grateful for her Creative Writing class.

As we are staring down the long barrel of education cuts in our province (I received all but the majority of my post-secondary in Ontario), it makes me eternally heartbroken that my own children may not have the same opportunity to find their special niche in school because our province is so concerned with building roads over educating the future. I have seen the difference between a somewhat rural school and a P3 school in the middle of suburbia when we moved out to a lesser funded area of HRM. The teachers still care, this is why they do it (no, it’s not for the summer vacation), but they are making more with less and pretty soon they will have to continue doing even more with less. There are a lot of priceless teachers in our education system, treat them with respect and thank them. Maybe, just maybe this will make it into the path of Dorothy Mahoney and she will know that slowly but surely I am finally doing what she always knew I could do.

parenting traps: so you lost your temper

Have you ever met one of those people who will swear up and down that they have never yelled at their kids? It’ll be sanctimonious and no doubt made you feel like shit, so you will probably remember this incident. It no doubt made you second guess your own interactions with your kids and try to slide the dust bunnies back under the couch because along with their “I never yell at my kids” admission is also the heartfelt assurance that their house is spotless. Here’s a secret, they are lying to you. It’s not to make you feel bad (it might be), rather they want to believe and erase the memory of being the one to cause the kind of pain that comes from being a jerk that makes a child cry. And, every one wants a clean house.

But we can all be jerks. It’s part of being human. It’s what we do afterwards that counts.

This morning, Boy wouldn’t go to the bathroom by himself. This has been an ongoing battle for the last week. Until some time last week that was a kid that scurried off to do his business on his own. There have been a myriad of excuses: He’s afraid there are robots in the bathroom. He’s afraid of monsters or Edward Scissorhands (note to self, Miss N was mature enough for Johnny Depp, Boy was not – lesson learned). There is a common theme here, the kid is scared of the bathroom. He knows there aren’t robots, monsters or Edward Scissorhands but he does have an older sister who would sneak into the bathroom, around the corner to the secluded toilet and yell “BOO!” at him until he shrieked.

No one thought this was funny but Miss N. She would risk the naughty step in favour of scaring her brother because… well, because she’s 6 years old and she is well practiced at scaring her brother. It’s well known that she is tough and not really scared of anything, Boy is a little more sensitive.

This morning, at 730 when I just wanted to peck at my cereal and make her lunch, I was fed up with having to drop everything to escort Boy to the bathroom. His reluctance to go without a chaperone is directly the result of Miss N’s actions and I made that clear to her. Loudly and in no uncertain terms. Rationality was gone, I was upset, Miss N was upset and Boy still had to pee.

Our quiet morning was left in a bit of tatters because I lost my temper. Miss N wasn’t acting in absolute malice when she would scare her brother but now there are lasting effects and I was mad. Very.

As we left to catch the bus, just the two of us, I felt like a jerk. More than a jerk, an asshole. Miss N has a similar temperament to my own which means that we know precisely which button to push, each and every time and while it is up to me to diffuse the situation (because I am the adult), it can be stupidly easy to rationalize not doing that. So I apologized.

I apologized for yelling at her, for breaking apart our quiet morning and for hurting her feelings. I explained how I felt. Remember those “I feel” messages from elementary school? There is a reason why your teacher drilled those into you, they tend to come in handy throughout your life. I explained my side of the situation, gave her the space to talk about how she felt about it and then we tried to talk about what we could do differently next time. Because there will be a next time.

And then we had to stop kicking rocks down the road and run the last few metres for the bus. The morning was hopefully not a complete bust, though I do still feel like a jerk but I’m not afraid to apologize to her, because I’m not perfect or always right just because I’m her parent.

Poetry and the elusive word

Today marks the beginning of National Poetry month. This is where celebrate those elusive combinations of words that paint a story or crash down the wall’s of the master’s house. Love, death and seekers of endangered species soup (will trade green grass and the sky for said soup) find there soul in poetry, so why not a whole month devoted to it?

It is now nearing my bedtime where I will lay in bed reading until the eReader smacks me in the nose and Mr reaches over to put it and my glasses away for me. Each night he chooses a new perch because apparently he likes listening to frantic rustling at 7 each morning and panicked obscenities whispered in the dark. Before you go, check out the National Poetry month site (it’s the American one, I presume there is a Canadian version but I’m tired). There are a plethora of interesting activities that I’m looking forward to doing. I might just suck it up and post some of the results in this space or on the other space.

taking a break…

…because the assignments for school are piling up and I’m spending hours on schoolwork with little time left to play with my children, relax and devote the kind of time this blog deserves. I hate to do it but I also don’t like this feeling that I’m failing pretty well everything I’m doing and the obligations I’ve established for myself. The next two weeks are the worst two weeks of any semester, the weather is beautiful and I have approximately one zillion projects due and though I want to scrap them all and play in the sun, I can’t. It’s only two weeks and I’ll survive. I won’t be posting anything here for the next two weeks. I know I’m not the most diligent blogger but an unexplained absence, and each day that ticks by without putting something  in this space irks me. But, I will be back in two weeks. Until then, enjoy yourselves and these blogs for your own enjoyment, inspiration and thought-provoking articles.

Always Always Something local activist and she writes the student life, feminism and Allison is damn smart.

Maya*Made gorgeous photos and she is an incredible talented sewist and crafter.

Notes from the Cookie Jar because everyone needs to drool and find a great recipe.

But I Don’t Blog don’t let the title fool you, Alex writes very well about being a very caring mum and she really does blog. And it’s good.

And, the best video ever.


Until next time, kids. As an afterthought, since a hiatus should always be followed by some new interesting content, anything new you’d like to see around here, something old should come back? Let me know in the comments.

breasts! babies!: breastfeeding in public…

… Is not a terrifying thing. In fact, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to be breast to the wind you’ll know that they are not really that revealed. Babe’s face is mooshed in there and you can gently pull the top of your shirt down for coverage. Or, you don’t have to. Because you are a feeding a human and that’s not terribly offensive, but do you know what is offensive? Chewing with your mouth open and babies don’t actually do that. Anatomy lesson: The nipple stretches quite far into your  baby’s mouth and if you’ve ever seen a cross-section, you might be surprised to know that your nipple is actually down babe’s throat.

Today is International Women’s Day and I thought it pertinent to touch on what is a very contentious issue for many in North America. Breastfeeding in public is another way of saying, “feeding a baby” but since the breast is a highly sexualized body part on a woman there are certain people who find it offensive that a breast is shown in public with a small, bald human attached to it. Breastfeeding is an acknowledgement that breasts have a function beyond the bullshit way they are used to judge a woman’s worth, instead of being used to titillate (yes, I did that), a woman’s breast is actively engaged in its most natural state. I would even go so far to state that breastfeeding achieves what women all over the world are trying to do each day: Remove the shame associated with our body and reclaim.

Many of the anti-breastfeeding in public arguments are predicated on the fact that breasts should not be shown in public and yet we only have to go as far as Facebook or the corner store to see multitudes of breasts on display in various states of uncovering, in both print and on women. The difference is that these breasts are fulfilling societal desires and expectations, they are pretty and not doing much other than that and while we may not want to admit it, a woman’s worth is still measured in how pretty and useless she is (case in point, a successful woman is described in typical “male” adjectives or stripped of her dignity – heartless, steely and of course BITCH). A breast engaged in breastfeeding ignores that “rule”, it is as beautiful as it is functional and ownership of the breast reverts back to the woman. Further, a woman who merges the home life with the public is somehow seen as suspect because she cannot possibly understand boundaries and that ever-present shame associated in women’s lives is revealed to be nothing of the sort and a figment of control.

When we, as women, state that another woman should not be breastfeeding in public because it is unnatural (really?), offensive and wrong we are actually stating the breastfeeding woman has no right to use her body as she sees fit.We are giving in to the sentiment that a woman’s body is a sexualized object, making us complicit with patriarchal mores that state the same. Breastfeeding, particularly in public, is as natural as spooning mashed carrots into a baby’s mouth but there is little sexualization encased in the spoon (we won’t touch on the carrot), the breast though is a totem to desire and breastfeeding denies that sexualization.

Your right to breastfeed in public is protected by law in Canada in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms under section 15 as all in Canada are protected from discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, SEX, age, or mental or physical disability. If you are discriminated against because you are breastfeeding, you are entitled to bring a complaint to the Human Rights Commission of your province (this deals with complaints between individual).

On a personal note, I have breastfed everywhere from a university classroom to the mall food court to the farmers’ market. I’ve received a lot of support in doing so but the most surprising was from an older gentleman who stopped by my stall at the Halifax market when I had Boy nuzzled in, this gent had been a sociology professor in a former life and  he told me, “I wish we would see more women breastfeeding. It’s natural and those breasts are yours, women are breastfeeding all over the world right now and only here with do we get hung up on it”. Right on, sir.

word filled wednesday: a writing prompt

Last night I wrote on the importance of using writing prompts to shake loose the cobwebs and fog. Before you go looking for it, you won’t find it on this blog. It’s over at my writing blog and you can find that post here. So, for all of that I have a goal. It’s not a big one, usually the goals that have the biggest impact are small and through perseverance they grow. I’m going to post a writing prompt here, each Wednesday morning, and in the evening I will post the writing that came out of it. And, since I just figured out the Mr. Linky widget, if you feel like participating in a word-filled Wednesday, link the resulting piece of writing in the widget, because all us writers can use the support, can’t we? Without further ado:

hush(ed)

If, like yours truly, you are a bit of a procrastinator or life is extra wrangy today, don’t feel limited by the Wednesday timeline. Link up anytime between now and Friday morning (I apologize for the new window opening for this linky thing, it appears to be my only option). Mr. Linky also has a permanent home at the bottom of this page and so you can link to your post whenever you feel like it, because if you know the rules, you know how to bend them.

A healthy pregnancy is important..

… Because one day you might be hoofing it up a 500 metre steep incline next to a very nice 19 year old who is nattering on about the exam you both almost missed because you mixed up the location and you will feel like you can’t breathe and might pass out.

And no one wants to get CPR from a 19 year old with a soulful chin strap, no matter how sincere he may seem.

How does a mama go about doing this?

1. Get thee to a doctor. This is especially important if you are (as one site put it) “really young or really old”. That’s nice. Despite the awful sentiment and obvious ageism/judgey mc judgerson going on with this statement, it is clear that a Dr is necessary if you believe you are in the family way. This applies to you whether or not you intend to take your pregnancy full term, keep the baby or not. Call your GP or get a hold of a sexual health clinic (here is the contact page for all Canadian Federation of Sexual Health Members) like Planned Parenthood or if you are local in Halifax, the Halifax Sexual Health Clinic.

What to expect:

If you intend on carrying your pregnancy full term, expect to see the smiling face of your GP once every four weeks until you are 28 weeks. Your appointments will be upped to once every two weeks until you are 36 weeks and after that? Once a week until delivery. I’m not kidding. Your doctor is there to help you and babe remain healthy, assuage your fears and give you some much needed health advice like the best maternity vitamin and how many times you can expect to donate blood to the lab and the myriad of tests you can choose from. Remember, these tests are your choice but it is important you stay well informed. I declined some of the genetic testing for personal reasons but I didn’t do it blindly, I educated myself and made an informed decision.

2. Take an appropriate maternity multivitamin. Babies need a lot of nutrients. So do you. I’ve been placed on an iron supplement with my previous pregnancies despite taking a multi vit every day and eating healthy (my anemia was discovered at a blood test). Anemia is quite common in pregnancy as iron is one of the building blocks upon that bun in the oven’s growth. The baby is going to get the nutrients no matter what, whether that means leaching them directly from your body or from the nutrients you ingest. To ensure your own health during the pregnancy and postpartum, it is vital you take a vitamin. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.

3. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Pregnant mamas don’t poop well. Why no one goes into much detail about this is beyond me. Perhaps it is because I have children already and pooping schedules are a matter of every day conversation. You need fibre when you are pregnant. Lots of it. Why? Because when you don’t poop it is uncomfortable and when a mama is uncomfortable she’s bitchy.

One reason for your slow moving innards is your body’s increase in progesterone which relaxes the muscles in your body, slowing down your digestive tract. Later in your pregnancy those same innards will be squished and we all know working in small spaces is a difficult process.  You can ease the discomfort by eating a diet high in fibre (like the aforementioned fruits and vegetables) as well as whole grains (read the ingredient lists to make sure it contains the germ) and beans.

4. Drink water. This pertains to #3 as well as to the fact that the baby needs a bucket of water (so scientific) to float in lest he or she gets squished up against the placenta which is neither comfortable or safe for growing limbs. It is mighty easy to get dehydrated when you are pregnant, your blood volume increases by 50% and you need water to help generate some of that. If you feel a slight headache coming on, reach for a glass of water. While thirst is one of the first signs of dehydration (seriously), a headache is a warning sign that you are not doing so hot and need to drink some water, you better make it two glasses to be safe.

True story: I had horrifically dry skin with Boy’s pregnancy and drinking water helps keep your body hydrated from the inside out. I would rub a tablespoon of straight Vitamin E oil into my belly and then seal it with Eucerin for dry skin every morning after my shower because my skin was so dry. I still had the itches.

5. Exercise. Nothing strenuous, you don’t want to start training for a marathon during your pregnancy but this is also not the time to laze about on the couch all day (unless you’ve been ordered to do so by your doctor). Light exercise, like prenatal yoga or swimming are good choices but be sure to enroll in a prenatal-specific class and take it easy. Even a walk around the block will lift your spirits and generally help your body stay healthy. If you exercise now your labour and postpartum period will eased to some degree. Also, remember #3? Yes, exercises helps move things along in that department too.

Obviously, it is disclaimer time. I am not a doctor but the point is that you ought to be in communication with a health care professional, whether that is your GP, a doula or a midwife. Take care of yourself, mama.