Wrap Me Up Mama

My 9-month-old Jacob is a sling baby. He doesn’t like the stroller much, probably because he hasn’t spent any real time in it. It wasn’t any grand design on my part, it’s just how it worked out. When you’re chasing a preschooler it’s often easier to keep the baby strapped to you.

So, I’ve kept Jacob strapped to me. It’s a rare day that I don’t use at least one of my baby carriers. At least one because I have, erm, several. More than three. I have my tried and true Maya Wrap and many mei tais. I also have a few wraps.

Riding on Mom's back
6-month-old Jacob peeking out from the Didymos

A wrap is a very long piece of cloth that can be used to tie your baby to you in all sorts of exciting ways . They come in different lengths and are woven or stretchy, filmy or heavy. I myself have only heavy German woven wraps, because I like structure and don’t mind the heat. I have 2 Storchenwieges, a 4.6 meter Vicky and a 4.1 meter Leo in red. But my most favourite wrap by far is my Didymos. I have a 3.7 meter Jan, which I bought when my daughter Hannah was a little over a year old.

3.7 meters is a bit short for a wrap, actually. But I am only 5’2″ and I tend to wear my baby mostly in the rucksack position, so for me this is plenty long enough. With my longer wraps I find I have too much extra fabric trailing behind me. If you’re taller or want to experiment with different carries you might need a little more length.

Rucksack carry in the Didymos
Jacob riding in a rucksack carry at 9 months

When I’m wearing the baby at home I’m all about the back carry. You simply can’t do laundry or make a peanut butter sandwich with a grabby baby on your front. And since Jacob is perfectly happy to be worn most of the time, it’s not unusual for him to ride around our house on my back. And for me, a back carry is where the wrap really shines.

I can get a baby on to my back and into a mei tai, but it requires that the baby is willing to not be too wiggly. With a wrap I can get even a wiggly baby up on my back no sweat. I spread the wrap in the corner of a chair, position the baby on top, and then back up so that we’re in roughly the right position for a back carry. Then I grab the ends of the wrap and stand up. Easy peasy, and no risk that he’ll wriggle off before I get him strapped in safely.

Jacob rides as Mama works
Working in the kitchen

There are some downsides to the wrap. It has a bit of a steep learning curve, although you can find great instructions online. And the sheer length can be cumbersome. I am not going to try to wrap my baby in a rainy parking lot. Although I do have close friends that use wraps almost exclusively because they love the versatility, so it can be done. Just not by me. ;)

But the best part of the wrap is throwing your baby on to your back, working some magic with fabric, and seeing the looks of awe you get. It leaves me feeling pretty accomplished. And we all know, I do love feeling accomplished. Fun times all around!

If you haven’t checked out my photostream lately, drop on by. You can find lots of new snapshots of our daily adventures.

Terrible TV I’ve Known and Loved

I don’t have a TV anymore. Our one and only TV set died a little over 6 months ago, and we’ve been undergoing an experiment to see how long we can last without it since. And we’ve lasted. It’s been especially nice to not have twice-daily battles about TV with our preschooler. For the most part, the TV-less lifestyle is working for us.

But the lack of TV doesn’t mean I don’t see any TV shows. Not by a long shot, thanks to the magic of the internet and the streaming broadcast. And the sad truth is that, as always, the TV I do see isn’t always what you would call good.

As a teenager my favourite show was Beverly Hills, 90210. Watching that was seriously the highlight of my week. I lived and breathed Brenda, Kelly and Dylan. And Brandon. Such a dreamboat, and played by a former Vancouverite, to boot. Now that it’s almost 20 years later, I am sort of appalled by the old episodes. But they continue to hold a certain nostalgia for me, and I can never hear that theme song without feeling a little thrill down my spine.

So you know I was first in line to see the new 90210. And it has not disappointed me one bit. The kids at West Bev are every bit as angst-ridden and melodramatic as they ever were. And beautiful, don’t forget beautiful. I haven’t missed a single episode.

Still, I think the worst TV program I watched, and watched religiously, has got be Charmed. Like the original 90210 it was an Aaron Spelling vehicle starring Shannen Doherty. But I stuck with it long after she left, oh yes I did. The series was about three sisters who also happened to be powerful witches, the ‘Charmed Ones’. Together they used their magic to battle evil and truly horrific storylines, wearing completely impractical tight-fitting clothing and high heels. But it was such fun I couldn’t stop watching. I stuck with it to the bitter end, man.

Those are some highlights, but there have been many more shows I’ve loved and watched with the blinds closed, lest somebody should see. Like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Judging Amy and Dawson’s Creek. Does anyone else remember Sisters or Once and Again? (I am clearly a big fan of Sela Ward). Oh, and let’s not forget about Big Brother. I could literally feel my brain cells oozing out my ears while I watched that.

Now, please share. I know I’m not the only one who’s seen way more than my fair share of bad TV. Spill!

I was inspired to write about bad TV today thanks to Mommy Melee‘s Girl Talk Thursday. For more TV confessions click the ‘Girl Talk Thursday‘ button.

Where Have all the Honeybees Gone?

Oh, you guys, I’m so excited! I have a guest post up at My Plastic-free Life! It’s Beth Terry’s blog all about reducing the plastic in her life, and it’s awesome. Please stop by and say hello. :)

I have talked a lot about my love of local eating. I am not a hard-core locavore by any stretch, but I am finding more and more local sources of foods I love. And I’m gradually expanding my own garden each year, too. Along the way I’m learning things about food and trying new things.

One of the things that I’ve discovered since I started eating more local food is honey. Of course I’ve eaten honey nearly my whole life. But I always bought it at the grocery store, and it always tasted the same. Now that I’m buying it at the farmer’s market I’m trying many different varieties. Clover, alfalfa, buckwheat, wildflower, raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, and my favourite jewelweed. Each is different. Some are mild, some are strong. Some aren’t even all that sweet. I’m sort of amazed that I went through 30 years of honey eating before I realized that there was such variety.

So I was particularly saddened to learn about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In late 2006 beekeepers in North America reported unusually high disappearances of honeybees. And the phenomenon continued. In the winter of 2007/2008, 36% of hives in the US were lost to CCD.

Cases of CCD are characterized by a complete absence of adult bees in the hive, with no dead bees in or around the hive. All the workers just…disappear. Eggs and larva are present, and the hive is filled with honey. While bees do abandon hives, they don’t do it when there are young present, and particularly not when it’s still filled with food. There’s no explanation for where all the bees have gone. And this is not a localized phenomenon, colonies have disappeared across North America.There are a number of theories as to what is causing CCD. Everything from climate change, to cell phones, to pesticides, to mites and parasites have been blamed. The US Agricultural Research Service says that there is no single answer, although they do rule out cell phones. They think it’s most likely a biological cause like a virus, parasite, or mite, in combination with pesticides.

So what? We can live without honey, right? Well yes, but bees pollinate a lot of the food that we eat. Fruits and vegetables ranging from pumpkins to strawberries to apples depend on bees. If we don’t have them, we lose 30% of our food. This is not a small number. Even companies like Burt’s Bees are getting the message out:

So what can we do? Suggestions include avoiding pesticide use, supporting organic farmers (to further reduce pesticides), and planting flowers that bees like. The good news is that this year honeybee populations seem to have stabilized after beekeepers changed their practices. Although we’re hardly out of the woods yet. We need to remember that we are part of an interconnected web of existence, and we depend on other creatures for our survival. If we lose one piece, the whole thing can collapse in on itself.

I am hopeful that the honeybees will return. You can bet that I won’t be swatting any that come across my path anytime soon. And that I will appreciate the wonderful honey I eat all the more.

No Network Found

Last Friday my internet died. I was out all morning getting my hair cut and visiting with my friend. So when I got home I was ready to spend some quality time with my computer. In honesty I spend a lot of time these days plugged in to the internet. It has become my lifeline to the outside world while I am at home alone with small kids.

I opened my browser window, but it couldn’t find my Gmail account. OK, don’t panic, right? Maybe Gmail is just down. I tried another website, and it didn’t open either. Then I looked in the lower right corner of my computer screen, at the little icon that shows me network status.There was a big red X through it, which isn’t a good sign. So I picked up my phone. We get internet and phone from our cable company, so when they go down our phone goes down too. And our phone was down.

This meant that I definitely had no internet, and moreover there was nothing I could do to solve that problem. And then I totally lost it. My afternoon was planned around the internet. What was I going to do without it? And the phone! What if we had an emergency? I decided to start charging my cell phone just in case.

I should point out that Friday was a beautiful sunny day, and I had some planting to do in the garden. I had just received some gorgeous organic flannel and I wanted to sew some blankets with it. I also had a knitting project I was planning to cast on for. Really, I had many options for passing a couple of hours without my electronic lifeline. But I couldn’t compose myself enough to try any of them.

After talking myself up and down, I finally just decided to call our cable company. Using my cell phone, since the regular phone wasn’t working. Thankfully, I was on hold for under 2 minutes and then I was speaking with a lovely tech support person. I was just looking for confirmation that they were aware of the problem, and hard at work fixing it. But Mr. Tech Support told me that everything looked fine on their end, and suggested I find another phone to try.

Um, hello? I am an engineer. That means I’m a professional problem-solver. If only the phone or the internet were down, then I might admit it was a problem on my end. But both? Surely that must be your fault.

But, wait. When I looked more closely at the phone base I noticed the little red ‘charge’ light wasn’t on. That’s odd. While Mr. Tech Support Man was making other suggestions I checked and it was plugged into the wall, and the power cord was plugged securely into the base. So far so good, but that light really should have been on. So then I climbed under the desk and noticed that my power bar had been tripped. Probably by 9-month-old Jacob.

The power bar had two items plugged into it. The phone and the wireless router.

Like I said, I’m an engineer. An electrical engineer. So I spent 6 years at university learning that if the phone and internet aren’t powered, they won’t work. I had to sheepishly apologize to Mr. Tech Support, and explain that my baby broke my internet. Although having spent some time dealing with other people’s technical support problems I don’t feel that badly for him. I was polite the whole time, admitted my mistake, and solved my own problem. Really, I made his job rather easy in the end.

And you can bet I will check the power bars before I make any more calls to my cable company.

Going for the camera
Who, me, make mayhem?

If you’ve had any technical “D’oh!” moments, I’d love to hear them. I can’t be the only one who’s had to apologize to Mr. Tech Support, can I?

Maternity Leave in the Netherlands

It’s Mat Leave Monday! Happy Victoria Day to my fellow Canadians. I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend, and that if you spent it at a campground it wasn’t too soggy. As for me, I am not a camper. I did my time in Girl Guides, and now I prefer to sleep in a bed. But if you are of hardier stock I salute you.

Queen Victoria and Princess Wilhelmina

Courtesy the Netherlands Embassy in Canada


Today I am talking about maternity leave in the Netherlands. Which has no particular relationship to Victoria Day or Queen Victoria that I know of. However, thanks to the Netherlands Embassy in Canada I was able to track down this photo of Queen Victoria and the Dutch Princess Wilhelmina. I’m trying to tie it all together, people! I need you to humour me here.

Anyways, I have no first-hand experience with maternity leave in Holland. If you have detailed questions please refer to the English site for the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, or this first-hand account in English. If you want information in Dutch, you’re on your own. ;)

Dutch mothers are entitled to at least 16 weeks of pregnancy and maternity leave. ‘Pregnancy’ leave is the leave that you take before the baby is born, and ‘maternity’ leave is the leave that you take after. Mothers start maternity leave 4-6 weeks before the baby is due. The remaining 10-12 weeks is taken after the baby is born. If you go overdue, the designated 10-12 weeks of maternity leave will not start until after birth, so your combined pregnancy and maternity leave will exceed the 16-week minimum.

During pregnancy and maternity leave mothers receive 100% of their income, to a maximum of €174.64 per day. This is roughly equivalent to $277 CAD or $235 USD. Self-employed mothers may also receive pregnancy and maternity pay. The amount they receive depends on how much they worked and the profits they filed with the government. Those who worked at least 1225 hours in the previous year receive €318.75 ($506 CAD) per week, those who worked less will receive a smaller amount that varies with their earnings.

Adoptive parents in the Netherlands are eligible for 4 weeks paid adoption leave. Both parents may receive this leave, and it may be taken anytime from 2 weeks before the adoption to 16 weeks after. The rate of pay and the qualifications are the same as for pregnancy and maternity leave. Dutch fathers are eligible for 2 days paternity leave after their wife or partner gives birth. They are also allowed to take two days of ‘other short-term absence leave’ for the birth, and the registration of the birth. (Side note – I am now curious as to just what is involved in Dutch birth registration.)

In addition to maternity leave, adoption leave, and paternity leave, all parents who are caring for a child under eight years of age may take parental leave. As of January 1, 2009 Dutch parents who have been with their employer for at least a year may take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave.

Parental leave in the Netherlands is not necessarily a complete leave from work. The norm is that you take a year of parental leave, during which you work half-time, so that you have an accumulated total of 26 weeks. However, you can 26 weeks of full-time leave, or you could take just one day off a week and spread the leave over more than a year. If you have more than one child, you can take leave for each child separately. And unlike maternity or paternity leave, parental leave can be staggered. That is, you can take a portion, and return to work for a period. Or you can change your working and leave hours.

I was surprised that new parents in the Netherlands don’t receive that much leave compared to other EU countries (I’m looking at you, Sweden), and that most of it is unpaid. Because of the reputation the Dutch have for excellent maternity care, I expected their leaves would be very generous. Although prior to this year parental leave was only 13 weeks, so they are taking steps to improve it. Hopefully that trend will continue and more family friendly policies will take hold in the Netherlands.

A Hairy Tale

I went a very long time without a haircut after my son Jacob was born. I went in for a trim in June 2008, when I was 7 months pregnant. It was lovely. I realized at the time it would probably be more than a few months before I made it in again. After all, I would be juggling two children, one of whom would be dependent on me for sustenance. I was aiming for Christmas, or thereabouts, for a return visit.

And then Jacob was born in August and life happened. I made the occasional noise about getting a haircut. But between the every day crazy-busyness of life and my husband Jon’s chaotic work schedule, it was very difficult to find a good time. Plus, it was never really at the top of the list. And so the months wore on, and on, and on.

When Jacob was first born, this is what my hair looked like:

And after 9 months of neglect from me and downright abuse from my baby, this is what my hair looked like yesterday:

img_6958

It was reaching catastrophic proportions. Not even because it looked so bad. Although the ends weren’t in great condition it was hardly horrible. It was more of a problem because of me. I was sick of it. Looking at it every day I felt acutely aware of just how long it had been since I had done something for myself. Something that had no obvious benefit beyond my own happiness. Every time it got caught under a baby carrier strap or I worked to brush its length I felt a little sad.

So I took my friend up on her offer to come to the hairdresser with me. She called the woman who cuts her hair and got back-to-back appointments. I didn’t get a wash or a style, just a cut. And Jacob was fairly distraught throughout most of it, since he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t hold him and let him bounce on my knee. But he wasn’t damaged, and neither was I. Then I was able to return the favour and wrangle my friend’s 2-year-old while she also got a new cut.

Here is the result:

img_6967

It just feels cleaner to me, and lighter. As if I have actually made an effort to care for it beyond washing it and then letting it air-dry. I looked at the pile of hair as the hairdresser swept up and felt…liberated.

Although I do have to admit that looking at that photo, I am reminded that I have never gotten over my love of Jennie Garth’s hair in the early ’90s.

0000222698-40426l
Photo credit

I hear high-waisted jeans are in again, so maybe my hair is actually very ‘now’. Or maybe it just betrays my age. I don’t really care, I’m happy either way. Because I got a haircut, and now my life is all sunshine and roses. :)

Authority

When my first child Hannah was born I started attending mom’s groups to save my sanity. I remember the early days, when she was only 2 months old but she looked younger because she was born 6 weeks early. And these moms, whose own babies were maybe 6 or 8 months, would smile wistfully. “Ah,” they would say, “I can’t believe my own baby was ever that small.” Lacking experience of my own I lapped up all the wisdom they offered.

In those early days the moms of 8-month-olds seemed very experienced to me. I considered them to be traveling in a different world. What could I possibly offer them when I couldn’t shower most days and I felt like a walking zombie? When my own baby was so very much younger. They had it all together, in my mind, with their baby toys and their containers full of Cheerios.

Even then, very early on, I sensed a certain hierarchy of maternal authority. It’s unspoken but it’s real. Moms with children older than yours have more authority. Moms with more children than you have more authority. It sort of makes sense, actually, because parenting is the ultimate learn-as-you-go gig. The longer you’ve been at it, the more you’ve learned and experienced.

One day I was at yet another mom’s group with my then 18-month-old. I was chatting with them about my daughter’s early days and answering some questions about dealing with distracted babies. And it suddenly hit me – I was now the experienced mom. And while I didn’t have it all figured out, I’d made it through enough that I’d achieved a certain authority. It felt very good to me, I’ll admit it. I like having authority. It’s a little embarrassing but anyone who knows me well is nodding in emphatic agreement right now. I am a know-it-all, in the very best possible way. :)

And now I’m the mom of two. One of them is a 4-year-old chatterbox, who to this day is alive and well and can print her own name. That’s really increased my standing in the maternal hierarchy. After all, I can’t be totally incompetent to have made it this far. I’ve leaped a few hurdles and I must know something as a result. So I get a lot of questions from moms who want to know how I handled weaning, or night-waking, or toilet training. Women who are looking for someone who can help them out, or bounce ideas off of.

I still look to more experienced moms myself. When I want to know about local schools or daycare centres. When I’m looking for a good place to buy kid’s shoes. Or when I’m trying to convince my preschooler to put on her own socks. There’s really nobody better to bounce ideas off of or give you the skinny than someone who’s been there, done that, and made it to the other side in one piece.

I can’t be the only mom who’s noticed this unspoken hierarchy. Can I? I also can’t be the only one who sort of loves having some kind of authority amongst my fellow moms. Please share your know-it-all confessions, I’d love to hear them. ;)

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