Falling in love with New Year’s Eve

Vintage New Year's Wish

Vintage New Year’s Wish

I fell in love with New Year’s Eve this year. I looked forward to the night in a way I never had and was okay with one year ending and a new one beginning. I also found a new respect for the holiday, one that comes with being a little bit older and wiser.

As a child there wasn’t really anything special about New Year’s Eve. I remember a few parties and getting to stay up late, but it never felt significant. It comes after Christmas and that’s a tough act to follow. I’d like to change that and find new traditions to celebrate with my kids since I have this new love for NYE.

As a young adult, New Year’s was all about the party. There were a few good ones but I never liked the big ones with lots of strangers. I usually had a pretty good time (alcohol was involved, so yeah), but the the countdown as midnight hit was pretty anti-climactic. Plus, the New Year usually started with a hangover.

In my late twenties, we started doing nice dinners and keeping them more personal — smaller parties or just the two of us. That started to feel more my style.

Then with a bit of reflection, I started to realize why I felt bitter-sweetness towards a holiday that everyone else seemed to feel so superficially excited about.

My dad died on December 1st, which meant that my first New Year’s without him would also mark one month without him. I didn’t want 2005 to end. He was alive that year and in 2006 he wouldn’t be. He would never know that year and it would be the first year without him. And that turned out to be a terrible year. I don’t like categorizing an entire year as the “worst of my life,” but it was.

Each year that followed, I approached the holiday with a sense of loss for the year gone by coupled with a goal or a milestone for the coming year. I never really did resolutions. I’ve never kept those. It went more like: In 2007 we got engaged. In 2008 we’ll get married, or in 2011 we started our business and I was pregnant with our daughter. In 2012 we’ll have our daughter. It was easier to do this then. There were big, life-changing moments that made it easy. But it also made me feel sadness about saying goodbye to those things. I approached the new year with a deficit, which is a very negative, unfortunate way to view things.

This year I didn’t do that. I realized that I was looking forward to the coming year and I felt good about 2013. Perhaps my mid-thirties have made me wiser, perhaps my children make life so present and practical that I didn’t have time to reflect. I’m not sure how I made this shift, but I’m glad I did.

This past year was good. Any year with my kids is a good year and I can never compare the year ending to the year coming the way I did before. I struggled with some health issues, but overall it was a fun-filled year. My husband started working from home and my son started junior kindergarten. Those were big things, but they didn’t feel like the big events that came in the last five years.

Settling into a life that is good is a great feeling. It has forced me to look at the smaller, perhaps more meaningful, everyday things that make me happy. It has made me feel immense gratitude, not for the big events in my life, but for my life.

And somewhere between breakfast and lunch on January 1st I thought about how great this completely secular holiday is. The whole world experiences the last night and the first day of a new year. There’s something comforting and undeniable about that.

You can say, without hesitation, Happy New Year to everyone, whether they celebrate it or not. You won’t offend anyone or exclude anyone — it is everyone’s New Year.

And if you’re lucky enough, you get to spend it with some of your oldest and closest friends and their kids and that’s pretty magical. Christmas will always be my most magical holiday, but now I see how New Year’s Eve can feel so special.

I feel good about what 2014 will bring, even if it doesn’t bring much. Everything I have right now is enough.

Choosing the Right Books for Girls and Boys

Vintage illustration of a little girl reading by a window.

Jessie Wilcox Smith Color Illustration

Our children have a lot of books. We go to the library regularly and when I’m asked what they would like for gifts, I say that we can always use more books. I’ve always had a lot of books myself and I’ve lugged them with me every time I’ve moved (much to our movers’ chagrin). I feel rich when I have books and I hope that my children will feel this, too — even if their entire library one day sits on a device the size of a gum drop.

I have such special connections to the books that I read when I was growing up and none of them were “girl books” or “boy books.” They were creative, imaginative books that were good for all kids. I don’t know when or if there was a heyday for children’s literature, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the ’80s. The ’80s were a time of more gender-neutral clothing and toys for kids and I’m thankful my “years before five” happened then. Today seems pretty much the opposite of that time, which leaves me worried about what hyper-focusing on boy’s vs. girl’s interests will do to my kids in the long run.

Choosing the right books for our daughter and son feels like a good starting point to combat some of the sexism that marketers and even family and friends want to impose.

Because I feel books have such an important role to play, I have been known to throw out children’s books that are sexist, change “princess” to “prime minister” with my trusty label maker and regularly perform sex-change operations by changing pronouns to include more female characters. My four-year-old is on to me now that he is beginning to read, so I’ll either have to physically edit his books or keep explaining that the book is wrong. “Half of the world is girls,” I tell him. “Surely, half of these construction vehicles are girls, too.”  This came up with “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site,” which I generally still like and is a well-liked book.

Equality in children’s books is pretty dismal, not just for gender but for race as well. There are a lot of stories and T.V. shows about white boys. Sometimes they have a friend who is a minority or a girl or even a girl who is a minority, but generally it seems that it is white boy first and then everyone after. Examples off the top of my head: Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Justin Time and Phineas and Ferb. Book examples are harder for me to cite. A lot of our books are about animals and we do try to choose stories with female characters.

A well-rounded library should have books about animals, tea parties, robots, food, trucks, babies, fairies, astronauts etc. There shouldn’t be “boy books” and “girls books” in your house. I know that different subjects appeal to men and women, but when your kids are under five years old, they really don’t need to have gender roles enforced at bedtime (or any time). It is important that boys see strong female characters, so if you are reading this and have sons, remember to pick books that you might call “girl stories” for them, too. If you only have girls, make sure you get books that you would have considered “boy books.” You may be surprised to see how much girls love McQueen and boys like Tinker Bell.

I’ve been working on a list of books that have great female characters and I know there are a lot out there if you take the time to look. To get you started, here are ten books that we like at our house:

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett

Little Mouse by Alison Murray

If I were a Lion by Sarah Weeks

I know a Rhino by Charles Fuge

Earth to Stella by Simon Puttock

Red is Best by Kathy Stinson

The Fire Station by Robert Munsch

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

Jenny and Jupie by Gyo Fujikawa

When I Grow Up by Mercer Mayer

Happy Reading!

P.S. I’d personally be wary of books that are marketed “For Boys” or “For Girls,” for kids under 10. Books that are smart about empowering girls and breaking down traditional gender roles tend to avoid this kind of marketing.

 

 

 

Mila’s Birth Story – A True “Cinematic Entrance”

Mila (pronounced “Mee-la”) Lisette (my mom’s name) Judith (my husband Bob’s mom’s name) arrived June 25th, over a week early from her July 5th due date. She weighs 6.4 lbs., her height is 19” and her time of birth is estimated at 9:11 p.m. I say estimated because we’re not entirely sure – she was born in the front seat of her daddy’s truck in the hospital parking lot. If you’d like to know more about this crazy story, continue reading.

My water broke around 8:30 p.m. and the contractions got extremely fierce and close together so I paged our midwife to let her know we were going to leave for the hospital. By 8:47 p.m. I finally managed to get into Bob’s truck (in between horribly strong contractions that made it impossible to walk). Bob got me to the hospital as fast as he could, but we still had to make two additional calls to my midwife on the way up. The second time I called Bob had to talk as I was in such pain that the contractions were essentially making me convulse all around the front seat (I must have looked possessed!). As per my directions (or rather, demand) he told our midwife that I had the urge to push and she said to try to hold off by “panting” and “coughing” instead (much easier said that done). My brain tried incredibly hard to follow those instructions but, as soon as we turned onto the main road leading to the hospital, my body was telling me to push, and so I did. The next thing I know Bob was in the visitor’s parking lot of the hospital (he knew he didn’t have time to wait to make a left to get me into the emergency room parking lot) and ran out to get a wheelchair…

In the meantime, I turned around in the seat and was basically on all fours (thank goodness for the spacious front seat of the GMC) and again started pushing. I thought I could feel the baby’s head trying to come out so I pulled my right leg out of my pants and pushed again. This time the baby’s head DID pop out! I stopped for a second and remember thinking “Brooke, if you stop here she may suffocate!” so I pushed again and once more, I felt her head come out even further. At that point I knew I had to get the rest of her out, so with one more strong effort I pushed and I remember felt her fall onto my lap of the front seat. She was all curled up, a little purpley/blue in colour, but looked perfect! A few seconds later she started crying. Everything was okay, phew! The next thing I remember was looking up and saw Bob walking back over to the truck and, with a ridiculously big grin on my face, I looked out the window at him and said “She’s here.”

You’re probably wondering what my husband was doing during this time (which we later found out was maybe five minutes in duration). Well, here’s what he was up to: after he parked the truck he ran out to get a wheelchair. Along the way he saw a woman in blue scrubs, assuming she was a nurse, and asked her to come help. She was a PSW simply visiting a patient at the hospital, but could see he was in distress so came over to the truck. Bob then saw another woman wearing blue scrub pants and asked her to help, this time it was one of the nurses from the hospital just finishing her shift. She ran in and tried to find help. In the mean time, Bob managed to run into the hospital to grab a wheelchair (that inconveniently had the wheel brake was on and he had no other choice but to drag it the whole way over, ha ha, poor guy) to escort me into the hospital. But he was too late.

As if this all wasn’t crazy enough, Bob then called 9-1-1 from the hospital parking lot after he came over to the truck and saw that she really had arrived (which is how we can quite accurately estimate the time of birth). So there I was: half pantless, sitting in the front of Bob’s truck with a naked little baby cuddled in my lap. There was one PSW, at least five nurses (who had returned with the original nurse), four ambulance attendants, my midwife (who had just pulled into the hospital parking lot) and Bob. What a sight! They clipped the baby’s umbilical cord while I was still sitting in the front seat, wrapped she and I in blankets and then transported us to the stretcher. We took the very short route from the hospital’s visitor’s parking lot up to emerg (LOL) and they took us up to the birthing ward on the fourth floor. From that point on, the rest of the night was quite ordinary by comparison…

 

Mme B

‘Cause You Got Personality

By the time you are in your thirties, you’ve likely done a little soul searching, read your horoscope, done a few cosmo quizzes and have some idea what your best qualities are and where you’d like to improve. You likely know this about your spouse, too, and are starting to see your offsprings’ personalities bud with each excited gesture and pouty “NO!”

Knowing who you are and who you want to be is tough and it’s big business for many career counsellors, executives, psychologists, psychics and astrologists. Who and what you put your trust in is up to you.

Perhaps you’ve never done any formal personality assessments or maybe you’re sick of employers and teachers trying to smack another label on you. Your personality is complex regardless of how you define it. So with that in mind, we’ll attempt to scratch the surface of who we are with our Personality Salon.

We’ve decided to talk about some of the more well-known indicators such as Myers-Briggs, Keirsey Temperaments and Birth Order. There is, of course, debate about these methods. Some live by their MB letters and others discredit them as unscientific and useless. And we all know not all firstborns are leaders and not all last-borns are aimless. But it wouldn’t be a salon-worthy topic if we all thought the same thing!

If there’s time we’ll see what the stars have planned for us and touch on a bit of numerology. I’ll bet we have a few regular horoscope readers amongst us.

Take a few minutes to figure out what all the “experts” are saying about you and your place in the world by browsing through some of our research. Who knows, maybe it’ll help you with your career, your relationships or your parenting style.

And let’s not forget the school of life. You probably know yourself from profound experiences and daily habits that can’t be indicated by anything other than your own heart and mind.

Information Overload Review

Members Present: KJD, KD, MD, LG, BM & JM

After sending one last text and muting all our cell phones, we sat down (on the floor, in jammies with all the snacks in the middle) to begin our discussion on Information Overload, or “infobesity” as we prefer to call it.  Each member drew a technology-related term from the jar as a conversation starter. Read below for a brief overview of each topic.

INTERNET

  • All moms shared their own little anecdote about the “olden days” when the WWW was just up and running. Many of us were in high school or just beginning post-secondary and had desktop computers that weighed as much as a car! (Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration…)

PINTEREST

  • As a crafty bunch of creative women, we are big fans of Pinterest. In fact, only one mom is not a member. No one could resist sharing one or two “tips” they picked up from the online pinboard. I know it’s definitely one of my favourites!

INSTAGRAM

  • Who doesn’t love super-easy editing and cool effects added almost instantly to their pictures? Whether we share our photos with the public or not, all moms had to agree with the Kardashians: They love this fun and simple-to-use camera but will shut down their account should the company ever change its policy on photo ownership (they were apparently going to make it that each photo taken with this app would be available to advertisers).

FACEBOOK

  • You can’t talk about Information Overload without taking about “Facesmack”. Although many users deactivate and reactivate their accounts (for many reasons, but most commonly it’s self-identified addiction), Facebook is a popular one among moms as it allows us to keep in touch with friends and family… and also gives us the freedom to “unfriend” some unwanted acquaintances. If only it was that easy in the real world!

BLOGOSPHERE

  • Almost 100% of our moms said that they regularly read a blog or two. Whether it be for some down-to-earth make-up advice, how to potty train a toddler or some more intellectual and stimulating topics, it’s nice to have get advice or read the opinions of another person in a similar situation.

PERSONAL BOUNDARIES & STRESS

  • With the world at the tip of our fingers, the subject of personal boundaries and stress are sure to come up. Having access to a wealth of knowledge and people, sometimes creates issues in many relationships. Many moms admitted that despite its ease and convenience, the Internet does cause more “work” and with that comes even more stress in a fast-paced world. “Overshare” also created a different kind of infobesity when we found ourselves caring about things we wouldn’t normally know about. We all know that moderation is the key to success, with a little bit of indulgence here and there. (Youtube anyone?)

WORKING TIME

  • Depending on our occupation, some moms admitted to “surfing the net” on work hours, while others said they just don’t have time. Regardless, having the WWW accessible from work is both handy and useful during our eight- or nine-hour working days (or longer for our stay-at-home moms).

Conclusion: Talking about excessive technology use is always somewhat therapeutic, as deep down, we all know we all have a bit of an addiction (whether it be to Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or blogs) and it’s nice to feel normal. We embrace the conveniences and benefits the Internet provides us (think about how many times you’ve searched WebMD for symptoms that you’re toddler’s displaying!), but acknowledge that there’s a time and a place for it. Which is most certainly NOT at the dinner table or the playground.

Information Overload

At the risk of overloading our saloners’ brains with even more information, we’ve gathered a few articles on the effects of information overload. While we may be contributing to growing to-do lists and demanding a spot on an already jam-packed calendar, we think this salon may actually help us all reevaluate the way we use technology, absorb information and prioritize our time.

I know there are times when I’m guilty of checking my smartphone with each message alert, scrolling through Facebook or Instagramming my kids’ cheeky expressions instead of interacting with them. The need to consume and share information may be doing more harm than good and I’m sure I’m not the only one whose wired brain could use a reboot.

Information Overload

Let’s start with a quick definition from good ol’ Wikipedia. Information Overload or Infobesity is a fairly modern affliction and many of us may not realize just how much it affects the way we live. The ability to produce and consume information is changing our relationships, jobs and bodies. It’s time to step back and see what we can do to curb its negative effects.

When Technology Addiction Takes Over Your Life

Obsessively checking email or Twitter could mean missing out on the life around you. Even if you’re not a self-described addict, tips like the “not-to-do list” can help give your brain some much-needed recovery time.

How Tech is Changing College Life

Think your dependency on technology is bad? Check out this Mashable infographic of the way university and college students use their smartphones, e-readers and computers. Fast-forward a few years and its likely our little ones will think pens and paper were last used by cavemen.

Too Much Information

While we may feel that “information overload” is a new phenomenon, the term was popularized by Alvin Toffler in 1970 and even some Victorians complained that “the businessman of the present day must be continually on the jump.” But this article from The Economist points to present-day “data smog” (one of many terms) that is physically hurting us, increasing our stress and ruining our creativity. We need more filters to return our “information sanity” and that may come in the form of even more technology.

Now stop reading this on your iPhone while trying to cook dinner and play with your kids!

Would You Rather…

We’re mixing things up a bit here at Mom Salon by breaking our own rules (you must dress up) and putting on our pajamas for our sleepover-themed night. Our topic is a thoughtful version of “Would You Rather…” and we’re excited to hear our moms responses. We’ll try to relive the joy of staying up all night chatting with girlfriends instead of the “joy” of sleepless nights motherhood has brought us.

We hand-selected the following questions from Get To Know U, which had some great questions but also some pretty dumb ones. This game can be ridiculous at times and I would only recommend the would you rather app if you feel like answering silly questions like: would you rather eat boogers or rotten tomatoes — rotten tomatoes, in case you’re wondering.

Take a look and start thinking of your answers. You may be surprised to find you’re not quite sure. Ask your hubby a few and if you have older children, see what they think. There is lots of opportunity here for easy intros to interesting conversation.

  • Would you rather have $50,000 free and clear or $150,000 that is illegal?
  • Would you rather be able to visit 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?
  • Would you rather be able to eat anything and any quantity of food with no negative health effects, or be refreshed and well rested after only three hours of sleep?
  • Would you rather be able to lie without being caught or always be able to tell when someone is lying?
  • Would you rather have an ordinary home in an extraordinary location or an extraordinary home in an ordinary location?
  • Would you rather have a photographic memory or be able l to forget anything you wanted?
  • Would you rather have your first child when you are 19 years old or when you are 45 years old?
  • Would you rather get married in an arranged marriage or spend the rest of your life single without dating anyone?
  • Would you rather spend one year sailing around the world or one year living in the heart of London?
  • Would you rather spend a year teaching at an inner-city school or spend one month as a beat cop in the same neighborhood?
  • Would you rather babysit three-month-old triplets for four hours or go without food and water for the next 24 hours?
  • Would you rather be completely indifferent to what other people think of you or have a completely and uncensored understanding of what other people think of you?
  • Would you rather be 100 per cent debt free or have good health guaranteed for the next 10 years?
  • Would you rather never be able to travel more than 50 miles from where you now live or live in hotels never staying in the same city for more than 3 nights?
  • Would you rather have indestructible will power or be unquestionably lucky?

Interesting People Inspire Interesting Conversation

The world is full of amazing people from the past and present. Love them or hate them, a person’s character, claim to fame, inventions, talents and convictions can inspire discussions and debate on a wide range of fascinating topics.

We asked each mom to offer up a person they think is worthy of our salon and give us a mini-bio, just enough to get us chatting. It could be someone they admire, someone who inspires them to think outside the box or a person whose multi-faceted life begs us to dissect and discuss its choices and circumstances.

Here are a few people in detail and a few more may be posted as we get closer to our salon.

Victoria Caroline Beckham (née Adams)

Victoria Beckham Magazine Cover

D.O.B.: April 17, 1974

Profession: Fashion designer, business woman and former singer

Claim to Fame: Posh Spice of the Spice Girls

Famous Quotes:

”If you haven’t got it. Fake it! Too short? Wear big high heels, but do practice walking!”

“You have to remember that when you are a performer you become a celebrity, but you are not saving lives. It’s not that important.”

Vashti McCollum

Vashti McCollum with her son.

D.O.B.: November 6, 1912 – August 20, 2006

Profession: Author, homemaker and the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case that struck down religious education in the public schools.

Claim to Fame or what makes this person controversial or noteworthy: In 1945, Vashti McCollum, a mother of three and a part-time square-dancing teacher in Champaign, Ill. became one of the most notorious women in America when she sued the local public schools for teaching a class on Christianity.

Famous Quote: “As long as the public school is used to recruit the child or to segregate the children according to religion or to use the truancy power of the public schools to make them go to religions classes, I’m against it.”

Additional Information:

Separation of Church and State: PBS Airs Documentary of a Mother’s Story, The Huffington Post

The Woman Who Separated Church from State, Ms. Magazine

Catherine Elizabeth Middleton (Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge)

D.O.B.: January 9, 1982

Profession: Supporting charities

Claim to fame: Married to Prince William, 2nd in line to the throne, and fashion icon.

Famous quote(s): “About Princess Diana – Obviously I would have loved to have met her and she’s obviously an inspirational woman to look up to.”

“By far the best dressing up outfit I ever had was a wonderful pair of clown dungarees, which my Granny made.”

Additional Information:

The Official Website of the British Monarchy

Why Kate Middleton is picture perfect, The Observer

A few more interesting people:

Louis C.K.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Dolly Parton

Tim Tebow

Pierre Trudeau

21

March Salon

*It seemed only appropriate to include a photo of “le penseur”, perhaps reflecting on his youth. ;)

As we head into spring, it seems only à propos that our March Mom Salon will explore our younger, more youthful (and rested!) days. We decided to ask ourselves the following questions about being 21-years-old (again). As “experienced”  thirty-something moms, we have learned a lot about life that we hope to pass onto other generations… and dare we say (*gulp!), our children. Please think about the questions below and read the articles we have posted to help you reflect on your early twenties.

What do you miss about being 21?

What are you glad is in your past?

Advice for somebody today or your 21-year-old self.

More advice for your early-twenties self.

21 Today
Millenials and Generation Y: How is life different from when we were 21?

Would you give yourself advice if you could travel back in time?

Making Intimate Relationships Last

January Salon

We have pulled together a few articles on our highly requested salon topic – making intimate relationships last. As always, these articles are not mandatory homework, but we hope that you will find some time (maybe during naptime or after the kids are sleeping?) to peruse our fine assortment of reading materials.

The Five Languages of Love
According to marriage counsellor Dr. Gary Chapman, each of us has a “love language”, a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. To complicate things, we tend to fall in love with someone who has a different love language. There’s a quiz to help you determine which of the five is your primary language. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to convince your partner to do it, too. (*We HIGHLY recommend completing the quiz mentioned here as it would make for a great starting point for our discussion.)

For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage
New York Times “Well” columnist Tara Parker-Pope’s most recent book explores what make a good marriage and the science behind this most intimate relationship. Read an excerpt from her book or take one of the many quizzes she offers on her site to see if your relationship is hot or cool, or find out how well you know your partner.

Talk Sex with Sue Johanson

Famous nurse and sex educator, Sue Johanson shares some useful tips to help couples listen empathetically to one another. Her article Communications & Couple Therapy offers basic communication skills to help spouses get through tough situations. The 81-year-old talk show host’s site also hosts some “interesting” sex-related articles, if you prefer to focus on the “intimate” side of the relationship.

Dr. Phil

Who better than Oprah’s favourite psychologist to give you advice on marriage do’s? In his article The Five Biggest Mistakes that Threaten Relationships he and his group of specialists give five simple tips that can help you and your partner stay connected and in love.

Happy Reading!

Mme J. and Mme B. xo