Experiments In Domesticity

Marriage, Motherhood & Modern Housewifery

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The Night Before Christmas

When I first moved to Edmonton, almost four years ago now, I had one pre-existing “friend”, I worked with a group of largely unhappy people, and my Musicman was touring a lot. I thought about leaving every single day.

As I looked around the room during Ladybug’s birthday party last weekend, I was struck by what a wonderful group of people I now know. Having a child has increased my friend wealth; parents of young children seem to gravitate to one another. Giving birth at the Lucina Centre was a life changer in many ways, not the least of which was the amazing group of women I got to know who were giving birth in December 2011. I’ve made some good friends and found a great support network.

A side benefit of friends at this time of year is the unexpected swag that falls into your hands. I have been reaping the friendship rewards in the form of a delicious bottle of vegan Irish Cream. My dear friend, who also happens to be a culinary whiz, whipped this baby up using the recipe from Oh She Glows (found here). She states that she added a “little extra whiskey, vanilla and some love.”

I am thankful for my friends (and Edmonton isn’t so bad after all).


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The Party’s Over

Ladybug’s first birthday celebration yesterday went well. Better than expected, actually. Everyone behaved themselves, there were no tantrums, and most of the guests left at the appointed time (of paramount importance for a child’s birthday party). In total, we had 29 guests in our less than 700 square foot house.

The food was almost all things Ladybug particularly enjoys. Everything was reportedly delicious (I had no time to eat), but the biggest complements seemed to go to the Cheater Baked Beans. For the most part, I followed the recipe from the Veganomicon. I deviated from it for buffet-ease by placing canned navy beans, strained tomatoes, and molasses directly into a crockpot. I fried the onions and garlic on the stove in olive oil and then added mustard powder, and salt and pepper to the pan. Once the pan was well mixed, I dumped it into the crockpot, added a quarter cup of maple syrup, and mixed the whole shebang thoroughly. I set the crockpot on high because there were only four hours ’til party o’clock.

The sugar cookies Ladybug and I made seemed to be a hit with the kids, as was the “fruitcake.” (I don’t think my girl needs any extra sugar because she is already so very sweet.). The adults enjoyed the Linzertortes the most (the recipe can be found in Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar).

Now, the Christmas countdown truly begins!

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Am I Woman Enough?

I have been editing some writing for a friend and something she wrote has been rolling around in my head for the last few days. She explained that the birth of her daughter was the catalyst for change in her life. Specifically, she realized that her amazing little girl would be watching everything she did and listening to everything she said. She vowed to stop the negative way she talked about herself and her body.

Last year, I taught first-year women’s studies to a lovely group of young women, and one young man. On the first day, I asked those who considered themselves feminists to raise their hands. Out of over twenty students, three raised their hands. I was floored. I thought that any liberal-minded, young woman would identify as a feminist. Unfortunately, the reasons they gave for not being feminist were of the stereotypical hairy man-hating variety. One woman even said that her husband was concerned about her taking the class because she might be taught to leave him!

I grew up in a conventional home with a stay-at-home mother and a working father. I came of age during the burgeoning third wave of feminism, and cut my teeth under the guidance of Sassy magazine, girl bands, and the riot grrrl movement. It never once occurred to me that I was anything other than a feminist which, in its purest sense, means nothing more than pro-woman. When I listened to the young women in my class, I realized that we are seriously lacking in positive, female role models who identify as feminist.

My fears about having children were not based on labour and delivery but on the immensity of the responsibility that nurturing another human being entails. I didn’t know if I’d be good at it and I still don’t. I will, however, attempt to model the self-respect and pride that I want my daughter to have. I will raise a feminist.

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Pre-Christmas Blues

Ladybug and I have been sick for the last couple of days. This means a few things: not sleeping well, not leaving the house, and clinging. Yesterday I tried everything in my power to fight the clinginess. I used my bright, cheerful voice, sang along to the radio, pointed out various exciting toys, read stories, and served delicious snacks. By the end of the day I was exhausted and frustrated, and my little lady was more clingy than ever. I had forgotten the (possibly) most important parenting lesson of all: go with the flow, especially when dealing with a non-verbal, teething toddler. This dawned on me last night as I watched my sad baby fling her little body against the hardwood in a final, passionate plea for me to hold her. Again.

I was determined that today should be different. Upon waking, I got the Ergo carrier ready for the hip holding position. With the first whine of the day, I popped Ladybug in. We were able to make 2 dozen sugar cookies with virtually no complaint. I will say that rolling out dough was a little slower but I am pleased with the results nonetheless.

Last month, I decided to ramp up my holiday stress a couple of notches by hosting a one year old birthday party for Ladybug on December 22. Hence, my push to bake and clean and ignore my daughter’s protests.

Fortunately, a friend who is a dedicated vegan let me in on her amazing cookies secret: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I have yet to fail with the help of this book. I have even made celiac-friendly vegan cookies using the sage advice offered by the authors (who also have an excellent website full of delicious recipes here). The cookies I made today featured the Red Fife flour I bought from Gold Forest Grains last month. This flour is truly delicious and worth every penny. It has a slightly cinnamony flavour that really enhances baking.

When the baking was done, I was able to do some tidying and make some tea. As I sat in the living room with my baby latched to my breast, I looked around and thought things didn’t look so bad after all. We were able to continue the day with few tears and a great deal of connectedness.

If I can manage to go with the flow when it comes to holiday stress, I think I might just make it to 2013.


A little 12/12/12 humour

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Living in the Now

A major and unnecessary part of my first few months as a new mother was spent poring over parenting books, websites, chat boards, magazines, etc. If it offered to unlock the secrets of the new world I had entered, I was willing to read it. Some of what I read was interesting, some thought provoking, some silly, and some downright scary. What did I learn from all this, you ask? Am I a certified platinum, five star mother now? Can I whisper to babies in three different infant dialects? No. I spent many nights, when I should have been sleeping, worrying. Did Ladybug have incurable reflux? Was she becoming securely attached? Did that beer I had at dinner lower her IQ?

I finally stopped and came to my senses after a conversation I had with one of the women I met at the Lucina Centre. She stunned me by telling me that she didn’t read anything, ever, about parenting. She explained that she just did what she felt was right in the moment. She used her motherly instinct. My mind was blown! I have all the tools I need to care for my baby.

What she said next cuts right to the heart of the parenting experience: it is a lesson in being present. Put down your cell phone, step away from the television, shelve your laptop and look your little one in the eye. What is he telling you? What does he need? The way to figure that out is to watch, to listen, and to feel.

There are many helpful sites and books out there, and sometimes it’s comforting to know that you are not alone in your journey. Being a new mother can be very isolating. However, it is also comforting to know that there is no one right answer, no one right way. Much like there is no one magical baby product that will solve all your problems, there is no one secret that will make parenting a breeze (if you’ve found it, though, please send me the information).

Something I have learned over the last twelve months is that, just when I think I’ve got something figured out (crying, naps, feeding, etc.), it changes. The best I can do is to try to keep up with all the changes, and stay present.

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You Have Everything You Need … Or Almost

My Ladybug turned one yesterday. It was a momentous occasion for so many reasons but chiefly because our little family survived the first year intact. So, hurray for us! Happy birthday, my lovely daughter!

The other day I was reminded of advice I got from my midwife, when I received a text asking about nursing covers (insert cute and gag-worthy brand name here) from a dear friend who has recently experienced the joy of childbirth and is proud mama to two beautiful twin boys. When I asked about what I should buy, in frenzied anticipation of my daughter’s arrival, my midwife said all I really needed was a car seat, a few outfits and some diapers. And, though I did buy many more receiving blankets than I needed and a used crib that is currently a gigantic laundry basket, I generally stuck to her advice.

Just because you can afford to doesn’t mean you should! There is a hugely wasteful, multibillion dollar industry out there designed to take new parents for everything they are worth. From the latest plastic doodad guaranteed to make your baby sleep sixteen hours straight to the organic cotton, designed in Canada, made in China layette that your little one definitely deserves, no new parent insecurity remains untouched. After a year with Ladybug, I can honestly say you do not need a tent engineered to hide your breast while you nurse. Use a receiving blanket, a swaddle, your sweater, the tablecloth or any other soft material lying nearby.

Which brings me to my bare necessities list for new parents (in colder climates): 5 sleepers, 5 onesies, a hat, a warm blanket, a car seat, 30 cotton or flannel rags for wipes, and 15 washable diapers. That’s it! If you have extra money to throw around, I suggest a wrap-style carrier, 2 swaddling blankets, and a medium size wetbag. Forget the fancy diaper bag, a backpack works just fine and is easier to carry. Don’t forget to check the classifieds – many people are unloading barely used or brand new items. Also, remember that friends and family are going to want to give you things. Lots and lots of things. Things you want and things you don’t. Plan accordingly!

In reality, you will likely not leave the house much in the first six weeks. What your baby needs at that time is you, your warmth, your milk, and lots of rest. What you need is lots of healthy food, lots of time in close contact with your new baby, and lots of rest.

You have everything you need. Trust yourself.