Wednesday, February 22, 2012


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Calling all able-bodied women!

If you're looking for the ultimate in adventure and endurance, it's now time to register for your first Try-a-Tri (trimester, that is)!

Touted as THE premier sporting event of the century, this race will push your body to its limits. And as a bonus, all competitors will receive a prize!

Race Outline
First Trimester
You will begin the race with excitement and optimism...but careful! If you don't take it easy now, you'll be in for a rough road ahead. Most competitors begin to falter at the 6th line. Nausea and even vomiting can occur. Breast tenderness and emotional breakdowns are all par for the course. Pace yourself!!

Second Trimester
Suddenly, a burst of energy carries you forward! Nausea is a thing of the past (except for those unlucky ones), and you are racing forward at the speed of a pregnant lady! Bathroom stations are set up at regular intervals, for those of you needing to relieve yourselves frequently. People cheer you on from the sides (warning: many spectators can interfere with your second Tri - they attempt to shout unwanted advice at you, and try to correct your racing posture. Pay them no mind, and keep going!)

Third Trimester
You can see the finish line in the distance, but it doesn't seem to be getting any closer. Your body slows down; you feel heavy and tired. You wonder if the race will EVER end. You wish you never signed up for this damned Try-a-Tri. But suddenly.....a stretch of road that's all downhill! You're skipping along to the finish!

But notice something. One FINAL, GIANT obstacle. A wall that you must scale, which seems to stretch up for miles. Your spectators rally around you, supporting you while you scale the heights. And soon, you're on the other side....elation! A cheer goes up in the crowd!

All competitors, just for finishing the race, will receive 1 squishy, beautiful baby*

*Please note: exchanges will not be possible

To register, all you need to do is find yourself an able-bodied man - doesn't really matter which man! Any one will do! For questions and registration details, call 1-800-SUCKER.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Co-Sleeping Crisis? Or Co-Sleeping Ignorance?

I just came across this article on Baby Centre, and it angered me. I realize that they're just trying to facilitate discussion, but it's these kind of biased articles that do more damage than good.

I've written about co-sleeping before. It's very clear that there are many benefits, and I won't re-list them here. You can read the old post!

What's so interesting to me about this story are the two cases of infant deaths that have occurred due to co-sleeping, and the Milwaukee Mayor's response to the deaths.

Both deaths occurred (from what I can glean from news facts!) due to unsafe co-sleeping conditions. The first being an older sibling who rolled on top of the baby, and the second being a mother who had too much alcohol in her system.

Right off the bat, my "safety" alarm bells ring! These were both unsafe co-sleeping environments, and it is devastating that two infants died because of this. But it doesn't mean that "if you love your baby, do not sleep with your baby." I love my child, and I still sleep with her.

The fact is, co-sleeping (or bed sharing) is SAFE, if DONE PROPERLY!

1) The only person who is perfectly in tune with baby is its mother. A mother is biologically designed NOT to roll on top of her baby. She is hyper-aware of their presence in the bed, and usually will wake to the first little noise or snuffle. Therefore, a newborn should never, ever be sleeping next to dad or any other sibling (or pets!!). The baby should be in between mom and either a wall, or a safe mesh railing.

2) The mattress should be nice and firm, with a fitted sheet. Mothers should avoid heavy blankets and too many pillows. Baby should be lying away from any pillows or blankets

3) Never, under any circumstances, should you co-sleep if you have been drinking (or taking drugs), or if either you or your partner smoke. Your mama spidey-senses will not be as alert.

[There are many more safety tips you can read in this book.]

The media campaign that the City of Milwaukee has put out is both terrifying and disgusting:

Seriously?? Come on, people. Do yourself a favour, and become educated in your choices! Don't allow sensationalized ads like these ones influence your parenting decisions.

According to our society, there are dangers lurking around every corner. We seem to feed off the scary, the dreadful, and the rare (but devastating) things that can happen to our children. In the end, we live in a constant state of anxiety, never allowing ourselves to do what's right for US.

And the bigger picture here is not a baby sleeping with a knife. It's a baby safely tucked in next to its mother, breastfeeding happily throughout the night.

Co-sleeping crisis? I think not! It's a crisis of the City of Milwaukee not providing parents with much-needed information about co-sleeping safety.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Freezer Meals

Last week my friends and I completed our second freezer meal cook-off day, and I thought it might be helpful for other families if I posted about the experience.

I’m sure everyone (those with or without children) struggles with weekday meals. A long work day, stressful commute, and a winter storm thrown into the mix, can make meal preparation a challenge.

Thankfully there are solutions that don’t involve dinner-in-a-box or expensive take-out. It requires some hard work, and a bit of planning, but the end result is a freezer full of dinners for your hungry family.

1) The first step is to find some girl (or guy) friends who you wouldn’t want to murder with a kitchen knife after a long day of cooking. We have discovered that 4 people work well together, each being responsible for 3-4 meals.

2) The next step is to decide whose kitchen you will grace with your culinary disasters talents. This must be a big kitchen, with lots of counter space for chopping and preparing ingredients. It is also helpful if the host has all the gadgets (eg. food processor, good set of pots/pans, lots of knives etc.); but not essential, as other participants can bring their own stuff with them.

3) Follow a recipe!! Trying to create your own meals out of the blue is a recipe (hehe) for disaster. Our friend who started the whole tradition found this book at Chapters, which is what we follow:

4) Each choose 3-4 meals you would like to make, but have one person responsible for writing up the grocery list. Creating the master list can take a long time (e.g. wait, was that 15lbs of ground beef, or 50lbs?), so share the responsibility each time you do your cooking day.

5) Decide where to go shopping. Both times, we have gone to Costco, with a quick run to a regular grocery store for the extras. We also contribute our own ingredients – condiments and spices are most likely just lying around in your cupboards at home. Allocate at least 2-3 hours for shopping!

Lotsa meat!!

6) Decide where to store the food. This last time, we had the benefit of snow outside to keep our meat cold. But a cooking day in July can be challenging for finding fridge space for all the food!

7) Don’t forget to eat! Plan what you will do for a lunch break. We have found red wine to be very helpful in maintaining a calm atmosphere.

Donuts are an essential ingredient!

The cookbook we use is designed specifically for this kind of cooking/storing. You can do this with 2, 4, 6 or 8 people (we have come to the conclusion that 8 people would be madness). I’ve noticed that some of the meals are big enough to feed my family twice, so if I end up with 10 meals in total, I actually have something close to 20 dinners!

Despite my caution against making up recipes “out of the blue,” we have experimented with some recipes we know and love. For example, my friend’s lasagna is a huge winner, so she makes up 4 giant lasagnas which are stored in tinfoil pans. I have also done a massive pot of chili and quinoa stew, and divided them amongst 4 freezer bags.

Our one complaint with this cookbook is that it is strictly meat-based meals. My husband is very happy about this, as he would eat meat all day if I let him! But if you are very health conscious, you may shy away from all the ground beef, chicken and pork, as well as the generous amounts of sugar and salt. My commitment to buying only local/organic meats goes out the window for these cooking days.

This is the reason why we have expanded to include our own vegetarian recipes, and our goal for next time is to try to do more of these, and less from the book. The focus on meat can also make it more expensive, as clearly, dried or canned legumes cost much less. But all in all, it has been a very positive experience, and has saved me many a-nights wondering what I need to do for dinner.


The grand total this time around was: $174 per person (family) for 11 meals*

The grand total last time was: $130 for about 8 meals (can’t remember the exact #)**

*don’t forget that the meals are large enough to last 2 nights

**as a gift to our pregnant friends (1 last time, and 1 this time), 3 of us picked up the bill, which allowed us to give the gift of food to a new family. A great baby shower gift idea!!

Other Hints/Tips

- most recipes call for chopped onion or carrots. Do ALL of the onions and carrots beforehand in a food processor. Saves on a lot of time, and any leftovers can be packed in freezer bags for future use. One mom took our leftover carrots to make baby food!

- This takes us about 6 hours, with a break for lunch. So plan for 9am – 3pm

- Bring some grocery bins or big boxes with you to carry your food home. Some things need to remain upright (lasagna) so that they don’t squish or spill.

- Make photocopies of the recipes and cooking instructions, and staple a copy to each bag. This helps to avoid the “what the heck is that!?” question two months down the road.

- oh, and have fun!!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ripper, the Jack

"We're going to name him Ripper," my brother and father say.

Me, staring in disbelief: "That's ridiculous! You can't name him Ripper...that's like naming your child Cruella."

"I think you're outvoted, Mist."

Me, stomping to my room.

I was 13. We'd recently decided to get another family dog, after the devastating loss of our pug, Maggie.

Maggie was my baby. She was the cutest pug I'd ever set eyes on (my current pug Darcy is pretty cute too), and while the family was on vacation in Florida, she was struck by a car and killed instantly. Only 4 years old, and no chance to say goodbye.

So I was hesitant to welcome a new dog into our family. But the house just wasn't the same without the clickety-clack of nails on the floor, and the incessant barking that happened when the mail carrier walked up the driveway. We were in desperate need of a furry friend, and although we had owned two pugs in the past, my dad and brother were obsessed with a different kind of dog.....

The Jack Russell.

If you have never had the pleasure of meeting the infamous Jack Russell, here is a description of the breed:

The Russell Terrier is a strong, hardy, earth-working Terrier. He is full of life and moves with confidence that matches his keen expression. The breed's handy size, small flexible chest, nose, strong voice and fearless nature make it an excellent specimen to work vermin below ground. Its weatherproof coat may be smooth, broken or rough and is predominantly white with tan and/or black markings.

Earth-working? Fearless nature? An excellent specimen to work vermin below ground??? What were we getting into?

The characteristics that they attempt to shade over here include: stubborn, sometimes vicious, and relentless.

Hence, the name Ripper.

Ripper wriggled and sniffed his way into our home and our hearts, although not without some hesitation on my mother's part. Being a stubborn breed, he was exceptionally difficult to train - he insisted on peeing in the same spot in the house, time and time again, and it took months to get him to go outdoors. He would run away the second the front door opened, tearing off down the street like a bat-outta-hell.

And the ripping...did I mention the ripping? He would shred and tear to bits any piece of paper/kleenex/food that was within reach (and his reach was amazing - he could jump as high as the kitchen counter). In his heyday, he managed to scarf down one of my mom's EI cheques, a $20 bill, many pieces of homework, a whole pack of cigarettes, a box of Girl Guide cookies, whole garbage cans full of kleenex and other female products....the list goes on. And although he sometimes ralphed the stuff up, his ravenous appetite for the inedible never once landed him at the veterinarian or in surgery.

Our dog was well known amongst our high school friends. Having people over or throwing parties was an adventure - we never knew what Ripper would do, and I usually spent most of the night chasing him around, trying to wrestle another cigarette pack out of his mouth. Or  you might have spotted me at 1am, chasing him down the street.

Despite the craziness, he was an entertaining and loving dog. He adored our backyard swimming pool, and in the summer months, he would spend whole days swimming back and forth. He even learned how to dive, right down to the bottom of the shallow end.  We would throw golf balls in and marvel over his ability to pick them up. Most people loved Ripper, because of his never-ending desire to play. He would chase balls for hours, only to collapse at the end of the day in his bed. When he got the chance to be free in the "wilderness," he would dart back and forth, finding all of the holes in the ground and trying to chase the vermin out. But no matter how much he loved to frolic in the outdoors, he was always a sucker for a warm body, and would happily snooze, curled up on our laps.

When I got my pug, Darcy, it was Ripper's job to teach her a few things. Being 10 at the time, he was slowing down, but certainly not retiring. He took it upon himself to show Darcy how to bark and jump madly at the coffee bean grinder; how to attack other dogs (especially the big ones); and how to swim and dive in the pool. Darcy has now taken over Ripper's place in the world, although thank god, she's never had a taste for paper or kleenex.

Ripper lived almost 17 years, and passed away peacefully two weeks ago. Happy until the end, he continued to scrounge for food, despite having lost all of his hearing and most of his sight. His sense of smell never waned, and at the first whiff of a cookie or cracker, he would be by your side begging for a little bite. The morning following his death, the birds chirped and hopped over his small grave, feeling wistful for the old four-legged creature who used to chase them from the bird feeders.

You were a legendary dog, Ripper, and will forever be close to our hearts.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two Days to Breathe

Two felt long, but of course, never long enough.

Two days to celebrate love.
(can you believe we didn't get a pic of the two of us?)

Two days to taste my first rabbit pie, pig's knuckle and boar sausage.

The Quebec Tasting Platter - the most meat I've eaten in my life

Two days to walk the blistering cold cobblestone streets of Old Quebec.

Two days to dive into a great book (The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, by Wayne Johnston)

Two days to read random poetry on poles... "chaque jour, une fleur" (every day, a flower)

Two days to breathe
though cold, catching breaths
let loose clouds of steam
that rise up and over the steeples
of the old city

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bloggy Break

I have been on an unintended blogging break! This happens every once in a while - life usually takes over, and creative writing juices do not flow.

I've also "done it again" - over-committed myself, which has resulted in crazy schedules, sickness (because of my lowered immune system), and an overall sense of not being able to follow through on things. So I've spent this past week scaling back, and coming to the realization (again!!) that I can't do it all.

My New Year's resolution was to become less scatterbrained. But I can't be clear of mind if I'm constantly running from one meeting/appointment/event to the next, and never taking time to prioritize.

This weekend hubby and I are off to a romantic weekend away in Quebec City. It's our first time going away sans child (except for one rushed night away for a wedding ages ago), and I'm looking forward to just taking time to breathe...without the constant nagging of Twitter, Facebook, calendars and toddlers.

Once back, I'm excited to write some new posts - I will be chronicling our "cook-off" day for freezer meals (which other families out there might find helpful!), remembering our beloved family dog, and discussing my challenges with prioritizing for health and happiness.

Until then, have a LOVEly Valentine's Day!