Monday, December 27, 2010

A decade of parenting!

It's hard to believe, but our oldest child turned 10 today (double digits!). December 28th, 2000 marks our foray into parenting, its seems like both a lifetime and a minute ago; I can still feeling Maddy kicking in my belly, yet it feels like she's been with us forever. When we brought Maddy home with us, neither my husband nor I had a clue what to do with her. Like others before us, we gradually figured things out, as it turns out, you can read a lot of books, but nothing fully prepares you for parenting like actually having a baby! We've both learned a lot along the way, three kids later, and I'd say we're still learning!

If you had asked me ten years ago what type of parent I'd be, I'm sure the mother I thought I'd be is far removed from the mother I've become. I'm not nearly as patient as I thought I'd be (that plan was scrapped after #2 came along), similarly, my plan for a TV-free childhood went off the rails around the same time (hmmm, coincidence? I think not!). Despite my shortcomings as a mother (we all have shortcomings, admit it!), I'd like to think I'm doing a pretty good job. I don't have particularly high aspirations for our children once they become adults, I just hope they turn out to be happy, well adjusted people who are kind to each other, and kind to others.

I hope our kids look back at their childhood with fondness, I often wonder what they'll remember. If I have any regrets, it's that we haven't taken enough pictures or captured enough moments on video. Like my own mother, I'm not a terribly sentimental person, I'm often too busy enjoying a moment to interrupt it by posing everyone for a picture. I'm trying to be more diligent about taking pictures, developing them, and organizing them into albums, not only for their benefit, but for my own. As they get older, I can feel time slipping away faster and faster, and it makes me a little sad. I'm always cognizant of the fact that one day, my babies will leave the nest, and it fills me with a bit of dread.

As per Maddy's birthday request, we spent a couple of hours at Bayshore mall this morning, where she finally realized her lifelong dream of buying an outfit at Aéropostale. All I bought her was a t-shirt and pair of jogging pants, but judging from her cheek-to-cheek grin, you'd have thought I'd just bought her a prom dress. Standing in that store, bustling with other girls and their moms, I realized I've crossed over into a new phase of parenting. My little girl is growing up. She's a good kid, if her current disposition is any indicator, she's going to turn out to be a good person. My only hope for the next ten years is that they slow down!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yeah, so about that Paris thing...

It's a long, ultimately boring story, but I didn't make it to Paris. In what can only be described as a big, massive fail by Air Canada, my intended four days in Paris became a 24 hour trip to Heathrow airport and back, complete with little food and drink, and virtually no sleep.

I was originally supposed to fly Ottawa-Montreal-Paris. When we boarded the plane in Ottawa, it became apparent the plane's door would not close, we sat on the plane for 45 minutes (we were told they were getting booking agents to the gate to handle us when we got off the plane), got off only to be greeted by no one. At this point, I knew I had already missed my connecting flight to Paris, I made my way up to the booking desk and was told to collect my luggage first before they could help me. It took a half hour to get my bag back, I went upstairs to get sorted out, an hour later it was my turn to speak with the booking agent who informed me I was flying to Heathrow, where I would catch a British Airways flight to Paris. I knew there was a weather situation in the UK, and I specifically asked if there were delays at Heathrow airport, and she told me "There are no problems." Ha. Ha. Ha. Good one.

I made it to Heathrow airport (no meal, as I might add, can't get a vegetarian meal with less than 24 hours notice!), as we were landing, I saw the light skiffing of snow, and figured everything must be running smoothly (little did I know a light skiffing of snow in London, England is apparently a very big deal). As I made my way by bus from Terminal three to Terminal five, I noticed mountains of luggage covered by plastic tarps. It struck me as odd, by the haphazard way everything was stored, I assumed it was unclaimed luggage. In hindsight, I realize it was just the airport's way of dealing with massive (massive!) delays causing a huge backlog of luggage piling up at the airport.

Once I got to Terminal five, I got to the right gate pretty quickly, only to be denied entry because my flight had been cancelled. At this point, I was told British Airways had been cancelling flights within Europe for the past two days. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck-fuck-fuck. I was directed into a big line and told to rebook. While I was in that line, a British Airways employee came by with a clipboard and suggested that since I'm not British, it would be faster to declare myself at immigration and make my way back to departures to rebook my flight to Paris. So I do that, get upstairs, and holy shit, I have never seen such a mass of people in my life. I got into line, a British Airways employee was waiting at the end of the line to let everyone know "You are more than welcome to get in line, but just so you know, you will likely never make it to the front of this line before our desks close tonight." (this was at about 11am). I explain my situation, that I'm not supposed to be there, Air Canada rebooked me onto a British Airways flight, should I stay, or do I need to deal with Air Canada? He told me I'm now a British Airways customer, I have to get in line.

I was in line for over two hours (with no food or drink), I kept repeatedly explaining my situation to British Airways employees (people in blue vests who were walking around the line, not to actually do anything, but to make it appear British Airways was on the case). The last blue vest person I spoke to was actually from the baggage department, she never helps customers, so she took me to a supervisor who then informed me that since Air Canada had rebooked my flight, British Airways could not in fact help me, I had to go back to Terminal three to deal with Air Canada. So I take a train back to Terminal three, make my way to an Air Canada booking desk, and am told "Sorry, you're not an Air Canada customer anymore, you have to go back to British Airways." Faced with the decision to go back to *that* mess (two and a half hours in line got me perhaps 1/5 of the way through the queue, they were still cancelling flights, I was virtually guaranteed a 24+ hour wait in Terminal with no food or water), I rebooked my ticket home so that I was leaving Heathrow to fly directly back to Montreal immediately (the only certain decision I could make in an incredibly uncertain situation!). If I chose to get back in line at Terminal three, there was a very real possibility I would just make it to Paris in time to get back on the flight back to Canada anyhow. I had to haul ass to get on the plane to Montreal, it was already boarding.

I lucked out and managed to snag a meal on the plane back to Montreal, I slept a little bit, and I cried a lot, going away for a few days requires an enormous amount of planning and preparation, it was all for naught. When I landed in Montreal, I found out the plane back to Ottawa was delayed. Of course it was. Why wouldn't it be? All in all, it took 26 hours between when I left Ottawa and when I returned. No idea where my luggage is, I imagine it's buried on the runway at Heathrow, by the time I got back last night, flights to Paris from Heathrow were already running again, but given the incredible backlog, I wouln't have gotten out of that airport the same day, and I very much doubt my luggage would either.

I have sent my complaint to Air Canada (they don't have a phone number for customer complaints, imagine that?), I want to be reimbursed somehow for my ticket (60,000 air miles and $400), I should not be out of pocket for their sheer incompetence (had they rebooked my itinerary so that I was still flying Ottawa-Montreal-Paris, I would be in Paris right now, not sulking on my sofa in Stittsville). I held up my end of the bargain, I showed up on time, I did what I was told, and I got screwed.

Monday, November 29, 2010

bon voyage!

The planets in the universe aligned *just so* last week, and as luck would have it, I'll be heading to Paris, France on Wednesday to meet up with my husband (who's there on business) for a whirlwind trip to the 'City of Light'. My husband found out he was going on Wednesday of last week, and two days later, we took a chance and booked a flight for me without having childcare lined up for the four days that I'll be gone (it was a leap of faith, to say the least). Thanks to the generosity of my mother and brother, the kids will be well-taken care of while the husband and I take in the sights of one of the most culturally-rich cities in the world.

Full disclosure, I will admit that when I first found out my husband was going to Paris, as happy as I was for him, I was not thrilled at the prospect of spending seven days as a single parent. As much as I love our kids, parenting four children in a two-parent household is challenging enough, the thought of parenting solo for a week while trying to run a business (which takes up more time than you could ever imagine!) was downright daunting. I tried to put on a brave front, but I have a terrible pokerface.

When I first found out that I'd be able to join my husband in Paris, my immediate thought was that I should really get myself a new wardrobe for the few days that I'll be there, considering how chic the people of Montreal seem to be, I can only imagine how chic the people of Paris must be! Of course, I won't actually buy a new wardrobe, I did, however, buy a new pair of gloves and a hat and scarf to match. Given the current cold snap Europe is experiencing, it seems highly unlikely anyone will know what's under my parka anyhow (hopefully they will all assume I am just as chic as they are!). To ensure I look the part from the neck up, I got my haircut on Friday afternoon, I will flat iron my hair while I'm in Paris if it kills me, though when I get back, I will likely resort back to throwing my hair up in an elastic every day (old habits die hard).

I really should have paid a little more attention to my high school French teachers. I grew up in a small town in Southwestern Ontario, I took the minimum number of French classes required of me, back then, I had never heard anyone speak a lick of French outside the classrooom, little did I know that people in Canada actually *do* speak French. It would certainly come in handy right now to be able to say something other than "Fermez la bouche" (the only thing I took away from my French teachers!). If I run around Paris telling everyone to 'shut your mouth', I won't make any friends, will I?

I'm a little (OK, a lot!) nervous about travelling alone, I will have to make my way from Charles de Gaulle airport all the way to downtown Paris. I imagine it will feel like I'm living the Go-See episode of America's Next Top Model, I only hope I don't end up crying on the street somewhere, hopefully I'm capable of making it from point A to point B without any major setbacks. If I have to rely on my limited French vocabulary, I am doomed, doomed I tell you!

After he's done working, my husband and I will have about 48 hours together to tour the city. Aside from the obvious (the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame cathedral), I'm not sure what else we should see. As it turns out, we'll be there on December 2nd, the anniversay of Napolean's French Coronation. On that particular date, the sun sets in line with the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe, creating a spectacular halo around the Arc de Triomphe. As nice as it might have been to visit Paris in the Spring or Summer, I think it's pretty cool that we're in the city on such a historically significant date!

For those of you who have been, do you have any suggestions in terms of restaurants we should visit, things we should see that might not be listed in the latest tour guides, or any tips or tricks to getting around Paris? We won't have access to a car, which is just as well, as it seems that people in Paris drive like people in Montreal (I had to drive in downtown Montreal once, I almost had a coronary, never again!).

Assuming I make it from the airport to the hotel OK (did I mention I don't have a cell phone?), I am *so stoked* to visit Paris!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The first love(s) of my life.

It was 1989. I was a 15 year old girl, he was a boy named Joe. He had big blue eyes and curly brown hair, the kind of boy any girl would be happy to bring home to meet her parents. Our love affair was short, but sweet. He would keep me company while I was doing my homework, he would even sing me to sleep, Joe was always there for me. Things were great until I fell for his friend Donnie. I fell hard. Unlike Joe, Donnie was a bad boy, I was attracted to his wild side, he was the complete opposite of Joe, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't resist his charm. Despite the love triangle, Joe and Donnie remained friends. They had to, for the sake of the band. You see, Joe and Donnie, along with Danny, Jon, and Jordan, were members of the New Kids on the Block, a boy band from Boston, Massachussets. With their hit "Please Don't Go Girl", they kicked off a worldwide phenomenon, NKOTB-mania was a force to be reckoned with, and my friends and I (Tammy and Leesa, yo!) considered ourselves their #1 fans.

With the announcement of a joint NKOTB - Backstreet Boys tour (I never caught BSB fever, my allegiance was always with the boys from Beantown), I've been reminiscing about the time I spent head-over-heels in love with NKOTB. When I say Tammy, Leesa, and I were their #1 fans, I don't think most people comprehend just what that means. We were hardcore. For two years, my life revolved around five boys from Boston, I was a girl obsessed! It all started with one t-shirt I purchased on vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC. That one t-shirt snowballed into a collection of NKOTB memorabilia that included everything from more t-shirts to dolls, to comic books, to tour jackets, coffee table books, and more (much, much more!!).

Tammy, Leesa and I spent every waking second of the day thinking about NKOTB. During our school lunch, we would head to Woolworths to check out the magazine racks, devouring the latest issues of Bop, Tiger Beat, and 16 Magazine, after school we would race home to hang the latest posters in our bedrooms. While every square inch of my walls was occupied by Dannie, Donnie, Joe, Jon, and Jordan, Tammy had also NKOTB comforters and pillows adorning her bed, and NKOTB flags pinned to her ceiling. Needless to say, her house served as command-central for all of our NKOTB-related activites. At Christmas, we knitted scarves for them in their favourite colors (we didn't get a thank-you card). We wrote poems for a fan contest (we lost). In short, we devoted a lot of time and energy to being NKOTB's #1 fans!

I managed to see the New Kids in concert three times -- I caught the Hangin' Tough tour at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, the Magic Summer tour at the Toronto Ex, and the Step-by-Step tour at the Skydome in Toronto. We had tickets for a fourth concert in Detroit, Michigan, not that we had a hope in hell of making it to a concert in Detroit, Michigan, but by virtue of purchasing those tickets, we were preventing three other girls from spending time with our boys. Yes, we were sick, depraved individuals. We usually got decent tickets for the concerts, being the smart whippersnapper I am, I figured out that to buy tickets for a Toronto show, rather than calling the Ticketmaster in Toronto, it made more sense to call the Ticketmaster in Vancouver. I never had to stress out over a busy signal, and we always got decent seats. It was a genius move, if I may say so myself!

We brought binoculars with us to the concerts, not to watch the concerts, but to stalk our prey. Quite frankly, we had the makings of great paparazzi, if only there were paparazzi in the early 90s. The closest we ever came to meeting our idols was meeting their wardrobe manager 'Uncle Rob'. And by meeting him, I mean we took a picture of him. I have a feeling that if I ever had the pleasure of actually meeting anyone from NKOTB, it would have gone over as well as when I met Arlene Dickinson, though I would have been less refined. Quite frankly, I would have probably peed my pants.

Quite possibly the most embarrasing declaration of my undying devotion to NKOTB involved a very special haircut I got before the Magic Summer tour. It wouldn't have been enough to simply wear an NKOTB t-shirt to the concert. Nosirreeebob, no way. I had to stand out. And how, exactly, does one do that, you ask? Like my friend Leesa, I opted to buzz the lower half of the back of my head, and shave the initials NKOTB into my newly buzzed head. Like a true fan, I left a rat's tail. OK, you have my permission to commence laughing now. In hindsight, I realize how completely ridiculous I must have looked. At the time, however, I thought I was da bomb! Surely to God, if Donnie were to see his band's initials shaved into my head, he would drop to one knee and propose on the spot, right? Right????

As embarrassing as my antics back then may seem to me now, on the bright side, my passion for NKOTB kept my friends and I out of trouble. The tour jackets, t-shirts, and initials shaved into our heads (God, what was I thinking???) proved quite effective as a means of warding off real, live boys, we were too busy fantasizing about meeting our idols to even consider the possibility of interacting with boys in the flesh. Our "Drugs Suck" t-shirts kept us on the straight and narrow. When I think of the things our girls will get up to when they're teenagers, there are certainly worse things they could do than become a boy band groupie. If that happens, I will do my best to ensure they manage to keep their dignity intact.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Potty learning tips

When parents come into the store to buy training pants, we usually spend a bit of time talking with them about the potty learning process. Although we practiced infant pottying with our babies, we still relied on the following tips and tricks when we were transitioning our toddlers to full-time underwear.

Start early.

Before starting the process of potty learning their toddlers, parents will often question whether or not they are 'ready' yet. Certainly, conventional wisdom dictates that your toddler should hit certain milestones before beginning the potty learning process, however, the reality is that children are far more capable than we give them credit for.

In other parts of the world, infant pottying is commonplace, and even within our own culture, previous generations of parents started potty learning their children at a much younger age than parents of today. No matter how you do it, you are always 'training' your child. If you wait for your child to soil a diaper, then you give her a clean diaper, you are in effect training her that diapers are used for elimination purposes. As a result, the longer you wait to potty your child, the harder it will be for her to unlearn what you have previously taught her.

Don't ask your little one if she needs to 'go', just take her to the bathroom.

Do you know what a toddler's top three words are?

1) No
2) No
3) No

Yes, all three are clearly the same word, but it doesn't matter. Toddlers like to test boundaries, and the word 'no' is a great way to test boundaries! If you ask a toddler if she needs to pee, nine times out of ten the answer will be 'no', regardless of whether or not she actually needs to pee. Rather than ask her if she needs to pee, simply take her to the toilet at regular intervals. Set the timer on the stove if you want something else to take the blame, it serves as a great reminder for you, and toddlers aren't rational people anyway.

Rely on diapers as little as possible.

Toddlers know what diapers are for, they soil a diaper, then you give them a fresh diaper -- it's not rocket science! If you continue to put your little one in a diaper, you are enforcing the idea that she should pee and poop in the the diaper. Rely on underwear as much as you can, it looks different and feels different than a diaper, and you will do a better job at staying on top of the pottying situation (the onus is just as much on you as it is on her when it comes to potty time, if not moreso!).

For those times that you may not be able to access a potty easily (like at the grocery store), or when you really don't want to chance an accident (like at a playdate at a friend's house), waterproof training pants are a great alternative to diapers. They pull up and down like underwear, so your toddler can use the toilet easily, and they will hold at least one wetting. We generally suggest to customers that they don't buy more than 3-5 pairs of training pants, the more you have, the more likely you are to treat them like diapers.

Be consistent

Make pottying a part of your toddler's day-to-day routine, so that she knows to expect it, and she gets used to the idea of using the toilet. Potty her first thing in the morning, after drinks, before and after naps, and before you leave the house.

Use positive reinforcement.

When we got to the point where our little ones were consistently using the potty when we took them to it, and we knew they were capable of going themselves, we introduced the concept of rewards to encourage self-pottying. In our case, we used Smarties (shock, horror, I know!). If you're not comfortable with the idea of using candy as a reward, use something else you know will motivate your child to self-potty (stickers, pony rides, whatever feels right!). Once our little ones had the hang of self-pottying, we would gradually wean them off the reward.

Keep calm and carry on.

OK, I'll admit it, this suggestion can be tough to follow. I once found Grace in her bedroom with poop smeared everywhere -- on the wall, on her crib, and on the carpet, she was covered up to her elbows in it. I will fully admit that I cried. I cried like a baby, sobbing big, fat hysterical sobs, tears the size of jellybeans rolling down my cheeks. It wasn't a pretty sight.

The second you make potty training a big deal, it will become a big deal. When you freak out over accidents (which are bound to happen, consider yourselves warned!), you run the risk of scaring your toddler off the toilet and back into diapers. When your little one has an accident, calmly clean it up, talk about where poop and pee belong (in the toilet!), and move on.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yes, cloth diapers really are *that* easy!

When I was at the ABC Kids Expo last month, I spent some time visiting with Shirley and Betsy, the marvelous ladies behind Bummis, discussing the barriers to getting parents to cloth diaper their babies. In the nine years that I've been in business, although the number of businesses selling cloth diapers has grown exponentially, the number of parents using cloth diapers has held steady, roughly 5-10% of diapered babies are estimated to wear cloth diapers. When trying to convince parents to use cloth diapers, many companies focus on educating parents about the benefits of cloth diapers, however, I believe a more successful approach to getting parents on board with cloth diapers would shift focus to ease-of-use. Most parents can't seem to get past the perceived workload, although in reality, using cloth diapers (like having children in general) simply requires a few extra loads of laundry every week.

Indeed, a study funded by Huggies confirms as much, 79% of respondents agreed with the statement "Cloth diapers are less convenient than disposables". 91% of the same respondents also indicated that they agree that cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly than disposables (no duh), and 65% agreed that cloth diapers are cheaper than disposables.

In terms of the laundry required to wash cloth diapers, it's not a whole lot different than the laundry requried to wash, oh say, every other piece of clothing you own (you do own clothing, right?):

1) You put a clean diaper on your baby.
2) Your baby poops in the clean diaper.
3) You take the no-longer-clean diaper off your baby and toss it into a diaper pail.
4) When you are close to running out of clean diapers, you take the diaper pail into your laundry room and dump its contents into the washing machine.
5) You turn the washing machine on.
6) You sit on the sofa eating bon-bons and watching Days of Our Lives for an hour.
7) You move the wet cloth diapers from the washing machine to the dryer.
8) You turn the dryer on.
9) You take a nap.
10) You take the clean diapers out of the dryer, put them in a hamper, and take them back to your change table.
11) Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Ta da! Seriously, does that seem so hard? It's not like you're out in the river, smashing cloth diapers against rocks, you know what I mean? The reality is that your washing machine does most of the work for you (no washing machine? No problem!).

I wonder if parents who use disposable diapers ever stop to think about how inconvenient using those disposable diapers must be. I can't imagine having to lug large boxes of disposable diapers home from the grocery store every week, I also can't imagine having to lug all of those soiled disposable diapers to the curb every week. Parents who use disposable diapers must be very strong, what with all that lugging! Lugging aside, dealing with the tendency of disposable diapers to leak must also be inconvenient. Always having to have a spare set of clothing on hand for the inevitable poop-between-the-shoulder-blades-blowout, and dealing with the inconvenience of poop in the high chair, poop in the carseat or (God forbid) poop on your lap. And what if you discover you're out of disposable diapers right before you put your baby in her nighttime diaper, and your husband is at work, so you have to get her dressed and pack her into the car and run out to the grocery store to buy some more disposable diapers to lug home? When I ran out of cloth diapers, I didn't have to travel further than my laundry room to restock. I must say, from where I'm sitting, dealing with disposable diapers must be an absolute nightmare!

If you're still leary about the workload involved, there are things you can do to ease the 'burden' of using cloth diapers:
  • buy more diapers so that you wash less frequently (don't buy too many diapers though -- ideally, you should wash your diapers every 3-5 days).
  • buy all-in-one diapers that go on your baby in one piece.
  • toss your clean diapers into a basket you keep next to your change table (no folding, stacking, or sorting by color required!).

Now that I have no babies to diaper, I have to say, there has been zero change in terms of the time I spend in the laundry room. I made it out the other side OK, I promise you, you will too!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Part II: Really? You think people need that?

If you were reading this blog a year ago, you likely know I wrote about the winners and losers we uncovered last year at the ABC Kids' Expo, a buying show for juvenile products retailers. This annual show gives me a chance to meet with our suppliers face-to-face, and it enables me to examine products in-person that I'm considering stocking at our stores. I come across some real gems at ABC this year, but I also come across some real duds.

Before I get to the good stuff, I will post a disclaimer. The information contained in this blog post is based soley on my opinion. My. Opinion. You may disagree with me, perhaps you use and love a product that's listed here, I understand -- the heart wants what the heart wants. I'm okay, and you're okay. We're all okay. Okay?

  1. I'm all for babywearing, it provides parents with a great way to connect with their little ones, and it's a practical way to tote children around, however, I don't get this. What if your child wants to sit down? What if your child wants to sleep??? I can't quite figure out what 'need' this particular product fulfills.
  2. A one-size-fits-all sleeper? While I appreciate that it's USA-made, and I understand that babies can outgrow their clothing quickly, this is just waaaay too fussy for me. If you want to get more mileage out of your baby's sleepers, buy a size larger than you need, and fold over the arms and legs to fit.
  3. You know when you go to the mall, and you forget where you parked your car, so you beep it and follow the honk? Now you can do that with your child too. I understand the panicked feeling when you lose sight of a young child, but the simple solution to that problem is to keep them within arms' reach at all times. I have four kids, it is possible.
  4. Color me stupid, but I'm going to ask the obvious question: Where do Skittles fit into this scheme? Feeding kids a healthy diet can be tricky, requiring a balance of cunning and compromise, but does it really need a chart complete with stickers?
  5. Gosh, I wonder how differently my life would have turned out if my mother cared enough to dress both herself and I in clothing that kept me in a constant state of overstimulation. Man, I probably missed out on so much in those first six months that I was stuck looking at pastel ducks. I'd probably be running the country by now. Damn you, mother, damn you to hell!
  6. I don't care what you're doing, and how inconvenient blowing your nose may seem, but this would never, ever be okay. Do us all a favor and use a hankerchief, please?
  7. Although it's billed as "The life-saving device that every parent needs", the manufacturer of this product should revise the aforementioned suggestion to read "The life-saving device that every parent needs, unless they live in a bungalow or higher than 50 feet from the ground." As horrifying as the idea of a housefire is, I'm not sure we all need a tethered bag to lower our child to safety.
  8. Do you really want your child wearing this? Before you write me off as a cold, heartless bitch, to my credit, in ten years of parenting, I've never had a reason to ice a child's entire head. Have you?
  9. Don't kid yourself, danger lurks everywhere. Everywhere! Forget radiation-proof clothing, I'm going to start wearing full body armor from now on, I'm not going to take any chances!
  10. Now, you can be 'with' your baby, even when you're away from your baby. Of course, I get the point of having a baby monitor in the house, but I can't understand why you'd need to monitor your baby when you're outside of the house. If you hear your baby cry over your cellphone while you're at a business meeting, just what are you supposed to do about it anyway?

This is only a sampling of some of the questionable products I saw, I am actually exercising considerable restraint tonight (plus I just can't be bothered to document each and every one of them). There was an alarm you slip inside your baby's diaper that checks for pee and poop every eight seconds, there were educational legwarmers (learning through osmosis?), there was a motorized platform you attach to a stroller so that you are propelled forward while pushing the stroller (walking is for losers, apparently), and the list goes on.

While it's great to have tools that make parenting easier, I have to wonder at what point 'enough is enough'. Of course, when someone finally invents a cloth diaper that turns poop into gold, I will be all over it... maybe next year, stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


After two days at the ABC Expo, I feel quite underwhelmed with this year's offerings. There are hundreds (thousands?) of vendors, but a lot of it feels like rows and rows of more of the same. There are a *spectacular* number of cloth diaper vendors at the show this year, and I have to say, I can appreciate how overwhelmed new parents must feel when they walk into our stores. I went to the show expecting to pick up some new cloth diaper brands, but at this point, I'm starting to feel like adding more variety to our already great selection of cloth diapers might actually do a disservice to our customers.

Seeing cloth diapers in person at a show like ABC gives me a chance to properly evaluate them. I was on the fence about the new Tiny Socialite collection from the folks at bumGenius, but seeing them IRL offered some reassurance that preordering them was a smart move. While they not be to everyone's taste, the prints look quite different in person than they do online -- I like them, all of them! The Flip diaper system now includes an optional newborn insert, a smart add-on that parents can buy to make the diapers fit small newborns better.

Bummis debuted a few new prints, both in their Super Whisper Wraps and their Super Brite covers. They're also introducing a new 'economy' cover, we ordered some, though I tend to think the term 'economy' as applied to a diaper cover is somewhat of a misnomer as all cloth diapers can be considered 'economy' when compared to their throwaway counterparts. We got a preview of a prototype of a product still in development, it's always exciting to get a sneak peak of what's coming up, the process of developing a new product is not a quick one, it requires lots of testing and tweaking! Suffice it to say, when this particular product is rolled out, I think it will be well-received!

At this point, the only new product we've picked up is a line of bamboo breastpads from Bamboobies. The breastpads are trim, absorbent, and leakproof. I've had my eye on them for a while, their daytime breastpads are very discrete under clothing, and they offer a more absorbent breastpad that's great if you leak overnight. We currently stock the bamboo breastpads from Mother-ease, but they are b-u-l-k-y!

We're considering a few new products that I'm still undecided about. Tegu magnetic wooden blocks are a novel approach to traditional wooden building blocks. The blocks are magnetic, so kids can create all kinds of configurations, however, the price point is a little high. $60 for 26 assorted blocks. Too high? Just right? I know we're not a toy store, but it's nice to offer something for the big brothers and sisters out there.

Another product up for consideration (and this is where I totally have to eat crow, mmmmm!) is the Woombie swaddler. We receive requests for a swaddler quite often, and the Woombie brand is a frequent request. Yes, it looks like a straight jacket, but for a baby who likes to be swaddled, I can see the appeal. Have any of you actually used this swaddler? Thoughts? Yay or nay???

There a plethora of nursing covers here, another product that customers frequently request. I'm not opposed to the idea of a nursing cover, I think any product that makes a woman feel comfortable nursing is a welcome addition to our store, however, there are so many different kinds of nursing covers, it makes my head spin. Bibs, shawls, shrugs, and the list goes on! It's time I just pick one and order it...

A major disappointment at the show is that Infantino has debuted some new carriers, a knock-off of Ergo, and a knock-off of the standard Mei Tai. Infantino's poorly-designed bag sling was responsible for the deaths of three infants, resulting in a recall and causing people to question the safety of babywearing in general. Infantino's new slings look shoddy and in person, I hope people are able to see past the low suggested retail price and realize that you get what you pay for. As attractivec as a low pricetag might be, it's not worth compromising the safety of a child.

Today is my last day at the show, I've put in loads of reorders to our existing suppliers, and now I need to make a final decision about the products I'm on the fence about. There are many (many!) bizarre new product offerings this year, suffice it to say, there will never be a shortage of stupidity when it comes to trying to suck the money out of new parents' wallets.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Let the games begin!

We landed in Las Vegas yesterday, after a smooth seven hours of travelling. First, we flew from Ottawa to Montreal, although I don't entirely believe that. I think we actually just flew to the end of the runway in Ottawa, and walked the rest of the way, judging from how short the flight was, and the distance we walked in the Montreal airport, it seemed like we walked forever! There were long lineups in Montreal, it took almost an hour to pass through customs, in that time, I noticed how chic Montrealers are. Unlike myself, who prefers to travel in comfortable clothing (the same cotton t-shirt and stretchy pants it seems I wear every day of my life), people in Montreal dress up to travel.

The flight from Montreal to Las Vegas was five hours long, with no SkyMall to entertain me, I decided to watch an in-flight movie instead. The pickings were slim (very slim), so I settled on "Sex and the City 2: two hours of your life you'll never get back". OK, perhaps I fudged the title a little, but my title is a little more accurate than their title. When a movie opens with Liza Minelli dancing and singing Beyonce's "Single Ladies" in little more than pantyhose, you know it's going to be bad (very bad). In normal circumstances, I would just stop watching a bad movie, but at 40,000 feet in the air with absolutely nothing else to do, I was sort of stuck. I would call the movie horrific, but then I'd be worried the word 'horrific' would take offense to being associated with such a craptacular movie, and it would take me to court and sue me for slander. I looked up the movie's rating on Rotten Tomatoes last night, and it got a surprisingly high 15%. Yes, it's a very low rating, but the fact that 15% of the movie reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive review indicates to me that 15% of the movie reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes shouldn't actually be movie reviewers because clearly they suck at reviewing movies.

When we landed in Las Vegas, we did what most Canadians do when they hit US soil, and we went outlet shopping. After all that walking from Ottawa to Montreal in the Montreal airport yesterday, it was quickly apparent that the one pair of shoes I brought with me are not going to cut it in Las Vegas. Walking a show that is a million square feet in size requires good shoes, I dropped the ball, and packed a pair of little black ballet flats that I think are super-cute. I had an awesome pair of Pappillios (vinyl Birkenstocks) that gave up the ghost this summer, and I was unsuccessful at finding a suitable replacement, so I took a pair of shoes that are generally comfortable in day-to-day use. Epic fail!

In Las Vegas, they sell two kinds of shoes: ridiculously tall and pointy high heels, or 'toning' shoes that supposedly work your glutes while you walk. There were eleventy million different styles of 'toning' shoes, and not a single pair of Birkenstocks to be found! I don't know who wears these 'toning' shoes, I'm someone who generally lacks style (not entirely true, I just don't give a rat's ass), and I'd be embarrassed to be seen wearing them in public. They must work really well if someone's going to put up with their sheer ugliness in order to obtain a firmer butt. I will pay close attention the butt situation here and report back!.

With no luck at the outlet shopping in finding a decent pair of shoes, we headed to Target to see what they had to offer (FYI, Target is coming soon to Canada!). While we were there, I came across Dr. Scholl's massaging gel inserts, with nothing to lose, I bought a pair. When I slipped them in my shoes, it was like the heavens opened up and angels started to sing. So. Comfortable! So in the span of a week, I picked up crocheting, found a curly hair on my chin (TMI?) and started wearing shoe orthotics. It's liked I skipped right to being 80! Regardless, I will have some bounce back in my step today when I pound the pavement at the ABC Expo.

We're off the show this morning, I have several orders I need to place, then I'll be floating around (thanks, Dr. Scholls!) trying to scope out any new products that I think would be a good fit for our store. Stay tuned for pics and news from the show!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Do you know your ABCs?

The largest juvenile product show in the industry, the ABC Kids Expo will be running next week from October 10-13 in Las Vegas, and we'll be there to bring the latest and greatest back with us. This tradeshow is a great opportunity for us to spend some face-to-face time with our suppliers, who will be revealing both new and updated products at the show. Some of you may have already seen the big 'print' reveals from a few key cloth diaper manufacturers this week, but there will still be lots of fun stuff to see at the show, our friends at Bummis are teasing us with hints about new products they'll be debuting next week.

Last year at the show, we asked readers for their opinions on new products we were considering carrying -- it always helps to consider customers' perspective, I know I have a horrible case of tunnel vision when it comes to buying for the store. The Expo itself can be like a live episode of Dragon's Den, where entrepreneurs test the waters with their business ideas, like the TV show, there are hits and misses. I'll bring you the best of both worlds (and I'll do my very best to be nice about it, I promise!).

Once again, I'll be collecting swag at the show, randomly selected comments to the 2010 ABC blog entries will be selected to receive show samples.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Excuse my sarcasm. I can't help myself.

sar·casm   /ˈsɑrkæzəm/

1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.
2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark: a review full of sarcasms.

Well now, didn't I get my hand slapped on Facebook this morning when I posted a humorous (or so I thought) commentary on a product that I personally found silly (like you, I'm allowed an opinion, OK?). I admit, I often treat customers like friends, perhaps I should filter myself more than I do, however, I've never bothered trying. Not in-person, and certainly not online. I work a lot at the Ottawa store because I enjoy it. Being a shopkeeper, admittedly not the most glamorous job in the world, is a pretty sweet gig. No two days are ever the same, and I'm constantly meeting new and interesting people. I love it when a customer lingers at the store because we're having a good conversation.

If there's a chance we may meet, you should understand I am a naturally sarcastic person. People who know me well are quite familiar with this particular aspect of my personality, it's just the way I am. I usually do a good job of censoring myself when necessary. As an example, my inlaws (God bless them), don't 'get' sarcasm, so I don't bother. The last time I attempted sarcasm with them was shortly after I married my husband (their beloved son, obviously). They asked me why I hadn't changed my last name yet, and I deadpanned "Because it will make things so much easier when we eventually get divorced." - ba-dum-bum! You could have heard a pin drop. Instead of laughing (the expected result, I mean come on, it was funny!), the joke was followed by awkard silence. Note to self: the inlaws don't like sarcasm.

Inlaws aside, I'm aware that children don't often 'get' sarcasm. As my husband has pointed out many (many) times, perhaps sarcasm isn't the best approach when we're trying to teach our little ones, who have a habit of taking everything I say literally, not figuratively (a real problem in certain situations!). Although as they get older, I'm starting to notice Maddy and Hannah making effective use of sarcasm, when they let a zinger fly, I'll admit it warms my heart a little. OK, a lot.

So there you have it. There is no ill intent behind the things I say, in-person or online. I'm simply trying to be funny. As for the suggestion I should 'stop with the sarcasm', sorry -- no can do! That's like asking a zebra to stop with the stripes.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


For most people, September 11th marks a sad anniversary, serving as a reminder to be thankful for the loved ones we are blessed to have in our lives. While I still think about September 11th and remember the thousands of lives lost in 2001, it also marks the date my father passed away five years ago, in 2005. He didn't die on Septeber 11th, but that was the day we all knew our time with him was drawing to a close. I remember my father's death the same way I remember my children's births, recalling the hours that lead up to each event, thinking about where I was, and what I was doing.

For the past five years, my father had been sick, diagnosed with liver cancer when I was expecting our first child. When we were waiting for Owen to be born, it was a strange time, my father was in palliative care at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa, the days leading up to Owen's birth were a mixture of emotions, anticipating both life and death at the same time.

Owen was born at home. In a reversal of the usual events, after he was born, I took him to the hospital to introduce my father to his newest grandson. Identified as a carrier of MRSA, commonly known as a 'super bug', visits with my father required that we wear gowns, masks, and gloves at all times. The fact that my father had no skin-to-skin contact in his last days of life is something that continues to bother me to this day, he was denied the opportunity to hold his newest grandson in his arms.

The weekend my father passed was also Baby Boom weekend. On Saturday, after I worked the booth at Baby Boom, I went to the hospital to visit with him and tell him how the day went. Among the many jobs he held (we often joked he was a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker), my father was a shopkeeper for several years in England. When I wanted to open the store, he strongly advised me against it, but after he saw that his crazy daughter wasn't so crazy at all, he was happy to indulge me in my shop talk. When I went to visit him that night, he was not lucid, he seemed to be floating back and forth between the present and the past. Until that point, I had been fearful to let him touch Owen, worried the nurses would catch me and I would be exiled from his room. I slipped Owen's hand out from the sling, and my father held his grandson's finger for the first time, repeating 'this is heaven' over and over.

That was the last time I spoke with my father. The next morning, as I was getting ready for Baby Boom, we got the call that my father was dying. Needless to say, I spent the day at the hospital by my father's side. My father's eyes were open, his gaze unblinking; he was gasping for breath, his body shaking each time he took in air. At that moment, I regretted not telling him all the things I had wanted to tell him at each visit prior to that day. I never wanted to acknowledge what was happening, to admit how much I loved him and would miss him was to admit he was dying. I whispered the words to him that day, hoping he could still hear me.

My father passed away in the early hours of September 12th, 2005. I was lying in bed, I had just nursed Owen, I couldn't fall back asleep. My brother knocked on our door, and whispered the news to us. The next time I saw my father, he was finally at peace. The breathing tubes were gone, he looked like my dad again. As horrible as that time was, it taught me the value of telling your loved ones how you feel.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Baby Boom, baby!

It's hard to believe a year has zipped by already, but we've set up our booth again (#1, baby!) at Baby Boom, Ottawa's own everything-from-prental-to-preschool parenting show, an annual affair held at the Nepean Sportsplex. This show is a great opportunity for new and expecting parents to see all that Ottawa has to offer in the way of businesses that cater to their crowd, from Footprints to Photographers, there is a wide array of businesses and services gathered under one roof.

This will be our sixth year exhibiting at Baby Boom, it provides us with fabulous exposure, we still rely heavily on word-of-mouth (thank-you!) to help grow our business, but this show affords us another way to connect with parents who may not be aware of the alternatives to disposable diapers, Baby Bjorns, etc. We have demo diapers and slings on-hand at the booth, and we also put on a workshop every year based on the popular cloth diapering workshop we offer at our stores on the second Saturday of every month.

In an effort to make it worthwhile for parents to visit us at the show, we offer show specials, some are available only at the show (because I don't want to truck any detergent home with me!), some specials will be offered at the show and both of our B&M store locations (Saturday only!). So here it is, your chance to preview this weekend's savings, you might want to sleep with your running shoes on today, they are *that* hot! OK, not really, but still. If you're interested, don't dilly-dally, come to the show (or the store) bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Saturday morning, because stock is available in limited quantities, and I won't be restocking for Sunday (seriously, I don't want to truck anything home with me!).

Bamboozle fitted diapers $14.00 (both show and instore!)

This is one of our favourite nighttime diaper solutions, thick and thirsty, the Bamboozle is great for heavywetters! Regularly priced at $21.00, reduced to $14.00 to make way for the new stretch bamboo version of the same diaper. Pair this baby with a wool soaker for a leakproof nighttime combination that's good to your little one's delicate skin.

Fuzzibunz perfect-size diapers, discontinued colors for $16.75 (show only!)

I've been humming and hawing about putting the 'old' colors on sale, to be honest, I think the 'old' colors are quite nice, and I like variety (is there such a thing as 'too much color'? Is there?). For you bargain-hunters, I've brought a selection of discontinued colors to the show, for a one-time price reduction of 30%. Limited quantities, limit of four diapers per customer (I like to spread the wealth!). Butter yellow, sage green, periwinkle blue, royal blue, and aqua blue, in sizes small, medium, and large.

Buy any detergent at the show, receive a 50% off coupon (show only!)

Buy a bag of Rockin' Green Hard Rock 2.0 for $20.00, buy your next bag for $10.00. Buy a tin of Nellies, get a coupon you can use towards your next Nellies refill (bring the empty tin to the store), your next 100 loads will set you back a measly $7.00! Buy a box of Country Save (have I mentioned how fabulous Country Save is?), get your next box for $5.49. Coupons only valid instore, not valid online.

Amber teething necklaces - $10.00 (both show and instore!)

Skeptical? Don't take our word for for it, mosey on down to the show or the store (Ottawa or Waterloo) and see for yourself. Regularly priced at $16.00, this a great opportunity to give amber a whirl...

Adult-sized necklaces will also be marked down, regular price $24.00, sale-priced at $16.00 (why should babies have all the fun?).

Cloth diaper sample kit (show only!)

If you're considering cloth diapers, but you don't know where to start, this is your opportunity to pick up three of our most popular diapers, tax-free, and a discount. This kit comes with:

  • 1 flip cover

  • 2 stay-dry flip inserts

  • 1 one-size Fuzzibunz diaper

  • 1 EasyFit one-size AIO

  • 6 Tiny Bubbles detergent samples

  • 1 Thirsties duffel tote

  • washing instructions

  • a gift certificate valued between $10-$25 (you'll find out how much it's worth at the time of redemption)

All yours for the low, low price of $85, no tax (we pay the HST!). One kit will contain a 'golden ticket' of sorts, a 50% off coupon that can be applied to any purchase up to $400.00. You feeling lucky?

Organic Ergo carriers - $99.00 (both show and instore!)

OK, I don't want to brag, but this is kind of a big deal. Regularly-priced at $140.00 (and worth every single penny!), select colors will be marked down to $99.00 at the show and both stores (Saturday only). Sienna, Navy, and Sea Green (shown). The Ergo carrier is a fabulous front and back carrier, good up until approximately 40 lbs.

Sleepy Wrap carriers - $40.00 (both show and instore!)

This is one of my favourite carriers for newborns, it offers both parent and baby great support. The Sleepy Wrap can be used comfortably from birth until approximately 20 lbs (generally 4-6 months). Regularly priced at $50.00 (and again, worth every single penny!), all colors will be marked down to $40.00 at the show and both stores (Saturday only).

Do you understand what this means? You could purchase an Ergo and a Sleepy Wrap for $139.00, less than the regular price of an organic Ergo. Take care of your babywearing needs from birth through toddlerhood in one fell swoop...

Save $10.00 on the purchase of a shiny, new Beco Gemini (show only!)

We received a partial order of the new Beco Gemini today, like the Ergo carrier, it allows a front and back carry (it also advertises a hip carry, but I'm generally leary of any SSC that claims it can allow a hip carry, more on that once I've tried it out!). The major difference between the Beco Gemini and other SSCs is the fact it allows for a front-facing carry -- if this is your baby's preference (and some babies do have a preference), save some coin tomorrow at the show, and be the envy of all your friends (they sure are purdy!).

We have a selection of other goodies at our booth to give folks an idea of the broad selection of products we sell, and we'll have some free Earth Mama, Angel Baby teabag samples, free cloth diaper literature, as well as a draw for a gift basket with an assortment of products sold at the store. If you come to the show this weekend, please stop by and say 'hello'!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

She's baaaaack!

Aunt Flo, that is. Did you know that the return of your fertility after having a baby is often (but not always!) linked to when your baby goes for a six-hour stretch without nursing at night? Grace started sleeping through the night around eighteen months old, and sure enough, my first postpartum cycle soon followed. I had an inkling my fertility was about to return, I was moody for weeks beforehand, and I'm not talking your average, run-of-the-mill moodiness, I'm talking look-at-me-the-wrong-way-and-I-will- tear-your-fucking-head-off moodiness. For weeks. I was a real joy to be around, let me tell you!

Since Aunt Flo has returned, for the first time in my life, I have a regular cycle. Go figure, my husband gets fixed, then I'm finally fertile! Despite my lack of a regular cycle, we managed to conceive four beautiful children with the aid of "Taking Charge of Your Fertility", a must-read for all women, young and old (it should be required reading in high school!). Thanks to the information in that book, and my husband's super sperm (that's what our fertility doctor called them), baby-making came relatively easy. When it was go-time, we went, and nine months later (give or take), we were holding a new bundle of joy. Easy-peasy!

I didn't get my first period until I was 17 years old, and I would only get it three, maybe four times a year. While the Pearson baby factory was in operation for a full decade (!!!), I had (brace yourself) four periods. Now that I've had a regular cycle for six months, I have come to realize what bliss that period-free period was. This whole period business is kind of a bitch, you see.

My newfound cycle isn't textbook regular, it varies in length from 5-6 weeks, but there is one thing consistent about it, the super-awesome PMS part, Mother Nature's 'heads up' that the shit's about to go down. When I'm PMSing, I spend a few days doing the following:

  • eating things

  • yelling at things

  • crying at things

  • cleaning things (usually while crying and/or yelling at them)

There's also the awesome bloating and acne, can't forget about that! As bad as I thought things were for the fast few months, I was introduced to menstrual cramps during my last cycle. I woke up at around 2am one night to intense abdominal pain, I actually went to the bathroom to check for a crowning head, because prior to that night, the only time I had ever felt pain like that was when a baby was exiting my vagina.

As hard as PMS may be on my body, it's even harder on my poor husband. Often the lone figure in the line of PMS fire, he recently asked me "How come you're so mean to me?" We both doubled over in laughter when we watched "Get Him to The Greek", and Jonah Hill's character sheepishly asked his wife "Are you on your period?" So. True.

PMS aside, I often wonder if my uterus and ovaries are acting in collusion to ensure things never go according plan. If there's something about to happen that would be, like, a million times better if I didn't have my period, you can bet your bottom dollar I will have my period. Case in point: my husband and I are going to Las Vegas together, with no children, in five weeks for our annual pilgrimmage to the ABC Kids juvenile products show. While my husband is quite excited at the prospect of four days (and nights) of wild, unbridled passion, my uterus and ovaries and their new five week cycle have other plans. Although between you and me, that was never going to happen anyway. If I'm going to be away from my beloved children, I'm going to spend my time sleeping and eating. But don't tell him that, I will gladly let my uterus and ovaries take the fall for this one.

As miserable as I may be for the four days prior to Aunt Flo's arrival, I'll admit that I'm a little (OK, a lot) concerned about what it's going to be like when our daughters start their periods, if it's true that women who live together can have cycles that sync up, my husband and our son had better brace themselves for 3-4 days of hell every month. Considering how miserable one PMSing woman can be, I can only imagine what it will be like to have four of us under one roof. I imagine it looks something like this. Have fun with that, dude.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Increasing breastfeeding rates in Canada

Giselle Bündchen caught a lot of flack recently for suggesting that all new mothers should be legally obligated to breastfeed for the first six months of a baby's life. While the suggestion that breastfeeding should be legally mandated is admittedly ludicrous, I can appreciate the sentiment behind her suggestion. Breastmilk is best, breastfeeding rates are lower than they should be, what can be done to change that?

I realize that there's a perception that things are 'just fine' with respect to breastfeeding rates in Canada, however, the duration of breastfeeding rates has been declining since 1960:

Recent Canadian statistics show that while almost 75% of mothers begin breastfeeding in hospital, only 60% and 30% are still exclusively breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months, respectively (Health Canada, 1996). By 9 months, only 18% of mothers still breastfed in a Vancouver cohort (Williams et al., 1996). Breastfeeding trends vary across the provinces; rates are higher in the west and drop off from Quebec to the east (Health Canada, 1996). Breastfeeding initiation and maintenance rates increase with increasing education and income levels. This suggests that there are many social factors that influence the method of infant feeding (Health Canada, 1996).

There are a number of things parents-to-be can do to increase the likelihood of a successful breastfeeding relationship, however, it is fair to suggest that more can be done to improve breastfeeding rates. If the Canadian government is going to recommend breastfeeding children until two years of age, it's not outrageous to suggest the government can do more to increase breastfeeding rates across the country.

Introduce information about breastfeeding into the school curriculum. Children need to know what breasts are for. Not all children are exposed to breastfeeding women and babies, introducing the idea of breastfeeding at an early age will help children develop a healthy attitude towards breastfeeding.

Encourage the use of human milk banks. Historically, babies who were not breastfed by their mothers were breastfed by relatives, friends, or hired help. Donated breastmilk is the next best thing to a mother's own breastmilk. Mothers who donate to human milk banks are medically screened, and their breastmilk is pasteurized. There is only one human milk bank in Canada -- why aren't there more?

Make formula available by prescription only. Harsh? Maybe, but it would reinforce the idea that formula should be a last-case resort. Obviously, donated human milk would have to be readily available to make prescription-only formula feasible.

Make lactation consultations a government-funded health service. Lactation consultants typically charge upwards of $70.00 per hour, however, it is money well-spent when you consider the health benefits offered to a mother and her baby by a successful breastfeeding relationship. If mothers need help, financial status should not determine who gets help.

Make ongoing, formal breastfeeding education compulsory for all physicians. I am SHOCKED at the stories I hear from women about incorrect advice received from the medical establishment. Clearly, many doctors are not capable of dispensing medical advice as it relates to a breastfeeding baby, or a lactating mother. Often the first line of defense when breastfeeding problems are encountered, they should be in a position to help, not hamper, the breastfeeding relationship.

As a first-time mother, Giselle Bündchen approached the subject with a holier-than-thou self-righteousness we have all been guilty of at some time or other. However, I think her motivation behind making the suggestion was a noble one. A positive attitude towards breastfeeding should not be mistaken as judgement against those who were not able to breastfeed their babies. The next time Ms. Bundchen chooses to speak out in favor of breastfeeding, I hope she chooses her words more carefully.

Monday, August 23, 2010

No washing machine = no cloth diapers?

Occasionally, expecting parents come into the store, and comment that they *can't* use cloth diapers because they don't have laundry facilities in their house or apartment. While I can appreciate these circumstances may make using cloth diapers more challenging, it certainly doesn't make using cloth diapers impossible.

If you don't own a washing machine, you can still use cloth diapers:
  • use a diaper service. Not as cost-effective as buying and washing your own cloth diapers, but certainly a better alternative to disposable diapers.
  • invest in a mini washing machine. The Wonderwash portable washer is suited to washing small loads, making it ideal for washing cloth diapers. With its small footprint, and low pricetag (less than $50.00!), it's a worthwhile investment for anyone who lacks access to laundry facilities.
  • wash your cloth diapers in a laundromat. Sure, it will cost more money than washing cloth diapers in your own washing machine, but you'll still spend far less money than if you were to use disposable diapers. You can offset the cost of a laundromat by buying more cloth diapers, and washing less frequently. If budget is an issue, buy your cloth diapers a few at a time before junior makes his debut, or consider using prefolds. Line-drying your cloth diapers in your home or apartment will also offset the cost of a laundromat, while reducing the time you spend at the laundromat.
  • wash your cloth diapers in someone else's washing machine. Make use of the laundry facilities at a friend's or relative's house. If nothing else, it's a good excuse to visit often -- you do the laundry while Grandma enjoys the extra cuddle time with junior.
  • hand-wash your cloth diapers in the bathtub. Granted, this approach isn't for the faint of heart, but I've hand-washed cloth diapers on vacation, and I lived to speak about it. You can use paper liners or a mini-shower to make dealing with poopy diapers easier, and I would suggest you invest in a pair of rubber gloves, but it's definitely doable.

So there you have it. No washing machine? No problem! Not owning a washing machine is not a barrier to washing clothing (paper clothing, anyone?), there's no reason it should be a barrier to washing cloth diapers. And besides, you can always put the money you save by using cloth diapers towards the purchase of a shiny, new washing machine, right?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Woven wraps vs. Stretchy wraps

We have a great selection of slings at both of our stores, however, one type of sling is noticeably absent from our lineup. We have stocked a variety of woven wraps over the years, but we've never had much luck in terms of selling them, not because of the products themselves, but more because of customers' apprehension about what appears to be nothing more than a 'simple piece of cloth'.

Contrary to their basic appearance, woven wraps are probably the most versatile type of baby carrier currently available for sale. Despite other carriers' claims as a front/back/side carrier, woven wraps are the only type of carrier that will allow a parent to carry a baby in all three positions, both safely and comfortably. The Scootababy hip carrier is a close second -- although most soft-structured carriers (SSCs) claim to be suitable for a front/back/hip carry positions, they are really only suited to either a front or back carry. Since its shoulder straps are so narrow, when an SSC is are used for a hip carry, it can be quite uncomfortable because of the pressure placed on the wearer's trapezius muscle.

The most popular carrier we sell for newborns is a stretchy wrap. Although it looks quite similar to a woven wrap, a stretchy wrap is an entirely different beast. Stretchy wraps are less intimidating to new parents because they are tied on first, then the baby is placed into the carrier. The elastic fabric of a stretchy wrap makes this possible -- it is more forgiving than a woven wrap, which requires that a baby is placed into the carrier as the user ties it on. The benefit of being able to tie a carrier on beforehand is that a user can have the carrier ready to go at a moment's notice (immediate satisfaction!). The user can also remove the baby from a stretchy wrap without having to remove the carrier. Poppability (placing a baby in and taking a baby out of a carrier) is important when you're out and about, or if you have a fussy baby. Speed and ease of use aside, being able to tie a stretchy wrap on beforehand (at home before you start running your errands, for example) reduces the likelihood that you'll be tying your wrap on outside in the slush, rain or snow -- a drawback to wraps (both stretchy and woven) is that it's hard to avoid the wrap touching the floor as you tie it on -- better inside than outside, right? Fear not, however, most wraps are manufactured from a cotton or cotton blend, so they are quite easy to care for, simply machine wash and dry as needed.

Both stretchy wraps and woven wraps claim a weight limit of approximately 35 lbs, however, due to the give of a stretchy wrap, a weight limit of 20 lbs is more realistic. I have attempted to wear a baby who weighs 25-30 lbs in a stretchy wrap, only to have them sagging well below my waist after ten minutes in the carrier (not comfortable or practical!). Tying a stretchy wrap tighter will help compensate for a heavier child, but only to a certain degree. A woven wrap, on the other hand, is made from a significantly sturdier fabric. As a result, you can safely and comfortably carry a child who weighs 35 lbs in a good woven wrap. Keep in mind that not all woven wraps are created equal, a thin fabric will create more pressure points than a plusher fabric (anyone who has felt the difference between a Didymos woven wrap and an Ellaroo woven wrap can attest to this!).

Because they are so versatile, woven wraps have a higher learning curve, however, with a little patience and perseverence, it's easy to fall in love with this simple carrier and all it can do. A good wrap will come with clear, easy-to-follow instructions. Alternately, there are lots of great online resources that offer both written and video instructions. We often refer customers to Wear Your Baby, a fabulous website that provides instructions based on age, position, and type of carrier. If you are nervous when you start using your woven wrap, it's a good idea to wrap your baby over a soft surface, like a bed, for example, or to have a spotter close by, particularly when you are learning back carries.

While stretchy wraps tend to come in a one-size-fits-all format, woven wraps are often sized. Different ties require different lengths of fabric. A rucksack back carry requires significantly less length than a front wrap cross carry, for example. Aside from position, the user's frame also determines which size woven wrap is appropriate -- when in doubt, size up. You can make something bigger, smaller, but you can't make something smaller, bigger (I'm talking about wraps, get your dirty minds out of the gutter!).

In terms of cost, stretchy wraps usually cost less than most woven wraps, priced anywhere from $50.00 - $80.00. Woven wraps tend to cost upwards of $100.00, however, when you consider the longterm use of a woven wrap (you can comfortably expect to use a quality woven wrap for three or more years) compared to the short-term use of a stretchy wrap (typically 4-6 months), it's a worthwhile investment. If you want a woven wrap, but you can't justify its cost, you can always DIY, although it's important to note that woven wraps are typically manufactured from a fabric that has been woven specifically for that purpose, you will not likely be able to duplicate the comfort of a Didymos with fabric purchased at Fabricland -- sad, but true.

I will fully admit that before using a woven wrap myself, I regarded them with disdain. Like most people, I couldn't see past the meters of fabric before me until I actually tried a woven wrap on. The more comfortable I became using a woven wrap, the more enthusiastic I became about this 'simple piece of cloth'. Anyone who has had the pleasure of using a quality woven wrap will certainly agree with me -- it's not uncommon for 'wrappers' to own more than one! We've had many requests to stock a woven wrap again at both stores, and thanks to some gentle prodding from the fabulous Annie at PhD in Parenting, we're going to take the plunge again and bring back woven wraps to The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe. We want you to feel the woven wrap love too!

Friday, August 6, 2010

My brush with celebrity...

When I went to Las Vegas earlier this week, I had a few goals, a bucket list of sorts. While I didn't drink a yard of margarita (easier said than done), and I didn't wear any makeup (apparently, applying makeup is not like riding a bicycle, you will forget how!), I am happy to report that I met a real-life, bonafide celebrity (I also didn't have to wipe anyone else's poopy bum, clearly worth noting!). On the flight back from Vegas to Toronto, I was seated next to Arlene Dickinson. Not this Arlene Dickinson, or this Arlene Dickinson, but *this* Arlene Dickinson. From Dragon's Den. I know, right?

I spotted her in the waiting area before we boarded the flight, her telltale streak gave her away. She's sporting a new, shorter 'do (it looks great!), I pulled out my laptop to confirm it was her (Google to the rescue, again), I was satisfied just knowing that I could cross that Vegas goal off my list. I sent a text message to my brother and his wife (they were flying home on a different airline, so they were seated in another terminal), since I'm so crap at texting, I was only able to muster "arlene is on my plane" before collapsing from exhaustion (am I the only person in the world who finds texting taxing?). The thought that she could be seated next to me briefly crossed my mind, but I quickly dismissed it, I mean, what are the odds?

Turns out, the odds are very good that when you're seated in executive class, you may be seated next to someone famous! When I got to my row, and looked down at my new travel partner, I didn't flinch on the outside, but on the inside, I was going ballistic (OMGOMGOMGOMG!!!!). I casually pulled out my phone to text my brother and his wife, but since I'm so crap at texting, I gave up on that idea immediately, I didn't want to bother Arlene Dickinson with my furious pecking (seriously, I am *that* bad at texting!). I'm pretty certain the flight attendant also knew who she was, at one point, we shot each other a knowing look. I did my best to ignore Arlene Dickinson, I didn't want to bother her. In short, I tried my hardest to be the best travel partner Arlene Dickinson had ever had.

I had big plans to take advantage of the perks of travelling executive class (it's a pretty sweet gig, quite frankly), but in the interest of not disturbing my new travel partner, I politely declined the alcohol, chips, and hot breakfast that Air Canada tried to ply me with. I was on my best behaviour! At one point, my nose started to run, I went into a panic, I didn't want to waken Arlene Dickinson with my sniffles, so I willed the snot back into my head. Do you know how hard it is to will snot back up your nose, and into your sinus cavities? It's very hard! I tried my best to fall asleep, however, the buzz of sitting next to a celebrity (CBC royalty, if you will) was a powerful stimulant, and I spent approximately 3.5 hours in a constant state of giddyness.

My husband and I are serious Dragon's Den (and Shark Tank) fans, we never miss an episode. Of course, I had all these ideas in my head as to what I would say to a real life Dragon if I ever met a real life Dragon, as it turns out, what you think you might say and what you actually say are two completely different things! As we were about to begin our descent, when I was sure she was awake, I turned to Arlene Dickinson and blurted out "I can't let this flight end without telling you my husband and I are *huge* Dragon's Den fans, we love your show!". She asked me if I was in Vegas on business or pleasure, and I sheepishly replied "pleasure" because I was terrified (terrified!) to admit to her I was self-employed, and attending a tradeshow. We exchanged some friendly chit chat, I'm glad I plucked up the nerve to talk to her at the end of the flight.

Now that I've had a couple of days to reflect on my brush with celebrity, I've come to the following realizations:

  • there is never a good time to eat a bunch of roasted garlic cloves (my pre-flight meal). Never!
  • although it tastes really good, watermelon flavoured gum does nothing to cover up the stench of roasted garlic cloves. Nothing!
  • I would probably suck at being on Dragon's Den. Unless you like awkward pauses, stilted conversation, and nervous laughter, in which case I'd be *awesome*!
  • unless you meet Hannah Montana, or Selena Gomez, or some other young, bubbly Disney star, your nine year old daughter will not care. She will. Not. Care.
  • it is very frustrating when you're super-excited about something, and your nine year old daughter is not. Very. Frustrating.
  • nine year old daughters cannot fake excitement. They won't even try.
  • if I'm ever seated next to George Clooney on a flight, I will probably explode. For all parties involved, let's hope that never happens!

I'm fairly certain my family (especially my nine year old daughter) is sick of hearing about Arlene Dickinson. With this brush with celebrity under my belt, if I'm fortunate enough to be in the same position again, I will be better-prepared. At the very least, I will have extra-strength breathmints in my purse!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

SkyMall: the mall in the sky!

On my way to Las Vegas yesterday, I killed over an hour flipping through the SkyMall catalogue. Twice. If you're not familiar with it already, SkyMall is a shopping magazine located in the seat pocket that also houses the plane's safety instructions. It's like a mall in the sky... genius! The catalogue offers an eclectic mix of goodies (health meets home meets high-tech gadgets meets pet gizmos, and more!). There are so many items for sale, you can't not browse through it more than once.

There were a few items that caught my eye, in no particular order, here are my top ten must-haves from the SkyMall catalogue:

  1. Face Trainer - Also known as the "Not tonight, honey, I've got a headache" mask.
  2. Foot Alignment Socks - Also known as the "Not tonight, honey, I've got a headache" socks.
  3. Pet Crate End Table - Why, just the other day, I was looking at my end table and thinking "Stupid end table. Why can't you do anything else?" Problem solved!
  4. Brobdingnagian Sports Chair - Perfect for Bluesfest, dontcha think?
  5. Zombie of Montclaire Moors - For the horticulturalist in your life who already has everything.
  6. iHome Radio Spy Hidden Camera - For the pervert in your life who already has everything.
  7. Wrist Cell Phone Carrier - Never lose your cell phone again, and look cool while you're at it.
  8. SkyRest Travel Pillow - Because it wouldn't be awkward to sit next to this guy. Not awkward at all!
  9. Brightfeet Lighted Slippers - Why should toddlers have all the fun?
  10. Roll-up Electric Piano - Because idle hands are the devil's workshop!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Free at last, free at last!!

Guess where I'm headed? Las Vegas! Guess who's *not* coming with me? My kids! None of them, not even one! I haven't travelled anywhere solo in over a decade (a decade!), and I have to tell you, I'm pretty stoked about the next four days. Am I a terrible mother for not even feigning separation anxiety? I couldn't even muster one crocodile tear this morning! I've stressed out more about wearing a bathing suit in public while I'm lounging (yes, I'm bragging) poolside at the Bellagio hotel (now I'm bragging some more) than I have over being apart from my lovely children (see, I called them 'lovely', surely that scores me some mom points?).

I practically leapt out of our minivan while it was still moving this morning as my husband pulled into the Ottawa Airport -- I was worried I'd turn into a pile of mush when it came time to leave, as it turns out, I was pretty ready to cut the cord(s). For the most part, the kids were OK with Mom leaving for a few days, only one cried, and I think that was more a result of being pulled out of bed at such an ungodly hour (what can I say, Hannah likes her sleep!). I'll be honest, I was expecting a little more reaction to my absence, we'll see how well they fare come bedtime when the reality sinks in that Mom won't be there to tuck them in (shock, horror!).

I nursed Grace this morning for what will likely be the last time. When our other children weaned, I never knew that our last nursing session was our last nursing session, it just sort of happened. It was bittersweet to nurse Grace this morning knowing that in all likelihood, when I come back in four days, that aspect of our relationship will be over. At this point, I don't have much milk left to speak of, breastfeeding Grace is more about comfort and habit (for both of us!). I hope she's as OK with weaning as I am, but if she wants to get back on the wagon when I come home, we'll pick up right where we left off.

I'm a little nervous leaving my husband in charge of our brood, he's an excellent, involved, father, but I don't think he fully realizes how much work he has ahead of him for the next four days. When he comes home from work after nine hours away, the house usually looks the same as he left. While it may not look like I accomplish much in a day from his standpoint, he fails to consider all the mundane chores of the day -- getting the kids dressed, feeding them, cleaning up after them, entertaining them -- wash, rinse, and repeat. I did my bit and made sure to leave with all the laundry washed, folded, and put away. Shawn, you're a good man, may the force be with you.... sucker!

I'm not completely solo for the next four days, I'm visiting Las Vegas with my brother and his wife. Other than planning a daytrip to the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam, I don't have any concrete plans per se, but I do have some goals:
  • I will drink a yard of margarita. Why not, eh?
  • I will wear make-up. I've been rocking the 'natural look' far too long, it's time for some under-eye concealer!
  • I will *not* wipe anyone else's poopy bum. If I fail to accomplish this goal, needless to say, this will be my first and last trip with my brother and his wife.
  • I will see a celebrity. No, Carrot Top does not count.
  • I will eat a meal without giving up a single morsel to anyone else. Grace Pearson, I'm lookin' at you, eat your own damn food!
  • I will have wild sex with random men. Not really, I just want to know if my husband reads my blog (is this thing on?).

I've installed Skype on my laptop so that I can chat with the kids every day without paying outrageous hotel telephone rates (a quick 'hi' and 'bye' costs, like, a million dollars!). My laptop has a handy-dandy webcam feature, so they can see me while we talk. A quick dry run last night confirmed that the webcam offers a less-than-flattering angle, the kids will get a birds-eye view of Mom's double-chin, I hope they still recognize me!

I'm sure the next four days will fly by, and of course, I'll be happy to get back to the munchkins, after all, how much R&R can one person possibly handle? I'll let you know!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Families in Ottawa can all breathe a collective sigh of relief now, knowing that they will be welcomed with open arms at Taylor's Genuine Food and Wine bar. Thank goodness for that! Why, just last night, the husband and I were lamenting the lack of child-friendly restaurants that serve Sun-Tech tomato salad with crispy pig cheeks, our kids' favourite!

All kidding aside (clearly, I'm kidding), I have been really surprised at the reaction this issue has provoked. If you're not in the know, a reservation was refused for a group of people that included a three-month old baby. Various excuses were offered as to why the reservation was refused, ranging from shielding patrons from the possibility of breastfeeding (shock, horror!), to not having the amenities to accommodate a child (did I mention the child in question is three months old?). The refused party, in return, has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission (and yes, it's a completely legitimate complaint, breastfeeding rights in Ontario are protected under the HRC, you don't want to start that argument with me!).

As disappointing as the original incident was, even more disappointing was the debate it touched off among foodies, the majority all of whom sided with the restauarant owners. It would seem Ottawa's finer restaurants are regularly terrorized by families -- I had no idea! Although, to be fair, I likely don't patronize the same caliber restaurants as the self-proclaimed foodies, but I digress...

Anyhow, there are a few points raised by the foodies that I would like to address:

Your children aren't the center of the universe! You can't expect everyone to love them as much as you do!
Yeah, I get it, you don't like my kids. It's OK, some days, I don't like 'em either.

Why should my dining experience be ruined by people who are too cheap to hire a babysitter?
It defies logic that a person who can't afford a babysitter would buy their child a meal from a menu that offers $40.00 entrees. That theory needs a little work.

I can't bring my dog to dinner, why should they be allowed to bring their kids?
I'm sorry you can't bring your dog to dinner. Maybe it's time to make some friends. Human friends.

I don't want to sit next to a child, I'm going to have to censor myself!
If you have to censor yourself because you're sitting next to my child, your conversation isn't suitable for public consumption (I don't care to hear what you may or may not be wearing under your pants either!).

When I leave my kids at home and see other kids while I'm out, it makes me weepy, I miss them so much!
Oh come on, you're lying through your teeth! Just admit it, you enjoy your time away from your kids just as much as I do!

Business owners should be allowed to decide who is allowed to patronize their establishment.
Great idea! You're not allowed in my shop.

I had suspected the exposure would be good for the restaurant, after all, there's no such thing as bad publicity (unless you're Mel Gibson), and sure enough, Taylor's certainly seems to have generated a loyal following amongst the Ottawa Foodies bunch. Despite being given the 'green light', I would like to assure the foodies that Taylor's, much like any finer restaurant in Ottawa, likely won't be experiencing a surge in business from the under-18 crowd. Like you, if I'm going to pay for dinner at a restaurant, I want to enjoy myself. If we take the kids to a kid-friendly restaurant (think kids' menus and crayons), they'll be happy. If they're happy, we're happy! The simple reality is we don't want to rub elbows with you anymore than you do with us (no offense).

I would also like to assure the foodies that *if* we should happen to make it into your neck of the woods with the kids in tow (and that's a big *if*!), I will do my best to ensure that they are on their best behaviour. It's not special treatment just for you, believe it or not, whenever we're in public, regardless of where we are, I expect good behaviour from our kids. Now, would you pass the Grey Poupon?