Sunday, March 28, 2010

Drinking and being stupid don't mix!

My husband lost his keys last night. Before I get into the 'how' of it all, I will tell you I love my husband. He's a great father, and generally, an all-around good guy. Except for when he drinks to excess. Naturally, this doesn't happen very often, but when he gets a chance to go for a night out with the boys (in this case, his hockey team), I usually send him off with a simple request: "Please don't do anything stupid." You may laugh, but this is a serious request. When my husband drinks to excess, he has two tendencies:
  1. He exhibits an extreme lack of judgement.

  2. He thinks he's invincible.

Independently, these tendencies are relatively harmless; together, they can be a menacing combination. In university, I witnessed my husband pick many a fight with drunker, larger opponents (if you're going to pick a fight, pick a fight with someone smaller than you, dummy!). While he may no longer pick fights anymore (thank God!), he has found other ways to prove his stupidity while drunk.

On more than one ocassion, I have had to leave the house on an HRM (a Husband Retrieval Mission). One of those missions ended with me seeing my brother-in-law naked, perched up on a chair in our kitchen (after I picked them both up from a hockey game, it was a double HRM -- my own husband and my sister's husband). I actually considered that particular evening to be a good night for me, not because I saw my brother-in-law naked, but because it wasn't my own husband making an utter and complete fool of himself. Yes, my husband was drunk, but at least he was drunk and fully clothed!

Anyhow, that was then, this is now, and you have the background you need to understand where this is going. Last night, my husband went to a Sens game with his hockey mates. He parked his car at a local arena and they took a bus to the game. The plan was to take the bus back to the local arena and drive home (the plan, as I understood it then, involved more watching hockey and less drinking beer, little did I know!). By the end of the evening, after consuming a lot of beer, my husband made the (seemingly) wise decision to forgo the bus ride to his parked car -- he was not fit to drive. This is the point where most people would decide to take a taxi home. Not my husband, nosirree! My husband, dressed in a zip-up hoodie and flip flops (yes, flip flops) decided it would be a good idea to walk home from Scotiabank Place (we live in Stittsville). Not a terrible idea if it you are SOBER and dressed properly. However, this was not the case. My husband took on this adventure with verve, it was sort of a man vs. nature deal -- rather than walking home along a lit sidewalk, he decided to take the shortcut. You know, the one through unmarked farmers' fields. In his flip flops.

All in all, it took him about 2 1/2 hours to make it home. His trek ended with him ringing our doorbell shortly before 1am. The girls had to get me out of bed, they were scared it was a 'bad guy' -- I showed poor judgement myself, opening the door in my underwear, though truth be told, that would likely be enough to make most bad guys run for their lives. Four kids later, and the body hasn't held up quite as I had hoped, but I digress. That's not the highlight of this story. The highlight of this story occurred around midnight, when my apparently-not-very-agile husband attempted to make his way over a fence. And got stuck.

When my husband came home last night (or should I say 'early this morning'), I didn't fully grasp what had happened. I understood he had lost his keys, he was mumbling about getting stuck on a fence -- I assumed he was talking about our fence, that he was attempting to get into our backyard to gain entry to the house. We went to bed, and he blathered on about how he had "made his peace with God" while he was on the fence, whatever that means. It wasn't until the morning that I came to fully understand what had transpired the night before. My husband did not get stuck on *our* fence. My husband got stuck on a farmer's fence, in the middle of nowhere.

How did he get stuck, you ask? While I wasn't there (it never would have happened if I was there), the way it was explained to me, he got one leg over the fence, his foot got stuck in a wire square, and he fell backwards. Basically, my husband was hooked over a fence, upside down, for about a half hour. Quite a predicament, don't you think? The keys likely fell out of his pocket as he was struggling to free himself -- getting off that fence required the mother of all situps, not such an issue when my husband was younger, but it required a significant effort last night. I have spent the day alternately quizzing my husband about the events last night, and making fun of him (seriously, how could I not make fun of him?).

While my husband was suspended from the fence, he did not scream for help (there was no point, seeing as how he was in the middle of nowhere!), and he had to use his hands to prop up his weight to ease the pressure on his caught foot (there's a Survivor challenge, a yoga pose, or both somewhere in there, I just know it!). I sort of wish I could have been a fly on the wall (or on the fence post, in this case), it would have been quite entertaining to watch. Of course, I'm glad he managed to free himself, it would have been awfully embarrassing to become a widow as a result of an act that could have garnered him a Darwin Award.

Would you like to know what my husband did after he made it off and over the fence? The obvious, of course... he marched (or limped) himself to Mac's Milk where he bought a bag of chips (battling a fence is hungry work!), then he walked home. This time, he stuck to the sidewalk, Lord only knows what else he would have gotten up to otherwise!

I hope my husband has learned his lesson, but I seriously doubt it. I am quite sure at some point in the future, he will do something that tops even this. The next time he decides to venture out of the house for a night on the town, I'm thinking of outfitting him with an HRP (a Husband Retrieval Package): taxi fare, a cellphone, a flare gun, and a foghorn (and maybe a label that reads "If found, please return to XXX"). Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

And the verdict is in!

What verdict, you ask? For the past few months, I have been debating whether or not to stock disposable inserts that can be used with cloth diaper covers to create a 'hybrid' diapering system -- part of the diaper is tossed, part of the diaper is reused.

In case you haven't picked up on it already, you should know I'm a *huge* cloth diapering advocate. Like, big time. Don't believe me? Check this. And this. And this. This is a good read, too. I firmly believe that using cloth diapers 24 hours a day, from day one, is a realistic goal for most parents. In debating whether or not I should stock a disposable option, I have worried that by doing so, new customers will interpret such a decision as an admission that using 100% cloth diapers, 100% of the time is not a feasible option (it is, it really is!). I have been thinking long and hard about this for months, and with a little prodding from one of our suppliers (in the form of free S&H), I have decided to take the plunge.

I will be the first to admit that I have terrible tunnel vision. If I don't like something, I assume that everyone else in the world must dislike it, I mean, how can they not? Case in point, I bought a new dip this week (babaganoush, if you care). My husband loves it. I think it tastes like vomit. Needless to say, babaganoush will never cross our threshold again. Sorry, husband, you know it's true. Never. Again. While I may be able to get away with this at home, as a store owner, I really should consider that not everyone may feel the same way about something as I do; I shouldn't turn a blind eye to the fact that some of our customers rely on a combination of cloth diapers and disposable diapers.

When I asked for feedback earlier this week on Facebook, I was presented for some reasons why some people may want to use an occassional disposable option:

  • travelling. Yes, travelling with cloth diapers is totally doable, but for various reasons, not everyone does it.

  • clearing up a diaper rash. There are lots of different ways to clear up diaper rash, but if you're using a cream that may potentially ruin your cloth diapers, I can dig your reasoning for using a disposable option in the interim.
  • clearing up a yeast infection. This particular problem can be tricky to deal with, not only do you have to clear up the yeast in your baby, you have to clear up the yeast in your cloth diapers. Using a disposable option while you rid your cloth diapers of yeast may speed up the process .
  • going 'out & about'. Not everyone likes to use cloth diapers while they're running errands, to each his own, right?
  • getting over the 'newborn' hump. Some parents don't want to deal with cloth diapers until they are settled with the new baby. The problem with that approach is you may get used to the 'convenience' of disposable diapers, and your once noble intention to use cloth diapers may fall by the wayside. A hybrid system offers you the best of both worlds until you're ready to make the switch.

We are stocking Biosoakers, brought to you by the fine folks who make GroBaby diapers. A Biosoaker is a single-use soaker that lies in a GroBaby shell (or any other wrap-style diaper cover, for that matter). When a soaker is soiled, you dispose of it, and reuse the cover with a new soaker. I have always considered the label 'environmentally friendly' as applied to any disposable item as a sort of misnomer -- using something once, then throwing it away is hardly in the environment's best interest.

Despite their single-use nature, Biosoakers differ from standard disposable diapers on a few counts:

  • they contain no dioxins
  • they contain no formaldehyde
  • they contain no petroleum-based plastic
  • they contain no fragrance, dye, and latex

Biosoakers are marketed as 'compostable' (to EU and USA composting standards) , peed-on biosoakers can be composted in your backyard composter. Pooped-on biosoakers are tossed like their disposable diaper counterparts, the manufacturer indicates they will break down faster than a standard disposable diaper, however, that's a matter of debate. Due to the nature of landfills (a bunch of garbage packed really tightly, buried under a lot of garbage packed tightly....), biodegradation is greatly impaired in any landfill.

Am I 100% comfortable with my decision to stock a disposable diapering option? Not really, but my secret hope is that it attracts people to the store who are looking for an alternative to standard disposable diapers. For those people, perhaps the Biosoakers will act as a gateway to the wonderful world of cloth diapers.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Using a diaper service vs. home-laundering cloth diapers

Occasionally, when parents are considering cloth diapers, they debate the merits of using a diaper service versus home-laundering cloth diapers. If your mind is already made up, and you’ve decided to go to the diaper service route, don’t worry, you have my blessing. When you use a diaper service, you still benefit from some of the advantages of using cloth diapers:

However, if you are on the fence about it, consider this my attempt to sway you towards buying and washing your own cloth diapers – what kind of self-respecting retailer would I be if I didn’t give it a shot? How else am I expected to keep myself dripping in diamonds and fur?

  1. Cost. The money you spend on a weekly diaper service will add up to more than what you would spend if you bought and laundered your own cloth diapers. When you consider it’s an ongoing cost (2+ years), and that you have to spend that money for each subsequent child, a diaper service will always cost more in the longrun. You buy your cloth diapers once, you keep them in good shape, and you use them over and over again until your husband visits Dr. Weiss.
  2. Choice. When you commit to a diaper service, you are committing to the diapers they will provide you with. Part of the fun of using cloth diapers (yes, it’s fun!) is the selection. Your baby’s diaper is an extension of her wardrobe. Aesthetics aside, sometimes different diapers suit different purposes. Maybe you’d prefer to use prefolds at home, but your daycare provider prefers pocket diapers. Whatever the case may be, home-laundering affords you the flexibility of choice.
  3. Convenience. You can wash your diapers whenever you want to. You’re leaving town on Friday to visit your in-laws for a week (*shudder*)? Wash up your diapers and take them with you. If you’re with a diaper service, you’re restricted to their delivery schedule.
  4. Frequency of washing. Most people who wash their own cloth diapers tend to wash them every 2-3 days (say it with me, people, it’s only a load of laundry!). Diaper services pick up soiled diapers once a week. The longer a soiled diaper sits, the worse it will smell.
  5. Lack of standards. There are currently no standards in Canada regulating how a diaper service must operate. When you wash your own diapers, you know how they have been washed.
  6. Lack of availability. Most major cities have access to a diaper service, however, if you live in a rural area, you may be out of luck.
  7. Maddy needs braces. Hardy har har. I’m just checking to see if you’re still paying attention.

That’s all I’ve got. If you’re lucky enough to live in Ottawa, there are two diaper services that service the region, The Diaper Service is located in Ottawa, and Sweet Peach operates out of the beautiful town of Perth. If you live in southwestern Ontario, Bear Bottoms has an extensive delivery area. Regardless of which route you choose, when you're putting your baby in cloth diapers, you're making a choice that's better for your baby, and better for the environment.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mabel's Labels Blogher '10 Contest entry

Seriously? The end of the Internet? Geesh, just as we were becoming such good friends! Oh, how I will miss you!

No more shopping in my pyjamas. My personal hygiene habits will require a serious upgrade.

No more googling random facts that don't really enrich my life, but they certainly make me feel a heckuvalot smarter! Did you know dalmations are born without spots? Neither did I.

No more People of Wal-mart. I can't stop looking. Can't. Stop. Looking.

No more Facebook-stalking the bitchy head cheerleader from high school who has five kids, is divorced, and doesn't fit into her cheerleading outfit anymore (I'm just sayin').

No more self-diagnosing every abnormal bodily function (my own, my husband's, and our children's), we might actually have to visit our doctor for a tune-up every once in a while.

No more simply 'liking' my friend's Facebook updates and photos, I'll have to pick up the phone to find out what's new, or visit them to see what they look like.

No more surfing the celebrity gossip sites to see what’s going on with Brad, Angie, and Jennifer. I’ll need to find another way to fill my time, maybe reading a book, or (God forbid) working out (the horror, the horror!).

Hmmm. That’s weird. Come to think about it, everything might turn out OK after all!

This is me, throwing my hat in the ring -- the winner of this contest earns a trip to Blogher in August, and a 1-year writing contract. I've never been to NYC, and I like writing. 'nuff said! Honestly, I think if the Internet ground to a halt, life would go on. Seriously, it would!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

*That's* disgusting!

This past week, I was introduced firsthand to the willful ignorance that some people demonstrate towards breastfeeding. An older woman came into the store to browse with her friend, if I had to guess their age, I would guess mid-50s. This woman is going to be a grandmother soon, her son and his wife are expecting their first baby in the summer. She looked at our cloth diapers, and commented on how she used cloth diapers with her babies. At this point, I liked her -- clearly she's A-OK if she used cloth diapers, right?

We talked a little bit about the cost of cloth diapers, and how you can save anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars if you use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers. From this conversation, we (well, she) moved onto the cost of infant formula, she was shocked at how expensive it is. I mentioned something along the lines of "At least breastfeeding is free," assuming she'd be on the same wavelength, and that is where our brand-new friendship abruptly ended. Her son's wife won't be doing *that*.

I was shocked, as was her friend. Quite frankly, although I've heard about people who disapprove of breastfeeding, I've always regarded such people as a kind of folklore -- surely in this day and age, people can't be so ill-informed that they would knowingly pass up the benefits of breastfeeding without so much as trying it? I asked her why the mother-to-be won't be breastfeeding. Simple answer? Her son wants to be involved, he wants to be able to give the baby bottles. I suggested he could change diapers, or mom could express milk for the dad to bottle-feed, but nope. The idea of breastfeeding was clearly disgusting to this woman.

She then proceeded to tell me she bottlefed all of her children, and she described seeing a woman breastfeeding in the 1960's (1969, to be exact):

"We were at the Ex in the stands, there were thousands of people around, and this woman 'plopped it out' and stuck her baby on the tit."

To hear someone describe the natural act of a woman breastfeeding her child in such crude terms was quite shocking, it actually left me speechless (imagine that!). Fortunately, this woman's friend was as gobsmacked as I was, and she spoke up about her own experience. When she had her first baby, the doctor advised her to breastfeed because it's the 'best thing for her baby,' she went on to breastfeed all three of her children, for 18 months to three years of age -- at this point, it was her friend's turn to be gobsmacked!

The woman was clearly taken aback at the thought of anyone nursing a toddler, asking her friend why she would do *that*, and her friend recalled how special it was to cuddle with her babies while she was breastfeeding them, and how she missed that bond when their breastfeeding relationship was over. The woman commented again about how 'disgusting' it is that people would breastfeed in public, to which I replied that most women are discreet, to the point that it often goes unnoticed (I sincerely doubt that she's never been around a woman nursing in public since 1969, I'm sure she has, but she just didn't know it!).

Clearly, this is a woman who is not going to budge on her stance against breastfeeding, but it was refreshing to have an unlikely ally in her friend. It's disappointing that some people, though clearly a minority, view breastfeeding with such contempt -- one can only hope the mother-to-be has a change of heart before her baby is born, although without the support of her husband, it' highly unlikely.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yes, slings are safe!

Once in a while, when we're showing prospective parents the various slings we sell, someone will ask "Do babies ever fall out of the slings?", to which I generally reply "Yes, all the time, but don't tell anyone, it's bad for business!" Of course, I'm kidding, and parents always know that (hey, it's a good icebreaker!), however, I may want to reconsider that reply given the impending warning from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission regarding the safety of baby slings.

It's a sad fact of life that accidents happen. Over the past 11 years, seven babies have died, and 37 babies have been injured as a result of being worn in a sling. Yes, these are terrible circumstances for any parent to face, however, it is important to put it into context -- millions of babies have otherwise been worn safely. At this point, little is known about the particular carriers used in these incidents, or the specific circumstances, however, a general warning about the safety of baby slings will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the entire industry. If the CPSC is going to issue a general warning about baby slings as a result of seven deaths over an 11 year period, perhaps they should ban bicycles outright, given that in 2008 alone, 18 children between the ages of 0 and 9 were killed in biking accidents, and 2,000 were injured. Come to think of it, they might want to ban cars too -- in 2008, an average of four children under the age of 15 were killed every day in motor vehicle crashes. Yes, it's a ludicrous suggestion, but to label an entire group of products as unsafe because of a few isolated incidents is just as ludicrous.

Rather than scaring parents away from a product that, when used properly, can enrich the parent-child bond, focusing on safety would be a more beneficical approach, encouraging parents to develop responsible babywearing habits. What can you do to ensure you are wearing your baby safely?

  • purchase a baby sling made by a company who specializes in baby slings, not a company who specializes in shopping cart covers, playmats, potties, etc.
  • buy a reputable sling. That $20 Mei Tai you've been eyeing on Etsy? It's true, you get what you pay for.
  • purchase your baby sling from a store that has staff trained to use slings properly -- DVDs are nice, but nothing beats in-person instruction.
  • read or watch any instructional materials that come with your sling -- they're there for a reason!
  • when you're wearing your baby, you should always be able to see his mouth and nose - they should not be pressed against your body, or obscured by fabric.
  • if you bend over while you are wearing your baby, keep one hand on your baby.
  • if you are wearing your baby under your jacket, do not zip your jacket up all the way to your neck -- leave your jacket partially open to ensure adequate air flow.
  • the baby's chin should not be touching his chest -- you should be able to fit two fingers between his chin and his chest.
  • when you are learning to put your baby on your back, do it over a soft surface, like a bed, and have someone spot you.
  • use common sense. Don't wear your baby when you're tending to a hot stove. Don't chop vegetables while you're wearing your baby on your front in a sling. Don't ride a bike while you're babywearing. Don't put your baby in harm's way!

With respect to newborns, proper positioning is key, this article does a great job of illustrating what is safe, and what is unsafe -- even if you're expecting baby #2, #3, or #4 (or #5, Donna!), it's always a good idea to refresh your memory.

We have four kids who have all been worn from infancy through toddlerhood. Babywearing has made my life easier, when I say it's the one baby product I could never live without, I'm not kidding. The fact that babies have died or been injured in slings is heartbreaking, but it is a very (very!) rare occurrence. When practiced properly, babywearing is a safe, rewarding experience for both parent and child.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

meat: the moral dilemma

Up until a few days ago, I was a card-carrying member of the carnivore club. A couple of weeks ago, I eliminated sugar and gluten from my diet in an effort to get my eczema and psoriasis under control. Surprisingly, revamping my diet has been fairly easy, I don't miss my old friends sugar and gluten, furthermore, I feel fabulous. Eliminating gluten and sugar has had no effect on my skin, but the way I have felt since giving them boot is reason enough to keep them off the menu (I no longer crave a nap everyday at 2pm! No more headaches!). I have long-suspected a link between my dairy consumption and my skin problems, I don't consume a lot of dairy (the thought of drinking milk outright has always turned my stomach, since I was a kid!), but I like it in my coffee, and I love cheese. I. Love. Cheese!

In my efforts to wrap my head around eliminating dairy, I have been researching food. I have borrowed the book Skinny Bitch from a co-worker, I have watched the movie Food, inc., a fascinating look at how food is produced today, and I've been, ya know, Googling (a favourite pastime of mine, if you must know!) all things food-related. I had previously read Fast Food Nation, so I had prior knowledge about factory farming, and how it's overtaking the traditional family farm as the source of most of the food on our tables. Despite what I had read in that book, for the past few years, I've still held on tight to the notion that farming in Canada must be different. I grew up in southwestern Ontario where family farms with cows grazing in rolling pastures are a common sight. Yes, I ate meat, but I have always believed that this is where cows come from -- they live out their days in a grassy field, then they are sent to slaughter (humanely, I might add, as stupid as that sounds!). Granted, this may be the case in those family farms still in existence, however, the reality is that 95% of animals raised for slaughter in Canada are mass-produced on factory farms.

Do you know what factory farming involves (warning: graphic video)? Seriously, I had no idea. I suppose the notion of 'cruelty-free' farming is a contradiction in itself (what is humane about raising an animal for the sole purpose of killing it?), but I was blissfully unaware of what I have been putting on our table, and into our bodies. Until now. I cannot condone practices that I find absolutely horrifying, and by putting money into the pockets of the companies committing these atrocities, I am condoning it (and so are you!).

I'm sure a lot of you are thinking "It's only been a couple of days, give it time, and you'll be back to your regular diet", however, I've given up meat before (for a couple of years!), the sole reason I went back was because I got pregnant with Maddy, and quite frankly, I was the world's laziest vegetarian. My diet sucked, I didn't supplement what I ate with alternate sources of protein, unless bread counts as a source of protein. I have always been the type of person to stop my car and pick up stray dogs, so really, why wouldn't I show farm animals the same type of consideration I show other animals? I play with our beta fish, for God's sake, because I worry about how lonely he (she?) feels!

The link between veal production and the dairy industry is enough to cure me of my cheese habit. As a lactating mammal myself (10 years strong!), I can sympathize with a dairy cow and calves. As much as I may bemoan my morning coffee with rice/soy/almond milk (haven't figured that one out yet), life will go on.

While I'm comfortable giving up meat and dairy for myself, my husband and our children, on the other hand, are apprehensive about my (our!) new diet, proclaiming "But we're not *that* type of people!", whatever that means. So as a compromise, to ease them into the transition, we're going to purchase what we can from a local farm, although my goal is to completely eliminate meat and dairy from our diets (me, now, them, later!). A co-worker (thanks, Christine!) pointed me to the Weston Price Foundation, which promotes the consumption of whole foods. The website links to local chapters, through which you can source locally-grown organic and biodynamic vegetables, fruits and grains; and milk products, butter, eggs, chicken and meat from pasture-fed animals.

The point of this post isn't to debate the ethics of meat consumption in general, rather, I'm looking for advice. If you have any suggestions regarding books, recipes, and local sources for meat, dairy, and eggs, please pass them on. I have been debating a change in our family's diet for a long time, getting rid of sugar and gluten, and feeling so great as a result, has been the impetus I needed to make this change. I have a whole bunch of books on hold at the library, but as with everything in life, it's always nice to get advice from real, live people.