Saturday, December 10, 2011

flip potty training pants review

Barb, one of the moms who works at the Ottawa store, recently reviewed the flip training pants for us. Barb has tried many (many!) nighttime combinations with her child, if anyone's opinion on these trainers counts for something, it's Barb's! We stock a good selection of training pants as it is, but the training pants we have stocked up to this point were generally best suited to daytime use. When parents come into the store looking for an overnight option for potty trained kids, they need something that fits, and more importantly, something that will not leak.
The flip training pants are sold in a boxed set that includes a one-size cover (fits 20-50 lbs), five organic cotton inserts, and set of waist panels (see a video of how the inserts and cover work together here). The cover itself can be adjusted in the rise, the stretchy waist panels allow parents to adjust the width of the cover. Cotton Babies sells additional sets of stretchy waist panels in different colors, they are not sized differently, they are available purely as an aesthetic measure to create different color combinations. The flip training pants (cover and inserts) are manufactured in the United States.

My daughter pees like crazy at night, so much so that she can pee right through a disposable training pant, leaving it a sodden stinky mess, with wet bedding far more often than I would like to deal with. At five years old, and weighing more than 40 lbs, we have had a hard time finding resusable nighttime training pant options that work. I’m quite happy to say the new flip training pants work overnight for her.

I prepped the training pants' inserts by boiling them in a large pot for approximately five minutes with a bit of laundry soap; constant stirring prevented the nylon hook and loop closures on the inserts from resting on the bottom of the pot (the nylon would melt against the hot surface of the pot), followed by a hot wash and machine dry. The inserts took a fairly long time to dry, but that seems to be par for the course for extra-absorbent materials. It’s probably not necessary to prep the inserts before daytime use, but I wanted to be sure the inserts would hold up overnight.

For overnight use, Cotton Babies recommends pairing up the training pants' organic cotton insert with one of their

biodegradable inserts. I used this combination on the first night we tried the flip trainers, I'm happy to report that we experienced no leaks! Since I would prefer a nighttime solution that does not involve a single-use product, the next night I paired the training pants' organic cotton insert with a 3-layer AMP hemp insert. This combination was bulkier, but it also worked really well, the hemp wasn’t even saturated. I have also tried pairing the flip organic cotton insert with a 2-layer AMP bamboo insert, that allowed for a much trimmer fit (shown at left), and still no leaks.

My daughter could easily pull the training pants up and down, which is important for children who are working on daytime toilet training. In terms of the weight range, since we needed to add extra absorbency, I'm not sure she will fit in the training pants as long as the manufacturer suggests. For children at the upper end of the recommended weight range, pairing the organic cotton insert with a disposable insert allows for a much trimmer fit, which would certainly allow the training pants to fit longer.

I’m not wild about the contrast design of having the stretchy waist panels a different colour than the main part of the cover, but I’m really happy to have something that works. I like the fact that I can separate the inserts from the cover for laundering. I would like to be able to purchase additional covers separately, with only one cover in the pack, I have to handwash the cover between uses. Only having one cover is better-suited for daytime potty training, it would be convenient to simply replace the cotton insert with each accident, rather than replacing the entire training pant, especially when you're out of the house.

Overall, I would recommend the flip training pants to parents who are potty training their kids, I will happily continue using it with my daughter.

The flip training pants are introductory priced at $29.95 until December 31st, 2011. Their regular MSRP is $42.95.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Buy Nothing Black Friday

Did you know you're supposed to buy nothing black tomorrow? I kid, I kid. As you may or may not know, tomorrow is Black Friday in the good ol' U.S. of A. For those of you who don't know, the day after American Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday shopping season for our neighbours to the south. Traditionally considered the busiest shopping day of the year, an astounding $45 billion (billion with B, folks!) was dropped on Black Friday last year. Stories of mayhem and violence are commonplace as consumers compete to take advantage of bargain basement prices. In what might be described as a 'ying' to the Black Friday 'yang', on the same day, some folks observe Buy Nothing Day as a "day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption."

Slowly but surely, the Black Friday tradition has been creeping across the border, to the point where the phrase 'Black Friday' is being applied to sales held by Canadian retailers. Over the past few weeks, I have been mulling over whether or not to participate in a Black Friday sale (which actually translates into a Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday affair for a lot of businesses), in the 11th hour, I've decided I won't.

Although it would be probably be better for my business' bottom line if I did, I try not to encourage our customers to make needless purchases, and following from that, it makes little sense for me to participate in what can only be described as an orgy of needless consumption. As a retailer and a consumer, I identify more with Buy Nothing Day, though as much as the idea of closing our doors for one day might appeal to me, it wouldn't serve the business well to turn away customers in an effort to make a statement.

In an attempt to strike a balance between Black Friday and Buy Nothing Day, we're going to donate 10% of all of tomorrow's sales to The Parkdale Food Centre. While some folks have the luxury of buying an Instant Pot tomorrow at deep discounts, others struggle to feed their families.  We are also collecting Feminine Hygiene Products for the Parkdale Food Centre, and we're extending a 10% discount to customers who bring in donations. Finally, all of tomorrow's purchases will go into a draw, and we'll give out three $25.00 gift certificates to three lucky winners.

Wherever your allegiance lies tomorrow, have a great day!

Friday, September 23, 2011

SkyMall awesomeness

Did you know there's no easy way to get to Louisville, Kentucky? In the span of seven hours, I zipped from Ottawa to Toronto to Cleveland to Louisville. Most of the trip was pleasant enough, however the plane from Cleveland to Louisville was a hot mess, it was absolutely filthy, the flight attendent spilled hot coffee on me (then awkwardly tried to towel it off), and I sat next to a man who managed to spend an entire hour hawking lougies.

But I was okay with all of that, do you know why? I had a copy of SkyMall magazine in my hands. Yes, it had some unknown red substance splashed on the front, and some of the pages were stuck together, but it was mine, all mine! Not to disappoint, the magazine catalogued a vast array of random gadgets and gizmos that somewhere, for some reason, some people must buy to fill some purpose. What purposes, you may ask? Spying on your spouse. Massaging assorted body parts. Growing hair. Not walking your dog. The list goes on.

What caught my eye this time around, you ask?

  1. Why go to your beer when your beer can come to you. For realz. If this doesn't scream 'lazy', I don't know what does.

  2. On a related note, someone has finally solved the age-old dilemma of how to get wine out of a bottle, and into a glass. And holding wine. They solved that problem too. My parties are going to get *so*much better!

  3. The only thing better than a head massage is a head massage anytime you want one. Wear it at Starbucks, I dare you!

  4. Put $5.00 away five days a week for a year, and you'll have $1300.00! You can only do it with this box. Note: $1300.00 not included.

  5. Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that they make this shirt in an adult size?

  6. Finally, I can find out what I would look like with a mustache. Finally.

  7. Fucking gravity has finally met it's match.

  8. Honey, you know what would really pull this room together? A life-sized sculpture of a woman with a lamp on her head.

  9. This puts the 'scare' in scarecrow.

  10. Temperature Regulating Blanket, also know as a regular, ol' blanket. Color me crazy, but don't all blankets keep you warm?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Not Vegas, baby!

My bag is packed, and tomorrow I'm flying out to the 9th annual ABC Kids Expo, one of the largest juvenile product shows in the industry. I make the trip every year to meet personally with suppliers, and to get a peak at what's new & exciting. It's a fun (albeit exhausting) few days, it's definitely something I look forward to every year. In previous years, the show was held in Las Vegas (baby!), but this marks the show's debut in Louisville, Kentucky. I'll admit that I'm a little disappointed about this year's venue, I'm not a gambler, but Las Vegas is a fantastic place to people watch ("Is that his girlfriend or his grand-daughter?" "Are those real?"). The show's organizers have worked hard to get attendees and exhibitors alike jazzed (yes, I said jazzed) about the show, we'll see if Louisville is everything they promise.

In previous years, my husband has attended the show with me, and what I mean by that is while I'm hiking through rows upon rows of juvenile gear, he's lazing about by the hotel pool drinking margaritas. He's not coming this year (suffice it to say, he was not jazzed at the idea of making the trek to Louisville), he'll be home with the kids as I go it alone. I'm a little nervous and excited at the prospect of being totally and completely alone. In my 37 years on this planet, I have *never* been alone, I basically went from living with my parents to living with my husband, this will be a new experience for me! I certainly hope this solo trip goes better than the last, it will be très embarrassing if I end up crying in public. Again.

I've already mapped out a premilinary list of vendors I want to visit, some good, and some bad. It is a little hard to navigate the show virtually, while the vendors are broken into separate categories, with names like Buckley Boo, Piggy Wiggles, Inchbug, and KooChoo, figuring out what I want to hit is a time-consuming process. Outside of the show, I'm not sure what I'll do with my free time, but having zero responsibilites will be pretty sa-weet! I'll be posting pics and uploading videos from the show to our Youtube channel, as in previous years, I'll be giving away the goodies I receive at the show, stay tuned here or on our Facebook group for further details. Giddyup!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Baby Boom (again), baby!

As promised, here is a list of this some of this year's Baby Boom sales to whet your appetite!

Beco Gemini $109.00 (regular price $139.00) This carrier is great for carrying little ones on your front or back, what sets it apart from the most SSCs on the market is how well it allows a parent to wear a little one in a facing-out position. Yes, facing in is ideal, but some babies simply want to see the world. Limited quantities!

Sleepy Wrap $40.00 (regular price $60.00) This is hands-down our favorite carrier for newborns. It provides fabulous support both to the baby and the wearer, and it's 'poppability' makes it ideal for taking babies in and out of the carrier quickly and easily. The sale-priced carriers are in old packaging, they are final sale. Limited quantities!

CountrySave detergent $6.00 (regular price $10.99) This is the top-rated detergent for cloth diapers as suggested by a number of leading diaper manufacturers. It is scent-free, and it leaves no residue. CountrySave contains sodium percarbonate, which is a laundry booster, it makes the detergent clean more effectively. Limit: one box/customer, while quantities last.

Amber necklaces $10.00 (baby), $16.00 (adult) (regular price $16.00, $24.00) Whether or not you believe in their analgesic properties, these necklaces are darn cute! Amber has been used in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years as a natural form of pain relief, if your little one is suffering as her teeth break, this necklace may make life a little easier for both of you. Limited quantities!

Nneka nursing pillows $55.00 (regular price $62.00) Handsewn in Quebec, these pillows are filled with buckwheat hulls, providing firm support. You can shift the buckwheat in the pillow to ensure the pillow helps position your baby properly at the breast, you can even remove some of the buckwheat to help with positioning (you don't need the baby sitting under your chin!). The pillows cotton cover is washable, which is important when you consider how dirty it may get. In addition to using the pillow for breastfeeding, you can use it to support your pregnant belly, or it can be used to help support a learning-to-sit baby.

Piddle Pad $8.00 (regular price $9.99) The manufacturer has redesigned the pad, rebranded it as a 'deluxe' piddle pad, and raised the SRP to $13.00. We're clearancing our remaining 'regular' Piddle Pads, they're a must-have for when you're toilet-training a toddler, they will save your carseat from the inevitable accidents that can't be avoided (unless you avoid the car altogether).

Family Stickers These are new to us, to celebrate their arrival, if you buy two stickers, you'll receive a third sticker for $1.00. Yes, they're kitchy, but they're cute!

Baby Cubes $5.99 (regular price $7.49) These 2 oz. containers (BPA and Pthalate-free) are sold in sets of 8 with a storage tray. They have hinged lids, so you won't have to fumble around to match lids with bottoms.

Fuzzibunz perfect-size diapers $15.00 (regular price $23.95) We have some discontinued colors instock, aqua and sage, size medium only. We have a good number of them, if you're not picky about color, you can build a great stash for a great price. No quantity limits, while supplies last!

bumGenius 4.0 stay-dry diapers $19.00 (regular price $23.95) We just inventoried our stock and realize we have an abundance of moonbeam diapers, with snap closures. If you're considering making the switch to cloth diapers, these diapers are just as easy to use. They are trim, they will keep your little on dry, and they fit up to 35 lbs. Limit two diapers/customer, while quantities last.

Bummis 'Beautiful Basics' prefold set $18.00 (regular price $21.95) We love us some prefolds around these parts, and we're willing to bet you will too if you give them a shot! This set contains three prefolds and one cover. Get your feet wet with cloth diapers for under $20.00, come on, take a chance!

Sales are valid at the show only, we don't want to bring anything back with us, as noted, some items are available in limited quantities (we'd love to pack the entire store, but we just can't).

We have an assortment of other goodies with us, if you're coming out tomorrow, please stop by and say hello! This show is a great opportunity for us to connect with local parents, and it's a great way for growing families to connect with the services and boutiques available in the city of Ottawa. You can find us at booth #1 and #2, we are conveniently located on your way in and your way out!

Friday, September 2, 2011

I fought the Diva Cup (and the Diva Cup won)

We stock a selection of reusable menstrual products (pads and cups), naturally, customers contemplating the switch to reusables have questions about how everything works. With respect to LunaPads, most women ask questions about how the different pieces fit together. Given the crowd we attract, I usually liken the system to cloth diapers -- you have AIOs and AI2s -- the pad and the liner are akin to a cloth diaper cover and an insert. When women pick up the Diva Cup, they only ask one question, "What's it like to use this?", the question is often accompanied by a raised eyebrow, and a knowing exchange of glances between us. Their real question is: "How does this fit up there?" "Will it get lost?" "Does it hurt?" I am upfront and I admit that while I have not used a Diva Cup personally, I have many friends who do, and they all swear by it, proclaiming:

  • it's comfortable to use while playing sports

  • you can leave it in for up to 12 hours before emptying it

  • it can lessen the cramps associated with menstruation (have I ever mentioned how awesome menstruation is? Women are so lucky. So. Lucky).

For months, I've been meaning to make the switch, but the timing has never worked out. I finally remembered to pick one up at the start of my most recent cycle, and I plucked up the courage to give it a shot, I mean, how hard can it be, right? Right? I figured I'd pop it in, and write a review that went something like this:

"ZOMG, I cannot believe how long I lived without the Diva Cup! It was *so* easy to use, and it works so well! Every woman should have one, why, I'm going to lobby the Harper government to hand them out to every girl as she transitions into womanhood, I mean, it's just so great! So. Great! Long live the Diva Cup, Diva Cup forever!"

Of course, everyone had warned me that making friends with my Diva Cup would take a bit of practice (and patience), however, I was confident we'd hit it off instantly. Sadly, my love affair with the Diva Cup has gotten off to a bumpy start.

When it came time to try out the Diva Cup, I got myself settled into the upstairs bathroom, the kids were downstairs watching TV playing harmoniously together, mommy needed a little privacy to wrap her head around what was about to go down (er, go up?). Like most women, I had my fears about how things would work out. I was worried that once inside, the Diva Cup would float upwards through my innards, like my vagina is a portal to some sort of blackhole and the Diva Cup would get lost for years, never to be seen again until I cough it up like a hairball. The wonderful instructions that accompany the cup kindly explained that my vaginal walls are only 3-4 inches in length, proving my 'lost in space' fears to be unfounded. As an aside, the Diva Cup instructions also pointed out that the average monthly total flow output is in the neighbourhood of 1 to 1.4 ounces -- just enough to fill a shot glass! Total!! Is it just me, or does that estimate seem, well, a little low? Judging from the apparent carnage I seem to suffer through every month, if I were to estimate what my average monthly flow output is, I'd put it closer to a liter, not unlike what must ooze out of a severe gunshot wound, but perhaps that's just me.

So there I am, Diva Cup in hand, I've reassured myself that it's not going to get lost, but now I'm starting to freak out about how big it is. Prior to this moment, I had been mentally preparing myself for the size/fit issue, but I've birthed four babies, one of whom was so big he practically walked out of my vagina with a cigarette in one hand, a bottle of JD in the other, and he was all 'sup, bitches? to the midwives, so really, I've got this, it will be OK. But there I am, doing the Diva Cup origami as is kindly suggested by the Diva Cup instructions, and no matter how I fold the damn thing, it's just so fucking huge!

The Diva Cup instructions, which are starting to get on my nerves, kindly suggest that I should 'relax' my vaginal walls before inserting the cup, and I'm starting to feel like maybe I should have taken her out to an expensive dinner beforehand and told her she looked pretty, because I can tell she's as nervous about this as I am. So I take a deep breath, and shove it all up there, but the cup unfolds before I've got it in place, and the idea of pushing it up further while it's unfolded kind of makes me want to cry. I withdraw, apologize profusely to my vagina, and read the bloody instructions again, which suggest it's completely normal for the cup to unfold while it's being inserted. Oh, well isn't that great, I was kind of hoping that it would unfold after I was done launching it up into my nether regions, but I guess that's too much to ask. I take another deep breath, apologize to my vagina again, who is now about as relaxed as a virgin on her wedding night, and we give it another go, this time with moderately more success. I manage to launch the cup further up into my nether regions than the first time, but I don't feel it unfold. No worries, I'm actually quite OK with that, let's push on, shall we?

I'm not quite finished yet, because now I need to rotate the cup 360°, which at this point, is about as appealing as a root canal performed by a drunk monkey. So I grab the cup's stem, twisting it slowly, beads of sweat dripping off my brow, and I think I can feel my vagina quietly weep each time the cup moves (not that it was particularly painful, but my vagina at this point was decidedly unrelaxed). After the cup has been rotated, I tentatively stand up, and take a few steps. While having the cup in place certainly wasn't uncomfortable, I could feel the sensation of something being up there, quite frankly, it felt like I had a thighmaster launched up my hooha. To say I had the gait of a cowboy who had just rode in on the Pony Express is an understatement, every step I took was more bowlegged than the last, as my brain worked overtime to convince my vagina that it was playing host to an uninvited guest. At this point, my vagina and I decided we'd both had enough, issuing the Diva Cup its eviction notice. My vagina and I both released a sigh of relief as the cup signalled its exit with a defiant 'pop'.

With what I have to assume is the worst of it out of the way, I will give the Diva Cup another go next month, things can only get better, and besides, I like a challenge. The idea of using the cup is so appealling, perhaps the next time we attempt to make friends, I will buy my vagina a box of chocolates and a dozen roses to help her relax beforehand.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

(la la la la la la) Tonight.

Sooo, the big day is here. What big day, I'm sure most all of you are asking? Tonight is the long-anticipated (for me, anway) NKOTBSB concert in Ottawa. Originally, there was no tour date scheduled in this fair city of ours, and like a lot of other people middle-aged women (enough of us, anyway), I whined about it, and the powers-that-be listened, and they managed to fit us in at the end of the tour. Sooo I wrangled up a group of friends, bought a block of tickets, and since February, I've been looking forward to today. As the day has drawn closer over the past few weeks, I will admit, I've sort of been puzzled about what to expect. You see, my last experience at one of these events occurred almost twenty years ago. That's T-W-E-N-T-Y years, aka, a really long time, ago. Two decades, if you need further clarification. Between now and then, the times have a changed.

Twenty years ago, I would have spent the night before the concert sleeping over at my friend Tammy's house with a posse of hardcore NKOTB fans. My homies, if you will. We would have laid out our best NKOTB paraphernalia (tour jackets, t-shirts, the whole nine yards!). The binoculars would be packed (not for watching the concert, but for stalking Danny, Donnie, Joe, John, and Jordan), we were our own personal paparrazzi -- unsuccessful as we were, we tried our best, we didn't have back then!. The day would start very early as we'd stake out our spot around the concert venue, hoping to catch a glimpse of our idols outside of the show (we never did, I assume they had better things to do than mingle with their worshippers). Inside the actual show, I can't remember specifically what we did, but I think it involved swaying, screaming, and quite possibly biting nails. Not really sure, to be quite honest, it's all a blur. I do recall the sensation of ringing ears that I left every show with, it's a wonder we all didn't end up deaf.

Of course, today, I won't be lollygagging about like I used to pre-concert, I simply can't. I have to make the kids' lunch, get them up, get them dressed, make them breakfast, take them to daycare, go to work, pick them up from daycare and bring them home, do some laundry, tidy the house somewhat for the ladies who are coming over tonight, order some pizza, and make margaritas. Pre-concert rituals aside, I wonder what will happen inside the actual concert venue. What kind of crowd will be there? Young people (God, no! The horror, the horror!)? Will we all just sit there, and kind of sway a bit? Will it be awkward? Far from making me feel young again, tonight's concert has really just served to remind me of how different my life is now as opposed to twenty years ago. It doesn't help that the members of NKOTB have hardly changed, like Peter Pan, they all seem to be frozen in time, the years have certainly been kinder to them than I.

On Twitter last night, Jordan Knight tweeted (I hate saying that, it's such a ridiculous expression!) that there will be an afterparty in Ottawa tonight. Basically, it's a chance to pay to mingle with Jordan Knight and Donnie Wahlberg at a local bar after the show. Tickets range in price from $40 to $150 for 'unlimited access' (I'm guessing the promoter's idea of 'unlimited access' would vary from my idea of 'unlimited access'). I entertained the idea of buying a ticket to the aftershow for an entire millisecond, but quickly decided against it for a number of reasons:

  • it requires driving down to the market, parking my mini van, and going to a club after 11pm at night. The insanity!

  • the bar advertises a 'stylish and sophisticated' dress code, whatever the hell that means. Specifically, they advertise a policy that (among other things), bans loose clothing, which pretty much bans my entire wardrobe.

  • the idea of paying to be in someone's presence kind of horrifies me. Given how my one and only experience of meeting a celebrity went, I'd be wasting my money, clearly.

Today has already started like any other day starts, and it will likely end as any other day ends (with the exception that my husband is in charge of bedtime, that alone is reason enough to celebrate). I am looking forward to spending time with a group of lovely ladies this evening, while the 18 year old in me still harbors a tiny bit of hope that one day my path will cross with Danny, Donnie, Joe, John or Jordan, the 37 year old in me recognizes tonight for what it is -- a sweet trip down memory lane.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The myth of the 'perfect' parent.

Earlier this week, I suggested new titles that can follow Adam Mansbach's Go the F*** to Sleep book. Like most parents out there, I laughed (and laughed!) when I heard Samuel Jackson read the book -- it was fucking hilarious! Clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks so, with 400,000 (and counting) copies in print, a lot of other parents appreciate the comic relief Mansbach's book provides, allowing us to crack a smile at a situation that does not feel funny in the moment. Humor aside, I think the book acknowledges a reality that most of us rarely admit: parenting *is* hard (and exhausting, and frustrating, and I'll stop now before this post gets too depressing). I think it's refreshing to acknowledge something that is universal to all parents, and I think it's important. This book challenges the myth of the 'perfect parent', and that's what makes it so great. For once, the pressure of being perfect has been relaxed a little, and it feels good.

I came across a blog post last night that suggested not everyone sees the humor in this book, while I didn't pay too much attention to the blog post itself (the auther is entitled to her opinion), the ensuing discussion caught my attention. There were a few commenters who agreed with the author, but the majority did not (no surprise there!). What caught me offguard were the disclaimers most (all?) women seemed compelled to inject into their comments, that while they might *feel* frustrated with their children, they most certainly would never act on those feelings, they would never want to make their children feel like a burden. Sure, we can laugh at the frustration we all feel internally, but heaven forbid any of us externalize it, I mean, can you even imagine? Once again, the myth of the 'perfect parent' has been restored, phew!

Well, I'm going to go on public record and admit that not only do I feel frustration in certain situations with my kids, but sometimes (now, brace yourself!), I act on it (the horror, the horror!). I am not a perfect parent, in fact, I am far from it. Sometimes I yell at our kids. Sometimes I say things that I regret (and yes, I often feel absolutely horrible about it afterwards). As much as I wish I could count to ten and breathe deeply when I feel the frustration coming on, I don't seem to be equipped with that particular coping mechanism. When I was pregnant with our first child, if anyone would have ever told me how impatient I could be as a parent, I would have never (ever!) believed them.

I think it's an absolute shame that parents, particularly mothers, hold themselves up to a standard of perfection that's unattainable (and it is). If anyone suggests they never get frustrated with their kids, they're either lying, or they don't spend a whole lot of time around them (Gwyneth Paltrow, I'm looking at you!). I think it's good to be honest about everything parenting entails, the good, the bad, and the ugly, Mansbach's humorous approach to bedtime woes is a great way to ease new parents into the reality that parenting is not always fun or easy, for that reason, I think it would make a fabulous shower gift -- watch out Sophie the Giraffe, you've got competition!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

F***, parenting is hard!

Kudos to Adam Mansbach on his runaway bestseller, "Go the F*** To Sleep", a hilarious read that details the frustrations all parents (with the exception of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, I'm sure) have experienced at bedtime. To be blunt, bedtime can be hell. To be more precise, bedtime can be f***ing hell. I was reminded of that last night when two of our four children managed to stay wide awake until 10:30, bombarding me from their beds with all sorts of excuses in an effort to prolong the inevitable:

"I'm thirsty."
"I'm not tired."
"I'm too hot."
"I had a bad dream."
"I need to pee."
"S/he (points finger at the other one) is being too loud."

And the list goes on (and on, and on!). Between my trips upstairs to beg & plead with Owen and Grace to just go the fuck to sleep, in an effort to stop myself from seething in anger (and I was, I spend the whole day looking forward to bedtime, it's what keeps me going, people!), I thought of other book titles for the inevitable "F***, Parenting is hard!" series that I assume has already been picked up for a multiple motion picture deal (starring Johhny Depp, of course).

Leave my S*** Alone.

Apparently, what's mine is theirs. Not so, my little friends, not so. You would think that people who guard their own possessions with the ferocity of a rabid dog would get this, but it doesn't work that way, nosirree! We recently hosted a birthday sleepover for my oldest daughter, without my knowledge, my makeup (which I hardly ever use, but that's beside the point) was used to facilitate 'makeover time'. How well do you think ten year old girls treat shit that's not theirs? Not very well, as it turns out. What's mine is mine, leave it the f*** alone!

Flush the F***ing toilet already!

In an effort to conserve water use in our household, we've tried to teach our kids "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down," emphasis on the word tried. What we actually seem to have taught them is "Don't flush the toilet until the toilet paper is level with the toilet seat, mom will clean it all up anyway." On a regular basis, the leaning tower of toilet paper is topped off with a turd, like a cherry on an ice cream sundae. A thoughtful touch, no?

Shut the F*** Up.

We all anticipate our childrens' first words with such excitement. First comes one word, then two, and before you know it, your little chatterbox has an ongoing case of verbal diarrhea that ensures you will never enjoy a single, solitary second of silence as long as your child is within earshot. It gets even better (er, worse) when you have more than one child (stereo!), and they all try to shout at you talk to you simultaneously, usually spouting a stream-of-consciousness soliloquy peppered with sobbing fits because you're listening to someone else and IT'S NOT FAIR!

Stop F***ing Fighting, You're Driving Me Crazy.

The kids are at a point where they bicker constantly. If I had to break it down, I'd say for every one minute of sibling affection, there's approximately ten minutes of sibling rivalry. What do they fight about? Oh, the usual:

"She won't stop looking at me."
"She's breathing at me."
"She's copying me." (insert echo: "She's copying me.").
"She got more than me." (sidenote: kids have some sort of portion-related ESP that enables them to detect when someone else has more of something than they do. It's kind of impressive. Annoying and impressive).

Good times, I tell you. One day, I will let them fight each other to the death. I'm just kidding (or am I?).

I could go on (and on, and on!), but I'll stop now. I love our kids dearly (don't we all?), but nothing could have ever prepared me for just how annoying they can be. They're good kids, don't get me wrong, but they're kids, and they annoy me just as much as my siblings and I annoyed our mother (something that I know thrills my mother, because she tells me it does). I think that's why Mansbach's book has struck a chord with so many parents -- no matter where you come from, or how you approach parenting, we all face the same obstacles, it's certainly more fun laughing about it than crying about it!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teaching kids tolerance.

In this day and age, stories like this amaze me.

When I went to high school, I remember learning in sex education that 'one in ten' people are gay. At the time, not knowing anyone who was gay, that statistic scared the bejesus out of me. Being gay was presented as an affliction, there was no discussion about tolerance, or resources for gay teenagers, none of that! I distinctly remember looking around me wondering which one of us was gay -- as stupid as it sounds, I worried it might be me (seriously -- I thought I could wake up gay one day, surely that's how it must work!?!). Fast foward seventeen years (ouch!), and I'm a little wiser about how the world works. As it turns out, I actually knew a few people who were gay in high school, I just didn't know it back then.

Our kids have been brought up knowing that you can't help who you fall in love with. Sometimes, men fall in love with other men. Sometimes women fall in love with other women. A close family member is gay, and I am thankful for the opportunity it has provided to teach our kids tolerance. They have witnessed different kinds of non-traditional relationships between people who love each other, and it is as normal to them as any relationship between a man and a woman. Our kids know that no matter what, we will support them in their happiness, no questions asked (as a parent, I consider this one of my top priorities!).

I think it's wonderful that a group of students wanted to volunteer their time and effort to educate people about homophobia, it's an absolute shame their school didn't recognize their efforts for what it was, a selfless attempt to promote tolerance (I think God would be proud, don't you?). I think it's incredibly courageous to stand up for what you believe in, and at such a young age! I can only hope our kids turn out so well. Hopefully the Roman Catholic school board has a change of heart about their ban on 'rainbows'. Schools should concern themselves with more than the basic 'reading, writing, and arithmatic' -- if kids can't get the support they need at home, they should be able to get it from school.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Buying used diapers

A great way to save on the start-up costs of cloth diapering is to buy used diapers. No matter how you slice it, using cloth diapers is far more economical than using disposable diapers, however, paying for them upfront can require a significant investment, depending on what style of diaper you decide to use. If you do decide to go the 'used' route, here's a few tips to ensure you make a good purchase. When you purchase used diapers, they won't come with a 30 day return policy, so you want to make sure you get it right!

Buy used diapers in person. There are lots of great online venues where you can buy used diapers (Kijiji, Craigslist, and various online parenting forums), however, seeing used diapers in person gives you a chance to assess the quality of the diapers. Even though an online listing may be accompanied by pictures, it's no comparison to inspecting the diapers in real life -- things like diaper cream residue, or delamination would be hard to see in a picture. We hold regular cloth diaper swaps at our stores that give our customers an opportunity to sell their use diapers -- for those in the market for used cloth diapers, it's a great opportunity to buy well-known brands of cloth diapers.

Buy used diapers at a consignment store. Admittedly, this may be a bit of a longshot, but it's always worth looking. Most consignment shops don't know the proper value of name brand diapers, as a result, if you're lucky enough to stumble upon a name brand diaper, you'll probably get it for a song. A customer came into our store last week who managed to snag a number of almost-new bumGenius 4.o diapers for -- wait for it -- $4.00 each. Is it weird that I wanted to high-five her?

Buy name brand used diapers. If you buy used diapers that have a good reputation, there's a better chance you will be happy with them (there's a reason they have a good reputation, after all!). If you're unsure about a particular brand, go to a cloth diaper review site to see what other people think of the brand you're considering purchasing.

If the used diapers are under warranty, ask for the original reciept. It's not unusual to buy used diapers from new parents who have changed their mind about using cloth diapers. In this scenario, the diapers may still fall under the manufacturer's warranty. If that's the case, having a copy of the original receipt will assist in resolving any warranty issues that may arise. I wouldn't consider this point a dealbreaker, but it wouldn't hurt to ask the sellers if they can provide you with a proof of purchase.

In terms of evaluating the quality of used diapers, don't focus on aesthetics -- stains will not affect the function of a diaper, and they're easy to remedy. Linty velcro can be easily cleaned with a comb or a needle. Smelly diapers, however, can be symptomatic of underlying issues (detergent buildup, or urine residue), it's important to ask how the dipaers have been cared for. Used diapers should always be stripped, stripping diapers can usually remedy any smell (and residue) issues.

As far as 'what not to look for' in a used diaper, the following issues will compromise the effectiveness of cloth diapers:

  • Thinning fabric will absorb less. If you have to outfit each used diaper with an extra doubler (that will cost upwards of $4.00), will you still come out ahead?

  • Delaminated PUL will not be waterproof. Examine the laminated side of PUL covers or pocket diapers carefully. If you see a tear in the laminate (or if the laminate has pulled away from the polyester), don't buy the diapers.

  • Brittle or non-stretchy elastic will result in a diaper that gaps around your babies legs or waist, and it will cause leaks. You can always replace the elastic in the diapers yourself, if you take the diapers to a seamstress to repair, you can expect to pay upwards of $5.00/diaper to have the leg and waist elastics replaced, will you still come out ahead?

  • Non-sticky velcro will need to be replaced. Pocket diapers and All-in-One diapers are washed every time they are used, velcro closures on these particular diapers will take a licking as a result. You can replace the velcro yourself (requires a sewing machine), if you take the diapers to a seamstress to repair, you can expect to pay upwards of $5.00/diaper to have the velcro replaced, will you still come out ahead?

  • Diaper cream residue may be hard to see, but it can greatly affect how well a diaper works. Diaper cream residue will generally feel tacky to the touch, you can always check the absorbency of a diaper by pouring a little water directly onto the diaper. Natural fabrics should absorb easily, synthetic fabrics (like the microfleece in a pocket diaper) require pressure (put your finger into the pooled water, the water should sink through the fabric where you apply pressure). Diaper cream residue can be removed, but it can take time and elbow grease.

If you run into any of these issues, and you still want to proceed with the sale, ask for a discout on the used diapers (there's nothing wrong with bartering!). You should expect to pay at least 50% of the original value of diapers that are in good, used condition -- if you need to put time and effort (and possibly $$$) into reparing used diapers, it's only fair that their selling price is adjusted accordingly.

Happy buying!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Customers behaving badly...

Alternate working titles:

"The post where I call a customer an asshole."

"You're an asshole."

"No shoes, no socks, no assholes."

"Asshola non grata."

Working in the retail industry (or the high tech industry, or the food industry, for that matter), I have encountered my fair share of assholes (the figurative kind, not the literal kind). Fortunately, they are few and far between. Most (99.99999999%) of our customers are simply fabulous, they are a large part of the reason why I enjoy what I do so much. But (but!) the handful that choose to treat employees (myself included) with less respect than what they'd show a dog, this select group of people is unfortunately the one I tend to remember the most.

I have had a few encounters with customers over the past nine years that have left me wondering what may have happened to them to let them think it is okay to treat another person with anything other than the same courtesy I assume they would expect themselves from the people they come into contact with. Over the years, I have debated writing about it, but to do so may be interpreted as unprofessional, there's an unspoken rule when you own a business that you should just take whatever abuse a customer chooses to throw your way, "The customer is always right", as they (the assholes, I presume) always say. Well today, after a particularly unpleasant exchange with a customer that reduced an employee to tears, I'm going to write about it.

This particular individual had e-mailed me last week to complain about an employee who she felt was 'rude and unhelpful'. What was the complaint? After several requests for more information, I found out she was angry because she called the store (a half hour before it closed) to ask that a tin of Nellies was set aside for her. Barb (who has never been anything but professional, courteous, and all-around-helpful to anyone who comes into the store) told her we have 'plenty instock'. That reply, apparently, constitutes a 'rude and unhelpful' attitude. I politely suggested to this individual that Barb was simply letting her know we were not going to sell out of Nellies before she arrived, and that Barb had indeed set aside a tin of Nellies for her (that she never picked up).

Fast forward a couple of days, and this individual comes into the store to pick up her tin of Nellies. With her dog. That she brought into the store a week ago, when she was told dogs were not allowed in the store, but since the store was empty, we would make an exception for her. Big mistake. It seems that once you make an exception for an asshole, you are actually giving them the green light to be an even bigger asshole. Since an employee's baby was on the floor in the store this afternoon, this person was politely asked to leave her dog outside. Given a recent incident whereby a Home Depot employee's nose was partially bitten off by a customer's dog, you would think this simple request would be met with understanding and compliance, but it was not. Nosirree, not at all. The asshole customer grudgingly took her dog out of the store, stomped back in to make her purchase, then on her way out, bent down to the baby (the baby!) and called his mother (Melissa, another staff member who has never been anything but professional, courteous, and all-around-helpful to anyone who comes into the store) a "bitch", suggesting to Obi that "you're going to have a miserable childhood with your nasty bitch of a mother".

Melissa was quite taken aback by this attack (as anyone would be), calling me in tears. Upon hearing that this individual had purchased a tin of Nellies, I assured Melissa that she had done nothing to justify this woman's tantrum, and I suggested she's likely the same individual who had complained about Barb last week. Of course, only knowing what she had purchased, I couldn't make the connection for sure, until she stomped back into the store 10 minutes later to return her purchase. This time around, she left her dog outside, and she held her tongue as there were other customers in the store (I very much doubt she would have had the balls to say what she said in front of other people). In returning her purchase, she had to fill out a form with her name and contact information, thus confirming the asshole with the dog was in fact the asshole who called Barb last week.

It absolutely blows my mind that anyone would think it's ever acceptable to talk to another person (and their baby!) in this manner. It doesn't matter if you're chatting up the Queen of England or the person who cleans your toilet, nor does it matter if you're having a really bad day and you need to let off some steam, as I would tell my own children, you should always treat others as you expect to be treated yourselves. The kicker in all this is that as she returned her tin of Nellies, this customer inadvertently left her keys in the bag she returned, so she will have to come back into our store to retrieve them (sans dog, I would hope). I let her know we have set her keys aside, she let me know she has found another store that sells Nellies, and she's going to "tell all her friends about it." It amuses me when assholes suggest they will tell their friends to shop elsewhere, as they say, "Birds of a feather flock together," if her friends are anything like her, they are not welcome in our store anyhow.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Canadian retailers are not greedy.

An article published in this week's Ottawa Citizen asks the question "Canadian currency is trading at a three-year high and has been close to or above par for years. So why are we still paying so much for consumer goods?" The obvious assumption is that retailers (like me!) are simply too greedy to pass on the savings to consumers. Hardy har har, that's a good one! This question sometimes comes up in the store, and I've seen it come up multiple times on various online forums. Yes, we charge a higher price on some of the products we stock in comparison to our US counterparts, but retail pricing within Canada is a complex matter, there is certainly more to it than the strengh of our loonie. As an example, bumGenius 4.0 diapers, for example, retail for $23.85 in Canada, compared to $17.95 in the US. Why the disparity? There are a few reasons for higher suggested retail prices (SRPs) in Canada.

The first issue that results in higher SRPs in Canada is duty -- bringing products across the border often entails paying a tariff to Canada Customs. I usually pay anywhere from 12-18% duty on products manufactured outside of North America when I purchase them directly from a manufacturer located outside of Canada. In addition, I have to pay a brokerage fee at the border to the carrier who transports the package - on average, I will pay UPS $60 to broker an order.

In theory, the point of applying tariffs to goods manufactured outside of North America is to encourage companies to keep manufacturing within North America, however, I learned last year that tariffs can also apply to goods manufactured within North America. Out of the blue, I received a surprise bill for thousands of dollars (!!!) for duty assessed on previous shipments of Fuzzibunz diapers, which were manufactured within North America at the time. Despite being sewn within North America, components of the diaper were manufactured outside of North America (the fleece was milled in China). I was informed that it is my responsbility as a retailer to ensure that every single package I import is brokered properly. Forget the $60 a pop I pay UPS, that affords me zero protection, I should familiarize myself with the origin of every component of every product, and ensure products that are deemed NAFTA-compliant (as the diapers had been) are actually NAFTA-compliant, and if the appropriate tariffs are not charged, the onus is on me to contact Canada Customs to rectify the situation.

Another reason for higher SRPs within Canada is the fact that some companies rely on distributors to act as a liason between the manufacturer and the retailer. Distributors offer a number of benefits, an obvious benefit to me is that the hassle of importing packages across the border is delegated to someone else (hallelujah!). For the consumer, distributors within Canada make handling warranty issues easier. This convenience comes as a price, however, as the distributor must get paid for the work they do, often bumping up the SRP within Canada.

Lastly, the higher cost of transportation within Canada leads to higher freight costs for retailers, regardless of whether a product is imported, or purchased domestically by a retailer. US-based retailers enjoy things like flat rate shipping via USPS, Canadian retailers are not so lucky. I have heard of some retailers renting a PO Box across the US border to keep freight costs down, but the possible savings incurred by driving across the border to pick up packages would be lost when you consider the time it would take.

So there you have it. Establishing retail prices within Canada is far more complicated than simply paying attention to the strength of the Canadian dollar. Higher prices within Canada are not indicative of greed on the part of retailers, they are simply a natural result of the cost of doing business as a Canadian retailer. You can get around higher Canadian SRPs by ordering from retailers outside of Canada, although some manufacturers (like Cotton Babies, the manufacturers of bumGenius diapers) forbid cross-border selling, and you are still on the hook for duties and taxes owed. When your support Canadian retailers, you are supporting the Canadian economy, and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dear City of Ottawa,

I would like a little clarification about the new 'diaper service' that is going to be implemented with the city's plans to move to a bi-weekly garbage pick-up (which I applaud). As a person who has chosen to use cloth diapers with all four of our children, I certainly hope that I am not going to end up covering the cost of special treatment for those families who make the decision to use disposable diapers. If they are going to gripe and moan about the mess they create, they had better be ready to pay for it! Are they paying extra fees to have their waste picked up?

I have contacted the city on *numerous* occassions to suggest a cloth diaper subsidy for families who make use cloth diapers. This kind of subsidy is commonplace in the UK, and it has been instituted in many municipalities across Quebec (most recently in Montreal). The city of Ottawa pays approximately $94/tonne to haul trash to the dump; When parents make the decision to cloth diaper a child, they are diverting approximately one ton of waste from our landfills. Furthermore, they can reuse the same set of cloth diapers with future children, diverting even more waste from our landfills. It stands to reason that if people are saving the city money with their responsible decision to use cloth diapers, the city should compensate them for their efforts.

If people use cloth diapers, they do not have to worry about the stink of having diapers sit in the trash for two weeks (and quite frankly, the contents of disposable diapers are supposed to be emptied into the toilet before they are tossed into the trash anyhow, I don't even see how 'stink' should be a concern if ppl are using disposable diapers in the correct manner). If you want to encourage positive change, why not consider implementing a cloth diaper subsidy that will help parents with the startup costs of cloth diapers? There are many (many!) businesses in Ottawa that sell cloth diapers, accessibility is not a concern, but ppl are often intimidated by the upfront costs, and fear of the unknown.

We are hosting an event on April 23rd that will see 35+ parents changing their babies cloth diapers at once, the "Great Diaper Change" is happening throughout the world at 12pm EST in an effort to establish a new Guinness World Record. I would love for any Ottawa city councillors who are concerned about disposable diapers and bi-weekly pickup to come out and join us, you can talk to families who use cloth diapers, and you can learn about what's involved in using cloth diapers (aside from the fact they are washable, they are just as easy to use as disposable diapers).

I certainly hope someone takes the time to get back to me about this. I have been rather disappointed in the limited responses I have ever received when I've tried to contact Ottawa councillors about this matter. Perhaps now that it's election time again, you'll have my attention. I know I won't be the only parent annoyed that I have to pay for other parents who don't consider the environmental effect of single-use diapers.

best regards,

Susie Pearson

Friday, March 18, 2011

Newborn diapering on the cheap

When parents come into the store considering cloth diapers, we generally encourage them to start with cloth diapers from day one so that it's all they know (there's nothing to 'adjust to', aside from the obvious -- having a baby!). The upfront costs of cloth diapering can be daunting, although no matter how you look at it, you will alway save money in the longrun. If the cost of diapering your newborn is indimidating, you should consider preemie prefolds.

Within the past year, the folks at Bummis introduced a 'preemie' sized prefold, intended to fit babies from 4-9 lbs. The name of this new size has proven to be a bit of a misnomer, most parents tend to overlook the preemie diapers because most babies are carried to term, parents generally don't plan for the possibility of a preemie baby. Nevertheless, we still encourage parents to consider stocking up on preemie prefolds, even though they may not get used for a long time, they offer considerable bang for the buck. There is a bit of overlap between the preemie prefold and infant prefolds, which fit from 7-15 lbs, but if you have a baby who weighs less than 8 lbs, the smaller fit of a preemie prefold will be considerably less bulky on your little one than an infant prefold.

In terms of what kind of cover to use with a preemie prefold, we suggest parents consider the size one Thirsties duo wraps which fit from 6-18 lbs (you can continue to use them with the infant prefolds when you size up), or the newborn Bummis super lite covers, which fit from 6-10 lbs, and feature an umbilical scoop to prevent the top of the cover from rubbing against your newborn's cord stump (which is as attractive as it sounds). We recommend that parents have 2-3 dozen diapers on hand to reduce the workload involved in washing diapers for those first few weeks. Newborn babies poop a lot (a lot!!), the more diapers you have on hand, the less frequently you will have to wash them. 2-3 dozen diapers (and 4-6 covers) would see you washing diapers once every 2-3 days for the first 6-8 weeks, which is totally manageable.

The upfront cost for 2 dozen preemie diapers and 4 newborn Bummis super lite covers would be $73.96. You can expect to change at least 12 diapers/day for the first 4 weeks of your baby's life. A single-use diaper costs approximately .25 cents, you would spend roughly $84.00 on garbage single-use diapers in the same timeframe. Look at that, you've already saved $10.00! Consider the fact you can reuse your preemie prefolds with subsequent children, or that you can sell them to recapture some of what you paid (at least half!), and you're even further ahead. Furthermore, once you're done using the preemie prefolds as diapers, you can use them as wipes (preemie prefolds are actually less expensive than wipes) or doublers. Quite simply, preemie prefolds are the diaper that keeps on giving!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Who wants to sleep alone?

Last week, my husband and I watched Paranormal Activity 2, a prequel to the first movie that documented a couple who were being harrassed by a demon (not really, it's a movie-not-a-documentary). The prequel lays the foundation for the 'why' of the original movie, the demon has come to claim a family's firstborn son, an infant. The mother catches on pretty quickly to their new houseguest, but despite her fear, junior naps and sleeps in a crib in a separate room from the parents. I mean, really? Really???? You have a demon in your house, and you're not going to at least co-sleep? After the movie ended (sorry, I won't spoil the ending for you, you'll have to rent it), I took Grace out of her bed and brought her to bed with us. Yeah, I know it's a movie, but you can never be too safe, right? Right???

When we brought our first baby home, we co-slept with her for a few weeks, setting up a basinette in our bedroom, she was moved into her crib in a separate room when she was about eight weeks old. At the time, we had never even entertained the idea of bed-sharing. We moved Maddy into her room because that's what we thought we were 'supposed' to do -- conventional wisdom dictates that babies sleep in cribs. I can still remember the panic I felt at having her sleep apart from us. I kept a monitor in her crib, close to her face, I turned the speaker as loud as possible so I could hear her breathing. When I wasn't satisfied I could hear anything, I would creep into her room and check on her. Our (my) plans for a restful night's sleep were sidelined by worry and middle-of-the-night feedings.

When our second baby was born two years later, we kept her in our bed from day one. Maddy was sleeping through the night at that point, and we were worried that having a baby crying in her crib in the middle of the night would wake Maddy up as well. Once we started bed-sharing, we never looked back. Having Hannah in bed with us was reassuring, and the middle-of-the-night feedings were much easier to deal with. Instead of getting out of my bed, walking to a separate bedroom, and picking a baby up so that I could nurse her in a rocking chair, I simply rolled over, unclipped my nursing bra, and latched her on. I would often sleep through her feedings, as long as my breast was within reach, she would simply latch on and off throughout the night as needed. I was never worried about her safety in our bed -- I kept a pillow between Hannah and my husband, he's a deep sleeper, I wanted to make sure there was a barrier keeping him away from her. When I was facing Hannah, I would curl myself around her, when I would turn away from her, she would always shimmy herself close to my back. I made sure our covers were always pushed down so that nothing covered her face. Once Hannah was mobile, we started putting her down into her crib at the start of the night, I would nurse her down in the rocking chair, then transfer her to the crib. When we went to bed, I would bring her to bed with us, as long as she was nursing through the night, she slept with us. When Hannah was old enough to sit up, we would put a basket of toys in the bed, and if she woke up early, she would play between us while we slept -- it would only buy us an extra 20-30 minutes of shut-eye, but any parent knows how valuable that can be! What about our love life, you ask? There are other rooms in the house. We managed to conceive two more babies. Clearly, it didn't take a hit.

At the time, we endured plenty of comments from concerned family members (aka my mother) who insisted we were forming poor sleeping habits. Our child would never learn to soothe herself to sleep, and she would never be comfortable sleeping by herself. In short, we were 'breaking' our child by bed-sharing with her. When Hannah was 2.5 years old, we were expecting our third child. Hannah weaned at night shortly before he was born, and we moved her into her own bed in her own room. Was it hard? Not at all! In fact, we had an easier time transtitioning Hannah from our bed to her own bed than we did transitioning Maddy from the crib to her own bed. Furthermore, Hannah was much more secure sleeping by herself -- to this day, Maddy will not sleep with the door shut (she won't even go upstairs by herself during the day!).

When Owen was born, he slept in our bed (the same place he was born!). We had a harder time transitioning him out of our bed, he was almost three years old when Grace was born. It took a little while to figure it out, but Owen was just lonely at night by himself. We managed to transition him into Hannah's bed, he bed-shared with her for a little while, then we put a second twin bed in her room, and they shared a room. Owen is just a kid who doesn't like to sleep alone. He's five now, and he shares a room with Grace -- Grace slept in our bed until she was almost 2.5 years old, moving out of our bed into her own was easy. She's always been an independent child (understatement of the century!), she wants to do what the big kids do.

So all of the kids sleep in their own beds now, they all have different sleep habits, but we never had to 'train' any of them to sleep. I'm a firm believer that kids are born with different sleep habits, there will never be a 'one size fits all' approach to getting them to sleep. All you can do is adapt to their needs, you certainly can't 'ruin' a child by sleeping with them. Even now, I still occasionally bed-share with the kids, not because they want to, but because I do. When my husband goes out of town, I usually end up bringing one of them into our bed. I'm a big fraidy-cat, and besides, who wants to sleep alone?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

flippin' awesome!

Since becoming parents over a decade ago, my husband and I have recorded very little footage of our children, and it's something that I already regret. We've purchased various devices over the years with the intent to capture memories on film, both for our sake, and our children's sake, but we never really used any of them, save for a clip here and there. I have no video footage of myself as a child, I'm envious of people lucky enough to have home movies. The closest thing I have is a grainy video from our wedding with really bad sound, as bad as it is, I still like to watch it once in a while to see and hear my Dad.

This vacation, however, all of that has changed. I purchased a flip video camera (ultraHD 8GB, $179.99) for my business for the purpose of recording product reviews and tutorials. I didn't really intend to use the camera on vacation, I'm technically-challenged (understatement of the century), and I assumed it would take a while to figure it all out. Do you want to know how quickly I managed to figure it all out? I was recording footage withing two minutes of pulling out of the store's parking lot! The flip camera is *that* easy to use. One button start & stop, what could be easier than that? The camera comes with a small user guide, but it's interface is quite intuitive, other than a quick skim-through, I didn't really bother with the user guide.

The camera is very small, not much bigger than a cellphone, so it's easy to stow in my purse, it's always charged, so I've always got it handy, 'just in case'. So far, I've recorded 72 clips (!!!). Yes, I've gone completely overboard, I've already pared some of the videos down, the camera's preloaded software is rudimentary, but it allows me to edit the videos to the best of my ability (let's face it, I'm not going to get an Oscar for anything I record anytime soon). I can trim videos (cut off footage at the beginning and the end), merge videos, add music and titles -- I really have no need to do anything more than that. The preloaded software also gives me the ability to create still pictures from video footage, I haven't had the chance to get any developed yet, but given the quality of the video footage, I expect the stills will turn out well.

Downloading footage from the flip is quite easy, an attached USB arm, combined with its preloaded software, makes the task of storing video files a breeze. I simply plug the device into my laptop, and videos are saved to a folder (named with the month and year) and removed from the camera, while recharing the camera's battery at the same time. I don't have to fuss with cables or a charger, and I don't have to worry about video files being stored in 7 million diferent folders. It's a genius device, to be sure.

The high definiton video footage recorded by the flip camera is pretty great -- incredibly crisp, with clear audio. Image stabiliazition means the resulting footage is not shaky, no matter what I'm recording (if I'm walking and recording, the footage is remarkably steady). The camera's preloaded software makes it easy to share videos on various social media websites, though I've only uploaded videos to my Facebook account manually, I do not give any application access to my Facebook profile.

As great as this camera is, there are a couple of things I would change if I could. The zoom is not very powerful, it's sort of useless (I call it the 'baby zoom' when I'm recording -- and yes, I have to narrate everything). You're better off moving closer to whatever you're recording if you can, but in some instances (on a whale-watching tour, for example), that's impossible. The camera isn't great at recording in a dark setting, the resulting footage is grainy and unfocused (not that we record a lot at night, get your mind out of the gutters!). We took the flip to a family dinner last night, the restaurant's lighting was quite dim, and the resulting footage is not very clear. The power button is easy to turn on accidentally, though if unused for a short period, the camera shuts itself off.

Overall, I'm very (very!) pleased I made this purchase. The flip camera will be a great asset to the business -- our YouTube channel will be functional shortly, I think it will be a great way to connect with people about the products we sell. As a side benefit, our kids will one day be able to view snips and clips of their childhood. If they ask about life prior to 2011, I'll just have to tell them video cameras didn't exist (it will be our secret, right?).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Babywearing in a warm climate

Yes, it's an odd time of year to write about babywearing in hot weather, but this is the time of year when some of us are lucky enough to escape the frigid Canadian winter, fleeing to a warmer climate if only for a brief respite from the cold. If you walk into the Ottawa store on a particularly cold day, and I'm behind the counter, you will likely be greeted by some comment about the weather, and it likely won't be favourable. I am not a fan of winter. I don't ski or snowboard, so I view snow as a pointless inconvenience. Fortunately for me, I'm not in Ottawa right now (!!!).

My husband and I have escaped with the kids to Hawaii for a couple of weeks, a trip that's been over a year in the making has finally come to fruition, and we are enjoying the tropical weather of the Pacific islands. One of the must-haves on our packing list was our Manduca carrier; on the various trips that we have taken as a family throughout the years, slings have been an invaluable tool, a convenient way of toting our children around that gives them a birds-eye view of whatever we might be doing (on tomorrow's agenda: a whale-watching tour!). Grace is over two and a half years old, but still in need of being carried from time to time. Navigating through a busy airport with a walking two-year old would be impossible, and when we're sightseeing, sometimes she just gets too tired to walk (like today in Lahaina) -- it's nice to be able to scoop her up and pop her onto my back without missing a beat.

If you will be babywearing in a warmer climate, whether you're enjoying a hot Canadian summer, or you're lucky to be vacationing somewhere warm during a Canadian winter, there are things you can do to ensure a comfortable experience for both the babywearer (that's you!) and the babywearee (that's your child!).

Use a light-colored sling. Look around our store, and you may notice the lack of dark-colored slings. Yes, I stock a few in each brand, but I will freely admit that I often try to talk people out of buying dark-colored slings. From a practical point of view, they show dirt more readily than their lighter counterparts (a black sling with a baby prone to spit up = a nightmare!). Furthermore, dark-colored slings will feel hotter in the sun - your baby will feel a lot hotter in a black Ergo than she will in a camel-colored Ergo!

Use adequate UV protection. Young or old, when you're in the sun, UV exposure is a concern for everyone. If your baby is six+ months old, apply a safe sunscreen to any exposed skin, and put a brimmed hat on her head. If your baby is younger than six months old, consider using an umbrella with UV protection to protect her skin (added double bonus: the umbrella will protect your skin too, and it will keep you both cooler!).

Carry a spray bottle.  When water evaporates off of skin, it has a cooling effect (a fine mist will give you the benefit of sweating, without the sweat!).

Apply a cool, wet cloth to your (and your baby's) pulse points.  Wet cloth (any cloth!) applied to pulse points is an effective way to lower your core temperature.  The blood vessels in a pulse point are closer to the skin, so as blood passes through the vessel, it is chilled by the cool cloth.

Avoid being in the sun during peak hours. The sun is the strongest between 10am and 4pm. Avoid being outside with your little one in a carrier between these hours. You don't have to barricade yourselves indoors all day, use common sense to plan your outings -- go for a walk early in the morning, or before supper.

Dress yourself and your child accordingly. People are often concerned that babywearing in the summer will be too hot. It's not the sling that will make you hot, it's the little heat box nestled against you -- babies are naturally warm little creatures! Grace was born in early June, I was back to work within a week of her birth (one of the many 'benefits' of being self-employed). As a result, Grace spent the first three months of her life (the hottest months of the year) in a Boba stretchy wrap all day. I dressed her in nothing more than a onesie and a diaper, on particularly warm days, she wore only a diaper; I wore light t-shirts and tank tops to keep myself cool.

Keep yourself and your baby well-hydrated. Breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby frequently, and don't forget to drink plenty of liquids yourself.

Traditionally, many cultures in hot climates around the world have employed carriers in one form or another as a method of transporting babies and children; from Rebozos in Mexico to Kikoys in Kenya, hot climates are not a barrier to babywearing. With a little planning (and a lot of common sense), babywearing in warm weather is a safe and comfortable activity. Aloha!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homegrown lactivism

Breastfeeding was back in the news last week as Michelle Obama's attempts to encourage women to breastfeed drew criticism from conservative politicians across the United States. It's wonderful to see someone as influential as Michelle Obama stand up for breastfeeding, but did you know that we can all encourage positive change?

Donate your time to an organization that supports breastfeeding mothers
(La Leche League, Breastfeeding Buddies). If you don't have time to donate, consider making a small financial contribution to an organization that supports breastfeeding. Infant formula manufacturers have deep pockets to fund their research and advertising campaigns, committees that promote breastfeeding do not, every penny counts!

Donate breastmilk to a mother in need. If a mother cannot breastfeed herself, donated breastmilk is the next best option, however, there is currently only one (one!) breastmilk bank in Canada. Fortunately, a new milksharing organization called Eats on Feets pairs mothers in need of breastmilk with breastfeeding mothers. If you have a surplus of breastmilk stored in your freezer, consider donating it to someone else who could make good use of it.

Encourage and support your breastfeeding friends. Are you familiar with the term "It takes a village to raise a child"? The same adage applies to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be a challenge in those first few weeks, the more support a new mother has from her partner, family, and friends, the more likely she is to succeed at breastfeeding. What can you do to help? Cheer her on! Remind her why breastfeeding is important, and let her know what local resources are available. You're not being pushy, you're being supportive!

Choose your words carefully. The subject of feeding babies can be a divisive topic among mothers, there is no need for judgement or assumptions. I think it's safe to say that we all want what's best for our children, but without proper support at home, and without access to adequate breastfeeding resources, some mothers may not be able to establish a successful breastfeeding relationship with their baby, despite their best intentions. When I hear anyone use the phrase "didn't try hard enough" in relation to breastfeeding, I cringe. When you talk about breastfeeding, use positive, encouraging words.

Lobby your local MP to improve access to breastfeeding resources and government-funded milk-sharing banks. In response to the immediate success of Eats on Feets, Health Canada issued an advisory against breastmilk sharing. While we are fortunate in Ottawa to have access to a number of free breastfeeding resources, families in other cities aren't as lucky. Mothers should not be limited by location (or finances) if they need breastfeeding help. Considering the myriad of health benefits breastfeeding offers both mother and baby, rather than criticizing attempts to make breastmilk accessible to anyone who needs it, the Canadian government should consider how it can increase breastfeeding rates.

Breastfeed in public. As more people exposed to it, the more normal breastfeeding will seem. Use a cover if it makes you feel comfortable, though if you watch yourself breastfeed in a mirror, you may be surprised at how little is revealed.

Stand up for your rights. If you are breastfeeding in public, and someone challenges you about your rights, challenge them right back. Many people still don't realize what that breastfeeding mothers have rights, there is nothing wrong with educating them about it. If you meet resistance, ask to speak with management. If that doesn't work, approach the media. You're not attention-seeking, you're standing up for yourself and your baby. When the media runs a story about a woman being denied the right to breastfeed in public, it provides a great opportunity to educate the general public about breastfeeding rights.

Talk to children about breastfeeding. On at least two occassions, I've had the opportunity to explain to my children's friends how I was feeding my baby (it only took them two years to notice, lol). If your community offers a Roots of Empathy program within its school system, perhaps you and your baby can participate -- in addition to encouraging positive social behaviour, and reducing peer aggression, it's a great way to model positive parenting. If children are exposed to the idea of breastfeeding, it may affect the choices they make as parents.

It's encouraging to see increased breastfeeding rates in Canada, but there's still room for improvement.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Things that make me feel old.

It's official, I can't pretend anymore that aging doesn't bother me. Today, I heard (read) the depressing news that Gabrielle Carteris, the actress who played Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills 90210, has turned fifty. That's 5-0. Eeek! Of course, it's not that news alone that makes me feel old. Rather, it's a combination of things, a collection of random happenings that, when considered independently, aren't such a big deal, but when considered collectively, eeek! I mean seriously, eeek!

  1. The fact that someone reading this may not realize I'm not talking about today's 90210 (a bucketload of crap, for the record), but that I'm talking about the *original* Beverly Hills 90210 that aired over 20 years ago.
  2. The fact that the original Beverly Hills 90210 is over 20 years old! I remember being glued to the trials and tribulations of Brandon, Brenda, Dylan, Kelly, Donna, David, and Andrea like it was yesterday. Yesterday!
  3. I have grey hairs. Plural. I used to pluck them, but I've given up on that strategy, I don't want to add thinning hair to my CV of aging (of course, now I'm sort of tempting the powers-that-be, aren't I?).
  4. My ass is flat. Like a pancake. You think these would help? It would be our secret, promise not to tell anyone, k?
  5. My nipples have a mind of their own. Let me tell you, it's a sad day when you have to manually adjust your breasts in your bathing suit so that they're facing the same way.
  6. I'm turning 37 this year. Sure, it seems like a random number to get upset about, but it means I'm in my 'late thirties' now. Not my early thirties, not my mid-thirties, but my late, holy-shit-I'm-so-old thirties. Oh, the humanity!
  7. When I fill out surveys that ask for your age, I have to select the '35+' age bracket. Have they no compassion?
  8. Whenever I go to the liquor store, I secretly pray that the clerk will card me. I would tip him if he did. Yes, I'm offering, if any LCBO clerks are reading this.
  9. George Clooney is dating someone younger than me. I remember when I was young, and he was old. Touché, George, touché.
  10. I know people who were born in the 1980s who are parents now.
  11. I can remember the 1980s.
  12. I call the 1980s 'the 1980s'.
  13. I love pants with elastic waistbands. Like my mother and my mother-in-law. They are over 60. It's embarrassing that we could probably share a wardrobe. No offense to either of you, of course.
  14. I wear pyjamas to the movies, confirming the obvious, I value comfort over fashion. I like to think running shoes class up the outfit, my husband disagrees. Who's right?
  15. I cannot watch an entire movie without peeing. And trampolines are not my friend.
  16. I play indoor soccer in a league that does not have age restrictions. 18 year old girls have boundless energy. And strong bladders.
  17. When talking to my kids, I have prefaced sentences with 'When I was your age...'.
  18. The upcoming NKOTBSB tour. Admit it, it's kind of depressing.
  19. Facebook. Specifically, seeing pictures of high school friends on Facebook. I would prefer to pretend we are all still 18 years old. It's kind of sad to see the captain of the football team with thinning hair, glasses, and a paunch that suggests he's 7 months pregnant. Damn you, Father Time, damn you to hell!
  20. My metabolism appears to be broken. Or quite possibly, stuck in reverse.
  21. My memory appears to be broken. You know it's bad when you're watching TV, and you turn the channel during commercials, then forget what you were watching to start with. I should start writing it down.

I'm sure there's more, but I forget. Whoever coined the phrase "You're only as young as you feel" was probably 18 years old. Similarly, the person who claimed that stretchmarks are a 'badge of honor' likely has no stretchmarks. Whatever, I have to go pee.