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Saturday, April 30, 2011

April Poll Results: Is competition good for our children?

This month we asked the question: Is competition good for our children? Should parents teach their kids to be competitive?

A. Yes! Competition helps prepare kids for the real world.
B. No! Competition creates winners and losers. All kids need to feel like winners.
C. Depends on the situation.
Our society honours the elite and rewards the victor. Our kids learn early on about competition. On the one hand, I look forward to Jack's upcoming involvement in organized sports. He has his first soccer game today. Playing sports will teach him about working as part of a team. But it will also teach him about competition, winners and losers. I worry about how he will form these concepts in his mind.

A small percentage of you (5%) feel that we shouldn't teach our kids to be competitive, that competition creates winners and losers and that all kids need to feel like winners. But competition is a fact of life. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we don't. How can we help our kids to compete - because they will have to if they want to be part of a sports team, in order to someday have the career they want and so on - without crushing their spirit?

Half of you were on the fence. Perhaps you recognize the realities and benefits of competition, but have reservations about some of the negative aspects of competition, particularly with respect to young children. Well, maybe competition in and of itself is not the problem. Maybe it's how we frame it for our children that matters. According to a Cross Country Canada writer, "Competition is not a problem for young children, in fact it can be very positive. Problems only arise when someone else - usually a poorly informed coach or an overly enthusiastic parent - distorts competition by overemphasizing the value of winning."

Retrieved April 30, 2011 from http://www.highfive.org/Resources/Sport.aspx

Almost half of you (45%) believe that teaching our kids to be competitive is a good idea. You recognize that there are benefits to learning to compete. Competitive sports in particular can help children:
  • learn to work as part of a team
  • learn to manage success and disappointment
  • learn patience and perseverance, particularly when pursuing goals
  • learn respect for others
  • gain physical fitness and develop body awareness
  • gain confidence in their abilities and improve their self esteem
Source: http://www.cccski.com/main.asp?cmd=doc&id=1277&lan=0
Okay, so how do we embrace competition in a way that helps our kids to benefit from it without developing in them an unhealthy need to win? Gail Bell of Parenting Power offers this advice:
Competition is real life – but the important thing is how children learn to deal with it and what they learn from it.  The biggest lesson is: sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  However – it is an experience – it is NOT about whether you are a loser or a winner.  It is about having an experience and what we can learn from that experience as a person, what adjustments we might choose to make, and how we grow as a person. 
At Parenting Power we encourage parents right from the get go to make all their children’s encounters and experiences real – so yes, they will lose a game or a running race – even at age two, and that is perfectly okay and normal.  We believe that parents should be focusing on the values around the experience – playing fair, honesty, effort, perseverance, patience, etc.  Children learn more about how capable they are when they make mistakes, have failures or lose – because they learn to have self-confidence in trying again and that the experience itself doesn’t define them as a person. This is also another opportunity for parents to teach and guide their children on how to deal with their feelings appropriately that may arise from competition.  Feelings are real – the key is what we do with them and what we learn from them.
Whatever our kids are engaged in we can encourage their efforts rather than rewarding the end result only when it is a 'winning' result. This should help them to continue to work hard and to try again if they miss the mark. The more they come to believe in their abilities the better. There in lies the real competitive advantage.

For further research

If you'd like to further investigate the topic of competition, its benefits and its potential causes for concern, here are some additional readings:

The Benefits of Competition http://www.cccski.com/main.asp?cmd=doc&id=1277&lan=0

Why Kids Are So Competitive -- and How Parents Can Teach Fairness http://www.familycircle.com/teen/parenting/self-esteem/why-kids-are-competitive1/

Friday, April 29, 2011

I am tired of snow!

A busy day today. A playgroup to attend, a wedding to watch... and it's still snowing outside so there is shoveling in my future. Everything is covered in a blanket of white today, two days from the first of May. None of us here are surprised, but we are getting tired of it. Yesterday as it began to fall, someone carved a message in the snow.

This picture sums up my feelings precisely:

Have a fabulous Friday. Stay warm!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Parking Karma

I swear this is true. I have the best parking karma! When I need a spot close to the door - bam! Front row parking.

I started noticing this a few years ago, and since then have been making sacrifices to the parking gods in order to continue my good fortune. When I don't need a close spot, I park far away, leaving the close spot for someone who does need it that day. Days when I have to carry a baby or use a stroller, or on days when I am in a mad rush, my close parking space is there waiting for me.

Retrieved April 28, 2011 from http://iwmft.typepad.com/tame_your_money_anxiety/

Now it may be that my excellent parking karma is extending itself into other areas. The other day, while Jack was at preschool, I parked in a far away spot. After my appointment as I drove away, I was warned of a speed trap by an angel in a pick-up truck. (The cop was at the bottom of a steep hill. It's tough to stay under the speed limit on that hill... especially if you're someone - like me - who thinks life is too short to drive under the speed limit!) Lucky me to happen by at the exact time that someone else was driving the other way flashing his brights. Thank-you kind sir!

Naysayers will believe that this is all coincidence. Well, call it what you will. Sports athletes have done way stranger things in order to continue a winning streak. And besides, allowing someone else to have a close parking spot on a day when I'm not in a hurry is just a nice thing to do. It's a win-win.

I wonder how far this parking karma thing can go? If I park even further away from the door, maybe next time all the lights will be green on my drive home. Maybe all I'll have to do is think Excuse me, and cars will move out of the way for me. Maybe when I get home, the driveway will have already been shoveled! ... Maybe I'm pushing my luck.

I don't want to anger the parking gods by abusing the parking priviledges I have, so I think I'll just be happy with a good spot when I need one. (Okay, I swear I am not planning this, but everything I write this week is pointing back to this post about Tom Shadyac's documentary I AM, and the idea of people taking only what we need. Interesting.)

Have a great Thursday, and may you find the parking spot you need today and every day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Is your child gifted?

Have you been told that you have a gifted child, or do you wonder if your child is gifted? How can you find out for sure? What does it mean to have a gifted child and how can you help them?

Retrieved April 27, 2011 from http://www.itsamomsworld.com/baby_developer_gifted.html

In this video, registered psychologist Veronica Dixon does a good job of answering these questions. She also makes it very clear why you might want to put your gifted child into a special program. Dixon says there are two main benefits:

1. To prevent the child developing boredom and low motivation.
2. To enable the child to reach their capacity

Gifted children may downplay or deny their abilities in order to fit in with other kids. This can lead to disinterest in academic pursuits and low self-esteem. The gifted child will not be adequately challenged in the mainstream educational program and may eventually drop out of school.

Here's the video:

I used to wonder if placing a child in a gifted program was really the best idea. I wondered if segregation of any kind is ever a good idea. Would a child be picked on for being different? The term 'gifted' kind of turns me off. It refers to academic skill and suggests that others are less gifted. High IQ, or academic prowess, is just one measure of intelligence, so I have some trouble with the label. If we talk about gifts in general, meaning a child's unique exceptional talents, skills or interests, then I can better appreciate the recommendation to provide specialized training to enhance these skills.

If it's true that we all are on our own path and will be happiest when we are developing our unique talents, then specialized support makes sense. Dixon said that denying these talents leads to low self-esteem and higher drop-out rates. It's not hard to imagine how a life can spiral out of control from there.

Yesterday, I talked about Tom Shadyac's new documentary I AM (see I Choose Community, not Competition) and his view that "If you don't do what your heart wants you to do and follow your passion, it will destroy you." Tom Shadyac discovered this late in life. It was a near death experience that opened his eyes and inspired him to radically change his life. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all follow our interests right from the beginning.

As a parent it makes sense to help our child to understand her unique gifts and to support her learning in those areas. As far as being picked on for her unique talents, well that's probably going to happen anyway. Childhood, and the teasing that sometimes goes along with it, only lasts so long - the negative effects of denying a gift or interest may last a lifetime. We can help our children to deal with any teasing or bullying by reminding them that the world is a more beautiful place because of the variety within it. We can also help them to make smart choices about friendships with kids that 'get' them and support their interests.
''Doing your own thing'' is a generous act. Being gifted creates obligations, which means you owe the world your best effort at the work you love. You too are a natural resource.
Barbara Sher

If you have a child in the public school system, testing may be available to place your child in an appropriate program. Talk to the administrator at your child's school. Children outside of the school system can be assessed by a psychologist in private practice. See your local listings.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Choose Community, not Competition

Tom Shadyac, the multimillionaire movie producer of comedies like Lie to Me and Bruce Almighty, gave most of his money away and simplified his life for greater happiness (see the text of his interview with Oprah here). He has recently released a documentary called I AM.

Tom Shadyac (left) and Morgan Freeman (right)
Retrieved April 26, 2011 from http://www.fanpix.net/picture-gallery/tom-shadyac-picture-13360932.htm

I appreciate the message he is trying to convey. We belong to a society that values competition over cooperation. We honour those that excel to the highest positions and we tend to rank ourselves against all others based on superficial qualities like income and assets. I've always had a problem with this way of thinking. Yet, competition is a reality. It's part of our sports-playing and sports-watching lives. It's what we face when we begin any kind of career - we are in competition with the others who want a share of the same market. But once we get a big enough piece, we often continue to work for additional pieces of the pie - someone else's share - and yet are no happier.

I really related to Shadyac's comments on excess from his new documentary I AM. He states,
"There's one fundamental law all of nature obeys that mankind breaks everyday. this is a law that’s evolved over billions of years… & the law is this:
Many of us have much more than we need. Society tell us we're not good enough if we haven't accumulated certain kinds of things: big, well-appointed houses, fancy cars, and the right brand-name clothes. But if we do what everyone else does, then we aren't being true to ourselves. As Shadyac says, "If you don't do what your heart wants you to do and follow your passion, it will destroy you." Stuff can never fill a void, no matter how shiny the stuff or how much of it we accumulate. I've talked about stuff before (see I want a new mommy! to access the Story of Stuff video). Anytime I start thinking I need something - new furniture, new clothes, anything - I ask myself two things:

1. Will buying it make me any happier than I already am?
2. How could that money be better spent?

Unlike Shadyac I don't have many millions of dollars to spend, save or donate, so I have to make choices. It's not that I never buy myself anything that I don't need. But I consider why I want it and what buying it will do for my spirit. Do I really need another pair of shoes? Not just any other pair of shoes, no. Not those brand name shoes that everyone else is buying... Noooo! But those ones that would look amazing with the rest of my wardrobe... and are on sale? Oh, yes! Shadyac isn't suggesting we give up all of our stuff. He wants only that we take a look at our lives and ask ourselves what it is that truly gives us joy.

I also think of things in terms of energy expended - meaning the physical, mental, and emotional energy that goes into the choices I make. Those resources are limited too and it helps to consider where that energy is best spent. I'm much better off doing the things that make me happy then worrying about what will make me appear to be more successful in the eyes of others.

I suppose we could all stand to learn something from the more cooperative animal world, and begin to embrace concepts like 'community' again. When it comes to stuff, one way that I do this is by sharing some of my stuff with others. When I'm done with things I try to pass them on to someone else that can use them. I take care of my stuff, so often it has plenty of wear left in it. One way to share things is by freecycling them. Find out how to freecycle your stuff at freecycle.org.

The documentary, I AM is playing in theatres across the United States. Check here for a theatre near you. Hopefully, it will be available in Canada soon. For now, here's a sneak peek:

For more, see the I AM press kit.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Parents: Do you set boundaries? Tell me how!

According to John Rosemond, the problem with parents today is that they have no boundaries. He speaks mainly of mothers, claiming that they have trouble saying 'no'. Rosemond believes that "the biggest problem in American parenting today is the lack of a physical or emotional boundary between parent and child, and especially mother and child.”

I'm trying to be offended, but the trouble is I think he's right. I'm not sure why it is - maybe it's the constant societal pressure to raise top-notch versatile geniuses - but many moms today have trouble allowing themselves a life outside of their motherhood role. The focus of everything they do is on the children. I'm guilty of this at least from time to time.

Sometimes I get it right. My recent discussion of how I'm protecting 'quiet time' (see Quiet Time: A Welcome Daily Ritual) is an example of one way that I'm creating boundaries.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artfullysew/sets/72157623881015959/

As one of five kids, I didn't get a lot of attention from mom. She was there. She looked after my basic needs and spent a good amount of time educating me. But she didn't entertain me, and she took time for herself. I have very distinct and numerous memories of her sitting on the family room couch and, on nice days, a lounger in her bathing suit reading a book. I also remember her taking out several books from the library at a time. Mom was an avid reader.

Well, here I am, a mother and lover of books, complaining frequently about not having enough time to myself to read. Rosemond, a family psychologist, says clients complain to him all the time that their children won't leave them alone. The child, he says, is not the problem. The parent is the problem and the solution is in their hands.

It's amazing the guilt we moms feel if we're not meeting our child's every need. I've been sick with a cold for the past week and a half - Jack too, which means we've been home... together... all day long... for a whole week. I was too tired to be Jack's playmate for the duration, so we watched a little more TV than usual. It was all excellent educational programming, but I felt guilty nonetheless. I talked myself out of that eventually and decided to give myself a break. After all, Jack was well cared for and happy. At least on sick days, that is an appropriate measure of success.

In February, I asked the question, Do you Take Time for Yourself Each Day? Most of us are making some time for ourselves, but there's still room for improvement. My challenge as a stay-at-home mom with many other interests besides mommyhood, is to take time for myself without the guilt. I'm grateful to John Rosemond today for giving me one more good reason to do so.

If you'd like to read more of Rosemond's blunt but thought-provoking article, you can find it here: http://www.sunherald.com/2011/04/23/3050672/the-problem-with-parents-today.html

Care to share your thoughts on this topic? How do you set boundaries?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone! The Easter bunny came by some time in the night. That Peter Cottontail is very good at hiding eggs in plain sight. Yellow eggs hidden on yellow toys, a green egg hidden in the jaws of a crocodile... Jack had fun finding the eggs and then hiding them again so we (mom and dad) could have fun finding them too.

Bright and Crafty Easter Eggs

It's a beautiful day out there. Time to go out into the garden!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Northlight: Book Review and Interview with Deborah Ross

Recently I read the book Northlight by Deborah Ross. It's categorized as science fiction and fantasy, but it's light on the science fiction side. The world created by the author is fantastical, but also very similar to that on Earth. It's more realistic than it's categorization implies. As the author puts it, it's really "a tale of healing and adventure and some very cool horses" (Northlight Introduction).

Please click here to enjoy my review of Northlight and interview with Deborah Ross.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Skeptical Reader: Do First-Born Boys Really Demand More Mommy Time?

I came across a parentdish.com article this morning that referred to new findings that women (in certain large countries - the US, the UK, Italy and Sweden) who have first-born boys are working less. Parentdish based it's story on a Wall Street Journal article - in fact lifted one entire section of text from the Wall Street Journal article and pasted it into their own. The Wall Street Journal references the abstract of a discussion paper by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR). My guess is that neither of these reporters read the full text of the discussion. I'd bet money that the Parentdish author didn't even bother to read the abstract and read only the Wall Street Journal article.

Here's the relevant text from the abstract of the CEPR discussion. 
"We show that in the US, the UK, Italy and Sweden women whose first child is a boy are less likely to work in a typical week and work fewer hours than women with first-born girls. The puzzle is why women in these countries react in this way to the sex of their first child, which is chosen randomly by nature. We consider two explanations. As Dahl and Moretti (2008) we show that first-born boys positively affect the probability that a marriage survives, but differently from them and from the literature on developing countries, we show that after a first-born boy the probability that women have more children increases. In these advanced economies the negative impact on fertility deriving from the fact that fewer pregnancies are needed to get a boy is more than compensated by the positive effect on fertility deriving from the greater stability of marriages, which is neglected by studies that focus on married women only."
Somehow, from the above abstract, the Parentdish writer concluded that First-Born Boys Demand More Mommy Time. That's an interesting spin - it's the one that piqued my interest and sent me to their site to read the article - but it's not at all what the CEPR discussion paper found. The findings are simply that moms with first-born boys work less. I read the discussion paper and can not find a way to draw the conclusion that the Parentdish writer has. The CEPR discusses two potential reasons why moms with first-born boys work less: the "desire for a son effect" and the "divorce effect". Here is the text from the CEPR discussion paper:
"As shown by Bedard and Dech´enes (2004) the rate of marital dissolution is 4% higher for women whose first-born child is a girl. We refer to this second channel as to the divorce effect. Since women in unstable marriages have fewer children over their lifetime, the gender of the first-born child has ambiguous effects on fertility in countries where divorces are more likely. On the one hand, a first-born boy increases the probability of marital stability (the “divorce effect”) and, as marital stability implies more births, it may also increase fertility. On the other hand, having a first-born boy reduces the need of other pregnancies (the desire for a son effect)."
I find that the abstract doesn't represent the findings well enough and is confusing enough to be misleading. Perhaps this is why reporters are having a hard time getting it right. The conclusion of the discussion paper was well written and better reflects the findings of the study:
"We have shown that in the US, the UK, Italy and Sweden women whose first child is a boy are less likely to work in a typical week and they do so for fewer hours than women with first- born girls. Our estimates are statistically significant and translate into quantitatively relevant labor income losses over the lifetime. The effect of the first child sex is the combined result of at least two important sets of channels. To begin with, a first-born son reduces fertility because fewer pregnancies are needed to have a son (the desire for a son effect). Because of lower fertility, mothers of first-born sons should work more, and this is typically the evidence found in developing countries. But the sex of the first child affects fertility also in an opposite way, by making the marriage more stable in case of a first-born boy (the divorce effect). We show that in advanced economies this effect dominates and fertility increases when the first child is a male. For this reason, in the countries that we consider, a first-born boy decreases maternal labor supply."
This is why it's important to read not just the abstract but the entire article where possible.

While the numbers used to draw the above conclusions may be statistically significant, I'm not convinced that they are clinically relevant (i.e. meaningful in the real world). However, the CEPR did find a relationship between first-born boys and decreased maternal labour supply. I just can't get my head around the conclusion that first-born girls more often lead to divorce - 4% more often. Is this really a number we can trust? I'd want to see this study replicated, and I'd care more if Canada had been included in the study.

What's the moral of this story? Don't believe everything you read. In particular, when you read a report on a finding, see if you can dig up the original discussion or journal article from the people who researched the topic. Be wary of the spin that a reporter can put on a headline. The Parentdish article is very misleading. When you read an article that appears to take a number of quotes from another article and merely rearrange them (in this case in misleading ways), be skeptical. 

Be your own judge. If you'd like to read the full text of the original CEPR discussion paper, you can download it here.

EDITED TO ADD: A friend in the research field has this to say about the study:
- First, I don't believe that gender has anything to do with working. What are the underlying variables? Did the researchers control for culture, or for predetermined decisions not to work after children? For example, maybe those women had previously decided not to work after children. Maybe those women are immersed in cultures where the mom is expected to stay home. I would have been interested to see the religious and ethnic demographics. I also think it would have been more interesting to see a longitudinal study where women were polled on their plans for work after children before they knew the gender.

- As for the higher divorce rate, again I think there are too many other variables which are likely to be underlying this phenomenon which were not controlled for. Were those marriages stable before kids? What beliefs do these couples hold about gender (i.e. Is producing a son expected or seen as an obligation)? What are the medical and behavioral histories of these children ( maybe those in the divorce category had children who experienced more issues)? What else happened after the baby was born (were there any other life problems such as financial issues, medical problems, family concerns)?

Essentially, I think that making the conclusions that these authors did is premature and misleading.
Thanks for your input, JR. These are excellent points!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How long should you nurse your child?

I read a brief article this morning on the stigma associated with nursing a toddler, and it took me back in time. I nursed Jack until he was 14 months old. He was such a mature looking baby - lots of hair on that kid - that people always guessed he was much older. Even though I stopped nursing at 14 months, most people thought I was nursing a two-year-old. I got some really interesting looks. Some people looked disgusted. Others would look at my child, then look up at my face as if there were some clues there. These people were confused. Why was I still nursing my child?

The only reason I stopped nursing at 14 months is because I needed my body back. I had started to experience some things that told me that my health was beginning to suffer, and I knew that nutrition-wise Jack didn't need it anymore. He was drinking mostly cow's milk by then anyway, nursing only in the morning and at night. Still, it was difficult to stop nursing. Jack clearly still valued the closeness and security that is part of the nursing experience. And my goal had been to nurse until he was two years old. Why until he was two? Looking back on it, for no good reason.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends nursing exclusively for the first six months and continuing to nurse until the child is at least two years old. There is some support for these recommendations, but they are somewhat arbitrary also. A child is probably as well off as any other if he nurses only for a few months, or nurses in combination with formula, and certainly there are countless examples of kids fed formula exclusively that lead normal healthy lives. Consider too how unhealthy it may be for a baby to be in the care of a completely stressed out mother who is trying to do it all right! There is quite a bit of pressure to meet the WHO standards. Most of us feel we've succeeded if we make it six-months. If we are unable to for any number of reasons, it can make us feel that we have failed.

Nursing is not as easy as we all assume it should be. I remember being pregnant and just assuming that nursing my baby would be the easy part. Other moms I have talked to have expressed the same feelings. They were surprised at how hard it was. Many times I nearly stopped nursing because the challenges were many, but I carried on, probably propelled by a sense of duty. New moms hear all about the joys and benefits of nursing, but what they also need to hear is that challenges are normal and common and that baby will be just fine if not breastfed. A rested, happy and available parent has to be of far greater value than a continued struggle to provide breast milk. For more on this issue, read this post about the pressure to breastfeed.

I nursed exclusively, and it near killed me. I listened to the advice warning against giving my baby a bottle before he was six weeks old, in order to avoid the so-called nipple confusion. Could we not have come up with a more ridiculous name for what sometimes happens when young babies are given bottles or pacifiers? I avoided bottles and soothers for six weeks, and then found that my son would not take one no matter what we tried. Jack suffered from acid reflux and fed every hour or two for months. Needless to say, I slept very little during that time. If I were to have a second child I would ignore this advice, recognizing it for what it is - a battle cry of The Breast is Best Brigade and nothing more, something to keep in mind if things go wrong, but not a working principle. I would have someone else give my child a bottle at least once every day very early on. The baby's dad could be involved. Why should he be left out of the early feeding experience?

Returning to the original question, how long should you nurse your child? It seems to me that the healthiest option is the one that suits the individual baby and mother best. If the WHO recommends nursing for two years and beyond, why then are people so put off by the practice? We moms feel like failures for nursing less than two years and we feel like pariahs if we do nurse that long or longer. There's no way to win this one.

Once you become a parent you are automatically entered into a world of judgement. Other parents, and non-parents too, will cast judgement on your parenting decisions and will have no problem telling you what they would have done differently. Probably we've all done it ourselves. Since there's no way to please everyone anyway, why not do what's best for you and your child? Trust your gut. Do what brings you and your baby the most joy, while doing the best you can nutritionally. Find like-minded moms to share your experience with. The support is priceless (see my post A special thank-you to my friends) And just breathe!


NOTE: As always, my ramblings should not be substituted for the advice of a professional. If you are struggling or have questions about feeding your baby there are many doctors, nurses and support organizations that can help. Talk to your local health region for recommendations.

Monday, April 18, 2011

An evening of music: Brentano String Quartet

Last night a friend and I saw the Brentano String Quartet perform a number of different pieces including Beethoven Quartet Opus 135. Our favourite moment of the night was hearing the 3rd movement of this Beethoven piece, the Lento Assai. It's a beautiful movement, and even more so when you can see it not just in your mind's eye but also in the movement of the musicians' bodies. I love watching a quartet perform. Each musician's contribution is uniquely beautiful yet they are all part of the same organism. If you ever have a chance to see a quartet live, take it!

The second favourite moment for me, just because it was in perfect contrast to the hoity-toityness of the concert atmosphere, was at dinner before the concert when Jack was blowing bubbles in his milk. The bubbles were overflowing the glass and making a right mess. I put a napkin under his glass and left him to it. We forgot to bring toys for Jack to play with at the restaurant, so I was just happy he found a way to entertain himself. Then Jack spilled his glass of milk, what was left of it, all over my pants.

Wet again. A friend of mine - a saint with four children - once described her early parenting years as always being wet. I now get that. I quietly cleaned myself off, cleaned my chair, cleaned the table, cleaned the floor, sat down and took another bite of my cornbread. It was an accident, what else was there to do?

Here are the Brentano String Quartet playing another piece (not performed last night, but one I quite like), Haydn String Quartet in D minor, Op. 76, No. 2 ("Quinten"). Enjoy!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Choir

Nothing beats the sound of a good choir. Today I'd like to share with you a video recently sent to me by a friend. (Thanks J. You were right in thinking that I would love this!) Eric Whitacre, a renowned composer, has created a virtual choir, 2000 voices strong, that you just have to see and hear to believe. It's nothing short of spectacular, and got me a little teared up.

Virtual Choir:
This video is about 15 minutes in length. I hope you enjoy it!

Now that's a great way to start a Sunday, don't you think?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Women's fiction versus other genres of literature

Today I wrote a response to a recent discussion on romance and chick-lit novels. The discussion began as a differentiation between the romance and chick-lit genres. Very enlightening, in my opinion. Then the comments began to come in - one in particular criticized the genres for being 'silly' and 'boring' - and I felt the need to speak out to defend them... though admittedly I myself have always scrunched my nose up a bit at the romance genre. Come on over to the book club and let me know your thoughts.

Click here to view my post on Cookie's Book Club.

Retrieved April 16, 2011 from http://www.greetings.ca/are-you-aware-of-the-romance-023120.php

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Snow Days and Sick Days

My son is at a fun age. I sure will miss his excitement and all of the things that he's so willing to share with me: hugs, kisses, funny stories... The one thing I will not miss him sharing with me is the common cold. It's been way too common around here this year. That's the trouble with preschoolers: they go to preschool and they come home with whatever new virus made it's way onto the toys that they all share. I know that this benefits Jack. His immune system is becoming highly robust.

If I have to be sick it may as well be on a day like today. When last I checked it was spring. But today everything is covered in a blanket of snow and it's still snowing. Just a few days ago I put away our winter coats and boots - not too far away, mind you. Winter gear never gets packed away in boxes and stored in the basement - not here in Coldville. Anyone remember Mr. Sneeze?

Atishoo! Ugh. Pardon me. I know how Mr. Sneeze felt. Anyone know where I can find a wizard? I dream that one will come and turn everything in my world a warm and sunny yellow. That way I won't have to move. I could retire here if it weren't for the winter that invades all other seasons. Winter, go away already. Yes, you're very formidable and awe-inspiring, but the other seasons are waiting patiently for their turns. Shoo!

I hope you are someplace warm today, or that you really like snow! Have a healthy day, friends!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

For my sister

My sister and I live many miles apart and have for years. We're also a few years apart in age, so while we spent time together as kids we didn't necessarily have the same interests. I can remember pestering her to play with me as a young child when all she wanted to do was read. Despite the age difference and geographical challenges, we have remained close. I'm so fortunate to have a big sister to lean on when times are tough and to share life's joys with. Today's post is dedicated to my sister.
There can be no situation in life in which the conversation of my dear sister will not administer some comfort to me.  ~Mary Montagu  
I have many fond memories of childhood with my sister, but the moments I treasure the most happened more recently. Maybe it's being out from under the expectations of parents, being in a position to be ourselves rather than the selves that fit the roles we were assigned. There's no need to be anything in particular. We can be boring together. We can be silly together. We can be the worst and the best of ourselves together. No matter what transpires, our bond grows stronger with time.
Having a sister is like having a best friend you can't get rid of.  You know whatever you do, they'll still be there.  ~Amy Li
I remember one night the two of us were getting ready to go out, side by side in front of a mirror. One of us said something to evoke a feeling of disgust and we both made the same sour face in the mirror. It shocked us, but why should it have? We may have been more shocked at how like our mother we both looked than how like each other. To me, it's an example of how very linked we are in our thoughts and feelings. There are things that we share that can't be found in any other relationship. Things that go beyond words and shared experiences.
Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply...  ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, 1814
I am grateful every day for my sister. No matter how much time goes by between phone calls and visits, she is always with me, guiding me and supporting me in everything that I do. Love you, B.
Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister.  ~Alice Walker

Source - Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_%281825-1905%29_-_Two_Sisters_%281901%29.jpg

Monday, April 11, 2011

Quiet Time: A Welcome Daily Ritual

I have a confession to make. I am not just a parent. I am also a human being, separate from my child, with needs of my own. One of those needs is the need for space inside my own head - silence, if I so choose - the absence of chatter. Freedom from such brain clutter as, "Mom, which train do you want to be?", "Mom, what do strawberries sound like when they're being eaten?", and "Mom, can you knit me something today? Tomorrow? Then when?" I can only respond to so many of these questions and demands before tuning out and then accidentally saying yes to something I didn't hear and wouldn't have said yes to if I had. "Mom, I'm going to kick the cat, ok?" "Un-hun.... Wait! What?"

The point is, sometimes I need a break to recharge. I used to do this while my son was napping. Jack rarely naps anymore, but we both continue to spend some time alone each day. We call it "quiet time" even though it frequently isn't... quiet, I mean. Once a day, I allow myself one hour of total freedom to do whatever I choose. You stay-at-home moms know how important this is. We love our kids, and we have opted to be home with them believing it to be the best choice for our families. But, we also recognize that a mom without time for herself is an unhappy mom. Our families want and need us to be happy. Around here - and around the world, I'll bet - there is a saying: When mama's happy, everybody's happy.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Treat: Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles

It's Sunday. Everyone is relaxing around the TV, or maybe you're finishing up some chores around the house. You're feeling a little peckish and you're craving something sweet. Sweet but healthy, you think. A piece of fruit? Well, not that healthy!

I have just the thing!

These Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles are sweet, and they're also packed full of important nutrients! They contain protein in the form of peanut butter and antioxidant power in the form of chocolate (the darker the better). They're also relatively easy to make. Enjoy!

Click here to view the recipe at Eating Well:
Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles

Source: Eating Well, http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/peanut_butter_pretzel_truffles.html

Edited June 4, 2013 to update recipe link.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Children's Author Spotlight: Margaret Wise Brown

Today I'd like to share with you another of our favourite authors. Margaret Wise Brown lived from 1910-1952, and in that time wrote hundreds of books for children. She wrote about things that children wanted to read about, the things that happened to them in their own lives. She was a pioneer in this respect, moving away from the traditional fairy tale and fable styles of storytelling.

Click here to read my review of our favourite Margaret Wise Brown Books.

Friday, April 08, 2011

What an adventure!

I'm back! Jack and I had a very fun and wonderful visit with his Auntie, Uncle and cousin. There were a few wrinkles, of course. Issues? When travelling with a preschooler? You don't say!

The trip started out very well. I was so relaxed that by the time Jack and I wandered through security, grabbed a snack, played in the kids play area and meandered to our gate, the last few people were boarding the plane. Oops. So much for pre-boarding. We may have been the last two on the plane. Our seats were, of course, at the very back. I arrived with my hands full, looking slightly mystified, when a hand reached out to grab my tea. Why, thank-you kind stewardess! Maybe a minute after I got all of our stuff stowed and Jack and I settled into our seats, we were backing away from the terminal. That worked out pretty well actually. Who wants to be on an airplane any longer than is absolutely necessary? The flight went well until the very end when all of the electronics had to be turned off and stowed. From then until we landed and deplaned, Jack screamed "iPAD, iPAD, iPAAAD!!!!!!" at the top of his lungs. I was very glad to be at the back of the plane. The funniest part of that experience was the pilot saying, "I think someone needs a WestJet spanking!" (Since I can't convey the perfect timing and delivery of that line, you'll just have to trust me that it was hilarious rather than creepy.)