September has been a busy month and one of the highlights? Having watermelons in our CSA share for 2 weeks. Although our CSA farm doesn’t produce any fruit (yet), for the past 2 years, they have partnered with a local melon producer so that us CSA members can enjoy awesome watermelon as part of our shares. The melon was so deliciously tempting that it only made it into 1 of 2 photos. We have extras of one veggie each week because I trade our herb every single time. We grow enough in our home garden and have no use for extra herbs.
From listening to numerous debates and discussions on living wages and from creating budgets based on various incomes, I can absolutely appreciate how difficult it would be to survive on a minimum wage income. Especially as a parent with dependents.
Typically, it isn’t just that you make minimum wage. You may not get enough hours to meet full-time requirements with one employer, so you need to work a few jobs to make enough money. You probably work more hours than you would if you had one full-time job. You may not be able to spend much time at home because you’re working. You have difficulty making ends meet because there are so many costs in life: shelter, clothing, food, your kids’ needs, aging parent’s needs, internet, phone, transportation. Life is complicated and complex, and having to struggle and constantly worry about meeting absolutely basic needs just makes everything more challenging.
As part of Food Secure Canada’s EatThinkVote campaign (Canada’s next federal election is October 19, 2015), they are pushing for a Canada with zero hunger. Their policy proposal to achieve this is to establish a national basic income. In short, this means that anyone falling below a certain income (designated poverty line) would be topped up to the basic income. The idea is that this would positively impact the mental and physical health of those who would have otherwise fallen below the poverty line.
I had never heard of the concept of the basic income floor before and was even more surprised to read that an experiment with a guaranteed annual income had been done from 1974-1979 in Dauphin, Manitoba. That’s almost 40 years ago! It was called MINCOME (a smash-up of “minimum income”). Everyone in the small town was eligible to participate in the experiment; benefits were dependent on factors such as family size and whether there were other income sources. Unfortunately, there was no report produced at the end of this field experiment. There have been subsequent analyses by universities and others that try to assess the costs and benefits of this experiment. The greatest benefit seemed to be for those who were low income but did not qualify for other established social security schemes and for those who were self-employed with no guarantee of income from year to year (agricultural base).
I think this is such an interesting concept but there would be lots of details to be worked out, like what exactly would the designated poverty line be? Would it be indexed to the cost of living in different areas of the country? What would be the most effective way of rolling out this type of policy?
We like to involve our toddler in as many aspects of our lives as makes sense. As a 1 year old, he does things like:
- help set the table by carrying utensils and plates from the kitchen to the table (in an adjoining room).
- wipe up spills, especially if he caused them.
- put things away after using them (toys into their basket, books onto the shelf, household items).
- wash vegetables.
- put groceries away after we buy them and bring them home.
- help carry laundry to the washing machine and put clothes into the washing machine (or take them out and put them into the laundry basket after they’ve been washed).
- sweep or vacuum.
- take out a wash cloth from the cupboard so that we can wipe/wash his face in the morning, then close the cupboard.
- throw garbage away (although he likes to take clean tissues out of the box and throw those away too).
- help empty the dishwasher,
- weed the garden and water the garden.
Someone asked me one day, “do you give your toddler chores?” I had to sit back and think about that, even ask for clarification, “can you explain what you mean?” because I had never really thought of these activities as chores. They’re just things that we do to help our household run smoothly and everyone does their part to help us achieve some end goal as a family (whether it be enjoying a meal together, maintaining a clean house, growing a garden).
Whether it be due to some combination of his personality and our mentality, he genuinely seems to enjoy helping us and shows pride in accomplishing things on his own. He observes us and likes to show us that he too can play his part. It is really amazing watching him pick up these skills…and I like to think of it as a little investment into our future. By having him participate early on, he’ll both know how to do things around the house (useful lifelong skill) and he’ll be accustomed to doing them as a member of our family. Maybe one day, he’ll ask if he can get paid for doing chores. A bridge we will cross if and when the time comes.
So to respond to that person who asked me if our toddler does chores, I said “our toddler loves to help us do things around the house”. After all, if you call it a chore, doesn’t it just become a chore?
In mid-July, we went raspberry picking at Proulx Berry Farm in Orleans. We are more accustomed to the busy seasons of strawberry and pumpkin picking, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there were just a few other groups of pickers for raspberries. Proulx is great as a U-Pick location. You pay a small admission fee per person but that cost is deducted from your berry price at the end (keep your entrance receipt!). Their pricing for both strawberries and raspberries seemed fantastic (compared to buying berries at the farmers’ markets). You take a short wagon ride (attached to a tractor – selling point for young kids) to and from the bushes. Raspberries are a bit easier to pick than strawberries as they grow on bushes (not along the ground). We went a few weeks into the season but there were lots of ripe berries to pick.
After we had finished picking, we enjoyed a pre-packed allergy-friendly lunch on a grassy area. Our toddler played on their play structure and with their numerous toy trucks in the sand ‘pit’ (really more like a huge pile of sand). We also visited their animals and looked at more tractors.
Young children are sponges. Everyone says it. Infants and toddlers seem absolutely interested in observing those around them and imitating them. In our household, we’ve tried to involve our toddler in our everyday activities. This, of course, would involve cooking. We built a Montessori learning tower and stood him up on it at kitchen counter height before his first birthday, so that he could see what we were doing as we prepared, cooked and plated food. We let him feel, smell and play with vegetables that we grow or pick up from our CSA share. If we harvest some kale or chard from the garden, he’ll help us wash the leaves. He mixes, pours and stirs things.
I’m not much of a fan of focussing on material possessions for birthday gifts, particularly for kids. My personal preference is to gift the gift of an experience. That could be a gift certificate to a paint-your-own-ceramic studio, some books and a pair of PJs, a crafted toy for imagination galore.
So to bring these two things together, I sewed some toddler-sized aprons for the 1 year olds in my life. My hope is that they can be used for arts and crafts, water play or cooking (read: versatile) and they’ll entice kids into the kitchen (and encourage parents to have their kids join them – since I know some folks don’t want to deal with mess…enter the apron!).
They weren’t absolutely perfect but my technique improved with each apron (shows I can still learn!). There is a nice big pocket on the front with a loop where you can slip a wooden spoon through. The apron folds up nicely so that the pocket is on top and the apron ties can be used to present the apron as a neat square gift. I slotted a wooden spoon through and added two felt carrots that I made to finish off the presentation.
New this week: potato, tomatoes, cabbage and eggplant! It’s certainly feeling like summer, with the tomatoes and eggplant.
We’re having a hard time keeping up with the zucchini and cucumbers because we get a handful of each per week (for the past few weeks). Zucchini, I will just keep blanching and freezing. Cucumbers, I think I’ll try my hand at pickling this weekend; just an overnight brining then some apple cider vinegar, sugar and garlic cloves?
Usually I am ALL OVER the kale in our shares but this year, we also planted a lot of kale in our veggie garden. Luckily everyone’s kale is doing great (I swear kale is a weed!) but that also means that we have a ton of kale. We’ve had a few containers of kale chips on our counter at any one time over the past few weeks. I think I’ll be blanching and freezing this week’s bunch of kale and any more that we can harvest from the garden.
The beets are delicious right now, sweet but not too earthy…but I know that we will be getting lots of beets in the fall so I’m having mixed feelings about all of the summer beets. Beets every week for half a year…. However, I do love that we get those beautiful beet greens during the summer; those we won’t see come fall!
I feel that as I get older, time seems to pass ever so quickly. Could it be that today is the last day of 2014? Many of my reflections for this past year are related to my new role as parent, which shouldn’t be surprising I suppose as I spent much of the past year as a stay-at-home mother.
What disappointed me?
One of my core mantras is to treat others as I would like to be treated. In some moments over the past year, I haven’t been true to this mantra with my partner. I may have been exhausted from caring for a cranky clingy baby all day, I may have wondered why he couldn’t just read my mind instead of asking me questions. These aren’t excuses for not being a good partner but it led me to not be the person that I wanted to be in some moments. It’s disappointing when my own behaviour is at the root of the issue.
I also wish I had taken more advantage of my maternity leave and enjoyed more activities that I can’t do when I’m working 40 waking hours of the week. Some days I felt too lazy, other days I just didn’t feel like doing things, and other days I felt like not having access to a car was enough of a barrier to get to places to do things.
What surprised me?
As I learned to care for a wee person, the changes in myself are what surprised me the most. I adapted to going with the flow instead of living strictly by the clock. I seemed to survive fine with much less continuous sleep than I ever thought I could survive on. My ability to react to changing emotions and situations by the minute. In the end, I think I was also surprised by just how much I would treasure spending time with my child. And somewhat related, I was pleasantly surprised and extremely grateful for just how utterly supportive my partner would be through our first year of parenthood. Without his encouraging words and supportive gestures, I likely would have given up trying to breastfeed in those early pain-filled weeks postpartum.
What did I fail at?
As a mom, my failures are not necessarily in things that I have truly failed at but more so in what I may have missed in real time and would do differently if I could turn back time. For me, I wish I had treated our baby’s eczema properly much earlier than I did because I will never stop wondering if his broken skin contributed to his food allergies. I do not have eczema and did not know that that was what my baby had or what to do about it until it was pretty bad. Looking back at photos, I feel terrible and can only imagine what he was feeling at the height of it.
What did I do well at?
I kept expectations in check and took things in stride. I tried to keep a level head in stressful situations so that hopefully my child would not get too stressed (positive energy begets positive energy): from immunizations to allergic reactions to transitioning to daycare. Overall, I think I adapted fairly well from being an employee to a stay-at-home-mother back to an employee. The needs of the “employers” were quite different in the two cases and it required a grand shift in lifestyle and attitude. Obviously, I was well supported by everyone around me and success is always due, in part, to the network of people surrounding you.
There were some minutes, hours, days in 2013 when I felt so frustrated, mostly if my baby was fighting his nap and all I needed to maintain my sanity was for him to take even a short catnap. There were many more moments this past year when I wish I could almost stop time, just to enjoy the moment for longer. I feel blessed that I had a year together at home with my child but I also feel that he will grow a lot as a child in daycare. I look forward to what the next year will bring!
I love food, so when it came to introducing solid foods to our baby, I was quite excited to be able to share something that I loved with a person who I loved. We exclusively breastfed for six months and decided to let baby lead the weaning process as he started to explore foods other than breast milk. We would provide a selection of appropriate food items for him to choose from, and he would use his hands and all other senses to “eat” the food that he chose to “eat”. We didn’t start with rice cereal, as is so typical in our society. Instead, we gave him steamed broccoli florets, a bell pepper, an apple slice, and a strip of steak. The key with this approach is for the caregiver to provide a well-balanced assortment of foods and the eater to control if and how much they “eat”.
It was going fine until our baby experienced some fairly significant reactions to food. The look in his eyes as he scratched at his neck and face is something that I will not soon forget. After that first adverse reaction, we saw our family doctor and he referred us to a paediatric allergist. In the meantime, we avoided the foods that triggered that reaction but continued to offer other foods.
Meanwhile, while we waited to be seen by the allergist, another particularly strong reaction led us to the emergency room, where some Benadryl and the passage of time eventually calmed the reaction; I felt so thankful and grateful that the reaction didn’t continue to worsen. This ER visit led us to equip ourselves with an epinephrine auto-injector. Just having to fill the prescription for it illuminated the gravity of the situation. Heaven forbid we ever have to use it, but better to have it in our possession than be sorry.
Skin prick tests are not the most conclusive in determining whether or not a baby has an allergy but at our first allergy appointment, we had it done for numerous common allergens. The test indicated that he was positive for peanuts, nuts, dairy, and egg. Based on our history, we were also directed to avoid wheat until another test could be completed in a few months.
With neither parent having any known food allergies, we were thrown into a new world. That’s a bit of hyperbole…it’s more like we started to see our world with new glasses. Questions floating through my head included:
- what can he eat?
- how will we eat out?
- how do we best equip ourselves in the situation?
A blessing and a curse, because I’m breastfeeding, I was also instructed to avoid all allergens to which my baby may react to. The curse: Our allergist mentioned that trace amounts of dairy and egg would be allowable for me (no nuts whatsoever) but if my ingesting these products was affecting my kid, I decided that I should try to eliminate them from my diet too. The blessing: Taking dairy, egg, and nuts out of my diet would give me the best perspective in what could end up being the life of my baby. I would be forcing myself to question what I’m eating, how that food was processed, and (I’d get a head start on determining) how to prepare foods without those allergens.
I cannot believe that it is the end of October already! The leaves on the trees have gone through their colour changes and, for the most part, fallen off the trees. The temperature is starting to dip below 0C overnight (and sometimes into the day – eek!). The wind is crisp. But I also don’t know how this year has passed by so quickly!
Granted, this year has been different for me. Several months of nausea, a summer of feeling like a walking oven with stubby toes and fingers, and a fall of feeling large. All the while, moving slower and slower (what a different way to enjoy the world around me). I still find it hard to believe – and really, quite mesmerized – that there’s a little person growing inside of me…and as the third trimester draws to a finale, I look so forward to seeing this little person!
Looking back on the past nine months, here is some advice that I was given early on that I now have learned to appreciate:
- “Towards the end, you’ll just want to be done with being pregnant.” I didn’t really understand how one could ever feel this way, particularly since the event separating pregnancy from no longer being pregnant is labour. Which I equate with PAIN. A somewhat controlled train ride that cannot be stopped. Did I mention, pain!?
- “You may be able to squat now but you probably won’t be able to squat much later.” Yeah right, I told my friend. I like to joke that I’m channeling the Asian in me when I say that I can squat quite comfortably. Yup, I was naive.
- “You’ll waddle soon.” I think this goes along the lines of everything will become uncomfortable to do. I thought the waddle was an exaggerated move done by some pregnant women to further exemplify just how pregnant they are. Nope. It’s hormonal and your pelvic area really doesn’t make it easy to not waddle towards the end.
It’s true that it’s quite hard to imagine what it feels like to be pregnant without actually going through it yourself. Much like many other life experiences. The biggest thing that continues to cement itself in my head, particularly throughout this pregnancy, is the wonder of the human body. It does so much on its own without our conscious control and it’s so absolutely amazing.
I shared some observations about the first trimester of pregnancy here and wanted to take some time to jot down a few thoughts on the second trimester of pregnancy.
It’s sitting on my lap
That’s right. When I’m sitting down, my belly is sitting on my lap. It’s a strange, slightly uncomfortable sensation that is very new to me. And yes, when I’m standing up straight (read: good posture), I cannot see my toes.
Oh my back, my ribs, my feet!
For the last few weeks of the second trimester, my back has been achy. Sitting in an office chair at work for upwards of 7 hours, 5 days a week sure does not help, even with a pillow supporting my back. The area covering my ribs (upper abdomen) has also exhibited numbness for many weeks, which may be due to some combination of stretching skin, squished organs, and a tight diaphragm. It’s less numb first thing in the morning, then comes and goes throughout the day (more coming and staying than going as the day progresses). There isn’t much to do about the numbness; stretching may or may not help. And my feet. They have swollen a bit but particularly on days when it is hot and I have been on my feet a lot.
Actually, I’m not really sure if they’re toes or hands or elbows or knees, but I feel pokes and nudges as the baby practices its intrauterine ninja moves. If I’m lying on my side, the nudges come from the side that I’m lying on, as if little ninja is saying “it’s squished on this side”. If I’m focussed on a task, I get nudges as if to say “pay attention to me!” And if my bladder is getting full, I get smacked right on the bladder…”unload this sucker so that I can have more space”.
Flopping on my tummy
I fondly remember a time, not too long ago, when I could flop onto my stomach to read a book or take a nap. It’s my most relaxed state. Now, if I stack 3 or 4 pillows, one on top of another, I can pseudo-lie on my “stomach” (read: chest) without putting much pressure on my belly. I’m looking forward to being able to lie on my stomach again…although the baby is quietest and safest (read: close to me) when it’s inside me….
I’m still feeling pretty cautiously optimistic with 3 months to go. It feels more and more like there will be a new being in my life very soon but the cautious side still worries that something might happen. Regardless, it’s getting to the point where, instead of a count of the weeks that have passed, there is a countdown to the due date, and this signals the need to prepare a few things. Namely, some paperwork and some purchases (something to wear, something to sleep in, something to be strapped into when in motion).
What can I say. My friends and I chat about how quickly time seems to pass by, and this year is certainly of no exception. Yay and eek!