Monday, June 30, 2014

The One Where I'm Proud to be Canadian

So tomorrow, July 1st, Canada will be celebrating its 147th birthday as a nation. Growing up, I don't think I really understood just how special it was to be Canadian: Canada Day wasn't all that exciting, and since it was in the summer I didn't even get a day off school. What was really the point?

As I've gotten older, however, I've come to appreciate my Canadian heritage more and more. Our country's history is by no means pristine. Our treatment of our indigenous peoples has been abhorrent for as long as Europeans have existed in the country. We interned Japanese Canadian citizens during World War II for absolutely no reason beyond their ethnicity. There's a lot to be ashamed of...but acknowledging that, there's a lot to be proud of too.

Today the news came from our southern neighbour that the US Supreme Court ruled that a "closely held" company (meaning one with a limited number of shareholders) has the right to deny birth control coverage to its female employees due to religious reasons. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies have been required to pay for a full line of female contraceptive options as part of standard medical coverage for employees. Now, under the new ruling, these aforementioned closely held companies can say "Yeah, actually, we find it objectionable that you might not want to have a baby. Jesus wouldn't be down." And poof, no contraceptives for you. We're not even talking abortion here, we're talking the pill...though apparently the Christian right considers contraceptives such as IUDs a form of abortion, because they prevent a potentially fertilized egg from reaching the womb to implant. I shit you not.

The scary thing about this whole thing is not the fact that there are crazy Christians (not to be confused with the totally awesome Christians that are absolutely completely sane and plentiful) out there trying to dictate exactly what any individual woman has the right to do with her own body. That's scary, for sure, but it's old news- we women are used to hearing a bunch of old white men tell us what to do with our ladybits. No, what's scary, at least to me, is that a legal body has upheld that the rights of the corporation outweigh those of the individual. In short, the opinion of a bunch of wealthy corporate drones means more to the Supreme Court of the US than real living, breathing women. Women with lives and stories and feelings and emotions. These women are being told if you want to work for us, you have to accept the fact that we have the right to dictate how your uterus is used. That? Is downright terrifying.

As a Canadian woman watching this horror story unfold, I am confronted with how well I have it here in the country I was born into. When I turned 5 years old, I enrolled in school, as is expected of all Canadian children, regardless of gender. I stayed in school until I completed my education. I first had sex at my own behest, in my late teens, to a man I chose to have sex with. I went on to marry the man I wanted to marry, and I married him for love. I received a post secondary education, worked in my field for several years, and chose to have children when I was ready for them. When I am sick, I go to the doctor. When I have lost my job, I have made use of employment insurance. I have voted in every election I've been eligible to vote in. I have had an abortion. I did not pay for the procedure, and I was not heckled and tormented on my way into or out of the clinic. I have always had my birth control covered by medical care, and I have never felt like a criminal for availing of it.

I know that there are women in this country who suffer, and that nationality is not a guarantee of a happy and carefree life. I am not naive enough to think that I live in an equal world; I'm well aware that issues such as wage inequality and rape culture are alive and well right here on my native soil. I'm also speaking here as a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, middle class individual, and my privilege has coloured my experiences with absolutely no doubt at all. I mean no disrespect to those who have not had it as easy as I have. But if life were an obstacle race... I'd say that living in Canada is equivalent to a 10 yard lead (does that even make sense? I don't do sports. Or measurement. For all I know, 10 yards is like, across a room. I know nothing. Jon Snow).

So on our nation's birthday, I guess what I'm saying is...I'm glad I live here and not somewhere else. Because it might not be perfect, but god knows it could be a hell of a lot worse. Cheers, Canada. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The One Where We Met Thomas the Tank Engine

Despite outward appearances, C really did have a great time. Honest.

You can stop looking, folks, you've found him: The one little kid on the planet who doesn't like Thomas the Tank Engine, my son C. This has always been totally bizarre to me, as he's completely scary obsessed with trains. When they had the little train in the mall at Christmas time he demanded we ride it at least once a day, lest he rain chaos and pandemonium upon the household. The dreary January day that train was finally dismantled was a terrifying one. C's second birthday will be held at a miniature train track in three weeks, and is completely train themed. "Choo choo" were amongst his first words. And yet, every time I turned Thomas on, he would watch for a few minutes and inevitably get bored and demand Frozen for the 6,091th time. Nevertheless, when my friend Sunshine of Transforming the Now offered our family tickets she had won to A Day Out With Thomas, there was no question whether we'd take her up on them. C may not care about Thomas, but a fun day out as a family with tons of activities was guaranteed to be a hit regardless.

The event was held at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, BC (an hour outside of Vancouver). We woke up ridiculously early, and after bemoaning via my facebook status that I used to sleep til noon and play video games all Saturday, we were off. The drive kind of sucked. Not because it's a painful drive or anything, but because we were stupid enough to tell our 2 year-old that he was going to go ride a train before setting off. By the time we arrived into Squamish, he had decided we were horrible lying liars, never to be trusted again. He was whimpering and moaning in the backseat "traaaaain, traaaaaain" as though he were physically in pain. Luckily, he forgot about our betrayal pretty quickly upon arrival.

He will never be this happy again. Until the next time we let him ride a train.

We had a bit of time before our scheduled train ride, so we proceeded to explore "Knapford Station," which the park had been transformed into. It was kind of ridiculously cool, no lie. There was a ton of stuff for kids to do. Our first stop was to get Thomas temporary tattoos. These babies were made of some sort of otherworldly ink, cause C's STILL hasn't come off nearly a week later. We looked at tons of old steamer engines, skipped a magic show (more appropriate for slightly older kids), and met Sir Topham Hatt himself.

Not even his first celebrity- C has also met Nichelle Nichols and Mickey Mouse.

In no time at all, we had used up the free time before our train ride. We headed over to get loaded onto Thomas! We got seated into our little car, complete with table, and it was time to go. Volunteers wandered up and down the aisle, telling jokes for the kids and passing out "Junior Engineer" certificates. C was pretty pleased. I actually found the train ride itself the least satisfying part of the day, it only lasted about 20 minutes and went forward and back, but such is life. It was still pretty cool.

After getting off the train, we were ushered into a little tent where we were able to write a letter to Thomas (or any of his friends). The big bonus to this feature would be that after you mail the letter in the little Sodor post office, your child will actually receive a response from Thomas in the mail a few days later! When other than holidays and birthdays do kids ever get mail, not to mention from their television heroes?

We hit up the face painting station and did some playing with the many Thomas train sets available for kids to check out, but it was becoming pretty apparent that nap time was imminent. After a brief trip to the gift shop, where C chose a purple train named Charlie as his souvenir, it was time to head home. But first, to collect C's prize! When you first arrive at the event, you're given a map where you can collect stamps at the different activity stations. Once you've acquired all stamps, you can hand it in at the exit for a prize. I was pretty impressed by what the little prize was, too: A little Thomas made out of a couple of Mega Bloks! By the time we got back to our car we had so many little toys, stickers, tattoos, and activity books that C was definitely set for the ride home (of course he promptly passed out from all the excitement).

All in all, a huge success. Worth the drive, worth the whining, and a ton of fun. I definitely plan to check out the next event the railway holds, a Halloween train. I'll even go as far as to say that it's worth the new obsession....C has demanded to watch Thomas pretty much every second of every day since. My "This household has gone __ days without watching Frozen" sign is up to 3, guys. 3. Thanks, Thomas and Friends.

Yes, I actually have one.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The One Where I Rant For the First Time (on a Blog)

So one of the many local mum's groups I subscribe to (pretty much exclusively in order to buy and sell kids' clothes) had yet another mother asking for tips on where to get her infant daughter's ears pierced today. In general, I make it my mission to not judge the parenting decisions of others, because it's frankly none of my business. I don't care what your kid eats, so long as you feed her. I don't care if you work or if you stay home with your kids, what you wear, what your sleeping arrangement is, or what kind of tattoos you have or political ideologies you may subscribe to, so long as you love and care for your children.


I have issues with piercing tiny innocent baby ears.

It's not colic, it's the chunk of metal you shoved through my ear.

Here's the thing. Sure, most women grow up to have their ears pierced. Yes, if you get it done now, she won't remember it when she's older. Will it be easier to keep them clean now? Maybe. But consider the bottom line here: You are making the choice to cause unnecessary pain to an infant for reasons that are exclusively cosmetic.

From time to time, it becomes necessary to inflict pain upon an infant out of necessity. The prime example of this being, of course, vaccination. The child has to suffer through a moment of pain in order to reap the huge benefits of a lifetime of immunological resilience. When we take our children to be vaccinated, we often talk about how difficult it is to watch them in pain. To see our babies crying and in pain without knowing why we, their loving caregivers, are allowing it to happen. It's such a difficult experience for some that they make the incredibly foolhardy choice not to vaccinate, which is an angry rant for another day. So if we have such a hard time subjecting our children to pain for beneficial purposes, why, then, would anyone be willing to subject them to pain for strictly aesthetic ones?

No matter how insignificant a choice it may be, piercing an infant's ears is sending the message that you care more about how they look than how they feel. That, to me, is unacceptable. I have zero problem with pierced ears- I had mine done when I was a pre-teen. I've had many, many piercings beyond my ears, and wouldn't rule out ever getting any others. As soon as my daughter is old enough to ask, should she want her ears pierced, I will have them pierced for her. But I absolutely will not be doing it without her express educated permission because body modification should require consent.

No, it's totally cool, my first words were "piercing gun."

Which leads me to my second area of concern with the issue. The assumption that because a child was born with female sexual characteristics, she will automatically choose to live her life by some arbitrary set of rules laid out to dictate how her gender should behave. What if that little girl grows up and turns out not to be a little girl at all, but a transgendered boy? Or a gender queer individual? Or hell, what if she just plain doesn't WANT her ears pierced? Yes, she (or he- let's just use the neutral pronoun 'their' going forward) can take the earrings out, and the scars will grow over. But an assumption has still been made as to their personality and choices, and I don't think that's healthy.

If you're planning to get your infant's ears pierced, I don't think you're a child abuser. I don't think you're a bad person, setting out to maim your kid and cause her years of psychological trauma. And I do know that all of this may come off as crazytown bananapants, I do. I just urge you to reconsider. Tons of us got our ears pierced in prime 'play with them and get them infected' years and lived to tell the tale. The pain of a first ear piercing, when begged of a parent, is a rite of passage and will still not be remembered, given a few years. But it comes with the added bonus of being a conscious choice made by a person old enough to accept it. Make a mother-daughter event out of it, go for milkshakes afterwards, have a fun day, and make it an event to remember. I promise you it's worth it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Broadway Nails ImPRESS Manicure

I was lucky enough to get to try out the Broadway Nails ImPRESS Manicure through my status as a member of Influenster. I was provided with a free sample of the product in order to provide a review.

I have repulsively short nails. Really, it's embarrassing. I have an extremely hard time not biting the hell out of them. Sometimes I convince myself that I'm not going to do it, and I manage to grow them to normal people lengths and feel really, obnoxiously proud of myself for a few days. I paint them (I have a stupid big nailpolish collection, ask anyone) and file them... and then there's a particularly harrowing episode of Orphan Black or something, and I'm right back to where I started.

Enter Broadway Nails ImPRESS Manicure, the most realistic fake nails I've ever seen. They come in a perfectly adorable case shaped like a bottle of nailpolish, and each bottle contains 24 fake nails, so you're sure to find ones to fit each finger. They currently have over 40 different shades and patterns available, as well as 2 options for your toenails! I was given "Control Freak" and "Working Girl" to test out.

The nails could not be easier or quicker to apply. All you need to do is figure out which sizes you want to work with, pull the backings off, and press them firmly to your own nails. No glue, no trimming, no mess. I've never personally bothered with fake nails much in the past for two reasons: One, the mess, and two, the look. The ImPRESS manicure definitely eliminates reason one. If a few plastic backings are too much of a problem for you to handle, then I'd wager you've got bigger issues at hand. And reason number two is nicely taken care of as well: These babies look real.

Most store-bought fake nails are ridiculously long and strangely shaped. They scream plastic from a mile away. When I uploaded a photo of my ImPRESS manicure to my facebook, I had a friend say that she didn't even realize that they were fake nails until I explained it to her. They're not silly long, they look like nails that a real person could actually grow. They're natural looking and wouldn't give an onlooker a moment's pause as to their veracity. With those two conditions met, I am officially a fan.

Now another aspect that Broadway likes to talk about is the longevity of the nails. They claim that the nails can last up to a week without falling off, and I believe them! I do! That just wasn't my experience. As the busy mother of two ridiculously active kids under two, there was no way these things were staying on. No matter how hard I pressed, or how much I avoided physically intensive labour, it was simply not happenin'. Between changing some scary deuces and pushing that carseat unlatch button (why is it always that stupid button?), I was sporting several missing nails within a few hours. The theory was also floated that because I have such abysmally short real nails, the fake ones had less to grab onto and thus didn't adhere as efficiently. Regardless, they didn't last a fraction as long as I was hoping they would.

Tl;dr, these babies look great, are easy to manage, but don't necessarily stand up to the test of toddler. I would buy them, but only for use on very special, kid-free occasions.