Resources for Anti-Racism, White Privilege, and Decolonization Work for North Americans

The list below is a jumping-off point educated by what I’ve seen in the media recently as well as the mistakes I’ve made over the last decade or so since first coming across anti-racism work in university.

What Not to Do:

  • don’t watch or share videos of black deaths. Many individuals are expressing how exploitative and invasive it is for white folks to watch and circulate these videos and photos. They are causing deep distress and trauma amongst communities. Don’t do it. 
  • don’t assume you’re blameless / a nice person / not racist and therefore don’t have to do or say anything. We have to do this work. If you think you’re too old or too young or too kind to have to truly understand the systemic nature of oppression, then your privilege is getting in the way of your ability to learn. 
  • don’t ask or expect any person of colour to educate, explain, or argue with you. You might be just discovering anti-racism work now but this work is not new. There are likely decolonization/ abolitionist experts who have been providing information and workshops in your area for years. Seek them out, read or listen to what they have to say, pay them for their work, and don’t ask them to explain it to you later or argue with them in the comments section of their own platform. We have to do this work on our own. They are exhausted from having to explain shit to us.

What You Can Do:

  • just start! If you are overwhelmed by some of the more intense titles and content below and aren’t ready to dive into the Real Work yet, try reading some of the memoirs, histories, or works of fiction first. Familiarize yourself with and normalize the stories of non-white individuals who are experiencing the same system we are in North America, but in a very, very different way. Learn about the barriers and obstacles others face that you have not had to think about.
  • talk about all of this with your kids! Silence is dangerous because it allows children and teens to come to their own conclusions which may often be problematic or educated by the opinions of friends or teachers whose perspectives may not align with your own.
  • if you are white, use the inherent privilege you were born with to highlight and shine a light on other voices. There are numerous ways you can do this depending on your platforms and abilities. If you’re a teacher, educator, or caregiver you can ensure that your home or school libraries offer a diversity of representation. If you’re an avid reader you can start a Book Club that focuses on anti-racism and work and authors who specialize in it. If you have money you can support local small businesses and bookstores in your area owned by BIPOC rather than big box stores (and of course you can donate to one of the many worthy social justice organizations being highlighted at this time). If you’re a boss you can hire an anti-racism or decolonization educator to host a workshop or presentation for your staff. If you’re an employer you can ask your boss or HR personnel if she can look into hosting one in your workplace.
  • recognize the harm and dismissiveness in saying “I’m not racist, this doesn’t apply to me,” then come to terms with the fact that we all have inherent biases to confront and work through. Only once you admit that as an individual who grew up / is growing up in a system that prioritizes white lives over all others can you begin to root out the racism that exists within yourself. 
  • if you’re Canadian, don’t assume these are just American issues. Our country also has systemic racism, disproportionate incarceration rates, race-related poverty, and violence committed against queer, trans, and coloured bodies (yes, sometimes by the police!). Just like our southern neighbours our country was built on stolen land by exploited bodies and thinking we are exempt from the conversation is self righteous and wrong. 

Anti-Racism Specific IG Follows

Podcasts and Audio

  • CodeSwitch on NPR
  • This episode of This American Life highlights issues of poverty and education in the US.
  • 1619 a NYTimes podcast about the history of slavery in America
  • Nancy podcast about the queer experience, focuses on LGBTQ community.
  • 2 Dope Queens mostly comedy but touches on race

Non-Fiction Reads

  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin d’Angelo
  • Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognize Your Privilege, Combat Racism, and Change the World by Layla F Saad
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald
  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortis
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racism in America by Ibram X Kendi
  • The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr edited by Clayborne Carson

Memoir

  • Black is the Body by Emily Bernard
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Ordinary Light by Tracey K Smith
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Black Boy by Richard Wright

Fiction Reads

  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Things Fall Apart by China Achebe
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Loving Day by Mat Johnson
  • We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
  • The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Native Son by Richard Wright

For Parents:

  • Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey 
  • Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes

Children’s Books

  • @hereweeread and @booksfordiversity on IG both showcase diverse educational products and books for kids
  • www.theconsciouskid.org offers book subscriptions for $1-$5 / month for families
  • A Boy Like You by Frank Murphy
  • Let the Children March by Monica Clark Robinson
  • A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory
  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodsen
  • I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont
  • Rosa Parks by Lisbeth Kaiser
  • The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For Young Adult audiences:

  • This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell 
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds (this is a version of another book by Kendi that has been reworked specifically for young adult readership. That book is called Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racism in America)
  • The Project Lit Initiative

Docs to Watch

  • 13th (Netflix): “scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.”
  • Student Athlete (HBO): highlights how college sports in America exploit players by failing to pay them despite being a billion dollar industry. 

CANADA SPECIFIC RESOURCES

  • Step One: go to www.native-land.ca and find out whose land you live on cuz it ain’t your land.
  • @cicelybelle_xo Cicely Blain is the founder of BLM Vancouver 
  • @decolonizefirst : a resource for decolonizing practices with work “grounded in Squamish ways of being”

Non-Fiction Reads:

  • The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King
  • 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Klimmerer
  • The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty and David Carpenter

Books for Young Adult audiences:

  • Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation by Monique Gary Smith
  • Sugar Falls by David A Robertson (graphic novel about residential schools)
  • Good for Nothing by Michel Noel
  • Those Who Run the Sky by Aviaq Johnston
  • Pemmican Wars: A Girl Called Echo by Katherine Vilamette (graphic sci-fi about Indig history)

Fiction Books by First Nations authors: 

  • Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
  • The Break by Katherine Vermette
  • Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
  • Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
  • The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King

Workbooks

Children’s Books 

  • A Promise is a Promise by Robert Munsch and Michael Kusugak
  • Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel
  • Coyote Tales by Thomas King
  • When We Were Alone by David Robertson
  • Little You by Richard Van Camp
  • I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
  • Just A Walk by Jordan Wheeler
  • Amik Loves School by Katherine Vilamette
  • We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp (board book)
  • You Hold Me Up by Monique Grey Smith
  • What’s My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnston

Maternity Clothing Hacks: When to Spend a Little and Where You Can Save A Lot

Right off the bat let me establish that this is meant to be a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek look at maternity clothes with just a little bit of actual advice thrown in, because I am not a fashionista, not a style savvy mama, and not often found wearing anything besides a comfy tee shirt and jeans whether I’m pregnant or not. I also realize that my views won’t be applicable to everyone’s circumstances or everyone’s body – by a long shot! If you’re excited to order a shitload of maternity clothes and you can afford to rock the amazing maternity fashions that are available to you, go girl! Do what you can to find joy in your bod during this weird time of having it taken over by another human. If your size necessitates specialized clothing (lookin’ at my big-busted mama friends! I see you!) then investing in certain high quality pieces could be wise for you because cheaping out on bras probably ain’t gonna cut it. This guide is just some basic advice from a third time mama with very low standards on how to cut some corners if your budget isn’t leaving room for a $70 maternity t-shirt that you’ll only wear for a few months.

All of these photos were taken at 35+ weeks and feature non maternity clothes!

Where I Got Swindled:

  • after ordering a ton of brand new maternity clothes online during my first pregnancy I was shocked when it all arrived. The shirts and dresses only had 1-2 extra cm of fabric on the front side of the dress and were otherwise exactly the same as my non-maternity clothes. They fit me well for the first few months when I only had a tiny cute bump but were laughably short once the bump grew even a little, which is when I actually needed clothes that fit.

When to Spend on Real Maternity Items:

  • shorts and pants: unless you plan on living only in dresses and stretchy rompers for 9 months you’re likely going to need some maternity pants. I bought two pairs of jeans from TopShop ($80 each) after finding that the stylish jeans at my local maternity store could run up to $150-$200 per pair! Old Navy also does some amazing maternity jeans but the sizes sell out quickly so you need to keep your eyes out for frequent restocks. I’m Canadian, but when I was in Palm Springs while pregnant I found that TJMaxx and ROSS in the US each had a small rack of denim maternity shorts with cute pairs for about $10-$15 (I’ve never seen this at Winners but they should get on board!).
  • special events: hard to imagine during these Covid days but you might be invited to a wedding again one day! Depending on your bump you might be able to wear one of your existing outfits well into the second trimester (god bless stretch fabrics!) but if you’re in later pregnancy or just wanna dress up there are a lot of options available online at PinkBlush (on the fancier side) and Asos (more casual dresses).
  • professional clothes: if you have a big girl job like at a bank or office you will obviously need to spend a little more money than those of us who work in more casual positions or from home. You can look around for some used pieces first – call your local consignment stores to see if they offer used pieces or post to your local Mom Group or Buy and Sell on FB and see what comes up! Lots of women have maternity clothes gathering dust that they’re wiling to part with, often for free. Otherwise Old Navy has some decent budget-friendly professional stuff and Asos has some very cute and trendy skirts and tops that you can layer under your existing blazer/ cardi/ jacket of choice.

Where You Can Avoid Maternity Pieces (and Save Money!):

  • (most) nursing bras: I admittedly do not have a large bust, but of course that changes quickly postpartum and, for many, in early pregnancy already. The size of your breasts will also adjust over the course of the first few months – they start out pretty engorged but after 3-4 months when baby has found a bit of a schedule with feeding (or you’ve found a schedule with pumping or formula), things will reach a new normal and that’s a great time to invest in a good quality nursing bra that you can wear out of the house and feel good in – Knix has a new line of nursing bras but I’ve gotten away with two of these from TopShop (just basic comfy mesh and lace, $7). At home I have always just worn and slept in basic bralettes (try Aerie or Blush) and sized up. I find when you need nursing access it’s easier to just pull them down – you do not always need something with a clasp! I personally found it to be a waste of time and the plastic mechanism can break easily anyway. I also found these super helpful during my second pregnancy and postpartum when my ribcage expanded (ugh) and my bras were too tight to be comfortable (spoiler alert: ribcage never went fully back to normal so I guess I’m just a whole new bra size now).
  • basic tees: not only are maternity tee shirts way overpriced, they’re often SO ugly, with truly awful corny graphics about being pregnant splayed across the front, sometimes in glitter. I guess that could be cute for your instagram feed or something but most of us would probably prefer a plain tee. Even though I am a very long torso-ed person I easily found inexpensive basic shirts that were long enough to cover even my 40 week bump. I found some at my local thrift store and another 1-2 at my WalMart (I don’t generally shop for clothes at Walmart but spending a minimal amount on a few tees during late pregnancy got me through to postpartum during a very hot summer).
  • dresses: if you’re having a late-summer or Fall baby you may want to search for a few breezy little summer dresses now! I scoured the thrift store and the local discount store (shoutout to Army and Navy) and bought a couple cheapie ones that would be long enough to cover a bump. I mostly wore these at home all summer in late pregnancy or I’d add small workout shorts if I wore them out in public. Can’t say I was very into shorts or pants near the end, especially when the temps hit 34 degrees!
  • leggings and comfy pants: I’ll admit that my bump outgrew my Topshop jeans the last month of my first pregnancy but by that point it was October and I’ve always been more about comfort in the Third Trimester anyway. Many women recommend Old Navy for a pair of comfy leggings for late pregnancy and I’ve seen some good options at Target as well, but you can also score a “buy one get one free” deal every couple months through the more expensive maternity stores. Don’t bother paying full price as this deal happens often! At home I generally just wear my regular comfy pants and fold the front down under the bump.
  • workout wear: I’m on my third pregnancy and haven’t bought any maternity workout wear yet. A lot of Lululemon’s basic tanks are super long and stretchy and will fit comfortably over a third trimester bump (I have one that is too long even when I’m 40 weeks!) and discount stores like TJ Maxx and Winners usually have a huge selection of workout tops as well – just size up and you’re sure to find something to accommodate a bump for around $15. I wore my pre-pregnancy workout shorts throughout all of my pregnancies and just rolled the front under my bump, but of course if you do a lot of workout classes or runs you may want to invest in something that looks cuter in public. Don’t get sucked into the need for a nursing sports bra either – I don’t think I’ve ever fed a baby during a workout.

I know, I know, these are hardly earth-shattering pregnancy hacks, but I find that in late pregnancy I’m usually so uncomfortable that I don’t care if I’m wearing fancy expensive clothes or not. Maybe dressing up is the only thing that keeps you going through that uncomfy phase and that’s fine, too! But First Time Mom’s often feel they need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe when they find out they’re pregnant and I wanted to share with other budget conscious mamas that you don’t need to run out and spend hundreds to look cute, you just need a few staple pieces, a fair amount of stretch, and an open mind!

Flavourful, Hearty Buddha Bowls Your Whole Fam Will Love 🥦

Happy New Year!

I know this is far from my regular content and I am oh-so-far from being a qualified food photographer (how is it easier to take a good photo of a moving toddler than a good photo of a stationary meal?) but I’ve gotten so many questions about my great veggie bowls and I figured the New Year was the right time to post it. Despite how long-winded I can be (it’s all in the details, right?) it’s actually super simple. Let’s get to it!

There are 3-4 layers that you can mix as you wish and that’s basically the gist of it. You can remove and substitute to make adjustments for cost, flavour, intolerances, or availability. Here they are:

Greens Layer: this is a nutritious layer rather than a flavourful one but don’t worry, we’ll jazz it up in a minute. If I’m making a smaller bowl I’ll stick to just greens (spinach, kale, butter lettuce) but if I want quite a filling bowl (aka for Tom) I’ll add a few scoops of quinoa to bulk things up. I love a crunchy, fresh combo of kale and shredded purple cabbage! You could also use: lentils, beans, rice, potatoes, arugula, parsley.

Roasted Veg Layer: this is my favourite part because if you do it right it’ll be a super flavourful layer! I almost always roast just shallots, broccoli and cauliflower – they key is to roast them long enough, til they’re a tad charred and all of the good flavours are released when they caramelize (usually 20 mins at 400, longer if you’ve got a packed tray). Just chop up your veg, drizzle some oil over ’em (I usually use avocado oil but olive oil works too!) and go crazy with seasoning; my go-to combo is a little salt and a lot of garlic and paprika. You could also use: carrots, sweet potato, shredded brussels sprouts, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, onion, eggplant, asparagus, the possibilities are truly endless. Different vegetables will roast at different rates of course, so be mindful of that when you chop them so they’re all done at the same time. Veg can be expensive so you can always stick to the cheaper veg if you need to or focus on what’s in season, local, or growing in your own garden!

Optional “Meat” Layer: this is where you can add some crispy fried tofu if you please! I’m not calling this the ‘protein layer’ because there is a ton of protein in plants as well and I’m not into furthering long-held misconceptions about protein 😉 If you’re in doubt go watch Game Changers on Netflix or do some good ol’ fashioned googling on a fact/science-based website. Anyway, my favourite way to cook tofu is to press the water out, cube it small, pan fry it in a little oil with garlic powder til it’s crispy, then add sauce at the end for about 1 min over high heat til the sugars in the sauce caramelize and become sticky. So good! My favourite sauces for tofu are this peanut sauce or a mix of soy and sriracha if I’m feeling lazy. I probably only put tofu on like 25% of the time though (again, lazy!). You could also use: beans, tempeh, hell throw some baked pakoras on there! I generally try to stay away from the faux-meat substitutes since they’re still highly processed foods chock full of sodium and we’re tryin’ to make a plant-heavy bowl here.

Super-Filling Sprankles Layer: I always add hemp hearts and slivered almonds to keep us nice and full for a long time but you can add any yummy additions you like! You could also use: nutritional yeast, avocado, roasted sunflower seeds, bean sprouts, cashews, any nuts or seeds you’ve got in your pantry (pecans would be lovely with the caramelized veg!), or this vegan parmesan that is yummy and easy to make and keeps in the fridge so you can throw it on everything all week. Go nuts! (get it?)

The Most Important Layer, DRIZZLE: for almost all of my bowls I mix up the same quick-n-tangy Lemon Tahini dressing that I couldn’t tell you the recipe for but it always works out. Into a mason jar I throw a scoop of tahini, the juice of half a lemon, garlic, salt, and pepper. Then I shake the bejeesus out of it and drizzle it all over the bottom (greens) layer of my bowl and again over the top. You can thin it out with a little water, oil, or even almond milk if you like and if you want to do a bigger batch just throw it all in your mini food processor or blender. I also keep a huge bottle of this, the only store-bought dressing I ever buy on hand for the lazy days when I want less dishes to do. I feel passionately about this dressing to the point where it was the first thing I sought out when we moved to the coast because I was worried no stores would carry it here (found it at IGA though!). A wine-bottle-sized-bottle only costs $12. So delicious.

I know this looks like a lot but it only takes about 25 minutes total: 5 mins to chop my veg and then 20 mins in the oven. I prep the tofu and make the drizzle while the veg is in the oven and throw it all together when it’s done! We eat this bowl a few times a week and it just feels so hearty and nourishing – no one wants to eat a cold salad in the winter time so this is my way of eating salad, a warm, roasted salad with a light, tangy sauce.

Variations: I’ve added curry powder to the veg and done the tofu in a peanut sauce to create a yummy curry-peanut bowl before. I’ve also made this dressing before over roasted sweet potato, black beans, corn, and edamame for a southwestern-y version of the bowl (you could use a lime-ier dressing if you can’t handle the heat of chipotles). As a matter of fact since I’m so into the drizzle layer of these bowls, here is a link to all of Pinch of Yum’s sauces, they are truly the best at drizzles.

A Word about Calories: there are a lot of things in here that make this a dense, calorie-rich bowl, so I always imagine this to be a meal that is meant to accompany a fairly active lifestyle (or a breastfeeding mother, haha). They’re all those good, healthy fats that our bodies need sometimes but I realize that some of my readers are also looking to make healthy changes with the goal of weight loss. If this is the case for you, you can go easier on the nuts, seeds, quinoa, hemp hearts, etc. and heavier on the greens, veg, and drizzle. My kids love these bowls because there’s so much flavour and I like that they get those healthy fats for their developing brains! I have a much slower metabolism than Tom so when I make these bowls for our family I always add more veg to my own and more high-calorie nuts and seeds to his because his body burns his food so fast that he has to follow most meals with a few pieces of toast if I don’t bulk them up.

If you make a bowl, let me know! I’d love to see it. And if anyone has food photography tips I’M ALL EARS, haha.

 

Jessie Runs a (Half) Marathon: What Happened When I Replaced Drinking with Running

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Have you seen the movie Brittany Runs A Marathon? We watched it this past weekend and I just kept thinking about how many Brittany’s there must be in the world, how many humans have changed the course of their life through sheer will and hard work. After all, I did it. 12 years ago I was a Brittany.

To be perfectly honest the picture above is the source of some of my deepest shame. Unlike a lot of people who have successfully lost a lot of weight I don’t ever talk about it. In fact, I destroyed so many photos from that time that I didn’t have any to share here until I asked family to send one over. But it was never about how I looked.

My shame surrounding that time comes from the knowledge that I wasn’t taking care of myself and my weight was tied to my lack of direction in life and a deep-seated self-loathing. This ‘before’ photo was taken at my brother’s wedding when I was 182 lbs. At the time I thought I was happy and fun but in hindsight I was lost and miserable, clinging to a party girl persona that just wasn’t who I was. I was waking up feeling like shit six days a week, eating shit food, getting shit grades in university and making plans to exercise “tomorrow.” I never hated the way I looked but I deeply hated the way I felt: no energy, no motivation, and not a lot of true joy. I know that bodies come in a multitude of sizes and genetic dispositions and smaller does not always equate healthier. In my case I knew without a doubt that the weight I had gained in my early twenties was due to alcohol consumption, very poor eating, and a sedentary lifestyle – in short, a basic lack of attention to my emotional and physical needs (wish the ‘self care movement’ had been as strong a decade ago!).

One day I decided to get my shit together and over the course of the following year, I did. That makes it sound easy but changing long-held habits is not a commitment you make one time, it’s a choice you have to re-choose multiple times a day until the changes you hoped to bring about have become second nature. Every night when my coworkers pressured me to go to the bar with them after work I had to choose my new lifestyle and say no. Every morning when my body wanted to sleep in but I had a training run in the calendar I had to re-commit and get my butt out of bed. Every single meal time I had to make a choice, too. I gave up alcohol and meat for six months and the weight fell off.

Slooooooowly the running came easier too and the distances of my runs lengthened. Since I don’t enjoy running with music it was just me on the seawall for 17km trying to make sense of the thoughts in my head and figuring out who I was, who I wanted to be going forward. At first it was difficult to replace my impulse to drink with an impulse to run but as it turns out running is much better therapy (and cheaper, too!) and soon I was itching to “run out” my problems after a hard day rather than forget them momentarily with booze. As I learned more about nutrition and tuned in to my body my eating habits changed naturally, too – I started to see food as fuel rather than my enemy or comfort and the resulting removal of emotion from my eating has been one of the biggest un-learnings of my life.

My goal was never to lose the weight because my body wasn’t the problem. My body was the physical result of an emotional void, proof of the lack of care I was taking with myself. Rather than a weight loss goal I had set the goal of accomplishing something, of seeing something through without quitting for once. I signed up for a half marathon and committed to the months of training required for me to run it. I did those runs and ran that race all by myself and it transformed my whole life. I lost 50 lbs and gained an inner and outer strength I never knew lay within me. I created lifelong habits that have served me so well: I know now how to listen carefully to what my body needs, I know how much it can save me to unplug and get outside, I know how to cook vegetables so they taste amazing (an important skill!), I know how to savour treats, I know how it feels to have energy when you actually drink the amount of water we’re supposed to drink each day, I know how crippling a single shot of Jameson can be to my Sunday morning mileage.

All this to say: if you’re not feeling like yourself lately, make a change. Make a plan for how to execute little, doable changes that will lead you to the lifestyle you truly want but have only dreamed about. Take it from me, it’s worth it.

Sensory Bins: A Starter Guide

In the Pacific Northwest we have a LOT of rainy days so when we’re not at the local drop-in or the park in full rain gear we’re indoors trying to find something to occupy ourselves. Most rainy days we do baking that we need to do anyway but a few times a week now we pull out the sensory bin!

I’ve been following Susie at @BusyToddler for ages now and she’s big on the importance of sensory play but even considering all the pros she states I cannot tell you how much I hated the idea of putting a sensory bin together. With a 1 and 3-year-old I feel like I’m already picking up toys, sweeping, and generally cleaning up pretty much constantly just to keep the house in a general state of functionality, so the idea of creating extra mess on purpose was not appealing to me. But one morning I wanted desperately to drink my coffee uninterrupted so I figured I’d give it a shot. Afterwards I realized that the set-up took longer than the clean-up and now we sensory bin whenever we want and it’s no prob! Plus it’s an activity that the kids do well together and I’ve grown to love stepping back and watching them interact with each other and the bin.

If you wanna try it out here are a few things I’ve learned. PS I didn’t spend a dime!

Set it Up: I found a shallow tub storing shoes under our guest bed and gave it a quick wipe, but you can use a large tray or baking pan with a high rim, anything convenient you have kickin’ around your house. If you have carpet you can place a blanket or towel underneath for easy clean-up but I prefer to move our kitchen table out of the way and just put it down on hardwood. I keep Hennie’s kid-size dustpan and broom nearby so she can take the initiative to sweep up if something gets thrown out of the bin (spoiler alert: it does).

Fill it Up: since Wells is a very curious toddler we always use a base that is safe and generally edible (you can try dry pasta or beans, raw rice, lentils). You can use whatever you find in your pantry that’s cheap and easy to clean up (don’t use flour, k?). Rolled oats are our favourite these days because I always have a ton on hand. Hen likes it when I throw in a few handfuls of birthday sprinkles for some flair.

Add Tools: the whole point of sensory play is for kids to get to feel different textures and work on those transferring and scooping skills! What do your kids like to play with in your kitchen? Throw it in! Hen and Wells are obsessed with my kitchen tongs but we also use wooden spoons, measuring cups, monkey bowls, and funnels. I like to make sure that there’s enough stuff that they won’t fight over anything (they still will, of course) and I learned the hard way not to include your prized pottery. Make sure there’s some tupperware or something they can fill up and dump out because that’s the best part!

Optional Add-ins: these can be seasonal or just for fun! You could ‘bury’ their favourite toys (Paw Patrol pup figurines!) for them to ‘rescue’ with the kitchen tongs or hide leftover plastic Easter eggs for them to scoop up with their spoons – these are all great ways for them to work on their fine motor skills. This month I made a nature-inspired Christmas bin for the kids and included cedar clippings and pinecones we collected in our yard, dehydrated orange slices (Wells chewed the middles out of these), and some red jingle bells that were a big hit.

Clean it Up: after the kids are done playing with it I sweep up the (usually small) amount that has escaped the bin and save the rest for another time – it’s so easy to change out the tools and add-ins when we want to. The tub I originally found is no longer for shoe storage, it’s now a sensory bin all the time. It came with a lid so I can still store it out of sight under the guest bed and pull it out when we want to use it – the kids get so excited now when they see this tub! Sometimes to increase the excitement factor I’ll put away a few small toys they love to play with for a week or two and throw them into the bin and they get so stoked to play with them again (and I don’t have to buy anything new!). The best part is that oats are cheap and are offered at my local zero-waste grocery store, so I can go in a buy a huge bag without adding any plastic to the landfill. When the oats in our current bin are running low I’m gonna dye some rice for the next bin (google Rainbow Rice to learn how!).

I hope I’ve convinced you to introduce sensory play in your home! Let me know how it goes!

Natural Kids Sunscreen Review

ThinkSport | This is my number one fave. It’s easy to apply, works well, and smells good. I like that it’s an SPF 50 for my pale English babies and I usually only have to apply it once in the morning on a sunny day (if we’re spending the entire day in the sun I apply it after Hen’s midday nap as well, just for insurance). In addition to the Kids one pictured above there’s a Sport version, a Baby version, and one called Everyday Face that I should probably start using myself before my face starts to look like an old leather handbag 🙂

Green Beaver | This is by far the greasiest sunscreen I’ve ever used. When I used it last summer it ended up greasin’ up my toddler, myself, and pretty much all of our furniture. The Pro to this sunscreen is that the water beads right off your skin when you use it, so it’d be a great option for kids who are spending a lot of time in water at the pool or beach. The Con is that it’s a thick formula so it’s tough to apply on kids and I had to scrub pretty vigorously with soap to get it off my hands after I applied it; if you wanted to get all the sunscreen off of your kids before bedtime you might have to work pretty hard in the bath to remove it all from their skin. Moral of the story: effective, but a pain in the ass.

Badger | If you’re a mama with tattoos you need a sunscreen stick! I never use a stick for everyday use because they’re difficult to apply on kids, faces, and large surfaces like arms and legs. But I started carrying one around when I got my forearm tattoos done and was working on patios all summer – gotta protect that expensive artwork! I highly recommend this stick for tattoos and easy application areas like the bridge of your nose. Bonus : it smells SO good, like vanilla and oranges.

Alba | As you can see from the Sharpie written on this tube, this sunscreen comes out super fast! It’s the thinnest of the sunscreens I’ve tried so it’s easy to apply on skin because it spreads really well, but there’s no easy way of getting it out of the tube without getting half the tube. More importantly, because the formula is so thin it ran into Hennie’s eyes from her forehead when we used it on her face last summer, leading to major meltdowns and aversion to sunscreen for a while after (ugh, fail!). If you can figure out the perfect amount of pressure to apply to the tube so it doesn’t shoot out and waste the lotion it’s an effective choice with good coverage for arms and legs, but I wouldn’t recommend using it anywhere near the eyes. For now it’s our Stroller Sunscreen.

Do you have any favourite kiddo sunscreens to recommend?

First Impressions of the Coast

Well it’s been a week since we moved to the Sunshine Coast and for the first time in what feels like weeks I’ve found a moment to reflect. The whole process of buying and selling homes is stressful and busy! Sure, it’s stressful and busy in a super exciting, where-will-we-end-up, holy-shit-we’ve-ended-up-here? kinda way, but at it’s core it’s still just stressful and busy. But now we’re in the midst of settling into life in a new home, new community, and tbh very new lifestyle and I wanted to share some of my initial impressions, if only to chronicle my thoughts for future me (who I can only assume will be a major Nature Girl) to look back and laugh about.

Nightlife There are some big animals out here, guys. Like bears and bobcats and cougars right in our yard. Like I could run into them while walking my kids to school one block over. Everyone has a gate at the end of their drive that they close at dusk to keep the bigger stuff out of the yard overnight (makes sense!) and the first night it totally felt like a Purge situation and really freaked me out. I’ll admit that I haven’t actually seen that movie because I got too scared from just the trailer, but seeing everyone in my neighbourhood shut up their houses at dinnertime that first day made me wonder if Gibsons was harbouring a very dark secret. It didn’t help that I then spent the first night in our new house alone while Tom returned the UHaul to the mainland (well the kids were there, but they’d be fairly useless in an emergency). I will never forget the moment when the midnight cacophony of our swamp frogs went dead silent and I heard something big thumping around the backyard. It was probably just the raccoons but half of our doors didn’t lock that first day and my imagination definitely got away from me.

Nature All things above considered, I can see myself becoming a little easier-going with nature already. I used to pretty much refuse to live in a home without screens on the window, but I’ve lightened up a little (mostly due to the fact that we can’t afford to fix everything at once and I don’t have a choice). I used to hate having a fly or a bee in the house buzzin’ around and irritatin’ me but now that I have a big beautiful window right over my kitchen sink I’m like “come on in, bees, I know you guys do some good work on the planet and I really want you to pollinate my shit, just don’t sting my kids okay? Actually if you gotta do it, just do it, they probably deserve it.” Spiders are another story though as I learned today when Wells was reaching for a big, weird, black thing with a pulsating red backend and I flew across the room, swept him into my arms, and stomped it to oblivion before vacuuming it up and then putting the vacuum outside just in case. Hennie looked at me like I was a total psycho. She’s probably right.

A Trade-Off of Waiting I don’t think that a secret utopia exists where everything is a pro and there are no cons. One thing I’ve realized is that we’ve swapped waits. What I mean by this is that we’re not longer waiting for the things that used to take time back in the city, and we’re waiting for things we never waited for before (lol I hope no one has read this far, I’ve had two pints). There haven’t been any lineups at the grocery store, no traffic, no fighting for parking spots, none of that anxiety-inducing urgency on the roads that you can feel palpably in a city; it’s a glorious small-town benefit that helps me breathe easier. But the tiny condo we just left behind was in the same city as the Amazon distribution warehouse, and that’s one area where the new wait catches up with us. I can no longer place an order over breakfast and have it in hand before bedtime on the same day. Hell it won’t even arrive the same week anymore! As a matter of fact our neighbourhood is so rural that no one will come to our house, not Amazon, not the recycling pickup (we have to bring it to the depot ourselves), not the compost collectors, not even the friggin’ mailman (our mail goes to a bank of letterboxes at the end of our street). And here’s the kicker: there’s no. grocery. delivery. Am I even a mom of two if I don’t get my groceries delivered?

Neighbourliness okay so maybe the services aren’t the best but the locals are just so gd accessible that it more than makes up for having to walk down a street filled with cougars and bears to pick up our mail. My Amazon packages may not come to the door but new friends and neighbours will pop by with baskets of beers, freshly baked cookies, and kids to introduce to your kids. We texted a local electrician to see if we could make an appt with him and he texted back that he could “pop by in 5”. So far everyone we’ve met is roughly our age and has kids around the ages of our kids too (**potential friend alert**) which means that we can finally live out our dreams as social homebodies who host lots of bomb parties and ply their company with tons of beer and good stories. Lol pls come over. There’s only a small chance we’ll put you to work in our yard.

The Wildlings it took less than a week for the kids to adapt to the new space, which has amazed me and made me jealous because it’s gonna take much longer for me to get used to it. At first they were a bit agitated by the lack of routine, constant unpacking, and unfamiliar environment. Wells wasn’t falling asleep as easily as he usually does and Hen was acting out during the day, becoming clingy and whiny with Tom. But Wells has quickly become accustomed to his new bedroom and Hen has realized that she has a whole house and yard to explore there haven’t been any more (moving-related) issues.

Wells Hardy: Six Months Old

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If I wasn’t an intelligent, educated person who understands the irrefutable science behind the passage of time  I would swear to you that there was absolutely no friggin’ way that six months had passed since I brought this baby boy into the world. It feels like it happened so recently and it’s so fresh in my mind that I can’t really believe it. The only reason I do believe it is because I’ve been awake for almost all of the hours in those six months and have had ample opportunity to witness the passage of each blurry, chaotic day and each painful midnight hour.

But here we are, six months and many, many cups of coffee into his young life, and my relatively new life of a mother of two. After Hennie was born I documented her growth and development like clockwork on this blog. With my second born I am just now sitting down to think about his life thus far, and here is what I have learned about him, about myself, and about being a parent of two (!!) kiddos for half a year.

  • I still believe that Wells is a happy, amenable baby under his many (admittedly minor) ailments. Since he’s been born there has really always been something that has kept him from being a truly happy baby – first it was reflux and constipation, then he needed his tongue and lip ties revised (ouchie!), and now his ongoing teething misery and hyper-short catnaps are ensuring that he’s pretty much losing it by the end of each day. But in between each little thing that plagues him he is the loveliest boy with a smile that beams brightly for his mama. And damn, it’s nice.
  • He absolutely adores watching his big sister and I think she’s part of the reason that he’s so determined to do what she does. He watches her eat, his little mouth mimicking her chewing motions, and demands we give him food also. He watches her run down the hallway and his feet kick like crazy as he hangs in my arms. It really seems like he just can’t wait to be a boy. It’s super fun to watch and we think once he’s able to keep up to her and play on her level she’ll really love it, too.
  • Just because kids are siblings doesn’t mean they’ll be anything alike (duh!) and every parent has to “start over” learning how to parent each new child that comes along. Wells hasn’t been nearly as good of a sleeper as Hennie was but he has really been keeping us on our toes in terms of his motor skills – we can’t believe how early he became mobile! It’s fun and challenging to see and adjust to the personalities and skills that emerge with each child. We just wish that the skill of sleeping through the night didn’t seem so far away for this boy of ours.
  • After just one kid I quickly realized that it was so important for me to take time for myself to not be a mom, and it didn’t really matter what that time was spent doing. Yes, of course my home life is wonderful and I have a lot of support and the best family ever, but this doesn’t mean I never need a break or miss my old self and my old interests! Despite suspecting from the very beginning that I would be a better mom if I took time for myself I have never taken that time away. Ever. In fact, the only night I’ve ever been away from Hennie was the night I was in the hospital labouring her brother into this world (and even then I was back just after breakfast!). After two kids it quickly became clear that making time for self care wasn’t just an option or even a priority, it had to be a certainty. My mental health and wellness directly benefit from even a few small outings a month. I’m still exclusively breastfeeding Wells and he hasn’t taken to a bottle yet so I’m kinda tethered to the homestead for now, but I make a point of getting out for a solo run, walk, coffee, drinks with friends, even just to get groceries solo (who knew what a luxury that would become!). It took me two years of motherhood but I’ve learned the hard way that this is absolutely imperative to my mental survival.
  • With two kids I quickly learned that the potential for the day to go completely to shit is much higher than with just one. But the flipside of that is that the potential for an amazing, stars-have-aligned, everyone-is-in-a-good-mood-and-we’re-all-having-fun-day is also exponentially higher. The high of seeing these two sweet muffins playing together, laughing together, looking at books together, having tickle-fights, and racing across the living room (Hennie is undefeated) massively outweighs those tough days with two kids. I’m still learning not to hinge my mood on theirs; when one or both of them wake up cranky I often feel utterly defeated right from the start of my day. But with the help of a few new tools I’m trying to counteract that and stay positive even when my babies are miserable (spoiler alert: this is not always possible).

Having two has been such a big learning curve for us both but our Wellsy Boy feels like he fits into our family so seamlessly and I can’t wait to see his personality emerge a little more over the next half of his first year!

 

Sometimes Motherhood is Ugly

Can we talk for a minute about resentment and anger? Because postpartum hormones are a real bitch, let me tell ya. Instagram is chock full of those joyful, weepy moments and pleas for time to slow down and I’m guilty of sharing those moments as much as any other mama! But part of the reason those moments are so sweet and we exalt in them so deeply is because they offset the moments when we need to remember why we’re even doing this.

To me it seems like there’s a dark side to parenting emotions that nobody talks about: resentment, anger, exasperation, doubt, emotional fatigue, and omg the GUILT. As complex human beings we obviously have access to just as many negative emotions as positive emotions, so why can’t we talk about those, too? Are they too ugly for Instagram or is there just so much shame attached that we can’t acknowledge it? Or even more terrifying, am I the only one who feels this way sometimes?

I know damn well I’m in the “trenches” phase of motherhood with a fussy newborn and two kids under two, but it just feels as if everyone else’s days with their kids are so easy breezy and I’m weak for struggling where others do not. The motherhood community is so vast but I still feel isolated. I don’t ever want anyone else to feel guilty that they’re not loving every minute of it, so for the sake of total clarity, here are my mom confessions:

In my darkest moments I sometimes feel resentful towards my newborn for not being able to fall asleep on his own. For demanding so much of my energy that I feel utterly depleted at the end of each day (or more often by noon). I feel angry towards my body for not looking or feeling how I want it to. I feel defeated when I don’t have enough hands to make myself lunch. I feel resentful when I know I deserve to shower or sleep but circumstances don’t permit me to. I’m jealous that Tom gets to go to work each day and pursue projects that challenge and refresh him. I feel angry toward people who insinuate that being a stay at home mom is easy or that I “get to play all day”. I feel weak when my back aches from carrying this child all day long, even though I know I’m still recovering from carrying him inside me for even longer. I feel like a bad homemaker when I forget to prep a meal even though I still manage to get all the dishes and laundry clean done most days. I get upset when after all that I do, my daughter chooses her daddy over me over and over and over again, even though she’s a toddler experiencing a natural developmental phase. I feel angry that I have everything I have ever wanted and worked towards but sometimes I just want a day (okay a month) away from it all.

I know, it’s a lot to read, but it’s also a lot to feel all at once. Maybe you can relate or maybe you’re judging me. But because I don’t have a place for the negative emotions and I don’t know what to do with them and I feel so much shame about it that I can’t even talk about it out loud I’m just gonna leave it all here, acknowledge that it exists, and hope that it makes another parent feel a bit less alone in their journey. So if you’re in the trenches too, know you’ve got a friend down here, and there’s always an end to the fussiness, the teething, the regressions, cold and flu season, or whatever is bogging you down. Solidarity ✊🏻