Preparing Myself for A Winter in Isolation

Yes, there is still a global pandemic happening, and yes, we are on the brink of cooler weather here in Canada. These two facts have got me a little terrified lately, to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in love with my life and my family, but the prospect of being housebound for an entire Canadian winter (approximate length: Nov-April) with three children under school age is a little daunting, especially considering that Tom and I are struggled to keep our heads above the chaos for the last month even with both of us at home full-time.

The fear of him going back to work in mid October has been so intense that I’ve had to fight this past month to stay in the joy of the present moment. In an effort to alleviate some of the dread and anxiety I’ve felt about it, I’ve been trying to prepare myself in advance. For me this means two things: 1. coming up with a plan and 2. putting that plan into list form. Type A’s you feel me? So here are some ways I’m hoping to soften the blow.

Setting Myself Up for Success: on a very basic level, figure out what the most difficult parts of your day are. For me with two kids plus a newborn this is easy to figure out: I don’t have enough hands for the amount of kids I have! My challenges this winter will be feeding the kids (and myself) when I don’t have hands, and putting the newborn down for a nap (it can take a while, and the other two will be either destroying the house or standing outside the door screaming). To prepare, I’ve been focusing on stocking up on one-handed snacks and meals just like I did when I was in university. Overnight oats for breakfast and pre-made burritos and salad in a jar for lunch. I’m also preparing the kids lunchboxes the night before just like I would if they were going off to school, which saves me from having to think about feeding them during the day. This past week we’ve also attempted to get our one-month-old onto a (very loose) nap schedule (lol, a losing battle). Other than that I’m keeping expectations very low and as long as we make a small amount of progress over time I’ll be happy.

Giving Myself Something to Look Forward to (however minor): I’m an introvert and a homebody and I still find it depressing af to have what I call “empty day timer syndrome” (aka nothing to look forward to for an entire winter except for maybe a chat with a public health nurse when the baby goes for her 2 month shots). Ideas could include: a nice morning coffee ritual, date nights at home, a weekly rain-or-shine meet-up outdoors with a friend, a regular virtual coffee date with your mom, Saturday morning Starbucks, a new season of a favourite show, Sunday morning hikes, or outdoor bootcamp classes if you’re fortunate enough to live somewhere that’s on the warmer side in the winter. I’m making sure I have something small planned for each week; it’s nice to have a reason to do your makeup once in a while, even if it’s just for a Zoom hang.

Giving My Day Some Structure: since we have no kids in school or preschool this winter there is no structure whatsoever to our days, especially Monday to Friday while Tom is working. As much as we talk about kiddos thriving on routine I think I need it even more. I know that listlessness for me always seems to lead to sadness (boohoo!) so I try to carve out the most minimal of routines without putting too much pressure on myself (because the fourth trimester is tough enough). Taking the kids for a walk each morning, baking on Mondays, painting projects on Tuesdays, Wine Wednesdays (just kidding, not really), movie nights on Pizza Fridays, just finding any way to keep the weeks tickin’ along!

Making Some (Regular!) Time for Myself: this is something I have previously been so bad at. Like..I haven’t done it yet and I’m on my third child. When I read the part of “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle where she talks about how our children need “a model not a martyr” it really resonated with me, but I haven’t put it into regular practice yet (I’ll blame pregnancy and postpartum for that). I have an appointment with my pelvic floor physio coming up and I’m hoping she’ll clear me to start running again – this activity, for me, is the holy grail combo of exercise + therapy (cardio is stress relief!) + getting out of the house (SAHM’s need time outside of the house) + no cost + pandemic friendly + can do it year-round.

Treating my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder): I have always struggled with this, but I no longer “treat” it by going to a tanning salon (ugh! Can’t believe I used to do that so often!). I’m thinking about trying Light Therapy this year and maybe Vitamin D pills as well. Please let me know if you’ve made any strides treating SAD! I’d love to hear some success stories.

Practicing Gratitude (at least more often than I practice negativity): the focuses that we feed become bigger over time, and being thankful for what you’ve got is a practice that you can strengthen like a muscle. It can be stress-relieving to have a good rant once in a while but I’ve been trying not to get too caught up in all of the things I can’t do this winter and all of the negative aspects about this pandemic. During a really tough time in my life I started writing down 3 things I was grateful for in a little dollar store journal every day, and I highly recommend it for anyone who feels bogged down by negativity (it’s a practice I stole from Liz Gilbert, the author of “Eat, Pray, Love”).

I’d love to hear any ways that you’re preparing yourself for the upcoming winter, especially if you also live in a place with a long winter! Hopefully we will all emerge in the spring time with our sanity intact, freshly vaccinated against Covid-19 and with good habits and wonderful tools for self care.

How to Support Your Breastfeeding Partner

Before I write this post I want to acknowledge that not everyone is able to breastfeed and a fed, loved baby is best. I can only speak about my own experiences so I’m never going to be able to write about pumping or bottle-feeding because those things just weren’t in the cards for me. So when I speak about breastfeeding it is never because I think anyone else’s decisions are wrong on uninformed, it’s just because it’s all I know. I’m also doing my best to use inclusive language here because not everyone with a uterus and milk ducts is a woman/mother, and not every partner is a man/father, so if you read “she” and “he” here sometimes, please know it pertains to anyone who might be fulfilling those roles.

The fact is that no matter who you are or how you feed your baby the first year is usually wrought with some sort of troubleshooting. Too much milk or too little, supply issues, schedules, allergies and intolerances, there’s just so much information out there and it can be super overwhelming, so always trust your gut instinct. I always defer to the KellyMom website for the best information but I’d highly recommend seeing a lactation consultant if you have serious issues that you need to work through. An LC helped me through Hennie’s reflux and diagnosed Wells’ oral ties when I was having recurring painful nipple blisters and clogged ducts. They really know their shit and if you run into problems and are absolutely determined to have a successful breastfeeding relationship it’s worth spending the money for a one-on-one consultation or attending a group workshop (once covid isn’t so prevalent). It’s much cheaper to hire an LC once than to pay for formula for a year! And again, I know this is a hot topic so let me reiterate that however you feed your family, I support you! There is a multitude of reasons why someone may not be able to or want to breastfeed and they are all valid.

The research shows though, that one of the biggest contributing factors to a successful breastfeeding journey, whatever that might look like for you personally, is having a partner who supports and encourages you in your breastfeeding relationship with your baby. You may have a whole village of supportive people around you but when the inevitable midnight struggles hit it’s generally your partner who is by your side. I have been extremely fortunate to have what I think is the absolute best husband in this regard. He is calm and confident as a parent and is weirdly naturally intuitive about breastfeeding for a man without breasts. So I’ve compiled a list of the many ways that he has continually supported me in my breastfeeding journey with three babies, just in case anyone out there wants to know how best they can support a breastfeeding parent.

  • STAY CALM. Like I said, my partner is nothing if not consistently calm, and this is a quality that I believe Is specifically important for breastfeeding. Babies take their emotional cues from those around them, so when mum gets frustrated while breastfeeding (and it will happen, in the first month and beyond) it can help to have a grounded, calm partner nearby to take the baby and calm him for a minute so everyone can gather their composure for another try.
  • STAY UP. At least in the first weeks as breastfeeding is being established, stay up with her and be there for moral support while she feeds the baby. She will be spending a LOT of time up in the night over the course of her breastfeeding journey and it can feel quite isolating. A little encouragement goes a long way. 
  • HYDRATE. Don’t ask your partner if they’re thirsty, just make sure there is water at their side whenever they’re feeding, especially in the first month when feeds can take a while. Breastfeeding requires heavy hydration and makes you so thirsty (and hungry for that matter). Keep the water and snacks close at hand, especially if your baby is the type to take a full 45 minutes to complete a feeding.
  • BE INFORMED. Read some research about breastfeeding. I was surprised at how important it was to Tom that our babies be breastfed if I was able. It turns out he had read about the medical (and magical!) benefits of breastmilk, like how babies receive the mother’s antibodies and immune system etc. I think if a partner knows the benefits of breastfeeding he or she is much more likely to encourage their spouse to continue.
  • LISTEN AND LEARN. Your partner has enough to focus on with their postpartum recovery, so when your midwife/doula/lactation consultant shares tips for breastfeeding or explains different breastfeeding positions, try to memorize them for when you need to remember them in the middle of the night. I can’t count the amount of times that Tom has corrected my position, pointed out a bad latch, or suggested I try something new that actually worked wonders. He has turned out to be much more intuitive than I’ve been with breastfeeding somehow (Rather than feeling emomsculated™ about this I actually love it. Y’all know I stan the crushing of gender norms).
  • STEP IN. When things are going poorly, ie when your partner and baby are both in tears or about to be, the best thing you can do is give them a minute to calm down before trying again. Tom always notices when I’m about to lose my cool. He asks to take the baby and will calm her down and give her back to me when she has stopped crying and I’m ready to try again. Then he sits beside me, quietly observing, and if he has an idea how to help he asks if I would like to hear a suggestion (lol, he’s so gentle with me postpartum when I’m at my snarkiest).

Where to Start:

  • I suggest learning what a GOOD LATCH looks like on day one from a maternity nurse, your midwife, doula, lactation consultant or any other care provider (they should all be able to tell you!). Please also know that if a latch looks good but doesn’t feel good, then it isn’t right. It’s normal to have sore nipples the first few days of nursing and sometimes when baby is cluster feeding but it isn’t normal to feel pain all the time. 
  • I’d also encourage you to get to know the BASIC HOLDS, which include the cradle hold, laid back position, football hold, and side-lying. There are lots more you can learn and some are especially suggested for certain ailments (like koala position for a baby with reflux or feeding laid back for a mama with hyper lactation issues like me). If you know the basics you can suggest a new one if your partner needs to change things up. 

Good luck, my friends!

Rumi’s Lovely (and Fast!) Birth at Home

The last few weeks of this third pregnancy were hot and I was miserable. We had a pretty mild summer for our area and it’s never easy being heavily pregnant in August, especially with a third pregnancy and two other children to keep up with, so when my due date rolled around with baby 3 I was pretty miserable at the thought of potentially going another two weeks. My first two babies were born at 40w2d and 40w4d but at 40 weeks with the third I had felt absolutely NO twinges, pangs, or signs that she was getting ready to make her arrival.

It was a hot day the morning of her due date, a Wednesday, and would turn out to be the last hot day of the summer. I had had a cervical sweep on Monday morning and was disappointed that it hadn’t worked to induce labour, but as with all other attempts at natural induction, they really only work if your body is super close to going into labour anyway (sorry to disappoint the heavily pregnant women reading this, but no amount of dates or pineapple will kickstart labour if your body and baby are not ready). Because I was so miserable, Tom took a break from work to take the kids and I for a trail walk before the day got too hot. I was uncomfortable and walking slowly. We saw a few friends on our walk but it did nothing to lift my spirits.

Wells went down for his midday nap at 1pm and I took the opportunity to lie down, hoping that I could make the day pass faster by sleeping through as much of it as I could (if someone had told me I would have a baby before dinnertime I would have had a hard time believing them). I woke up half an hour later (because good sleep isn’t a thing when you’re heavily pregnant) and felt some mild cramping. It was the first time I’d felt my uterus do anything so I didn’t want to get up in case it stopped, as I assumed it would. I laid in bed for a bit and then got up to walk to the end of the block to check the mailbox (late pregnancy is basically just going on multiple walks a day until you go into labour). There was a tee shirt in the mail box from a friend and I came home and took a selfie and posted it to Instagram around 3:30.

My cramps were coming on and off but were so inconsistent that it almost wasn’t worth timing them (some 11 minutes apart, some 18 minutes apart) but I timed them anyway because it made me feel hopeful. Suddenly at 4:30 they ramped up to a consistent 3-5 minutes apart and the intensity made me stop what I was doing and breathe through them. The “rule” my midwife gave me was to call her when contractions were 5-1-1 (5 minutes apart and 1 minute long for at least an hour) so I settled in to wait diligently for my hour of contractions. In between them Tom and I were scrambling to get things ready, filling the birth pool with nice warm water and putting waterproof liners underneath the sheets in our guest bedroom. The kids were at the kitchen counter through it all, happily helping my mom prep veggies for dinner and totally oblivious to their mama who stopped every few minutes to lean over the counter and breathe heavily through a contraction. I still didn’t call the midwife yet but I texted my doula and she sped right over, arriving just before 5pm. A few contractions later, at 5:14, my water broke and we knew that things were about to ramp up even faster. The first contraction after my water broke I felt an unbelievable amount of pressure, so I got into the birth tub for the next one, hoping the warm water would alleviate some of the pain. The next contraction was even more intense and my doula, Jane, asked if I felt the urge to push. I said no, I just felt so much pressure. During the next contraction I absolutely roared, it was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. In hindsight I was already in transition, the most painful but shortest phase of labour when the baby is moving down the birth canal and is almost ready to be pushed out. During the contraction I reached down and could feel the top of Rumi’s head, and that I was almost fully dilated. I said “she’s coming out on the next contraction!” and Tom quickly jumped into the birth pool behind me. On the next contraction I didn’t even push; my body had the Fetal Ejection Reflex (involuntary pushing) and her head came out! It was absolutely wild. Tom said he had her head (weird, lol), and Jane told me I would need to push out her body on the next contraction. When I felt the contraction rising I pushed and her body came out and Tom had her! He put her up on his own chest because I was facing away from him and couldn’t turn around.

She cried immediately and was nice and pink so we knew she was okay. Tom stayed in the water and held her to keep her warm. I was in total shock and having bad cramping as my body tried to get the placenta out; this is normal and it can take up to half an hour for the placenta to come out on it’s own. I couldn’t turn around to see my new baby without having to lift a leg over the umbilical cord so I stayed put for a while until the midwife arrived. While we waited the doula went and got my mom and the kids and brought them in to meet Rumi! It was a really fun and special moment to be able to introduce them to the new baby right in our own home, one of the many reasons I was excited about having a homebirth.

When the midwife arrived we all had a good laugh about how fast everything had gone. She cut the cord and helped me deliver the placenta (one easy push) so I could get out of the pool and rest in bed with my new baby! The midwife checked out me and Rumi, told us we were both doing well, and that was that! A few measurements and some clean-up and we were done! The midwives were on their way around 7:30pm, less than two hours after Rumi was born, leaving us to put the big kids down, eat take-out and cuddle our new baby in our own bed.

I’m so excited that for my last birth I was able to have the homebirth of my dreams! It was a wonderfully empowering and exhilarating experience and while we never planned on Tom catching the baby it was so cool that he did. I don’t think we’ll ever forget it!

Third Trimester Meal Prep: My Fave Recipes

It’s that time again! The one-month-countdown is on and that means I’m taking to the kitchen to stock my deep freeze with easy meals that will save me time and effort once baby is born. The only problem: most of my go-to dinner ideas won’t work super well for freezing ahead. Oh, and another problem: this last month of pregnancy is the month of August. InstaPot meals, anyone? My very short list of go-to freezer meals, if you’re interested in trying any, include the following (PS we are not vegan but most of these are meat-free):

Lentil Cauliflower Soup (Oh She Glows) – soups thaw fast and make an easy meal when you pop some naan bread into the toaster! This one is hearty and healthy and pairs very, very well with a Ginger Cider (not that I would know!)

Our Perfect Veggie Burger (Oh She Glows) – highly customizable, super duper healthy, and makes 8-9 patties. I freeze them with a small piece of wax paper between them, then bake or fry to reheat. Throw on a brioche bun with avo, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mayo and dinner is DONE.

This Vegan Lasagna (Erin Ireland via America’s Test Kitchen) – a little labour intensive to make but a good hearty and healthy meal that should last two days. Just add garlic bread!

Spicy Chipotle Turkey Burritos (Pinch of Yum) – I’ve made this recipe so many times and it’s another easily customizable one! I’ve made it with the turkey, with just veggies, and once subbing the PoY Cauliflower Walnut Taco Meat (don’t roll your eyes at me okay, it’s spicy and delicious, especially on nachos!). I like to reheat frozen burritos by defrosting them and then frying them in a pan quickly before I smother them with guac and hot sauce.

Coconut Chickpea Curry (Jessica in the Kitchen) – so easy, I make this weekly in the winter time! Another meal that’s delicious just with some toasted or fried naan bread on the side.

Batch Breakfast Sandwiches don’t really need a recipe but if you need some help take a look at these 15 Minute Meal Prep Breakfast Sandwiches (Pinch of Yum)

Muffin staples in our home include these Perfect Pumpkin Muffins from The Kitchn (they really are perfect, and so moist you could whip up a cream cheese frosting and serve them as cupcakes) and these Quick and Easy Banana Muffins from Sally’s Baking Addiction and these Easy Carrot Cake Muffins from An Italian in My Kitchen that we make a LOT (without the frosting, unless I’m feeling sassy). I make all of my muffins with coconut sugar instead of brown or white because it’s much healthier for the kiddos, and I often use vegan butter or coconut oil in place of the butter and oil, as well as Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer for the eggs just because.

What would you add? Please share any go-to recipes that freeze and reheat well! Bonus points if you get me to use my Instant Pot for the second time!

My Favourite Birth Books

The third trimester is for birth prep and for a nerd like me that means studying! I’m re-familiarizing myself with a few favourites that I haven’t read since I was a first time prego four years ago (I did zero birth prep for my second labour two years ago, felt like wingin’ it!).

This third time will be the farthest I’ve lived from a hospital, the only birth I’ve been able to consider a homebirth for, and of course my first birth during a global pandemic. So many (weird) milestones but I’m so ready for the challenge and as a third timer I feel knowledgeable enough about birth that I’m excited rather than fearful.

During my first pregnancy I found the “What to Expect” book series pretty fear-mongering and very much not-my-style. The two books I swear by now are The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin and Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth.

The Birth Partner presents a clinical account of birth and is written for (you guessed it) whoever is going to be acting as the mother’s birth partner during labour. I like to read it as well because knowing what’s happening in my body makes it easier for me to understand what is needed of me mentally. Emotional accounts of birth are easy to find because it is inherently a deeply emotional and transformative act, but the Birth Partner reads more like a well-informed textbook, clearly explaining the physiology of labour and offering tactics for each different stage (ie. helpful positions to try, where a birth partner should apply pressure to relieve lower back pain, and what the mother might be feeling or thinking during the different stages). I like to put tabs on the pages I want Tom to read and highlight the things I think will be helpful for me.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, on the other hand, is very obviously written for the birthing mother and for a specific purpose; that purpose is to challenge some common myths and misconceptions we’ve grown to accept as normal in our modern day birth culture. The first half of the book is full of positive birth stories that are sorely missing from birth discourse today, where we’ve learned to deeply fear the birthing process and readily share our horror stories with others. These birth stories portray birth as a natural, intense, ecstatic experience that can be positive, feminist, and community-driven, with women cheering each other on and offering comfort and support to each other. Most importantly, the birthing woman and her needs and wishes are always placed at the center of the labour experience with minimal intervention from modern medicine. At the time Ina May was practicing this was a radical difference from the norm, which saw birthing mothers heavily medicated, often strapped on their backs on a sterile table.

The second half of the book explains how Ina May achieved such drastically different birth outcomes than the rest of the US over the decades that she and her team delivered babies at The Farm Midwifery Center, in Tennessee (stats like a 1.4% c-section rate compared to 24.4% in hospitals at the time, and a 0.05% vacuum- and forceps-extraction rate compared to 10% in hospitals at the time, and don’t get her started on the episiotomy rates!). Ina May’s Farm was one of the first out-of-hospital birthing centers in the US. She talks about lots of physiological stuff like Sphincter Law (issa thing!) but a lot of the mental stuff as well, highlighting how the mind-body connection works during birth, how fears and anxieties can stall labour, visualization techniques and mantras for opening the body, and so much other good stuff. It has truly given me peace to read this book in the third trimester as we approach out third and last Labour Day (and hopefully first homebirth!).

*disclaimer: because Ina May did much of her work in the 70s and we’re in the middle of a racial reckoning I was struck by some problematic issues with the book, most notably a natural birth tactic to combat shoulder dysplasia being named The Gaskin Manoeuvre even though Ina May learned it in rural Guatemala from indigenous midwives. All of Ina May’s research and experiences are still deeply valuable, it’s just something to be aware of when reading.

Anyway, I highly recommend both of these books for any pregnant person and their partner! A few other titles I’ve read and would recommend include Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes, Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read and Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin.

It’s Okay to Talk About the Tough Times

I’m finding it really hard to find the line between being realistic about life lately and sounding like I’m complaining during a time when, inarguably, everyone is struggling. On one hand, I don’t want anyone to ever think that I don’t love my babies or that I’m not grateful that I could get pregnant the first time I tried, three times in a row. I am privileged to not know loss, I am privileged that my family has a safe space in which to make messes and cry and whine incessantly, I am privileged that the genetic syndrome that our oldest child was born with has so far been mild enough that we get to raise her like a typical child. Despite what a lot of people have been assuming, we did choose to have all three of our kids this close together. None of them were a mistake and we don’t regret our choice to get these tough years over with all at once.

But on the other hand, shit’s hard right now, and I started this space to talk about hard shit. Back when Hennie was a purple-crying Colic Baby I searched the internet in the midnight hours for someone who would admit that there are some real rock bottom moments (or days, or weeks) in the long journey of parenthood. Instead all I found were thousands of accounts of peacefully sleeping babies and postpartum moms with fresh blowouts and a face full of makeup. To say I couldn’t relate would be an understatement and I vowed to never post just a highlight reel. I want parents to know that alongside the inevitable joys are times when we all struggle, and most importantly, that our struggles are NOT the exception, they are the norm. Parenting is tough! You WILL struggle. And you’ll probably be tempted to compare your situation to all of the perfect-looking parents on the internet but I hope you know you can come here when you need some encouragement or just a healthy dose of real talk.

So here’s my truth right now. I’m tired. Like, so tired. I haven’t woken up with that “well rested” feeling in weeks and the moment I get out of bed I’m already thinking about when I can get back in. At my last blood test I had a Ferritin level of…1. My midwife assures me this does not mean that I win 1st place, but it should be noted that it IS the lowest she’s ever seen… #winning.

Unfortunately the result of having no iron stores and no energy from being in late pregnancy is that right now I’m just not the mother I want to be. I seem to be oscillating between the rage that comes from having subzero patience and the indifference that comes from not having the energy to give a shit about anything. I’m wishing the days away, wishing the terrible two’s away, and wishing this pregnancy away even though I’m not sure I believe the future is going to be any easier. I’ve always worked hard to try not to wish my life away because it steals so much joy from the present but my present doesn’t feel very joyful right now and that’s just where we’re at. I’m sure that pregnancy hormones are somewhat at play here but I am fully convinced that I am not going to be able to handle the care of three kids AND my own self, and that scares me because I already feel that I’m neglecting myself deeply during a time when I know I should be taking better care. 

But we’re all just doing our best, right? It’s all we can do and we will do it and get through it. This has been a really, really tough year for so many of us and there are likely still hard times ahead in our new post-civid world. All we can do is survive the best we can, hopefully learn a little bit, and all become kinder and more empathetic people when this phase inevitably ends and a new, easier one begins. If there is one thing I’ve learned through my four years with three pregnancies and two kids, it’s that every phase ends. The good times give way to tougher ones but the tough ones are never permanent either. Life is always good and bad in different ways but we can always do it. It takes a village and right now during this ongoing pandemic all we’ve got is our emotional (and on-line) villages. If you need support or encouragement, I’m here for you!

Dear Baby 3

This pregnancy with you has not been at all what I expected. You see, I found out about you just days before a new year started; that year is only half over but so far it’s been a year of challenge and growth not just for our family but somehow also for the entire world. It has been a strange and complicated time where unity and isolation have gone hand in hand, where we are collectively un-learning and re-learning.You will be born into a world that is in flux and I hope it all ends up for the better. We are fighting so hard to break down and dismantle the system that we have so we can build it all anew. For you, babe, and your siblings and your peers. 

I hope that the work we are doing now has long, long lasting effects that change the course for your generation. I hope you speak well to each other and are aware of the power of the language you use, I hope that you see and celebrate colour, that you laud each other’s differences the way humans are meant to, that you cheer each other on and fight for one another as though you were fighting for your own family. I hope you grow up knowing what it looks like to challenge wrongly held beliefs that have become the norm, what it looks like to admit when you’re wrong, to grow, and move forward, that you always knows that change is possible because you grew up amidst a continual transformation of thought.

I hope that you take medicine and science seriously, that you and your generation are miraculously able to find a way to save the planet we have failed to treasure, though time is running out. I hope that the women and men who lead your generation prioritize all of the things our current leaders are neglecting and if they don’t I hope you are enraged enough to march in the streets and burn and burn in anger until a new course is assured. There is no more room in this world for complacency, baby girl, and I hope you and your peers have all of the passion and rage and education that we have lacked. I hope that you rebuild what we are tearing down. I hope that you rise up where we have fallen short. I hope, I hope, I hope…

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


  • 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
  • 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. 


  • Step One: go to 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


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.