What a fantastic year 2009 has been for me. So many things to be thankful for... I am closing this year, and this decade, in total peace with myself. The picture below is from New Year's Eve Y2K (you had all forgotten about that term, hadn't you?)... And I think if such a thing was possible, my 24 year-old self would be quite proud of the person I've become, and approve the decisions I have had to make since then (even the most difficult ones)...
In 2009, we celebrated the new year in NYC...
In February, LP turned 2, and we had a party at the local Train Museum:
In May, we GOT MARRIED!
Then we went to Mexico...
June: Off to New York again for my birthday and to visit our friends. That's also the month I was featured as a Wedding Graduate on A Practical Wedding...
July: We took some time off in Washington DC with LP (Independence Day fireworks over the Mall)
August: We were featured as the Wedding of the Week on Budget Savvy Bride! M and I went on our annual mommy-and-daddy-only motorcycle weekend...
We also started renovating our bathroom, which went from this:
In September, we spontaneously decided to fly to Florida for a week:
In October, M and I worked as a team for Jenny and Stanislas' wedding (flowers by me, picture by him):
In November, we made an old dream come true by acquiring a 45 year-old Mustang:
And here's also an automatically generated cloud of the words I used the most this year on Twitter. Mhh. Not sure what to think of that.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
What a fantastic year 2009 has been for me. So many things to be thankful for... I am closing this year, and this decade, in total peace with myself. The picture below is from New Year's Eve Y2K (you had all forgotten about that term, hadn't you?)... And I think if such a thing was possible, my 24 year-old self would be quite proud of the person I've become, and approve the decisions I have had to make since then (even the most difficult ones)...
Monday, December 28, 2009
For a band name.
M and I recently went to see Matthew Good (which was part of his birthday present). While I like him, he's more M's cup of tea and I actually enjoyed the opening act more: they're a great Vancouver band called Mother Mother. The trio of vocalists (a brother and sister plus a third chick) was kind of striking, with the two girls all dolled up similarly and echoing Debbie Harry a little (platinum bobs, miniskirt with black leggings, sequined tops), and the vocal harmonies sort of reminded me of the B-52s. I do agree with a lot of comments on YouTube though, saying that they are really at their best when live. They had a great energy that I can't really find in the clips. But it's still definitely worth listening to:
We've also been listening to The XX a lot, lately... They're often referred to as "the next big Britpop thing," and although I'm always wary of such statements, I think this version of 1988's Womack & Womack Teardrops is excellent and haunting:
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Thank you, Krista, for this award... Now I need to tell you 10 things about myself.
1- I'm not a total geek or anything, and my knowledge is still not the point of coding stuff (that's not Web-based, anyway), but I still have come a very long way for someone who was completely computer-illiterate until about 10 years ago.
2- The longest time I've ever spent with anyone is 5 years. This less-than-great record will be broken in a few months.
3 - I honestly thought I would not survive when I first left my son at daycare.
4 - I've been totally longing for an iPhone for years, even scheming to get my hands on one in the US when they were not available here yet, but still haven't gotten one.
5 - My perfect job would start at 7 and end at 2 every day.
6 - One of my earliest and most important material goals is to own as many books as possible.
7 - I'd love to go to far-flung places like Russia, Australia, Japan, Iceland, etc., but mostly dream about returning again and again to the places I've enjoyed most: England, Germany, California...
8 - I seem to enjoy Legos, Playmobil toys, and the LiteBrite more than LP. I would not hesitate to eventually use the excuse of having a girl to finally get my doll playhouse.
9 - I was a straight-A student in everything except Maths, which bored me to death and which I really couldn't grasp, at all. I'm still just as hopeless.
10 - I love coffee but stopped drinking it years ago, because it made me too jittery. I'm a bit of a tea aficionado, favoring top-quality Earl Grey and litchee-flavored Chinese black tea above all. But I masochistically drink Japanese sencha green tea every day instead; it tastes pretty awful but has the highest level of antioxidants.
As for reciprocation, I'm going to take my favorite laid back approach and leave it open for anyone to participate...
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Babble has published the list of the 50 Best Mommy Bloggers for 2009. It's super interesting, although the only slight criticism I would have is that all but one are American? Mhhh? Let's leave it at that.
Admittedly I don't spend all day reading blogs (although some days I'd like that), but I only knew about 10 of them (mostly thanks to Babble and Momversation). I was really impressed by the range of their different voices, styles, interests, and focuses... From the hipster mom (that would be my best girl Rebecca Woolf (although I don't really like this term because it often implies just a twinge of negativity and disdain which I don't think is justified) to the political/organic mom, from moms offering resources to local communities to moms struggling with infertility or parental grief...
Fun, charm, wit, style, chicken soup and genuine writing talent: it's all there.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I am officially off work until January 4. We're driving to Quebec City today, and will spend Christmas Eve with M's family (I was asked to bring cupcakes, and will be making these. And yay! No tourtière!) Tomorrow for Christmas Day, we go to my mom's, among other things to see my cousin from Nova Scotia who had a baby just a few months ago (things are all reversed: he was the only boy among all my cousins, and now just had the first girl after 4 boys in that new generation). The next day, we're going further north to my hometown for the big occasion: the blended family party. My dad and stepmom are having us three siblings with our spouses and kids, my mom and her partner J, my maternal grandmother and her husband, plus my stepmom's parents and brother, who, over the years, have become sort of an additional family to us. (Are you still following? If not, it's no big deal. I know that's kind of unusual and complicated!)
M will be working for a few days in between, and then we're heading to New York for the New Year!
I feel very bold (and perhaps a little foolish) to be writing that, actually, given that we've been plagued with gastro during the Holidays for the past TWO years. Let's really, really, really hope we'll be clear this year!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Meg from A Practical Wedding had asked me to add my two-cents to the "Reclaiming Wife" discussion that's been going on, lately (here was my previous post about it)... What an honor!
More specifically, she told me she found it so depressing that people kept telling her negative things about how having children more or less meant the-absolute-end-of-your-life! Please! I'm not saying it's always easy (and you already know that if you're a regular reader), but come on! What's with the doom and gloom? So she thought I could give Team Practical readers, the majority of whom have not made the switch to parenting yet, just a little glimpse of hope...
Here's Meg's introduction to my guest post, and here is the post itself... Welcome to anyone who stops by through it, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it in the next few days... Please? I know that's two pleases in the same post. But it ain't no discussion if I'm here talking to myself...
Monday, December 21, 2009
Now that I have all your interest, let's specify that sex will not really be discussed in this post, just the less enticing, mechanical sex-ed aspect! Hey, why are you leaving???
Actually, I simply wanted to reply to beautiful, Ghanaian-Canadian-Scottish long-time reader Kaki who's planning to start TTCing (trying to conceive) soon, and was asking me for any diet-related tips I may have. But shhhh! She doesn't want her blog readers to know yet! (And do I understand. Mistake number one about our own TTCing? Telling people, hence creating all kinds of (well-meaning) pressure and awkward situations).
So, to put the *irony* of the title in context, let's just say that LP took a year to conceive. And that I've read tons of stuff on trying to get pregnant faster, increasing your chances, etc. In hindsight I shouldn't have bothered that much, but that's just how I
am was, I always try to get informed as much as possible and take it to the next level. So that would be mistake number two: focusing on it A LOT. But hey, life is all about learning from your own mistakes.
In terms of diet, I don't have many tips, in fact, except for taking folic acid as a supplement. I've read slightly doubtful stuff about eating very salty foods like pop corn, taking a few teaspoons of Mucinex or other mucus-loosening medicine, or anti-acid tablets right before your ovulation... All of this was supposed to create an environment where the little soldiers can thrive for as long as possible.
The best tip I have is of the page-turning sort, and it doesn't just apply to trying to make conception happen: I honestly think it should be read by all women. It's a book called Taking Charge of your Fertility, by Toni Weschler, and you wouldn't believe everything I learned from it. It's the ultimate resource to better understand your body and your cycles. And although I'm sure everyone thinks they know everything already, trust me, it's probably not really the case. I'm not trying to rub my oh-so-great knowledge on you here, for one thing I think we just don't receive enough education to properly understand the functioning of our own bodily systems, but case in point: if you think a normal cycle is 28 days, ovulation occurs on the 14th day or at the middle of the cycle, or that women on the pill have periods, well, buy this book. Can you quickly explain to me what happens during your period, or during ovulation, or the roles of hormones and their different effects? Is your period the beginning or the end of a cycle? Buy. This. Book. (I won't receive any money if you do).
I loved how in tune with my body it made me, and found it very empowering. It was like discovering that it tells you all the clues and cues you need, but we've never been taught to listen to them.
Friday, December 18, 2009
So, you all know that I'm admittedly a Holiday person, and I don't mean to be a Grinch here or anything... But really, what's up with all these people asking me if/when I'm taking LP to see the Père Noël? Seriously?
LP knows who Santa is, and, from afar, seems to like the guy. The guy that's on TV, and books, and cards, and Advent calendars and such. We wrote a letter to him, and even received a reply back from
Even though we're really adamant about telling it straight to your kids (just with appropriateness towards their age), Santa is sort of the exception in that as long as LP believes and keeps that wonderfully innocent and pure amazement, we'll certainly let him. So we do cater to the myth, and play along. But "going to see Santa" is a completely different thing. Why do people do this, why the need for all these more-or-less realistic wannabes going around everywhere? Why the obsession with the freaking picture on random mall Santa's lap?
Are there really kids who actually thoroughly enjoy this? Wait, let me rephrase that, I know there are that don't mind, but does this really have to be a Holiday requisite? I remember doing this as a kid, and it's never something that I was looking forward to, or something that contributed to our pre-Christmas excitement. On Christmas Eve, my grandfather or an uncle would always dress as Santa and give us our presents, and even though I wasn't freaked out, it was still always very, very weird. Because we could sort of always recognize them (kids are not dumb like we sometimes assume they are!) and were puzzled about the uncertainty, because homemade Santa costumes (and especially beards) have very variable degrees of resemblance, because let's face it, not everyone does a good impression or has the proper physical characteristics, and, because it was a purely awkward interruption of our otherwise normal family party. Suddenly, this strange costumed man would arrive and direct all his attention to us, immediately wanting us to jump on his lap. More often than not, this was hugely impressive and overwhelming, not cute or fun. I mean, put yourself in a small child's skin for a second and imagine the (potentially terrifying) scene! Up close, Santa is often more creepy than jolly! I never liked (and LP doesn't either) the idea of forced physical closeness with people I'm not familiar with, and this situation, topped with the costume, was the paramount of uncomfortable.
Waiting in line at the mall isn't my idea of fun, either, and I won't willingly do it unless I really have to. So of course if LP tells us he *wants* to go in future years, we'll oblige. But I personally think Santa should not have to be such an ubiquitous real-life character, and simply find this custom utterly, utterly bizarre.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Since the summer M and I have been handling daycare drop-offs and pick-ups together, but this is not very usual. For most people (like it was the case before we commuted together), it makes better practical sense for each parent to handle one every day or even for the same parent to handle everything if they work nearby, so we rarely see the parents together.
Still, I had always naturally assumed that all kids there live with both their parents, but of course over time realized that this wasn’t always true. The signs are not very obvious: the children are still young, it’s not exactly like they go on about this and that belonging to "their dad’s house" or something. But over time, you pick up on little conversations, and especially goodbyes. One Monday morning, an emotional dad left his little girl in LP’s classroom, kissed her and told her: "I’ll see you back on Friday night". I heard another dad tell his crying child: "If you do well today I’ll come by after dinner to kiss you goodnight." (I feel for this family especially, since their son used to also go to LP’s previous daycare (they switched locations at the same time), and I remember his parents to still be together then, his mother was even visibly pregnant at some point. But then one day she wasn’t, there was no baby, and now this. It seems like a lot of personal drama for a span of about two years).
I have immense, immense respect for single parents, and honestly don’t know how they do it. M has never been away for more than five days, and by then I was soooo ready for him to come back. So of course I had thought before about how hard it must be, how logistically difficult and tiring. But the look on these dads’ face revealed something else: how sad and emotionally hard it seems, as well. I can’t even imagine driving LP there and knowing that I won’t see him for a week. Coming home to a house full of children’s things but no child, no babbling, no laughter, no partially eaten cookie left besides furry slippers and a toy truck. All the time.
Of course I don’t think divorce is always a bad thing. I know sometimes it’s the only way, and everyone ends up better off. I don’t think people should stick together if they have a negative, destructive, hateful pattern that would be totally unhealthy for the child to learn, and "staying together for the kids" and hating every minute of it is complete bull*. Because what message it sends to them? But oh my, still, how tough it must be sometimes… I can’t even fathom the thought. So when thinking about it, I only see one solution for us, one possibility. People, we’re condemned to be happy.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
In the current issue of Canadian House and Home (of all places) is a very interesting, thought-provoking article by Wendy Dennis that’s supposed to discuss the Holiday party season, but actually focuses more on a personality trait I am all too familiar with: minglephobia. Or, a profound dislike of large gatherings, especially the need to make small talk with people they don’t know well.
The author, whose analysis is largely based on a pivotal Jonathan Rauch article titled Caring for Your Introvert (published in The Atlantic in 2003), rightly points out that this is not shyness nor misanthropy, although it has been often interpreted as such. Minglephobe introverts often have good social and communication skills (as I consider myself to have), and *can* really shine, although they are usually at their best in smaller groups, or rather, I would add, groups in which they feel at ease. As a classic one, I can have long, meaningful, engaging conversations, be funny and witty, but secretly dread a certain kind of parties like the plague. If combined with a late-night hour, these are my own personal definition of horrible torture.
"Aimless party chatter sucks the life out of them," Dennis writes. And it’s so painfully true. The reaction is very real and physical: after a while of having to be "socially on", there’s nothing left in me. Because although I can do it (and M who’s a fellow minglephobe can do it much better than me –he’s such an amazing public speaker you would never guess that inside he’s always actually feeling like he’s acting (an image expressed by Rauch himself as well)), it’s not natural nor fun. It’s a semi-conscious state I "get through", realizing only after a while that my jaw is clenched and my back is hunched and my neck is stiff.
The articles point out the main difference between extroverts and introverts: extroverts "wilt" when they’re alone, are afraid of silence, and "get bored by themselves, in both meanings". They’re energized by having lots of people around them, and therefore obviously came up with the concept of parties and clubbing. For them, the "98-percent-content-free talk" that drives introverts nuts is a vital way to communicate, since they instinctively and overwhelmingly favor the "contact" aspect of communication, as opposed to the "message." Introverts, however, essentially need to "turn off and recharge." At some point, it’s like I’m suffering from complete sensory overload and it’s just too much. Being "alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating," Rauch describes. In parties, after an hour or two of initial excitement, my natural, favorite position has always been *the observer*: just slightly apart, comfortably and quietly sitting, taking everything in with acute interest and fascination.
Extroverts of course form the majority, and by their very nature are overrepresented in many public or prominent positions, so they kind of make the rules and dictate the etiquette. The problem is, even though introverts (who are often sensitive and perceptive) understand how extroverts feel (since we have always needed to adapt to them), the opposite isn’t usually true. I’m not attacking or criticizing; I personally think extroverts are simply not "wired" to grasp abstract differences or interpret nuances very well, or to some extend understand the concept of a subjectivity than is different than theirs. "As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood," says Rauch, adding that our lot in life seems to remain perpetually misunderstood... I find this a tad melodramatic, but I still think there’s some truth to it. It seems I have always been surrounded by people, starting with my own family, whom I always disappoint in that they can’t understand what is wrong with me, call me "too serious" and "boring", shake their heads at what they perceive as my annoying inability to just "let myself go and have fun"… As a result, I’ve always been feeling guilty and shameful towards that, but have long lost hope that one day they could just get it’s simply my idea of fun that's very different from theirs.
At my nephew’s birthday party recently, I kind of lost track of time, and at some point suddenly felt that my limit had been reached. I figured it was probably close to 10 PM by then, because I just couldn’t stand on my feet anymore, couldn’t handle the buzz anymore, I just wanted my bed. On the other side of the house I suddenly saw my husband, sitting on the couch with that look that told me he was feeling the same. I joined him, and we looked at each other, like, "can we go now"? And of course immediately several people came around, saying: "What are you two doing there in your corner? Are you OK? What’s wrong?" Clearly, they could never understand that one could willingly choose to be quiet and alone for even a minute. When we hinted that we might leave, everyone was incredulous. "But it’s 6:45!" Aren't we a little pathetic? Given my level of exhaustion, I would have never, ever guessed.
But the good, the best thing in all of that is, as you may have noticed in my last paragraph, I am not alone sitting on the couch with bleary eyes anymore.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
You might remember that earlier this fall, LP (and by extension, we) had a very rough couple of weeks after a fire drill at daycare unexpectedly triggered a very intense, very real fear in him. Leaving him there while seeing that he was in hysterical distress was the hardest thing we've ever done, and for a little while it was like a opaque cloud was always above us.
But even while we worried about him reacting so much louder and dramatically than all the other kids, he was gaining back his ground, coping, taking little steps back towards feeling completely secure again, at his very own pace. Drop-offs soon became less horrendous, then, even though they weren't completely easy, we were told his meltdowns only lasted a few minutes. Then finally, he was OK with us leaving, sometimes even barely noticing because he was too involved in playing with his friends. We even had one pick-up where he wouldn't leave because he had too much fun, and that, my friends, is not too great on your parental ego, but also the ultimate, comforting validation that he loves it there.
By chance, it also happened that not once, but twice since then, the fire alarm got off without a reason (they got it inspected the first time but couldn't see anything, then the second time they simply decided to replace it). Even if they were pretty sure these were only false alarms, they still needed to follow protocol, and immediately evacuated the kids (without their outdoors gear on) across the street to the other daycare that's part of the same organization. As if they needed to be tested even more, in late October they even had a water leak in the locker room, which resulted in another hurried evacuation.
The director always informs the parents by e-mail, and so each time both M and I felt our stomachs turn upon receiving the news, fearing the worst about LP's state of mind. But each time, his teachers and the director only had positive things to say about his behavior. He did not freak out, he did not cry, he asked questions, seemed to understand and did very well. When we picked him up, he had all these stories to tell us, not appearing to have minded the disruption one bit.
The director even sent me a sweet little e-mail that brought tears to me eyes, telling me how impressed she was about his progress, how proud of him everyone was. She praised our good work and the one of his teachers, and I returned the compliment, because I am so touched and humbled about how much they care, how fantastic they are, and how lucky we are that our son gets to spend his time with such amazing and competent people.
And above all I couldn't tell you how proud I am of my little guy, who, with all the wisdom of his 34 months of age, has conquered a very deep fear that not too long ago hit him so hard he couldn't really function for a few days.
There's a maxim in French that originally comes from Aesop, but is widely known as part of a Fable de Jean de la Fontaine called "The lion and the mouse", which goes: "On a souvent besoin d'un plus petit que soi" (We often need someone who's smaller than us). And this is what I've been having in mind when looking at my son lately, thinking that in this relationship, I am not the only who's there to inspire, guide and teach.
Monday, December 14, 2009
It surprises even myself, but I'm kind of traditional, when it comes to Christmas. I always love seeing home design magazines with white feather wreaths and elegant white amaryllis as Holiday decor, but in the end I think it doesn't look very Christmas-y to me. I love poinsettias, even though some people think they're tacky. They were some beautiful ivory ones at the store when I got mine this year, and I considered them, but then, got the usual red ones instead.
I would never get a fake tree. It's OK if you do, there are valid reasons to do so! I'm not saying all fake trees are god-awful and tasteless, even Martha herself recently talked about her love of vintage tinsel trees. But I really care about these things, probably much more than the usual person, and to me they're in the same category as flowers: sure flowers are short-lived and hard to care for, and why bother since they'll soon die, but that's exactly why they are so precious. I'd much, much rather get fresh flowers anyway and have to throw them out, even though some artificial ones do look good today. Fake flowers, fake trees, fake turf on your lawn (which seem to be a new trend in the ritzy multi-million dollar houses neighborhood that recently spawned out at the other side of our town): they just all seem to be an insult to the beauty and essence of the real ones. Being surrounded by living, green things makes me happy, makes me feel like I'm breathing better. They instantly add a new dimension to a room, make it cozy and lived in and loved and like you tried harder, and I don't think it's the case with imitations. That's all.
For the first time this year we got a (7 1/2 foot-high) Frasier fir, which is the cream of the crop of Christmas trees (usually, only Balsam fir is available to us, which makes sense since that's what grows around here). But they had Frasier too this year, and we jumped on the opportunity: their color is richer (with a blueish tone to it), branches are fuller due to a higher needle count, they don't dry out as quickly and retain their needles longer, and most of all, they smell great. Like Christmases past. Like childhood December mornings of tiptoeing out of bed early and smelling the tree before even seeing it. (M has even more wonderful memories of actually going into the woods beneath his house with his dad and picking the tree themselves).
Our tree decorations are mostly silver and blue, which is a nod to Swedish Christmas colors (and I think also traditional Hanukkah colors?) LP was really into decorating the tree this year, excited beyond himself, and suddenly completely capable of hanging the delicate ornaments by himself, although we did have to help him so he wouldn't gather them all in the same corner. He has a big responsibility: putting in the star topper!
Except for the tree and fireplace mantel (I made the blue stockings for M and I, my mother made LP the red one), we have (natural) wreaths inside and outside our front door, which I bought pre-made and to which I've added two little handmade birds LP insisted on buying the other day.
Outside, I decorated a big planter near our front door with evergreens: pine, cedar, as well as extra branches from our Christmas tree. M, who was in charge of outdoor lights, decided to dazzle the arrangement with blue ones, which I think looks nice and welcoming (maybe the effect will be even better with snow). The branches will last until spring.
Additionally, I gathered extra branches M had to cut off from the tree and hanged them on top of our staircase, with glued-on pine cones that had fallen from the 50-foot tall spruce tree we have in our front yard, as well as delicate, vintage Villeroy & Bosch ornaments we received as presents last year.
LP (arem, I) wrote his first letter to Santa. He asked for little matchbox cars, a Playmobil truck, and a play kitchen (OK, we may have put this last idea in his head). Do you want to ask for anything else, I asked? A little sister, maybe? (I was just trying to assess the field). He laughed, looked at me like I was silly, and said: "Noooooooo!.... Just presents." He knows Santa is coming through the chimney this year. And reasoned that this must be why we put to tree close to it.
We made a gingerbread house together, although LP is definitely better at eating the candy than anything else. He dropped, and broke, a large piece of the roof, but thanks to the super gluey icing I was able to patch it up with few consequences. Overall it doesn't look amazing like the Martha Stewart Living ones, but it looks wonderfully homemade and I still like it.
Each year since I've been living on my own, I prepare something to give to people around me, usually cookies, but I've also made other things: fudge, truffles, lemon pound cakes, butterscotch spread, orange-scented lip balm, etc. This picture is from 2006, and I still haven't decided what I'll do this year... Any of you have ideas for me?
Friday, December 11, 2009
OK, technically, our new old car was built in New Jersey (on May 13, 1965, according to the serial number), and not in Detroit, but you get my drift.
We're getting the Mustang today! Let's celebrate with the following:
(I hope I'm not the only one who's enjoying this kind of trivia, and nostalgic tune. I loved this when M sent it to me, because it embodies the whole era during which this legendary vehicle was created, and, by extension, a big chunk of a certain, long-gone American culture...We are as excited about the car's history as about the car itself. We're such dorks, I know!)
Thursday, December 10, 2009
So last year I posted about French versions of classic Holiday songs (and Rudolph being a drunk)... Why not make it some kind of a tradition?
As you can see, I'm not very original. But why toy with nostalgic perfection?
Ella Fitzgerald - Jingle Bells
Ella (yes, we're on a first-name basis) has the most fantastic voice I have ever heard, period. Her range and emotion just kill me. I love all the songs in her Ella wishes you a swinging Christmas album (which is very rare for holiday music), but I chose this one first, because I especially enjoy the upbeat tempo. (My favorite part is her scatting: "I'm just crazy about horses!")
Vince Guaraldi - A Charlie Brown Christmas
Who never identified with Charlie when Linus told him: "You're the only person I know who takes such a wonderful thing and turn it into a problem"? Ah, the burden of being the slightly awkward overthinking person. OK, maybe that was just me.
Eartha Kitt - Santa Baby
Absolute glamour and sexiness (except for the weird drag queens in the back, that is). She asks Santa for a ring... And she doesn't mean on the phone. That girl was smart!
Bing Crosby and David Bowie - Little Drummer Boy
Unlikely duet, but it works. Instant classic.
Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer - Baby it's cold outside
I know. Let the girl go dude, towards the end you're kind of creepy.
Frank Sinatra - Have yourself a merry little Christmas
"Faithful friends who were dear to us, will be near to us once more..."
Ella Fitzgerald - Let it snow!
My personal favorite Christmas song; it's the lyrics that get me... Ella nails it once again (more than Dean Martin, I think)... But my absolute favorite version was a commercial from a few years ago (for a cell phone?), with all kinds of people going their way and singing a line... Anyone remembers?
Nat King Cole - The Christmas song
It's the solemnity of this one I especially like...
All I want for Christmas is you
Please don't throw rocks at me! I know that's a Mariah Carey song, but that's not this version. Rather the one from the cute movie Love, Actually.
U2 - Angel of Harlem
I know the more obvious pick is Baby please come home, but I still prefer this one, from their little known album Rattle & Hum. It's not about Christmas per se, more about the spirit of the weeks leading up to the Holidays.
John Lennon - Happy Christmas
Anyone interested in hearing folksy, traditional, typically Québécois Holiday music? Here's an example. This version is tongue-in-cheek, contemporary but with an obvious aim to recreate ways from time past (believe me, that's not music you hear on the radio). I have a special connection with this song, because it reminds me of Holidays from my childhood, when my mom would take out the big box containing a Reader's Digest collection of several LPs with various kinds of Christmas music...
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The absolutely fabulous Rebecca Woolf at Girls' Gone Child recently posted about the magical beauty product that is dry shampoo... Thanking the Twitter friends who recommended it to her. And guess who these friends are? Yeah, the word is plural, so I'm not the only one. But I definitely told her about it first, responding to her tweet within a few minutes. And she even uses the same French brand I do. So hello! She likes it so much that she even posts a little step-by-step guide on how to use it (I also saw that she meant to talk about it on Momversation but it never made it to the final cut)! Check it out.
I first posted about my love and gratefulness for a world that includes dry shampoo last year. It's definitely the most important part of my maintenance routine, and the one thing that allows me to wash and do my hair only twice a week ('coz it takes forever and I hate it). I guess all this can be attributed to LP and his ear tube surgery, because I had never heard of it before, but it was recommended by the post-op nurse as part of his care for the first few weeks (since we couldn't get his head near water for a while)!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
A lot of experts say that as long as your have a good, healthy diet, you probably shouldn’t bother with multivitamins. But I still take one and give one to LP, first because it cannot harm him either, and second because there are always exceptions to rules, and two particular elements are of interest to me: calcium and vitamin D.
First, just like me (and even though I’ve tried hard not to communicate this to him), he doesn’t like milk, at all. Even as a tiny baby, he would drink minimal quantities, and now that he’s more assertive and capable of expressing himself, forget it. We always come up with tricks and strategies and coaxes to make him drink at least a little every day, but always have been only moderately successful. I don’t like the idea of forcing him, bribing him, launching an emotional control fight where there are clearly no winners, and think it would be a little insane to feed him chocolate milk every day for the rest of his childhood. Occasional treat, sure. But all the time? That can’t be good.
Anyway he eats other dairy products and calcium-rich foods (like cabbage, broccoli, almonds, soy, legumes), and also drinks a little fortified natural fruit juice… Nevertheless, that's not enough, hence the multivitamin.
But in fact vitamin D is even more significant to me than calcium, which, after all, is not so prevalent in most cultures outside the Western world. At least he gets a little overall, as all our efforts add up. Vitamin D, however, is present in very few foods, and we people of northern latitudes face the double whammy of having very little sun exposure during the winter months plus always using sunscreen during the rest of the year.
I first became aware of the importance of vitamin D during my previous job as a pharmaceutical journalist for an industry newsletter. A lot of evidence was emerging on this little unassuming vitamin, suggesting that it could have a much larger role than previously thought of in our overall health, for instance possibly preventing numerous diseases, including not only fractures and osteoporosis but also several types of cancer, diabetes as well as multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.
However, most people, and especially children, don’t get enough of it. And LP is even more at risk, because of our living here and since he doesn’t drink much milk (which is fortified with it and therefore is most people’s main food source). So public health authorities recommendations for children have recently been raised (doubled, in fact), to 400 IU a day in supplements (the usual dose in kids’ chewables).
If everyone could get at least that, it would be a great start. But a lot of experts think that’s not actually enough, and are pushing for recommendations to be raised again (for instance the Canadian Pediatric Society, and the Canadian Cancer Society, which recommends a 1,000 IU daily supplement, etc.) My guess is that this is where we’re heading, and I predict recommendations will be increased again in the next few years, and a lot more emphasis will be put on getting an adequate intake. Right now, regulatory authorities (like Health
The only concern is a possible overdose, which would cause elevated levels of calcium in the bloodstream. Currently, the maximum safe daily intake for people 1 and over has been established at 2,000 IU. However, most experts agree that new data makes this limit outdated and artificially low, asserting that a more realistic limit could be around 10,000 IU instead (your skin produces 20,000 IU in about 15 minutes under the sun). Cases of toxicity have only been observed in levels much higher than that, even.
So for what it’s worth, I consider that vitamin D is probably one of the most important diet-related thing to be mindful of. On top of LP’s 400 IU multivitamin, I also give him 400 IU of liquid supplement during the winter months. With that plus the little he gets from food and sun exposure, I’m confident that we’re much closer to an optimal level, without being afraid of giving him too much…
Monday, December 7, 2009
On December 6, 1989, a deranged, withdrawn and lonely young man, who never really recovered from a very difficult childhood, entered the École Polytechnique (School of Engineering) at the University of Montreal. He had applied to go at this school twice, but had been rejected. He entered a classroom, pulled out a gun, separated the women from the men, and ordered the men to leave. He shot all nine women present. He then wandered around, shooting and stabbing women at random, killing a total of fourteen, as well as injuring 10 more (and 4 men). He finally turned the gun to himself.
His message, both told to people during his rampage and expressed on a suicide note later found on himself: he wanted to kill feminists, which he "hated" and "had ruined his life".
These events profoundly shook our very progressive society, where gun control laws are strictly enforced, and still do so even after 20 years. I attended this very campus only five years later, and the atmosphere was still, at times, palpably heavy. A movie on that dark page of our history was made earlier this year. I could never stomach the courage to watch it.
Friday, December 4, 2009
[Yep most people have forgotten that but not too long ago Canada was still part of the British Dominion]
Following a recent enlightening conversation with a co-worker:
The transportation of products, their packaging, the work ethics of the company producing them and the store selling them, concepts like fair trade, sustainability, etc.
-Successful financial management
Why does this have to be a taboo, and why do tons of smart people don't seem to get it (myself included)?
-Comprehensive nutrition principles
I mean, it's tough, it's complex, there's a lot of contrasting information... I'm always surprised at how most people only have very partial knowledge of this topic, which should be really, really prominent.
-Greener habits and ways of thinking
-A lot more emphasis put on second and third languages.
Things we had and I really hope are now gone:
-Room temperature milk cartons offered to us each afternoon (I'm pretty sure this is where my aversion to cow's milk comes from)
-Disgusting monthly fluoride treatments we needed to spit back into its pouch after use
-Chunks of asbestos we could actually manipulate (I'm not kidding)
-School yards that looked like post-apocalyptic no man's lands...
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Have a special little girl on your Holiday list this year, and can't seem to find exactly the thing that will belittle, disturb, scar, and/or creep her out right? Here are ideas just for you:
A breastfeeding doll! Comes complete with a girl's top that has flower-shaped rubber nipples on it.
Awww... I love it when little girls are given such positive role models to look up to.
Because yeah, this effing wrong and moronic and dangerous analogy has never been made before.
(Via the Huffington Post)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
In this month's InStyle magazine, among the list of 100 hot things for this year, is Ashton Kutcher. Not because he's recently been good in anything, but because he's apparently the king of celebrity twitterers, with four million plus followers (he goes by @aplusk, btw, if you're interested). I don't hate him or anything, but I never really understood the buzz about him either. What I didn't like though, is that the paragraph also insisted that with these numbers, he totally trumped Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle newsletter, which did not have nearly as much subscribers. What was that about? You couldn't help being catty or what? I don't know, perhaps you could have just left it at that, or at least compare him to another celeb's Twitter following?
Same thing in the Huff Post, which has made snarky comments about the newsletter, called GOOP (perhaps the ill-chosen name doesn't help?), repeatedly in the past few months. Like: Gwyneth discusses financial planning (totally ridiculous topic, huh?)! Gwyneth says she needs to do a post-holiday cleanse!
I'm not such a die-hard fan of hers, but I don't understand the total bitchiness, either (example here). I do get that people find the purpose of her launching GOOP preposterous (she said she thought it would be a fun way to share information and insight she had access to since she's had this "incredible, lucky, unique life.") Yeah, that's quite unlikable... But, sorry for dull-normal folks like me, also sort of true. And so what? She's hardly the only celebrity to make such "I'm kind of full of myself" slips...
I've been subscribing for a little while, and I'm apparently one of the 5% of people (according to the journalist in the link above) that do so without the idea of making fun of her. It's not amazing and life-changing, but you know, I don't expect it to be. It arrives in my inbox every week, it takes three and a half minutes to look over. Sometimes the topic doesn't much interest me, sometimes the tips are a little puzzling (last week it was about how to mend relationships with our parents, some "expert" was discussing Kabbalah and his advice just seemed plain wacky). But there are also fun bits: contrary to what detractors say I don't mind at all her pricey and obvious hotels/restaurants/shops suggestions: it's kinda fun getting glimpses of "how the other half lives". I mean come on, it's just like reading Vogue: sure nothing in it is actually accessible to you, but it doesn't do any harm to dream!
Sometimes, when she gets a little more personal (like talking about life with her kids), I even quite like it. About a month ago, it was about how at 15 she spent a year in Spain living with a family she's still in touch with today, and about the amazing food she had there. The recipes and suggestions were mouth-watering, looked gorgeous, and inspired me to do potato tortillas! Tapas! Manchego/chorizo/garlic-tomato bread dinners! Olé! So it in this way, it serves its purpose.
With all of the inane, shallow, and slightly disconnected celebs out there, I just don't get why she's been singled out as this unnecessary scapegoat. Here's a crazy idea if you don't like her: what about not reading it?
I thank you for your time.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Twice in the past few months, I found myself driving on the highway, suddenly passed by this SUV going at a very high speed, escorted by blaring police cars. It goes by in a flash, but you still can read the sign on the small truck, the one that says "Organ Transplant Special Squad". And both times I found myself unexpectedly overtaken by emotion about what this means. The tragedy of a life that was ended before its time, often without warning. But also the absolute beauty and importance of the one that will be saved at the other end, anxiously waiting for that little SUV to arrive.
Similarly, three times during our morning commute we've recently had to make way for an hurried and loud ambulance, always at the same place, in the last bit of traffic near my office. I was wondering where they were all heading like that, so I started to look around, following the road with a glance, then quickly stopped on that very big shadow right up the hill. The one from the Children's Hospital... So now each ambulance makes me shiver for an instant, while I can't help imagining the little body that's lying on that big stretcher. And for good measure, I always do some kind of a mental plea for please please please everything to be alright.