In defence of bragging

in defence of bragging

It’s no secret that parenting is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. From impossible hours to the inability to do anything right, it’s a mere wonder anyone chooses to do it. But we do choose to do it, because our little tyrants make it all worth it. So we share about the silly things they say and the amazing things they do because otherwise, what’s even the point?

The only problem is, you can’t share what your kid is doing without being subjected to eye rolls or in some cases, being accused of downright lying. Apparently it’s not acceptable to share the bright spots of parenting because then you’re a braggart. (It’s also important to note that if you complain that it’s difficult, you shouldn’t have become a parent. You can’t win.)

But here’s the thing: parenting is hard. Really, really hard. And yes, we should be able to complain about our kids without being accused of not loving them because we’re only human. But it’s equally important that we are able to share the things that we love about them because it’s those little things that get us through the day.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place. Of course, bragging at school pickup to a parent whose child is struggling is pretty uncool. But at a play date with your close mom friends? On your own personal social media page? Why the heck not?

And what does it say about us as human beings that we can’t be happy for our friends’ children? Jane said her first word? Amazing! Timmy made the honour roll? He deserves it! Roger stopped pooping on the floor? You’re going places, Roger!

It’s not about the parents. It’s about the children. And if we can’t put our own egos aside, how are our kids supposed to do learn to do that?

All kids develop at different rates. They’re all equally unique. It has nothing to do with our parenting skills or styles; they do things in their own time. And whether a child is perceived to be “ahead” or “behind” or right smack on the line that says “average,” we should celebrate the amazing things they say and do. Because they’re all amazing.

And maybe parenting would be a little bit easier if we could all celebrate their amazing qualities together. After all, isn’t it relishing in the wins that makes the training worthwhile?

in defence of bragging

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How to Low Key Troll Your Family and Survive the Holidays

What would the holidays be without traditions? The food. The family gatherings. The scrutiny of every single one of your life choices by the very people who shaped who you are today.

A better person than I would tell you to let it roll off your shoulders or have a calm discussion with the offending party explaining why you don’t want your three month old to drink a soda or why a baby doll is a great gift for a two year old regardless of gender. But this is your family! They should know you. And if they don’t, are you really going to change their minds while they’re up to their ears in eggnog? Probably not.

Now full disclosure I don’t recommend trolling anyone that you have a fraught relationship with. Save this for the nearest and dearest, the ones you have a great relationship with but they just can’t seem to keep their advice to themselves. When in doubt, text your bestie from the bathroom and bitch to her. 

via GIPHY

Without further ado here is my easy four step guide to low key trolling your family and surviving the holidays:

Step one: breathe.

The reason is twofold. One, all that oxygen is going to settle your limbic system and quiet that fight or flight response. Two, it’s going to give you time to think of a remark. And three (I guess it’s threefold) comedic timing! If you go into your response too quickly it’s going to look like an attack (and if you aren’t breathing it’s going to come out like one too.) We are not attacking, we’re bringing light to the situation like a sweary scented candle.

Step two: laugh.

Smile. Put a twinkle in your eye. You are not laughing at them, you’re laughing at YOU. You can’t make them feel that you’re joking at their expensive but at your own. That’s how satire works. By making it look like you’re mocking the thing you believe in, or making the offending party think that you are. Remember, we want to sit down and eat cheesecake with these people later. We’re not trying to throw a stick of dynamite into a straw house. 

Step three: fire away.

It helps if you have responses prepared ahead of time. (Let’s be honest, families aren’t exactly creative when it comes to their knitpicking.) Like if your family thinks your breastfeeding is indecent, exclaim that lucky for them you brought enough receiving blankets for everyone to eat under! If they think you’re irresponsible for going back to work, a quick “Yeah (male who went back to work after becoming a dad), don’t you find it so difficult to leave your baby all day?” should suffice. Oh and about that kitchen you’re excited to give your son I saw the best response on twitter:

Now I’m not definitely saying you should respond “that’s so gay” every time a male in your family eats but I mean… could be a new party game.

Step 4: shut the convo down.

Offer to get them a drink. A cookie. Feign a heart attack. Do what you’ve gotta do to make clear that your parenting and life choices are no longer up for discussion. This whole interaction should take less than ten seconds and if you laugh with good humour your family should be left laughing too, if only confusedly.

I know they say kill ’em with kindness but let’s squash ’em with humour shall we? Much more seasonal. And easy to pull off if everyone’s in the rum. I think this is where I remind you that your family loves you and just wants the best for you bla bla bla but let’s be real here: we’re all just trying to get in and get out with our relationships intact.

Happy Holidays!

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Our Net Zero Home

There were a lot of factors that came into play when we decided to build a net zero home. Location was one, as was affordability. I was also concerned about size– with only three of us, I didn’t want anything over a thousand square feet. We wanted access to the outside, no matter how small, and underlying all of our options was the idea of keeping the environment in mind.

As we went through the checklist, the thing that met the most of our needs was a new net zero home in the suburbs. Yes, sprawl is bad. But when you homeschool and your husband travels for work anyway, being central is quickly vetoed once you factor in the cost of being central. Having gone through the stress of renovating homes twice before and being intimately familiar with condo boards and their limitations (pet approval!) and fees, we decided to build.

What is Net Zero

A net zero home or building is one in which all of its energy needs are met by renewable energy generated onsite (Wikipedia). There are a number of ways to accomplish this, but generally you want to start with a super energy-efficient building. Our house has LED lightbulbs, energy efficient appliances, triple pane windows, and a ton of insulation. It has a ventilation system because it is so air-tight, which also improves indoor air quality. There’s a heat pump with an electric furnace and even an electric water heater. There is no natural gas in our house at all. Instead, everything is designed run off of the solar panels that cover the roof of our home and garage.

Features

Solar panels are not only the coolest part of our net zero home they’re also the only clue that our house is maybe not as normal as it looks. They cover the roof of our house and garage and come with the added bonus that they will (allegedly) prolong the life of our shingles. They don’t need any maintenance other than a visual check that we can do from the road, and the panels themselves have a 25 year warranty, the other components have varying warranties depending on the part. Living in Edmonton we get our fair share of snow, but a study by NAIT has shown that the loses due to snow cover are minimal and therefore the best thing to do is to just let the snow melt on its own (NAIT).

Our heating and cooling system is a heat pump and backup electric furnace. They are incredibly energy efficient which is important because while renewable energy is so important, the biggest aid to the energy crisis will be using less of it. If you’ve ever been in an older home you might be struck by how frustratingly sparse and ill-situated electrical sockets are in comparison to newer homes. This is because so much of our lives depend on electronics– I think I charged my phone two or three times today alone! (Yes, I have a problem but also– my phone is old. Leave me be.) The less energy we use, the better, which is why it’s a much better investment to insulate, caulk, and update windows in an older home than slapping solar panels on the roof and calling it a done job.

We also chose a number of environmentally conscious upgrades in our home. Cork flooring is not only warm underfoot and gentle on bad knees, it’s also extremely sustainable (HGTV). I am clumsier than a heroine in a chick flick and I have yet to break a glass by dropping it on the floor. (I have however, broke one or two by dropping them in the sink which should tell you everything you need to know about how amazing cork flooring is and simultaneously how terrible I am around breakables.) We elected for maple countertops in the kitchen which was a request our homebuilder had never received before. And if you haven’t read my testament to the life-changing magic of a bidet attachment, go forth my child, go read it now.

Perhaps my favourite feature of our house is the energy monitoring app. It tells us how much energy we are producing or pulling off the grid (more on that in a moment) at that very point in time, and how much we’ve used throughout the day. I can see when I ran the dryer, when I charged our car, when I turned on the oven, even how many times the heat kicked on throughout the night causing me to feel guilty and lower the thermostat another degree… then freeze in three sweaters and turn it back up. I honestly think an app like this becoming available to all homeowners and apartment dwellers alike would go far to bringing awareness to our energy usage and help us change our habits. The institution of marriage might crumble though. Or… it might save it?

Yes, to answer the thought you’ve been holding since the last paragraph, we are connected to the energy grid. This is because our solar panels do absolutely nothing at nighttime. Sure, we could get a battery, which might be good to have as a back up, but because we live in Edmonton where our energy needs are so different in the summer versus the winter it makes the most sense to be connected to the grid. This way, when we’re overproducing (which is still happening in October because I am ridiculous about not using electricity) the energy we aren’t using is sent to the grid, adding renewable energy for everyone. At night or on severely cloudy days or in winter when our panels just aren’t cutting it because we’re charging our car or I’m baking and drying all of our clothes on high all willy nilly like that, we can pull off of the grid rather than being stuck without electricity. Over the course of the year, the overproduction will balance out the underproduction and we’ll end up net zero. This also has the benefit of being a lot less scary to convince someone to go solar because there’s a backup plan in place.

Why Net Zero?

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change made news when they announced that we as humans need to go completely net zero with our emissions by 2050 in order to limit warming to 1.5C (IPCC). We need real action by governments in order to achieve this, which is why the most important thing we can do is reach out to our leaders and vote. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our part as well. By choosing to build a net zero home over a traditional home (or even better, by retrofitting your existing home if you can afford) you’re taking your own steps towards helping us all meet this important milestone.

But Tiffany, you might say, that’s all fine and dandy but I simply don’t have the money to put where my ideals are. I get it. Building a new home is never the most environmentally friendly option, ever. So I get that affordability comes into play. But if you have the money and are just debating on whether or not you should save a buck (which again, I get), hear me out.

One of the first things that struck me about the net zero home we visited before building was how cozy it was, even in the dead of Edmonton winter. I checked the thermostat a number of times to see if they had the heat kicked way up (they didn’t), and compared to my older home which I had always thought was particularly cozy, it blew it out of the water. Because it’s so air tight, because of the way the heating system works, there aren’t cold spots. It’s just straight up cozy. And who doesn’t want to be cozy?

Not only is warmth a factor, but throughout the summer we were kept comfortably cool. And a bonus to the insulation is how quiet our home is. I mean, there’s a construction crew digging a basement next door today and it took me longer than I care to admit that they were beside us and not down the street. Also, as someone who is constantly needing to open the windows, our ventilation system keeps our house from ever feeling or smelling kept up. I still open them up once in a while, especially after a good rain, but it isn’t another chore on my list.

Yes, a net zero home is an investment but it’s an investment in a carbon-neutral future. The more people buy into these technologies, the more affordable they become and the more comfortable people become with buying into them. Think about it– what’s the first thing you do when a friend gets something new? You ask them about it and chances are, you earmark it as a future purchase for yourself. A carbon neutral future isn’t just a goal, it’s a requirement, so the sooner that people see that this is a real possibility, the sooner they will demand governments to act accordingly. And we need that to happen now.

The future

In 2018, California passed a mandate that all new homes must have solar panels. VOX did a great piece on the pros and cons of this mandate, which you can read here. Living in Alberta, a gas and coal, meat and potatoes province and not well, California, I can’t help but think solar here has such a positive impact on promoting positive attitudes towards climate action. My neighbour confessed to me that he wishes they would have gone ahead and done net zero as well, and I get it. It felt like we were taking a risk at the time. But now that we’re living it I would do it ten times over. Of course in a perfect world we’d all be living in sky rises, but the world is far from perfect. This was what checked the boxes for us.

Will net zero homes become the norm? If urban sprawl continues, I certainly hope so! But I also hope it becomes just one part of a comprehensive plan against climate change. Our neighbourhood has a mix of housing densities, walking trails and green space, and when it’s completed it will also have commercial properties and services within walking distance; all tenets of good urban planning.

But if you’re building a new home and you’re still not convinced, let me ask you a question: how long do you expect your home to last? Chances are, you see it as an investment, something that, even if you don’t plan on living there that long, will last sixty years or hopefully more. So why then would you build your home with yesterday’s technology? Just a thought.

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Loss And Life Lessons

In less than two weeks, we’ve had to say goodbye to both of our pets. My kid awes me in a lot of ways, but his coping mechanisms are a thing of beauty.⁣

I don’t know where he gets them from. I think part of it is just that he’s so intelligent and logical and his brain works so quickly that he can process grief while the rest of us just sit blinking.⁣

My mom thinks we taught him. I’m not sure, but one thing I do know is that I’m not afraid of big emotions. I know it can be a struggle for a lot of people, but when my kid cries or screams or tantrums or gives me attitude, I don’t take it personally. I have big emotions too, so I just talk it out with him and then give him his space (or vice versa if he’s irate.) I try not to react emotionally to his emotions and when I do (because I’m human too) my husband is thankfully there to bring us back to Earth. ⁣

One of the best lessons I’ve learned as a parent is that it’s not about me. My kid’s sadness is not a failure on my part, it means he’s a functioning, feeling human. His misbehaviour does not mean I’m a bad mom, it means he’s a kiddo growing up in a complex world. My job isn’t to shield him, wrap him up in bubble wrap, it’s to help him learn to say “yeah, this is fucking hard, but it will get better.”⁣

And yes, this goes for boys and girls. Real men cry. Real men have feelings. I think there’s a real bias, even if we don’t think we have it, to seeing boys and men cry. Let your boys cry. Let your girls cry. And when they’ve had it out, get them outta there with your medicine of choice. Y’all know I’m a fan of ice cream and cookies. Do what works for you.⁣

It takes practice. It’s work. It’s taking everything in me to not book a trip to Disney or go buy a new pet because *I* want to feel better too. But ultimately, this is life and I know my kiddo will be better off in the long run having experienced it fully. Life isn’t just the good parts, it’s the hard stuff too.⁣

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Our Super Cool Bidet Attachment

toilet with bidet attachment

If you watched my Instagram stories last week, you saw that we have a new low-waste addition to our bathroom: a bidet attachment. I have been wanting one for years but my husband was understandably skeptical. Is it going to mess with our plumbing? Is it going to be a pain in the ass (HA!) to install (and use)? I’m still using toilet paper, damnit!

So despite eyeing bidets every time I did a midnight online shopping scroll, I never took the leap to buy one. I read a lot of great things about bidets, but they still seem to be a “weird” thing in North America. Even Bea Johnson– the zero waste Queen, says in her book, Zero Waste Home, that they just use paper-wrapped toilet paper rather than a bidet. And pro tip: if you’re out with couple friends complaining about everyone’s quirks and you whine that your husband thinks bidets are weird, you will garner zero sympathy and bring the conversation to a screeching halt. Not that I know from experience or anything.

When my husband told me he got me a present, I was so excited to find out that it was a bidet attachment. (A Luxe Bidet Neo 185 to be exact.) I’m not kidding, friends, I think I jumped. This is ten years of marriage. This is pioneer-wannabe, hippy sensibilities. This is OMG I’m going to save SO MANY TREES.

I fucking love trees.

Now I know you’re curious so I’ll do my best to spread some information.

Will a bidet attachment wreck my plumping?

As long as you follow the instructions carefully while installing, I honestly can’t see this being a problem. Now, both my husband and I come from handy families. We’ve renovated not one, but two older homes. To say we’ve picked up a thing or two throughout the years would be an understatement. Don’t mess with plumbing if you have no idea what you’re doing. Don’t install a bidet attachment if you rent (at least not without your landlord’s permission). Even I, a handy, somewhat knowledgable person, forgot to empty the toilet tank. Thank god for nosy kids who read the instructions and are bossy enough to tell adults when they’re in the wrong.

Is it difficult to install?

I installed the bidet attachment in under twenty minutes. Five minutes were spent looking for a flathead screwdriver to remove the toilet seat. And ten minutes were spent saying shit like “Put the wrench down.” “Don’t lose those pieces!” “Stop licking the dog!” because my kid and dog and cat are always twenty inches away from my face at all times. So a capable adult without small creatures at their feet could probably install this in 5 minutes and minimum fuss as long as their existing plumbing is flexible pipe.

Is it a pain in the ass?

No! Install and operation are super simple but I do recommend using it on the lowest setting, at least until you know what kind of power washing this thing is capable of. You can dry off with a small bit of toilet paper or keep some washcloths near the toilet.

Is a bidet really more environmentally friendly?

Yes. You’re using water, sure. But considering the amount of water and carbon that goes into making toilet paper and then the cost (both financial and environmental) of carting toilet paper to the store and then to your home, you’re much better off with a bidet.

Will my friends be afraid to come over?

Okay but like, they don’t have to use it! It’s not like it’s going to go rogue and automatically start spraying people’s asses. We have ours installed in our master bathroom and our kid keeps sneaking into our room to use it because it’s “super cool.” Even my husband has come around to it. If anything people will wrinkle their noses but then curiosity will get the best of them and hey, maybe they’ll install their own. Or maybe they’ll find less weird friends. It’s a toss up, really. If you’re this far down the low-waste and zero-waste road that you’re installing a bidet attachment, chances are you’re used to being a weirdo. Who cares what people think?

Tweet that reads “So what’s new with you?” My brain: Just say nothing. Nothing is new. N O T H I N G. Nothing. Me: Well, we just installed a bidet attachment and it is amazing. Like honestly I thought it would be weird but I really just can’t believe we waited this lon

So that’s it. Our bidet saga. Would you ever get a bidet? Do you already have one? Any questions? Let me know in the comments below!

toilet with bidet attachment
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Living Low Waste

a low waste pantry featuring refillable glass jars

There is an overwhelming urge when hearing about people like Bea Johnson who live beautifully minimalistic, zero waste lives to throw everything away and start fresh with earth friendly, low waste alternatives. They tend to make it look easy, because it is, once you’ve been doing it for as long as they have.

I have been working at reducing my waste for a few years now. There are so many zero waste hacks out there, and I’ve tried enough of them to know what does and doesn’t work for me. But one thing I didn’t do, and from what I have read neither did they, was throw everything away and buy a bunch of zero waste “must-haves.” Zero waste doesn’t happen overnight, and in fact, unless you live off grid and grow your own food and make your own clothes, you probably will never be completely zero waste. Not even if you have a pantry full of refilled jars.

I much prefer the term low waste, or low impact. I’m a perfectionist, and I find zero waste way too daunting of a title for me personally. And I am far, far from zero waste. But I do try. And for a busy family living in a climate that doesn’t exactly have papaya trees growing in the backyard year round (or like, at all) I think we do okay.

So in honour of plastic-free July, I wanted to share a bit about what low-waste living looks like for my family.

I also wanted to write this before I move to Edmonton where I’ll inevitably have more choices and resources. Right now, I do the majority of my shopping at the same places everyone does: the local grocery store, Bulk Barn, and of course sites like Amazon. I try to go the farmers market, I try to shop local, but it doesn’t always happen. I’m a busy, homeschooling mom and my husband works out of province. It’s easiest to run on autopilot. So trust me when I say you don’t have to make a lot of changes if reducing your waste is your goal.

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably heard the basics. Reusable cloth instead of napkins, paper towels, and disposable cleaning products (I’m looking at you, Swiffer.) Tap water over bottled. Maybe you’ve reused a pasta sauce jar or two. Weekend trips walking around malls have been replaced by a hike in the woods. These are all fabulous ways to start.

It sounds ridiculous, but the gateway product for me was vinegar. Vinegar as a window cleaner. As an all purpose cleaner. As a fabric softener. Salad dressing. I mean, seriously, what can’t vinegar do? Buying a large container in bulk replaced a multitude of tiny bottles with their caps and nozzles and hoses. Yes, it’s still plastic, but it’s much less. I’ve even since attempted making it, but that’s another post for another day.

When my son was born, my husband and I got crazy about making our own foods. Because we were doing baby led weaning, we wanted to control the salt and sugar content of what we were eating as a family, which meant saying goodbye to a lot of our pre-packaged favourites. Not only was it healthier, but it saved us money and saved us a lot of garbage!

Then came joining a CSA, or Community Shared Agriculture. Basically, you invest in a local farm and you share in their success, taking home a basket of fresh produce every week during the growing season. Returning to the produce section of the grocery store in the winter was always a shock. Why is this cucumber wrapped in plastic? Why do I need a produce bag for a single piece of ginger? I just started piling produce into my cart sans bags, and I haven’t looked back.

When Bulk Barn introduced their reusable program, our household waste plummeted. Weeks, yes, weeks started to go by before I would put out a grocery bag-sized amount of trash. I was skeptical at first. Am I really going to make another stop? Am I going to remember my jars? But it became addictive. There are two Bulk Barns in my city making it a ridiculously convenient place to stop. Every week I bring in my clean, empty jars and after getting them tarred, I refill them with everything from flour and sugar to pasta and pretzels. They don’t have everything, but it’s made a huge difference with barely any effort.

All of that being said, I want to keep this honest. I want this to be attainable for you if it’s something that is important to you. So I want to offer up a few buts.

We don’t use baking soda to brush our teeth– we use the fluoride stuff the dentists recommend. I wear contacts. I have tried expensive vitamins that come in glass jars but honestly, I like my $10 multivitamin in plastic better. We treat ourselves to the occasional bag of chips or bag of cheddar bunnies, and I could not survive without Annie’s Mac and Cheese. I’m trying to love shampoo bars. Really, I am.

I bought plastic multi-blade razors for our recent trip to Iceland, and I have yet to go back to my safety razor since we’ve been back. I don’t mandate that my child can’t have plastic things or stuff that comes in plastic. He knows why I make the choices I do, but if he wants a prize from the dentist, so be it. If he wants strawberries in a plastic clamshell, I am not going to say no to a child asking for fruit. Hell, sometimes I want those strawberries in a plastic clamshell. The winters are long and the produce is terrible.

And no matter how diligent you are, waste happens. You’ll get a straw in your drink. You’ll crave a packaged food favourite. You won’t have time to make an extra stop and will end up buying your dry goods all wrapped in plastic that week. Your kid will be too polite to say no to the plastic water bottles they hand out on your flight and you’ll end up with two and they’ll sit on your counter weeks later (true story). It happens. You’ll be discouraged. But what if I reminded you that those beautiful glass jars were filled by bulk bins lined in plastic? That even cardboard goods get shrink wrapped in plastic wrap on their pallets? It’s simply not possible to be “zero waste.”

(I love The Zero Waste Chef’s post about environmental guilt. Read it! I’ll wait.)

There are a lot of other ways that you can make a difference. You can write letters to companies, businesses, and government officials. You can pick up a few pieces of trash while your kid plays at the park. You can ride your bike and consolidate your errands. There’s no one way that works for everyone. Reducing what I send to the landfill has been the biggest, most encouraging thing for me personally because it’s so tangible.

I remember the days of lugging my extra-large garbage can to the curb every week– plus compost and recycling. Anything is an improvement over that. But the one thing that absolutely doesn’t work is making yourself miserable and then quitting all together. Do what you can, when you can. It will differ from week to week.

I like the way my pantry looks with its gleaming glass jars. Having white-space in my fridge doesn’t make me panic. In fact, it’s so nice not having that guilt-session at the end of every week where I throw out a bunch of uneaten produce because I bought a package of ten instead of the two that I needed. I don’t have to dig through a bunch of old shampoo bottles and hair care products to find a comb. And honestly, it’s freeing.

I don’t think anyone should do anything just because they “should.” But I also know what a difference small, simple changes have made. If you’re interested but thinking, “I could never do that,” I dare you to make one small change. Let me know how it goes.

Are you trying to reduce your waste? What’s working for you? What’s not? Let me know below if you’d like to hear more about our low waste journey!

Pinnable image of a low waste pantry reading "Living Low Waste: Thoughts on what I've done (so far!) and why.

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Why I won’t wait until my kid is “old enough” to travel

Adult and child standing in front of Notre Dame in Paris on vacation

At the risk of sounding like a terrible human being, one of my first thoughts when I heard about the fire at Notre Dame in Paris was relief. Of course I was concerned about the safety of those in and around the famous cathedral, of course I was heartbroken at the loss of so much history; I just could not help feeling thankful that we had been lucky enough to visit the cathedral two years ago with our son.

There is a big question when it comes to travelling with kids: what’s the point if they don’t remember? Why spend thousands of dollars on something they won’t even care about three years from now? Why go through the tantrums, the headaches, the complaints of “my feet hurt” and “I’m bored” when you can stay home and listen to all of that in the comfort of your own home? They’re not going to remember anyway.

Because maybe all of parenting isn’t about the kids. I know it’s radical but stay with me here. Doing things for ourselves makes us better parents. And doing things as a family brings us together. Whether it’s visiting the museum that’s 5 minutes down the road or a multi-country European vacation, there’s value in going somewhere new.

Does my son remember seeing some old church? No. Does he remember the delicious brioche we ate on the park bench on the way over? No. Does he remember the sunshine and the smiles? Maybe not specifically. But I do.

I remember how he walked all over Paris with barely any complaints. I remember his eyes dancing as he watched his gelato being shaped into a flower as big as his head. I remember his nervousness and excitement at touring Marie Curie’s now decontaminated laboratory. Yes, I even remember considering not waiting in the long line to get into Notre Dame, because kids, but doing it anyway because Paris and making the wait fun. I remember watching him learning and growing as a human being. I remember watching the little pieces falling into place, shaping the adult he will one day be.

As much as he doesn’t remember the details, he learns something every time we venture somewhere new. Maybe I’m trying to justify my own selfishness, but I truly believe that travel changes us, even if we’re too young to remember in what way.

I know that I am so fortunate to be able to take my son places and give him experiences. I don’t take it for granted. Life happens– beautiful cathedrals burn and are forever changed, people die, and kids grow up. And waiting until my kid can remember it isn’t always an option. One day, he’ll go back with his own kids and that will be his moment to remember. Until then, I have beautiful photos to show him and fun stories to tell him. And maybe that’s selfish of me, but I’m going to cherish it.

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How to survive when your kid doesn’t sleep

I’ve tried it all. Sunlight and fresh air first thing in the morning. Lots of exercise. Lots of stimulation. But not too much stimulation. No screentime. Dark rooms. Sound machines. Oil Diffusers. A set schedule. A loose schedule. Nightlights. Early bedtime. Late bedtime. No bedtime. Bribery. Pleading. Eating only purple foods and sprinkling my child’s bed with unicorn dust.

So if you’re feeling desperate and sleepless, but your child is still bright eyed and happy and healthy on less sleep that a college kid writing their thesis, I feel you. Believe me. When your child needs less sleep than you need yourself, it can have huge impacts on your own mood and health. And while I don’t have any magical tips to make it go away, I can tell you how I survived this long.

I stopped blaming myself

For years I blamed myself. I thought I was a horrible mother who could not soothe her own child. And then something crazy happened: I rocked a friend’s baby to sleep. I almost cried. It took seconds. And just plop, asleep. It happened again and again with other people’s kids. And while I’m not saying that these babies went that easily for their own parents, it did make me realize that it wasn’t my fault. Kids don’t always want to do what’s best for them. And on top of that, my kid’s wiring is different. He needs less sleep. And as long as he’s happy and healthy and rested, then I am giving him exactly what he needs.

I found ways to sneak in sleep

This one may not work for everyone, but stay at home parents hear me out: you don’t have to entertain your kid 24/7. When my son was a toddler, we had a playroom that was completely baby proofed. I would put up a baby gate at the doorway and nap while he played quietly. Some days it was 20 seconds, but every once in a while I’d sneak in an entire blissful hour. When he was a little bit older, I would set breakfast on the kitchen counter for him before we went to bed, so that I could sneak in an extra half hour in the morning. And now that we have an Echo Dot in his room, he can listen to an audiobook to fall asleep instead of staying up all night reading, getting fuelled by his lamplight and “one more chapter.”

I coslept

Safely. In the early days I was so sleep deprived I could very easily have fallen asleep in the rocking chair or on the couch and smothered my child. Consciously choosing to cosleep was so much safer. Even now, when my kiddo wakes up in the middle of the night, he’ll saunter into my room and I’ll wake up with him next to me in the morning. It’s so much easier than being called to his room, and most nights I sleep through his wake ups.

I read up on second sleep

It sounds silly, but knowing that there’s a biological basis to nighttime wakings helped me be a bit more understanding of my kid. I’m not saying I was always as patient as I should have been, but at least there was a little voice in the back of my mind knowing that I was the weird one who could sleep through the night.

I got an e-reader

Some nights, no matter how little sleep I got, I found myself celebrating the freedom of a sleeping child by scrolling social media on my phone in my dark bedroom. I liked the dark. I liked the silence. And I wasn’t quite ready to turn in. I wanted to enjoy it. The problem with my phone however, is that the internet is a boundless supply of entertainment and before I knew it hours had passed and the cycle continued. But with an e-reader I could have dark and quiet and actually go to bed at a decent time.

And yes, I started drinking coffee

I’m not going to lie, coffee helps. I don’t drink it every day, but I do find on those days when I need a bit of an extra oomph, it helps me get through the day. And because I have the ahem, motivation, I’m more likely to do the things that I need to do for my own well-being, like exercise or meditate or journal– things that are difficult to do if you’re mentally and physically exhausted. I’m not suggesting you take up a caffeine habit, but I’d be lying if I didn’t credit it with my survival on the worst days.

I stopped trying to make sleep happen

I’m not saying that I gave in and pandemonium reigns, but I am saying that I stopped obsessing and trying to force it. Telling my kid, “Okay, you don’t have to sleep, but you do have to stay in your bed,” or letting him come sit with me on the couch for a bit when he’s been lying sleepless for an hour both have to happen sometimes– try as you might, you can’t force your kid to sleep. Sleep guidelines are just that, guidelines, and while sleep deprivation is a problem for us all; at some point you have to just live and let live if your kid isn’t showing any signs of lack of sleep. Which is a difficult pill to swallow when you’re a bit of a control freak like myself, but trust me, it makes life so much easier when you make like Elsa and let it go.

Sweet, sweet time

Of course, maybe none of these things actually helped, but they only coincided with gains we were going to make anyway thanks to whatever invisible growth was happening inside my kid’s brain. That’s the thing about parenting: you never really know if your crazy life hack worked! So if you’re reading this and thinking “I can’t do any of those things” then take heart, eventually your kid will move out.

I don’t want to say that it gets better all at once, because it doesn’t, but it does gradually. My kiddo no longer needs me to lie with him to fall asleep thanks to a good audiobook. Some nights he even makes it the entire night in his own bed. He’s old enough that if I really need a nap, I can go take one. These may seem like small wins to some, but for us, they’ve been tremendous strides. And believe me, I’m celebrating every little milestone.

Meme reads: I was going to give up caffeine and sugar but then I remembered I have a kid. I'll try again in 18 years. @lifeattiffanys

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How to survive when a spouse travels

For the past four years my husband has been working three week shifts that require him to be away from us. It’s not all bad otherwise we wouldn’t have done it for this long, but I’m not going to lie, I’ll be excited when it comes to an end. Being “on” 24/7 for 3 weeks straight is exhausting. (Single parents, you are the true MVPs.) But luckily I’ve found a lot of little ways to help me survive.

Leftovers are my friend

I make a lot of items from scratch for a number of reasons. This means a simple meal can be a ton of work, so I discovered long ago the beauty of leftovers. I double recipes, plan to eat the meal twice, and freeze the rest. A stocked freezer full of soups and chilies and muffins and breads and cookies is a game changer.

FaceTime

I grew up with a dad in the military so I can tell you first-hand what a game changer technology has been. We FaceTime every night before bed as a family, and sometimes my son will FaceTime his father throughout the day if he’s missing him a bit harder than normal or if he has something exciting to share. It’s especially great for younger kids who may not always be the best conversationalists, but still benefit from their parent’s presence.

Have them help from afar

I know this isn’t a possibility in every situation, but if you can swing it take advantage. I hate making phone calls, so a lot of times my husband will make them while he’s away. He will also research things for our son and is usually the one who remembers what needs to be done around the house. Time to book a service appointment? My husband will usually ask me for dates and times and then call for me. It’s not always perfect (like when the dentist wouldn’t let him rebook the appointment he was cancelling for our son) but it’s a huge load off.

Online game apps

My husband downloaded GamePigeon into my son’s messages app. They play games of everything from Connect4 to Chess virtually. It’s an easy way for them to be together without physically being near one another, and it’s priceless.

Stick to a routine

Sometimes being on your own can be a bit of a time trip and throw you off your game. I also get worn down a lot more easily than when my husband is home, so keeping a routine helps me keep my momentum rather than being paralyzed by the to do list. And, it helps me be prepared for when something like sickness pops up. (Ahem, usually.) I have a grocery day and a laundry day and a cleaning day. It also helps quell tantrums from my kiddo because he knows that we clean Sundays, so it’s not a surprise that he needs to pick up his toys. Sometimes he’ll even clean without me asking because the expectation has been set. I’m recoiling as I write this because it sounds so… strict. But it honestly helps.

Know your limits

Cancel plans. Play hooky. Ask for help. If it’s been a particularly crappy week, don’t be afraid to throw in the towel. If you get stir crazy, then get out of the house and interact with other adults. I know I can get really focused on what needs to be done or what my child needs and can forget about myself, and then I wonder why I’m snapping at every little thing. I have days where I sit on the couch and write and read and knit. I have days when I lock myself in a room and do yoga or meditate, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. I have days where I eat cookies in secret. And I have days where I say screw what needs to be done, let’s go have fun. Which brings me to:

Don’t hold off on fun

There’s a huge temptation on not doing fun things when my husband is home because I want us to do them as a family. And while I’m not suggesting planning a once in a lifetime outing without the spouse that’s away, delaying any and all outings just makes the days stretch longer. Go to museums and science centres and favourite restaurants. Go for a hike. Have friends over for brunch. Try to keep life going as normally as possible, otherwise there will be a gaping hole and make life even more miserable.

So while the distance can be hard, we do manage, because we need to. At the end of the day, the most important thing to do is make sure you both are there for each other for emotional support and know everyone is doing their best to make it work.

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How to own the stay-at-home-mom thing

Maybe it’s because of super moms on the internet. Maybe it’s because we went to school for 4 years and spent thousands of dollars on an education for a career that we no longer have. Maybe it’s because the default emotion of mom is guilt. (Or hey, super dads on the internet and dad guilt.) But for whatever reason, when you’re a stay at home parent, there is this need to do MORE.

That’s why so many of us blog and try to work from home and get trapped in pyramid schemes. You cannot JUST be a parent. It’s not even an outside pressure thing. It’s an ego thing.

I don’t know how many times I have sat down at the end of the day and said to myself, “I am pooped but I have no clue why… I have nothing to show for my day! The house is messier than when I woke up this morning, I didn’t even cook – I fed the child Mac and Cheese and leftovers. And I mean, I only have one friggin’ kid… there is no excuse for this!”

Shhhh….. listen to me, and listen to me good. Screw it. Screw all of it. Those super moms on the internet probably snapped fifteen hundred pictures all in one nap time and have been squeezing them out slowly over the past three months. That career will be there one day.  And that guilt? Chuck it. It’s useless. If you weren’t a stay at home parent it would be guilt about not being with your children and if you weren’t a parent well you’d have guilt from Aunt Lucy about, “When are you gonna settle down and have a family?”

So here it is. My 100% made up stay at home parent guide.

Don’t wake up with your kid

I’m serious. Nothing good comes from being “on” before your ready. Let the baby coo quietly in their crib. Let your preschooler spill cereal all over the floor (that’s why you got a dog after all isn’t it?). And if you absolutely, one hundred percent, must physically get out of bed, because I don’t know, Netflix is down and it’s the end of the world as we know it, sprinkle some little people or legos or whatever it is your kid is into across the floor and lay down and close your eyes and say things like, “mhmm. wow. yup. zzzzzzzzz.”

Leftovers are gold

No lie… I make a lot of shit from scratch. It’s a lot of work, don’t do it. But if you do… double everything. Muffins. Bread. Pasta. Soup. Making single chicken breasts are for suckers- you roast an entire bird and eat like a king for a week straight. Freeze whatever you can. I freeze pancakes. If my kid has pancakes for breakfast every morning for a week, it’s not because mommy has been extra attentive, it’s because she’s been nursing those babies so she doesn’t have to parent and make him eat a diverse breakfast selection.

Don’t do anything while your kid is asleep

That is your time. If you can’t get it done during “working hours” it doesn’t deserve to be done. I have been forced into this by necessity- my kid sleeps the same amount as me and doesn’t nap (SOS), but I’m wondering why I did laundry and cleaned while my kid was napping in the good ol’ days? Put on the radio, strap little ones to you and give bigger ones their own cloth for “dusting” and spend an hour giving the house a once over. Plop your kid in the middle of the laundry pile while you fold– or hell, don’t even fold! Then, after the four hour ordeal that is bedtime, put up your feet, eat the good snacks and zone out with whatever guilty pleasure you have until you pass out yourself. You deserve it.

Don’t do it all

People love to say, “you can’t do it all.” YES YOU CAN AND YOU CAN DO IT ONE HANDED.  I know that personally, I am surprisingly competitive and nothing makes me want to do something more than someone telling me I can’t. However, not doing it all doesn’t mean you can’t do it all, it just means you have badass time management skills. Think about it: the biggest CEOs don’t do everything themselves. Okay, maybe Elon Musk does but didn’t he sound a tad douchey after firing his assistant? I mean I get it, I am him- I refuse to delegate. If you want something done right, you do it yourself! But knowing that you have the option to delegate, and the option to say no, is very freeing. Think long term and ask yourself: is this worth it? If it’s not, ditch it.

Find the joy

I like to complain and make jokes about being with my kid all day everyday, but the truth of the matter is that it does have a positive side. There are times where I really genuinely like my kid. Not love him, because of course we all love our kids, but there are times when he’s my favourite person to be with. Allowing myself, or some days, forcing myself to find moments of laughter and happiness reminds me that it’s not about the food or the clothes of the perfect house, it’s about my time as a mom and his childhood. And it’s the best motivator.

So forget the parental guilt, it’s everywhere. And find ways to make stay at home parenting your own. You deserve it.

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