Friday, November 6, 2009

I get hives, thinking about those lights

Last weekend I cleaned up the rest of the Halloween things, chucking the cotton spiderwebs and folding the home-made 2095277327_3ae66f968cghosts and spooky things, the haunted house sign and the foam pumpkins carefully into a box.
When I was finished it went neatly into the pantry on one of the storage shelves. I was pleased. It fits nicely there.
Unlike the clump of boxes squatting evilly on the floor nearby, spilling green and red things at the slightest provocation.
It's the dreaded Christmas crap.

It doesn't bother me so much that I'm starting to hear Jingle Bells on the hardware store musak, or that the grocery store in town has two giant wreaths up in their vestibule, wired and ready to go on next weekend. Or that my childrens' school is already rehearsing for their Christmas concert - guaranteeing me almost two entire months of the same four carols, sung endlessly (okay, maybe a little bitter about that one) or that last night Rosey wanted to begin her Christmas list.

What hangs over my head like Damocles' sword is the Christmas decorations.
We have a pre-lit tree. I honestly thought that meant the end of tangled lights and much of the Christmas clutter. (I'll pause while you laugh yourself sick.) Yeah, that.  I'm not sure what I was thinking - but it definitely didn't factor in two Christmas geegaw loving small people who love to colour and draw and make stuff, or a stapler-gun toting spouse who'd outline every inch of the house if I didn't put an end to it.
My family likes decorating for Christmas. While I am of the Scrooge-ish opinion that we have enough.
But really, how many ornaments, tinsel, Christmas villages, reindeer, Santa Clauses, wreaths, strings of (tangled) lights, candy canes,  gift wrap, boxes of Christmas cards, advent calenders, music CDs, and lawn ornaments does one house need?
Last night my husband brought home a wooden reindeer for our front step. I shot him the look and he had the good sense to look a little sheepish, but feigned deafness when I pointed out we already had a front step decoration, a perfectly festive and gorgeous one from last year, and.....
I stopped talking when it became apparent he couldn't hear me over the squeals of delight from the kids.
Oh that's why I have too much Christmas stuff. I was too busy channeling Scrooge to remember. Something about the glow of colored lights on snow? And the feet under the Christmas tree? Faces lit up with wonder?
That's it.
But those tangled strings of lights still give me hives.

image credit: son of groucho
This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. Jessica blogs and studies and tries to resist the siren song of the Christmas cookies baking in the next room - sometimes successfully.

Monday, October 26, 2009

riding in cars

I've been thinking a lot about cars lately.
Now, as any340849699_a5cbcc37b4one who knows me can tell you, I'm blessed with one of those minds that can't tell cars apart (It was....white? With a....butt?) so to have me recognize a car on the road is no mean feat. 
(This is also part of the reason all the neighbors think I'm super-friendly. I wave at all the cars that pass.)
I'm not really going to go into how I can be counted upon to get into the wrong car at the grocery - who knew there were so many small red cars? Not me, obviously....
Or how I once followed who I thought was my husband home from the grocery only to have this very puzzled man pull to the stop at the head of his driveway.....My husband was following me. It all got sorted out. Whew.
Maybe it would be more correct to say I've been remembering cars that I've ridden in.
My grandmother took me on a trip across the country when I was fourteen. I still remember the smell of the leather interior and her Giorgio and how the flatlands of Kansas seemed to go on forever.  I curled up on the floor of the front, a sheet or something over myself to try and be in the shade, and dreamt of riding bareback through fields of grain. I woke running with sweat. When we stopped, we drank ginger-ale and I ate kiwi for the first time. I was just starting to come out of my shell then, discovering that maybe I didn't have to be shy all the time and I liked different things than everyone else.

My first serious boyfriend had a black Chevy Nova that was so battered it was a miracle it held together. It crouched at the end of the driveway when he'd pick me up, looking like a giant cockroach, setting my mothers' teeth on edge. But the front seats were good for necking, even if the car smelt of paint thinner and was littered with crunched cassette tape boxes.
When B and I married we had an ancient car, a real workhorse that ran us back and forth for years without complaining. When I was hugely pregnant with Rosey, we looked at the Eagle's tiny backseat and decided it was time to get a new car. Two kids, both in carseats? We needed the most room we could get.
So we bought an SUV. It was so big and foreign I wouldn't drive it for a few months, but soon I was used to it, and it became 'Mama's truck', hauling kids or whatever everywhere. I love that big carnow. The gas mileage sucks, but I know where everything is, and it fits me now, as a mom of two with all the assorted gear that brings.
B bought a new car last year, and all of a sudden my truck wasn't the shiny new mobile it'd been. Suddenly, it looked....big. And clunky. And the little new car was so speedy....
Today, when the kids and I were cleaning the SUV out, getting out the detritus of months of school projects, McDonald's wrappers, unidentifiable plastic toys and sticky things out from under the seats, I realized the new car smell is gone. There's not much joy about the Blazer anymore. It's ordinary now.
But I remember riding in it, bringing a new baby home, the rest of my family around me, back when the dash sparkled and the ride seemed smoother than possible. Back when having a family was new and the beginning of a grand adventure.....

Jessica blogs at daysgoby when she's not tooling around  and glancing sort-of-enviously at the newer cars on the road.....

Monday, October 5, 2009

making the bread

I have always baked bread in times of sorrow. Or joy. There's something about my chemical makeup that feels conte3638421685_ab45e20584nted and useful and providing when I get my hands in the dough, mixing and pounding and kneading, making a minor miracle out of ordinary household ingredients.
You can get a lot of stress out, baking bread.
I can't remember my mother baking, nor my grandmothers, but there must have been someone - it's usually generational, isn't it? And while my daughter is eager to climb up on the chair, lean over the counter, and smack the daylights out of the dough, she's a bit young yet to share confidences with, or to work out possible solutions while wrist-deep in flour-dust and yeast granules. To ponder and think and make strategies that perhaps don't solve the world's problems, but bring me closer to center.

It's probably best that I have this time alone, when my hands are more useful than my lumbering brain. Pondering something over is hard when it's time for urgent talks about plastic ponies and school assignments and who's going after who on the playground.
She'll be grown soon enough. Some day when she's a bit older, some day when nothing has gone right, when it's all horrible and she can't seem to catch a break - that's when I'll ask her to come talk to me in the kitchen.
That's when I'll show her how easy it is to take your frustrations out on a lump of forgiving dough, and how the sweet smell of the rising yeast can make you think of new pathways, new ways of trying to work things out. How waiting for the next step of a recipe is a lot like life - good, bad, or indifferent, all things happening in their turn. How things usually - not always, but usually - look better in the morning.
That's when I'll show her how to make bread.

photo credit: foooooey
This is an original Canada Moms Blog Post. Jessica blogs here and sometimes here, and usually leaves traces of flour on the keyboard.

Friday, September 11, 2009

pink for peace

I wrote about this last year here
The second Thursday of the school year in Nova Scotia is known provincially as Stand Up Against Bullying Day. This began in 2007, when a freshman in an Annapolis Valley High School was bullied by  seniors for wePinkaring a pink shirt on the first day of school. Two other seniors took note and decided enough was enough. Pooling their money, they bought fifty cheap pink shirts at a discount store and emailed everyone in the school they could think of, asking them to wear one of the shirts the next day. They figured that they could get twenty to thirty people to wear the shirts, but that twenty was enough to show that they were taking a stand.
The next day, they handed out the shirts - and were astonished to see over 400 other pink shirts worn at their school. There were pink accessories, pink jackets, pink sneakers - even a few pink basketballs on the gym floor that day, all worn to stop bullying.

The idea attracted attention, and by the end of that month, the two teens who started the movement were invited to Province House to watch the Premier sign a proclamation making the second Thursday of the school year officially Stand Up Against Bullying Day.
Last year there were patches. This year the Pink Shirt movement is stronger than before - in all age levels of schools and universities. School buses in Nova Scotia today are over-run with pink -
because our kids are tired of bullying, and because two other kids thought they should take a stand.
photo by
This is an original post to Canada Moms Blog. Jessica sent her kids to school today wearing pink and hopes they grow up with empathy for others and fairness as their leads.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

an american girl in canada

I got pregnant four months after I moved to Canada., through all the rigamarole of applying for permanent residency and applying for a work permit and tearful phone calls from relatives who were convinced I'd lost my mind and gone to the North Pole (Students in the United States are NOT taught as much geography as Canadian children are - the entirety of Canada is left as 'our friendly neighbor to the north' ) and trying to fit into an area with a much smaller-town feel, the stars aligned and the heavens sang (or, come to think of it, could have been all that newlywed sex) and I started
I held off going to the doctor until I was convinced I was dying. We were fumbling with bills and finding our way as a new couple - why would I put the added stress of co-pays and office fees onto our plate? Surely this would go away. Conditioned from years of having to drop thirty dollars every time I even set foot into a doctor's office, I was panicked by the idea of having a chronic illness far from home. The tests that would have to be run would bury us. And what would happen if whatever-this-was was classified as an existing condition?  I knew my husband loved me - but what if this was something ....big?
And how in hell were we going to pay for this? It was enough to make an American girl heave.
When I finally confessed that I was scared out of my mind that I was going to bankrupt us and force us to live in the streets, Jamie was less than comforting. He was completely uncomprehending.
You see, in Canada, that doesn't happen. People don't lose their houses trying to pay for their health care or take out second mortgages for unexpected illnesses. People don't get turned away from emergency rooms because they don't have insurance. There are no horror stories of people with ruptured disks (a horrible, debilitating injury) being sent home without getting help. That doesn't happen here.
Canada's health care system is based upon a single-payer system. (This differs from the 'socialist medicine' label often slapped on it.) The government doesn't decide what treatment you're getting or have any say in what tests or medications you need - your doctor does. The provincial government pays for it .
That's their only role in your health care. They don't choose who gets what, they don't say yay or nay.  Your doctor (or hospital) bills one single payer, so there isn't any waiting to find out if you have insurance approval, no waiting for reimbursement. There just isn't. This means that the Canadian health system costs much less than the States model - running one company to pay out is much more cost-effective than dozens of companies, all with their own checks, balances, and wait times for reimbursement.(And executive salaries, but that's another post...)
I'm not saying Canada's health care system is perfect. It's not. But it's a damn sight better than worrying that having an illness or injury - or bringing a baby into the world, which is what I did, a few months later -  is going to bankrupt your family or mean years of bills and worry.
Some very good articles: Denver Post  Campaign For America's Future

Jessica moved from the United States in 2000. She blogs at daysgoby and is grateful every day to live in Canada, where she can get medical treatment whenever she needs it without having to choose between having food in the house and seeing a doctor.
Photo by vtgard

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Like most peCheesedople who read blogs, I have a sizable blogroll. Certain themes have trended in through time - I had a lot of baby blogs when my daughter was a little, and when I went to work at the local hospital, blogs written by doctors, nurses and paramedics stacked up in number.
There are always blogs to follow about almost any profession, hobby, craft, whim. Even things you never thought you'd be interested in. But we're eating at home a LOT more these days, and in between the 100 mile diet and trying to show my children that with a little ingenuity, we can do almost anything, I've found myself reading all sorts of new and incredible stuff - and then trying it out.
For example, I adore cheese. Even the stinky stuff most people won't touch. Did you know you can make a lot of cheeses in your kitchen? Seriously. Like ricotta. Known around here as the glurp-glunch-YUMMY lasagna cheese. Or paneer, an incredibly basic but delicious Indian cheese that squeaks between your teeth if fried lightly in ghee. Even semi-hard and hard cheeses can be made at home.

Cheese curds - the main ingredient in poutine - is even possible (and delicious!) in your kitchen. (Imagine! Making your own poutine!)
Mozzerella! The pizza and string cheese champion!
Now, armed with a few recipes, some milk and a little time in the kitchen, I can make cheese. My kids think I'm a superstar and I'm saving money. It's a win all around. Besides, I like appearing out of nowhere lke Houdini...with pizza! Pizza topped with fresh home-made cheese!
Now if I could just manage to beat the deer back from eating all my fresh tomatoes and basil....
(sigh) Back to the blogs, I guess....
Hmm. How to get the deer to leave your garden alone. Must bookmark that....
This is an original Canadian Moms Blog post. Jessica blogs at daysgoby and tries not to drool on her keyboard while reading recipes.
photo by PirateAlice

Thursday, July 16, 2009

how to put in a pool (an ongoing story)

1) First, set the scene. Occasionally whine and moan to your husband how you miss the Great Lakes, how you're dyIMGP4128ing to swim, how you dream of cool, clear water...Ignore him when he (mildly) mentions that hello? You live near an ocean and there's a river in your front yard. Sigh heavily and mournfully when pools come on the television. (This is especially useful if you watch a lot of CSI: Miami.)
2) Next, pray for a heatwave.
3) When your husband finally mentions that Store X has a sale on pools and maybe you want to come check it out? Don't jump up and down and don't run and get your paperwork that clearly shows that Store Z has a better price or flash your handful of recommendations of brands and sizes. Now is not yet the time.
4) Be delighted. Even when his idea of a pool is three sizes smaller than yours. Remember, first ideas are adjustable, and you have all those recs and facts and figures to back yours up with.
5) Buy pool. Drag pool home. Be glad you brought the big car and the strong husband - because baby, those things are heavy.
6) Pick out spot on lawn that looks level. Watch DVD of pool installation video several times until you notice you're humming the kicky little music under your breath. Go outside, full of vim and vigor (and that kicky little song.) and unfold the pool. Begin filling the pool. Curse a few times, teaching the impressionable children near you new words that you'll regret later.
7) Really curse a few minutes later, when it becomes apparent that the level spot in the yard? Wasn't level, damn it. Open stopcocks and empty pool.
The next day:
8) Move pool. Measure out sixteen foot circle and spray paint it. Stand in middle of circle and wonder what exactly the hell you thought you were doing. Think sad thoughts about your lawn while husband gathers shovels, turf cutters, a level, string, several screwdrivers and mutters about using the roto-tiller. Wonder to yourself how on earth one levels a lawn, and begin to suspect you won't like the answer.
9) In a few hours, when all the turf has been cut out of the circle, know you hate the answer. Stare at the brown hole of doom, and weep bitter tears. Wonder where on earth you're supposed to put the grass that's been moved.
Begin to believe this was a mistake.
10) After six hours of shoveling, raking, attempting to level, and hissing through your teeth 'No, you can't play with the shovel right now' to your terminally bored offspring, figure THE HELL WITH THIS and go inside. Where you'll discover you look like you've been rolling in mud and your sun allergy has come out full force. Spend night itching and trying not to scratch.
The next day:
11) After much coffee and glasses of mango-papaya-orange juice (because isn't that what they drink on CSI: Miami?) look outside at the circle and discover it is by no means level. Send husband to work on it, because you will absolutely break down if forced to go out there again.
12) Wait for load of sand to come. And wait. Aaaaand....wait.
Wonder if you'll ever enjoy this pool so much you'll forget all this. Nah. This is going to be rattling around in your head for a long time.
Future steps: Spread sand in hole, level sand, set up pool (again), have fire truck come over and fill pool. You can guess which one my kids are looking forward to.
This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. Jessica is the proud owner of a 16 foot dustbowl in her yard. She blogs at daysgoby when not pestering her forgiving husband and hoping someday to have a pool that she can actually swim in.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the foreigner in the fridge

Veggies I was reading an article about saving money on groceries, idly thinking 'Well, I do that', and 'Holy crap do Canadians get fleeced on coupons' - because really, Canucks, you do - and 'I'm amazed my slow cooker isn't worn out yet' and clicked away, disgruntled.
Some of the suggestions are pretty basic, after all.
My family is trying to be as local as we can be. We're kind of proud of it, actually...haunting the local farm markets for produce and goods, doing our best to buy locally. We're even experimenting with putting in (well, experimenting again) a garden.
Some things we fudge on, like coffee (I'm fine with that, I am, because mornings are not fun when I don't get my coffee) and no one seems to be distilling gasoline nearby, but we make choices like early apples over the-peaches-from-the-United-States, and ketchup made in the Maritimes.

Our pantry staples are local. Sugar refined in Nova Scotia, flour from Newfoundland. Pickles made in a neighbor's kitchen. Sauces and dried fruit and local cheeses. Meat from the butcher. Maple syrup from Labrador.
It takes time to peruse labels, to try to buy things produced nearby. I thought I was doing a good job.
Which is why I nearly spit coffee all over the counter this morning when I realized the molasses was a wolf in sheep's clothing. Oh, sure, the label was that of a local company. The label was a company in New Brunswick, the molasses the stuff of my husband's memories growing-up. Pancake breakfasts, dumplings and 'lassie on Sunday nights. You know, the usual brand. Of course this was a local product.
Right? Well, no.
The molasses itself was purified and packaged in New Brunswick. But came from Guatemala.
Guatemala. Not exactly the 100-miles-diet-friendly item I'd been assuming it was.
Tomorrow I'll start hunting out a new molasses - or equivalent. But I dassn't tell Bear.
He's already grumpy about the dearth of peach cobbler.

This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. Jessica blogs at daysgoby and tries her hand at poetry in the still white room.  Photo by Sbocaj.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

telling them poppa died

A few weeks ago, I read When Grandparents Are Sick (a fabulous post by Mary on DC Metro Moms) and bookmarkedMVgraveyard(2) it, thinking I certainly understood. After all, my soldiering-on-but-beginning-to-fail Father-In-Law was reaching the point where...well, the point where it looked like things were going to change for him.
And then things did change. He died.
Last week was a kaleidoscope of emotions and things to do - going through grief with your spouse is hard enough, but explaining death to seven and four year olds? Not great, either. And tricky. We talked a lot about how people can be so broken that even doctors can't fix them, and how Poppa had been sick for so long that things like walking and breathing were very difficult.
My son was shattered. Shattered. He'd always been close with his Poppa, and since we've lost a few family pets, understood the finality of death. But my daughter had no clue.
And since I've been spotty on her religious education, she wasn't as comforted by the 'God took Poppa to Heaven to live with him' as her brother was. We were astonished when she shook back her shoulders and wailed that we were so mean, that why wouldn't we let Poppa come back? and Poppa can't live with God, Poppa has a house here!
Clearly, we needed advice. I sent out a call for help over Twitter, but received the best advice from the funeral directer - a nice handful of pamphlets and a really spectacular child's workbook called Bye Bye...I Love You - with prompts and spaces for the kids to fill in their special memories.
We learned: NEVER to say that Poppa had gone away (or he's gone, as both my husband and I naturally say in conversation) because my four year old thought that gone away meant coming back, that my son needed to know why for almost everything, that their attention spans and grief levels were better if we talked for a few moments then let them run off and do something else for awhile. That snuggling and saying nothing was sometimes better than rehashing the whole thing again - but sometimes talking was the better choice.
We learned if we talked them through each ceremony step by step they would be fine. This was as blunt as saying 'Poppa's body will be in the coffin. It will be open halfway. You will be able to see him  People will go up to it and say goodbye. You don't have to go up if you don't want to, but your Dad or I will go with you if you want. A lot of people are going to cry. Some people will tell you stories about Poppa. A lot of people are going to pat you on the head or shake your hand. If you get tired, come find me and I will take you away.'
I wavered and wavered on if they would be helped or hurt by going to the funeral. After even the four year old was reassured during the visitation by seeing her grandfather in his coffin, we decided to let them both attend. Again, I went through the ritual step-by-step. 'Poppa's body will be there in the coffin, but it will be closed. There will be prayers, and people will stand up and say what a good man your grandfather was. There will be songs played, and then we'll get in the car and drive behind the hearse to the cemetery, where we will stand in front of the box Poppa's body is in. There will be a few more prayers, and then people will walk in front of us and say how much they loved your grandfather and how much they'll miss him. People will want to shake your hand or hug you. If you are sad or don't want to do that, come to me. After we leave, the box will be lowered into the ground.'
They did well at the funeral. While I am by no means saying that their grief is over, I'm very proud of how well they absorbed what their father and I told them, and I'm so glad I had those pamphlets from the funeral home.
We are big believers in the idea that wherever you look, anything beautiful or shiny is a part of the person that is gone. That our loved ones are part of everything that shines is a concept first told to me by my mother, and explained in this childrens book that I love so much I've been sending copies to people that have a death in their families. It struck a chord with my son, who spent most of the week following the funeral pointing out things and talking about his memories. Now he's keeping busy filling in his memory book - and has asked for some pictures of his Poppa in his bedroom, which we'll happily hang in a place of honour.

 This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. Jessica blogs at daysgoby. Photo by the author.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

saving the world, albeit a little sneakily

 My local grocery store recently went bagless. That is to say, they will let you use your own bags (their re-use-15able fabric bags prominently displayed at all the check outs - only 99 cents!) or you can purchase plastic bags (biodegradeable, huge, thick things) at five cents apiece.
And even though the chain is projecting this significant move will result in a 55 per cent decrease in the number of plastic shopping bags it distributes and help to eliminate one billion plastic shopping bags from landfills in 2009 - which I'm all for, save the earth, rah rah rah -  I can't help feeling a little....well....duped.
I've no problem with the cloth bags. Even remembering to drag them out of the back of the car isn't as hard as it used to be - the 'oh, damnit!' moment seems to be coming in the middle of the parking lot now, instead of when I'm inside the store, so yes, that's a success. The cloth bags are sturdier, more-packable (okay, I made that word up, but you know what I mean) and don't tip. They're loverly.
The problem comes when I get up to the cashier and discover I'm a carrier bag short of carrying everything outside.

When the cashier chirps 'Would you like to buy a plastic bag for five cents?' I'm dumbfounded. Didn't I already pay for those? Wasn't the cost of those (admittedly lovely large strong biodegradeable) plastic bags already figured into the cost of the food I just bought? Aren't you asking me to pay twice for something? Isn't that illegal??
I live in Canada. Food prices are NOT noticeably coming down, even at the chain that boasts the strongest private label program in Canada. (Actually, this particular chain showed a significant profit last quarter, even in the face of the highest food inflation Canada has seen in 27 years.) In other words, my grocery bill has not adjusted to reflect that the store is no longer using plastic bags. So why am I being charged for them at the check-out?
Wouldn't it be fairer to give a five cent discount for each cloth bag that was used in packing your groceries? The alternative being used now seems questionable - a sneaky way to make a profit while claiming it's all about the earth.
I know it's just a nickel. In the grand scheme of things - of cleaning the environment, of leaving the world a better place than when I entered it, of teaching my children to conserve/reuse/recycle -  it's a tiny, tiny thing.
I can't shake the feeling, though, that I'm being fleeced. And I don't like that, even in the name of saving the world.

This is an original Canada Moms post. Jessica also blogs at daysgoby and tries to save the world a little bit at a time.
photo by andrewcurrie

Monday, April 27, 2009

your cellphone sounds like a mosquito to me

Canadian teens-9 are betting on teachers' and parents' aging ears to allow them to send and receive text messages and phone calls by using high-frequency tones that are inaudible to most people over thirty. Called 'mosquito' tones, these were originally marketed in South Wales to deter teenagers from loitering around stores.
The high-pitched buzzing grows uncomfortable to young people after ten minutes or so. Most people over thirty aren't aware of it at all. We all have old people disease, you see. Even those of us that don't feel particularly old.

Presbycusis - general gradual age-related hearing loss.

As you age, your ability to hear higher pitched sounds deteriorates. Soon tones you could hear well at twenty are but a memory. (Hmm...could this be why the music from the 80's doesn't sound as good as I remember it being? Naaaahhh.....) The older you get - going through your thirties, forties, etc - the less of the high tones you can distinguish.

Demonstration of mosquito tones here - how high can you hear?

The company that originally marketed the anti-loitering machine, Compound Security Systems, was taken aback when teenagers began using the irritating tones as cell phone ringtones, but soon figured out that since parents and teachers couldn't hear the ringing phones,  students were using them to text in class. The company has since come out with their own ringtone.

I had my young daughter in a waiting room the other day. The chairs were packed and she was playing on the floor with coloring paper and crayons. A young girl was sitting a few chairs down, and Rosey kept staring at her. Every once in awhile she would get up and approach her, only to frown and go sit back down. The girl finally flipped out a cell phone and answered it, saying something to her mother about how many calls she was missing. I had assumed that R was hearing the buzzing of the cellphone set on vibrate, but as we left she was complaining about a strange sound....
I really try not to sound like a grumpy old broken-eared person, but remember back when there weren't cell-phones and invisible tones and teenager repellent?
Eh, maybe this is just the presbycusis talking. It's inaudible to younger people, you know. Only us old timers can hear it.

photo by samantha celera

This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. Jessica blogs elsewhere too.

Friday, April 10, 2009

off she goes: Commander Josee Kurtz

-6My husband and I are trying to raise my young daughter to believe that she can do anything. To be fearless - to go after whatever she wants. This, of course, leads to much teasing from her older brother.
'Girls can't be cowboys, Rosey.'
Girls can't be policemen, Rosey.'
In 1989, the Canadian navy opened its doors to women on a 'trial basis' after a discrimination complaint led the Human Rights Commission to order the Forces to integrate females in all occupations. Josee Kurtz saw that landmark decision as a way to accomplish something she'd always dreamed about - a military career.  Walking into the recruitment office in her hometown of Joliette, Que, took some soul-searching and a lot of courage, but the former sea cadet toughed it out and shut her mind to any and all nay-sayers.
"There were indeed some stereotypes. There was some reluctance when we first joined," she said.

She knew that she was entering a profession dominated by men: "Let’s face it . . . a very small group of women in a crew of 225 people? You are looked at and you are tested. You are scrutinized to a certain extent. Over the years, when they realized you could do the job just as well, that scrutiny went away. Now, the navy has evolved into an organization that accommodates anyone regardless of race or gender."
This Monday, twenty years later, Commander J. Kurtz became the first female commanding officer of a major Canadian warship.

"This is probably one of the best days of my life," she beamed. "I can’t wait to take this ship to sea today. I think I was very lucky.The Navy ended up being an environment that suited my need for adventure, my need for challenge and set the stage for what has been a very rewarding career and personal experience over the past 20 years."
Kurtz hopes her promotion to commander of the HMCS Halifax would pave the way for the twenty-four female crew members and women thinking about joining the forces. ``I see myself as no different,'' she said. ``I do realize, however, that because of who I am and because of my place in time, my position is significant to many women, and they look up to what I have done.''
Commander Kurtz married an officer in the navy. After he retired, she began lobbying to go to sea - while he stays at home with their seven year old daughter. Juggling a family and navy career is an issue not just for women but for men as well, she said. "One thing that definitely was not going to work for us was to have two naval officers going to sea at different intervals with a youngster at home." 
"One of the messages I send to my sailors and my fellow officers is that perhaps they can make it work. That’s going to be their choice. It’s going to be for them to decide how they make that work."
So after the news tonight Rosey jumped up and smacked her brother on the shoulder.
'Girls CAN TOO be co-man-ders, see!!'  And then she stuck her tongue out.
Bravo Zulu, Commander Kurtz. Well done.
This is an original Canada Moms Blog Post. Jessica can be found at daysgoby.

Photo by: MCpl Robert Bottrill, Canadian Forces Combat Camera

Friday, March 27, 2009

do your part in the dark for earth hour local time, wherever you live on planet earth. Saturday 28 March 2009
Lights out, Canadians!
Did you know Canada outranks the United States in number of cities participating? Canada has 258 cities pledging to observe Earth Day this year by asking their citizens to turn out the lights for one hour - the United States has 187. Third-highest number of cities participating! Go Canada!
Impressive! This year, the lights will go out on the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Empire State Building, Wembley Stadium, Ottawa's Peace Tower, the Coliseum, The Golden Gate Bridge, and many other monuments and landmark buildings. Even Niagara Falls will be suspending their light show for that time! Toronto Hydro is having a contest where people guess how much electricity demand will be lowered during that hour, with real-time updates.
All of this, of course, is to see what we can do as individuals to lower our casual power and resource consumption. The goal of Earth Hour (sign up here) is to cut electricity consumption by a measly five per cent for an hour. While admittedly that's not much in terms of real climate change (some estimates state we need to lower everyday consumption as much as eighty-five percent) it's a real, visible event where you can see your effort helping. Last year, more than 49 per cent of our nation chose to turn off their lights and other unnecessary power supplies. That's an incredible number of people concerned enough to flounder in the dark for an hour.
So what to do during an hour unplugged? I'm not so much the guitar and Kumbaya type.  Luckily, there are events planned for everywhere - Halifax has a free outdoor concert in the park and Astronomy Nova Scotia will be mixing with the crowd, giving impromptu talks about star-gazing and setting up their telescopes so we can all peek at the heavens. Tim Horton's will even be providing hot drinks (although you need to bring a reusable mug!)
It sounds like a great time. Music and things to do and helping the world, all at the same time.
Maybe I am a Kumbaya-type girl after all.
This is an original Canada Moms Blog post.  Jessica thinks about other stuff at daysgoby.
photo credit: The Shopping Sherpa

Friday, March 20, 2009

drink your water. it's good for you. well, kinda Or maybe.....not.
Health Canada is now seeking a contractor to do a limited sampling from water-supply plants, testing for substances such as bisphenol A, known or suspected carcinogens, and pharmaceutical products washed down drains, many of which have never been tested for before.
Some of the most common by-products of water purification in water treatment plants occur when the disinfectants used react with things that occur naturally - like rotting leaves or vegetation - forming hundreds of the more universal compounds like trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids, bromate and chlorite.
Other substances are of a scarier sort.

The discovery of new byproducts "challenges the basis of our current mitigating strategies," says a request for proposals issued Tuesday "They migrate into drinking water sources and may not be eliminated by current water treatment processes. Some substances in this category have been identified as either known or suspected carcinogens and endocrine or reproductive disruptors. Limited surveys have shown that many of these compounds, thought to have significant health effects, can be present in Canadian drinking water."
Remember Walkerton, Ontario? It took one of the worst public-health disasters in Canadian history to prompt changes to laws and practices surrounding municipal drinking water. After seven residents died and over 2,500 were sickened in 2000 by tap water contaminated with E. coli, water purification processes were tightened up and improved. Still, water run through purification plants does not get rid of all impurities - last year there were an estimated 1,760 boil-water advisories across the country.
That's a lot of water deemed unsafe to drink out of the tap or bathe with.
Now, I'm not naive enough to think that my drinking water is crystal pure. I am naive enough to assume that my drinking water doesn't have something in it that might give my children cancer. Or MS. Or make them sterile. So I hope against hope that these new tests don't turn up something dreadful.
Because finding out the high levels of chronic disease throughout Canada is due to 'something in the water'? The water that we drink daily and urge our children to drink more of? Would be unthinkable.
photo by yoppy
This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. Jessica blogs about her life and worries about stuff at daysgoby.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

role model

We all have women we look up to – whether relatives or not. Women we nudge our daughters and point to, saying proudly ‘You can do that too’.  Trailblazers. Role models.
Theresa Helen McNeil was one of those women.-8
An extraordinary woman died this week, and all of Canada is poorer for it.
Theresa McNeil, the first woman in Canada to serve as High Sheriff, died Monday of pancreatic cancer at the age of  81.

Suddenly widowed in 1973, Mrs. McNeil went out to work, supporting her large family (17 children! A single mom!) while continuing to volunteer for a variety of causes and organizations, most notably Meals on Wheels. She saw no reason why earning a living would mean that she would abandon those in her hometown that she felt needed her. Four years later, she became High Sheriff of Annapolis County – the first woman in Canadian history to hold a sheriff's rank.
Her children grew up knowing the power of place and of helping others - of being one person, working for change. Her contributions to the province earned her the Order of Nova Scotia in 2005 and Confederation and Queen’s Golden Jubilee medals for volunteer service. But when asked about her achievements, she would brush praise off, saying that lots of people in small communities volunteer their time for others.
“She was a person who thought of the blessings she had, as opposed to the things she didn't have," Janice McNeil, her 13th child and youngest daughter, said today. "I was six years old at the time (of her father's death). I don't remember my mother ever being sorry for herself or saying, 'What am I going to do?"'
Four of her children grew up to be police officers - the rest are teachers, a school administrator, an executive assistant, five public servants, two small-business owners, a communications professional and one MLA, all serving their towns and cities and working to change things for the better.
Many people will remember Theresa McNeil only as the first Canadian female to serve as High Sheriff or as a role model for women facing adversity. But if you asked her, her proudest accomplishment was raising her 17 children.
"I didn’t do anything that anyone else, thousands of mothers and fathers, (doesn’t) do — get up in the morning and go and do the best you can," she said. "That’s all I did, and it worked out OK, so thank God for that."
Stephen McNeil spoke movingly of his mother, saying "My mother is the one who taught me about liberalism, about the belief in family, about the support of community and respect for all people," he said. "It is because of her that I am standing here today."
 Women like Mrs. McNeil make it easy to show our children what you can do if you put your mind to it. That it will take hard work, but you can do anything. Anything.
I think it’s a great lesson to learn. Theresa would be so proud.

This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. Jessica talks about other things at daysgoby.
photo credit: Eric Wynne,

Saturday, March 7, 2009

making the grade

-23It was report card time this week.
Now, we were pretty excited anyway - my kids like school and do well in it, but we're even more thrilled this year.  Nova Scotia has been steadily improving their elementary reading program for the last few years, and the first provincial literacy assessment test results are in.
And wow, are these kids smart.

84% of the English program Grade 3 students met expectations for expository writing when they wrote the Early Language Literacy Assessment last September, compared with only 66 per cent the year before.
That's like getting a B when you've had nothing but a string of Ds.
Or having long, lovely paragraphs when you're used to a few stuttering sentences.
The beginnings of story-telling are difficult, elusive things to teach. My son's teachers are working hard, using all the props and rewards they can think of, testing different approaches, deciding how to make their curriculum resonate best with the current crop of youngsters. My daughter has been in a pre-school program where they've been starting the little ones tracing letters and using colorful pictures to explain story concepts once they hit three. Results? She loves to make letters. Recite them. Pick them out of books. It's thrilling.
Much of the latest test-scores are credited to a new and more intensive regimen. Elementary students in the province receive at least ninety minutes of language arts learning every day, while students in Grades 7 and 8 get at least an hour of daily instruction in the subject. This, of course, has required both years of study and a large money infusion into our school systems. The fear now is that now that test scores are up, funding will taper off in favor of the next big 'problem area', something we as parents can't allow to happen.
Because whatever they're doing - it works. Cass's report card (and subsequent parent-teacher conference) couldn't be better. He's interested in things, and his teachers are encouraging him to take that interest and delve deeper into his current faves, and then write about them. (And all hail that poor teacher - you have to know she's getting 'Transformer' and 'Star Wars' stories  - and (shudder) Dora -
But whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to raise someone who loves language and words and telling stories.
Who knows? He might start a blog one day......

This is an original Canada Moms Blog Post  -  Jessica babbles on about everything at daysgoby