The Mediocre Kitchen

As promised, here comes a post about how I have started converting to minimalism and intentionality in my house and life.  While the first thing that I tackled was my wardrobe, it’s the one that I’m still most dissatisfied with – I feel like I’m in a really liminal space when it comes to my wardrobe, so my closet reflects that “temporary” feelings (I am still nursing… but probably not for too much longer during the day; I’m going back to work… but not until September; it’s freezing and whythehelldoilivehereagain… but spring is *maybe* coming).  So as much as I am FAR happier with my wardrobe right now, I’m not quite ready to do more than post the occasionally glimpse on Instagram.

But my kitchen!  It’s still also a work in progress, but I had no idea going into this how much this would change my life.  Cooking and baking used to be activities that I really enjoyed, and where I was very experimental and, admittedly, quite messy.  Cooking for and feeding my toddler and baby, however, has been far less fun.  Actually, I could easily accuse it of being the main source of most of my day-to-day anxiety (tied with the Sisyphean task of laundry for a family of four).  I had a pantry that was overflowing with STUFF and a fridge and freezer loaded with food that I couldn’t make meals out of – and that usually ended up getting thrown out.  Usually, we would look in our fridge, be unable to put anything together into an actual meal, despite the amount of food we were looking at, and then we would order in (I swear that Skip the Dishes knows us by name at this point).  So I was doing groceries (and paying for them in time and money) and then STILL ordering in food.  Once in a while, my husband would get overwhelmed by the fridge situation and just throw everything out, and we would start all over again.

Part of the problem going in was that I cooked off the top of my head.  I’d decide “tonight I should make risotto!  And tiramisu!” and off I’d go to the store to buy the specific ingredients for these recipes.  I’d make them, love them, leave my kitchen a total disaster, and fill my pantry and fridge with one-off ingredients that would languish there for several years before I’d be like “um why do I have a dusty bottle of Grand Marnier in the back of my pantry?  when did I even buy Grand Marnier?  was this a gift?  which 90-year old gave us this?” before trying to pawn it off on one of my senior family members, with fingers crossed that it wasn’t them who gave it to me in the first place.  Through this, I had acquired everything from a jar of what might once have been truffles, to 4 different kinds of curry powders, to various bottles of alcohol, to bottles of condiments with labels in languages that mean I literally don’t know what’s in them.

But no more, friends!  No more!

We live in a fairly small house, and we don’t have a lot of pantry or cabinet space, so what space we have is at a premium.  That means that the first step I had to take was to completely clear out my pantry and fridge and start fresh.  The challenge, though, is that I’ve DONE that before.  I had to rethink it and be more intentional about it.  So before I decided to do a big clean out, I decided to change the way that I was thinking about cooking.  I have done meal planning before, but in the way where I’d go through cookbooks or websites and pick 5 dinners that looked yummy and then buy all of the things I’d need to make those recipes.  I don’t deny the appeal here – I am not a food utilitarian.  I love food.  No, you’re underestimating it.  I LOVE food.  I have literally planned trips around food.  I have decided on which friendships to cultivate based on food.  I have, in a concrete sense, decided that eating delicious food is more important to me than losing weight (I’m serious.  I’m a size 8 who was formerly a size 2… but I had to struggle to stay at a 2/4 by really restricting what I ate and by making myself do exercise in a way that I don’t enjoy.  Now, I am very happy and consistent at my size 8, because I let myself have pain au chocolat with my morning espresso and a chunk of camembert whenever I feel like I need it).

My new approach worked like this: before I emptied out and reorganized my pantry, I needed to figure out what actually NEEDED to be in my pantry.  What items do we use again and again?  What items do we keep that we don’t use?  THEN, I figured out how to organize those items that we really use, and I went about it slowly and deliberately, making space for those items, so that I can easily see them (and therefore am more likely to use them) and so that we know when we are out.  It’s not written in stone, and it’s still a work in progress, but certainly this has allowed me to streamline and simplify both my groceries and my cooking.

Secondly, I re-thought my meal planning.  I decided on two things: 1. I HAD to have a plan.  No more staring at the fridge and figuring out what the heck to cook.  and 2. those meals had to have some consistency to them, so that I can re-use the same ingredients and don’t have to spend as much time thinking through things week-by-week and day-by-day.  But, let me stress, I cannot do the same meal every night.  And I can’t abide by the super plain, boring food that my husband and toddler seem to like.  So it had to be exciting (to me), consistent, and easy (like 30 minutes top to bottom).  Sadly, there are more conditions that I have to honour, like that my daughter is, y’know, 2, and while I believe that she should eat what we eat because I am not going to add “short order cook” to my already packed job description, I need to take her palate into consideration.  I sometimes give her palate more credit than it deserves, and I have to learn from those experiences going forward.

From there, it took a couple of months of trial and error.  Some experiments were crazy successful, like having my daughter help me make dinner whenever it was possible, and help serve it wherever it wasn’t possible for her to help cook.  Some experiments were significantly less successful, like my curried salmon stirfry, which we thought was delicious and which my daughter thought was worse than starvation.  After the trial period (let’s be honest, my life will always be in the trial period), I was able to sort out that my typical week looks something like this:

Monday: vegetarian option (meatless monday!)

Tuesday: tacos

Wednesday: salmon or chicken

Thursday: chicken or salmon

Friday: Pizza (we go to nonna’s house on Fridays for her homemade pizza and have been doing this for a decade- bless her heart for hosting six children and their 5 grandchildren every week)

Saturday: pasta

Sunday: Wild Card (i.e. leftovers, sandwiches, or order in)

All of these meals HAVE to have a protein, a carb/starch, and veggies.  My daughter (luckily) does not shy away from any particular category, though she obviously has likes and dislikes within each one.  From within this framework, it’s actually really easy.  I like to try out a fun recipe at least once a week, but try to pick something that doesn’t require me getting a bunch of random ingredients.  We really like Italian and Asian flavours in particular, so I usually stick with those palates, with the occasional branch-out to French or Indian/Thai.  We also don’t eat a ton of red meat, as you can see.

Once I had this laid out, the rest came about a lot easier.  My grocery list is already 80% done before I even start: I know I need chicken, salmon, whatever meat I’m using for my tacos, and lean ground something for my pasta.  I always get a bunch of whatever seasonal vegetables I know I can get my daughter to eat (right now it’s a LOT of cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips etc. because it’s winter, but in the summer, it’s more greenery and asparagus).  I need rice and potatoes (usually baby potatoes or red so I can keep the skin on and boil them quickly if I need to).  I also ALWAYS have garlic, onions, ginger, coconut milk, and the ingredients for tomato sauce.  I know a handful of solid recipes that I know my kids and husband will eat, and then I mix it up a 1-2 times per week so that I don’t get bored.  Any time I make something adventurous, it’s with the idea in my head that it MIGHT get added to the rotation, if it proves to be simple, delicious and not too expensive to add to the consistent grocery list.

After I had nailed this down and done a few weeks of work with it, I realized that I could pretty effectively organize my pantry.  I bought wood crates from Ikea, labelled them with my principal ingredients, and suddenly my pantry looks all fancy.  Now, I have saved even more time because I don’t have to really think about my grocery list and (thank you, sweet sweet progress) I use grocery delivery or pickup services.  So on Sundays, I just spend 10 minutes putting it all on my online grocery bill and it shows up at my house, or I pick it up, the next morning for the week.

So there you have it.  In a strangely ironic twist, the less I have in my pantry and fridge, and the more deliberate I am about what’s there, the easier it is for me to cook quick, healthy, and delicious meals.  I swear to you that my mealtime stress has been reduced to almost nothing because of this change.  Now my mealtime stress is related to my daughter wanting to eat her dinner sitting on the ground in the closed pantry, which she has proclaimed “the Yukon” and my internal voice whispers to me “choose your battles… one day you’ll tell this story at her wedding.”

What do you do to simplify your mealtime routine?  Is it as chaotic and stressful for you as it was for me?  I’ve sort of gotten used to the fact that things that are hard for me are often easy for other people because I am a walking ball of loosely bottled anxiety.

And, if you’re interested, my favourite cookbooks and blogs for delicious and quick meals are Half Baked Harvest (her blog and her book are just… wow) and Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks.  I also follow a few healthy mom food-bloggers on insta.  I’ll do a roundup on there for those who are interested!



Mediocre Mom

Minimal Embrace

Catchy title, hey?  I know, I’m a nerd.  Sorrynotsorry.

So today, I’m going to take a minute (or many minutes) to talk about something that has been on my mind an awful lot recently: minimalism.  I know that it’s having a moment, but even for my dislike of trends, I feel that it’s an important movement in North America.  I specify that because minimalism is only (and can only be) a trend on a continent that is as focused on materialism and consumerism as we are here.  In other parts of the world, there isn’t even a word for the way of life that minimalism represents, because it is so fundamental to day-to-day living as to not be worthy of a moniker.

I am not a minimalist.  My husband would laugh long and hard at me calling myself one (or, rather, he’d snort in the sort of mild amusement that all of my fanciful claims about myself are greeted with).  I am, as the french would say, a “slob.”  I love stuff.  And things.  In fact, stuff and things have, for the vast majority of my nearly 32 years, been my favourite.  I shop habitually.  I buy with the sort of impulsivity of a toddler.  There is literally no resistance between my “I want this” thought and the squeezing of my trigger finger.  I know my credit card information by heart, and my Canada Post delivery person by name (shout out to Frank, yo).  In addition to my shopping addiction, I am a hoarder.  I am a firm believer that “one day” this L-shaped wrapping paper cast-off will be the perfect shape for wrapping something, and nearly everything that I own becomes imbued with some sort of emotion that makes letting it go feel impossible.

But having kids has changed things for me.  Or at least, it’s STARTED to change things for me.  You don’t realize, when you bring home a baby, how very much STUFF is going to come along with it.  And then, when you’ve wrapped your head around how much stuff a baby comes with, you hit the toddler years and remember how naive you had been when you thought a BABY came with a lot of stuff.  And, to top it all off, you’re actually HOME to see all of the STUFF all of the time!  In our house, my husband is a natural minimalist.  His design sense is most kindly described as spartan, and he so regularly throws things out that one time, when my daughter couldn’t find her bath toy, she legitimately said to me “mommy, maybe daddy throwed it out?  Should we ask daddy if he put it in the garbage?”  (for those wondering, yes.  Yes.  He throwed it out.)

But what we can’t bring ourselves to throw out finds its way to our undeveloped basement (affectionately referred to around these parts as “Mordor”) where they simply wait, cluttering up our house’s subconscious like Norman Bates’ mommy-issues.

And so, increasingly over the last two years, I have found myself with a growing sense of restless discontent.  I did not, at first, associate it with my cluttered existence, and searched around aimlessly for its root source.  Was I unhappy in my job?  Was it that I was unfit for parenthood?  Did I need a new hobby?  I settled on the fact that our house is too small and too removed from nature and blamed that entirely for how I was feeling.  If, I thought, we only had more square footage, I would be happy.  If we lived near the river valley… or walking distance from shops… I’d be happy.  I expressed these beliefs to my husband, and we began planning to house hunt.  But it was in these conversations that I really started to analyze WHAT was making me unhappy.  What was making me want to move?  Our stuff.  I was trying to escape our STUFF.  I was unhappy because I was living in a world centred on the belief that I would be happy WHEN and IF something happened.  If you know me at all, you know that I am like an introverted bloodhound – a veritable Sherlock Holmes of my own interior landscape – so once I realized this fact, I started the hunt to find the root issue and suss out a possible solution.

When I looked at why I was unhappy and restless, it had a lot to do with the stuff in my life.  My house was too small and not decorated the way I’d like, my closet was full of clothes but I had nothing to wear, I didn’t have enough time and energy for the activities that I love doing, and I always felt stressed about money.  As I reflected, I realized that this had a lot to do with my attachment of happiness to things.  Like that I couldn’t buy myself skinny, but I could buy myself the magic pair of pants that would make me FEEL skinny.  I couldn’t buy myself confidence in my parenting, but I could maybe find the perfect toy for them that would make me FEEL like a good mom.  I had a hole inside of me and I could feel it, but I thought that maybe I could fill it with THINGS and it would go away.  Sadly, all of those things were only making the hole worse.  I didn’t have time to read during the day, because I had mountains of laundry to do.  I couldn’t bake, or paint, because our house was a mess – and cleaning takes forever when every conceivable surface is covered in stuff.  I wanted to put on clothes and feel good about myself, but I’d stare at a closet full of clothes that were just not QUITE right and end up throwing on the same pair of broken in denim and an old sweater and feel like a slob all day.  The stuff I was buying to try to keep myself happy was actually accomplishing the opposite effect: I was more unhappy BECAUSE of my stuff.

I started thinking about my kids.  Do I want to raise them this way?  So that when they are 32, they look at their lives and think, “I could be happy if only I had x and y?”  No.  I don’t want that for them.  I don’t want them to feel the sort of vapid emptiness that I felt when I looked around my life this past fall.  I want for them to know contentment and gratitude.  I want them to know peace, and to accept themselves as they ARE, not as they might be, if only they were to _______________.

I was happy as a child.  Incandescently so.  I was restless, sure, but in the passionately restless way that all children are – before age slows that youthful restlessness of body and spirit into stagnation.  My memories of childhood are sepia-toned and exist in a perpetual summer, where I still harboured the belief that, if I swung hard enough, I could swing all the way around the top bar of the swing set.  My memories aren’t of toys, or things (with a few very notable exceptions); my memories are of time well-spent and well-wasted.  Of times where boredom flourished into imagination, and adventure was always at hand.  Where I had no fear of failure, because every try was a success in and of itself.

I want that back.  I know, though, that I can’t have it again, in the way that it once was… I’m older now, and life is no longer a sepia-toned summer.  But, if I try really hard, maybe I can give my kids those same memories to anchor them and inspire them.  Memories that aren’t bought and paid for in cash, that don’t happen in a bigger house, or in a fancier car; but that are bought and paid for in time and focus.  In attention to the world as it is now, and in a deliberate savouring of these precious moments we have been given.

I need to find that time, that gratitude and focus, that intentionality.  I think it’s here somewhere, buried beneath all my stuff.  I am, as of these past few months, clearing things out to make space for those moments to be found and, at times, I have seen those hidden moments glimmering in the newly empty spaces in my house; I feel the tantalizing hints of fullness in my heart that I have been searching for.

I hope to share more about this in future posts – what I have done so far to live with less and to simplify, and what is to come for this aspiring minimalist and (hopefully) reformed mindless consumer.  Stay tuned.



Mediocre Mom

Bell Let’s Talk Day – Momming with Mental Illness

So I’ve been away for a while.  First, I took some time off for Christmas.  Then, I realized I was online too much, so I wanted to sort out my priorities… and then, my depression acted up.  I like to think of depression as something like arthritis: it’s always there, but sometimes it “acts up.”  In many ways, to me, that’s the most accurate description of depression.  I can still get out of bed.  I can still interact with people, and laugh, and chase my kids.  But it’s harder – almost impossible – on the mornings where my depression is acting up.  It can be affected by the weather: I have a much harder time dealing with depression on cold, dark days than on sunny ones (though this is not always the case).  In addition to the physical similarities, I also see a commonality in the way that people treat depression and arthritis.  If you have arthritis (or any chronic pain condition, like fibromyalgia), you know what I mean when I say this: people don’t want to hear you talk about it.  The first time you are with someone and you are having a flare-up, you tell them about your condition and they are sympathetic.  But if every time you’re with them, you move slower, or you complain (or even mention it), they eventually get tired of hearing about it… or at least it sure feels that way to you.  So you start to pretend that it DOESN’T bother you.  You smile through the winces; you get up and participate, even if all you want to do is sit and cry.

That.  That is depression.  Or at least what it is to me.

I have what is called, in some schools, “high functioning depression” because I can live a “normal” life, even when in the throes of mental illness.  I can camouflage.  I smile, instead of crying.  I play with my kids, and talk to friends, instead of staring at a wall.  I work, instead of sleeping.  I have learned what I look like when I’m “normal” and I emulate those behaviours as closely as possible.  I usually feel like people just don’t want to hear about it (even if that’s simply not true, it’s how I FEEL when I’m there), and that I can’t use it as an excuse for withdrawing from the world, because my friends/coworkers/family deserve better than that, even if it’s what I need for my own well-being.

And this is especially true as a mom.

How do you explain to a 2 year old that you literally can’t talk to her because it is taking every ounce of your energy just to be in clothing?  Or that you can’t walk to the playground today because the struggle to put together more than one-word sentences is simply too overwhelming a task?  My desperate desire for her not to see me having Rochester’s-first-wife-in-the-attic moments is so strong that I power through.  My intense need not to somehow pass this on to her, like some kind of mental flu.  It’s like jr high track and field: you HAVE to participate, even if you’d rather cut your own legs off than race the 800 meter today.  I get in my lane and run the damn race; it’s just that I’m running the race in knee-deep mud, so every stride takes 10 times the effort that it should.  And even when I know it’s not true, it feels like my lane is the only one with this mud in it – like somehow all the other moms got clean lanes.  So I’ll show up.  I’ll race.  I’ll put on my runners, I’ll get in my lane, and I’ll run this damn race like my lane isn’t full of mud.

And the cycle, as vicious as it is, requires that I then recharge from the herculean effort of doing something totally innocuous with copious amounts of sleep.  If you’re a mom, you already know the punchline: sleep is not something easy to come by as a parent.

That’s it.  I don’t have advice.  I don’t think of myself as somehow “better” than other people with depression, just because I can force myself out of bed.  Trust me, there are days when I can’t.  I understand the crushing weight of it.

So, moms out there with depression – I feel you.  A wild, sad, emphatic salute to you in your struggle.  For days when you show up, and days when you can’t.  Days where you smile and laugh and chase and tickle and days when you stare at a blank wall while your baby naps.  For the times you swallow what you want to say and say “I’m fine” and days when you can’t, and you cry when you’re asked if you’re alright.  Stay strong.

This is my annual post for Bell Let’s Talk Day.  I started trying to be more open about my mental illnesses several years ago, starting with a post on Bell Let’s Talk Day on facebook that marked the first time I ever openly anounced my struggles, and I want to end this one the same way I’ve ended them all: if you are struggling, reach out to someone (if you can) and know that you are NOT alone.  If you aren’t struggling, reach out to someone who might be.


So life with a toddler and a baby is, as expected, insane.  But the previous level of insanity reached a new level of crazy this weekend when we decided to potty train G.

Backtrack a second.  We actually decided to potty train her like, three months ago, but we went about it in the way that I go about everything: half-assed.  And you cannot half-ass potty training.  You must whole-ass potty training.  Ass-and-a-half, even.  Prior to Friday, G had peed on the potty ONCE successfully and it was after my mom sat with her on the potty for an hour and a half with stickers.  I had gone to Toys R Us around her second birthday and bought a potty for on the toilet, and a portable seat for when we went out.  I switched her to pull-ups, and occasionally I’d ask if she needed to go to the potty, but that was it.  I was doing basically nothing, but at the same time I was frustrated because it wasn’t working.  So I went and bought an elmo stand-alone potty.  I had sticker books, special search-and-find books and a renewed determination to… do exactly the same amount of nothing.

Four months pass.  I get no sleep.  Daycare will only support what I already have in place, but wont potty train her for me (the nerve of them, refusing to parent my child and making me do it), and the after-daycare hours are so crazy that seriously I blinked and those four months were gone.  MY plans to have her potty trained before the snow was wiped out by both my own inaction and Edmonton’s early snowfall (which has trapped me in the house like some sort of domestic version of The Revenant).

But wait!  Here comes a three day weekend!  Didn’t my mother-in-law tell me that it only takes three days to potty train a toddler if you dont let them wear pants?!  PERFECT!  So when Friday rolls around, we get G from her room and… take her pants away.  At first, she was really upset because she loves her pants (they have cats on them.  Cats.  I’m such a dog person and my kid freaking love cats.  I think it’s evidence that she’s already going to be a rebellious teenager) and then, when we slowly tried to take her pull-ups away, things got a bit hairy.  See, her pull-ups have “Mickey” (it’s totally Minnie) on them, and it was like we were torturing her by not allowing her to wear them.  After a few attempts at distraction, we put a towel on the floor and took out her favourite puzzle, and she thought making “bum marks” on the towel with her penaten-coated rear was hilarious, so we were out of the woods.

Then we hunkered down to wait it out.  Everyone has told us that potty-training is the hardest and worst part of parenting, so we were prepared for the worst.  We had coffee.  We had snacks.  We weren’t leaving until she was potty-trained.  We set a “tinkle timer” on my phone for 20 minutes.  We gave her as much water-diluted apple juice as she could drink (and holy shit can she drink a lot) When the tinkle timer went off, we went to the potty.  At first she thought this was a hilarious game, and would hang out on the potty and read her new Richard Scarry word book.

The novelty wore off quickly.

Soon the tinkle timer was a source of mini tantrums, so we turned it off.  And it happened!  She stood up, looked at me and said “the pee is coming” and we ran to the toilet and it happened!  And there was no going back: she didnt have a single accident that first day.  We patted ourselves on the back for being such exceptional parents.


I spent the entire day in the bathroom on Saturday.  I Swear.  She had tasted success (it tasted like watered down apple juice, I assume) and wanted more.  Now she got her big girl underwear (it has Paw Patrol characters on it so we sing the theme song constantly – or at least the one line from the theme song that I know) and she wasn’t going to risk getting Skye or Marshall “wet.”  We did have our first accident, but it was because she was so excited about her puzzle that she didn’t want to go to the bathroom, so she peed a little while working on it.  But she told me right away and we went to the potty and it was all golden.

Sunday was the real test.

On Sunday, we left the house.  We went to dance class in the morning – no accidents.  We had our first legitimate accident at a restaurant that night when she told me she had to go and I let her leave the bathroom before she had gone to the bathroom (my fault, but seriously Tony’s Pizza was calling me back to the table!)

So where are we at now?

Well, this sounds like we had an incredibly successful weekend and, honestly, I would say that’s true.  We bonded a lot, she learned to tell me when she has to go to the bathroom, and it seems like she’s really got this when we are at home.



She does not want to use the potty at daycare.  It means that she has to stop playing to go, and they are spread too thin to set a 20 minute tinkle timer, or sit with her on the potty for 40 minutes waiting for her to pee, and I get it.  But it’s undermining the process for sure.

And she does NOT have it together for naps/bedtime.  That will be a big issue going forward, and I have no idea how to approach it.  She can’t get out of her room on her own, and we don’t have the kind of monitor in her room where we can hear her all the time – we use a Nest cam, so we can open it on our phones to see her, but it’s not like we would hear her saying she needs to use the potty unless we HAPPENED to be watching when she did.  So if anyone has any ideas here, I’d love to hear them (and then probably ignore them for like 4 months before I give in and half-ass them…as I do).

And here is the biggest one: we have noticed that during this process, her attachment has gone through the roof.  It’s heartbreaking.  Beditme and daycare time have gone through a HUGE regression since Friday.  I know we just have to ride it out, but it’s awful in the meantime, and it’s going to get worse because I’m a masochist and I’m going to start sleep-training L right away here… ugh why.

AND (whiney rant coming)


I know.  I know.  Who MISSES diapers??  ME!  I DO!  Do you know what I  hate more than cleaning my toddler’s poopy butt?  Sitting on the ground in a public toilet for fourty minutes waiting for her to poop and then STILL HAVING TO WIPE HER POOPY BUTT!  She’s GONE MAD WITH POWER!  She knows that I have to run with her to the potty if she says she has to go, AND SHE’S ABUSING THE TINY MODICUM OF POWER SHE HAS BEEN GIVEN!  This kid should NEVER be allowed to hold a position of authority – it WILL corrupt her!


Next up: sleep training.  I know there are a lot of opinions about it out there, but I’m going to talk about my experiences and opinions in my next post.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your experiences with potty-training and what has worked for you!



Mediocre Mom

A Hundred Excuses

I haven’t posted in a month.  I have a hundred excuses why.  Some are more valid than others, but none of them are the full truth.

Excuse 1: I had family come in for a visit.  They drove from Ontario to visit with us and, as the designated stay-at-home-for-right-now mom, I was more than happy to escort them about the city, showing off the place I love.

Excuse 2: Holidays.  Between thanksgiving and Halloween, a lot has been going on.  G had her first movie experience, we have carved multiple pumpkins.  We have baked and eaten that baking.  I have gained back all of the weight that I had lost… you know what they say: Thanksgiving is the beginning of the end for every weak-willed dieter.

Excuse 3: I am a bridesmaid in a wedding and the bachelorette party was in Canmore last weekend.  A LOT of my focus had to go into that.

Excuse 4: L is in a BAD sleep regression.  G had them when she was a baby, but not like this.  I am getting absolutely no more than 90 minutes of sleep at night and only a few small breaks during the day.  I love him to little bits but I may leave him in a box on the side of the road with a “Free Baby” sign pretty soon.


Ok so not 100 excuses, but four.  Again, all of them real reasons why I have been lax in my blog posting duties, but none of them cover all of it.  The real reason was one that I hadn’t been able to recognize until I was at my book club last Thursday.  My book club, which has only had two meetings so far, is made up of women that I’ve never met, all of whom are small business owners or entrepreneurs.  They are incredible.  Beautiful inside and out, these women work their tails off to live their dream and to make their visions reality.  I was overwhelmed, surrounded by them, by how strong and utterly RELENTLESS they are.  Our book for October was “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington and while we all agreed that it was sort of “meh” overall, it had a few interesting points that became deep conversations for us.  One of the key points was hit on the head by one of the other women: we are constantly told to question our own abilities and value.  We have these deep desires and wants in our lives… oftentimes involving dreams we want to pursue.  But we stop ourselves.  We stop because we think of finances.  We think of responsibilities.  We think, most of all, “who am I to do this?”

And that line is what struck me.  “Who am I to do this?”  She was speaking of her own experiences, and yet it was like she was giving voice to the fear that hides in the back of my head: Who am I to think that I am worth hearing?  Who am I to think I can speak to this or that?  Who am I to think anyone wants to hear what I have to say?

For all of the many concrete reasons I had given myself for putting off posting, this was the one that they hid: my deep insecurity that no one should care what I have to say; that it is arrogant for me to think that what I have to say is worth being heard at all.

I recently read a piece by Joan Didion that talks about self-respect and the struggle to find it.  She likened it to a “well-lit back alley” where all of our self-knowledge waits to essentially mug us with the truths behind our masks and self-image and reputation:  here lurk the truths you can hide from everyone but yourself.  I think I LIVE in that back alley.  I am never unaware of my failings, big and small.  I still think about the time I called a kid a bad name in grade 4 and that one time I didn’t stand up for my mom when I should have.  I’m aware of the frustration I feel when I’m with my daughter – the short-tempered cruelties that shame me deeply.  I can’t pretend with myself to be any kind of parenting sage because I know too well the truth of myself, and to write any kind of piece that says otherwise is to be inauthentic.

It’s a funny duality that I have found in motherhood: I jealously remember the times in my life when I was truly seen, now that I am permanently relegated to the background of my children’s lives.  I once was the sun, with everything orbiting around my life, but now I am just one of those planets, orbiting G and L while they shine.  I guard the precious memories of my life BEFORE when I was Danielle and not just mom.  When I had interests and independence.  But the irony is that I think my greatest fear is to be truly seen now.  To be seen in my inglorious moments, my frustrated ones, my shameful ones. It’s one thing to embrace the messiness of parenthood – there is a deeply funny side to the trivial failings of our day-to-day lives: the spilled milk, the spit up accidents, the blow-outs.  There is a black humour to the first time your kid repeats the word “fuck” or accidentally does something inappropriate with total, pure innocence.  But it’s a different beast to look at our real failings as parents and as people.  Those are moments we do not want to be seen… and they are moments that I feel I have had more of since I became a mom.

And yet, I believe there is value in it.  I think that there are those moments where seeing someone else be vulnerable allows us a greater connection to both ourselves and one another.  I believe that we are closer when we see each other as human.  Especially in a time where social media makes it difficult to separate someone’s PROFILE from her LIFE.

So I’m back.  I have to believe that there is a value to what I want to say.  Perhaps it will be uncomfortable – for me, for people who read it – but perhaps there is value in that.  If I want to raise a daughter who sees value in her own thoughts and voice, I have to find that value in my own.

Fingers crossed.



Mediocre Mom

You Can’t Be Everything

When I was a kid, I won a purple participation ribbon at track and field day.  It was fourth grade – the first time that we had to compete in the events instead of just playing around outside – and I was running the 100 metre.  I chose the 100 metre not because I am fast… on the contrary: I chose the 100 metre because I am an awful athlete and it was the one that would be over the quickest so that I could get my tiny ice cream with the popsicle stick spoon.  The humiliation of placing second last (God bless you, last placer) was quickly fixed by the pinning of a ribbon and the reception of a delicious ice cream treat.

And track was not the only area of my life where I received head-pats for mediocrity.  My parents, with all of the well-meaning enthusiasm of the 90s, cheered me on by telling me that sacred millennial mantra: you can be ANYTHING you want if you put your mind to it!  I embraced this foolhardy belief system, but with one important alteration.  In my head, I adopted the belief that not only could I do ANYTHING, but I could do EVERYTHING.  I was a special little snowflake who would excel (or at least not be the worst) at everything I tried.  I blithely marched out into the world to take what was mine: all of it.  And, for a time, it worked.

I worked what amounted to full-time through university, maintaining my grades while simultaneously volunteering to puff up my resume.  I planned a wedding as a first year teacher (if you’ve been one, you know what the hours are like) while maintaining a decent social life (for me, anyway).  I coached, directed the play, worked 14 hour days building resources that totally already existed, and somehow still found time for dates with my husband and lots of shopping.  Sure, there were trade offs, and I did none of those things to the best of my abilities, because there were too many things to become really excellent at any of them.

So when I became a mom, I figured it would be the same deal: put my mind to it and I’d be able to do it all.  I would be able to be a mom, have a career, maintain my marriage, keep my friends and social life, get the best body of my life and, of course, have a killer closet.  If you’re not laughing yet, it’s because you’re not a mom.

With my first, I realized that I was an idiot pretty much right away.  There was no way I was doing all of that, but in my head I added a yet.  I only couldn’t do it all because I was in a transition period, or because I was physically recovering, or because I was pregnant again and exhausted (I had hyperemesis with my second, so it was a good excuse).  Whatever the reason, there was a REASON I couldn’t have it all… YET.  As soon as those reasons were resolved, I would be able to get it all going and have everything.

But it never happened.

Today, I sat in the middle of my floor wearing oven mitts and my husband’s flipflops, crying.  It was the basement, too, which is undeveloped, so I had dust all over my skirt (yes, skirt).  I had decided when I had my second that the excuses were over: it was time to really put my mind to it.  I woke up every morning and did my hair and basic makeup.  I signed up for workout classes.  I went dairy-free and started watching what I ate.  I cleaned my house, and then cleaned it again.  I signed up for EVERYTHING for my daughter – taking her on weekly trips to everywhere.  I met up with friends.  I started planning and working on a bachelorette and shower for a wedding I’m in.  I started hobbies.  I began redecorating my house (more on this later).

And then I found myself sitting on the floor.

After getting ready to go out and meet my mom for lunch, I had tried to take the glass out of a frame for a painting I had made with my husband and daughter when I was being everything on the weekend (note: here is me simultaneously trying to be stylish, social AND good around the house).  In the midst of it, the glass broke a little.  So I went upstairs to get gloves to pick up the glass, but when I tried to move the frame to find the broken piece, the rest of the glass shattered.  So now I’m in flip flops and a skirt, with oven mitts (I couldn’t find my work gloves), surrounded by broken glass in my undeveloped basement.  I’m not wearing my glasses, so I can’t REALLY tell where the glass is.  So I crouch veeerrrry slowly down and hear the crunching that tells me that I am probably millimetres from slicing the shit out of my feet.  With my oven mitts, I “feel around” (note: you cannot feel anything through oven mitts) and find the slicey bits.  I try to put them in a garbage bag, but whaddaya know, they slice the bag to shreds.  Slowly, slowly, I pick up the glass and pile it on an old ottoman that has been relegated to the “not ready to sell it, but not a part of my decor anymore” pile.  Upstairs, Leo wakes up and cries, hungry.  Downstairs, the frame I had been trying to use breaks when I try to move it out of the area now that the glass has been picked up.  I’m exhausted.  I cry.

It’s self-pity crying.  It’s pathetic.

But it’s IMPORTANT.  I continually forget that my near-zealous devotion to the ideal that I can be anything I want is not the same thing as being EVERYTHING I want.  I am NOT a DIY-er (note that at the same time as this glass incident, there was also an oversized hole in the wall of a room upstairs where I had tried to use drywall anchors and hit a stud).  I am NOT a social butterfly.  God I want to be.  And most importantly, I cannot be ALL of the things I want to be all at the same time.  I can’t be the well-dressed, DIY expert in a perfectly maintained home who flits from pilates class to wine night with my girlfriends who still has a perfect marriage, kids who get enough attention,  and grandparents who are involved in the lives of their grandchildren.  I definitely can’t do it all while I’m exhausted from not sleeping longer than 45 minutes at a stretch for the past two and a half months.  Every choice I make has to come at the expense of something else.  Wine night with girlfriends means another night I’m not spending quality time with my husband after the kids are asleep, a workout means a nap time is disrupted, time with my husband means introducing a bottle, becoming a DIY goddess means being bodysnatched my aliens because let’s be honest, that shit’s just not in my DNA.

We only have so many resources to spend.  I have always spread them around too thin, seeking the realization of my fourth grade dreams.  I never really let go of the idea that I COULD be a singer if I really wanted to (I’m still waiting to be discovered) and so I hold onto the notion that I CAN be all of the things that I want to be all at the same time, and, if I’m honest, that I can do it all with very little cost to myself.  The problem with being EVERYTHING as a parent, is that now there is a real price to being only “okay” at aspects of your life that are important.  You don’t give yourself enough time to LEARN or improve, you just accept average (or worse) because you dont have the resources left to get better.  You don’t have the ability, or even the desire, to get better…  you just want to be at the finish line and get your fucking ice cream already…but there’s no ice cream or purple ribbons for parenting.  There are very real people who need you to not take the shortcuts where they’re concerned.  They need better than (second) last place.

So no more DIY for now.  No more stretching myself thin.  Time to get back to what matters the most: my family and my well-being.

Let’s see how long it lasts this time.



Mediocre Mom

Why Fed is Best

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a mental picture of how everything would go down.  I was only mildly afraid of labour (I was always the kid that had to burn her hand to know the stove was hot), because I had a mental image of being the strong, natural mother who did what was BEST for my child, both before and after her birth.  The books and interweb both told me a few things for sure: painkillers during labour are going to make your child drowsy and affect her ability to latch, and breast is best.  You’ll note that even the first one is tied to the idea of how important breastfeeding is.  I KNEW I was going to go into labour naturally, I KNEW I would not need pain meds or an epidural (based on the foolhardy assumption that I could breathe through ANYTHING and that I already knew REAL pain- more on this another day), I KNEW I would get skin-to-skin time immediately after birth, I KNEW I would breastfeed exclusively and I KNEW in my heart of hearts that I would bond with my tiny human the instant I saw her.

We had a plan.  I knew it was foolish to make one of those down-to-the-minute plans because you can’t plan a delivery THAT well, and I’m frankly not type A and could never make that sort of plan anyway… but we had a plan, regardless.  It was more dos and don’ts – a flow chart of possibilities that included my non-negotiables and my preferences.  Skin-to-skin and breastfeeding were the only non-negotiables.  Everything else was a “make sure it’s really necessary” sort of thing (epidural, c-section, etc.).

This is not where I tell you my birth story.  That post will be marked with an “abandon hope all ye who enter here” heading.  This is just where I tell you how hilariously, tragically, hopelessly wrong everything went and leave it at that.  (please note that I really do know how much worse it can go and I’m so grateful that my situation ended the way it did)

To start, I had “planned” (ha) on going full-term.  I was NOT interested in being induced early because the internet told me that’s more likely to end up in a c-section and with trauma to the poor baby who is not ready to leave the womb.  I went in to my 39-week appointment expecting to hear that I had not dilated at all and was going to for sure be going past my due date.  Yeah no.  I had not dilated, but I was required to deliver by 40 weeks.  I have an iso-immunization issue that is very dangerous to the baby after 40 weeks and, because my original OB had gone on leave partway through my pregnancy, both her and the new OB thought the other one had told me about this.  Yup.  So I walked out of that appointment with a good dose of shell-shock and an induction date.

It did not get better from there.  Everything I had wanted for my delivery became impossible.  Even skin-to-skin was denied me at first because I was hemhorraging and needed several professionals to stitch me up.  In part because everything else was denied me, and in part because I’m just naturally incredibly, stupidly stubborn, I set all of my hopes and dreams on the one choice remaining to me: breastfeeding.

The trouble started there.

First: she couldn’t latch.  We had… anatomical incompatabilities, according to the nurse.  In addition to this, my daughter had severe jaundice (partly a result of the iso-immunization issue mentioned above) and was too lethargic to suck even if we got her latched.  I held out.  I was breastfeeding and that was that.  The nurses wanted to supplement, the doctor recommended I supplement.  I held out for another day.  Another tear-filled day of women handling my breasts and my baby and trying their best to help me breastfeed.  A day of weeping over my baby who wouldn’t, couldn’t, wake up enough to eat.  A day of wrenching sadness as I grappled with the feeling that I was failing her regardless of which decision I made.  When I finally agreed to supplement with formula, I cried watching them give her the first bottle.  I couldn’t do it myself because I couldn’t bear the reminder of my failure.  She had lost a lot of weight already, and I knew it was because I had refused to compromise.

I wasn’t done yet, though.  The decision to supplement strengthened my resolve to breastfeed.  I bought a shield, booked a lactation consultation, read endless posts on my phone about how to fix a latch etc.  I was determined, and by God, I was going to nurse my child if it killed me.  And it seemed to be working!  The shield helped her latch enough to eat, and, with the help of my husband, we woke her up every three hours to forcefeed her for the next two weeks.

Sidebar: let me tell you something: if you’ve never tried to wake a jaundiced baby up to eat, you can never understand what it’s like.  It was a two person task and took at least an hour each time.  It involved ice cubes, ear flicking, clapping, foot tickling, begging, cajoling and crying each time.  Plus the recording process where we had to write down how much, how long, how often for everything she did to show the doctors/nurses.  I was insane with exhaustion and worry, but triumphant: we were nursing.  There was no more formula involved!  I knew how delicate a line I was walking though, because I had a low supply from having a baby who didn’t nurse fully for the first few weeks…but my joy at succeeding even this much overwhelmed my worry.

And then came the biggest roadblock.

We had only been home for a few days (we spent four in the hospital for her jaundice) when I collapsed with a dangerously high fever.  I had a severe infection and had to be re-hospitalized.  I refused morphine in the ambulance.  I refused any anti-biotic that would stop me from nursing.  My husband brought our daughter to the hospital and I nursed all day through my 105 degree fever, and then I pumped alone in the shower of my shared room every two hours all night to try to have enough milk for her at home (she couldn’t stay at the hospital with me overnight because I was not in the maternity ward).  The infection got worse.  They told me that if they couldn’t get it under control, I would require surgery, and the infection was severe enough that the risk of perforating my uterus was very high – I would have to be prepared for a hysterectomy.  I relented and they gave me very strong antibiotics.  I couldn’t nurse at all anymore.  My supply dwindled to almost nothing.  I cried almost non-stop.  In 8 days, I had lost all of the progress I had gained.  My daughter, when I held her, was like a stranger to me.  I felt like I couldn’t bond with her, and that I had failed in every way.

When I was finally released from the hospital, I tried to get back to nursing, but my supply was very low.  It took a long time and a lot of work to build it back up – I was on every natural and medicinal support I could be to raise my supply.  I used a shield, sterilizing it every time.  Nursing sessions were upwards of an hour, and then she would be hungry again in 20-30 minutes.  I waited anxiously every day for wet diapers that didn’t come nearly often enough.  I sat through awful appointments every few days at the clinic where we weighed her and watched her slide backwards down the growth charts, until we couldn’t use them anymore because she was underneath the lowest lines.

We started supplementing, but only at night.  I wouldn’t let my husband give her formula except for after the last feed before bedtime.  I wearily dragged myself out of bed every 2 hours to nurse, even knowing I didn’t have enough to fill her up for long enough to sleep longer than that.  Eventually, my husband, in a fit of frustration, asked me why I refused to supplement (bless his heart for being patient with my demands for so long), and when I, in a state of exhaustion so pure that I can’t actually tell you if my words formed a sentence, mumbled out a sentence about the importance of breastmilk to a baby’s development, he threw his hands in the air and said “do you honestly think you could pick out which of our friends are formula fed?  I bet most of them were!  Our moms only got a couple months of leave back in the 80s – can you tell me which of THEIR moms were failures?” (this later became a recurring joke between the two of us, but at the time, I burst out in tears because he had confirmed that I was, in fact, failing… a point which was absolutely not a part of that sentence, but try telling a sleep-deprived woman with PPD that).

And so we started to supplement.  I could never pump more than an ounce, so it was formula.  My supply slowly came back, and my daughter started to gain weight.  She re-entered the charts and settled comfortably at the 25th percentile.  When we started supplementing, my husband got a chance to bond in the same way that I had started to… and some of the pressure was off of me.  I could stop dreading appointments with the clinics.  I could see little chubby rolls on her thighs.  She started sleeping longer stretches.

Things got better – for all of us.  I can honestly say that I do NOT regret insisting on breastfeeding.  I nursed until 13 months, and she continued to have formula at night on one of our laps for another month or two after that.  My nursing sessions with  my daughter were times of peace.  She’s a very busy little girl, but our sessions, even when they were down to just one at night, were quiet times, where we babbled, napped and bonded.  I have never known anything like those times, and I wouldn’t want to lose them for the world.  But I can also say that my insistence on breastfeeding harmed my daughter, though fortunately not permanently, and also my husband.  I didn’t know how much it affected her until she was eating solids.  Almost as soon as she was eating solids full time, she rebounded up to the 50th percentile and started sleeping those 10-12 hour nights.  I realized much too late that my insistence on the “natural” method of feeding her is the reason that she was so small, and was also a big part of the reason I was so anxious and depressed.

And I can also say that my husband got those same quiet bonding times with her over her bottle of formula.  Our night time routine – breast, bath, bottle, book – allowed both of us to be a part of that special quiet time, and I see the relationship that it helped my husband to build with my daughter.  I know that anyone out there who pumps or supplements would agree… there’s nothing like daddy getting to feed his baby to help him feel like a part of the family and the relationships that are forming.

Ultimately, I have realized as a result of our breastfeeding journey, that, while breastfeeding might be the *ideal,* it’s incredibly hard and not always the right decision for you or for the baby.  You have to do what is best for you and your family.  And know that each baby is a different baby!  My experiences so far with my son are a VERY different story, but this post is already super long, so I’ll leave it there.

Do what keeps you sane.  Do what helps your baby grow and be healthy and happy.  A healthy you and a healthy baby are more important than what the books say, or what the internet will say, or what your mother-in-law will say (mine was actually very supportive either way).


-Mediocre Mom


flashback to our bedtime bonding after we had finally figured out what worked for us

The Birth of the Blog

Here we go.

Every day, I log on to social media and see all of these images of people and their perfect families.  The kids are well-dressed and stylish, the moms have full makeup on and are wearing silk tops without milk stains, and the days are lit with that perfect sepia tone of sleepy Sundays from memory or with the crisp brightness of the perfect summer day.  And I look up from my cellphone or laptop at my own life: the same shirt that I’ve been wearing for three days because heck, at least this one already HAS spit up on it, the child being sent to daycare in mismatched, too-small clothes, the infant sleeping for the first time since yesterday after clusterfeeding all night and I wonder: am I the only one who can’t keep it together?

I think not, friends.  I think not.

So here is where my blog comes from: a place of necessity.  I need to know that there are others like me out there.  I need others out there like me to know that there are others like them; namely me.  Our lives are not sepia-toned.  Our messy bun is legit messy (and often greasy).  We do not handmake our children special sensory montesorri toys or glide through motherhood on wings made of perfect patience.

We are working hard to just be mediocre moms.