Amy (old posts, page 10)

Books in June

In Your Face: The Culture of Beauty and You by Shari Graydon is a beauty myth primer for teens, and as such didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, although I think it did me good to be reminded of this stuff. I've been watching too much What Not To Wear and am starting to think that it's good and right to want to be pretty all the time.

Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You by David Ropeik and George Gray. This is really what it claims to be: a practical guide. It's a huge list of everything you think is scary -- radiation, electromagnetic waves, pesticide residue, tap water -- with discussions of how scared you should actually be, and why, and what you can do to protect yourself. This would be a handy reference book to keep around the house.

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Judaism by Shmuel Boteach. (Actually now I'm not sure whether I got the 1999 edition by "Shmuel" or the 2006 edition by "Shmuley". I wonder what else changed...) I got this because I am vaguely interested in Judaism and also because I love Shmuley's show on TLC. As it turns out, Judaism is pretty cool but I can't get past the believing in God requirement. I guess that's a pretty fundamental part of this whole Abrahamic religion thing but I just can't do it.

Some other thoughts: Shmuley doesn't like Ashkenazi culture. What's wrong with knishes? What's wrong with klezmer? Nothing, that's what!

The part refuting the Christian idea of suffering being a means to better oneself threw me for a loop because I realized I have bought that concept entirely. When someone claims that their suffering made them stronger I nod agreeably; it had never even occurred to me that it might not be so. I'm still not sure that it is always false; I think that some suffering is good for you. Where Shmuley and I may differ is in the scale of the suffering under consideration; he is talking about being, say, imprisoned and used for creepy medical experimentation where I am thinking more of, say, not having a TV in your bedroom.

The whole section about women was a little creepy. I'm just not sure where I stand on the whole gender thing these days. Having read Gender Wars (and having a working brain) I know that women are not identical to men; being a feminist I believe that women are legally, morally and in every other way equal to men; being a mathematician I know that the differences between men and women in most meaningful scales are less significant than the variation within either group; being a parent I believe that someone has to put the home and family first and their career second. Shmuley thinks that the woman is most biologically suited to that role, but I don't think that's so. Shmuley also says women are naturally more spiritual than men, gentler, more compassionate, smell better -- a lot of nice things which make me think maybe I am being patronized. Maybe not, though, perhaps I am over-sensitive and suspicious.

Anyway, I will read some more Shmuley books and see how they are.

Better House and Planet by Marjorie Harris is a book about how to keep your house in an environmentally sensitive manner. It's actually one of those "1000 Household Tips"-type books that were popular in the eighties. I took it out because I wanted some tips on cleaning without using nasty cleaning products, but this book is more like a big game of "Bullshit or not?!" A sliced avocado won't brown if you don't take the stone out: bullshit or not? Bullshit! I can't remember any more, but this book had a concentration of about one urban legend per two pages.

Very disappointing, and I still don't know how to clean without using nasty products. Maybe I will just use vinegar for everything.

The World's Best Street & Yard Games by Glen Vecchione is a collection of all the cool games you played (or didn't play, in my case) when you were a kid, and lots more besides. Games for when you are feeling rowdy or when you are all dressed up and can't get dirty; games for day and games for night; games for the sidewalk and games for the park. It's an excellent collection, and it made me wish the girls would hurry up and grow up so we could play.

Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs. Another good Kathy Reichs, although again her sentence fragments — and paragraphs consisting entirely of a single sentence fragment — got on my nerves. And this time her "my subconscious is trying to tell me something" shtick that she does at the end of every book she writes annoyed me as well. (Then Jeffrey Deaver did it in his book too — do all mystery writers do it and I just never noticed before? Surely not.)

But what annoyed me most of all was how much they screwed up this character and the stories when they made the TV series Bones. It's like they threw out everything that was good about the books, threw in David Boreanaz and half-baked the whole thing. Is that show even still on?

Naked by David Sedaris is very funny and good, although his constant moaning about what a sad loser he is is a bit of a demotivator when after all, he is the one who wrote the book and there you are sitting at home reading it. If he's a sad loser, what does that make you? I don't really know how he went from being a sad loser to having his book on my shelf, but there you go.

Incidentally, if you like this you might like the David Rakoff book I read a while ago; they are both gay New Yorkers named David who do weird things and write about them amusingly.

When You Lunch With The Emperor by Ludwig Bemelmans. Anyone who has read to Delphine knows that Ludwig Bemelmans is the Madeline guy, but apparently he also wrote books for grown-ups. This is a collection of his autobiographical essays; witty, cutting but not catty, poignant, favourable adjective, favourable adjective. I will read more of his stuff eventually; you should too.

Twelfth Card by Jeffrey Deaver. This is a Lincoln Rhyme book; if you remember the movie The Bone Collector, it was an adaptation of an earlier Lincoln Rhyme book starring Denzel Washington as Lincoln Rhyme in an unusual spot of race-blind casting. Unfortunately it caused me some mild confusion at the beginning of this book, because the Lincoln Rhyme in the book is not only white but is required by the plot to be somewhat ignorant of black culture. Once I sorted out the "he's actually white" thing I was fine.

The book was heavy on information, with lots of clunky sentences like "Mel Cooper lifted several samples off the tape and ran them through the gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer, the workhorse instrument in all forensic labs. It separates unknown trace into its component parts and then identifies them." Smooth, but then I suppose you have to get that information out somehow, and I would rather the author just blurt it out rather than giving it to a character as some crude expository dialogue: "Mrs. Jones, this is a gas chromatograph slash mass spectrometer. Perhaps you already know that it is the workhorse..."

I supposed the "romance" between Sachs and Rhyme (or as I think of them, Angelina and Denzel) is developed in one of the earlier books, but in this book I just couldn't see the attraction; Rhyme seemed like a patronizing ass, and Sachs seemed to be annoyed with him much of the time. As I would be.

Anyway, having said all that, still an enjoyable read with a damn good mystery, some surprising twists and a satisfying result.

Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye by Cynthia Heimel. Despite the tacky title and the even tackier cover, this was a collection of good, funny essays by an author I hadn't encountered before. I will see if she has written anything more recent though, because this book was really dated: she makes references to Miatas and Ghost, she claims New Yorkers don't eat sushi and that you shouldn't wear high heels with jeans. It boggles the mind, really, but I suppose that's what happens when you write a pop culture book.

Things Bought: June 2006 Edition

Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Body Mist Sunblock, SPF 30: This is the stuff that is advertised that you don't have to rub it in, you just spray it on. I hate using sunblock because of the sticky goo factor, so I thought I would try this. It's an old-school metal aerosol can, which I don't usually buy because they're so hideous for the environment. It does indeed spray in a very fine mist; so fine that about sixty percent of it flies into the air and never actually makes it to your skin. Instead it goes all over your bathroom, or worse, into your lungs. Well, into your nose; hopefully it doesn't actually make it to your lungs. It's so bad that I banish the children from the bathroom and put on the extractor fan before I use it. It also gets caught in all the little hairs, so I wonder how much of it is really reaching my skin. And to add injury to insult, it gave me a painful, itchy, flaking rash on my neck and shoulders. Boo. I am using it up on my feet and the tattoo on my ankle, and I will never buy it or any other aerosol sunblock again.

Incidentally, I do like gel-based sunblocks for me and Blake and sunblock in stick form for the girls.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 55, for daily use as a facial moisturizer/sunblock. I bought this because of a recommendation years ago from Katie on The Suspects. I had been using the Oil of Olay face lotion with sunblock, but that left me really greasy and shiny, so I'd have to use powder on top. Katie said this stuff left a really nice finish, so I gave it a try and I love it. It goes on quite thick but really does dry to a powdery finish; it doesn't feel heavy at all. It's not meant as a moisturizer so I don't know how it would be for someone who needs a lot of moisture on their face, but for me it's perfect.

Anita Nursing Bra Model 5058. The previous gold standard for nursing bras was the Anita 5062; two separate bra boutiques sold me that bra and it is a fantastic bra. However, last time I went to my bra shop they showed me the new 5058 and it's even better; it has more cotton so it's less stretchy and provides, as they put it, more "lift". More lift means my boobs are up where they're supposed to be and my midsection appears mysteriously thinner. It also has pretty pink ribbon, which is good for morale. Hooray!

Incidentally, the bra boutique where I spend all Blake's hard-earned money always does a proper sizing, of course. Guess what size I am? Go on, guess. You'll never guess. 38G. Seriously. Who the hell is a 38G? That's just silly.

Colgate Luminous Toothpaste, Paradise Fresh flavour. I bought this because I had a coupon, and I liked the shiny box. At first I loved it; it's purple, it has little sparkles, it comes out in a star-shape, it tastes faintly fruity. It's like toothpaste for a princess, apart from that you have to squeeze it out yourself. But now I am annoyed because it's too foamy — it foams up to, like, three times the volume of regular toothpaste within about ten seconds, so you have to spit right away and start over. And the "clean cap" technology is a joke, in that way of something advertised to have a particular characteristic which then turns out to have quite the opposite characteristic. I have never had a toothpaste tube so encrusted with dried toothpaste goo in my life. I will not buy this pretty purple toothpaste again.

Prince Lionheart Stroller Connectors. This is probably one of the worse baby-related purchases I have made. The theory is sound, but in reality the width of two umbrella strollers plus the generous six inches of the connectors is too wide to go through a standard door, so you can only use this on wide sidewalks or maybe in big suburban malls, provided you're not going to actually go into a store. Also (and this is my own stupidity) you're not suppsed to use the umbrella strollers for children heavier than 30 lbs, and Delphine is only one pound shy of that now, so we won't be able to use this for long anyway. Fortunately the connectors were only $20, so no great loss.

Chi-chi Foo Foo Manicure. I bought my friend Kathryn a manicure at a fancy upscale nail spa for her birthday, and a couple of weeks ago we finally got around to going. As a birthday present it worked out well; the experience was fun and we got a chance to hang out. As a manicure, though, it was dismal. I am quite capable of putting lotion on my own hands and filing my own nails; the part I have trouble with is getting the nail polish on really perfectly and having it stay on. Sadly that seemed to be the part these manicurists had trouble with too: the polish job was shoddy and started chipping off within a couple of days. Also both Kathryn and I had dirt under our nails (we both work with children!) and they didn't clean them. On the one hand it's kind of creepy and gross to ask someone to clean your nails for you, but on the other hand can you really call it a successful manicure when your client walks away with dirty nails?

Books in May

How To Cut Your Own or Anybody Else's Hair by Bob Bent. This was indeed useful -- apparently the key to cutting your own hair is to cut a guide section in front and then match all the other hair up to that section, using lots of mirrors to see the back. I'm pretty sure you couldn't do a complicated style in this manner, but I expect it would work for a simple style if you could stand a few weeks of wearing the results of your own practice.

Sadly some jerk decided to cut out the section on how to cut straight kid's hair (the straight hair of a kid, not the hair of a straight kid -- we don't know about that yet), which is of course the one thing I really wanted the book for.

On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt. Of the three bullshit books I have recently read, this is by far the most successful, with a very intriguing conclusion.

The Curse of the Narrows: The Halifax Explosion 1917 by Laura MacDonald. I love a good disaster book, and this is a good disaster book. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had not tried to read it on vacation, surrounded by a million distractions.

False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear by Marc Siegel approaches the current American state of constant panic from a more medical point of view. I don't know if it's just me, or if it's all of Canada, but I don't experience the kind of constant fear that he talks about, and I don't really know anyone who does.

The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich are Rich, the Poor are Poor--and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! by Tim Harford. This is a pretty interesting book about how economists think about stuff (much like Freakonomics, but slightly less amusing). Harford leans a little further to the right than I am used to, which got my back up a bit, but his arguments are convincing, so in the end I'm sure it did me good.

My Life (No Baby News Here)

Here I am in the most curious of situations; I have a generally clean house and two sleeping girls. I have time on my hands. I should spend it reading, because I have books which a due back on Friday and which I won't be able to renew because other people want them, but on the other hand I should post here, because clearly I have been neglecting this space.

About that... a long, long time ago, I posted a big whine about how I never do the things I want to do because I spend too much time watching television. Well, I am finally doing something about that. Last night I sat down and wrote down all the shows I want to watch (as distinguished from the shows I watch because I am parked in front of the tv when they are on) and what time they are on, and I don't intend to switch on the television except at those times. (Unless I am checking the weather on channel 24.)

That should free up lots of time for reading, which is good because I have forty books on hold at the library. And for posting here, which is good because I miss it, and for reading my favourite discussion board, which is really good because I really miss it.

Television isn't the only thing I am writing down; I also started making four-week meal plans -- I come up with list of dinners, make a grand shopping list and get Grocery Gateway to bring me everything I will need. Perishables I buy a week in advance. It's awesome knowing what I am going to make for dinner every day, and it's nice not to have to do a big grocery shop every weekend. Also it lets me balance and control the amount of, say, beef versus vegetarian meals we eat.

I'm also doing Fitday again, just to see whether I'm eating the right amounts of things.

Generally I seem to be seeking control over as many aspects of my life as possible. I don't know why, quite, but I expect it has something to do with the uncontrollability of babies and small children. And more directly, I was getting sick of my groundless feelings of helplessness regarding, on the one hand, my failure to read enough and on the other my failure to eat properly and take care of myself. Sitting around moaning about your problems doesn't make them go away, writing stuff down and getting on with it does. At least if you're me.

Incidentally, I feel (a little) bad writing this much stuff about myself; I feel like everyone comes here to read about my children, not me. Which is pretty amusing considering I had an online journal long before I had any children.

But more about me... we just got back from a week in Saskatchewan visiting my parents. It was a nice time; we flew our kite, Delphine and I went out in a boat, we ate lots of birthday cake (Delphine turned three and my Dad turned eighty-five while we were there), met new people. My parents had a nice time with Delphine; my mother was particularly amused by her constant "Why"s. We had fun coming up with good answers.

Now we're back home and everything is getting back to normal. These days, normal means Delphine goes to daycare two or three days a week, for the whole day. She still enjoys it, although she's been crying when we drop her off since we got home from Sask. I expect that will pass soon. The days she is in daycare, Cordelia and I go for a long walk. I do housework, I amuse Cordelia, I cook and bake, I read.

When Delphine is home we generally don't stray far from home -- we might go to the park or to the convenience store. I do more housework but less baking, and we read books, or do puzzles or play with playdough. I don't get to read when Delphine is home because she bothers me to read to her or play with her, except on the odd occasion when both girls sleep at the same time. Delphine doesn't usually take a nap at home, although I suspect she probably should. (She usually sleeps at daycare, they say.)

The girls have dinner at five and bedtime starts at five-thirty. If I am lucky everyone is in bed by six-thirty, although it's more usually around seven, and then Blake and I cook dinner together. We eat, we watch TV, we sleep, we do it all again the next day.

On the weekends I get up when the girls do (six), and I let Blake sleep until seven-thirty or eight. Delphine and I make pancakes and eggs one morning; the other morning we just have cereal, and then after Blake wakes up we go to the patisserie to get croissants and stuff and the deli to get meat and cheese for brunch. We go up to Eglinton to do errands (Shopper's, Dominion, bulk food, Future Shop), grab a coffee on the way home. That's our weekend. We're very domestic.

It's starting to feel a little crowded in our condo -- Delphine is now sleeping in her bed in our room, so that Cordelia can get used to sleeping on her own before we move the two of them together. There really isn't room in our bedroom for Delphine's bed, so I'm constantly shimmying sideways to get past things. The toys are starting to take over the living room, particularly the big things which can't be hidden in boxes. We have wagons and bikes and strollers tucked away in every nook and cranny. And the kitchen is getting too small -- there are multiple small appliances I am waiting on getting until we have a bigger kitchen, not to mention the frustration of only having space for one kind of rice. (Chinese food with basmati is just weird; ditto sticky rice with curry.)

Nevertheless, we will have to put up with it until next spring. The plan, then, is that I will get a part-time job which will bring in some extra cash, and we can then make an informed decision about how much we can afford to pay for a house. I have a horrible fear that in the meantime our neighbourhood will become massively trendy and we won't be able to afford to stay here, but I am willing to put up with a pretty crappy house in order to stay close by, so I guess it will work out in the end.

That's enough blather. Cordelia is awake and any moment now she will get tired of chewing on my toes and go for the computer cables instead.

List of Books

...now with short reviews.

  • Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary or Why Can't Anybody Spell? by Vivian Cook. Fun, more list-y than I expected. Good for reading on the crapper.
  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores The Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. Thought-provoking, stats-based perspectives on just about everything.
  • One Summer's Grace: A Family Voyage Around Britain by Libby Purves. I love Libby Purves. I wish she lived next door to me and could come by for tea.
  • The Well-Ordered Home: Organizing Techniques for Inviting Serenity Into Your Life by Kathleen Kendall-Tacket. Apparently I already have a well-ordered home, because I didn't find anything particularly new in this book. That is as I expected, and not to say that wouldn't be useful to you, if you do not find your home to be well-ordered. (I only took it out because it's by one of the authors of the nursing book I just read, and I was curious.)
  • The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters. Minette Walters is always great, and this one was better than usual because she didn't spend so much time being bitter and miserable about the English. This book ate an entire day of my life, which is pretty clever considering I am supposed to spend my days looking after my children, not reading thrillers.
  • The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman. I didn't finish this before it came due at the library; what I did get through wasn't anything new to me, since it was mostly about the Internet revolution, and I was there studying or working in software when Netscape came out and when the web got big and Y2K and so on. Towards the end of the book I think he gets into the social implications of the world being flat (ie, geography no longer being a limiting factor in the economy) but I didn't get to that part. I wasn't sorry -- this was one of those books I read because I felt I ought to, not because I was really interested.
  • Willow and Twig by Jean Little. Loved this.
  • You Don't Have To Be Thin To Win: The Official Chub Club Coach's Workout Program by Judy Molnar. Inspiring, if a little impractical -- I am not about to train for a triathlon, or even a marathon; who has hours every day to work out? (Having said that, I did put Cordelia in the big stroller and go for an hour-long brisk walk today. Like I said, inspiring.)
  • Goblin Market by Christina Rosetti. Why have I never come across this before? Creepy and good -- I would love to see Leontine illustrate this.
  • Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner. I wasn't sure about this at first because the protagonist doesn't really seem to like her children very much, but as it turns out she was just having one of those days, and also her husband was an asshole. I can't imagine dealing with kids without a good, helpful, present husband at my side. I think I would rather be not married at all than married to someone who was never home and not helpful when he was. But I digress. (You have to read that in a South African accent, because I always say it with one in my head. I'm not sure why.) Very fun book; I am happy Jennifer Weiner has written two more books I haven't read yet.

Three Food Things

1. Square Meatballs.

I got this from Better Baby Food, which is my favourite cookbook these days. In the book it's a recipe but here I will just describe the idea: square meatballs. Instead of making little round meatballs, which involves lots of time spent with your hands coated in raw meat (not so good when the baby gets into the Choking Hazards), you pat your meatball mixture in a thin layer (three-quarters of an inch?) in a baking dish, and then bake them for twenty minutes at 350F. Yes, it's basically a thin meatloaf.

After they are done, use a sharp knife to cut them into little squares for the kids and bigger squares for the grown-ups. Genius!

2. Thing

My in-laws make a dish called Zucchini Thing, which is really so unlike anything else that the only possible name for it is Thing. I have the recipe, but I am loathe to make anything that calls for Bisquick. To my delight, though, I found a recipe in a magazine for the very same thing, except without Bisquick:

3 C grated zucchini
1 small onion, chopped
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C grated provolone cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 C vegetable oil
4 T grated Parmesan
2 t chopped fresh basil
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper

Mix it all together, slap it in a greased pie plate, cook it at 350F for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown, let it cool for 10 minutes, and voila! Thing!

The nice thing about Thing, though, is that it is forgiving. Substitute some other pureed vegetable for the zucchini (provided it is about as moist as grated zucchini, which is pretty moist). Stick some other kind of cheese in! And best of all, kids love it and it has three (3) food groups. Cut it into little squares and let 'em pick it up in their fingers.

3. Chocolate charoset

I just made this up today. I was making charoset for Passover dinner tonight (I know, we're late) and I did it Sephardic style, in little balls rolled in cinnamon. After I had done a few I thought they looked like truffles, and my mind wandered to truffles coated in cocoa. "Hm." I thought. "I wonder..." So I tried it, and they're really tasty. Dessert charoset!

Huh?

Okay, I am deleting this whole post on the grounds that it makes me look stupid, and it's my website, I can feign intelligence if I want to.

Look away, look away.

End of March

Jeez, I just typed out the names of the books I read since my last post, and it's clear I read too damn much. Honestly, I don't know where I find the time, so don't ask me.

(I remember when I was a kid I would say -- well, brag about, really -- how many books I read, and the mothers would look at each other and roll their eyes and say "Well, I guess you have a lot of time!" Hah! Take this, snarky mothers!)

Anyway, I have time to read them but not blog about them, so this is going to be short. Ish.

Akimbo and the Elephants by Alexander McCall Smith is also short, a little wee thing which I think took the author as long to write as it took me to read. It had a hurried feel, the characters were thin, it was all a little obvious. As if some elephant charity had called the author and said "Write a nice little book about elephants!" and he knocked it off in an afternoon.

I Gave My Mom A Castle by Jean Little is a wonderful collection of poems about families and gifts. Little has a knack for capturing children's thoughts and voices. I remember enjoying her stuff when I was younger; perhaps now is a good time to revisit it.

Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac is one of my New Year's Resolution books, because it has a character named Delphine in it. It might even be the character that my Aunt Delphine is named after, although naming your kid after this Delphine seems like asking for trouble. Anyway, Balzac is one pessimistic bastard and almost everyone in this book is scheming and dishonest, and those that aren't mostly get screwed in the end.

Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohnbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett is an excellent book on nursing. I got it out so I could look it over and decide whether to recommend it to a friend, but I ended up learning a bunch of stuff myself. It approaches nursing from the perspective of what's going on and how you can make the natural process work for you, like growing a seed, rather than giving a series of steps on How To Nurse, like building an Ikea bookshelf.

I think this book should be recommended reading for every expectant or nursing mother.

It also has a fairly tacky website which might have some useful stuff in it. Check out that title! Now that's professional! (Ah yes: "<meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 4.0">" Always a good way to make a crappy impression.)

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid Of The Wrong Things by Barry Glassner is a nice, reassuring book, in the sense that you don't really have to be afraid of all the things the media would like you to be afraid of, but very unreassuring in that it give you the sense that people are very stupid and can't seem to think for themselves.

Sir Charles: Wit and Wisdom of Charles Barkley by Charles Barkley and Rick Reilly; Charles Barkley is a pretty funny guy, in that he says stuff that everyone else is scared to and he's usually right. What I would give for this kind of self-assurance.

Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff. Apparently if you are a good enough writer you can get someone to pay you to do crazy stuff like visit a cryogenics lab, or fly the Concorde, or interview some dude at the Log Cabin Republicans, just so you can write about it. That's what this book is, and it's pretty funny and well-written and occasionally thought-provoking. (I liked the part about the faux-poverty.)

Understand Your Child's Growing Mind by Christine Healy is another interesting, science-based book about a parenting topic. It's pretty dense, covering lots of ground with respect to mental development, but readable. I would recommend this to anyone concerned with their child's intellect.

The book has lots of neatly sidebarred tips on how to help prepare your child's mind for reading, mathematics, etc. Unfortunately if you added up all the sidebars you would end up with about eight hundred bulleted items, and if you tried to follow them you would never have time to brush your own teeth, you would be so busy massaging your kid's brain.

Dress Your Best by Clinton Kelly and Stacy London is basically What Not To Wear in book form. It's divided up by body type with tips for each type, but there are general tips for everyone scattered throughout the book, so you have to read the whole thing to get maximum utility out of it. I managed to glean a full page of tips from it, but sadly there was no five thousand dollar credit card in the book, nor anyone to babysit for a week while I shop. I guess looking fabulous is going to have to wait.

A Useful Link

It's not a bad idea to go to the CSPC website and sign up for their email notifications of product recalls. Right now I am obsessively staring at the page about bracelets that came free with Reebok sneakers. They have high lead content and a four-year-old girl died from swallowing part of one. I mean, can you fucking imagine?

Incidentally there are lots of recalls for cheap dollar-store and vending machine jewellery containing lead. I think we will have a "no cheap tacky-ass jewellery" rule in this house.


If you are, perchance, looking for a hydrocortisone preparation, perhaps for a rash which has mysteriously appeared on your oldest daughter's hand, and you should happen to notice that of the three preparations available, "cream", "ointment" and "lotion", the lotion seems to be the best deal, you should know that said lotion is in fact largely composed of isopropyl alcohol. Whoever thought it was a good idea to sell ALCOHOL to put on RASHES deserves some kind of Stupid award, which they can share with me for buying it without reading the ingredients list. I am going to see if I can return it for a refund tomorrow.

Miscellaneous Things

First I want to say that the idea of this unsolicited advice is to publish things that I have learned through my own experience that I did not read about elsewhere, in books or in magazines, or that I read so many conflicting recommendations about that I might as well have not read any. I'm trying to avoid all the really obvious stuff, or the stuff which is widely published. But what I've learned is that all babies are different, and what worked for me might not work for you, so take this for what it is; advice born from the experience of one (well-read, intelligent) mother of two (really easy) children.

Diaper cream is one of those things which everyone has a different recommendation for, which leads me to believe that different things work for different babies. All I have to say here is that diaper creams which contain fish oil will make your baby smell like a salmon cannery, and if you use cloth diapers they will continue to smell fishy even after laundering. Read labels carefully, and try all the other kinds of diaper cream first.

Okay, one more thing. Johnsons 3-in-1 Diaper Cream and Aveeno Diaper Cream have exactly the same ingedients and are made by the same company, so buy the one that's on sale.


Bathing babies is something that I have never quite figured out. They're too big for the kitchen sink (assuming your kitchen sink is clean enough anyway) and too small for the tub, and I can't stomach spending money on one of those in-bath baby holders (which Health Canada advises against anyway). They're slippery as hell, they hate being bathed, and how dirty does a baby get anyway? I resolved the problem by just not bathing my babies very often, until they're old enough to sit up and manage the whole process more-or-less by themselves, as Delphine is. And she still only gets a bath twice a week. Who has time for more?


This is probably too late for the unindentified target for this advice, but perhaps not for you: get yourself a BabyTrekker. They are so much better than the other comparable products I don't even want to go into it. They are way more comfortable, distribute the weight of the baby much more sensibly over your body, and they carry up to 40 lbs, which is considerably more than Delphine weighs at almost three years of age. (I don't let her go in the Trekker any more because I think it looks silly. I am so mean.) Plus you can use them as a front or backpack. I love my Trekker. I just wish they had come out with the Tasteful Taupe model when we bought ours; we have Fugly Forest Green.


You're going to need to get yourself a 5 ml medication syringe. Lots of medications for babies come with 1 mL rubber bulb syringes, which not only make it hard to get the right dosage into the syringe (and then into the baby), but are often too small to contain the whole dose at once. For example, I needed to give Cordelia some Tempra, which comes with a 1 mL bulb dispenser, but I needed to give her 1.25 mL. That means I have to go through the measuring part twice, AND the horribly traumatic squeezing it into the unwilling child's mouth part twice. She's no slouch, and once she's learned that the syringe means foul pink unction, the next part of the dose is going to end up in her ear.

The good news is that some medications come with the good kind of syringe (I think Tylenol is one of them) so don't throw that out after the medication is done, keep it in your first aid kit.


Something more metaphysical to end (because Cordelia's awake now). I had trouble, with Delphine, understanding that she is just a baby for a little while. Intellectually, of course, I understand that she's going to grow up, but in some more primitive part of my brain it seemed that every day of not enough sleep, too many diapers and no time to do housework, let alone read, was just the first day of thousands more of the same. I guess, having never watched a baby grow up before, I didn't really believe it would happen. And it makes sense; any changes in my life until now I have effected through my own labour: I took a course, or looked for a new job, or bought a new condo, or whatever. I'm not used to standing by and watching my life change outside of my own volition.

It's much easier with Cordelia. When I have a horrible day when all she wants is to be held all day, and I have laundry and vacuuming and cooking to do and nothing is getting done, I know that this is just temporary, that eventually she will be able to walk and talk and play by herself, and she won't need me every single minute. That makes it much easier.

Incidentally, it seems this is a hard lesson to learn; I still have moments which I think the Delphine is going to be a whiny, needy, contrary toddler forever, even though I know, logically, that one day she will be a pleasant and helpful three-year-old. I just can't see how it will happen, because I haven't seen it happen before.