Monday, May 30, 2011

Dependently wealthy

I'm going to talk about something here that I haven't talked about in much detail before.

I'm going to talk about money. I have a major problem. And I'm having an a-ha moment, like Oprah would say. (Aw, Oprah! Miss you!) Anyway. A little background information:

I'm addicted to shopping. The day Confessions of a Shopaholic arrived in the book store, I bought it. I read it in under an hour. I have never before related so closely to a fictional character. I think I may have even cried, reading about someone who was just like me. Another person I closely relate to is Cher from Clueless. I can be very clueless all the time sometimes, when it comes to my spending habits.




You know that thing when you see someone cute and he smiles and your heart kind of goes like warm butter sliding down hot toast? Well that's what it's like when I see a store. Only it's better.


Rebecca Bloomwood said it best. When I go shopping, I get a natural high. I feel happy. My hearts skips a beat. When my arms are heavy from holding pretty shopping bags, I smile. There is something so amazing about new purchases. I love running hands over new clothes hung in my closet, or inhaling that yummy new leather smell in my new pair of shoes.


I don't think of the damage I'm doing, though. How I max out my credit cards time and time again. How I put my family in bad situations because I love to shop. I've been known to hide shopping bags in my car. Or to sneak them in, secretly.

I spend beyond my means. I have expensive taste. Designer purses are my 'thing'. Sunglasses, too. I don't see the price tags when I shop. In fact, I sometimes purposely avoid looking at the price tag, and I sign the dotted line blindly. If something is $199, I round it down to $100. "It was barely a hundred dollars," I'll justify to myself afterwards.

When I lived at home, and even when I was living in D.C., I had a gold AMEX. I had no limit, basically. And my parents would pay for everything. I can't tell you how many times I sat down with my dad to have 'the talk', and how many times I promised that next month, I wouldn't spend so much. Of course, everything changed when I got married. My dad gave me away, I became a married woman, and I had to leave my gold AMEX behind. I still enjoy taking vacatitons with my mom, since she shares this love of shopping with me. For some reason, when we're shopping in another city, or country, it feels like we aren't doing any damage at all!

I have a good job, and I make good money. However, combined with my husband's income, we are still not making enough to support my spending habits. I want it all, I guess. Once my children were born, not only was I shopping for myself, but I was shopping for them, too. Polo, Lacoste, Burberry, Puma's... book cases filled with hundreds of books, expensive German made toys that stimulate a child's imagination, and a garage filled with ride-on cars and bicycles.

I wasn't buying my children's love; I just loved buying things. Aside from reading books together, the quality time I spend with my children doesn't have a price tag on it. It's just my need... desire... to shop.

I had a discussion on Twitter with Ali the other day, about spending habits and budgets, and she blogged about how she put herself on a budget. I need to do this, too. I know it's going to be one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I'm also the most determined person ever when I make up my mind about something. I'm going to do this, because I'm at that point where I have to start making real adult decisions.

I want to take my family on a nice vacation this summer. I want to renovate my kitchen. I want to go to San Diego. I want to be in Florida again this winter. I can't do all this AND continue to spend so frivolously. I need to take action—I need to BUDGET.

I won't make any big promises on my blog, like saying I won't shop until the fall, but I will promise to make necessary changes. Old Navy is my best friend. I will only buy one new pair of shoes this summer. I will be content with the amount of purses I already own. And I won't buy any news books until I'm finished reading the ones that are stacked on my night table.

I'd love to hear from you.

How do you save money? Do you have a budget? Can I do it, too? And how many tears will I shed to reach my desired goal—to have enough money saved to do the important things I want to do?

Sigh. I miss my gold AMEX.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Born this way

During my first pregnancy, I had certain... ideas about how I'd raise my children.

"I'll never breastfeed!" I declared one day.

"I'll still have a super active social life!" I promised my friends while we were out having drinks, something we did almost every night.

"I'll make the rules—my children will listen to me!" I said in a room full of other moms at my baby shower.

Only now do I know why they all started laughing at me.

What you say before you become a mom—and what you do once your are a mom—are two completely different things.

I breastfed, didn't get out much when I had a new baby at home, and never made too many rules for my boys.

Everyone parents differently. I co-sleep with my three year old. I'm relaxed about my children's chocolate consumption. My boys use a stroller if they get really tired. I am a helicopter mom, and I'm a constant worrier. I educate my boys, keep them active, and travel with them as often as I can. We have memberships to all the museums in town, and we let our boys do what they want—within reason—as long as they're safe, healthy, and happy. I think taking part in extra-curricular activites is important, and I'm my children's number one cheerleader, goal or no goal.

When my youngest son asked for a pink plasma car, I said yes. When he asked to buy a doll, again, I complied. Despite this, my son is very much a little boy. It's just natural for him, and for his brother, to love play fighting, to think trucks and diggers and cement mixers are awesome, and to want to climb furniture as if they're monkeys. Trust me—I never taught my boys to act like wild animals in the home! It's something that they were born with. Of course, both boys have different personalities; my oldest son is more of a bookworm, and reserved, my youngest, more athletic and daring.

As parents, we are responsible for the well-being of our children. It is up to us to try our best to make our children normal members of society. That's not to say girls should wear pink, and boys need to have short hair; but they should know IF they are a boy or a girl. Pretty basic concept right? Not for some parents...

When I found out that a couple in Toronto was keeping the sex of their baby a secret, I rolled my eyes. And then get upset. I feel sorry for this child. And for his siblings. I think these parents are only doing this for show and for attention—not because they want the best for their offspring. Trust me. Not knowing if you're a boy or a girl is not healthy. And these parents will in turn end up spending thousands of dollars in therapy for this child named Storm. (There's a therapy session right there...)

These children are not attending school. They're not even being home-schooled the 'normal' way. The parents practice 'unschooling', (*eye roll*) and believe a child's learning should be curiosity driven. So if they're never curious about learning the alphabet, I guess... so be it?

They believe children can make choices for themselves, like how to wear their hair and choosing their own clothes. Sure, we all let our children choose what to wear from time to time, and I encourage independence in my children, but as a parent, it's ME who makes the real decisions. And if my son puts on a shirt that is dirty and stained with grape juice and we have somewhere important to be? Of course I'm going to change him!

This Toronto couple wants 4-month-old Storm to grow up free from strict social norms about males and females, so they have shared his or her sex only with their other children, Jazz and Kio, a family friend, and two midwives.

I wonder what will happen when this child is of the age to join a sports team? Will the parents protest that teams are, after a certain age, divided by gender? Will they be totally okay if Storm is a boy and chooses to only wear dresses out in public? Even for an important job interview? When Storm becomes a teenager, then what? What about rules like not wearing a hat in school? Assuming they ever enter a public or private school system, will they argue those rules, too?

I just can't accept this way of new-age parenting. It's completely unhealthy. Some people are calling this a lab experiment, and I have to agree. Some say it borders on child abuse.

Because Jazz and Kio wear pink and have long hair, they're frequently assumed to be girls. The parents don't correct people; they leave it to the kids to do it if they want to. "Though Jazz likes dressing as a girl, he doesn't seem to want to be mistaken for one," the article says. Right there, you've got yourself a problem and I'm glad I'm not the one who has to fix this. How messed up for these kids!

I'm all for raising children your own way—and I think we should all tolerate different ways that children are being raised today, within reason. We don't have to jump up and down and clap our hands just because someone is doing something so drastically different. Sometimes, it's just wrong.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This and that. And The Bachelorette!

So, hi. We're still here. Unless Rapture happened and everyone I know and love stayed behind with me, in which case, yay, we're gonna have a great time!

Seriously, though. I wasn't scared, not at all! Not even when on the day before un-Rapture, the clouds turned dark, and the skies were stormy, and I thought, "Well, this might be it..." but then, the next day? Rapture day? The sun was shining like never before, and I got over my fear. Wait, I wasn't scared, so what am I even talking about?

Since un-Rapture, I got to enjoy a nice long weekend. We didn't get the greatest weather, but Saturday was brilliant! Hot, sunny, beautiful. Any time spent with my children is cherished, and when the sun is shining, it's an added bonus.

We opened my sister's pool, enjoyed the nice weather, went to a birthday party, played, set off some fireworks, visited our favourite museum, went out for lunch with friends, had dinner with my parents, and had a grand old time.

This is only the beginning of what's already a jam-packed summer—a summer that's going to be filled with laughter and good times, and hopefully, many more sunny days so we can swim to our heart's content!

Now that summer has arrived, it means that most of my favourite shows have come—or are coming—to an end. Unlike the last two seasons, Grey's didn't make me hysterical during the season finale. And tonight, we find out who wins Dancing With The Stars, (I LOVE Kirstie, but Chelsea is the best dancer!) and then, I'll be left with only two shows to watch!

Normally, the TV is turned off during the summer, but there are a few shows I'll be watching. Like Entourage, for the final season. (It starts July 24!)

And... God... The Bachelorette. Yes, I watched last night, and just like The Bachelor hooked me from the very first episode, I am already looking forward to next week's nonsense! (In my defense: this year marks the first time I've watched either show, and just like a train-wreck, I can't look away!)



At first I was bummed that Ashley was the chosen one, because everyone knows Michelle would have been far, FAR more entertaining. But I am getting used to Ashley's too-bubbly personality, and the fact that she says "awesome!" as much as I do in any given conversation. Also, how often do we get to see a girl who is a dentist dance solo on a stage in her introduction montage? Ashley, the dentist-dancer, who irritated us all when she was with lame Brad, is baaack! And she looks good, too.

When the 25 guys were introduced, I was kind of cringing, because a lot of them rubbed me the wrong way. Especially icky, icky Ames. Is there another word to describe this Ivy League graduate with a funny looking face? His ego is so big, it is surely compensating for something.

And Bentley, the guy who talks about how he's NOT attracted to Ashley at all? Both these guys got a rose and will be around for another episode. The thing is, Ashley is dumb. "I want to give him a fair chance..." Silly girl! She was told by an inside source that Bentley was on the show for all the wrong reasons (if you believe anyone is on for honest reasons...) and yet, she still believed his emotional "trust me" story... oh well. Good television, I guess?

There was the drunk guy who got sent home, the guy with the guitar, the guy with an awesome name (Constantine!) and the guy with the mask. Then there was West, the widow. There was the Canadian, who didn't get a rose, and Anthony the butcher, who, sadly, also got sent home. He was so ridiculous, it was pure fun watching him. The wine making dude was nice and so was J.P, the construction dude. Both guys got a rose, as well.

Who will Ashely end up with? My money is on Brad, because, just hours before The Bachelorette aired, we found out that Brad and Emily had broken up. And since the drunk guy was sent home, maybe Brad will step in and sweep Ashley off her feet again? Okay, unlikely... but still, what a fun twist that would be in an otherwise predictable show! (But please, no. I can't handle seeing that guy on TV ever, ever again!)

Did you watch?
Who did you like?
Who rubbed YOU the wrong way?
Will Ashley find her man?
Are we doomed to weeks of watching Ames and Bentley?
Isn't Ashley prettier as a brunette?

And... go!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Take me away!

If this is going to be the last post I publish before Rapture, I don't want it to be about something frivolous, like how much fun I had appearing on Daytime Ottawa talking about blogging, or my upcoming photo shoot with Ottawa Magazine, or how happy I was that Puck wasn't the one to die on Glee last night. (Phew!)

I want to talk about something more serious, like what we're all going to wear for Rapture.

And if we're RAPTURE READY or not!


I'll be honest, my brain hurts, trying to make sense of it all. I've read some really confusing things.

Basically, the end of the world is taking place this weekend: "The dead in Christ will rise, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord."

Don't worry, though; you still have time to repent. And oh, LORD, do I have some repentin' to do. I'm sorry, God! I'm just a mere mortal! I looooove you. Okay, moving on...

I kept hearing about the Tribulation and although I know the meaning of the word, I wasn't sure what it had to do with Rapture, and then I started singing Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel because remember the part that goes: "Tribulation.... she loves me again..." but then I realized I had the word wrong; it's Jubilation, not Tribulation. Anyway. I digress...

The truth is, I didn't know what Rapture was until a few days ago. I knew about the second coming and all that, but I didn't know it actually had its own word.

I remember Marinka talking about Rapture in a few of her tweets over the last few weeks, and discussing what she would be wearing. And I thought to myself, "Oh, fun! Must be some religious event she's been invited to, like a Bar Mitzvah or something." And then she said jeggings were out, so I thought, yup, some fancy, fun affair! I guess I was half right, right?

So. The end of the world. Well, no big surprise, what with the weather being so insane lately. From devestating earthquakes, to tsunamis, to non-stop rain and raging fires, something is going on. In all seriousness, I think Mother Nature is sending us a sign of sorts. And frankly, I'm a little concerned. (But not really. But maybe a tad.)

"The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31)

I'm making light of this because it's not going to happen. However, I've seen enough creepy movies to believe that one day, something like this will occur and um, it's going to be the scariest thing EVER. Things like this are 100% more scary for me since I have children, so I am really trying to not think about it.

But what if I don't get to go up with everyone? What if I'm left behind with a handful of other people? What if we don't get along? Will my real life turn into The Stand? Who will cook for me? Who will comment on my blog posts?

So much to think about! So, what does one wear for Rapture? Apparently, NOTHING comes with us, not even our iphones, so it doesn't matter what we wear, but just in case we had time to ask Jesus if we could wear some clothes, (it's unseasonably cold this May!) what would you want to be in? For me, although I love fashion, I'd like to go in my lulu's. With a cute little t-shirt from Club Monaco.

What'll you wear for Rapture?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You've got mail!



I first found out about email during my first year of university. I was sitting at the computer with my future husband, listening to him explain it to me, and showing me how to use it. I remember being completely against the idea of sending messages to people through a computer.

"I'm never going to use email!" I declared, and walked away.

A few of my friends had gone away to university, and I stocked up on nice writing paper and pens eager to start writing letters to them. Checking the mail box was fun, and new letters would arrive weekly—pages of hand-written letters from my closest friends, with juicy details about their first year in university and about their experiences living on their own.

Eventually, though, I gave in. I got my first email account through the university I was attending.

The rest, as they say, is history. And my love affair began.

My closest friends and I would go to the computer lab on the 4th floor of the university library to send emails to one another. "Send me an email!" we'd say, excitedly. And well, I guess that's when the obsession took over.

Since 1995, I've been online. And loving it. Emails can brighten your day. They can make you smile. They can make you laugh. Hard. They can make your heart go a flutter, and give you butterflies. Sometimes, certain emails can make you shed tears. It's through email that I found out my best friend had suffered a miscarriage, it's through email I found out she was pregnant again, and it's through email that I found out my high school boyfriend had been killed in a car accident.

Through email, we share stories and pictures, and turn public conversations private. Email is the best way to stay in touch with friends who live far away, and it's a great way to send pictures to family. I remember sending pictures of my newborn son to relatives who lived as far away as Greece. With one click, you are connected through the miles.

Email is usually the first thing we check each and every morning when we turn on our computers. Seeing an inbox filled with unread messages always makes me happy.

Email is like... the never ending birthday present. It's always full of surprises, usually leaves me satisfied, and always makes me want more.

Where were you when you got your first email? Has it changed your life, too?

Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Big kids in strollers

Admit it.

You do it.

And you like it.

Maybe not all the time, but sometimes.

It brings you pleasure. It makes you feel better.

You know what I'm talking about.

Yup.

Judging other moms.

We gossip about the way other moms do things, about what other moms feed their kids, and about how late other moms let their children stay up at night.

"I'd never let my child wear that in public!"

"Can you believe she wouldn't let him have a cookie just because he didn't eat his veggies?"

"He's FOUR years old, and he still sucks a soother?"

Listen, we're human. We're going to talk about the way other people parent, especially when we think we're doing something better. At the same time, we suffer from mom envy, too. I sometimes envy the moms who stay home full-time, the moms who are excellent chefs, and the moms who keep their home looking impeccable all the time. Much to my (Greek) mom's dismay, I'm just not that mom.

I'm the mom who enthusiastically buys a lot of fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, vowing that this will be the day her children will grab the carrot sticks over the less healthy snack, the mom who swears that tomorrow she won't yell not even once and the mom who will say no twice but give in the third time, to whatever request her children ask of her.

I'm also a total helicopter mom. Time magazine has called overparenting 'insanity' and I'm okay with that. If being a protective mom makes me insane, so be it. Some experts say that hyperparenting is totally rational, especially considering the society we live in.

No matter what the experts say, I just do things my way. And I've got no problem with you doing things your way, so long as your children are loved and protected.

I'm not the mom who is relaxed at the BBQ, sipping my glass of wine with the other adults. I'm the mom who is playing with (or supervising) the children. Mostly because I don't want anything bad to happen to my child.

Maybe other moms think my behaviour is ridiculous, and maybe we'll laugh about it together, and maybe I'll admit I wish could be more relaxed like they are. I'm okay with moms discussing different parenting methods.

What I'm not okay with is when someone makes fun of a child for whatever reason.

Today, I read an interview about someone who has a website called Too Big For Stroller. Basically, this woman—who is not a mom by the way, has a huge pet peeve. Her pet peeve is seeing children whom she considers to be too big for strollers, sitting in strollers.

So what does this classy lady do? She secretly takes pictures of these children and posts them on her website. She is nice enough to sort of block out the child's face, but still. How so very classy of her. (Another great post about this topic can be found here.)

She says: "I mean, you could be the world's best businesswoman, but when you're pushing a stroller, it just screams: "I'm just a parent, that is all I am.""

How I wish I could meet this woman in the airport one day, so she could see me, a mere MOM, pushing her two very big boys—three years old and almost six, thanks very much—in a stroller. I'm sure we'd exchange a few words and I, as the mere MOM, would of course come out on top.

Don't mess with moms who have big kids in strollers.

And to everyone else, stop judging other moms. We're all in this together!

Peace out.

Friday, May 6, 2011

On being a mom

Life begins all over again when you cross the threshold into motherhood. It's impossible to understands what it means to be a mom until you become one. The change is unreal, and sudden, and your life gets divided into before and after. The before is fuzzy for a long while after your baby is placed in your arms. Life changes drastically. I always appreciated and loved my mom, but once I become a mom myself, we became even closer.

When I was pregnant for the first time, I believed that once I got out of the first trimester, the worry would go away. Then I was thirteen weeks pregnant, and I was just as worried as the week before. I ate well; my husband made me salmon at least one a week, I ate more vegetables than any other time in my life, I took my Materna daily, and I indulged in McFlurries during every episode of The Amazing Race. I also slept a lot. Which is a good thing, since it's been almost six years since I last slept.

When my son was born, I was a basket-case for the first few weeks. I didn't know what to wear, I was unsure of how to hold my baby, I didn't want any visitors, and I bought stock in Purell. Leaving the house with a baby in tow was a challenge and caused me much anxiety at first.

Becoming a mom means leaving all inhibitions behind. I breastfed my baby in a fancy steak house one night, nothing I'd ever thought I'd do. But there I was, a new mom, eating a well done filet mignon, talking to the owner of the steak house about how yummy my food was, all the while nursing my baby. Life changes in ways you never thought possible.

When my second baby was born, I was much more at ease. I didn't mind my best friends coming to visit me in the hospital, I was confident that I could take care of my newborn, and I knew what to wear those first few weeks at home. Heck, I even got my hair done three weeks after brining baby home. I was no longer in the mommy amateur club.

Still, life with two small childen was, and is, no easy task. Every day, it's challenging. Being a mom is the only job on earth that never ends. Never mind that we don't get much sleep to begin with, or that there is always someone who needs help with something, or that the house always needs tidying, it's a non-stop job even when you're apart from your children. They're always in your thoughts. The worry is unmeasurable. The love, indescribable. It's the best job in the whole world, too. It's a daily wonderful adventure. The under-the-cover snuggles, the feeling of pride you feel when you watch your child in the classroom, the love shown between siblings, the laughter, the hugs, the sheer joy of it all. I could go on forever.

Being a mom is simply... awesome. And I am so lucky.



Happy Mother's Day to you all!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Breaking news: Panic

I used to work in a busy news room here in Ottawa, and when I was an intern in Washingon, D.C. for CBS News. I loved the non-stop action and excitement that came with working in television. No matter what job you have—writer, editor, camera operator, anchor—there is always something going on.

This weekend was packed with major news stories: The Royal Wedding, America coming to terms with the devestation left after tornadoes ripped through Alabama, Canadians about to head to the polls, and late last night, the world finding out that justice was finally, finally served.

The weekend started off with the world celebrating the marriage of a young couple; the weekend ended with the world celebrating the death of a terrorist.

September 11, 2001 is a day that remains crystal clear to me, much like the days both my children were born. I wrote about it here, and here. I remember each second of that day, right down to what I was wearing (Gap pants, white shirt) to the snack I was eating (green grapes) when I heard the news. It was a day no one will ever forget. A day that brought together the world, a day time stood still, a day that changed everything.

Before we found out that Osama had been killed, we were told that Obama would be making a special announcement at 10:30 p.m. This was a breaking news story unlike any other, since no one had any clue what he would say.

Of course, I first found out on Twitter—my personal google, the place where breaking news happens first, and the place where people like me gather to discuss everything from what we ate for dinner to, well, the end of the world as we know it.

I saw a tweet from @OHMommy saying the President was about to make a major announcement and no one has any idea what it was going to be. I was lying down next to my sleeping three year old when I read this.

At first, I wasn't worried.

Then a tweet from @MarinkaNYC caused me to panic:


Marinka wasn't too concerned with my alien theory, since she is wiser than I am.

I'm the first to admit that I freak out about everything. If I can't reach a family member after trying to call them, I think worst case scenario. Always. Of course last night was no exception. Obama making a secretive annoucement to the world meant only one thing—we were being invaded by aliens. The spaceships had landed. Mars Attacks. ET phone home. Screw 2012. The end was NOW. I was thankful my children were already asleep, as I started preparing myself for the worst case scenario: alien invasion. I was so glad I ate carbs for lunch and dinner.

I called my mom to say goodbye, and to tell her I love her. She wasn't too pleased I woke her up to tell her about this late night breaking news story, but I did what I had to do. "Put it on CNN, mom! I love you. I'll... take care of the kids. GOODBYE!" I said, and hung up the phone, to watch the end of the world unfold before my eyes.

Hey, don't tell me you didn't entertain the idea of something this drastic—something this extraordinary—being the reason for this breaking news story.

When Wolf said that Obama's annoucement was being pushed back to 10:50 p.m because he had to notify other world leaders, I was certain we were doomed.

Then, I had another idea.

It was Osama. They killed Osama.


I sent out a tweet saying that Osama had been killed, and two minutes later, John King on CNN confirmed it. So, yeah. I was the first person to announce to the world that Osama was dead.

And I'm not making it up! Look, here's proof:

Now when we're asked where we were the day Osama died? We can all say: "I was on Twitter."
Today, I'll be hanging out by the phone. Waiting for CNN to call me with a job offer.

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