Category Archives: Family

Me: now blogging with a baby

Okay, so it has been six weeks and two days since I last attempted to write here. I know this because the day I wrote part of the draft I’m including below, I went into labour and then at 11:30 am the next day, right on my due date, little Owen decided to join us at long last. I admire those legions of “mommy bloggers” who can write and parent a newborn at the same time. I am not one of them, evidently. I did manage to get an article written (and submitted on its due date!), but beyond that I have been in a bit (hahahaha… HA) of a fog. This despite having my husband at home on paternity leave, my mother here for the first week, my mother-in-law here for nearly a week, and most recently a friend from Toronto here for a few days. Single mothers and those whose partners work out of town: you have my admiration forever. Parents who must return to work right away: you as well. I suppose I have the right to complain about being tired, post partum healing, suffering from postpartum PUPPP for the first few weeks (it felt like forever), and being unable to connect half-thoughts to the correct words (the other day I said “bacon” instead of “cheese.” I mean, what?). But other than that awful awful awful PUPPP rash (i.e. head-to-toe insatiable pregnancy-related hives-like rash), something I proclaim an unrepentant right to complain about, I have it so easy compared to so many others, and I am legitimately grateful for that. I have also been blessed with an easy-going (most of the time) infant who has a strange obsession with the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II we have hanging in the nursery. Delightful! A baby monarchist! Anyway, having a baby changes things, blah blah blah. I’m sure I will go into this at some point, but I must at least try to pay lip service to my previous project, id est presenting what I like about Ottawa. Here is the beginning of the post I’d been working on:

Previously, I ended up in a bit of a downward rant of negativity about Ottawa, something easy to do about anywhere one lives. It is time, though, for something positive, because there are things I like about this city. It doesn’t always feel worth venturing out, but that has more to do with me than with what’s out there. Lo! Some nice things about Ottawa, in no particular order:

  • It is cheaper than Toronto or Vancouver (though admittedly not as much as you might assume)
  • It has some pretty delicious food
  • There are some pretty great parks and trails within walking distance of pretty much anywhere downtown
  • When the weather is nice, it is very nice
  • According to Statistics Canada, It is the second most cycling-heavy city in the country, after Victoria
  • Aside from some stodginess, online evidence suggests that people are supportive of new ideas, events, and businesses
  • This is Ontario’s second largest city, and Canada’s fourth, yet if you tweet the mayor (@JimWatsonOttawa) chances are he will tweet you back.
  • This might not be a plus for you, but I don’t feel like a frumpy monster if I head out without makeup on
  • I admit that this is a negative for me, but for many it would be a positive: people like to jog. A lot.
  • We may not have the Met, but I have been impressed with some of the museums here, oh most definitely.

At which point I went into specific examples of where I like to eat, planning on covering items in the above list in detailed, dedicated posts. I didn’t get the chance to finish my food write-ups, however, so I will let it rest for now, especially as I’m currently typing one-handed. My little family will be in Winnipeg for my cousin’s wedding soon, so we shall see how travelling with a seven-week-old goes! Wish us luck. I don’t think we’ll need it, though. I mean, look at this little thing:

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Filed under Family, Ottawa

Ottawa Baby Show and VitaEarth cloth diapers

Last Saturday, May 3, I decided that in some kind of defiance of both the miserable weather (weather that only really took a turn for the pleasant yesterday) and my natural tendency to remain indoors all the time I would head out to the Ottawa Baby Show, held that day and the next at the Ottawa Convention Centre downtown (a very nice building, by the way–I vastly preferred it to Montreal’s). I thought, too, that I might find some deals on baby stuff, as I had on wedding stuff (e.g. my dress) at one of the million or so wedding shows in Toronto. In particular, I went looking for receiving blankets with whales on them. And what do you know! I found that very exact thing from Lulu Bedding and Design. One of the other things that happened while I was there, which was kind of weird, was that several people–complete strangers of course as anyone I meet in Ottawa mysteriously moves overseas a short time later–commented that I looked like I was, and I quote, “about to pop.” Not the most pleasant of images, but I suppose no harm was meant. I suppose, too, that I really am about to “pop” with less than a month to go.

Now, it may be because I only got to the convention centre at around 3 pm, but it seemed like as with many Ottawa events there just weren’t that many people there. Doors opened at 9 am, so it is possible that I meandered in just as all the keeners were leaving. One vendor did mention that all of a particular item had sold out in about ten minutes. Ottawa, too, has a much smaller population than Toronto. Plus this is just a guess, but I suspect that far fewer people have the time and energy to visit a baby show than a wedding show. Still, I’d seen the posters everywhere so was expecting a bit more of a crowd. On the pleasant side, there was far less pressure from the vendors to buy stuff than I had been expecting. I did buy stuff, but it was almost more of an indulgence on my part than succumbing to any pressure. So that was nice. Even the private RESP representative didn’t push too much and was content to leave me with a pamphlet. Perhaps Ottawa vendors are just generally hands-off; perhaps they were tired after a hypothetical morning rush; perhaps I just didn’t look like I was actually going to buy anything from them. Maybe it was some nefarious scheme. I did end up buying more than I might have otherwise simply because people left me alone, unlike the time I went into a certain Ottawa store and had someone follow me around incessantly, telling me her whole life story and pointing out items she liked and generally not letting me, you know, shop. The store literally closed on me before I could look at the stuff I had come in to look at.

Anyway, an unexpected thing about the Ottawa Baby Show: when I returned home and reflected on the experience, I realized that despite the great variety of vendors (including about five chiropractors and a teeth-whitening service), one item was conspicuously missing from the various little storefronts. Disposable diapers. I didn’t even see any “eco” diapers available.

Nearly every vendor representing a baby store did have at least one cloth diaper for sale, however.

I’m not sure if this was due to everyone savvily predicting the type of person to show up at the Baby Show, if it just isn’t practical to sell disposables at that kind of venue, or if Ottawa is in midst of a cloth diaper movement of which I have been clueless. I myself am interested in giving it a try and have been slowly collecting them as I find deals. Until last weekend, the most I’d paid for a single diaper was $4.50, which from what I’ve gathered from online research is quite a steal as the average price per diaper is $20. $20! I know that in the end it is still cheaper than disposables, but it is hard to hand over that kind of money for a single item, you know? (For those out there who care, I have a mixture of used Fuzzibunz from kijiji and new Kawaiis from an online sale.) I am sure that for most “normal” i.e. non-pregnant, non-parent, non-cheap-or-hippie-type readers out there this means nothing. But what if Ottawa really is in the middle of some kind of cloth diaper revival/movement? It would be silly not to cover it. So to anyone “normal” out there, feel free to stop reading (if you haven’t already) and enjoy the sunshine. For anyone left who is interested for whatever reason, I’d like to write a bit about a new Ottawa business I discovered at the Baby Show–a business so new that when I checked out their website when I got home it still had a generic “welcome to your new storefront” message on the front page.

That business is VitaEarth, from what I could tell started by a local husband-and-wife team and selling diapers designed by the wife-and-mother half of the team. I bought one of their diapers, partially because they were the only people at the show selling pocket diapers designed for newborns, partially because I thought it would be nice to support a new business, and partially because they seemed to be by far the most affordable around. I also liked that all their diapers are the same price (12.99 each, so more expensive than the most affordable Kawaiis but still far more affordable than the typical diaper). Plus they just seemed like nice people, and I’m a sucker I guess. I don’t believe they are selling online yet at vitaearth.ca, but I think they are worth keeping an eye on if you are at all interested in this type of thing. You can find them on Facebook, too.

I thought it might be nice for those who were not at the show and thus could not see the diapers in person to have some random person on the Internet (me!) describe them. Keep in mind that I am “about to pop” and have not yet “popped” so I haven’t actually used this on a small human. I have never ever in my life used any cloth diaper so forgive my lack of proper, uh, lingo.

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A tiny newborn diaper.

See how tiny? And anyone who knows me knows I have tiny hands:

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The largest setting:

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As you can see, there are a lot of buttons (snaps?). It seems to me that it is adjustable at the waist, at the legs, and at the belly button (the middle snaps down so as not to irritate the umbilical cord).

A pocket! I’ve “artistically” half-inserted the insert:

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I asked what said insert is made of (answer: hemp). I haven’t done anything to it yet so I imagine that it will be much puffier when actually being used. Also, I don’t know if it is visible in the photo, but the pocket has a little flap to stop the insert from coming out, much like the Kawaiis but notably unlike the Fuzzibunz. I like that; it seems a useful feature.

In addition to the hemp insert, there is a built-in insert under the pocket! I have never ever seen that before (but I’m no expert). Foolishly, I didn’t think to ask what it was made of, but it is not hemp. Perhaps cotton?

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The only potential problem I can see it the placement of the pocket opening, which is at the front. As you can see, when the front is snapped down, there is a bit of a gap:

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I suppose this placement could actually be a good thing when it comes to baby poop (something I’m not looking forward to) as it means that the insert won’t get soiled. But what of pee? Or maybe at that age it isn’t necessary to have the hemp in yet (there is that built-in part) and thus it doesn’t stick out as much?

In conclusion, though, I’m pretty excited about having a local diaper company (as excited as one can be about items designed to catch human waste). They have package deals and larger diapers as well (one-size I believe is the term–the ones with all the buttons designed to go from infant to potty training), but I didn’t look at them too closely to be honest as I have some Kawaiis already and can’t afford to invest in something with which, realistically, I haven’t had hands-on experience. I might end up running to disposables in complete and utter surrender. I did impulsively buy an AMP all-in-one small/newborn from one of the other vendors, but I already kind of regret it and wish I’d done the whole tour of the show first. If I had, I’d have bought another one of the VitaEarth diapers, to be perfectly frank. They are far less puffy/bulky, seem more adjustable, don’t use velcro, don’t cost as much, and seem like they will dry in a fifth of the time. If I do take to cloth diapering like some kind of graceful earth mother, I will definitely try to get my hands on another VitaEarth and let you know how it goes. I don’t particularly want this be a “mommy blog,” but I have the feeling my life will be pretty baby-centric for the next little while, so I guess it is a little bit inevitable. I’ll try to balance things out by writing about museums and such, but much of that depends on me actually leaving the house…

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Filed under Cloth diapers, Family, Ottawa

Interview: My mom, on moving back to Winnipeg after 20 years away

I spoke with my mother about her recent move back to Winnipeg, Manitoba after having moved to Quebec City (and then Toronto) over 20 years ago. What’s it like to return to one’s hometown? Is Winnipeg a nice city? A crime-ridden cesspool? Find out!

How long has it been since you last lived in Winnipeg?

I moved away when I was 31. I’ve been away for 21 years.

What brought you back?

I found myself with an opportunity to be back with my family: my mom, and my sister and cousins. I was living alone in Toronto and figured I would move back to Winnipeg because I had family here and also because the cost of living was I would say maybe a third of that of Toronto.

Even though you grew up in Winnipeg, did you experience any culture shock when you came back?

I had culture shock from where I was used to living, but I knew what I was getting into. I knew there’d be no walk-friendly places. Mind you, I was only three years in Toronto and I was 18 years in Quebec City. In Quebec City, I needed a car where I lived as well. Quebec City is a much cleaner and more historic city; Toronto is more happening. The [driving] lifestyle in Quebec City and the cold winters were things I was used to. But as far as [comparing] Toronto goes, [in] Winnipeg there’s no walking at night, there’s no feeling of security. So in that sense, yes, there was culture shock.

Do you like Winnipeg?

I’m growing to like it. I don’t dislike it: I just think they could do so many things different[ly] to make it more people-friendly. But I haven’t had a bad time here. Of course, there’s certain things you miss about the different places you’ve lived, but there’s such a sense of familiarity here for me.

Has Winnipeg changed a lot?

It’s more city-like. They’re starting to build big condos and they’re starting to do things that other cities are doing – however, I would say that it’s remained the same more than it has changed.

Do you think that’s a bad thing?

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I just think that I’ve seen the way a couple of other cities are and I see where there needs to be improvement. To me it seems like such a simple thing and yet it hasn’t happened.

What do you think could be done to improve Winnipeg?

I think they could improve people’s ability to go out at night by having things [stay] open. It’s a city that shuts down because people are afraid of crime. Everything is closed down. If everybody stayed open at the same time – bang! our hours are changed, we’re staying open, we’re not going to be afraid – you would have more people out on the street, more people shopping, witnesses. The criminals would go someplace else or go into hiding.

What else could be changed?

I think they could change the lighting. Again, it points back to crime. Everything is just open for criminals: “It’s dark here. Let’s hover. Let’s steal. Let’s rob. Let’s kill.”

Do you think that Winnipeg’s primary problem is crime?

Yes. Absolutely. Take away that crime, and I think this is a great city. People would be out and about and there would be more things to do. People wouldn’t be afraid.

You seem to think that crime deterrence is strongly connected to improving infrastructure.

For sure. Things are spaced out, things are dark. But even the crime downtown is because everybody just goes home. The stores close at five or six. Everything closes, and so out come the people who are just hanging around doing nothing but bad things. There are a lot of gang things going on here. However: I did hear on the news today that crime has dropped significantly this past year – by a lot. I don’t know why. Maybe there are more police officers out on the streets, maybe more officers patrolling.

Do you feel unsafe in Winnipeg?

I’m not afraid, [but] I’m also careful. When I was in Toronto, if I came home at 10 o’clock at night on the bus, I might look over my shoulder now and again if I heard something, but you know, I wasn’t afraid to walk. Here, at dusk, you don’t go walking the streets. It’s just not heard of. Now, I know there are better places [in Winnipeg] than where I’m living where I probably would feel okay doing that.

Which neighbourhood do you live in?

Point Douglas. I’ve always known it as “West,” though. Between the North End and the West End. It’s at the crux of everything. You go over the bridge and things get better quickly.

What do you like about Winnipeg?

I like the cost of living, although it is going up. I like the fact that everything feels familiar. I guess that’s the thing I like most about Winnipeg, that I can go down the street and say, “Oh yeah, I walked that street when I was 15.” I have a memory. So maybe it’s the memory that I like more than the city.

Do you regret ever leaving in the first place?

No, I don’t. I probably wouldn’t be the same person had I not left. You get caught up in things. I’ve learned a lot by being away.

Do you think you’ll stay in Winnipeg forever?

I can’t say that. I know that I’m here for a couple of years, anyway. A few years. I’ve got a good job. I don’t see myself moving in the near future. I’d like to move to a different location in the city, though. Right now my dilemma is, do I move to the outskirts where there’s less crime and I could have a little garden, or do I move where things are starting to pick up and things have started happening? But then the cost of living goes up and I’m not in a financial situation — you know, one of the reasons I came here is because the cost of living is lower. If I end up making a huge mortgage payment, I’ve defeated the purpose of ever moving here, as far as financial reasons are concerned.

Any last thoughts about Winnipeg?

I have hope for Winnipeg. I see them building skyscrapers, I see them building, and I really think [things are] on the up. I would like to stick around a few years and watch the city grow.

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Some very old passports (Russia, 1911 and 1912)

Something for the history buffs among you…

When I was in Winnipeg over the holidays, my grandmother pulled out her family history photo album and let me have a look through it, and — to my surprise and delight — tucked inside were both of my maternal great-grandparents' passports. So I did what all people of my generation would do: I took out my phone and started taking pictures. Considering I didn't use flash, and considering the pictures were taken with my phone (which is definitely not a top-of-the-line model), the results are surprisingly legible — if you can read Russian, that is.

Russia was and is a very diverse country, so it shouldn't surprise you that much that my mother didn't learn until relatively recently that her grandparents spoke Russian. Growing up, I was always told that my mother's mother's family was German (German-from-Russia, as my mother called it), and I never really gave much thought to the “from-Russia” part of it. It turns out, though, that there was a sizable German population settled around the Volga/Saratov. They had a confusing/tumultuous relationship with the soviets, at one point granted a fair amount of autonomy as the Volga German Republic, and at another banished from the land (and, I believe, sent to Siberia — but who wasn't at some point?). My direct ancestors left before then, but I'm sure that there are relatives of mine who didn't fare so well. And despite their “otherness” from Russia at large, they did hold Russian passports:

Interestingly enough, there is a page in German and a page in French. Lucky me, I can read French! Roughly, it says: “The bearer of this [handwritten-->] the peasant [really?! Can this mean citizen? Because "peasant" is hilarious!] Jean-Jacques Roudolf [note that they francofied his name -- the German on the other side says Johann-Jakob Rudolf] is leaving for foreign lands/overseas, [typed-->] in trust of which this passport, confirmed by the affixing of the seal, is given for freely travelling in foreign countries. [handwritten-->] Russia Saratov 4 March 1911.” But then I have to wonder: where is this seal they refer to? Dun dun dun!!
And for my great-grandmother (who did not know my great-grandfather at the time):
She also is a peasant (ha), but whoever worked on her passport was apparently much more stamp-happy. Also note that hers seems to actually have a seal on it, unlike her future husband's:
 

And there you have it.

 

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Filed under Family, Genealogy, History

The snow in Ottawa and the wind in Winnipeg

Today I fell on my bum when going out to do the laundry (because the basement is only accessible from outside):

If you're curious, you might be interested in knowing that all of that snow is from last night. This is what it looked like recently:

So either way my feet are wet. At least then I wasn't falling down my front stairs as if on a slip-and-slide, though. Anyway it doesn't matter because other than doing the laundry I am safely inside, having stocked up on groceries yesterday. I was prepared! Not exactly the end of the world (ha! are we done with that joke yet?) but still, it's good to be prepared. I'm pleased that although it's messy outside it isn't at all cold out… but it's supposed to be -18° in Winnipeg for Christmas. Yikes! I might end up staying inside huddled in a pile of oranges. Yes, oranges–I've been eating maybe five oranges a day for the past two weeks. I think maybe that isn't healthy? But they are so delicious this time of year and I hate them in the summer. I'm not sure if it's me or the oranges then, but in the middle of July you could not pay me to eat one.

But yes, Winnipeg is cold. I don't remember the last time I was there in the winter. I might have been nine. I still remember the cold, though: leggings and pants and snow pants and I could still feel the wind. Hopefully that was an extreme year or I was a weak child and this year I will not be a wuss. We are hoping to make a day trip to Gimli, Manitoba, which has a large Icelandic population (and they'd better with a name like Gimli!). So it sounds like an interesting place to visit, and would be the furthest north in North America that my husband will have been (take that future perfect passive!), so hopefully the roads will be okay and I will not be a wimp.

 

And soon I will see family! I haven't seen some of them in over a decade, and there are a few that I haven't seen at all! I'm excited to meet my cousin's fiancé and meet my other cousin's son in person! I met the little fellow over skype once, and he seems like the most amusing baby ever–he sat there playing with his shoe. My mother says that he's the cutest baby she's ever seen (and she's had four of her own). This was me:

What a strange creature.

Well, I'll leave you with that because it turns out I forgot that I needed to go to the bank today. So much for being prepared!

 

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