Hey folks, I’ve moved this blog over to www.familynature.ca. I ❤ wordpress.com but I wanted my own url and the greater flexibility that wordpress.org offers. Everything that was here is now over there. If you’re a subscriber, please re-subscribe at the new blog. See you there. 🙂

Amanda

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For the most-part, I have always loved being tall. I’m just a shade less than 6 feet with an hourglass figure. There’s something striking about tall women, don’t you think? Someone told me once that tall people are elegant no matter what; that they can trip and fall and still look elegant. I don’t see myself as particularly elegant but still, I like the idea that this is how some people might see me. I had a teacher in high school who insisted that I pursue a modelling career – like, every time I saw her in the hallways. Others always thought I would be great at basketball (I wasn’t). Mr. FamilyNature sees me as the strong-Xena-Warrior-Princess-type. Elegant, warrior princess, model, athlete – however it is people view tall women, most people view it as something positive. I can’t imagine being any other way.

As a result of being tall and curvy, I’ve never been a one-size-fits-all kind of gal. Things never seem to fit me well. Gloves are too small, sleeves and pants too short, the bust-line and waist-line of dresses never sit in the right place, and all my t-shirts end up like crop-tops after they’ve gone through the dryer a couple of times. I wish that tables and counter tops were just a little bit higher. That bathtubs and beds were a little bit longer. The world is made for average people. That’s what makes the most sense.

So here’s where I go sideways a bit. When I’m not thinking about it, I feel like I am exactly like everyone else. I am average. I am normal. But then I look in the mirror, or see a picture of myself, or catch a reflection of myself walking down the street with a friend, or I go clothes shopping – or worse, when I go bra shopping and walk out with a size most people didn’t even know existed – I feel awkward and out of place. At times like these I don’t think I look “normal”, as in, the way a woman is “supposed” to look. There is an image of what society thinks the ideal woman should look like. I am not it.

A while ago, when I was cleaning out some old boxes, I came across some old pictures. I found this:

In this picture, I’m 20. I look at it now and think that I’m gorgeous and that I’d kill to have that body again. At the time? I thought I was fat and I hated my body. I wish I could go back and give my 20-year-old-self a shake.

When that picture was taken I was a size 12 or 14. Usually, size 14 is considered a plus size (depending on where you shop). At the time I hated that I was so dangerously close to being a plus size when I was at a pretty normal weight for my body type. In this picture I’m also very, very close to the BMI’s definition of “overweight”. When I stepped on a scale, the number that came up is a number that was in a range in which “normal” women don’t show up. I was tormented by these numbers then and still am today. I am reminded constantly by the numbers, that I am not “normal” or “average”.

Not long after my first was born, Mr. FN and I went shopping. I needed some new clothes. Maternity clothes were too big but I wasn’t fitting into my pre-pregnancy clothes. We went into a store and when I was looking at the clothes and sizes I realized that the “plus” size clothes were in a different section. There was a section off to the side of the store that had a big “Plus Size” sign hanging over it. It might as well have been a flashing neon sign. I wouldn’t have been caught dead there. I left the store empty handed. Later, when we were on our way home in the car, I cried and cried to Mr. FN, “I’m not a plus size person. I’m just a person!”

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a conformist. I shaved my head this spring partly as a rebellion. Sometimes I say things that not everyone would. My parenting style has not always been accepted by those around me. I fought for a VBA2C attempt when just about everyone in the medical world thought I was nuts (as a side note, the ACOG and SOGC have both since admitted that VBAMC is a safe option).

I try to teach my kids about acceptance and differences, and that if everyone looked the same, had the same opinion and agreed on everything the world would be a boring place. Nothing would ever change, nobody would ever take risks and everything would be stagnant and mediocre. I want them to know that it’s okay if they don’t conform, if they ask difficult questions, if they challenge things. In fact, I want them to be like that!

I want my daughter to love herself. I want her to feel beautiful no matter what her hair looks like. No matter what she wears. No matter what size she is. How do I instill these beliefs and self-confidence in her when I have a hard time with them myself?

There is a contradiction here, I realize that. I really do love being tall. I don’t ever want to be “normal” or “average”.  I don’t want to conform. I simply could not live like that. I don’t look like society’s ideal image of a woman because almost nobody looks like that. But … in a way I do want to look like that ideal woman.

I’ve struggled with my weight since having kids. I’ve wanted to lose a bit of weight for years. But the truth is I don’t know if I’d be any happier if I did. There was a moment of realization when I found that old picture of myself. I hated my body then – that gorgeous, tall, flat-tummy, slim body – and although my body has changed since that photo, my feelings about it haven’t. My realization was this: it’s not my body that has to change, it’s my attitude. I keep that picture in my kitchen as a reminder. While I strive to be healthier; eat a bit better, exercise more, I know that I have to be a little easier on myself. Focus a bit less on the numbers and more on a healthy attitude, and this remains my biggest challenge.

Numbers photo by Koren Vereeken via Flickr.

It’s six weeks after we planted the garden and it’s coming along nicely.

Corn:

Tomatoes:

Bush Beans:

Zucchini:

Can you see the teeny, tiny zucchini?

Here’s the garden one week after planting:

Corn:

Tomatoes:

Beans:

Zucchini:

We’ve had lots of fun with our vegetable garden over the last few years. It’s been fun experimenting with different things. Last year, I kind of went overboard and we ended up with an over-crowded garden. Many of our vegetables went to waste because we either couldn’t see them, couldn’t reach them or for some other reason we just didn’t really eat them. (Call me a princess, but I just didn’t dig lettuce that had holes all through it.) The good news is that now we have a pretty good idea of what will work in our space, and what the kids will actually eat.

Last weekend we got the garden ready and planted. Here it is, all ready for planting:

And here it is after being planted:

We planted the following (starting at the top): zucchini, two kinds of beets, bush beans, 4 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, black popcorn and cucumber along the fence. I’m also going to plant some burgundy beans beside the corn in the hopes that it will grow up the corn stalks.

The tomatoes are the only ones we didn’t start from seed:

As the garden starts growing, I’ll post more pictures.

1. Why not

I mean, really, why not?

2. To feel the wind on my head

I like the feeling. The warm sun is nice too.

3. Because my 6 year old told me I would look stupid if I shaved it

When he told me this I had already decided to shave it but I was really struck by this comment. Why did he think this? Mr. Family Nature has shaved his before and nobody thought it was stupid. It’s not that he thought that shaved heads were stupid, just me shaving my head was stupid. All the more reason to do it.

4. Because I’d never done it before

I’ll try just about anything once.

5. Because so many people thought the idea of it was shocking

“Shave your head‽” *gasp* Oh, the horrors!

6. To set an example for my kids

So that they won’t think that a woman shaving her head is stupid anymore.

7. Because I am about more than HAIR

I’ve never really understood the attachment some women and girls have to their hair.

8. It grows back

It really does.

9. I can’t remember what my natural hair colour is

I’ve been colouring my hair for so long now. Sometimes I am mildly curious about what my natural colour is like and how much grey I actually have. I will know very soon.

10. It’s easy to care for

Ridiculously easy. Keeping it like this is very tempting.

11. It feels really cool

I rub my head constantly.

12. A woman can be beautiful with short hair, long hair or no hair

Right?

13. Because some people told me not to

Ask Mr. FN, he’ll tell you the way to get me to do something is by telling me not to do it – and I’ll run right out and do it. The people that said it were joking (mostly). But still, it felt kind of rebellious.

14. My 4yo daughter started school and suddenly wanted to grow her hair long

My daughter has always had a cute little pixie cut. She had a buzz cut once herself (because her brothers got one and she wanted to be like them). She always liked short hair. I don’t think it every occurred to her to have long hair until she started school and saw that pretty much every other girl has long hair. And … well, I think it’s totally impractical. She can’t take care of it at this age and it would constantly be in her way. So, it kind of irked me when she told me she wanted to grow her hair.

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • About 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 3 tsp Moroccan spice mix (recipe below)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • ¼ – ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

In a medium saucepan, heat the vegetable oil. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the carrot; continue to cook until the onion is soft, a few more minutes.

Add quinoa, water, Moroccan spice mix, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until the quinoa is cooked and the carrots are tender (15 minutes or so).

Add the chickpeas, stir and simmer for a minute or two until the chickpeas are heated through.

Add lime juice and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold.

Moroccan Spice Mix

  • 4 tsp curry powder
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg (I always grind nutmeg fresh – it’s so much better)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp dried mint
  • salt and pepper

Mix everything together. Store unused mix in an airtight container. This is a modified version of a spice mix from a recipe by Real Food for Real Kids.

My allergy boy is 5. He started grade one this year.

Starting grade one meant sorting through some details that weren’t an issue in kindergarten. Like eating lunch in the lunch room, navigating pizza days and making sure he’s safe on field trips.

It’s gone fairly well. The school administration has been very willing to work with me. Still, there have been a few bumps along the way. I charge ahead, trying to hit the right balance, trying to keep him safe, while managing my own anxiety, trying to make sure he feels included and making his life as normal as I can.

I spend a lot of time thinking about allergies; new recipes and ways to include him in things others take for granted. I try, try, try SO hard to work with the school in a productive and positive way; to present suggestions and solutions instead of simply voicing complaints. I read policies and take action rather than leave it all in someone else’s hand.

For example, I was feeling anxious about the lunch room. My son is allergic to dairy in all forms, eggs, tree nuts and bananas. He is, literally, surrounded by his allergens at lunch time. There are hundreds of kids in the lunchroom and four lunch supervisors. How would the lunch supervisors know what my boy is allergic to? How would they even remember that he is one of the allergy kids? Would they remember what to do if there was an emergency? How could we post his anaphylaxis plan during lunch (the gym is the lunch room)?

I came up with an allergy place mat. I emailed it to my local Staples, had it printed on ledger size paper (11 x 17) in colour, attached a copy of his Emergency Anaphylaxis Plan to the back of it, and had it laminated. It cost me less than $10.

The administration liked the idea so much they had me email them a copy so that they could make one for all the allergy kids.

See? Positive, right? Productive, right? That’s how I roll … or at least, that is my goal. (Sometimes my emotions and anxieties get in the way.)

Despite my efforts and the best intentions of the school, sometimes I feel like we fail my poor allergy boy. Like how a couple of weeks ago, every kid in the class – except my boy and another girl that’s allergic to dairy – got hot chocolate. My boy told me “Everyone had hot chocolate today.” On the inside I momentarily panic, I can feel the anxiety building inside me. “What did you have?” I ask calmly. “I had water” he tells me. And that, right there, is my heart breaking. “When we get home, can I have hot chocolate?” he asks me. “Yes, of course.” I say. Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.

A week later, I find out 5 minutes before it’s about to happen that the kids are going for a walk to some local shops as they learn about Diwali. They’re going to sample some samosas and treats. (Again: anxiety and fear creep up in me.) I try to be cool, “so, um … what about the allergy kids?” Never mind, they decide not to get the treats after all. And the allergy mum ruins the fun again.

I make phone calls, I send emails. I feel like I am begging … pleading: please, if I just knew ahead of time I could find something safe for him; a way for him to be included in the celebrations involving food – without cancelling everything.

*sigh*

At times this all weighs heavily on me. I get frustrated and discouraged. I just want to cry and stomp my feet and pull him out of school. But ultimately, who would suffer? My poor allergy boy.

Chin up. I tell myself. It’s all worth it. Of course it is. I do it all willingly. I would do all of it and more. What wouldn’t any parent do for the safety and happiness of their kids?

I hope that he never knows, though. The anxiety every time he tells me his doesn’t feel well or his ears are itchy (which, oddly enough, is fairly regularly). The frustration I feel when I run into roadblocks. The time spent reading, knowing allergy policies like the back of my hand; trying new recipes, testing new ingredients, searching the internet for safe recipes; talking to teachers and administration, working through the issues, smoothing over the bumps, making place mats. I hope he never knows how hard it is sometimes.

In a weird kind of way, his allergies have taught us many lessons and introduced us to different things. They are what led us to discover things like vegan orange cake (the BEST cake ever!), dairy-free ice cream cake, coconut milk (yummy, creamy coconut milk) and kettle corn.

Those pain-in-the-ass allergies are helping us teach our kids about acceptance, differences, compassion and responsibility.

The frustrating, anxiety-causing allergies are forcing me to work on my own fears of public speaking, my patience, my ability to work with people and making me tough it out when I just want to run away.

I hope, beyond hope, that my allergy boy grows up feeling normal, loved and included. That he embraces his allergies as a unique and special part of him. That he doesn’t think of his life in terms of things he missed. And I hope that he will one day know how important the lessons are that he helped us learn.

Click on the place mat image to download the word version and make your own. Feel free to share!

  • 1/3 cup diary free margarine, melted (I used Earth Balance buttery flavour spread.)
  • 1 1/4 cups dairy free baking crumbs (I used Oreo baking crumbs, but any dairy-free cookie crushed up would work. To crush cookies, put them in a Ziploc bag and roll them with a rolling pin.)
  • about 4 cups dairy free ice cream (I used So Delicious Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk ice cream.)
  • cookies, sprinkles, chocolate chips, etc. to decorate (optional) (I used Oreo cookies)

Let the ice cream sit at room temperature for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until it becomes soft.

Melt the margarine and combine in with cookie crumbs. Press the mixture into a pie plate. Freeze for at least 15 minutes.

Spread about half of the ice cream in the pie plate being careful not to mess up the cookie crumb crust. If you’re using cookies, you can lean them up against the edge of the pie plate all around. You can also sprinkle in some chocolate chips, more cookie crumbs or whatever else you want to use. Freeze for at least 15 minutes.

Scoop on the remaining ice cream and top it with sprinkles, cookies, chocolate chips or whatever else! Freeze until you’re ready to serve.

Between December 2001 and October 2007 I had four kids. Mr. Family Nature and I refer to those years as our baby-makin’-years. Those years were a lot of fun – lots of coos, baby laughs, first steps and first words, nursing babes, and all the other good stuff that comes along with having a baby in the house.

They were also very tired times – sleepless nights, teething, diapers, sometimes going days without a shower (and not even caring) and almost never going out anywhere other than the park or school.

These are not complaints. They are simply facts. They are the way things were at the time. I accepted that that these were the baby-makin’-years and I lowered my personal standards. Often basic hygiene was all I could manage. I sort of … neglected myself.

It wasn’t just me that was neglected. It was lots of other things in our life. Mr. FN took a lot of time off work. Four c-sections meant a long recovery each time. And when you’re self-employed, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

It was fine; we managed to get by knowing that after the baby-makin’-years were over and Mr. FN could focus more on work, that we’d be able to live a bit more comfortably. No complaints, it was the way things were.

Our house was also neglected. Piles of laundry (which still curse me today), dust bunnies under the beds and bed sheets we couldn’t remember when last they were washed. It was all fine. We knew it wouldn’t be like that forever.

Now that Sister is about to start JK, people keep asking me, “What are you going to do with yourself‽” Sister will only be going to school in the mornings (our school doesn’t yet have full-day kindergarten – which is fine by me) so that means I’ll only have a couple of hours in the morning. I know what I’ll do with myself. And it’s not all that exciting.

I’m going to raise my standards.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last ten years lowering my standards and lowering my expectations. For the most part, in a good way. But I’m ready to raise some of them again. I’ve made a commitment to myself recently. As in, I am committed to take better care of myself. ‘Cause you know, I’m not getting any younger – and it’s just time.

So, what will I be doing with myself once Sister starts JK? While I have these great dreams of getting the house more in order or organizing the basement, you’ll probably more often find me at the gym. Or at the coffee shop near the kids’ school, blogging. Or maybe even getting a pedicure. I’ll be spending those two hours in the morning just having some time to myself – to take care of me.

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