Monday, 29 February 2016

The Problem With Pink

My son loves Peppa Pig. He's asked for a Peppa Pig birthday party this year, and, since we didn't have a party for him last year, we're planning to do a small thing at our house this year. I did a quick Google search to start hunting down some Peppa Pig party supplies. I found this....

I had no idea that Peppa Pig was considered a "girls" cartoon. I was actually really surprised to see that the party supplies were still divided up by gender. Why is this still a thing? Is it because Peppa Pig is pink? Well, so is her brother. Is it because she's a girl? That argument falls flat because I know plenty of little girls who love Spiderman, sharks, and dinosaurs. Where is the line? When does something become a girls cartoon or a boys cartoon? (And I did check, there are no Peppa Pig Party Supplies in the Boys Party Theme section).

Herein lies the problem with pink. Somewhere along the way, marketing experts decided pink is a "girl" colour.

I say "somewhere along the way" because it wasn't always like this. For hundreds of years, in European and Western cultures, boys and girls both wore white or other simple colours. And boys and girls often both wore dresses until the age of 6.

Future American President Franklin Roosevelt in 1884. (image credit

As department stores became popular, they started suggesting that boys wear one colour and girls wear another. In fact, initially boys were told to wear pink and girls were told to wear blue.

"The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl"
Earnshaw's Infants' Department - June 1918

The blue/pink debate for boys and girls switched back and forth a bit between different stores. They couldn't agree on their marketing at all. Check out this chart based on a Time Magazine article from November 11, 1927:

Eventually, they settled on pink for girls and the rest seems to be history. But it shouldn't be. Where we've landed in the history of pink and blue for boys and girls has clearly nothing to actually do with gender.

Pink, blue, yellow, green with sparkles...Who cares? Why do these people still care? It's beyond time to move on with this. Target took a big step in the right direction when they chose to no longer label toys by gender. And Quirkie Kids is one of my favourite online stores because of their super cool gender-neutral shirts. Sebastian has the pink dinosaur one, and he loves it.

So, we need to keep thinking about pink, and the history of pink, and how we're making boys feel who love pink. I feel grateful that Sebastian will have no idea that his birthday party supplies came from the "girls" party section, because I do not want him to feel self-conscious about something he enjoys. And as his parents, we will continue to teach him acceptance and love in all of its beautiful colours.


Wikipedia - Pink, Time Magazine, The Washington Post

Thursday, 25 February 2016

To All The Co-Sleeping Parents I Judged Before

To All The Co-Sleeping Parents I Judged Before,

I'm sorry. I owe you all a huge venti-sized apology. I was the mom that secretly swore her child would never co-sleep. "No way!" I told myself and my husband. "He has his own room, and he will sleep in there. We will not become one of those families."

Yet, since September, our three year old has been sleeping in our room. Every single night. And it probably won't change anytime soon. So, for any co-sleeping parents out there who know what sleep routine works best for them and can't remember the last time their little one spent a full night in their own room, I'm on your side.

I am tired of sleep-training. We've been sleep-training for three years. I'm tired of the 2am fights back into the crib. I'm tired of sitting in the chair beside our son's bed and trying to creep away once he falls asleep. A task only made significantly more challenging because of our creaky, 100-year-old floors. We read all the books. We tried sticker charts and bribes. We hired a sleep coach. We cried, we begged, we pleaded. But it's all over.

I don't even think Sebastian is really a terrible sleeper. He's had his tricky phases (I blogged about them here and here), and he's had better phases, but I'm just tired of fighting to create those "better" phases. Last September we started a new routine. He had to go to sleep in his own bed, but if he woke in the middle of the night, he could come sleep on, what we call, his "little bed". His "little bed" is basically a yoga mat with a couple of blankets and a pillow. It's right beside the bed where my husband and I sleep in our room. Not one night has gone by where Seb doesn't come into his "little bed". And now, he often wants to sleep there when he falls asleep at night, and we've just let him. We don't usually let him sleep actually in our bed (because no one sleeps when that happens), but he has his space in our room, and he uses it every night.

I can easily rub his back or hold his hand or talk to him when he comes into our room and needs a cuddle. Our son needs us in that moment, and I can't turn him away. He falls asleep beside me, and I get to watch him sleep. I get to breathe him in for a few extra minutes of the day. My silver lining to co-sleeping.

It is unlikely Sebastian will still be sleeping in his "little bed" when he's 16. I know this is a problem that will eventually have an end, even though it may not always feel like it.

There are many battles my husband and I will fight with him, and for these battles we will not be swayed: respect, kindness, compassion. These are non-negotiables. Where exactly he lays his sweet, little blonde head at night, that is something with which I'm no longer willing to be at war.


Monday, 15 February 2016

What NOT to Buy For Baby

When a friend of mine was expecting her first baby awhile ago, she was interested in what to buy for baby, but also asked me what she likely wouldn't need. Below is pretty much the exact email I replied back to her!

1. A breastfeeding pillow. I know, I know. Hell hath no fury than a mama separated from her nursing pillow, but I borrowed one from a friend and did not love it at all. It hurt my back, and I felt like I was nursing at a weird angle all of the time. I just used a regular pillow, and it was perfect.

2. Bumper pads for the crib - We actually never had these, but I was planning on buying them at one point and then just never did. Seb was fine without them.

3. Bumbo seat - This baby seat is very popular, but Seb never liked it. He loved his little bouncy chair a ton though.

4. Nightlight - Babies are actually not supposed to have nightlights in their room. It messes with their eye development. We were gifted one but only just started using it now (and Seb's almost 4).

5. Baby mittens - I think I heard a public health nurse tell us that actually we shouldn't use the baby mitten flaps on the sleepers. I forget the reason why, but we never had a problem with Seb scratching himself which is why I think they're there. We did have tiny baby nail clippers and had to trim his nails which isn't fun. Mais, c'est la vie.

6. Newborn sized clothes. Seriously - return any you get. Starting with 0-3 month sized clothes is plenty small enough. Unless you have a preemie, then you'll probably need all those adorable, tiny onesies.

7. Disposable change pads. I have no idea why I bought a pack of these but that's $5 I won't get back again. Useless. I have (more than 1) portable change pads that came with the diaper bag.

8. Real shoes. We were gifted a pair of the tiniest real baby shoes ever, and I made Seb wear them a few times, but he grew out of them before he was even close to walking. I preferred Robeez

9. Sling Wrap carrier like this. I don't know why but I just never felt very secure with it. I felt like Seb could just roll out or something. Maybe because it was because I had a huge baby, but I preferred my Ergo. It felt much more secure. 

10. Change table. We just bought a change pad and put it on top of his dresser. Worked just fine.

11. Bottle warmer. We never had one, so maybe it would have been life-changing if we had, but I think you manage pretty easily without buying one of these.

12. Wipes warmer. We never had one of these either, but I've heard they don't work great and actually dry out the wipes. Save your $$.

Anything you'd add to this list? What were you gifted that you never used? (I promise your secret is safe with me!).


Friday, 12 February 2016

The Golden Son - Book Review

As I work my way through the 50 Book Pledge, one of my latest reads has been The Golden Son, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. I read Secret Daughter when it came out and really loved Gowda's writing, and I was very excited to have the opportunity to review her new book.

The Golden Son tells the story of Anil Patel. He is the first in his family to go to college, and medical school in the US at that, while at the same time balancing many responsibilities back home in India. Despite living in Dallas, Texas for his residency, Anil must still take on the large task of village arbitrator for his small hometown after his father passes away. This is the story of Anil, as he struggles between two worlds, trying to decide in which really he belongs. 

At the same time, Anil's childhood friend, Leena, becomes trapped in an arranged marriage, causing her to make a drastic decision that brings much shame to her family. Eventually, Anil and Leena cross paths again. They sort through the choices and events that led them to where they are and work towards figuring out what happens next, so they can each find their own true selves. 

Just as I loved Gowda's writing in Secret Daughter, The Golden Son does not disappoint. I actually enjoyed the story even more. I've been watching a lot of Grey's Anatomy lately, so I was very interested in Anil's experiences during his residency at the Dallas hospital, and I love storylines that weave together over time. This book flowed smoothly and had a few twists that I hadn't predicted.

The characters are very richly developed, and I felt connected with many of them. I yearned for these families to find peace and happiness. This is a story of push and pull. Between cultures. Between duty and choice. Between the past and the future. Between families. And even within the characters themselves. I absolutely recommend this book, and am confident any reader would really enjoy this compelling novel. 

About the author
Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto to parents who migrated there from Mumbai. She holds an MBA from Stanford University and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1991, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage. She has lived in New York, North Carolina, and Texas, and currently makes her home in California with her husband and children.
Find out more about Shilpi at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Disclaimer - I received a copy of this book for review from TLC Book Tours. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Interview with Kim Sedgwick from Red Tent Sisters

Welcome a special guest to the blog today! I'm interviewing Kim Sedgwick from Red Tent Sisters. You may remember her from last year when she and her sister brought us 10 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back After Baby.

Since love is in the air, I thought now is the perfect time to have an open and honest conversation about women's sexual health. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did!

How did Red Tent Sisters become your passion?

I was lucky to grow up with three amazing older sisters - Amy (whom I now work with) and my stepsisters Emma and Jenny. They were really open about menstruation and sexuality, so from a young age I was exposed to things like the Diva Cup (a reusable menstrual cup), The Sunday Night Sex Show, Dan Savage and other sex-positive resources. As a result, my friends would often come to me for advice. If I didn't know the answer, I'd ask one of my sisters or consult my well-loved copy of Lou Paget's Orgasms or Our Bodies, Ourselves. This was back before information was readily available online, so it was a lot harder to get access to this stuff - especially if you wanted to read it anonymously. So I feel like my role as a sex educator developed organically. I was so used to talking about sex and other "taboo" topics that it seemed natural to pursue it as a career. 

After I graduated from university with my Gender and Women's Studies degree I was living with my sister (she let me live in her basement - sadly there aren't a lot of jobs for Women's Studies grads!) and one night we were up late talking about our respective passions. I was interested in finding ways to coach women and improve their sexual experiences, and she had just learned about the Justisse Method which is a natural form of birth control. We're both huge fans of the book The Red Tent and loved the idea of creating a safe space for women to gather to support one another, so the ideas just all came together to form what is now Red Tent Sisters. What is pretty cool is that it was exactly nine months from the day we came up with the idea to the day we opened our doors. We often talk about Red Tent Sisters as our baby, so it seems fitting that it was the length of a pregnancy.

What are some of the biggest myths connected to women's sexual health?

Sadly, there are a lot of myths when it comes to female sexuality. I feel like many of them are rooted in the idea that we’re supposed to experience pleasure a particular way. On one hand we live in this sex-saturated society, but in reality the conversation is limited; we’re exposed to very narrow definitions of sexuality. I can’t tell you how many women worry they’re not “normal” because their bodies don’t look or react in the ways they think they should. For instance, many women worry if their labia are different sizes or if their inner labia are bigger than their outer layer. That’s completely normal! 

Similarly, many women aren’t able to orgasm during intercourse without some kind of clitoral stimulation (estimates suggest as many as 70% of women), but in movies women seem to be able to climax simultaneously with their partner from vaginal penetration alone. Since that’s all we see, women worry there’s something wrong with them if they can’t orgasm that way. I look forward to the day when women don’t feel so much pressure to have their sexuality match some mythical ideal and instead get to explore what works and feels good for them.

How can women help build their confidence in the bedroom?

I think the first step is recognizing that it’s okay to not feel confident. Sex ed class is all about how to prevent pregnancy or STIs which is obviously incredibly important, but by leaving out the pleasure part of the equation we’re given the message that we should just magically know how to have sex. You don’t expect to be a good driver without taking lessons, so why do you expect to be good at oral sex without being taught? I find that for a lot of women that adjustment in expectation removes some of the pressure that they should already know what to do and gives them permission to seek some help. Whether it’s taking a class or reading a book, it’s helpful to learn some practical tips so that you have a starting place. From there it’s all about experimenting and finding out what you and your partner like. It can be awkward to give feedback because you don’t want to hurt your partner’s feelings by saying you don’t like something. To help with that, I suggest offering options. So rather than asking, “Do you like this?” ask “Would you like more pressure or less?” That will give you more information than “yes” or “no” and it helps open the conversation rather than shutting it down.

What are some key things women can do to help their bodies get ready to be pregnant?

I don’t know about you, but I grew up thinking that I could get pregnant any time. I had no idea a woman’s fertile window was so small! One of the things we’re passionate about at Red Tent Sisters is helping women learn to track their cycle. We’ve had clients spend thousands of dollars at fertility clinics because they were having trouble conceiving, and it turned out they just weren’t timing intercourse correctly. So knowing exactly when you’re ovulating can save you a lot of time, stress, and money. 

Not only is this helpful when it comes to timing intercourse, but your cycle can also tell you a lot about your overall health. We suggest women start tracking well before they plan to start a family so that there’s time to address potential health concerns, like hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues, etc. 

Lastly, there’s no question that stress has a huge impact on fertility. Many of us have high stress jobs and don’t have a lot of systems in place to help us truly relax, so I recommend finding at least one thing that helps you unwind whether that’s meditation, journaling, or exercise.

What are some great books that women can read if they want to learn more about their sexual health?

Of course I have to say The Red Tent! The other fiction title that’s influenced me is The Mists of Avalon which is a retelling of the King Arthur legend from a feminist perspective. In terms of my work, I’d say Taking Charge Of Your Fertility. It’s an amazing resource if you’re looking to chart your cycle for contraception or if you’re looking to conceive, but I think it’s empowering for all women to understand their cycles. I own quite the stack of sexuality books so it’s hard for me to choose just one… I love She Comes First which has been out for awhile now, but it’s still a go-to resource. Ian Kerner argues that we should think of foreplay (oral sex, manual stimulation) as “coreplay” – meaning that it becomes the main event rather than always seeing it as the precursor to intercourse. Come As You Are is a new favourite of mine. Emily Nagoski does an amazing job of making scientific research about sexual desire accessible and fun, and her book dispels so many of the myths that prevent women from experiencing pleasure. Lastly, I just picked up O Wow which covers a little bit of everything - anatomy, positions, and sex toys. I’d say that’s a great choice if you’re picking up your first sexuality book.

Thanks so much, Kim!

Kim & Amy Sedgwick love to discuss sex, periods, and all the other things we’re not supposed to talk about. The co-founders of Red Tent Sisters, they’ve been featured in every major Canadian news outlet and have become a trusted resource for women seeking natural (effective!) birth control, a more joyful sex life, and an empowered journey to motherhood.
Find them on Facebook and Twitter

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Local Love: Toronto Date Night Ideas

Valentine's Day is around the corner, so if you're looking for something fun to do for date night this Saturday, here are our favourite date night ideas in the city.

1. Steam Whistle Tour - Going on a Steam Whistle brewery tour is fun for a day date. Tours run every 30 minutes between noon and 4 or 5pm everyday of the week. The tour includes generous samples (yeah!) and you can even take a six-pack home with you.

2. Mysteriously Yours Dinner Theatre - Mysteriously Yours is a mystery dinner theatre event. You actually participate in the event by asking questions of the cast to solve a mystery during the show. If traditional theatre is more your thing, then check out any of the Mirvish productions.

3. St. Lawerence Market Cooking Class - Rob and I actually did this as our Valentine's date years ago, and it was really fun. You work as part of a team to prepare a beautiful gourmet meal with professional chefs who then serve you as you enjoy your meal at the market.

4. Globe Bistro - This is our date restaurant of choice in the city. It's right on the subway line not too far from home, the food is always amazing, and the service is outstanding. I cannot recommend this restaurant enough. It also happens to be the bar of choice for my work when we're looking to squeeze in a happy hour drink before the weekend.

5. Dinner and VIP Movie - I previously declared my love for VIP theatres, but it is absolutely the best way to see a movie on a date. You can have a really lovely dinner right there and a drink or two during the movie. It's also age of majority only if you want to avoid hanging with teenagers beside you on your movie date.

6. Snakes and Lattes - This is an amazing board game café. It's massive and has, quite literally, thousands of different board games to choose from, as well as the staff to teach them to you. It is always packed. Go early. For their 19+ location, check out Snakes and Lagers. Both in the west end, but well worth the trek for us east enders.

7. The Real Escape - Rob and I haven't yet tried the "escape the room" date, but they are popping up everywhere, so there must be something to them. It's definitely next on my 'date night ideas' list.

8. ROM Friday Night Live - Every spring and fall, the ROM hosts adult-only Friday night events. They open many of the galleries and you can purchase drinks and food on site. The main floor has a dance floor, there are different DJs playing in different galleries, and it's a whole lot of fun! Buy tickets in advance. The line at the door is crazy long.

So, there you go! When we pin down our babysitter and actually turn off Netflix, this is what Rob and I get up to. Any other date nights you love in the city that we should try?


Monday, 1 February 2016

Why I’m not Having a Birthday Party for my 3 Year Old

I’m going rogue. I am not having a birthday party for my toddler this year. Our little guy turns 3 this spring, and we’re not having a party. I just can’t do it.

Reason #1 – He doesn’t care.
Our son is at the age where he still doesn’t really understand what a birthday party is. He knows he’s currently 2. He knows that soon he will be 3. He’s not yet of the age where he “wants” certain things for his birthday or birthday party. I feel like this may be the last year where I can take advantage of that fact and just do a low-key family thing instead.

Plus, like most families, we do fun stuff with him all the time. We go to the farm, we go to the park, we go swimming, we have playdates, we visit the science centre, we sign up for activities at local playcentres, we check out drop-in centres and the library on the regular. My husband often jokes that every weekend is like our son’s birthday because every weekend is some kind of funtivity.

Reason #2 – The cost is extraordinary.
Invitations, food, drinks (both kid-friendly and adult-friendly), decorations, cake, loot bags, thank you cards…it adds up quickly. Super quickly. I only have a small circle of friends with children, and I still remember dropping quite a few $$ on his party last year. Which was just at our house!

And then there are the entertainment choices. Do we just play around at our house (that was the entertainment for his first 2 birthdays) or do we go somewhere for his party? Or do we bring entertainment to the house? I’ve been to both types of birthday parties. They are fun and exciting, but I just can’t help but think of how much these types of parties cost.

Reason #3 – We don’t need more stuff.
Our son is the only grandchild on both sides of the family. He’s also our first, and probably, our only child. When a holiday comes around, our little guy wants for nothing. It feels like it was just Christmas. And Easter is around the corner. I told people at Christmas that our son likes puzzles, then he received 7 puzzles! 7!!!! Help me before I drown in toddler toys.

Our son’s birthday will still be so special. He will still be getting birthday gifts from his family. We will still have cupcakes with a candle on it for him to blow out. We’re also planning a trip to the zoo with 2 friends. I’ve told them that this is just a zoo playdate. Our son loves animals and spending time with his friends and mama and daddy, so for him this is the best day we can plan. He will laugh and giggle and smile and eat ice cream and probably make weird toddler screeches at the gorillas. It’s going to be amazing.

I know this won’t be something I get away with much in the future, but I kind of like harnessing our toddler’s innocence. He’s so happy just to hang out with us and run around at the zoo while he tells everyone that now he’s 3. No food platter pick-ups, no mid-party meltdowns because he’s dropping his nap, no following up with outstanding rsvps….just the things he loves: friends, family, zoo animals, hugs, kisses, lots of love and practising how to make a “3” with his little toddler fingers.


This post originally appeared on VoiceBoks in April 2015.