Thursday, 31 October 2013

fifty three weeks

A year ago, I was packing the last of my things for my move.

So much has happened in the past year that I can feel my head begin to spin just thinking about thinking about it all. I remember my own rush to get things packed before supper - I didn't want to worry about anything on Hallowe'en. I just wanted to enjoy trick-or-treating with F. I can still feel the ache in my heart knowing I had to leave him behind for a while. I don't have words to describe that, even today.

I remember waking up on November 1 and packing the "big stuff" onto the back of Dad's truck, and sharing the drive to Halifax. I remember discovering my apartment door unlocked - and furiously looking for new apartments on the drive back to Cape Breton that night. You don't need to ask how angry I was when I found that same door unlocked shortly afterwards, though both episodes pale in comparison to the hissy fit I threw when I discovered that every single thing I owned was missing from my apartment the week I was due to start classes - just one week later. Sometimes, I honestly don't know how I stuck it out. And by sometimes, I mean all the time. I really must be crazy.

"It's just a year," everyone said.  "It'll fly by. A year is nothing."

In many ways, they were right. It was just a year that flew by. But it wasn't nothing. It was two broken hearts and months and months of heartache. It was tears and sorry and it was laughter and joy and excitement and pride. I didn't think this much could be packed into one year. It was wiping tears from the end of Mom and Dad's driveway to the ferry once a month, and sobbing in the parking lot of the apartment the following week after saying goodbye to F.

The last year has been pretty crazy. A year ago today, F and I dressed as a James the Tank Engine and a Fire Fighter respectively, and we had a fun night. He's not so into dressing up this year, but he rocked his costume at his Hallowe'en party yesterday but told me he's already done all the trick-or-treating he wants to do. Today - one year later - I'm wearing a tutu at the best job I've ever had and he's probably eating a bowl of fruit at daycare with his friends. A year can be huge. It can be life changing.

And it was.

Monday, 28 October 2013


Oh, being a twentysomething.

I'm about to cross the line of just mid-twenties to upper mid-twenties and I'm kind of freaking out, man because this whole growing up this is bologna. Seriously. Who invented this shit? I've got bills on top of bills on top of some cellulite and a handful of wrinkles and WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN? I'm about 90 per cent sure that I spotted a grey hair last week, but my eyesight's so bad I couldn't quite manage to find it to rip it out. There was a time - perhaps not so very long ago - when I thought being a twentysomething was the most glamorous thing in the world. Pfft.

I'm drinking tea, writing this blog with Nair all over my legs and a facemask on. This is so not what I expected the fabulosity of twentysomethighood to be.

A kid YOUNG LADY I used to babysit turned 18 today. WHAT THE WHAT? Is that even possible? Someone stop the world, I need to get off for a minute. I can remember packing up my old Barbie dolls and Polly Pockets - the ones that actually fit in your pocket - to give to this girl when she was preschool-aged. I remember giving her boy advice when I was post-highschool-grad and she was getting ready to enter junior high school. She tweeted a goodbye to her 17th year last night. She has no idea how gone it is.

Because, my gorgeous, young friend... there comes a time in your early adult life when you will find yourself sitting on your bathroom floor attempting an at-home bikini wax (which, FYI, is the dumbest thing you will ever try to do at home, by yourself) and you will also find yourself eating dinner in the bathtub sometimes because you actually don't have enough time to eat and bathe. You will put on a great show of being a grownup, only to call your Mom later because you just totally effed something up and nobody knows how to fix things like a Mom does. And you will undoubtedly sacrifice food that is actually real food with taste so you can buy that fabulous pair of boots and then try to lie to your mother by saying they were on sale. She'll know better.

I think it's a generational thing, this idea that your twenties will be this golden time in your life when everything is roses and everything will just play out magically. It doesn't, and it's not.

But it's amazing and it's worth it. And when all else fails, there is nail polish.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Tanda Zap (review)

I can honestly count on one hand the number of breakouts I had as a teenager.

Seriously. I was blessed with clear skin that rarely broke out throughout junior high and high school, with one "real" breakout in grade 10 which I remember vividly because I was terrified that it was going to last. Figuring I was just lucky, I delved into the world of my 20's without so much as a thought that I might have more than the occasional pimple once a month. 

Then I had F.

I've had more acne in the past two years than I've had in my entire life. I spend most of my time with a series of little blemishes just to the right of my chin between my jawline and the corner of my mouth. I tried the oil cleansing method. I cut pop out of my diet. I even reduced my caffeine intake. I switched moisturizers, multiple times. I changed cleansers. I bought OTC acne products, and I spent a lot of time looking up natural methods of clearing up breakouts. Fact: cinnamon and honey does work, but it's a bitch to get out of your pillowcase if you consider doing the whole overnight treatment mask thing. 

One of the benefits of tanning is that it clears up my acne in about three sessions. The downside is that my acne decides to come back about a week or two after I stop soaking up the UV rays. The truth is a little cluster of blemishes is a pretty tiny deal in comparison to, you know, skin cancer and advanced photoaging of my skin. But the blemishes bother me nevertheless, and while I can photoshop the heck out them in portraits I can't always do the same in real life. When my mom mentioned seeing a blue light machine at Shopper's Drug Mart, I expected it to be outrageously overpriced but I went in to check it out anyway.

Spoiler alert: The Tanda Zap is totally reasonable! Yay!

At $49 CAD plus taxes, the Tanda Zap is cheaper than visiting a dermatologist and considerably cheaper than purchasing an acne treatment collection such as Pro-Activ (which I have never used, so I can't speak to its effectiveness). Most reviewers say that they had to replace their Tanda about once a year - which seems more than reasonable to me. Supposing I had to replace it twice a year, it would still cost me less than ten dollars a month to use. 

But the real question remained: will it work?

After purchasing the Zap, I realized (while laying in the bathtub reading the instructional pamphlet) that I had no AAA batteries. Dang. So I stole some from F's toys. They didn't have *quite* enough juice, so I had to wait one whole day to test it out. Horrors. Once I had the batteries in, I followed the extremely simple directions and pressed the round head to my blemishes and pressed the little triangle "on" button.

Then you just hold it to your face and wait. Easy, right? I know.

The whole process takes around 2 minutes. The light is super bright (it does come with a warning not to look into it. I did. I don't recommend this.) and I really appreciate that it's not a hot light, because my skin would be way too sensitive. You can feel a gentle vibration against your skin and if you're a mom and able to do almost everything with only one-hand anyway, it's really not much of an inconvenience. In case you're wondering, I'm impatient and the thought of not doing something I want to do for 2 whole minutes is pretty much my idea of torture. The pamphlet indicated that you should treat the affected area(s) three times a day, in conjunction with proper cleansing and skincare. By day two of using the product, I could see a huge difference in my skin.

I'm now over a week into the Tanda Zap regime and while my skin hasn't totally cleared up, it has improved enough that just a dusting of makeup completely covers my blemishes. When I feel anything stirring up, I treat it immediately and in two cases, it stopped the blemish before it was visible. Who doesn't love that?

I will admit that I've also drastically changed my skincare regime in the past two weeks to also include Retinoid creams and a more ahem, diligent cleansing routine so this could also have a profound effect on my skin. Bottom line? My skin looks good and that's what I was going for. I love the Tanda and would highly recommend it.

I also noticed that you can purchase another Tanda machine which comes with some anti-aging heads also. While I wasn't really in the market for a nearly $200 product on that particular shopping trip, I would likely consider it in the future. The Tanda Zap comes in a few colours (mine is white), and batteries are sold separately. You can read more about the Tanda Zap on their website.

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Tanda or any other company. My opinions are just that: mine. 

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Breaking Bad (Habits)

I have a confession to make: I take absolutely terrible care of my skin. 

Or, at least, I have been taking terrible care of my skin. I'm trying really hard to better myself, but there are some habits that are just so hard to break. With summer now far behind me (according to the temperatures, anyway), the days of lounging in the sun and sweating in the humid air have been replaced with dark mornings and cold, dry winds. My skin started to feel the difference before I had really clued in, and with my new, heavy moisturizer comes the turning of a new leaf. It's time to take better care of my skin. In just over two weeks since completely overhauling the way I treat my skin, I see a huge difference.

First up on my list of things to do was quit tanning. Quit. Gone. Bye-bye. After years of chasing a golden glow, I've decided that the only glow I'm getting has to come from a bottle. My pale, freckle-covered skin was beginning to show my bad habit a little too much, with clusters of freckles that looked like dark spots and a few more laugh lines than I wanted cropping up. Defense is the best offence here, people, and I don't want the skin of a 40-year-old before I hit 30. I quit tanning 3 weeks ago. I'm now looking pale and loving it.

Yes, I consider this "tanned".
Next, I had to stop going to sleep with makeup on. This was going to be harder. Although my initial thought was to rush out and grab some make-up removing wipes, I had not one, not two but three full-sized bottles of Neutragena face cleansers that needed some attention, so I've been using those instead. In practice, my new night-time regime takes all of 5 minutes. Twice a week I use a gentle scrub to remove all the dead skin. Stay tuned for a review on my Neutragena Pore-Minimizing products - they're ahhh-mazing.

Pale is the new tan.
Then after reading oodles of reviews and speaking directly to a dermatologist, I decided to start using a Retinol cream, beginning with twice a week, in conjunction with a heavy nighttime moisturizer and eye cream. I'm not quite ready to move on to a third time per week, but I've noticed my skin has become much brighter and smoother already. I'll be reviewing my Neostrata Anti-Wrinkle Night Complex soon!

One of my worst skin-care habits is picking at blemishes. I can't. stop. touching. them. AHH! As soon as a pimple begins, I'm on it with tweezers or fingers. One of the bonuses of tanning was that my acne completely disappeared, but I picked up a Tanda Zap and I'm having really great results so far. I'm sorry to say you'll have to wait for that review, too!

Between now and December, I'll be reviewing a beauty product a week! I'll also take some additional photos to show you the progress in my skin, from the blemishes to the fading of my tan and "dark spots". I don't know what kind of damage my skin has already suffered, but I know that I'm going to be more aware and more conscientious in the future... and will look 30 forever. 

... Or something like that.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Best

You only accept the love you think you deserve.

I read this line over and over and realized how true those words have been in my own life, and in the lives of some of those closest to me. It's been a journey of learning and understanding for me to be able to recognize that I have often deserved more than I demanded from myself and others. I spent years as the pushover. I gave up on myself again and again, and I have nothing but a lot of wasted time to show for that. I've accomplished more in the last year than I did in the four preceding it. Why? Because I demanded it of myself.

While there are certainly times that I'm sorry things didn't turn out the way I had expected, first with J and then with Red, the truth is that I'm totally OK without them. Better than OK, actually. Much better. Talking about the issues with J is much like flogging a dead horse at this point, and things with Red are as complicated as they are raw. But, there comes a time when you must accept that you cannot change things and there is so much healing in just letting go

I won't pretend to have it all figured out - I don't. I don't even have half of it figured out, and I won't pretend that my life is always in harmony. There are days when I wish I had something I don't, or I feel a pang of jealousy towards someone else's fortunes. I won't dare admit the number of days I begrudge J and his carefree existence. But is it carefree? I don't know. I do know he's not helping raise his child in any way, shape or form, and sometimes that hurts. But mostly, it doesn't. I decided a long time ago that he was no longer my problem.

Giving ourselves what we deserve can be difficult. Recognizing our worth is often impossible, as we are so clouded by our own harsh criticisms that we cannot see past them. We must learn to give ourselves credit where credit is due, and perhaps most importantly, we have to give ourselves a break every now and again. We can only accept the love we think we deserve. 

What if we all decided we deserve the best?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Thirteen Days

It's been almost two weeks since I've written. 

Thirteen days, to be exact, since I last felt my fingers glide across the keyboard to write for me. A full week passed without a single log in, a single glance at my blog. That never happens. In the year since beginning this blog, I can count on my fingers the number of days I haven't at least checked in, and on fingers and toes the number of days I haven't taken the time to write something, anything - even if I never hit publish.

But that anonymous comment kind of took the wind out of my sails. It hurt. It made me want to walk away from my blog and not look back. It made me re-evaluate whether I want to continue this journey, whether I'm as willing as I once was to put myself out there. I spent so much of my life hiding my true self that it's been both liberating and terrifying to let the world in, but these past two weeks I wondered if I was really willing to pay the price that comes with it.

After writing and posting my response to the comment, I thought I'd let it go but it nagged at me. It made me question myself. It evoked thought. It forced me to take a step back, and as I gingerly step forward again I must admit that it has inspired me.

It inspired me to spend more time with F. It inspired this little video, and the entire day that surrounded it - maybe even the whole weekend. It's inspired me to raise a little boy who will face the type of person who says hurtful, hateful words with strength and courage. 

And after a lot of reflection, it's inspired me to keep going. This journey is mine and no amount of hateful comments will take it away from me.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Dear Anonymous Comment-Leaver

A few months ago, I began moderating the comments on my blog for a number of reasons. The first, was some of the comments were spam, but the greatest reason was I feel no need to have trolls leaving hateful messages on my blog - though the number of times this has happened has been fairly low. This morning, I received one of the ugliest messages I have ever received. Ordinarily, I simply delete comments such as these but today I decided to publish it in my own way. Below is the iPhone screen shot of the email notification I received.

Hi there, Anonymous.

Thanks for stopping by. I genuinely appreciate that you took the time to drop by my blog and read my words. I'd like to be able to appreciate your comment, too, so in an effort to be a better person today, I'll focus on the fact that you took time out of your (no doubt busy) day to actually write a comment.

I'm sorry if my last blog post upset or offended you. That was not the intent. I wrote that with a smile on my face, while F played with his trucks at my feet. That post was a tongue-in-cheek, giggle and move on kind of mindless post that fits into the day that your head feels like it might explode. Raising kids is hard. I suspect you may not have one, otherwise you might have laughed at that post instead of being filled with the kind of rage you obviously were.

I'm sorry for whatever you have going on in your life today that has led you to spreading hateful, hurtful words. While I don't think I've done anything to deserve this, I sure hope mine is the only blog you've trolled with your anger and unkindness. While I'm sure your words were supposed to hurt me, they didn't. Jokes on you, I guess.

Now, before I go on any further I'd like to offer you a very sincere invitation to introduce yourself to me. If you're so convinced of your words, how about say them to my face? Better yet, why don't you come and stay with F and I for a few days and then tell me that I'm a terrible parent? I'd love to host you, and let you get up at 5:15 am and join me in making breakfast for F and I, cleaning our home and then getting everything ready for another long day. I invite you to stay up until 10 pm getting the cleaning done.

While you're calling me a terrible parent, I'd like you to consider that I do this every day by myself. I put myself through school last year so that I could give the kid I "don't deserve" and "don't take care of right" a better life - one where college can be in his future. I bust my ass every week so that we can live in a safe neighbourhood, keep our car on the road, eat healthy foods and enjoy some of the finer things in life. Am I perfect? No. I sincerely hope I never am. Do I screw up? Yep. It's called being human.

I'd like to invite you to work 40 hours a week in-office, taking your work laptop home many evenings and weekends to get stuff done. I invite you to spend your "down time" exercising, so that you can be healthy and strong to support your family. I invite you to try to find time to write because you're trying to show your child the importance of practice, following your passions and pushing yourself. And then, I invite you to call me a terrible parent again.

After you've spent a few days with F and I, I invite you to look me in the eye and tell me that I don't love my child and that I don't take care of him. While you're here, you'll see that I occasionally raise my voice, lose my patience and that I often remain calm and logical while he's completely losing his shit. You'll see that the occasional swear word slips, and that I tell him how special he is and how much I love him approximately 4.3 times per hour. You'll also see that he kicks me, tells me he doesn't love me, throws stuff on the floor and occasionally kicks the cat. It's called toddlerdom, and while it's been known to drive me crazy, I wouldn't trade a minute of it.

Finally, I ask you to do me just one little favour. Go look in the mirror. Now, go look outside. Go to a public place, and watch strangers go by. Do you know their stories? Nope. I don't either. I don't know yours, and you only know a little bit of mine. You don't know the stories of the people in my life or the people who come by my blog every day. For that reason, your comment which was aimed to hurt me could have hurt hundreds of other people and you were too careless or too callous to even consider that.

Did you know that about 1 in 5 women suffer a miscarriage in their first trimester? How about that one woman in 100 will experience a "late miscarriage", one after 14 weeks? Did you know that I had an appointment to have an abortion? Nope, I bet you didn't. I bet you also didn't know that the woman who raised me suffered miscarriages, and that I lost my own son's twin during my first trimester, or that I refused the D&C offered by multiple doctors when I landed in the ER for the second time in as many weeks with serious complications. I loved my baby from the moment I knew I had one, and I have cherished him every minute of every day since I was blessed to have him. Does he drive me crazy? Yup, but that doesn't mean I don't love him or that I neglect him.

 If you want to attack me for being a shitty parent who doesn't give a damn, you go right ahead but check your facts first, and don't you dare tell me that I should have had a miscarriage or abortion. You know that line "walk a mile in someone's shoes"? You wouldn't make it out of the parking lot.

I know you won't identify yourself, and I'm equally as confident that you won't comment on this post, but I hope that you do know that I'm not angry or hurt by your comment, and I invite you to comment again. If you want to troll around the world spreading anger and hate, I suggest you prepare for a very sad, lonely existence. Let it go. Life is too short.



Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Truth About Toddlers (hint: they suck)

I love F.

At the end of the day, with all the screaming and the whining and the pleading and the spitting and the potty mouth and all of the other less-than-glamorous stuff, there's nothing I love more than wrapping him up in my arms and snuggling. In a lot of ways, he really is the best but the cold, hard truth is that toddlers are the worst in a whole lot of ways. Have you ever seen a toddler meltdown? Yeah. Exactly.
convincing, no? don't let him fool you.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that even though I really, really, REALLY love him, sometimes he's pretty hard to like (which, as far as I'm concerned is a part of the human condition). I remember his second birthday vividly - especially the part where everyone made jokes like "now it begins" "here come the terrible twos".


Two was a walk in the park. Three? Now that's where it gets interesting. Three was like dragging a screaming toddler across a park because it's time to leave and he doesn't want to. Oh, wait. No that was yesterday. Funny that. 

My favourite thing about toddlerhood is that kids are coming into themselves. They're figuring out what they like and what they don't like, and they are adamant about these two extremes with very little in the way of "middle ground". Tolerance and toddlers just don't go together, unless you're a parent trying very hard to tolerate your child at which point I recommend wine, or coffee or both in excess. Especially the wine.

Toddlers are impossible to predict - no matter how well you think you may know them. F often likes his sandwich cut in half, but every now and again he doesn't so WATCH YOURSELF if you cut it without asking. Mercy. Think Hulk only less green and instead of ripping his shirt off he pulls it over his head and gets stuck, thus actually needs my help (but would never admit to it).

They also seem to know words that they shouldn't know, and I'll take it one step further by pointing out that the little buggers darlings know the exact friggin' context in which to use them. Merde. Have you ever heard a 3-year-old sling a four-letter-word, while holding a sippy cup? Tis a sight to behold, lemme tell ya. In F's defense, he probably learned them from me. In my defense, I have nothing to say for myself. Fisherman's daughter, yo.

Toddlers are experts at embarrassing the hoozy-whatzit out of you at the most inopportune moments. No really, take your kid to that public washroom with you. It's a great idea, until they open the door and expose you, squatting precariously over the toilet and cursing yourself for not having stronger legs (while simultaneously telling yourself that this quick trip to the loo constitutes a workout). Then you can just wait until they tell everyone you see about whatever other private business didn't want advertised the exact second your kid sees a person. "D'ya know what my Mom did? She pooped in the toilet this morning."

Thanks, kid.

And finally, much like the teenagers they are all-too-soon to become, toddlers have mood swings that would give a person whiplash. One minute it's all lovey-dovey, and the next minute you're the monster that lives under the bed and they don't want to be your friend anymore. While I regularly lament that my toddler thinks he's a teenager, I *almost* look forward to when he's a teenager so I can just leave him to his brooding and go to Starbucks and drink the largest caffeinated beverage I can find WITH WHIPPED CREAM and possibly even enjoy it while it's still hot. Something tells me people might get upset if I tried this with my occasionally angst-ridden toddler.

Now, I do have to point out that F is a pretty good little guy most of the time. I'd like to think that this is indicative of me doing something right, but perhaps he was born with it? In the middle of his biggest meltdowns, I try to remind myself that he's had a lot to cope with and overcome and then sometimes I join him. But when we're both tired and overwhelmed or there was something he wanted and couldn't have, you might say SHIT HITS THE FAN. Wear gloves.

It's a special age, and the truth is that it is flying by faster than F can race me up the stairs (which, might I add, is very fast). It's hard when he's his super pleasant self, but it's pretty well impossible when he's not. While I wouldn't trade him in for all the pumpkin spice lattes in the world, I can honestly tell you that I look forward to embarrassing the shit out of that kid when he gets a little older. I wonder what his first date will think of me making her privy to his bathroom schedule? ;)