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Postcard from the Cottage

Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I'm sending you a postcard from the cottage, where I'm having a great time watching movies, doing crafts with my youngest (our project for tonight is to glue buttons to old picture frames), watching my husband test-drive his "brand new to him" runabout boat (it hardly leaks at all), and making a few jaunts to quirky local stores (including a really cool gem store in Wilberforce).

  • I have to tell you about Starlite Gems in Wilberforce, in case you happen to be passing through. (Wilberforce is west of Bancroft and near the south end of Algonquin Park, just to give you some rough coordinates.) Starlite Gems carries used books -- I found a vintage guide to knitting and crocheting, which will be a Christmas gift for my friend C. this year -- but its real claim to fame is its collection of gems. I purchased some slices of outcroppings of rocks and minerals. I'll post some photos when I get home. (At my dialup speed, I would be home by the time the photos uploaded!)

  • I participated at a book-signing on the weekend at the Peterborough Chapters store. It was a fundraiser for the local Ontario Early Years Centre (a.k.a. The Peterborough Family Resource Centre, formerly known as the Peterborough Family Enrichment Centre). When Brad, the Chapters Store Manager, asked me if I was willing to be part of the fundraiser for the Centre, I didn't hesitate to say yes. The Centre kept me sane when I was a totally overwhelmed new mom. (My first baby was colicky and I was totally shocked and unprepared for the reality of motherhood. Some days I still am. I quickly learned that the best way to get through those really dark days was to learn as much as I could about all my parenting options, talk honestly about my experiences with other mothers, and to trust my ability to make the best possible choices for my baby. If you have read any of my books, you will realize what an impact my experiences at the Centre had on my philosophies as a mom and as a parenting author.

  • Does anyone know how to post to Blogger via email? I'm up at the cottage using dial-up and it can take up to 20 minutes to load the Blogger "create post" form. That's painfully slow, given how addicted I've become to high-speed. Yes, I know the universe wants me to experience s-l-o-w-n-e-s-s, but I'd rather be experience that on the deck, reading a novel, or a book on writing fiction, rather than watching the Blogger form create itself at a pace that would have a turtle begging for mercy.

  • I'm getting organized for fall -- specifically the start of the revisions for The Mother of All Pregnancy Books -- Canadian edition. If you've always been meaning to send me some comments on how that book could be improved, this would be a great time to do so. To ensure your words of wisdom don't get eaten up by the spam-o-meter, it would be great if you could send them via my assistant Florence. She will gather everything up for me in a single, spam-free place.) You can contact Florence at florencekraft at gmail.com.

Hope everyone is enjoying this last bit of summer before the kids head back to school. I know some of you live by different school calendars than what's in place in my part of the world, so if your kids are already back in school, I hope the new school-year routines are proving to be energizing rather than totally overwhelming. (There's a fine line between revitalizing and crazy-making, isn't there?)

| posted by Ann D @ 12:35 PM

The Best Things in Life Are Free

Thursday, August 24, 2006
Here's a list entitled The Best Things in Life Are Free that I put together at ThisNext.com (a.k.a. "addiction central"). Hope you enjoy it and find some ideas, experiences, and other "free stuff" that seem tailor-made just for you.

| posted by Ann D @ 2:59 PM

Momosphere Mail

Sheila C was kind enough to drop me a line to let me know that The Mother of All Baby Books had received a nice recommendation from Moxie of Ask Moxie fame. Pretty cool. Thanks Sheila and Moxie.

Last night I received a fall flyer from Mabel's Labels telling me all the exciting things I could do with labels this fall (like I'm not addicted enough, thank you very much). Low and behold, there was a note at the bottom of the newsletter thanking me for donating copies of two of my recent books to a contest that Labelmiester-in-Chief Julie Cole had dreamed up in the spring. I thought it was pretty neat that Julie was sending out mail about me just as I was blogging about her a few days back. Coincidence? Momkarma? You be the judge.

| posted by Ann D @ 2:48 PM

"Safe" Schools

When we were shopping for school supplies at Staples this week, I noticed that our local store was selling a lockable metal pencil box that looked a bit like a miniature office safe. Has it come to this? Do parents have to send kids off to school with a safe to prevent their school supplies from getting ripped off? How bad is the stealing at your kids' school?

| posted by Ann D @ 2:02 PM

Mom University: Virginia Collins, High-Risk Doula, Childbirth Educator, Bereavement Facilitator, Etc.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Mom University is back after a long hiatus with an interview with Virginia Collins. It's hard to capture everything Virginia Collins does in a single headline, so I'm going to allow her in reintroduce herself in a moment, but to most of us who know and love her, she's just "Virginia," that warm presence at doula and childbirth conferences who shows up out of nowhere, gives you a hug, and wows you with her enthusiasm and passion for all things pregnancy and mom-related.

Ann: Okay, Virginia, for those people who haven't had the pleasure of meeting you, please reintroduce yourself and give us all your "handles."

Virginia: I'm Virginia Collins. I'm Canada's first, certified, Antepartum Doula; the Director for the Antepartum Doula Programme for CAPPA Canada; a high-risk doula; a Childbirth Educator; a Bereavement Facilitator; the wife of Dave and the mother of Matt and Alex, my two, fine, mostly-grown sons. I am also the owner of The Childbirth Experience – providing support and service for caregivers and families involved in higher risk pregnancies, and I play a mean game of Trivial Pursuit.

Ann: What led you to leave your previous job to try something new?

Virginia: For 25 years, I've been a front line heath care worker, mostly as a medical assistant, the last ten of which were with Dr. Jon Barrett, a specialist in high-risk pregnancy at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. At my jobs, I've always found myself doing patient education and I've always been an eager student, picking up knowledge like a magpie collects shiny things. I also like to share it with anyone who wants to hear it. Over the years, I became recognized as a resource facilitator. Doctors and patients have sought me out: "Ask Virginia, she'll know".

But after attending my first delivery, I was hooked. I knew I had to find a way to make this my life's work. Childbirth Education provided a way to combine my love of learning and teaching with my love of pregnancy and the birthing experience.

Yet, I was only able to help the few women who would come through the doors of the office. When the opportunity came along for me to develop the Antepartum Doula Programme, I realized I could help women across Canada. I also realized I would have to devote myself to it full-time. While I loved my job and was sad to go, I knew this was something I had to do.

Ann: What sparked this passion in you?

Virginia: I remember in Grade 12, my human biology teacher talked to us about attending the birth of his child. At the time, it was unusual for men to do that and he was so excited to have been there. I remember thinking it would be so "cool" to see someone being born.

At the outset of my career, I worked for a marvelous Obstetrician, who was happy to teach me anything I wanted to learn. He was supportive and encouraged me to do more. He was the first of several doctors I was fortunate enough to work for who fostered my thirst for knowledge and my love of educating.

After taking childbirth education classes, and giving birth to my own children, I realized that, whatever else happened, I wanted to teach others about this wondrous and empowering experience. I have been working towards that goal ever since

Ann: What do you love most about your work?

Virginia: I think that what I love most about my work is when I am able to help people empower themselves and achieve their pregnancy and delivery goals. It gives me an incredible high.

Ann: You make such a difference in the lives of the families you touch. How would you describe your role?

Virginia: More than anything, I see myself as a facilitator, providing resources and education that help women and their families to create the best experience possible for themselves, regardless of their circumstances.

Ann: What are some of your happiest memories of times when you have been able to make a difference in the lives from the families you have worked with?

Virginia: I supported a couple in the delivery of a second child following the stillbirth of their first daughter. When their baby girl came out and made her first noise, there was such a huge wave of joy coming from everyone. Her parents told me that because they felt well supported and cared for it allowed them to be less anxious and feel happiness about being pregnant and celebrate the birth of this baby.

The first time I assisted a woman who was determined to have an unmedicated birth. She surprised herself with her own ability, and impressed the staff, many of whom had never witnessed an unmedicated birth. It was beautiful, and it was a wonderfully affirming experience for us all.

Ann: Is there anything else you'd like to say?

Virginia: The fantasy of pregnancy -- the whole "What to Expect" -- culture has left higher-risk women behind. They are alienated from our baby world and aware of being frightening to the mainstream. During their pregnancy and labour, they are poked and prodded more than most, offered cold statistics and guarded answers to their questions. Often they can often be left with the feeling that they are merely a walking pathology. Additionally, there can be an increased expectation of failure, coming from themselves as well as their caregivers. I do not want this to continue. Somebody has to stand up and yell, and it looks like it is going to have to be me. So here I am.

Ann: Thank you, Virginia.

To find out more about Virginia Collins and her work with families, visit her at her website The Childbirth Experience. You can also catch up with Virginia at CanadianParents.com, where she co-monitors the childbirth experts board.

| posted by Ann D @ 8:44 PM

Your Next Addiction: This Next

Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I know that Dani counts on me to find new things for her to do in her spare time, and I do hate to let her down, so I felt obliged to post about This Next -- a fun site which allows you to recommend things you like to other people. I've been recommending books about writing and some other things of interest to mothers and/or writers, including Mabel's Labels. Here's my list.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:51 AM

Bancroft, Ontario: Where to Shop for the Stuff You Really Want

Monday, August 21, 2006
This is not the definitive guide to shopping in Bancroft. I haven't been to every store in town yet (we've only had the cottage for three years), and there are new stores opening all the time. But this is a list of three stores I absolutely love to visit -- and that you'd probably love to visit, too, if you're into things like old books, homemade soap, interesting art supplies, antiques, fair trade coffee, cool purses, interesting housewares, and other Ann-ish things.

Ashlie's Books proudly proclaims that it is "the last bookstore for 67 km" -- and it takes that responsibility seriously, carrying an eclectic mix of new and used books. I've had great luck finding vintage pregnancy and parenting books, etiquette guides, and classic cookbooks at Ashlie's, many of which served as inspiration for my book Canuck Chicks and Maple Leaf Mamas: Women of the Great White North. My most recent find? A six-volume set of encyclopedias on motherhood for $10.

The Old Tin Shed serves up an irresistible mix of stuff from times past and present --we're talking books, antiques, gift products, hardware, greeting cards, jewelry, and other houseware and personal care items. I've purchased a number of old wooden boxes (a long-standing addiction of mine) at the Old Tin Shed, as well as gift items galore. It's a truly amazing -- and inspiring -- place. One important shopping tip: if you spot a one-of-a-kind item you like, pick it up and carry it with you while you shop. Otherwise, by the time you make up your mind and decide you want it, it will be gone. I missed out on an $18 wooden tool caddy the other week. It was gorgeous, inexpensive, and it could have been mine. She who hesitates is lost.

The Mad River Consignment Company is my kind of store -- and it's not just because a huge coffee emporium greets you the moment you walk through the front door. I love the fact that the store offers a motley assortment of everything that I love: vintage household items and furniture, old books, art supplies, SIMPLE soap (made by an entrepreneur-friend of mine who lives in Peterborough), gorgeous minerals which hardly cost anything (Bancroft is the mineral capital of Canada), cool purses and jewelry, and so on. I also think the woman who operates the store -- Wendy -- is cool beyond words. She's really supportive of the arts in Bancroft and she's so warm and welcoming to her customers. She's the kind of person you'd love to have as a friend or neighbour. She is "good people!"

Something else you need to know about Bancroft -- particularly if you're shopping with young children -- is that washrooms are in insanely short supply. I suggest you hit the Tim Horton's near Canadian Tire. (Buy a coffee to make it legit.) If anyone has the lowdown on other washrooms in downtown Bancroft, post away. This is the kind of thing would-be shoppers need to know!

| posted by Ann D @ 12:33 AM

Christie Blatchford's Columns on Sharon Shore

Sunday, August 20, 2006
What feels like justice doesn't always mesh with the rules of justice, so it's always a sweet surprise when justice rules on the side of someone you're really "pulling for" -- even if that person is a complete stranger. I can't tell you how happy and relieved I was to learn from Christie Blatchford's column that the Law Society of Upper Canada has decided not to oppose Sharon Shore's call to the bar (National Post, August 19, 2006). (For the full story, read Christie Blatchford's previous columns on Sharon Shore's case:last Friday, last Wednesday and back in June).

I think most thinking, feeling human beings could understand what led Sharon Shore to purge that offending document from her daughter's file. It was an act of love by a grieving mother -- a desire to honour and protect her daughter's memory.

The tragedy of this case is not merely that Sharon Shore has been such down such a long and difficult path since her daughter's death eight years ago: it's that the medical and legal systems have let Sharon Shore down every step of the way. Until this week, that is. Finally someone gave this woman of "exemplary character" a break. Maybe there is justice after all.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:37 PM

BBC News Story on "The Cult of The Sound of Music"

Friday, August 18, 2006
Nancy is going to love this story from today's BBC News website. (I have to admit. It made my own heart skip a beat, movie musical fan that I am.)

"It's based on a true story. It's got children. Scenery. Singing nuns. It's even got Nazis. Little wonder The Sound of Music is one of a select group of films with both mass appeal and an enthusiastic cult following." Read the rest of the article.

A Few of My Favorite Websites

A certain blogger named Marla gave me a supremely cool The Sound of Music album/scrapbook when we got together in the spring. Aren't I lucky?

| posted by Ann D @ 8:35 AM

Parenting Magazines, Parenting Blogs, and Parenting Websites: Do Parents Have Different Expectations When it Comes to Factual Accuracy?

Thursday, August 17, 2006
Here's something I've been thinking about a lot lately -- ever since I came across some rather odd "reader parenting tips" in a major parenting magazine recently. I'm wondering if most parents have different expectations of the content they encounter in parenting magazines than they do of the material they encounter on parenting websites or in parenting blogs.

Do you expect material in parenting magazines to have gone through a more rigorous fact-checking process, by virtue of the fact that it's "in print", than the information you encounter on parenting websites and/or in parenting blogs?

What if the material that is being presented is a batch of "parenting tips" from readers?

If a parenting magazine publishes parenting tips that are sent in by its readers, does that parenting magazine have an obligation to filter out tips that contain incorrect, dated, or dangerous recommendations?

If so, what should the parenting magazine use as its yardsticks in assessing the validity of those parenting tips?

If you were reading the magazine in question, would you assume that the magazine was endorsing the incorrected, dated, or dangerous information that it published, even if that information was presented as "reader parenting tips"?

I am really fascinated by this issue and I really look forward to hearing what any/all have to say about parents' expectations of the various types of media they turn to. If anyone wants to extend the conversation into other media -- radio, TV, podcasts, etc., go for it. I think that would be fascinating, too.

| posted by Ann D @ 6:37 PM

The Motherlode Conference

Shelley was asking about the Association for Research on Mothering (ARM) and The Motherlode Conference. I've added details about the Motherlode Conference to the sidebar of my website, where it will remain until Conference Day. I'm really pumped about the Motherlode Conference because it features so many mother researchers whose works I've admired forever and because it will give me the perfect excuse to hang out in Toronto with some of my favorite mom/bloggers as we co-lead this session:

Mama's Got a Brand New Blog: The Rise of the Weblog and its Impact on Mothering

  • Mothering in the Age of Blog: Ann Douglas (author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books)

  • Welcome to My Sandbox: Danielle Donders (Communications Strategist)

  • A Blog of One's Own: Marla Good (Freelance Writer)

  • I've Been There, Too: Andrea McDowell (Editor, TheWholeMom.com)

  • Tool of Revolution or Online Shrine to Parental Self-Absorption: Jen Lawrence (Creator, T.O Mama)

I'm also going to be doing a solo session on the history of the modern pregnancy book:

Modern Pregnancy: Doing it By the Book

  • Ann Douglas (author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books)

A whole flock of other mom/writers/researchers will be heading to the conference -- Andi Buchanan, Amy Tiemann, Miriam Peskowitz, Faulkner Fox, to name just a few of the dozens of fascinating women who will be conference bound. I would encourage any mom who can make it to the Greater Toronto Area that weekend to block off these four days on her calendar now. This is the most exciting motherhood conference event ever. I am thrilled and honoured to be a part of it.

Don't miss out. Grab a mom-friend and plan to make a date of this four-day celebration of everything mom. If you plan to attend the Motherlode Conference, you'll want to register soon. The registration deadline is September 12, 2006.

| posted by Ann D @ 4:43 PM

How Parents Are Using the Internet

Wednesday, August 16, 2006
This Pew Internet Life report -- The Internet's Growing Role in Life's Major Moments -- points out how the Internet has evolved from a one-way communication tool (a place where online materials spoke at you) to a place where ideas and support are actively exchanged.

While the document talks about ways the Internet helps individuals to cope with illness, financial crises, and other major life adjustments, oddly enough the researchers neglected to consider how the Internet assists with The Mother of All Life Adjustments -- becoming a new parent.

With an estimated 32 million moms seeking out parent-driven content (think Parent Hacks) and mom-to-mom or parent-to-parent support (the kind of sharing that happens in the blogs we all know, love, bookmark, and gravitate towards day after day), I wish the Pew researchers had focused more on how parents use the Internet. We're looking for more than just help choosing a college for junior -- the only parent-specific "major moment" that the Pew report zeroes in on.

I think that the real "major moments" for parents (and parents-to-be) happen a whole lot sooner than that -- when you're trying to conceive (and stuck in "pregnancy limbo -- when it's too early to test), dealing with infertility (primary or secondary), miscarriage, stillbirth, grief, pregnancy worries and concerns, adoption issues, new parent panic, relationship worries and concerns, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding issues, bad/bossy advice, the joys and challenges of parenting a child with any kind of special issue/need (and that covers a huge range of kids), dealing with your own needs when you're a mom, postpartum depression, toddler freakouts (yours and theirs), playgroup etiquette (yours and theirs), birthday party insanity, healthcare scares (yours and theirs), school issues, tween issues, body image concerns, teen issues, dating issues..... and it goes on and on.

If you type "parenting help" into Google, you'll get 70,300,000 hits. (Surprisingly, if you type "parenting advice," you'll only get 28,800,000 hits. Now that's a surprise!)

Type "choosing a college" and you'll get 53,600,000 hits (as opposed to 2,010,000 for "choosing childcare"). Clearly parents -- and teens -- are expending a lot of angst when it comes to finding the right college. But that doesn't mean that the Internet is a college-choosing tool only for parents. Far from it. Just look at the sheer number of parenting blogs (I get 14,000,000 hits when I search that term on Google.) And I've yet to stumble across a blog devoted to choosing a college for junior. (I imagine there are plenty out there. I just haven't found one yet. However, that's going to be on my parental radar screen this year, so if links to blogs like "Crabby and College Poor" and "Testy Because of Tuition" show up in my links, you'll know what's up.)

[Note: it's really hard to find Dad-specific Internet stats. (Mom-specific stats are quite plentiful.) If anyone knows of any good Dad Internet usage stats, please let me know.]

| posted by Ann D @ 12:25 PM

The Belly Beautiful

Have you guys discovered Pregnant Belly Gallery? I found it via Parenting Pop Culture.

| posted by Ann D @ 10:15 AM

Prenatal Depression Undertreated: U of Michigan

A study of 1836 pregnant women found that the majority of women who are experiencing a serious depression are not being treated for the condition. The researchers found that only 33% of moms-to-be who were experiencing the most severe symptoms of depression were receiving some sort of treatment -- medication, "talk therapy," or other forms of treatment.

Many women are never formally screened for depression during pregnancy and many fail to recognize the symptoms of depression in themselves, mistaking fatigue, low mood, and sleep problems for pregnancy symptoms. According to the researchers involved in the study, the following symptoms should not be treated as "normal" pregnancy rites of passage. It's possible a woman may be suffering from depression:

two or more weeks of depressed mood, decreased interest or pleasure in activities, change in appetite, change in sleep patterns, fatigue or loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, excessive feelings of worthlessness or guilt, thoughts of suicide, extreme restlessness and irritability.

For more information on depression during pregnancy, visit the the U-M Depression Center Web site.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:34 AM

Will That Be "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006
I picked up an extra phone for the office at Canadian Tire the other day, so that my new assistant, Florence, would have a phone for her desk. (Up until then, we'd been sharing the same phone, which was kind of awkward.)

Anyway, the first time Florence put someone on hold, the phone started playing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to entertain the caller on hold.

We've since discovered that the phone also plays 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'.

I imagine it also plays other songs, but we're too scared to use the hold button now. We can only play with this feature after hours, for fear of traumatizing any other clients.

I don't know who picked the music for this phone (I didn't even realize the phone had a built in "music on hold" feature until the first time it started playing music), but I'm imagining the "music on hold" programmer has since moved on to the karaoke machine business.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:53 AM

When Grandparents Provide Childcare

Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I just did an interview with a US journalist who is working on a story about grandparents providing childcare for their grandkids -- something I talk about in my book Choosing Childcare for Dummies. She is interested in interviewing American parents who have used this type of childcare (e.g., care provided by grandparents). If you are interested in sharing your experience, please email me c/o my assistant Florence and she will pass your email on to the reporter right away. (The reporter needs to finish her story by Friday, so she needs to hear from you ASAP if you're interested in being interviewed.)

| posted by Ann D @ 3:54 PM

Fridge Full of Rotten Food -- Yum!

Monday, August 07, 2006
It's always nice to have a unifying theme to your posts.

We got up to the cottage on Saturday, not knowing if we had electricity or not, and, as it turned out, the cottage had lost power on Wednesday night, along with many other homes and cottages in central Ontario. (The cottage is still without power, in fact, and likely will be until the middle of this week.) So instead of spending the weekend up north, enjoying sun and fun, we removed the rotting food from the refrigerator, disinfected everything to the best of our ability (using cold water and cleaners and disinfectant wipes), and headed home.

And when we pulled out the refrigerator to clean up the puddle of gunge underneath, we found a dinner-plate sized ant hill. The ant mommies and ant daddies had been busy, because there were gizillions of ant eggs. We wiped out the entire civilization. It's actually in a garbage can in my garage here at home. (The dump in cottage country was closed so we had to transport all the fridge slime plus the ant colony back to Peterborough.)

| posted by Ann D @ 11:37 AM

Del.icio.us -- Yum!

You've no doubt noticed my del.icio.us tags and my del.icio.us tag cloud in the sidebar on the left in recent weeks. The content changes constantly because -- most days -- I add at least a few new pages to my del.icio.us bookmarks, which changes the entries that show up in this blog. Because I'm constantly researching pregnancy and parenting issues -- and reading up on motherhood, women's issues, women's health, and pretty much anything else that catches my interest and attention on any given day (productivity, biology, body image, art), you'll find a motley assortment of links if you start exploring my links. If you'd like to have my links sent to your del.icio.us links sent to your del.icio.us inbox, all you have to do is join my network. (Just click on the "Add me to your network" icon in the sidebar.)

| posted by Ann D @ 11:21 AM

Scrabble Purse

Wednesday, August 02, 2006
This purse is so cool. I just don't think I could explain it to my husband. Maybe that's why the product is no longer available. They mistook the Paris Hiltons of the world for their target market.

| posted by Ann D @ 3:24 PM

Holiday Perfectionism in August

Yes, it's that crazy time of year when the magazine world is thinking about the holiday season. So if some of you can do a mental mindshift from sweltering heat and put yourself in the world of snowflakes and holiday shopping and family get-togethers, I'm looking for stories about holiday perfectionism -- specifically how you stopped being a holiday perfectionist ("How I learned to love the less-than-perfect gingerbread house") or how you've become less of a holiday perfectionist ("It's okay if one of the tree ornaments doesn't quite match the others -- really") over the years. Please email me if you have a story to share. (Write perfectionism in the subject line so you don't get gobbled up by the spam eater. Thanks.)

PS -- You have to be Canadian for this story. And, no, it's not because we Canadians live closer to the North Pole and think we have special proprietary rights to Santa or snowflakes or anything evil like that. It's because the magazine that I'm writing for this time around happens to be a Canadian magazine.

| posted by Ann D @ 2:56 PM