Friday, February 27, 2015

Can You Avoid Gender Stereotypes with Babies?

Does a baby’s gender affect the way you treat them? I wish the answer was no.

I look good in blue, no?
This day and age we have access to unlimited information about stereotyping and it's affects. We know the history (HIS story) of patriarchy and recognize society sends very clear messages about gender roles.We know that if a child does not quite fit the typical mold bullying can occur, or worse.

I’ve taken many Women’s Studies courses in undergrad and graduate school. I read The Feminine Mystique in my free time. I follow Miss Representation on Facebook. After a brief skeptical stint I'm still a proud feminist. So why did I start treating my pregnancy differently when I found out I was having a girl?

Until my 20 week scan I was convinced my little bean was a boy. I referred to my fetus as ‘dude.’ I cycled to work, went to the gym several times a week, ate homemade mayo (twice!) I came thisclose to ordering little boy clothes on Etsy.

All because some quack psychic told you you were going to have boys back in 2002

Perhaps I wanted to be okay with a boy because of my desperation for a little girl. Again, Why?



To understand my own mother?

Fear of my own energetic and sleepless little brother?

When I found out a little girl was en route- my attitude and behavior changed. This little bean seemed much more fragile. I stopped cycling to work as often and was more anxious when I did. I put the bike away for good shortly thereafter. Could this be decades of subconscious gender conditioning at work?

Girl-confirmation-day was the happiest, most emotional one of my life (even better than the day she was born). I cried with joy, and then anguish. I knew that bringing a girl into this world meant that I had to take on A LOT of responsibility. I had to teach her how to be a woman (however you define that) how to have self respect, how to prevent men from taking advantage of her, how to be smart, kind, caring and how to value substance.

I told relatives that we are not allowed to call her pretty or cute without also saying she is clever and smart- by the time Lavinia turned one that plan went out the window because she loved it when something was ‘pretty,’ so if her dinner had to be 'pretty' in order to get her to eat it...Nuff said.

I catch myself calling her a 'good little girl' even though I know it's wrong to praise girls for being 'good' and boys for being 'active.' I know in my brain that I want her to be on equal footing with any boy her age but I can see the differences between them so clearly. The little boys in our Mum's Group play differently than the girls do. Lavinia dodges those little guys at every turn as they wrestle and bump around the room (she competes with their noise by whining however).

The thing is, there are differences between the genders that are undeniable and detectable early on. Do I think this is cause for sweeping generalizations? Absolutely not. So how have I fallen into the stereotype fountain while walking and looking at my iPhone at the same time? I should know better. Women younger than myself are distancing themselves from feminism at an alarming rate, no wonder I feel the need to set a better example.

We don't have to get nuts about what extremists on both sides of the argument have to say. Let's just play nice. Feminism is the simple concept that men and women should be treated equally even though they have differences (nature vs nurture debate not happening here.) Fair enough too.

So how can we parent (both mothers and fathers) as feminists? My daughter loves accessories, combs her hair and adores applying lotion and sunblock. She gravitates toward stuffed toys, nurtures them, pretends to feed them and make them go nite-nite. She also loves cars and building blocks. I avoid dressing her in pink most of the time though she grabs for the tutu's in her closet (that grandma buys her) and I realize that my influence is just that, influence not control. I can only hold out hope that one day she like, if not appreciate, her science-themed nursery.

Sometimes I like to dress myself. I call this Elf chic.

All I can do is present her with options and try to keep my own biases out of the way (if that’s even possible). As long as she remains the expressive, sweet, feisty, determined little person she is, I will support her even if she wants Barbies and sparkles or combat boots and neckties (I'm aware these too, are stereotypes) Because I am her mother and I will love her no matter what.

Parents who have a child of each gender- do you find yourself raising them differently even if you try not to?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

International Travel With Baby: Plus Free Packing Checklist!

When your life exists on two continents long-haul travel is unavoidable and expensive.  When you add a child to the mix  it  becomes terrifyingly daunting as well.

In this post I will try to let you know what to expect because half the battle is mental.  I'll describe how I survived the first 30 hour journey with my six-month-old daughter. I will also provide a detailed list of what I brought along with me and why. Don't forget to download the free packing checklist at the end of the post.  I hope it helps! x

Seasoned parents told me; the younger the baby, the easier the journey.  I guess it makes sense. At just a few months old they can't run away from you and only eat, sleep, poop...and cry.  I took Lavinia from Melbourne, Australia to Buffalo, New York when she was just a little nugget. Looking back, she was the perfect age to travel yet I was waaaaay to stressed to appreciate that fun fact. 

Still in the midst of my post-natal depression and anxiety I flippin' freaked about what to pack and how to carry it all without the help of a donkey or elephant.  In addition to my packing woes I also had some new-Mom-guilt attacking me over taking the baby out of her routine (let alone exposure to germs and recycled air.)  

I needed more than Google.  I asked some of my ex-pat Mum friends for advice, looked online, and even ordered a book about 'flying with baby.' After reading the first chapter I didn't sleep a wink and had the good sense to delete it from my kindle at daybreak.  Seriously, a whole chapter on airport strollers!! Way too much information. Brain no comprende.

Disclaimer: The journey was completely and totally worth it. I got to introduce my beautiful little girl to the rest of her family and her other home. 

As soon as I got out of my own head and up into the air I realized that traveling is still a part of who I am. I'm glad fear did not prevent me from hiding my baby away in the Melbourne suburbs forever.

Recently my cousin had to travel from the USA to Germany with her baby girl and she asked me for advice.  It brought back sharp memories of researching myself into a tizz before my own trip. I still had my original packing list and figured this information might actually be useful to others as well.

So brave parental travelers...Here are my humble words of wisdom.

What to Expect Once you Arrive at your Destination
  1. The first and most important thing to keep in mind is your baby’s jet lag.  Be prepared for a few difficult nights. Luckily I was able to feed Lavinia back to sleep when she woke up confused and freaked out by the time change and new environment.
  2. When you arrive immediately put your baby in her routine on the current time at your destination.  It took my little angel 3-4 nights to adjust which was a result of her barely sleeping on the journey.  A blessing in disguise I suppose!
  3. They say that getting the little bug out into the midday sunlight helps them adjust to the new time-zone more quickly.  A little walk outside each day can’t hurt either of you, even in winter.
What to Carry How to Carry it and What to Wear
  1. Forget about bringing anything to entertain yourself.  I had two magazines with me at the start but ditched them before I even boarded the first plane in Melbourne. Even if you do have a few spare moments of peace you'll probably be like me and race to the galley begging for white wine.
  2. I dressed my baby in: A Bonds Wondersuit to fly and took an extra one.  These suits are great because they have a two way zip and little fold-over mits that cover both the hands and feet for extra warmth.
  3. I decided against a stroller because I could not find an airport stroller that reclined.  It may have been handy but we didn’t need one.  Many airports lend strollers/prams however I was not so lucky when I checked in at MEL as they were all out.
  4. I wore a 'cute' pair of sweatpants and slip-on flat sneakers plus a v-neck T with button-down over it so I could breastfeed easily and a lightweight hoodie (layers are key- it gets cold up in the sky.) I also had a change of clothes in case I got barfed on... or worse.
  5. I carried a diaper bag with everyday supplies, and a rolling carry-on with the rest of our gear.  I wore a travel baby carrier that was lightweight and folds up into a pouch.

The entire list of what I brought with notes
A diaper bag- with normal day supplies in it.
A carry-on rolling bag with the rest of baby supplies.
A small purse that I could easily shove into one of the other bags. It contained our passports, a pen for filling out customs cards, my wallet, blistex and our itinerary
An Ergo Travel Baby Carrier- this is great because it folds up into a pouch. I hooked a carabineer onto mine so I could clip it someplace out of the way when not in use.
Remember: you are carrying all this stuff plus a baby so go easy on yourself.
Diapers, bring enough for a whole day, I brought too many and they took up lots of room in my carry on. At least they were not heavy
Diaper baggies for dirty ones
A few travel packets of wipes and some extra in the carry on
Change mats bring at least 2!
Hat (it gets really cold on the plane so be prepared to bundle her up)
Sleeping bag
Extra pjs, and onsies. It's a good idea to bring plenty of layering options in case it's warm or cold (it tends to be freezing on planes but you never know) extra baby clothes are one thing that don't take up lots of room and are worth bringing
Teething Rings and rusks and cookies
Bottles x2 with cool boiled water* (I was breastfeeding at the time so just in case)
Food pouches, spoons and bibs (each in a separate ziplock bag)
Formula pre-measured pouches
(feed or get her to suck on off and landing for her ears)
Lotion and Bottom balm (for dryness)
Bach’s Rescue Remedy (for me) and homeopathic jet lag pills (for both of us)
An empty water bottle and snacks (for me) you'll need them.
2 swaddles
A few burp cloths
Socks hand mittens
For me:
A change of clothes
Lip Blam
Contacts, Saline and Glasses
Facial Wipes
Travel deodorant

*make sure to dump and rinse any bottles with excess formula in the airplane bathroom. Security made my Mummy-friend take a sip out of each 'leftover' bottle at Heathrow airport after a 14 hour flight.  Have you ever smelled old formula? Dis. Gus. Ting.

Further Research:
My friend Bec also did some recon for me and sent through this article. It is one of the most helpful ones I read. Thanks girl x

Monday, February 23, 2015

Blogging VS Journaling

I have been thinking a lot lately about the difference between blogging and journaling. To me they are as different as Buffalo, New York and Melbourne, Australia.  Yes they have both been homes for me but have served extremely different purposes.

Why do I blog?

Honesty is something that did not always come easily. When you have this desperate need to be liked you wear different masks. You watch what you say, and try your best to filter or dilute who you are to suit each crowd like a politician.

If everyone knows your true-self, then you may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I always wished I gave less of a shit about popular opinion. My brother lives that way and I've always envied and admired him for it.

I’m not sure why I grew up to be so needy-perhaps that's a topic for my therapist (see I don’t share EVERYTHING on here.)

When I started blogging years ago I gave up on it because I felt that I had nothing to say, like I was being narcissistic talking about myself all the time. I think the real problem was that I was scared. Scared and worried about what people would think of me.  When I wrote it fell flat because I chose safe subjects.

After offending more than one person here and there with my writing I started to realize that some people will still have to love me, even if I disappoint them. And if they don’t- I’m going to have to learn to be okay with that because my words are my truth. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way but in a self-survival kind of way.

Not everyone will like you but everything is going to be okay.

I realize I didn’t answer my own question: Why do I blog?

I blog because I believe in the power of a story. Relating to someone else through the written word is as close as you will get to experiencing it for yourself. I’m giving my stories to the Internet because I believe that they will resonate with some people, perhaps people beyond my own circle.  And if a few of you, dear readers, are touched, moved or shown a glimpse of familiarity in my words then I am beyond satisfied. In rare instances I would like to be able to help, support, inspire or genuinely encourage some of you. I want to show you; that everything is going to be okay.
I am not an expert on anything, but as my husband says, “Sometimes people aren't looking for expert advice.” And you know what? He is absolutely correct. I know when I walk away from a good chat with a friend I often feel better than I do when leaving my shrink’s office. I hope that when you guys read my posts that you get that sense, that we've just had a good rap sesh over a cup of tea. Sometimes we just need to know that we are not alone in this.

What a blessing it is to live in an age where we don’t need publishers to distribute our words. It changes the whole concept of what it means to be an author. As if getting paid for my writing would somehow make it more valuable and me legitimate. Google Analytics tell me that I have an audience of 400 readers who look at my blog over 1,300 times per month and that number is climbing. 

Even better than statistics, which can be misleading, is that I have personally heard from many of you. Stories of camaraderie, commisery, and joy. Those stories are what create true connections. I believe in those connections so much that I've started a group so you can branch beyond just me.

So to the 400 souls who care enough to look at my humble words, I thank you.  Thank you for showing me that as long as I remain honest, everything is going to be okay.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Quick, Guilt-Free, Non Dairy, Chocolate Mousse

A dessert that will destroy your chocolate craving: And it's healthy enough to share with bubs.

The clean-up takes longer than actually making this.

I'm obsessed with the Foodgawker App.  When I get bored or need inspiration it's my go-to. Personally, cooking is a constant challenge to make the healthiest (most of the time) and most delicious meals possible.  I consider it a win if I can't tell if something is good or bad for me.  Like this one here.  Mmmmm.

I saw this recipe for Avocado Banana Raw Chocolate Mousse and have simplified it in my kitchen.  It's so easy and seriously delicious.  Perfect for summer because there is no heat involved.  Don't get me wrong I'll eat it in winter too because chocolate is good all year long.

Healthy Chocolate Mousse Raw and Non Dairy

  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Banana
  • 2 Spoonfuls Coco Powder
  • 2 Spoonfuls Honey
  • 1 Cup Coconut Milk (the canned kind works best)
  • Pinch Salt (Optional)
Cooking Directions
  1. Throw all ingredients into a blender until smooth and fluffy. You can eat it right away but I like to chill mine in the fridge for a while first.

Monday, February 16, 2015

8 Career Tips For College Graduates

Advice I would give my 22-year old-self if I could do it all again...
What the heck should I do with my life?

The peeps over at TheLadders have been reading my blog (super flattered) and they asked me if I would be interested in giving some career advice to recent grads. If they like my post they will share it with their thousands of social media followers. It's a topic dear to my heart so here goes!

Why am I qualified to dispense this advice?
I was like the quintessential, quarter-life crisis cliche. I had no idea what to do with my life and I tried a bit of everything. I mean, check out this list of job titles I've held over the years: Freelance Journalist, Marketing Coordinator , International Correspondent, Matchmaker’s Apprentice, Executive Assistant, Senior Supporter Services Team Member and Manager, Digital Media Coordinator.

A little Personal History
When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree (as we all know 'just an English BA' even though I was about 6 credits shy of a double major in English and Studio Art.) I was in no way prepared for the real world...whatever that meant. 

Dreams of being an artist dashed, I set out to do what any recent college grad would do. I took a thousand personality tests online so I could find some direction.  Suffice to say all that did was confuse me further.

Then I took the logical next steps. I sat the LSAT, filled out a peace-core application and applied to graduate school. Something had to shake out right?

Since I didn't really know if I could cope with living in a tent and bombed the LSAT, grad school was the clear winning choice. Plus school was familiar, safe and achievable. I proceeded to place myself into massive debt while I earned a Masters in Humanities. Ask me if I've ever used it. Nope. And I’m still paying it off at age 34. Basically I was delaying entry into said ‘real world.’

Do I have any regrets? No. Would I change some things if I could to make it a bit easier/ less expensive? Sure. So here is my advice to you, 22 year old self...if I could do it all over again with some minor tweaks.

Take the road less traveled, it's more fun.

1. Get an Internship
If you missed out on this vital piece of advice during your college days, see if you can get one post-graduation. It’s less scary than committing to a job, especially if you’re unsure about your career path. At my first and only internship I found a mentor, made all sorts of contacts, created a portfolio of work and landed a marketing job. Bonus, it still looks good on my resume. I tended bar on weekends to supplement my income. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Lower your expectations
Tend bar, wait tables, hammer some nails for a while. Just because you have a degree does not make you too good for unskilled work. It teaches you about life, humanity, teamwork and business. When I moved to Melbourne I had to wait tables at age 29 with a graduate degree until I found an inroad to the Australian market. Do what you have to do rather than settle.  Future employers will respect the salty, hard work. It’s also a great way to support yourself if you are trying to start your own business or turn a hobby into a career.

3. Figure out what you don’t want
Look, sometimes you just have to take a job out of necessity even if you’re unsure about it (see point 2.) Sometimes learning about what you don’t want is just as important as figuring out what you do. I’m not one of those people born with a calling so I tried many different roles. Remember the golden rule: Your major does not determine your career- so don't pigeonhole yourself. Try something out if it seems interesting. Apply for that job you feel unqualified for. Just avoid the trap of getting too comfortable in a role you don’t enjoy. This is how people get ‘stuck.’ Don’t get stuck, get a plane ticket.

4. Travel
Seriously I bet you can give me a thousand excuses about why you cannot travel- and they're rubbish. Did you know you can make money by working overseas? You can. And you can find someone to watch your dog. And you can find a place to store your car. I should have taken a year off after college to travel. Bumming around Europe would have been far less expensive that that grad degree I’m still paying for. Stop worrying that employers will frown upon a gap year- betcha it makes you more interesting than the next candidate. You will learn far more about life on the road than in any textbook or office.  Teach English as a Second Language (ESL), or find a country like Australia that offers work and holiday visas to people under 30. Go.

5. Do Your Homework
What’s that? The whole point of being a graduate is that there is no more homework? Wrong. Get out there and talk to professionals in fields that interest you. Offer to assist them for a day or take them out for coffee. You will be amazed at what you can learn. Ask them about their day-to-day. Ask them if they like their job. Ask them if they are happy. Seek advice on how YOU can get there too. Keep your ears and your notebook open. I can't think of a better way to get an honest snapshot of a specific career and lifestyle.

6. Release the Pressure
Society sends a crippling message to young people regarding careers. A career should be fulfilling, make a difference in the world and earn you a lot of money.  It will become part of your identity so it must also make you happy. But you can't work too much because you need balance. Sound impossible? That’s because it is. I remember my Dad telling me that when he was young, the goal was to find a job to make money and support a family. Your job should not and does not define you as a person.  We are all more complex than that. Chill.

7. Network Like Crazy
Meet new people and talk to anyone who will listen. Get on social media, go to free events, put your resume online. Volunteer at a non-profit. Connect with the folks at TheLadders and other career networking sites. I exchanged a few emails with Joe, Community Manager at TheLadders and not only is he a smart and personable guy, he was quite genuine when I asked him why the company is looking to help young people find careers:
"TheLadders wants to help young professionals be more successful in their job search because many of us can relate to the struggle of finding our first real job. I know not too long ago, I was in the same situation myself, looking to start my career after I received my diploma. When you don't have a lot of experience searching to find the right fit, it can be hard to know where to start. The job market is very competitive and can sometimes be a little scary."
Well said. The first step is usually the most difficult. And then you take the second one. You got this.

8. Take Risks
If you try and fail it’s better than not trying at all. Even if everything falls apart you will learn something valuable.  Don’t remain paralyzed by fear or negativity. You will not recieve your dream on a silver platter, no matter how long you wait, so you best get out there and risk it all. Here is the best article  I've ever read on finding your purpose. The article says you should be doing the thing that "makes you forget to eat, sleep and poop."  I never thought anything could make me forget to eat, but writing does. Nuff said.

Happiness off the beaten-path

Best wishes for an inspiring and rad journey! x

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Join Me on Facebook So We Can Be Awesome Together

 photo Joinusbuttontake2_zps530b2207.jpg
I was in serious need of some Namaste today. A van cut me off on my way to yoga and my immediate reaction was to swear and flip the guy off. Twice.

This week has been difficult. A loved one is trying to deny the existence of my depression prior to the post-natal.  It’s a sickening feeling when you feel you need to prove such a thing to someone.  Clearly the reason my middle finger was on a hair trigger.

I was hoping to find some peace of mind in yoga class.  I ‘know’ that I don’t need to prove myself my feelings to anyone, but I wanted to believe it and meditate on it.

And then something incredible happened. I was given a gift. An inspiration. An idea.

My Kangaroo Spotting Facebook Page:  It was just sitting there, doing not much, when I realized that it could be the start of my (our) very own community.

We all need support in our lives at times.  Especially when we become mothers (or Fathers.) Sometimes you just need an encouraging word, or advice from someone. I mean, you could try and figure it out- but Googling your butt off can’t take the place of chatting to someone who cares.

I have many Mom/ Mum friends in various places around the world (and other sympathetic non-mother friends too) and I've recently met some creative and compassionate bloggers online. I feel privileged to know so many amazing, smart, funny and beautiful people.  I wish we could get together in a room and have a serious love fest....clearly the logistics don’t make sense when we are busy living on different continents and all soooooooooooooo.....

I thought the Kangaroo Spotting Facebook page could be our virtual hang out.  A place where the rad women I know (and other like-mindeds) can ask for a hand, for a advice or just for understanding.

I belong to a few Mommy/ Mum’s groups online and they tend to become troll-y, trashy and bitchy. Let’s have our own space my gorgeous goddesses (and gods)!  And let’s see how it works out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Turn a Bad Day Good with a Gratitude List

Our Surprise Care Package
I received an upsetting email last night and this morning I woke up sad, angry and even a little bitter.  Online I read about how Kanye dissed Beck at the Grammy’s and it was all I needed to be disappointed at the world. I love Beck, he rocks.  He’s been around twice as long as KWest and is ten times as humble. It’s just as important to support one another as it is to acknowledge those who came before us. Sometimes all we want is a little humanity and a little less drama.

Today was day-care day and I planned to exercise and go for a swim but I felt so off, I couldn't decide what to do.  But then as I was taking a bagged, poopie diaper to the back porch I noticed a little package sitting there.  It was from my Aunt (who is more like my sister.)  Her thoughtful gesture reminded me to stop feeling sorry for myself.

I decided to be grateful for the little things today.  Here is a big list of small things that happened which made me feel grateful, humble and a heck-of-a-lot better.

Hometown Love

  1. A lovely Care Package at my doorstep from my Aunt Jeefy.
  2. Vigorous and intense workout to blast negative thoughts out of my body and mind.
  3. Hearing Thunderstruck on the radio. Loud. It reminds me of the time I watched Buffalo’s own         heavyweight Baby Joe Mesi approach the boxing ring to the song. It still gives me chills.
  4. Reading a great article sent by my best friend: ‘10 Ways You’re Making your Life Harder Than It Has To     Be’ which basically tells you how to get over yourself, but in a good way.
  5. I bought Thunderstruck on iTunes because it’s not on Spotify.
  6. I went to my old neighborhood of Fitzroy to take a swim in the outdoor public pool. I still feel at home there, and I always park on our old street.
  7. I heard the Taylor Swift Song, Blank Space, on the Radio and it made me tear up.
  8. I bought Blank Space on iTunes because it’s not on Spotify.
  9. I ate my healthy bagged lunch in the sun and went for a swim.
  10. My car remained free from a parking ticket.
  11. I found gorgeous second hand bowl and saucers for 10 dollars.
  12. The nice American man who cashed me out enforced just how great it is to live in this country.
  13. When I started playing Blank Space on repeat I pulled over and bought the rest of the album. I like the first four songs already. (I’m all about guilty pleasures but I really wanted to hate her.)
  14. Lavinia had good day at day-care.
  15. I received some helpful advice from one of the women who runs the center.
  16. Lavinia did crafts for the first time and loved it. They told me she will probably be artistic. This makes me proud. It’s also okay with it if she’s not.
  17. One of my Mum’s group friends dropped off a plate while I was out. I’m so eternally grateful to know her plus the four other women in my group. They get it.
  18. My husband is one of the kindest, most supportive people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I am beyond lucky. He is one of those people who has this “life” thing figured out.
  19. My daughter was asking to dance before I put her down for a nap.
  20. I can’t wait to play the Taylor album for her when she wakes up.
  21. Did I mention that today I got to go to the gym, the pool and shop???

Photo does not do these justice

Little Plate, Little Love
Budding Abstract Expressionist