Cough, cough

Holding the fort down (barely) with an extravagantly dramatic cough that has caused me to lose my voice.  More updates soon!


The beauty of routine

One of the oft-cited benefits of a good habit is that it takes virtually no effort to keep on the right path.  When exercising is a habit, we do it whether it’s pleasurable or not.  When eating healthy is a habit, not eating healthy is something that happens rarely.  Since I had bebe, I don’t have much of an exercising habit, but my healthy eating habits fortunately stay strong.   I do not have to think about what to eat…a natural repertoire, cultivated over the past 10 years will furnish me with some combination of vegetables and protein, unless junk is to be found in the house.  My parents are much more into carbs so I can gorge myself on nutrition free white crackers from time to time.

I have lately been reflecting on how having a routine has changed my life.  It became clear around 2 months that the bebe needed to sleep at around the same time every day, and that she would FREAK OUT late at night.  We finally (duh) realized that she was tired.  We Ferberized her over the course of 48 hours.  She responded extremely well to sleep training…

In other aspects, I found keeping a routine simplified my own life in terms of ensuring all her needs were met in a timely way and in return I’ve seen her respond extremely well to the routine.  I try my best now to deviate as little as possible from it. When we do, we pay in tears.  Saturdays have been hell because we decided to take a swimming lesson downtown.  We end up stuck in traffic for several hours and she usually doesn’t have the patience for that.  Day trips out of town used to be fine because she slept a lot – now she hates being the car for hours and hours.   She doesn’t seem to be able to settle in the car even at night.

My routine is this: In the morning my parents help me (we all have flexible work schedules – yeah). She will use the potty as soon as she wakes up (if we catch it! Lately I’ve had a terrible cold and I am not responding in time). Then it’s breast, bath (my parents usually bathe her, which is their special time with her), maybe more breast and then breakfast (usually oatmeal with fruit), followed by play until the 10am nap.  During her nap I try to work. After the nap, I potty her again, breastfeed again, possibly change her clothing and then take her to daycare. She usually spends the afternoon in daycare while I work and handle personal business.  At daycare they give her lunch, a nap and an afternoon snack. By 6pm we are home again and I handle dinner and bed by myself.  She hasn’t had any breastmilk at daycare so I feed her again, if there is time we play a little, then I plop  her in the exersaucer and chat with her while I whizz up a few things for dinner (for her) and make a plate for myself.  I feed her while I eat dinner, and by 7:15 it’s potty time again, followed by a soap-less bath, which she enjoys greatly (twice a day baths may seem excessive but it’s all par for the course for a Caribbean family! my mother would seriously protest if I dropped the end of day bath).  If she has energy I read her a book while she tries to rip it from my hands to chew on, and then I lay her down to sleep between 7:30 – 8:30pm.   I know it will be a good night if she immediately rubs her little eyes when I put her in the crib.  We are not rigid. She may fret for a few minutes but then she is out like a light until about midnight.   We no longer co-sleep because I find I get  a much more interrupted slumber, plus I overheat  – she seems to think the buffet is never closed.

I realized today that her first sleep in the evening is the perfect time for me to go and have a workout, since one of my parents would usually come home around that time.  I am going to join the Y soon and start working out again.  When her father is here, my favorite time is after we put her to sleep we collapse on my bed and chat for a bit. Or we might have cooked something more elaborate and we might eat leisurely after she goes to bed.

The benefits of this routine seem to be that she is very happy, rarely fussy but I think the biggest benefit, esp. when I hear about all of people’s sleep woes, that she sleeps very easily.  It is important to note that generally she is an unfussy child, but if we stray from this routine she will fret for either food or sleep.  On the weekend she was fussing for no immediately discernible reason in the afternoon. I realized she is accustomed now to having a snack.  When I gave her some pureed pear she immediately perked up.  So – woe on us if we do not heed the routine.

From my perspective, this routine was a sacrifice. Even though I saw the benefits for DD, it robbed me of spontaneity (although if I was really honest, having a child is the thing that stole spontaneity from me).  No longer could I accept invitations or go anywhere during the week.   And woe if a plan strayed beyond 7pm when she becomes extra fussy.  Even though my activities are constrained to these time periods of her slumber, I was seeing it as a net loss. The fact is, I do not yet have good personal habits getting me through my chunks of free time, so I am likely to fritter the time away reading my RSS feeds, social networking, landscaping, etc.   And still I hoped to be done with this routine so I could resume my freewheeling, come-as-you-please life.

Well, today it occurred to me that this routine, coupled with the massive emotional/mental makeover of becoming a (single) mom, is helping me to be more contemplative and in my contemplation, more humble. It seems as though I can see my adolescence and young adulthood with new clarity– my personal foibles and the things that I still need to ‘work on’.  How long have I been clinging to my own point of view, an old image of myself as a precocious and ruined… Routine has actually granted me the mental leisure to come to these conclusions. No longer am I filling time with impromptu dates, work outs (ok, obvs I am going to get the work out going again but they will be preplanned), lectures, tv (I have one, I just try not to sink in front of it in the evening).  Routine, ultimately, will allow me to create better habits & free up mental energy, both worthy goals.   Now I would like to routine-ize a few more things – a grocery shop, the trip to the library, the workouts, laundry, folding clothing…everything that needs to be done over and over again.  Wouldn’t we like to do these with as little thought as brushing one’s teeth requires? I would.




Buying the best – My favourite counterintuitive frugality principle

Buy the best version of what you need.  How does that square with saving money? Well the second, unstated part of that is: buy only what you need, take amazing care of it, and keep it for life.  If only I could go back 10 years and redo my entire purchasing history.

This is an idea that I first read about in “Early Retirement Extreme” (blog and book).  One of his approaches to limiting one’s consumption is that if you are buying something new, the author advocates buying the best that you can afford (and if you follow his principles about consuming very little, you will be able to afford the best, natch).  This is because ERE proposes that you treat your possessions like business assets which suffer depreciation year after year and that you limit your exposure to depreciation.    I want to elaborate somewhat on this because it is something that I am strongly considering implementing in my own life, especially as I ween myself off my compulsion to shop (I just bought some popsicle molds. Popsicle molds! I am sick, I tell you, sick).

For example, if you buy a $600 knife secondhand for $400, and care for it properly, you would likely be able to resell that knife for around the same price.  If you buy a $80 mid-range version, it will likely depreciate to $0 after several years.  In the former case, you can not only recoup your purchase price should you no longer need said item, but you also get to enjoy the finer quality of the $600 knife for the length of time that you own it.  Those are principles that I can definitely get behind!  My favorite purchases have been thrifted high end clothing. I have a beautiful Dolce and Gabbana silk shift from the 60s or 70s (going by style) that I purchased in Sao Paulo for about $20 – $40 Cdn (which was actually a significant layout for me at the time).  However, this is not an invitation to run out and drop $1200 on a set of copper pots.  Here’s how I think one would incorporate this into one’s life:

1.  Use what you already own before buying anything new.   I think it goes without saying that anything that you already have and that isn’t causing you a great deal of trouble should remain cared for.  Spending nothing is preferable to spending anything.  That means no new winter jacket, because I already own….oh….about a dozen. No kidding.  Most are thrifted and some are extremely nice, like my tan wool calf-length Benetton jacket with fur collar, which I bought for about $30.

2. Consider buying the best only for goods that you will use frequently.  Don’t buy ‘the best’ food processor if you only use a food processor 4x/year. (Confession: I use mine VERY frequently and I bought it as a second hand refurb).   Jacob would further counsel that anything you do not use frequently (as in at least monthly) is a superfluous possession that you should not own.   This is why buying clothing for babies is a complete waste.

3. Forget about variety.  “Variety, they say, is the spice of life.”  I think the desire for variety must be a trap perpetuated by the Gods of Consumption on us mere mortal fools.  It may even be a deception that undermines the most basic moral values, such as steadfastness and loyalty.  Why sleep with only one man when there are so many out there?  Why own only 2 dresses? Won’t these “limited” choices impinge on our freedom? Won’t we be “bored” without endless recourse to several cheap dresses and several revolving relationships?   Don’t we need several versions of every object we own to confront the miniscule changes in weather, situation, temperature, lifestyle? Instead of variety, why don’t we treasure durability, history, workmanship, timelessness?  Instead of searching for varieties of people, things, experiences, let us cultivate flexibility in our own minds to deal more easily with every kind of situation.  Why do we frown on routine and equanimity and idolize passion when routine can free our minds to focus on higher things?  Lately I even read a proposal that marriage should last only 10 years, at which point we should junk it and find a new 10-year partner. My inner small-c conservative shuddered.

4. Buy it secondhand if possible to further reduce depreciation.   Self-explanatory innit?

5. Save for your purchase if necessary and do without until then.

6. Find out what the “best” version of the desired item is. 

Yep, this last point is actually the most difficult, in my opinion because marketing ensures that *everyone* wants to tell you their product is the best. Googling ‘the best’ (or as I call it, appealing to the Great Brain) does not actually yield ‘the best’ item…and just because something is expensive or has a popular brand doesn’t mean that it is ‘the best’ per se.    One way to find quality manufacturers is to frequent those who offer a lifetime warranty on their goods against defects.   A quick google search revealed three clothing companies: Marmot, The North Face, and Spyder (but there are many, many more).  Going to a sports clothing company for your outerwear generally means your clothing is designed for higher performance. That’s an ERE tip.

These days you cannot suss out quality from either brand or production region. Production may be in China is no longer automatically crap made in shitty sweatshops and many high end lines are actually manufactured there.  It behooves one to do research on the product and what to look for.

In the coming months, I’ll do a little research into  what ‘the best’ version of certain products are according to the following:


  • Long-established company
  • Lifetime (or multiple lifetime) quality
  • Able to refurbish/ care for
  • Performs substantially better than comparable goods
  • Life-time warranty

Hopefully I’ll find some goodies.



Begone Mommy Judgement!

I googled “frowning mom” to find this image. This is pretty good.

Many mommy blogs, or lifestyle blogs purport to have the Answers. I did this! It worked!  It’s cool/stylish/covetable so you should know about it. You’re not doing this? You’re crazy!

I frequently catch myself thinking similar judge-y thoughts about [insert your different mommy method here].  I have even sent ‘helpful’ emails (ok, once) to someone who professed to desiring to exclusively breastfeed for a year (no solids).  I googled it and then I decided – yup, that’s crazy and ill-informed.  I sent her a lengthy email on how she wouldn’t need to breastfeed 16 times day and night for her baby if her baby was showing the ‘developmental signs of readiness’ (as they are called) and that she didn’t have to give her baby puree, she could start the baby on whole foods a la BLW (baby-led weaning/solids) if she was afraid of displacing breastmilk too early.  No response – of course. She must have been thinking “Such a presumptuous beeatch!”

I think those of us who are passionate about the choices we have made (the research we have done, the questions we have endured about them) become, quite naturally, advocates for those choices.  And advocating for those choices seems, sometimes also naturally, to lead to criticism about other, usually equally valid choices.  It isn’t as though misinformed people don’t make mistakes. They do. Maybe a vulnerable, birthing woman doesn’t know their C-section is entirely preventable.  (But is it any good to talk about it after the fact? I mean, you can’t put the baby back up there). Maybe someone doesn’t know that, ohhh, junk food is bad (Maybe?)  But the likelier reality is someone considered their options and situation and made the choice that was appropriate for them at the time.  The junk food is bad but the kids need to eat NOW. The C-section may be preventable but I’m not sure and my baby needs to live NOW.   And we need to respect that.

We really have very limited insight into why people make the choices they make and the entirety of their circumstances.   Walk a mile in…and so on.   In my house, we have tried cloth and disposables (and EC, which is working great)…We have tried baby-led weaning & puree….we tried wearing her on our body and pushing her in the pram…and co-sleeping and her own crib….nursing to sleep and sleep training. Every time we did a 360 from what I thought we would do to what she seemed to like and what seemed to work better (or chose to incorporate two seemingly opposed methods) a little bit of that mommy judgment, that tightness in your heart, the righteousness that makes it possible to cling to your own belief, has melted away.  Who would have known that she likes puree?  Or she sleeps so well in the stroller? Or that she would calm down at night in a disposable because she wasn’t wetting herself every hour?  It seems like everything any parent does is up for criticism – witness the open letters from the blogosphere (a mere sampling provided) to moms using their smartphones at the park (both for and against the allegedly neglectful mommy).

Being a parent is an inventive practice – we are creating as we go.   I would say that most ‘experts’ are not saying there is one right answer. Almost every book I’ve read is very careful to couch their recommendations as suggestions that need to modified as necessary by we, the parents.  We are the ones who know our children best, and we are the ones who ultimately have the power to change their little lives, esp. when they are young.  The responsibilities are daunting!  ….I often have to remind myself that what works for me is not what will or should work for another mom, and I do not have the lockdown on The Best Way.  Just ‘Our Way’.


This is from the Mommy Friends Facebook page and it is a very eloquent encapsulation of those sentiments.  (It’s even hard for me to admit that a weeks worth of junk food dinners might be the best option under certain circumstances, that’s how ingrained my critical reflex is.)

So: let us reflect on the following.

To the mom who’s breastfeeding: Way to go! It really is an amazing gift to give your baby, for any amount of time that you can manage! You’re a good mom.

To the mom who’s formula feeding: Isn’t science amazing? To think there was a time when a baby with a mother who couldn’t produce enough would suffer, but now? Better living through chemistry! You’re a good mom.

To the cloth diapering mom: Fluffy bums are the cutest, and so friendly on the bank account. You’re a good mom.

To the disposable diapering mom: Damn those things hold a lot, and it’s excellent to not worry about leakage and laundry! You’re a good mom.

To the mom who stays home: I can imagine it isn’t easy doing what you do, but to spend those precious years with your babies must be amazing. You’re a good mom.

To the mom who works: It’s wonderful that you’re sticking to your career, you’re a positive role model for your children in so many ways, it’s fantastic. You’re a good mom.

To the mom who had to feed her kids from the drive thru all week because you’re too worn out to cook or go grocery shopping: You’re feeding your kids, and hey, I bet they aren’t complaining! Sometimes sanity can indeed be found in a red box with a big yellow M on it. You’re a good mom.

To the mom who gave her kids a homecooked breakfast lunch and dinner for the past week: Excellent! Good nutrition is important, and they’re learning to enjoy healthy foods at an early age, a boon for the rest of their lives. You’re a good mom.

To the mom with the kids who are sitting quietly and using their manners in the fancy restaurant: Kudos, it takes a lot to maintain order with children in a place where they can’t run around. You’re a good mom.

To the mom with the toddler having a meltdown in the cereal aisle: they always seem to pick the most embarrassing places to lose their minds don’t they? We’ve all been through it. You’re a good mom.

To the moms who judge other moms for ANY of the above? Glass houses, friend. Glass houses.


5 Things/ You can do to maintain your pre-pregnancy weight

On the beach 4.5 months after I gave birth

On the beach 4.5 months after I gave birth


Firstly: insert medical disclaimer here. I am not an expert. I am a nutrition and fitness hobbyist who is very careful about her diet, has been physically active for her entire life and has never struggled with her weight. I have never been on a “diet” to lose weight, but I have “cleansed” (white flour, white sugar, no meat, etc.)  So that’s where I am coming from.

Secondly: in this age of mommy guilt, ultra thin post-preggy celebs (who actually have trainers and nannies), and mommy judgment, I in no way want to make anybody feel bad about not being able to lose weight post pregnancy when we all know bodies all work differently.

My own story is this and I’m sharing it because it may be helpful for you. I did want to lose my pregnancy weight and it happened so fast my head was spinning. This is more like a post-mortem of ‘why did that happen for me’?  If you also lost the weight easily, I would love to know why you think that happened.  Maybe like my cousin’s wife you were always a bean pole and a slim and elegant bean pole you stayed!

So – any discussion of this should be bookended by the very personal factors that go into anybody’s approach to her health. In my case, I went from 125 lbs pre-pregnancy (I’m about 5’4″) to 160 lbs at my heaviest (and still looked “small” according to all the unsolicited commentators).  I was the most un-neurotic person about eating during pregnancy (or I guess I should say there was no difference in my attention to what I ate before and during my pregnancy).  I still ate raw cheese. I ate sushi on occasion from trustworthy sources.  And I drank a few glasses of wine (1-2 with dinner) when I was travelling in Italy (shhhh). I am from the “Real Food”/ Weston A. Price school of nutrition. I believe in avoiding industrial processed food at all costs, eating real, organic fats and naturally raised or wild protein sources and copious amounts of fruits and vegetables.  I’ll do a post on how to eat soon. Oh yeah, I went on a solo trip to Italy when I was 7 months pregnant.  I also ate gelato every day — so don’t worry, I enjoyed life!

I know several women who lost their pregnancy weight quickly and easily. It can be done.  Your body may be able to do it.  Taking optimal care of yourself in advance of your pregnancy and then throughout it improves your chances of this happening.   I was nervous about what would happen with my body – everything I had heard and witnessed was that .  Let’s not kid ourselves: a lot of that is genetic. The funny thing is that my mom, who is naturally petite,  said she was shocked I lost the weight so quickly – but then, she thought, I was in better shape to begin with.

  1. Be in superior shape prior to giving birth.   I hope when you are reading this you are thinking ABOUT getting pregnant, but you may already be pregnant. Maybe it’s too late for that? If not, do not despair.  Just carry on. What does superior shape mean? Well, you should know what that means for you.  What it is for you may not be what it is for me.  But if you want some guidelines, here are my thoughts: You should be able to hike for 5-6 hours comfortably.  You should be able to run pleasantly for 40 minutes.  You should be limber.  You should be able to climb several flights of stairs without losing your breath.  You should be able to play a sport and enjoy it.  Do your body a favour and be fit before you subject it to the incredible changes of pregnancy.   Personally, I played touch rugby twice a week for about an hour each time.  I did several sessions of strenuous yoga per week. I played tennis from time to time. I was rock climbing at a 5.12 level, weekly when I was near a climbing gym.  I rode my bike as my primary form of transportation.
  2. Have a natural birth.  I think doing all that you can to have a natural birth is one way to ensure that your body hears the messages and can respond to them the way it has evolutionarily been designed to do. I know that a natural birth is not possible for everyone and it can be completely out of your control. Surgery is a great development in cases where it is needed and I support life-saving medical advances in general. What I do not support and am indeed incredibly worried about is the level to which the C-section is the go-to method of birthing at many hospitals.  Educate yourself on this – plan for a natural birth, visualize a natural birth and educate yourself on how you can avoid interventions that lead to the ‘cascade of interventions’ that ultimately result in a C-section.  Then visualize yourself having one and what would happen and how that would be ok too. Accept it all. I did all of that.  I was shocked by stats about C-sections and the maternal mortality rate in North America.   We truly lag behind other countries. That is why I used a midwife and ultimately decided on a homebirth. To me, a homebirth under the circumstances in which it is regulated in Ontario, where I live, is an equally safe and more comfortable environment to give birth – and the stats do bear that out.  Homebirth and natural childbirth also deserves a full post, which I will get to.  You don’t have to be at home to have a natural birth.  You can be in a hospital and simply refuse pain relief and unnecessary interventions, but anecdotal evidence suggests it is more difficult in that environment.
  3. Breastfeed exclusively for at least 6 months.  Apart from the extensive benefits for your baby provided by breastmilk, apart from the beautiful bonding you can experience with your child, breastfeeding helps your uterus to contract to its pre-pregnancy size (which actually hurts quite a bit sometimes, nobody actually tells you that).  Breastfeeding made me so hungry I was eating like a horse– much more than I was eating throughout most of my pregnancy, but I never gained a pound, I continued to lose weight until my lowest, 117lbs (my highschool weight!). Since then I have moved back up to about 120lbs, which is still less than my pre-pregnancy weight.
  4. Don’t give yourself permission to eat substantially more and especially not to eat more junk just because you’re pregnant.  Pregnancy is definitely not the time to “reward yourself” with junk–cookies, chips, cake, icecream, pasta, white rice, white bread, etc.   It is the time when your body needs to squeeze every last bit of nutrition out of you for your darling.  When you are hungry, reach for kale, wild fish, liver, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, fruit smoothies. Hmmmm.  All delicious stuff.  Listen to and honor your cravings for healthy foods.  When I had morning sickness, I loved to eat crackers with pate – lots of protein, good fat and vitamin A.  I longed for collard greens and beets, impossible to find in Shanghai.  I wanted beets so badly I was itching in my skin – my mom packed some for me and sent them to the airport when I moved back to Toronto at about 12 weeks pregnant.  I ate them in my brother’s car on my way home.  I actually never perceived having more of an appetite than before I was pregnant. They say the increase in calories you need is equivalent to an additional light meal. You can make that up having healthy snacks such as fruit, cheese and nuts throughout the day.  I believe in honouring your appetite and your body, but it’s also worth noting that because I ate like this, I did not gain more than the recommended weight for a woman of my height and pre-pregnancy weight, which was 25-35 lbs (I gained 35lbs in total).
  5. Prioritize rest and bonding with baby after you give birth.  Just put back on that hideous, blood-stained nightgown and stay in bed!! You’re bleeding like crazy, you’re trying to figure out how to get milk from a boob bigger than your baby’s head into her tiny, tiny bird mouth, you’re low on iron, you may not even be able to sit on your bits without groaning and using a donut that looks like this (yeah, that donut is a lifesaver).  Birth takes a huge toll on your body. My friend told me in South Korea they have these amazing mommy hospitals where you go to give birth, and someone just takes care of you and the baby at night for two weeks. That sounds dreamy and like something we should start here!
  6. By now you’ve figured out that 5 things could mean any number of them right? So number 6 is: Maintain a healthy and positive mental state.  Because of the circumstances of my pregnancy (single, unexpected) I struggled more with this than anything else but tried not to wallow in anxiety and misery, though I was deeply miserable, incredibly angry and felt very hopeless at times.  A lot of parenting manuals/ mothering guides assume you have a partner and reading any reference to that supportive, excited partner was enough to plunge me into depression again as I thought of my own situation and how different it was.  But the best thing for you is to focus on your baby, how much you love your baby, how much you will protect and love him or her, and all that you are doing to ensure that his/her birth is wonderful.  I named my little fetus before we knew the sex  (“Laines”, a combination of the girl’s and boy’s names we had chosen), and I spoke to her regularly, confiding in her when I was sad.  I even wrote her a series of letters expressing my grief (and my hopes).  Do whatever you need to do to work out and release the wealth of emotions you will feel during your pregnancy.

Notice that I don’t say that you should exercise during your pregnancy?  In retrospect, I definitely erred on the side of being sedentary!  I had the luxury of working from home during my pregnancy and that allowed me to take a lot of naps and build my schedule in a way that prioritized my rest. I did exercise on occasion up to about the 6th month of pregnancy, and I did an INSANE amount of walking in Florence and Madrid when I was 7 1/2 almost 8 months pregnant (if you go by when I actually had the baby, which was 3 weeks earlier than expected. That walking resulted in very, very swollen legs and a lot of napping.)  For day to day exercise, I did a little bit of walking, a little bit of gentle yoga, once or twice I went swimming.  I probably could have done more – it wouldn’t have hurt.

In my first trimester, two months of which were spent in China, I spent a lot of time on the sofa and a fair bit of time just feeling nauseous and fatigued.  I would come home from the office and go immediately to bed, wake up at 9pm, have a small meal and go back to bed and sleep very deeply.  Around that sleeping schedule, I exercised as much as I could  (mostly gentle stretching) but gave up touch rugby (because falling with force is very common, and my stamina was just not there…I was extremely fatigued).   And twice I went dancing in my second trimester and shook my booty for hours.  In total, I don’t think I exercised very much at all.  Just carrying around an extra 15, then 20, then 25, then 35 lbs was extremely challenging.  It was challenging to walk anywhere because I would become very out of breath. Afterwards of course there was the persistent need to pee.  There was no WAY I was going to be hitting the gym.  In my second trimester I do remember I went to have a ‘normal’ gym session, and afterwards I slept for 4 hours…it just knocked me right out.  So for exercise, you have to gauge your own energy level.  I never had any desire to push myself, so I didn’t.  In addition, I was told I needed to allow my abdominal muscles (which were extremely firm) to relax, to make space for the baby.  So I stopped contracting my stomach and stopped doing sit ups.  This had little to no impact on my weight loss post-pregnancy.   In contrast, one of my yoga instructors told me for her first pregnancy she remained extremely active. She never stopped exercising and pushed herself even further as the hormone relaxin relaxed her joints, allowing her to move even deeper into postures.  In the end she says she believed she had a very difficult birth because she never allowed her core to become soft and welcoming for the baby.

Afterwards, don’t turn to weight loss. Focus on breastfeeding, nourishing food and building muscle again – first in your core, then in the rest of your body as you gain more free time away from your LO.   Happy birth and parenting!

5 Things/ That you should not cheap out on for your bathroom renovation

You can’t even see the things you shouldn’t be cheaping out on in this lovely photo.

Bathrooms are scary. What I mean is, bathrooms are scary to renovate.  Much scarier than kitchens even though kitchens are larger, more expensive and involve appliances.

Why? Because there is water involved.  And water, not properly dealt with in a confined space, leads to nasty & expensive problems like mold.  And also because I know nothing about all the seemingly magical items and fillers and gooey things and screens that go into bathrooms to prevent nasty & expensive problems, outside of standard reno TV viewing.  But I SEE them (by them: qualified experts) put various doo-dads in there and I also see Holmes on Homes talk about how this is all usually done very badly, and then I start to quake in my slippers and see dollar signs flowing down our designer drain.  There is obviously so much more to consider outside of the tub, toilet, faucets and tile and the whole fun design-y aspect of this enterprise.

For instance, did you realize that there are a bazillion configurations of shower faucets/heads?  According to, you can have a ‘multifunctional showerhead’, a ‘handshower’, a ‘deck mounted handshower’, a ‘diverter’, a ‘deck mounted diverter’, a ‘shower system’ (etc.) and your shower can be ‘ADA compliant’, have a scald guard, and may include handles or a hose (you mean those things are usually not included?!!).    And then when you click on the actual item for purchase a little note pops up saying things like “This part needs this other part you’ve never considered before, watch out!” and when you read the reviews they say things like “This is the most complicated shower to install on the face of the planet and our plumber could not do it” (!!) or, “Oh, when my plumber was doing this he installed for a wall mounted shower but oops, this shower is not wall mounted” and it all just makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and say “Let’s pay someone to know this stuff for us!” (Which contradicts my frugal urges which say, “You need to learn this stuff yourself!”)

So I am approaching our bathroom remodel with trepidation and a lot of research.  Little Hogtown House has a major project in the works.  Before pictures to come. Firstly, there is the cosmetic updating of a dank and moldy 2nd floor bathroom.  Secondly, there is building a brand new bathroom from scratch on the 3rd floor.

DIGRESSION:  Single or double sink? The new ensuite went from a double sink-separate-bath-and-shower-ensuite into a single sink, tub/shower combo bathroom, as in, it got basic.  Because even though we have some savings to do these renos, we are miserly and don’t want to spend all of our hard earned cash on fanciness like dual sinks that nobody is going to use.  Do people actually use their double sinks, I pondered?  I did a formal poll to find this out.  “Mom,” I said, “Do you use your dual sinks?” “No, not really,” she said.  “I mostly need counter space so I can dry my hair while your father is getting ready.”  My mom just saved me at least $500 worth of sink, faucet and associated labour.  AT LEAST. But seriously – if you put in a second sink, you must plumb that sink, not to mention buy the sink itself and the hardware. My second poll involved asking my peer, “Should an ensuite bathroom have two sinks?”  The response to that was, “No, that’s some luxury ish.”  Thus the decision to eliminate the second sink was confirmed. I similarly eliminated several other items.  I should make a separate post on that.)

My bro poo-poos the cause because the reno is not scheduled until mid-fall.  “That’s really far away.”  Bro, we actually have the luxury this time of planning.  When we first renovated the kitchen back in 2008, we bought the house and gutted the first floor right away. Oh man, was that reno ever a nightmare.  And I have many regrets. Sad face. A story for another time.

Somehow we recovered from it though and managed to live together again.  The point is, those were bad times. Let’s not go back there, so that my disorganized ultrabudget contractor can do things like lay tiles in a squiggling crooked row, or forget about the molding around the window when installing the light switch, and cut a piece out of the molding to accommodate it.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

My approach is to do as much research as possible to satisfy my inner control freakiness.    Researching leads me to great articles like this one.  Ostensibly it is 13 common mistakes, but in practice it is actually a list of about 10 things people cheap out on and how that will come and bite them in the ass.  Therefore I compiled my own list, based on that article.  It is called:


  1. Underlayment (floor surround)
  2. Diverter valve (keeps you from being scalded when someone flushes the toilet)
  3. Toilets.  (But we already bought low-flow toilets and we are definitely not buying new ones, so we fail that test.)
  4. Shower surround (they recommend Schulter-DITRA which sounds like a quality German product)
  5. Sealant (use silicon and expensive caulk)
  6. Faucets and shower components – “Be sure that your new faucets (and shower components) have ceramic disk valves (not rubber or plastic washers) and that the finish is of the highest quality.”
  7. Pay to replace shut off valves
  8. Pay for proper design (oops, we’re not doing that either).

Then at the end of this list, they hilarious say you should not overpay for your bathroom.   Is the fear in you, too, now?

There are some other great tips, so feel free to go to the article proper.

This is water (reflections on the daily grind)

David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech is making the rounds of the internet.

I like this for so many reasons. Our lives are composed of our daily practices.  I try to remind myself of this when I am tempted to skip my meditation or my work out.  My biggest challenge is I am a veteran, habitual procrastinator – but if I’m not careful I can easily put off things on my to do list for months and months.  Want a horrible example of this? On Saturday I finally went to the dentist, after, ohhhh, about 3 years of no dental visits.  Said visit for cleaning cost me a massive chunk of change because they found FIVE cavities.  FIVE.  I feel like I have failed a moral test.  If I had not given up on flossing over the past year, I am certain I would have fared better. Alas, my gums were bleeding something fierce when I was pregnant and for some reason I thought dentists were to be avoided when one is pregnant.  I think my mind made that up because I don’t like going.   But, I digress.

I fundamentally believe that our perspective will determine how we experience our day.  There is a Taoist/Zen story that illustrates that very well:

An old farmer worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.

“Such bad luck,” they said.

“May be,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“May be,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg.

The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“May be,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by.

The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “May be,” said the farmer.

To me the point of this story is to maintain equanimity in the face of events.  Allow no event to rouse your emotions – simply experience the moment for what it is, not for what it might be or what it might portend.  In the face of apparent suffering, it is difficult not to become completely distraught at what the implications might be for your life. The distress that you cultivate, or whatever your outsized reaction, is likely more damaging then the event itself experienced in its singularity.