Friday, 25 January 2013

The Dangers Of Breastfeeding

I love newborn babies.

I love them so much.

I love the way the look, and the way they smell, and the way they cuddle right into the crook of your neck.

I love them so much that every once in a while I think I maybe want another one. 

And then I remember how much I like being the only person who owns my boobs.

I'm a big believer in breastfeeding. Not because it's good for the baby, or because it promotes mother-baby bonding or because it can prevent breast cancer. Forget all that. That's just noise.

What breastfeeding is really good for is SUCKING UP EXTRA CALORIES SO YOU CAN EAT YOUR WEIGHT IN BROWNIES. If I hadn't breastfed all four of my kids, I would be competing for my own bedsheet-draped-remote-interview-from-my-hospital-bed on Jerry Springer by now. I have approximately four years of breastfeeding under my belt, which means that in those four years I could eat (or so I thought) virtually everything in my path. That's not entirely true, which has led to some weight issues (See 'Body Mass and Shame'), but that's a whole different topic.

I don't know that men realize just how awful breastfeeding is. I was one of those moms who started doing it for all the wrong reasons (namely, I eat a lot of granola and have been known to cry over dead trees) and I very quickly realized just how irritating it is to not be the sole proprietor of one of your body parts.

Imagine, if you will, walking down an icy sidewalk with groceries in either hand, and suddenly having a loud, demanding, crying homeless man run up, knock the groceries to the ground, and grab your arms because it's his turn to use them. Or piloting an airplane and crashing it into the Andes because the flight attendant in jump seat 2 needed your eyes for a few minutes. Or filling up your car with gas, getting it washed, waxed, and detailed for a night out on the town, and having your next door neighbor insist on taking the car, throwing up all over it, giving it a really good dent on the way back into the driveway, and telling you to hurry back in two hours so he can do it all over again.

The bitterness you may have detected in the preceding statements is part of the reason why women pump breast milk. Because it's nice for the dads to get up every once in a while for the four a.m. feeding. Because sometimes you don't want any more spit up INSIDE your bra. And because you want to spend one evening getting a little drunk in a formal gown without having to whip out a boob in front of your co-workers and ring the dinner bell.

Although our first babies were 100% breastfed, with Squid, Jason and I had made a point of allowing (forcing) him to have a bottle of formula every day in order to keep him interested in breastfeeding, but allowing for the possibly that there were going to be some occasions where I simply couldn't feed him. Where Squid was OK with this compromise, Eva was not. She could be forced to drink out of a bottle, if said bottle wasn't being held by me, but no way in HELL was she drinking that horrible formula. (I don't blame her. Taste the stuff. It's right up there with paint thinner and dog vomit.)

As a consequence, I got very good at pumping. We do a lot of driving to and from the Crowsnest Pass, as that is where all of our kids attend camp, and counsel camp, and volunteer at camp, and attend camp reunions, so Jason and I decided to invest in a really good, portable, you-can-power-it-with-the-cigarette-lighter-in-your-car breast pump.

This thing was awesome. It pumped the equivalent of 3000 Holsteins worth of milk every nanosecond. It had super high-powered suction so that not only would it stay on while you drove, but would vacuum you to your seat without the aid of a seatbelt. It even had a fancy little attachment that allowed you to switch out bottles in the middle of pumping in case baby was REALLY hungry and couldn't wait any longer. In short, it was cool. Not 'show the neighbors' cool, but cool nonetheless.

In preparation for our camping trip that year, which was a five hour drive from the house (and as far as I was capable of travelling with a two month old, a five year old, and two teenagers), I pumped enough milk to get us through the drive, and a few extras to throw in the freezer when we got there. If I stuck one teenager next to each little kid in the van, we might not even have to actually stop. (Jason doesn't enjoy stopping. I have driven past more historic sights and roadside attractions than I can count, and Squid has learned how to pee in a water bottle).

We started Eva off with a really good feeding before we put her in her carseat, and placed a brand new bottle beside her for when she got hungry again, as the kid ate like clockwork every two hours.

With the perfect timing that is the hallmark of every infant everywhere, Eva promptly fell asleep, and chose that very day to have her first five hour long nap. About 45 minutes from our destination, she woke up, realized it had been five hours, and LOST it, demanding to be fed. To wait until she was screaming hysterically with hunger was cruel to the other campers, as we would be pulling in to our site around midnight, and pulling over on the single lane highway was not an option.

I congratulated myself on my foresight and planning, dug out the spare milk, and realized that the only actual bottle we remembered to bring was the one sitting beside Eva, currently full of warm, five hour old, probably poisonous, milk that had been sitting in direct sunlight since we left town. Although we had tons of those little freezer bags of milk, we had no delivery system.

Luckily, I hadn't completely finished my bottle of water, and we realized that all we needed to do was dump the old milk, rinse the baby bottle, refill, and our problem was solved. Liz passed the old bottle up to the front of the van, and (have I mentioned Jason did not like to stop on the way out camping?), in full view of the hot guy in the red sports car behind us, I rolled down the window, opened the bottle of milk, and poured.

At 110 kilometers an hour.

As it dawned on me what I had done, there was a scream from the backseat of the van. The breast milk, after flowing down the side of the van and coating the middle window with a opaque film of life-giving goodness, had found the path of least resistance, and (fortunately, by then much reduced in volume), REentered the van through the open back window, splattering Squid with the dregs of Eva's uneaten, curdled dinner. Luckily, by leaving the back window open, we had avoided having that extra milk coat the windshield of the hot guy in the car behind us, blinding him, and causing him to drive off the road into a ditch. I was grateful for that much, but I have to tell you, throwing bodily fluids at him didn't do a lot for the 'flirt with the 20 year old hottie in the sports car' portion of my evening.

I can only assume that it was new-mommy hormones and sleep deprivation that led to the debacle, but when the sun rose the following morning and illuminated the side of the van, revealing the sheer QUANTITY of milk I had poured out the window and left to dry in the night, I couldn't help but be impressed. That was one hell of a breast pump.

Yeah. On second thought, I don't love babies all THAT much.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Oops. We Did It Again....

Before anyone panics, I promise. This has nothing to do with babies.
Honey- breathe.

Sometime near the end of 2011, I published a post entitled "Dirty Night Out", detailing my and Jason's first foray into bingo.

I promised Jason I wouldn't talk about it, and I kept it to myself for almost a whole month, but a blog is like a confessional. I'm almost driven to bare my soul. Therefore, it is with the deepest shame and utmost regret that I have to inform you, my loyal readers, that we did it again. 


I feel so cheap.

So dirty.

So.... polyester.

And oh, God, it felt so good....

Because we enjoyed ourselves so much on our first trip, we invited Jamie and Shawn to come with us when we went the second time, sometime around September 2012, which was just long enough after the first trip to guarantee that we would forget everything we had learned the previous year about how to play.

Although Jamie and Shawn were more than willing participants (especially once we told Shawn that the Grey Eagle Casino serves beer in the bingo hall), I still feel a little guilty about the whole thing, because it was obvious they were sucked in by my stories of the glitz, the high-rolling excitement, the glamorous atmosphere, and the huge windfalls just waiting to be discovered on their 6-4 Baseball cards.

Alas. It was not to be.

None of us won a thing. There were a few near misses, when one of us would get within 5 or 6 numbers of winning before some other sucker would win some lousy thirty dollar pot, but that was about as close as we came to glory. The most thrilling part of the evening was when Jason spilled his popcorn at the same time as Shawn spilled his beer and we floated the popcorn around like little boats until Jamie got back with the napkins. There was a brief bit of excitement when Jamie and I won 'Good Neighbor Cards' for sitting near someone who actually won (they should actually call these things 'Sour Grapes Cards'.  There was nothing remotely neighborly about the thoughts I was having when that ancient old crone yelled 'Bingo'), and we got to try our hands at marking real, live, paper bingo cards, in real time as the caller called the numbers. Our first obstacle there was that neither of us owned a dabber (dauber?), and we were forced to mark the cards with a pen, which I think might actually invalidate the damn things. Worse, however, was the brief hiccup in the space-time continuum, which made the caller appear to be calling numbers at light speed, with the unfortunate result that neither of us was able to keep up. We got so far behind that we finally realized that even if we DID think we had won, we could never actually yell "Bingo', because there was no way we had all the numbers right, and appearing stupid in a room full of people I am trying to look down on does a number on my self esteem every time.

As a group, we had been marginally successful on our trip to Vegas for Shawn's 40th, so we had assumed we possessed the magic. We left the bingo hall that evening, hopes dashed, dreams shattered, vowing never to return.

But it creeps up on you, see?

You go about your life, living from day to day like every addict does, and it creeps up on you. One minute you're in Old Navy, doing some Boxing Week shopping for jeans that fit (Five pairs, baby! I LOVE that place!), and the next, you realize you have a few leftover Christmas dollars with nothing to do, and you're barreling down Deerfoot, trying to get the kids home from the mall in time to make the 6:45 cutoff when they won't let you buy any more tickets.

So we went again.

We chose a different table this time, because it was clear that the side of the bingo hall we had been sitting on with Jamie and Shawn three months previously had bad vibes. We picked a single table, on the opposite side of the hall. It had a great view of the entire space, which meant we could watch the creepy, weird bingo players at the same time as we (ahem) played ourselves.

We briefly discussed buying a dauber (dabber?) and some paper tickets, but the memories of our previous Good Neighbor Cards were still too fresh. We settled on buying a few of the special games we hadn't played the last time around (but only those ones that went on the digital machines, thanks!), bought ourselves some fries and pop, and away we went.


Was our constant belittling of the whole culture angering the Bingo Gods and ensuring our everlasting lucklessness? We stopped making fun, and I even tried to admire someone's dauber (dabber?) caddy. We changed the color and shapes of the electronic dabbers (daubers?), with absolutely no effect, put on careful masks of boredom, in an attempt to trick the caller into thinking we didn't want to win, and even asked the old guy at the next table over if we were using the machines right. All to no avail.

And then came the epiphany. Just after the last game of the first half of the evening event, immediately after the caller announced intermission, someone across the hall from us had a seizure, fell off their seat, and lost consciousness.  It was terrifying for him, I'm sure, and security had to call 911. When the paramedics came, they administered medication, the guy sat up, and when they attempted to transport him to the hospital, he REFUSED TO LEAVE THE BINGO HALL. He didn't want to leave his cards, he didn't want to leave the game, and he wasn't going anywhere, thank you very damn much. After much back and forth, and cajoling and arguing by the paramedics and the security staff, the poor fellow left the casino under his own steam, and the medical staff got a rousing round of applause.

And Jason turned to me and said, "I didn't want to say anything till it was obvious he was ok, but did you notice that guy waited for intermission? THAT'S a bingo player!!!!!"

As I dug my knuckles as far as I could into the sensitive space between Jason's 6th and 7th ribs, I couldn't help but think that maybe he had a point. All the stuff we were doing to win was kinda half-assed. We fiddled with digi machines, pretended not to care whether we won or not, and generally made a mockery of the whole game. That was wrong. In order to win, we had to go all the way, and really, REALLY commit to the process.

We picked up our stuff, and moved across the hall to our 'lucky' spot, where we had first played, lo those many (2) trips ago. We threw out what we were eating and duplicated our food from the first time (when the concession only serves two things that don't suck, and beer, it's pretty easy to remember your 'lucky' meal). We bought our late night tickets from the same lady who had sold them to us the very first time we had walked in the door, started up our machines, and waited for the riches to roll in.

The effects were almost immediate.  Not only were we getting more numbers, we were getting closer and closer to actually winning a game. And it finally happened. Jason smacked me on the arm for all he was worth and muttered, "Hey- watch this! I'm going to bingo on the next number!" (He does not have precognitive powers- for those of you who've never been, they actually display the next number for a second or two before calling it to give people (with paper tickets and far more skill) a chance to get ahead.)

"Yeah- you and ten others.... " I whispered, secretly gleeful that my plan had paid off.

The caller called the next number and Jason was the only one to yell and wave his pretty orange card in the air. Fifty bucks! There was something to the whole superstition thing after all! We had a workable strategy!

The ticket seller who stood beside him gave him and myself a few of those Good Neighbor Cards, which we promptly handed to the two older ladies sitting behind us. When Jason told them we couldn't understand them, and didn't own daubers (dabbers?) anyway, they offered to lend us theirs, but we declined. Once you have a scientifically proven system, to add unknown variables and possibly skew the results is sheer folly. Plus, we were still too stupid to keep up with the caller.

The prize runner came over with Jason's slip midway through the following game, and he kept it under his machine like a good luck totem. We had won back a portion (not nearly as big a portion as it would have been had we exercised some self control with the lady at the entrance to the hall) of what we had spent on our evening, had enjoyed some time to ourselves, and we were feeling a little smug.

With only one game left to go, it seemed like a reasonable assumption that we were tapped out, luck-wise, so we weren't really paying attention when the next game came up, and my digi machine told us I was 18 numbers away from a win.

Jason was five.

Huh. The troll doll theory was proving itself once again.

Then he was four numbers away.

We took a look at the program for the evening, which tells you what the payout is based on the attendance (something we had made a point of deciphering during the intermission that evening), and realized that Jason could very well win $150, assuming he was the only winner.

Then he was at three.

Then two.

Jason grabbed my arm and frantically whispered, "Omigodlookatthenextnumber!"

B6. The only number Jason needed to win, and the number showing on the caller's screen. Both were B6. This was freaking awesome!

The caller called B6, and, to our immense surprise, Jason was the only person in the room to yell "BINGO!!!!!"  He had won the whole prize! The whole $150! Holy crap!!!!

I did some quick math and realized that he was about to pay the remaining portion of the cost of the evening's entertainment. We were about to leave the bingo hall having spent NOT A CENT on the world's most expensive board game!

The radio lady came over and confirmed with the caller that Dean had, indeed, gotten a bingo. The caller them asked her to check and make sure Dean had purchased that evening's pots (up till just then, we still had no idea what they were, but we didn't want to seem stupid, so we bought them anyway), and when the lady with the radio nodded yes, everyone in the hall let out a little gasp of breath. Huh?

"In addition to winning the game, ladies and gentlemen, tonight's Pot #2 number was B6, standing at $1153. Congratulations to our winner!"

Seriously? We had perfected our strategy and Jason had won a measly $150, and some lucky SOB won almost $1200? As I turned to look for the person who had won all this money, the two old gals behind us started to giggle.

"See?" they cackled, "It's because of those Good Neighbor Cards you gave us. They brought you good karma!!!"

The penny finally dropped, and I turned to Jason (whose thought processes were light years ahead of mine on this particular evening), slapped him in the arm and shrieked, "HOLY SHIT, YOU JUST WON $1200!!!!!!!!!!", causing the rest of the hall to burst out laughing.

I have no idea what the last game was. I don't know if I came close to winning, if I actually won, or if the roof caved in under the weight of 3000 rabid pigs. I remember Jason being handed a cheque, and I remember the caller congratulating him, and thanking me for my over-the-top reaction, which he never gets to see, as everyone else feigns disinterest, and I remember the cashier telling us on the way out that they would cash the cheque for us at the casino slot cages (oh, I bet they will...).

We can't go back. It took exactly three trips to transform us from normal people into the type of card-carrying crazies who don't wash the socks they were wearing when they won the satellite bingo prize. We fell in line, and the Bingo Gods smiled upon us. We (metaphorically) bought their troll dolls and wore their lucky hats. We dyed our metaphysical hair purple, wore polyester Sansa-Belt slacks, bought a carton of Salem Menthol Slims to last us the evening, hooked up our O2 tanks, and waded into the crazy end of the gene pool. And gold rained upon us and plunked us on the heads.

We could never duplicate this evening. We would go broke trying. I know when we've had enough of a good thing, and when it's time to stop. I prefer to quit BEFORE the 12-Step meetings in the church basement. I see the way things are headed. I have seen the inside of my last bingo hall.

We've booked a trip to Vegas.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

On Accidental Blindness

So, after my little rant earlier about how desperate I am for me time, I got to thinking about the me time I've had in the past, what I've enjoyed about it, and what I would or would not do again.

I don't know about you guys, but for me, the list of 'Things I Would Do Again' is often eclipsed by the list of 'Crap. That Was Stupid ' (see '*Appendix A' for an itemized list). However, sometimes, 'Things I Would Do Again' and 'Crap. That Was Stupid' come together in a cacophony of fun. Most of THOSE things aren't repeatable in a blog, or won't wash out of a Las Vegas hotel room carpet (Ahem. Shawn.), but every once in a while, they're G-rated enough to share.

Years ago, when Jason and I only had two kids, we bought a condo. The condo doesn't really figure into the story, except to explain to you that we had funnelled our already meagre resources into buying the damn thing and paying the mortgage, taxes, and condo fees, which, when combined, were roughly 19824659% of our monthly income (See 'On Poverty'). We had no extra cash, and I worked full time nights at Starbucks, only to get up every morning to get Isaiah to school after Jason left for work and spend the day parenting two year old Liz. I felt then as I do now. Drained. With no elastic in the budget, and with Jason and I never actually being in the same house at the same time, there was very damn little I could do about it.

And then, in a discussion with my best friends in the whole wide world, Jamie and Lana, we discovered that we were all feeling that way, and we decided the three of us would go away, sans husbands and kids, to relax.

Since, at the time, we were all in a similar financial drought, we decided that 3 nights in a hotel in Edmonton, shopping, perhaps drinking a bit, and hitting a spa, was the perfect plan. We picked a date far, far into the future, so that we could water down the apple juice and feed the kids store brand Ichiban to save money, and when the day arrived, we piled into Jamie's brand, spanking, used Chevy Lumina for the trip.

We had a blast. In the 7 hours it took us to get there (time lapse caused by the fact that Whitemud Drive crosses all of Edmonton eleventy-one times and covers roughly two-thirds of northern Alberta and most of the Northwest Territories and at no time actually connected with the street we needed), we talked more than we had in years. I did much of the talking, as I was allowed to neither to drive or navigate (my best friends were too kind to say it, but no one wanted to die that weekend, or get eaten by wolves in the back country). We found things out about each other that we had either never known, or had simply forgotten. We stopped at the A&W in Somedamnwhere, Alberta, and found out that restaurants in places north of Calgary smell funny. We sang along with the radio, and we giggled till we had to pull the car over. We curled up on the beds in our hotel room and drank till we wished we hadn't. We played Speed, our favourite card game since high school, eight thousand times. We ate real Mexican food, and tried mole sauce for the first time. We found out that Mexicans have a cruel sense of humour and that mole sauce was an evil waste of good chocolate. We window shopped, and real shopped, and found out that stores in places north of Calgary smell funny, too. We found a teeny, tiny, out of the way spa, the owner of which, when we told her we were three exhausted moms on a brief vacation away from our families, called in a massage therapist on her day off just so we could all have massages at the same time. Lana and I watched Jamie not be able to eat a Cinnabon because she was too hung over to look at the icing (it was fascinating because it was the one and only time ANYTHING has ever trumped Cinnabon), and at some point, we decided to go swimming. Near the end of the trip, the three of us spent a few hours screwing around in the wave pool. Jamie and I even got brave enough to go down the two really, really huge slides (screaming all the way), and  catching a TERRIFYING amount of air about halfway down. Lana calmed us down at the bottom.

At this point, Jamie had an awful hangover, a chlorine high, and a mother of a head cold coming on. When we got back to the room, her head ached, she reeked of swimming pool, her eyes were itchy, and the cold medicine wasn't helping. Lana passed her the bottle of Visine that she keeps with her contacts, and told her to put a few drops in, and maybe her eyes would quit bugging her so much, at least.

Jamie tilted her head back, dripped a drop of Visine into her left eye, and let out a shriek so high pitched that it sent small breed dogs for miles around into a frenzied panic.


What a wuss. Lana and I stared at her. Seriously? What was wrong with this woman? It was saline, for heaven's sake. We understood she wasn't feeling particularly well, but my God, did we need this kind of drama? I can't specifically remember, but I believe that at that point, we made her lie down on the hotel room bed and one of us held her head while the other one put the drops into her other eye. And the screeching doubled, in both volume and intensity.


It was at this point that I started to think that perhaps what Jamie was saying had some validity  No one can sustain a sound like that unless there is something, no matter how ridiculous, behind it.

"Oh, for crying out loud," said Lana, "look- it's just eye drops. I use them all the time." And with that, she tilted her head back and gave the bottle a good, healthy squeeze.

I assume that West Edmonton Mall over-chlorinated their pool because so many people used it. Who knows? They may even have stopped using chlorine altogether- I haven't been back to Edmonton since that trip. It seems, however, that this particular brand of eye drops reacts negatively with chlorine, and by the time the two of them had stopped screaming and I had gotten their eyes washed out, they looked like we'd spent the last 3 days smoking some really good Silver Haze (I actually had to look that up. If it's wrong, don't tell me. It sounds cool.) It was awesome. They blinked funny for hours afterwards, and leaked involuntary tears all the way back to Calgary.

To this day, whenever any of us does something incredibly dumb, someone invariably starts to yell "IT BURNS, IT BURNS!!!!!!!!!!" When you have friends as good as mine, sometimes you are lucky enough to participate in 'Things I Would Do Again', and be the one too smart to commit 'Crap. That Was Stupid', ALL IN THE SAME NIGHT.

These are the me times that I treasure.

*Appendix A ('Crap. That Was Stupid'):
  • Every decision I made between September 1990 and October 1993, specifically those regarding boys and booze, in that order, aside from the decision to date Jason. That one worked.
  • Acid wash jeans.