Category Archives: Things

Bashing la Francophonie

I just read an article on how French Immersion programs in Canada are elitist clubs for parents in the mid-to-upper class who want to ensure their children learn alongside children of the same social class and academic ability. It said the program exists to the exclusion of kids from lower-income households and scholastic status. This assertion reminded me of the opinion of a formerly well-known TV personality with whom I worked. He told me once that F.I. only serves to confuse children and breeds graduates who have inferior English skills. This guy had never had any exposure to the program and was, quite vehemently, stating his opinion on it in SPITE of that fact.

I was in French Immersion. My friends and I have never heard so much as a whisper that inclusion in the program was based on our parents’ desire to keep us away from problem kids. I guarantee 90% of students were there because their parents simply saw the advantage of being exposed to another language. And I, for one, would never apologize for enrolling my children in anything that would challenge, enlighten or encourage them.

Yes, French Immersion does see students who are generally better academics. Yes, there are fewer problem kids. But that could be just because parents who would enroll their kids in the program would generally take more interest in education overall.  Also, I don’t understand the argument that only upper-class kids take part. Where was the fact checker on this article? Both the French and the English program in any school reflect the social class of the families in the area where that school exists. And F.I. schools exist everywhere, from Whalley to West Vancouver.

As far as rendering a child worse in the ostensibly more important language of English, I would argue the exact opposite. I believe that exposing a person of any age to another language makes them better in their dominant tongue. As someone who has studied language my whole life (and not just French) I know that learning another language causes me to understand the rules that comprise the English language so much better. I see parallels in English that I never would have seen had I not been exposed to the counterparts in the other language. I have a far deeper understanding of conjugation, of syntax and of idioms in English as a result. Don’t think that’s important? Well, whether you realize it or not, every day that you use language, you are practicing each one of those elements. Your ability to understand and express grow immeasurably with exposure to linguistic elements of any tongue. Just like the importance of literacy is to the success of us all, so is the deeper understanding of the language we use.

Furthermore, there is an enormous social benefit in learning another language to the depth that French Immersion offers. I have always been of the opinion that, with such an education, you are far more likely to have acceptance and tolerance of other cultures. Part in parcel of learning a language is simultaneously being exposed to the way the people of that language think, the way they work and the thought patterns associated with that culture. It’s impossible not to glean a better understanding of a people after having learned their language. You always learn more than just words. Infused in words and phrases are thoughts, sentiments and ideals.

As for the argument that the program is so much more difficult that you end up excluding all the kids who aren’t as academically strong…well, I’m unsure where the writer was going with that. Should schools omit challenging material altogether because some children may not succeed? By and large, a student who does not succeed in French Immersion will have similar problems in the English curriculum. Immersion is not taught in the same fashion as regular French classes. After a short time, understanding becomes second nature and is quite secondary to the subject taught. If you have trouble understanding math, it’s because of the math, not the French. 

I take great issue with the writer of this article. NONE of us would want our kids in a school infamous for trouble. My desire for my kids to be in a school with well-behaved, hard-working students from stable households does not mean I harbour what this writer seems to think is a dirty little secret of elitism.

My guess is that lower-income parents aren’t enrolling their kids into French Immersion in droves (if the article is accurate) because, in general, lower-income people have less education, put less emphasis on education and express less interest in education choices for their kids.

The writer would only have a point if F.I. cost money, was only offered in affluent areas or required a minimum GPA. It does not.

I don’t think it’s wrong to choose the English curriculum. I would just be curious to know what arguments parents have used in deliberately not choosing to enroll their children in French. I would hope parents are not listening to the likes of the writer from the aforementioned article.

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Bathing Suits Are Difficult

I love swimming. We were a camping family growing up and have always been exposed to waterplay. I’ve often said that I could have been a professional athlete, and I reckon swimming would have been one of my top choices for sport. (My sister and I took gymnastics, which, given our height wasn’t the most logical.) Yes, lanky, skinny and sinewy was I (every man’s fantasy!) with broad shoulders (even sexier!) and a flat chest (please stop!) which meant I was just born to glide through water.

And I did! I took swimming lessons and I was really good at it. In fact, if my parents had ever wanted to encourage sport in us kids I could have gone for the gold. Which, I guess, obviously means nothing seeing as I never actually competed…whatever. I COULD HAVE DONE IT.

Perhaps one of the simpler reasons I was so fond of swimming throughout my life is that I never felt awkward about being in a bathing suit. Of course, as per the aforementioned description of my physique, I never did have what one might call a bangin’ bikini bod, but I needn’t have been self-concious either. Until now.

I have mentioned I have a kid that I bore myself. I have also described my resulting stretch marks. But pregnancy does all sorts of other things to your body, too. Things that are hard to label and that, singled out, would seem nit-picky but as a whole create something that is not quite right. It’s the sum of these parts that has left me a little…off. You know? Like the puckering of the skin above the navel? And the persistent linea nigra that they SAID was supposed to FADE after childbirth? Or the slightly puffy consistency of the newfound ponch? Or, worse, the fact that I now hardly have the time to self tan, leaving my skin its original mottled paleness? Yes, it is all these things that made me less than eager to shop for a new bathing suit today, which at the best of times, for most women, is an event that’s little less than totally discouraging. I think it goes without saying that I chose a one-piece for the first time in, oh, fifteen years.

All that said, I don’t actually mind it all so much, this new body. I mean, how often am I in a bathing suit? And how many people are going to be sniggering behind my back at the beach? And who cares, anyway? Yes, that’s a … very … good … question … And wouldn’t you know it, I’m pretty sure I got a one-piece that’s not all that matronly. However, even if you see me in it and mistake me for a woman ten years my senior I don’t think I’ll care, come to think of it.

Where was my rant in all this? I forget.

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Useless Renovations

My husband and I bought a place at the height of the market. It’s not that it was stupid; we needed a place, we didn’t get in over our heads, and we could have waited forever for the market to take what some suspected would be a bubble bursting in 2008. What bugs me is not that our place is assessed slightly lower now than when we bought it. Like any investment, you have to expect highs and lows. What annoys me is not even what the market or circumstances or our useless realtor did to us – no, it’s what WE did after we bought the home that still gets to me, two years later.

Our unit needed a facelift real bad. Everything was tacky, dirty, uncared for, horribly maintained and cheap. What a bargain for several hundred thousand dollars! Why, oh why, did we not get two?

Let me show you this listing, my dear clients: the carpet has clearly not seen a vacuum in months and is worn down to the plywood, the walls have so many holes and other damage that it may be better to just re-drywall the whole thing, the kitchen and bathroom are original from thirty years ago, the subfloor in said bathroom is rotted, the electrical switches do not correspond to any outlets, there are no main lights in any rooms so you’ll have to buy a crap-load of lamps, the closet doors don’t hang or close right (and if you’ve never tried to fix that kind of problem, I only have two words: GOOD LUCK), every square inch of wall and ceiling will need several coats of paint, every window will need blinds, the broken tile floor will have to be removed but you’ll also discover a treat of four layers of linoleum underneath, the load-bearing wall will need new studs because it’s seriously wonky, oh and least (but certainly not last) the backyard meadow of old weeds, cracked cement and fence gate that won’t open will also need your attention. Sign on the dotted line!

And we did. Please, please…give me a minute…this is one of those things that’s hard to reflect upon.

Okay, I’m alright. What’s past is past, right?

We did all the work ourselves, and by that I mean with the help of the numerous tradesmen in our family. Every single thing we did from the major (kitchen gutting) to the minor (vent replacing) presented a challenge. There was not one project we undertook where everything proceeded as expected. EVERYTHING had at least one aspect that was unforeseen, unusual or downright disastrous. There was not one wall we opened up that didn’t have issues underneath. There was also not one wall that didn’t need hours of plaster/sand/repeat before we could even think about painting. There was not one surface that had even so much as been wiped down to prevent the buildup of a sticky layer of dust and hair that must have taken years to accumulate.

And would you know, even after we had torn it all down, rebuilt to code, done everything properly and made everything new, I STILL look at the paint that took me several trips to Home Depot and countless hours to choose and I think, dammit that colour is ugly.

But because I am trying to look at the glass half-full, let me congratulate my husband and myself for becoming really, super handy.

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Breastfeeding Can Suck

I have to get something off my chest, so to speak. When I was pregnant, I read everything I could about pregnancy and child development. I am one of those people who does my research. So it surprised – no, dumbfounded – me when I finally had my daughter and breastfeeding turned out to be the hardest thing about having a newborn.

I was adamant that I would nurse, if I was physically able, for at least a year. I have always been aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and I wanted to do everything in my power to give my child the very best possible. I had heard of women not producing milk, rendering them unable to nurse. I had even come to know of a friend who could only produce about 50% of what her daughter needed (a scenario I hadn’t considered). But in all my research, my reading and my talking to other moms I had never, ever heard just how difficult breastfeeding could be.

What do I mean by difficult? Let me put it this way: the resulting pain from my episiotomy (a cut at the opening of the vagina to better allow baby’s head to push through) was nothing (NOTHING I tell you!) compared to the pain I experienced from breast engorgement and my baby suckling.

My breasts went up four cup sizes when I was in hospital and didn’t go down for at least a week. That’s because the milk wouldn’t come out (what is called a let-down). And the milk wouldn’t let down because baby couldn’t latch on correctly. And with baby not latched on correctly, her suckling hurt LIKE A MOFO. By that I mean toe-curling, profanity-uttering, eyes-squeezed-shut pain.

I can’t quite stress the severity of this pain enough. I liken it to childbirth itself: unless you go through it you can’t possibly understand it. And because it lasted for the better part of three weeks, and my labour only lasted about six hours, I have decided breastfeeding wins hands-down on the pain-o-metre.

I have wondered in the months since my daughter’s birth why on earth I had never come across this possibility in major childbirth books and websites. Not even the lactation consultant I saw in hospital (who was wonderful otherwise) ever told me that it could take a while for my body to adjust to the new sensation. Had I known it could be that bad, but that it would take a few weeks to get better, I might not have felt so incredibly overwhelmed and ready to quit. In fact, the main reason I bore down and suffered through it was because my friend, who had recently had a child herself, told me that she went through a lot of pain, too, but that after about two weeks it got a lot better. Thank God for her because I was getting really stressed out that my baby was never going to be able to nurse effectively.

It did get better. After about 3 weeks I could feed her without clenching my teeth. My milk let down. The blood blisters on my nipples went away. And although I had momentary bouts of pain until the third month, for the most part thereafter it was smooth sailing.

I just think every breastfeeding mother out there should know this so they can be encouraged to keep at it.

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I Have Stretch Marks

They’re as a result of pregnancy. A pregnancy where I grew so far out front that my skin hurt. You know how Kate Gosselin had to put Vaseline on her belly when she was expecting the sextuplets because of stretch-induced burns? Well, I can appreciate how that can happen, even though I was only bearing a singleton. Don’t laugh.

I’m convinced the reason I was an unlucky recipient of this dermal decoration is that I have very dry skin. I know, doctors will say that it’s just luck of the draw, genetics. But all my friends with lush skin don’t have any.

I first got stretch marks when I was around thirteen when I must have grown a lot in a short period of time. Those ones are on the sides of my butt, but they’ve turned white and they’re not that obvious. And, really, not many can boast of seeing my butt regularly. That precious gift is enjoyed only by my husband, my baby daughter and my cat. (And sometimes, perhaps, by the neighbours if I’ve neglected to lower the blinds, something that annoys my husband to no end but in my mind is no biggie and I’d be hard pressed to say why I secretly think it’s funny to give them a peep show…). I’m hopeful my belly ones eventually fade the same way, though it’s already been six months and they’re still red.

I shouldn’t really care about my stretch marks because I got something far better in return for my six-pack: my daughter. But if I’m anything like the women of the 90’s who Alyssa Milano described when she said “We want it all!” on Who’s The Boss? then I, too, want my old belly back. I want it all!

(Doesn’t anyone remember that episode?)

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I’m Sick Of Toxins

I admit I’m one of those people who obsesses over things that can harm you. I’ve always been like this and I don’t like it. I don’t like constantly thinking about what I’m putting on, in or around me and what the consequences of doing so may be. But what bugs me more is the fact that I feel like I have to do it because no one is going to do it for me (I’m talking about the government here – I know, I know, I’m soooo politically aggressive…).

Needless to say, this really aggravates my husband. Probably more so than anything else (and there are LOTS of aggravating things about me). Sometimes I swear he agrees with me but won’t admit it. Other times I can just feel him rolling his eyes at what he considers my over-zealous toxin vigilance.

But this week he surprised me with his patience. I was complaining that I didn’t want to start baking my Christmas cookies on my old non-stick baking sheet. I went on and on about how even if you use parchment paper, the non-stick coating is still probably emitting toxic fumes under the heat. And I’m not entirely sure of parchment paper anyway. And it’s so annoying because you can’t find ANYTHING in stores that’s not non-stick or crappy aluminum. And did he know that aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s? And all non-stick stuff deteriorates after a few years anyway so you keep having to buy more. Oh yes, my husband heard it good.

So I finally found an independent high-end store that sells the only stainless steel line of bakeware I have ever come across. I was elated! Finally, no more worries! And at the bargain price of only two pairs of Lululemon pants! I broached the subject cautiously, asking him if it was okay that I get it. I expected him to tell me how ridiculous I am and mock me for buying into the fear-propaganda that makes otherwise intelligent people waste money on useless things. But, bless his heart, he just nodded when I came home with a single $150 All-Clad stainless steel baking sheet.

I like to think I’m rubbing off on him. Or maybe he’s just happier knowing I will be baking my cookies with confidence and not asking him every half hour to research some toxic substance on the internet. Or maybe he really, really likes my sleek new baking sheet and wishes he did the baking in the family.

You’re welcome, sweetheart.

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My Cat Bugs Me

I used to love her. I do love her. I love her sometimes…most of the time…

My friend and I bought her together when we were roommates. We noticed right away that this excitable, furry ball was quite different from other cats in that she really, really needed to be around people. We considered her constant need for attention kind of comforting, like it was nice to be needed.

I took her with me when I got married. My husband, who had never been a pet person (let alone a cat person) was against the idea but didn’t put up much of a fight because I loved her and we were a packaged deal.

Now, often I find myself veering towards his side.

Oh, sure, I’m still a cat person. And I will still try to pet every cat that I see. And I love the way cats are so easy to care for. And cats are cheap. And cats clean themselves. And cats kill rodents and spiders and bugs that fly. And I love that my cat sleeps at the foot of our bed. And the kid loves loves loves her.

Okay. But Lassie the Cat is on my last nerve. The next time she scratches at the expensive couch while looking up at us like “See how I’m doing this? What are you gonna do about it? How are you going to stop me?”, barfs up onto the white carpet because she swallowed a hair elastic, gallops up and down the hallway with alarming speed only to ram into the banister posts causing what must be severe head trauma, tracks her litter out of the box and down the hall, sniffs at the baby like she’s tuna, puts her paws in our drink glasses, meows incessantly at her food bowl even though it’s full or tries to escape her townhouse prison by making a run for it when the front door is open and our backs are turned I SIMPLY CAN’T BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT I MIGHT DO.

Be warned, Lassie.


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