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Nicole Ludwig

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Walking in Parking Lots with Children

I am scared of walking in parking lots with Shannon. I don’t mind walking on sidewalks along busy highways or bypasses with her – at least there I can put myself between her and the cars.

When I first started my current job, I met a woman whose small son had been hit by a runaway shopping cart in a parking lot. Her son ended up with a brain injury, her marriage fell apart and instead of being the teacher she always wanted to be, she became an advocate for her son and people with brain injuries and hidden disabilities generally. Because of the shopping cart, her son had permanent brain damage and associated behavioural problems.

A friend of mine whose wife works with people with disabilities said it quite succinctly: “The sad part is, if he’d been hit by a car, ICBC would take care of him.”

And I am scared of parking lots with cars and shopping carts. Especially shopping carts.

* * * * *

One Friday, I was driving home and heard the news: a mother and her 2 year old son had been hit by a minivan in a mall parking lot in Pitt Meadows. I was horrified and tempted to stop off there on the way home – but the mother and son had long since been taken to hospital and I would just be in the way of police and others trying to figure out what happened.

She had a broken leg; her son had passed away, said the talking heads.

I went home and hugged Shannon and checked my Facebook to find that a few of my local friends had posted they were okay and thanking friends for calling.

* * * * *

Last week there was a candlelit vigil at Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge for the little boy. I didn’t go – I got home late and hadn’t slept well and was tired. I slept with Shannon in her bed (apparently I snore and have been keeping Darren awake).

I woke up every couple of hours and finally called it quits at 4am. I got up and made some coffee, did some online Christmas shopping, and for some reason started googling news articles about the accident.

The little boy’s name was Riddick.

* * * * *

Last year, I enrolled Shannon in a dance class because she loved dancing. I talked just about every week to one of the mothers there who had her daughter in the same class. I never learned her name but I did learn many things about her in the way that parents do when they chat to each other.

One day, she explained the origin of her kids’ names. She had wanted unusual names.

She named her daughter Temperance. Temperance was about a year older than Shannon and lost a tooth at their final recital.

I met most of her family there – her parents would attend and we would chat. Once or twice she brought her son along with her.

Her son’s name was Riddick.

* * * * *

 I hate walking in parking lots with Shannon, more than ever.



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First-World Problems: An Open Letter to Premier Clark on BC’s Minimum Wage & Live-in Caregivers

Dear Premier Clark:

The other week, you met with a group of mom bloggers, many of whom I consider friends, to talk about what issues are most important to them. I was not invited, but it’s unlikely I could have attended, because I had to work. I love my job ,and I love that my daughter receives the best of care while I am at work. Since I wasn’t able share my views, I’ve put my story and ideas in an open letter format.

My story is a story of first world problems. My common-law partner and I own a townhouse in Maple Ridge. We moved here because we are both originally from smaller towns and we also wanted a place we could afford and still go on the occasional vacation and buy some toys. I work in Vancouver, he works in Burnaby. In short, we chose to live within our means, in a place we liked, despite the long commutes. Daily, our time out of the house is about 12 hours per day, subject to traffic, transit, etc.

When our daughter came along, childcare presented a bit of a problem. We didn’t want her stuck in daycare 12, 14, 16 hours a day waiting for one of us to show up. So we applied for the live-in caregiver program. Our nanny arrived in spring of 2010, a few weeks before I went back to work. At that time, minimum wage was $8.00 per hour. We paid her that, including overtime, because she has long days, paid the employer portions of EI and CPP and the full WCB yearly charge and that was that. We deducted the maximum room and board of $325 per month in two payments of $162.50 each. That $325 per month has to be claimed as income on our taxes (so in some strange way, we end up paying income tax on it twice: once before it’s given as wages and once after). And then minimum wage increased.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against paying our nanny more or raising the minimum wage. I’m suggesting that in the case of a live-in caregiver, the circumstances are different, particularly as they pertain to room and board.

Since 2010, the costs of our childcare have gone 28.325% and that’s just in terms of hourly wage. That doesn’t include the increased CPP and EI that occurs as a result of that increase. It also doesn’t include WCB, which despite being accident-free, keeps going up.

Childcare deductions on income taxes are capped at $7000 per year for live-in caregivers – or about a third of what we paid in childcare last year. At the same time, the cost of living has drastically increased. Statistics Canada offered these statements in March 2012:

  • in the 12 months before March 2012, food prices rose 2.2%, following a 4.1% increase in February
  • The cost of energy advanced 5.1% in the 12 months to March, after rising 7.2% in February.
  • The year-over-year increase in gasoline prices eased to 6.6% in March, following an 8.9% rise in February. Electricity costs increased 5.3%, after rising 8.7% the previous month.

And yet, while we are paying more in terms of food, utilities and childcare, there has been a 0% increase in the room and board rate for live-in caregivers, even though the absolute minimum they are to be paid is 28.325% more than two years ago.

However, I have a problem with the room and board rates not being raised in conjunction with the cost of living. Under the terms of the live-in caregiver program, the room and board rates are set by the province at $325 per month. This is less than the shelter portion of the welfare rate, which does not include meals and only sometimes includes utilities.

Put another way: we are housing, feeding and providing utilities to an additional person beneath our roof and having to declare that as income, for less than the shelter portion of the welfare rate. For comparison’s sake, if we were to rent out that room, we’d be able to charge between $500 and $600 per month for it because it is furnished, plus utilities (and not including food).

However, many of these caregivers come from overseas and are unaware of the costs of living here. I think many of them would be shocked by the actual costs of rent and food when their time with their families comes to an end. By under-charging for room and board, there is a disservice being done to both the families and the caregivers. Some suggestions:

  1. Increase the amount of room and board to something closer to what it would be for a single person in a furnished room; between $500 and $600 per month. This move would eliminate the disservice being done to families and caregivers: give the family some relief and give the caregiver a better idea of real costs. In future years, continue to raise the room and board rate at the same rate of CPI.
  2. Provide a further tax deduction to offset the difference between what we can claim on our taxes vs. what we actually pay.
  3. Allow employers to opt out of WCB if they agree in a contract to continue paying the base rate to their live-in caregiver if the caregiver is injured on the job.
  4. Provide a tax deduction to offset the employer portions of WCB, EI, CPP and room and board (the last of which must be claimed as income).

Option 1 above would be the easiest for you to do. Room and board is completely under provincial jurisdiction. The others would probably require some sort of negotiation and dialogue with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Our nanny is a part of our family. We all adore her, especially our daughter. We have made a commitment to both of them for another three years by renewing our nanny’s work permit for the length of time her passport is valid. We look forward to the establishment of some fairer treatment for families who choose this type of childcare.

I look forward to establishing a dialogue with you and your staff about this in order to put families – all families – first.

Yours truly,

Nicole Ludwig

Thanks to Harriet  for editing this.

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Playground Manners

The Poptart is getting to the age where she’s able to use playground equipment. At the waterpark we go to, there is an extensive playground. Sure most of the equipment says 5 and up, and she’s 27 months, but whatever. She knows to wait for a spotter on ladders and waits at the top of the slide until everyone is clear from her landing zone. She knows how to climb ladders, and onto teeter totters, and to sit on the merry-go-round.

More importantly, if she needs to get through somewhere and someone is blocking her way, she’ll say, “Excuse me.”

Which brings me to my point: playground manners.

At the playground last week, I observed many children, tweens and teens older than her playing on the equipment. That’s all fine and dandy – I love that they’re outside getting fresh air and sunshine and exercise. What I don’t love is when the Poptart said, “Excuse me!” to some of them, they just stared at her like she had 5 heads and didn’t move – except for the one group of tween girls who thought she was the cutest thing ever and apologized to her for being in her way.

The playground I’m talking about has a thing called a Playmotion X-wave2. It’s a pretty cool contraption that kids can walk along and it moves up and down (like a wave) depending on where the most weight is. The Poptart loves to walk along it, with help. Last week, we were walking on it and a much bigger kid (8 or 9, I imagine) plunks himself on the thing a couple of feet in front of her. When she got to him, she said, “Excuse me!” and he just stared at her. She frowned, obviously confused, and said, “Excuse me!” again. When he didn’t move, she pouted and looked at me for help.

I said, “Hey buddy, can we get through? Thanks.”

He sighed, and finally moved off to another piece of equipment. He may have also rolled his eyes.

We continued along the toy, and there was a group of 3 girls – about the same age as the boy – sitting there, also blocking the way. They refused to move as well, when she said, “Excuse me!” 3 times.

By this point I was fairly perturbed – not because they were blocking my kid, but because each time they didn’t move until I, an adult, asked them to. I finally said, “Hey girls, we’d like to get through” and raised my eyebrows at them like I used to when I was a lifeguard and the kids weren’t obeying the pool rules that they knew. They scrambled off pretty quick there, but probably only because I was an authority figure.

My problem with this is twofold.

  1. It makes me feel old. And by that I mean: why can’t they move when they’re not even using the equipment as it was intended and just blocking it for a 2 year old? Whatever happened to moving out of the way when someone was trying to get through? Whatever happened to manners? Whatever happened to moving out of the way
  2. It’s potentially teaching the Poptart a few things that I don’t really want her to learn. First, it’s teaching her that she can’t deal with these situations without an adult around. Second, it’s teaching her that manners (saying “Excuse me” when you want to pass) are irrelevant because others don’t follow the same manners.
  3. Finally, it’s teaching her that she doesn’t have to move until an adult/authority figure says she has to. Put another way, it’s showing her she doesn’t have to respect others’ rights to move around or their rights generally.

I could go here into a slippery slope theory about how this all leads to teenage bullying because there’s no respect.

And yes, I’m judging. I don’t know what happened or when it became okay to intrude on others’ fairly basic rights. I truly believe that unless we start teaching and practicing respect to show our kids, our society is in some deep, deep trouble.

Either that or the next words out of my mouth are going to be, “Get offa my lawn!”

Have you seen these things happening to your kids on the playground or elsewhere? How do you deal with them? How do you teach your kids to deal with them?

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An Ode to Two

Oh, how hard it must be to be Two. Your abilities far outstrip your judgment and everything that is yours is restricted from you. Like mom’s wineglass.

Two is understanding the rules, but generally being defiant of said rules. I figure this is a taste of what teenagehood will be like. Seriously, Two. You are trying my nerves especially this last weekend.

Two is being Thoroughly Displeased with the fact that I wasn’t home for bedtime three nights in a row the other week. Believe me, that was just as hard for me as it was for you. But when you came home with your Nanny on that Thursday and I was there, and you ran over to me with a shriek of joy and flung yourself into my arms, that made the whole situation a lot better.

Of course, then you smacked me, but hey, I’ll overlook that one.

Two is when you get up at 5am on a Sunday and agree to go shopping but refuse to put clothes on. Two is biting and hitting and kicking until I get equally frustrated and start crying. Two is a hug and understanding that you need to stop being a turd. Two is the beginning of compassion.

Two is contrary and frustrated and overjoyed with life all at once. Two loves her parents and finds them entirely aggravating all at the same time. Two is being tired and yet Refusing to Nap even when mom and grandma lie down with you in the big bed. Because it’s much more fun to wiggle around and jump on the bed than it is to sleep (although both mom and grandma could have used a nap).

Two is the reason toddlers are cute, although Alexis says that Three is also a reason (she does not fill me with hope, that one). If Two wasn’t cute, I doubt many kids would survive to Teenager.

Two is needing your mom and your dad to snuggle in order to calm down. Two is “Hug! Hug!” and “Kiss!” before going to bed.

Two is running around the backyard naked in the sun and splashing in your blowup pool. Two is shrieking with laughter as I push you on your swing. Two is chasing and popping bubbles.

Two is good in the morning when I come out of my room and you say, “Mommy! Up’n’down! Hug!” and I pick you up and you wrap your arms around me and in that moment when it’s still dark, everything is perfect and as it should be.

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The Approach of Two

I actually wrote this a couple of days ago. The weekend was sort of sucktastic, and then I found this post, which makes me happy.

The Poptart is 20 months old and is very much a toddler. The problem is, she’s the size of a 3 year old: 28lbs and almost a metre tall. She’s at that point where she can communicate what she wants, most of the time, and we can understand her, most of the time. Except when we can’t.

But god forbid you don’t give her what she asks for. Especially if it’s Smarties at 5:30am. Or that glass of wine you have because SERIOUSLY MOM WHY CAN’T I HAVE IT NOW??????

But if you won’t there’s always the option of flinging herself facedown on the kitchen tile and screeching about it. Or, you know, turning off the hot water tank (seriously. I know we’re doing the Four Hour Body thing, but I refuse to do cold showers)

She loves the Wiggles (I do not any more unfortunately) and will ask for “Wiggles! Tick tock!” (there’s a video that starts with a ticking clock) and she knows all the moves to “Rock a bye your bear” and “Quack Quack”.

She hates when I leave the room to go do laundry. The other week, she had a full out temper tantrum when I went downstairs. Then she threw her otter over the gate and down the stairs and got mad about that, so she threw her phone at it (an old cel phone we don’t use anymore) and then got mad about that. Then she slipped so her legs slipped under the gate at the top of the stairs and kind of got stuck so she got mad about that. And Darren extracted her from under the gate and she did that toddler thing where they get all limp and stiff at the same time and screeched. So he laid her gently on the floor and left her there. She got her otter and phone back when I came upstairs and we had a snuggle on the couch.

(ed. note: We’re very much of the “ignore it and it will go away” mentality when it comes to toddler antics. And when she’s mad, she needs to get over it. We make sure she’s not hurting herself or destroying things of value and keep an eye on her, but from a distance. Within a couple of minutes, she’ll calm down and come for a hug and snuggle. Yes, it takes an incredible amount of patience, but it’s worth it. We talk calmly to her while she’s working out whatever she needs to work out and make suggestions like “Lets get otter and have a snuggle” and will usually get a sniffly “Okaaaaaay” from her.)

If she doesn’t want something to eat, she’ll let you know by throwing it away from herself. But don’t you dare remove it because she WANTED THAT!

I think I understand why some toddlers bang their heads on walls and floors. I feel like that sometimes too when she’s constantly changing her mind about what she wants.

But wakes up and calls “Moooooom!” and it’s the second-best sound in the world. The best sound is her laughing (and I’m sure I’m not the only one who tickles their toddler just to hear them giggle). She gives the best hugs and kisses, and in the morning says, “Bye, Mom! Take care!” and blows kisses. When I get home in the evening she’ll come running to the door, cackling with laughter and yelling, “Mom! Mom! And Dad!” I’ll lay down on the floor and she’ll lay next to me and we’ll snuggle for a bit. Then she’ll roll over and poke me in the eye. “Eyes! And nose! And mouf! And teeth! And tongue!” and we’ll blow raspberries at each other.

I’ll tell her to call Dad for supper and she’ll stand at the top of the stairs and yell, “Dad! Supper!” and the other night after her bath she went to the top of the stairs and yelled “Dad! Upstairs!”

She loves to brush her teeth. We sing the tooth brushing song while she does after her shower or bath, and she dances on the bathroom counter. And she’s just so much FUN.

And at night before bed, she demands “Pegasus” (which is a book of fairytales with a Pegasus on the cover), and we’ll sit there and read a story or some nursery rhymes and she’ll start dozing in my arms. I’ll turn off the light and sing to her then ask her if she’s ready for bed. “Okaaaay,” she says. And gives me a long hug and a kiss.

And I’ll put her to bed and she reminds me to put a blanket on her so I do. I tell her goodnight and I’ll see her tomorrow, and she says, “Bye-bye!” and blows me a kiss. And there’s nothing better than that kind of end to the day.

On Wednesday, watch for a guest post from Katie while I’m off dealing with family stuff. And check out her blog for some awesome recipes too!

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First Mother’s Day

This time last year I was hugely, hugely pregnant. And sort of hoping that the Poptart would arrive on Mother’s Day. Not only because it’d be a great present, but because it would satisfy my sense of convergence of events.

But she arrived a week later, right on schedule.

The things that happen though, are pretty much the same: last year I was being kicked in the stomach; this year, I was kicked in the stomach albeit from the outside when I took her back to bed with me at 2am (and I am continually amazed at how much space one small person can take in the bed).

Anyways, this is my first mother’s day. Today we are going to get her first birthday/mother’s day photos taken by my friend, Charlotte (and if you want to have some really good photos at reasonable prices, contact her). Currently, I am writing this and the Poptart is playing quietly with her toys, and occasionally doing a Dominic Hasek impression by flinging herself into the floor.

And that is the extent of our grand plans for today. Perhaps a walk later and I would like to go for fish and chips and possibly some ice cream. And I would like a couple of hours to read.

So happy mother’s day to all the moms. May you have a peaceful day.

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In which I gaze upon my navel and rejoice in the fact that it is Saturday

Why Saturday is a good day despite the fact that it is cold and rainy and I had to turn the furnace on (Spring? Really? WTF?):

1. The end of my first week at work. When you live with a baby, everything changes, all the time. From that tiny blob you bring home to 11 months later when she is walking (oh lordy) every day brings something new. And then you go back to work and you realize that nothing really changes. The office might be a bit crazier than it was before, there might be a few new people, but at the end of week, it’s still pretty much the same.

Speaking of work, I got invited to a going-away toast/hockey watching thing for the person who is losing her job because I went back to mine. I begged off, saying we had to get the Poptart used to me coming home at certain times, but really it just felt kind of weird.

2. Baby snuggles. I picked up the Poptart this morning and she snuggled right into me for about 45 minutes.

3. Tax refunds. They came yesterday. Today, we shop because we both need shirts, pants and shoes.

4. The ‘Burbs. One of my all-time favourite bad movies. It’s on TV at the moment. Others include: Joe versus the Volcano and Hudson Hawk.

5. In some ways, going back to work wasn’t that bad. This is going to sound odd, but I like the chance to miss the Poptart. It makes me appreciate all the time I do have with her (and the fact that she decided to get up for 3 hours from 12-3am on Thursday, and then get up for the day at 3am yesterday is made infintely easier because it’s time we can spend together).

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Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, or Why we are in so much trouble

So my last post, where I talked about the cold turkeyness of recent days here? That’s just a snapshot of the changes we’ve been having.

Since our Nanny arrived at the end of March, the Poptart has:

  • learned how to clap (I have trained her to clap at the appropriate times to the song, “If you’re happy and you know it”)
  • started handing me things to put on, eat, fill, etc (she will pick up an empty bottle, stick the nipple in her mouth and then give it to me – indicating she wants a bottle)
  • gotten her first cold that I’m aware of (and to prove she is our daughter, she didn’t do it halfway: throat and ear infection needing antibiotics)
  • we purchased a humidifier
  • started climbing the stairs (we purchased and installed a gate)
  • Will come up to me, say “Mum” or “Mama” and lift her arms up (or try to pants me as she pulls herself up)
  • Started walking (and I was right. We are in so much trouble because now she can walk around and reach things like my wine glass or coffee cup)
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Cold Turkey

One week from today, I go back to work full-time. There’s no transitioning in period; I go back fulltime, cold turkey.

I have arranged my hours, my transit pass, my childcare (and honestly, everyone needs a nanny), and refilled my zoloft. The Poptart has weaned, cold turkey. Next week, we are going stateside for a day, I think, to do some shopping as both Darren and I need new clothes.

A few weeks ago, I was pretty much done with breastfeeding. My goal had been to breastfeed through flu season (end of February) and anything beyond that was just gravy.

I am an only child. I am used to having my own space and I enjoy my own company. Of course, I enjoy the Poptart’s company more, but I needed some space. Although we were down to one or two nursing sessions per day, I was just done. I wanted my body back. I was tired of wearing a bra or nursing tank at night. I wanted to be able to exercise without feeling like I had to bind myself with duct tape.

So one morning in March, I just didn’t offer and gave the Poptart some eggs and oatmeal with prunes instead. And she didn’t ask to nurse. She had a bottle a bit later and we snuggled, and she fell asleep in my arms like she usually does.

And that, as they say, was that. I expect she would have nursed if I had offered but she seemed content with snuggling and having a bottle. I expressed to relieve pressure and broke out the pump once when it looked like I had a blocked duct.

About 10 days later, our Nanny arrived. I had to get used to someone else living in my house, cold turkey. This, of course, was made easier by the fact that I didn’t have to clean much any more. But it is kind of weird that there’s someone living in the house that does the cleaning that isn’t me.

This week, I don’t stop cooking entirely, but Monday through Thursday, dinner will be made for us, allowing me to spend time with the Poptart when I get home. I just make sure the groceries are in the house.

And that, as they say, is that. Cold turkey.

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Things I learned this week

1. Grandmas are invaluable resources when you have a lot to do.

2. Group projects by distance education suck. Especially when people don’t adhere to deadlines or wordcounts.

3. That when you’re hiring from overseas, don’t completely delegate and ALWAYS, ALWAYS get copies of your paperwork in case the people/organization suddenly disappear. Or you’ll be an idiot like me and find out that…

4. Facebook is really good for finding people/organizations who suddenly disappear.

5. Don’t be scared to use political clout to get the answers you need to put your mind at rest.

6. If you have information that is protected by the Privacy Act, don’t assume it’s completely protected. Information that the common person can’t have, uncommon people (all 308 of them) can get, quickly.

7. Rattling political chains can get really fast results both here and overseas when you need it.

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