The Tribal Gym Culture

ImageI love group fitness classes.  I love the music, the motivation, the unspoken competition and the energy in the room.  What I don’t love is the social scene at those group fitness classes.  I swear, back in the good ol’ days of Jane Fonda, step classes and thong body suits is when cliques were first formed.  Well, maybe not, but it has certainly been the case long enough that I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t a part of the group fitness culture.

I mostly keep to myself, try not to arrive too early and definitely avoid joining in on the cheering yelps throughout the workout.  But I’m still left wondering if going to class would be that much more fun if I could add a feeling of acceptance and belonging to my workout.

I think yoga, with all of its introspection and acceptance has done a great job of keeping the cliques at bay.  I never really feel like I don’t belong in a yoga class.  I never feel intimidated or overwhelmed by decisions about whether I should or shouldn’t talk to someone.  All of those stresses are removed from the equation.  The only thing I worry about is where to set-up my mat.  The rest is (socially) easy. 

ImageI guess my point is, I think the ‘tribal’ direction of society is stressful in general, but magnified in the gym culture.  Why can’t we all just be friends, especially because if we’re all at the gym together we must have something in common.

Facebook Controls The Posts You See

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 11.10.25 AMJust because you post it, doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll see it.  Many users of Facebook don’t realize the intricate programming that goes into running this social media powerhouse. 

Facebook is not our friend.  It is a business.  And while we like to think that we have control over the information we’re sharing, we don’t.  Facebook has the power to determine the posts you see in your newsfeed and when.

Here’s an excerpt from a Huffington Post article by Timothy Stenovec that explains the change:

“The typical daily Facebook user could see as many as 1,500 distinct posts from connections and organizations and brands each time she logs in. To show members relevant updates, Facebook uses thousands of “signals” to determine what you see on your news feed and what you don’t. These signals include your relationship to the people you’re connected to, what type of content you’ve engaged with before, what your friends like and comment on, and what pages and posts you’ve liked.

Despite Facebook’s algorithm, the typical Facebook user sees only 57 percent of that content in a news feed, Facebook said. The company tested the news feed changes, which it’s calling “story bumping,” on a group of users and found that when older stories were inserted at the top of the feed, members saw 70 percent of the posts in their newsfeeds.

Because Facebook relies on advertising, the company needs to make sure it gives members new and relevant content to keep them coming back and spending more time on the site.”

FacebookThis is not cause to hit delete and run for the hills.  We should all just be aware that we’re not actually being social with our entire network based on our own vision and timing.  If there’s someone specific on your friends list (perhaps an old flame) that you want to make sure sees a particular post (you looking totally smokin’ in your teeny bikini screaming out “look what you missing”), without actually calling them out, you may be out of luck.

You can check out the rest of Tim’s article from The Huff Post here:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/06/facebook-news-feed-changes-story-bumping_n_3715815.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

Late Summer Fashion Picks For Getting Social

My version of social is often rooted in fashion.  Especially where a challenging social event is at play.  Whether a work function that involves intense networking, an event at school with the over-achiever moms or a reunion with long lost friends – the first place my mind goes is to what I should wear.  And then from there, how I should style the kids.

I do have a particular taste in clothes.  I know what I like and am usually able to pull things together well (or so I would like to think).  But I do like experimenting.  And nothing makes me feel more confident and more social than a super-cute pulled together outfit.

I’ve got three tips that I use, pulled from my fascination with fashion blogs, for getting your wardrobe looking like you’ve been styled by a pro:

  1. Accessorize.  Don’t stop with the top and bottom.  Version of Social AccessoriesLayer on a necklace, lots of bracelets, a cute purse, a hair band and sunglasses.  Maybe not all of it at once, but an under-accessorized outfit does look less “stylish” than those with several layers.
  2. Mix and match.  Don’t go for the Gap jeans with coordinating t-shirt.  Troll the whole mall and find pieces that come from a color coordinated palate, so that you can switch it all around when you get home.
  3. Lift, suck and tuck with the best possible undergarments.  A great bra for lift, separation and padding (where appropriate) can work wonders.  We all know by now about the wonders of Spanx.  And then there’s my new favorite panty – Hanky Panky (http://www.hankypanky.com/Low-Rise-Thong)  – for avoiding unwanted panty lines with style and comfort.

Version of Social FashionI find the month of August and September challenging because the summer wardrobe begins to look tired and less appropriate.  The spaghetti straps I’ve been wearing since the beginning of June just somehow don’t feel like they fit.  But yet my skinny jeans feel like they might be too much for my (finally) bronzed legs.  Since I’ve got a few things going on in the late summer, I’ve done some digging to find my top picks (so far) for styling my late summer wardrobe.  I am going to rock these next couple months like the suburbs are my own personal runway!

The Urban Mom’s Guide to Camping With Kids

ImageOur 3rd annual camping extravaganza went off with a handful of hitches – nothing that we couldn’t troubleshoot through to make the adventure nothing short of a success in the eyes of the little ones.

On the first night, my husband woke up to a heaving three-year-old beside him in his blow-up bed.  The results were a big pile of regurgitated wieners and graham crackers.  Luckily the barfing was only a result of over indulgence and not a persistent bug.  Once her stomach was clear she snuggled right back into position and drifted back into a peaceful sleep.  My husband and I spent the next hour trying to clear the tent of puke remnants (including the smell) and then another hour trying to fall back to sleep.  In the morning, none of the kids, including our puker, remembered the incident.

ImageThe next day, as my seven-year-old tried to coerce a chipmunk into retrieving peanuts from the strategically placed and expertly built “nest” she had created for her little rodent friends, she ended up poking herself in the eye with a stick.  Details around how this came to be are still a bit foggy.  Thankfully her eyeball is still in place and fully functioning.  But the incident was enough to create a great deal of fear in the little princess whenever there was an activity that involved sticks.  Roasting marshmallows became a hurdle – one that we did eventually conquer.  Sugar always wins.

As for my son, he remained mostly incident-free.  But he did become slightly over-excited about the idea of peeing in the bushes (thanks, Daddy).  We now have to be very careful whenever he is loose in the presence of my pretty hydrangeas in the backyard.

I did learn a lot from our camping adventure this year.  And without the extra stress of a pack-and-play and diapers, we think we might be ready to extend next year’s extravaganza to a full 72 hours.  I still have 360ish days to talk myself out of this!

Here are my top tips for your family’s next camping adventure:

  1. Just because you’re not changing diapers doesn’t mean you should ditch the baby wipes.  These things are like gold in camping currency.  We used them to clean up puke, spot clean clothes, wash away the aftermath of a s’mores, before meal hand washes and SO MUCH MORE.  Costco is the way to go with your next wipes purchase.
  2. Extra sheets.  Because you never know.  Or at the very least a little laundry detergents because (as we discovered) most of the parks have really nice laundry facilities at the washroom stations.
  3. Scrapes, cuts and bruises are usually expected.  But the polysporin was used almost hourly on our trip as the “magic cream” that took away the pain and ended the tears.  You can even decorate the bottle with some colored hockey tape and illustrations as we did for a more convincing “magic look.”
  4. Our little critters move fast.  And staying up beyond the sunset is a pretty big deal.  So we turned our campfires into a full on rage with glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets.  Mostly so we didn’t lose any of them.  But also because they’re fun.
  5. Turns out a good cheese plate and camping go really well together.  Brie, Gouda and some Balsamic Cheddar paired with some grapes, pear and green apples made for a very delicious and super fancy dinnertime snack.  We served it all up with a variety of gluten-free crackers (and a bit of raspberry jam) and didn’t leave a crumb for the chipmunks.Image

Our Camping Neighbours: The Carps

ImageEveryone is always so friendly on the campground.  The adults, kids and seniors you pass on the way to the washroom smiles and says “hi.”  Much unlike life outside the campground, where we all keep our noses pointed at the sidewalk and do our best (most days) to avoid eye contact with strangers.  It’s pretty awesome.  I don’t know if it’s the crowd that camps, the effects of all the vitamin D and fresh air or if it’s the release of stress in living a simpler version of life while camping.  I’m sure there’s an explanation, but whatever it is that causes people of leave their tribal habits of everyday living, it’s pretty awesome.

Last year we camped beside another family with two young kids, so our kids were faced with their first opportunity of socializing on the campground.  Then it was the adults’ turn.  I felt the anxiety I had seen on my kids face.  I don’t know these people, I though to myself.  I don’t know anything about them.  How am I to carry on a conversation?

Turns out it, it wasn’t so difficult.  After the initial introductions we were sharing a beer around the campfire while our kids ventured to figure out the neighbours hammock.  It was fun to make friends knowing that they didn’t know anything about us and we knew nothing about them.  Turns out we actually had lots more to talk about BECAUSE we were starting from scratch.

ImageThe next day our camping neighbours went fishing and brough back a Carp.  Carp are really dirty, boney, bottom feeders, from what I understand.  So then the judgment kicked back in and our moment together was over.  Who eats Carp?! 

Camping With Kids Makes Memories That Stick

I’d like to add the term “glamping” used by many to describe a more glamorous version of camping to the list of overused, annoying and unnecessary English slang.  Either you’re camping or you’re not. IMG_0147

I am not a great camper.  I never went camping as a kid (with the odd exception of sleeping in a tent out in the corn fields with a mickey of Canadian Club as a teenager). So my version of camping doesn’t involve cooking beyond something that can be roasted on a stick or eaten straight from a bag.  We use a basic tent, a couple blow-up mattresses and frequent Tim Hortons, Pizza Delight and other local cafes in the nearby town for caffeine and the odd vegetable.  There is nothing glamorous about the way we camp, but there is also nothing authentic or rustic about it either.  It’s just our way of doing it!

This year marks the third year in a row that we’ve headed into the wilderness (provincial park) with the little ones for a two-night adventure that revolves around marshmallows and sand toys.  The kids LOVE it.  And although I’m not always quick to admit it, I love it too.

IMG_0156The giggles and squeals that come from the tent as we all snuggle in together at the end of a great day in the sun, sand and surf is beyond amazing.  The excitement that explodes from the kids at the sight of a marshmallow on the end of a stick is awesome.  And the memories that we’re making during this 72 hour adventure stick.  This is the stuff that my kids will remember and smile about for the next several months.  And when I’m old and grey I’m pretty sure this is the time my kids will reflect on positively – snuggling with mom around the camp fire feeling safe and free all at the same time.

This year is the first time we won’t be slugging diapers or a pack n’ play for the baby.  A whole new adventure and a whole new level of fun awaits!IMG_0137

Baby Boomer’s Don’t Grandparent Without An Audience

GP1I remember the days when I was a little girl and my parents would toss our fast food trash out the car window as we sped down the highway.  I remember a few times in my youth when a picnic ended in a shake of the blanket and the trash was left on the ground for someone else to deal with.  It seems the Baby Boomer generation can’t kick this habit of dumping their garbage for others to deal with, while they hold tightly to anything that has been gifted to them as though they deserved it.  They’re entitled.

I can understand how the Post War Generation would grow up feeling like they had the world at their fingers tips – because compared to their parents (who endured The Great Depression and fought in The Second World War) they did.  The Boomers have relished in a generation where everyone just seemed to get more and more wealthy.  And as their fortune grew, so did their expectations.  Luxuries have become their necessities.

There is an urban legend among my fellow Gen X moms – those of us whose children call Baby Boomers Grandma and Grandpa – of grandparents who want nothing more than to build solid, lasting and meaningful relationships with their grandchildren.  We hear of couples who head out on week-long getaways to focus on the strength of their marriage and rejuvenating personal time, while the grandparents fight over who gets dibs on the valuable time with their quickly growing grandchildren.
GP2

My children’s grandparents barely know our children.  Visits with the grandparents are usually so riddled with expectations (sit still, don’t get too excited, don’t get dirty, don’t get out of your seat…) that it causes anxiety.  My children’s grandparents are most interested in photo opportunities or family gatherings that allow them to display a mega watt smile playing the role of doting grandparent for the world to see.  But most of the time, especially it seems when we ask for their help, they’d prefer to be on a cruise ship.  They “need” to get away.  Retirement must be exhausting.

Following professional counsel in search of a remedy, we have learned that there is no cure for narcissism.  And what we can expect is only for things to get worse.  The self-centered traits exhibited by a large portion of the Baby Boomer generation will only become more rigid and difficult to negotiate as the years go by.  All we can do is dissolve any and all expectations on our part to alleviate this constant feeling of disappointment.  It’s not about what we (the parents) are missing it’s what we thought we wanted for our kids, that we keep waiting for.  We’re just going to have to let it go.

One thing I know for sure – man are they missing out!

I learned a lot from and thoroughly enjoyed what Jeremy Paxman had to say about his own generation of selfish Baby Boomers in the Daily Mail (Oct 2011) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2055497/JEREMY-PAXMAN-Baby-Boomers-selfish-generation-history.html

GP3

The Hostess Had Kids

Hostess 1Playing the role of hostess and parent at the same time is exhausting and incredibly challenging.  Even when working as a team, my husband and I can’t keep on top of who needs a drink, who is screaming from the bathroom for a bum wipe, how long the chicken skewers have been on the barbecue and where to find the closest roll of paper towel to mop up a spill.

Our trick is to invite friends over for a ‘pizza party’ to alleviate the element of meal preparation and picky eaters.  And then we find something else to stress over like slicing up veggies and fruit to ensure our guests feel like they’re getting a balanced meal.  Or finding places for everyone to sit.  Then we spend our dinnertime mopping up the juice that came squirting out when most of the kids grabbed onto their boxes too tightly or running back and forth to the kitchen to fetch the 5 different drink orders from those demanding little creatures we call our children.

At the same time there is nothing more rewarding than watching your kids build relationships right in front of your Hostess 2eyes.  Even though they may be slightly foggy eyes given the three glasses of sangria you’ve downed while trying to calm your nerves and keep up with the adult guests.  This is a glimpse at your child’s developing personality – a window into their version of social.

I love meeting new people, but I love meeting new families even more.  I have so much to learn from other moms and how they roll.  My kids have so much to learn from other kids.  And as a bonus – it’s an opportunity to role model relationship building.  Your kids get to watch you in action and then have the immediate opportunity to practice some of those social skills.

Here are my top five tips for hosting families:

  1. Order in and take the stress out of the kitchen
  2. Set out drink and snack options (on a table, ice bucket or cooler), so that you’re not having to play waitress
  3. Keep it simple.  Fuck the veggies and stick with fruit.  No one eats the veggies unless they’re doused in some sort of high-fat, high-calorie dip anyway
  4. Preparation is key.  Preset the table, pre-order the pizza, organize plates, cutlery and cups in advance
  5. Stay positive and roll with the punches.  Anyone who judges you negatively while just trying your best to host them is not worth a repeat invitation

 

Fresh-Face

KD FFMy make-up bag consists of 4 items: powder, blush, mascara and tweezers.  I had to list the tweezers because, while they may not technically be cosmetics, they are the item that I’ve got listed at the top of my “you’re stranded on a secluded island and you only get to pick 3 items to keep with you,” list.

These items don’t leave the make-up bag everyday.  I rock the fresh-face (pretty much) full-time.  This doesn’t mean I don’t envy the killer make-up of my hot tamale friends.  Red lips – especially when matte – are super- sexy.  Fake eyelashes are AMAZING.  And the way these girls work their magic with the foundation, concealer, contouring…it’s like they’re airbrushed!  It’s pretty cool.

So for my recent headshot photo shoot (pics to come soon!) I enlisted the help of a make-up artist.  I’m so glad I did.  It was pretty fun seeing the glamorous Hollywood version of myself.  I totally rocked those fake lashes!

But by the end of the day I was itching to get it all off.  (And getting those lashes off was interesting.)  So while I can’t wait to do it again, I’m still totally comfortable with my fresh-face.  And I love when I see articles that talk about how “radiant” a celebrity looks when caught without all of their make-up.  Kirsten Dunst does look pretty smashin’ without all the rouge.  You go, girl!  http://ow.ly/mVeKS

JM FF

What’s Up Marks & Spencer’s Sleeve?

sleeves

What do shareholders really want?  Sleeves.  It turns out that while the first lady of the United States seems to be allergic to them, the majority of the UK population has been pining for something to cover their arms for years!  With much anticipation, 90% of Marks & Spencer’s dresses will be hung with sleeves this fall.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jul/09/marks-spencer-dresses-sleeves

I’m having some professional headshots done this week by an awesome, cutting edge, super professional, fashion and lifestyle photographer here in Toronto.  (You can bet I’ll be posting some here to share very soon!)  In setting up my wardrobe she has suggested that sleeveless is often a look that most women look back on and regret.

Sleeves 2 LWe hear all the time about sensitivities tied to the mid-section, thighs and even chest, but not nearly as often do you hear the concerns about sleeves.  Until now!  Twice in two days!