Toilet Tales

Parenting exposes us to a marvel of subjects that we would never imagine ourselves reading and talking about otherwise. Diapers and potty training is definitely one of those. I definitely had my share of doubts and concerns choosing which way to go – and I’m even close to the potty training part of it.

In the beginning I was in a flow of joy and exhaustion (breast feeding + not enough rest) that appeared longer than two weeks. My mom kept telling me “You just have to through these two weeks, afterwards it’ll be a breeze” – and it was. Anyway, I don’t want to get side tracked into nursing here. During that time disposable diapers seemed more practical. We had a stock of diapers at home that I thought would last a year. Well, that wasn’t true. It probably took 3 weeks and they were all gone.

This led me to start reading about cloth diapering and considering the different (and numerous) options out there.

Finally, I decided to just by a few sets of diapers, liners, and cover, and try it out. Other than the fact that I was changing diapers every hour or so – it was all good. Also, I was a little surprised when I did the math of how much it would cost to buy a whole set: a lot.

Finally, the Vancouverite in me kicked in and I thought to myself: Craigslist! I was lucky enough to end up finding someone selling a great selection of cloth diapers in my neighbourhood (and this is how I met Ella, the author of Little Red Caboose). The diapers were in great shape, cared for environmentally, no bleach only good amounts of sunshine – which is enough to keep them clean and fresh. Ella was super nice to give me a hand knitted wool diaper her mother had made. I was all set but I must confess (without shame) that I do a combination of cloth and disposable diapers. Whenever I’m at home Georgia wears cloth ones (which having a washer and drier not be three sets of stairs away, has made it way easier..) and weather allowing Georgia hangs out freely. During the night, when out, or travelling, she wears disposable ones that keep her incredibly dry.

The other day I was talking to a friend about different ways of teaching our children (and letting them teach us). “I’m not a big reader” she said, and knowing her you clearly understand that she is, instead, a person who does, makes, and lives. “But I find it cool to read picture books for my son that have some kind of lesson” – this is precisely what inspired me to write a post about this book, from the shelf of Max’s childhood.

Toilet Tales is a fun, imaginative, and playful book about potty training. It is written and illustrated by Andrea Wayne von Königslöw. Click here for the new edition. “Animals could never use toilets because…”

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Exchangescope

I’ve long been an admirer of Planeta Tangerina, a publisher house based in Lisbon, Portugal. Founded by a talented group of designers and artists their books are spreading wings and being translated into many languages. They make picture books not only for kids but adults who marvel at the play between word and image.

I was in Brazil last Winter when I saw this book, Exchangescope, by Bernardo Carvalho.

At the first flip of pages, daunting it seems. What on earth does this mean? And then YOU start to change. And you turn the pages again. With different eyes, a different heart. Each time you see something new. Wheels, flames, trees, particles, birds, movement, macro, micro, falling, building it back up… let your imagination roam free.

And if you please, take a moment of your day and browse through this and other incredible creations by clicking here.

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A Farmer’s Alphabet

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A Farmer’s Alphabet (1981) is a stunning hand-crafted picture book by Mary Azarian. This alphabet book is made of b&w woodcut prints that portray icons of farm-life in Vermont. An artist and farmer herself, Mary Azarian, her life and career happen between the proof press and the field. Her prints have an intricate sense of dedication, hard work, and poetry.

Here are my favorite ones:

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My husband, Max, also grew up amongst orchards, vegetables, and chickens. Surrounded by mountains that framed the seasons as they change.

Spring is here, the Summer near. And here is a picture of Georgia during her first tractor ride:

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Lost and Found

I love going to bookstores, thrift ones, and larger ones too. Got books? Got a nice children’s books alley? Worth a visit. These days, I usually enter frantically, pushing a stroller, diaper bag in hands. I take a minute to breathe and find my way (Georgia is usually asleep at this point). I must be honest, a great deal of my reading is devoted to news, fellow bloggers, articles on sustainability, and of course, kids books. So I undoubtedly head in that direction first.

Finding a book I want to pick up and look at is a multi-sensorial experience. I look through the shelves as I touch the books gently. Authors and illustrators I know stand out but mostly the image, colors, shapes, and fonts, is what attracts me. And to this I blame design. Book design is the final touch that makes all the difference. There are a lot of kids books authors and illustrators who are practicing or have a background in design. One of my favorite artists on this boat is Oliver Jeffers, born in Belfast, Ireland, and currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Click here to watch a short in-studio film about him.

His characters are real. They have, and communicate, real feelings. They reveal an imaginary world that lives within all of us. My choice for this post is:

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I’ve read Lost and Found over and over. The story begins with a boy in his normal morning routine. Unexpectedly, a penguin shows up at his door.

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The boy is intrigued by the fact and wonders where the penguin came from. Perhaps he’s lost? Perhaps he needs a ride back to the South Pole? A true friendship may be found. In life we seem to find true friends in the most odd ways (or days). And then of course, they are like rocks in the shore, standing firm and always there, no matter weather and waves.

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Click on the image bellow to watch the version of Lost and Found in animation, created by Oliver Jeffers and StudioAKA:

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Goodnight iPad

Our times are filled with distractions. Our minds filled with endless horizons and information to be discovered and surfed through. The internet is now a 24/7 companion of many through our mobile devices. It fits in smaller and smaller gadgets, pocket size screens capable of connecting people, ideas, images, news… and beyond. I’m an avid user and liker myself. The internet has long been my tool to research and communicate. Living across the continent, the internet has definitely become a means through which I overcome the geography of distance. I write long e-mails, I blog, I post photos and occasional status updates on Facebook, I read the News, I skype-see everywhere my mom goes, I surf on Craigslist for used items, I follow other people’s pages, and clearly, all of that takes up a considerable chunk of my precious time. When access becomes so easy and versatile the greatest trick is to disconnect and turn our wi-fi minds off.

It’s about 2:30pm in the Similkameen Valley. The sun is out, glimmering the mountain hills and orchards. Georgia is resting on a blanket, kicking around, squeaking, doing her new bbbfffff sound, shaded by Sumac trees. Thanks to wi-fi I get to sit here and write. The computer screen holds endless possibilities between the digital-micro-satelite-levels and the physical-present-sitting-down-self. Like many of us, I strive to find a balance between connectedness and be-here-now. My blog posts are inspired by real moments and real children’s books. This blog post is dedicated to a dear friend of ours, Robynne, and the wonderful parody picture book she gave Georgia. Before we get into the book, a few words about Robynne must be said. Robynne is strong hearted and strong minded. She has an incredible attitude to life’s ups and downs, knowing when to let it pass, when to pick it up again, and when to tell it f*** off for a while. We’ve had some great talks and laughs. During which she’s quite loud. Don’t try to talk to her about any secrets (just kidding, she is one to trust your heart). Robynne can cheer you up just by showing up. Yesterday, she came over with her beloved birthday gift. I introduce to you, sweet rocking June (and Cherry, the guitar strap):

Robynne and Max have been playing together for long… long enough to fill a couple of song books. Brash & Frown (stands for their last names Frash and Brown) is a promising duet. Robynne rocks the voice cords on original and cover lyrics, along with Max’s folky blue-grassy tunes… I’m a fan (and so is Georgia). Now Robynne is stretching her fingers around June’s arms marking the beginning of a new phase of her musical talent.

Goodnight iPad is a reminder and joke about our, sometimes overly, digital lives. This book is a funny adaptation of the classic Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hunrd. Goodnight iPad is written and illustrated by Ann Droyd (aka David Milgrim). Click here to read a review and watch a book trailer on the Guardian. It starts out “In the bright buzzing room, there was an iPad and a kid playing Doom and a screensaver of -” The following pages refer to the latest of our techy lives: angrybirds, Nooks, HD-TVs, Blackberry phones, Facebook friends, YouTube, E-mails and Tweets, until the old woman in the room decides it’s time to Goodnight all of it! Launching each one of the gadgets out the window and finally everyone is going to sleep… And a peek into the dark room shows us the original Goodnight Moon being read under a flashlight.

It’s early to tell, Georgia is about to turn 5 months old. I notice her mesmerized eyes at the glimpses of TV and computer screens. I often skype my mom and Koochie in what is like weekly hang-outs. The other day while packing in Vancouver, Koochie entertained Georgia with his baby-talk via skype. When I look back, Georgia is giggling away to Koochie’s faces and sounds. In that moment, he was more present than anything else around her.

I can’t deny the practicality and joy I get from our digital/internet age but I feel a desire and commitment to share with Georgia the incomparable life: kept simple, wholesome, and organic. Her growth forces us to journey life at a slower pace and through a different scope. Seeing ourselves as example and parents. Our families, wide and diverse, bring Georgia a world of blend cultures, flavours, climates, languages, and places. During this month I will bring you more about Georgia’s time at the farm and the books that made outside our boxes. And in about a month we’re traveling from Max’s hometown, through Vancouver, onto a plane, stopping over in Dallas, onto a second plane, arriving in São Paulo, my home-gigantic-crazy-speedy-city. For now, here’s a glimpse of life in the Valley, Georgia during her morning read with Max:

Where You Came From

It’s been 4 months since Georgia was born. 16 weeks between this restful morning and the most exhilarating moment of my life. The memory still lingers in my body. In every cell that make up the bits of that experience. But cells regenerate and in this process our body is constantly dying -and living. I think maybe that’s why memories can fade with time. Which explains our capacity to change, forgive, and forget. Remembering, on the other hand, is intertwined between conscious and unconscious efforts. Remembering can be stricken by an image, a smell, or simply a desire to remember. Everyday it feels like the vivid and sharp memories of Georgia’s birth fades away… My body slowly making room for the new. Story telling between parents and their children, between children and their grandparents, between youth and elders, doesn’t always have to rely on picture books. In fact, the stories of our lives, the stories that are read from the heart, and spoken through the soul, are a treasure to be passed along. Today I will share the story of Georgia’s birth along with the picture book Where You Came From.

Saturday, the 12th of May, Max woke up early and left to go help a friend pick up some scrap metal. I stayed in bed and I remember realizing that was the first time I had been alone in a while. I enjoyed the silence. It was a sunny morning. I remember taking my time, putting on my maternity jeans, walking towards Broadway to catch the bus to go out for brunch with my family. After a wholesome meal at Bandidas we headed to the Trout Lake farmers market. It was busy and the air felt really warm. In line at the lemonade truck this guy started chatting, “Oh, I didn’t even notice you’re pregnant,” and the conversation distracted us from the long wait. He asked when I was due. “Tomorrow,” I said. And I remember tomorrow echoing in my head. 

Max showed up looking dirty and tired. Morgan (our friend’s daughter and most brilliant kid I’ve met) came along. The heat was bothering me. I chugged the lemonade and we decided to go to Lighthouse Park for a fresh breeze by the sea. From that bit, the funny part was walking down (and then up) this steep portion of stair-like hills, my step-dad holding some sort of stick cane and my mom saying “If Georgia isn’t born after this…” Incredible views, the whooshing sound of waves, the tall Coastal mountains in the background, the city afar… space between the rush and me. 

As the evening settled, we crossed the city all the way to Kitsilano to meet with my dad for dinner. It was late and I felt tired. My eyes were itchy and dry of exhaustion. My appetite was gone. I stared at the menu, back and forth and finally decided to ordered a raspberry lemonade. The conversations drifted slowly and eventually the restaurant was ready to close and kick us out. We headed our ways. Max and I were exhausted by the time we laid in bed. My belly stretched and heavy. A kiss good-night and a rest that lasted for only a few hours.

Sunday, May 13th and Georgia’s due date. Mother’s day, both in Canada and Brazil. I woke up feeling contractions around 2:30 am. I tried to ease through them and fall back asleep, but I felt incredibly uncomfortable laying down. So I went to the living room and started watching a movie sitting on a bouncing ball. Just now, I thought I had no idea which movie it was and suddenly her face came to me, and the story. Audrey Tautou. Beautiful Lies. I must have changed positions a number of times and I paused the movie at the onset of each contraction. It wasn’t long until I couldn’t focus on the screen. I walked around in circles between the hall way, kitchen, and living room. The walking turned into pacing. Slower, stronger. Time was going by faster than I would have imagined, suddenly the clock turned and it was almost 4am. I decided to wake Max up. I thought we were up for a long day of labour so I had waited for a couple of hours. He was excited but his energy stayed calm and patient. I focused on the moment, welcoming each contraction, working with it not against it, as I was taught during the prenatal workshop with the wonderful midwife Jeanne Lyons. Deep inside I kept telling myself “Hang in there, this is just the start.”

Max made me an avocado sandwich. Salty and nutritious. I wanted to wait longer to page our midwives. I got in the bathtub. The room lit by candles. I rested there and for a short while the contractions spaced out. I tried to stretch my neck and spoke gently to Georgia. I whispered, for both of us to hear, “Be strong,  open way,” as I massaged my belly in circles. I felt her limbs moving inside. I overheard Max playing Georgia On My Mind in the kitchen. It made me smile. I rolled a towel and rested my head, trying to nap a little. But soon the contractions picked up again and waved through me. I got it, we are on duty. The bath became too small. I needed space to move and fresh air. Shortly after the sun lit the sky we decided to page our midwives. Max picked up the phone and said “Hello,” pause “Oh, hey Heidi.” I couldn’t believe it. I must have dilated a few centimeters just then. Heidi had been on-call something like 4 days a month only. Max and I had an appointment with her earlier in the pregnancy. Everything about her is gentle, her voice, touch, and smile. She stands on a place of balance between natural birth and the resorts of medical care, which made me very comfortable. We left the clinic that day and I said to Max “I even like her smell.”

Max called my mom and told her to take her time, eat some breakfast and come over. To his parents, he said “We’re pretty sure she’s in labor, but could take a while, so don’t rush. We’ll call you when we’re on our way to the hospital.” Heidi finished breakfast and headed over. Just before she arrived I started not being able to focus on breathing during the contractions and instead I was grunting. That moment, I was entering transition. My transition was inwards, Georgia’s outwards.

It felt like the real thing, very much. The contractions were like hurricanes in my belly. When Heidi checked me I thought to myself “it’s okay, relax, we might have a long way to go.” But instead, she looked me in the eyes, tilted her head to the side, and said “I have good news, looks like 6-7cm. We’re heading to the hospital.” Max was running around trying to remember our last minute checklist items. He tried to get a hold of my mom but she was on her way and we couldn’t wait. I overheard Heidi on the phone with Richmond maternity and I reminded her to try and get a room with a bath so we’d have the option of a water-birth. She nodded, knowing there would be no time. Max left my mom a note at the front of building “Had to go to the hospital, see you there. Love, Max.” I kept trying to put clothes and would get caught half-way by stronger and stronger contractions. Heidi walked back into the room and squeezed my hips, relief. Clothes, pillows, plastic bags (in case the water broke). Between our apartment and the car I had to stop a few times. And off I’d go to the floor. No one could stop me. I felt hot and my legs shivered. I stayed in the backseat with a mountain of pillows. Looking up between contractions, which at this point felt very, very close together. I remember I’d look up at the mirror and meet Max’s eyes. That was our communication. I looked out the window, still on 16th Avenue. I looked up again, just passed Women’s Hospital, looked up again, Max telling me “We’re almost there,” Richmond bridge, I remember the sky was endlessly blue. The car windows were all open. My hair flying. My jaw clutching harder and harder. And that was the first contraction I felt like pushing.

We got to the hospital and Max helped me walk to the reception where I saw Heidi, kindly but firmly explaining that we needed a wheel-chair immediately. The receptionist asked me questions and I have absolutely no idea what they were. Now, or then. A child was sitting on his mom’s lap and crying really loud. At that point the mammal was in charge. My somewhat controlled and socialized self was somewhere else. Immediately after I sat on the wheel-chair I had a contraction and remember throwing myself on the floor. That moment was something. The child ceased to cry. My mom ran in, She made it. I was so happy to see her (dressed in beautiful white pants and wearing a vibrant red lipstick). I also remember thinking “Oh no, please don’t think the whole deal of natural birth is nuts, and my midwife is crazy letting me crawl around the hospital floors… it’s not her fault.” She bended to help me and right after Heidi did too. My mom said “I’m her mother,” thinking Heidi was a stranger. She answered “And I’m her midwife.” They smiled at each other. My mom later told me that her heart swelled at that encounter. She immediately felt I was in good hands.

I looked at Max and my mom’s faces, ecstatic. I can’t remember much of what they said. Honestly, I don’t think much was said. They supported me through touch and eye contact. The rush from the elevator to the room was such the wind refreshed my sweaty face. “Which room, which room?” asked Heidi as we zipped by the maternity entrance. Right at the door, I told Max to stop the wheel-chair. Again, threw myself on the floor. Max and my mom tried to help me get on the bed. My water broke as I raised my leg up. I remember saying “I have to take my shorts off, she’s coming out.” I got on the bed. I grunted with every bit of my body. It wasn’t voice speaking. It came from my guts, through my throat, reverberating through my soul, communicating to Georgia our strength and unity. I asked Max to grab a moist towel (for the perineum I thought). But there was no time for that. Instead Max used that wet towel to touch my face. It felt incredibly good. And with it, he stroked the hair off my face.  There were no instructions. Everyone was focused on the action. One contraction and I pushed without even thinking. She was ready to be born. I grasped onto the bed, my mom smiled and said “I can see the head. She’s coming.” I couldn’t believe it, goose bumps all over me. Another contraction and her head was completely out. One more, Georgia slipped out and was caught by Heidi’s hands. It was 10:06am. Her skin turning from blue to red. Connected to me still, the cord pulsing with our final blood exchanges. She was brought straight into my arms, eyes wide open, her fingers spread out searching for the touch and hold. Her heart beating close to mine. Her first breaths a cry of  presence. Here I am. And soothed into sounds that rhythmically accompanied her way to my left breast. My legs were shaking. I cried. I smiled. I was overwhelmed with the joy of meeting my daughter. I was felt so proud. Heidi looked at me and said “Next one we’re doing a home birth, right?” We all laughed. A shot of oxytocin speeded the delivery of the placenta and that was the only intervention. I examined every part of Georgia’s body. I looked into her eyes, still swollen from the journey. We did it. Our bodies skin to skin after all this time nesting inside. Knowing each other through voices, heartbeats, touch, and kicks. I looked at Max embracing us. Him and I, became three.

And this post brings a book of incredible answers, Where You Came From. Written by Sara O’Leary (click here to visit her blog) and illustrated by Julie Morstad (visit the books section and flip through the arrows). This is a story common to all, kids, and parents. One of the wonders that early arises… where do I come from? That is a question we often hear and usually respond to as our nationality. This book brings us fantastic dreamy answers, way cooler than that.

Savour this delightful tale of wonderful and crazy possibilities. It takes us through Henry’s parents imaginative answers to his question ‘where did I come from?” You were brought by a flock of crows, or was it the fairies? A red balloon down from the sky, special delivery on the mail, or was he on sale? Grown in the garden, crafted on wood… and oh no, his father remembers, “Your mother and I both dreamt you. And then you came true.”  Georgia is like a dream. Sweeter than I could have ever imagined. Sometimes it all feels like a dream and I touch her skin- to know it is also real.

This book was a gift from the Koochie, not simply my stepdad, but a dear friend. Who’s told me stories, tales and truths, taken me places, and watched me grow. I must have asked him a million questions during our long hours stuck in traffic in São Paulo. He brought a foreign language to our home. He seemed so much like us that I always wondered where he’d come from. He accompanied my plans – the imagined ones, the concrete ones, the unexpected ones. The second to best of Georgia’s birthday was watching him and my sister Tete running into the room, just minutes after giving birth, absolutely thrilled! Koochie immediately took her in his arms and whispered a welcome chant, words of beauty and courage- all she has.



As Georgia grows I will tell her stories, from books and from life. And she’ll imagine this beautiful story as her own… we dreamt of her, so many times. In my dreams I always saw her as little girl (not a baby), with a charming smile, dark hair, and glowing eyes. Just now, she nests between my legs in her morning nap. Resting, conntent, and safe. We’re here and ready to nourish, comfort, love, encourage, and respect her in every stage of life. When awake her eyes wonder at things, new and familiar, but they spark an innate wisdom. They reflect a soul that has walked many roads before being born through me. And to leave this long post with a reflection: where did you come from? A place or a dream you wish or imagine it be…?