Monthly Archives: October 2008

Pirate’s Gold Milk Chocolate Coins may be Contaminated with Melamine

Just in case you didn’t hear this warning a few weeks ago, I thought with Halloween in a couple days a repost of a warning from the Canadian government that some chocolate coins may be contaminated with melamine would be timely.

The affected product, Sherwood Brands Pirate’s Gold Milk Chocolate Coins, is sold in 840g containers containing 240 pieces per container bearing UPC 0 36077 11240 7 and lot code 1928S1.

This product is sold nationally through Costco stores and may also have been sold in bulk packages or as individual pieces at various dollar and bulk stores across Canada.

One guess as to the country of origin of the candy coins.

Is Quebec the best place in North America for working families?

{{fr|La chef du Parti québécois, Pauline Marois.

Image via Wikipedia

In Quebec, families pay $7 a day for childcare. Or, to put it into terms I can directly relate to, if our family lived in Quebec, we would have $862 a month more in our pockets. $10,344 more in disposable income each year.

Talk about an economic stimulus package.

But beyond the economics for working families, the societal benefits in Quebec have been dramatic. According to research done by CBC’s The Current, in the 10 years since Quebec has adopted universal child care (at a cost of around $1.8 billion dollars per year for 209,000 children), Quebec has seen their child poverty rate cut in half, school test scores have gone from the lowest to highest in Canada, and maternal labour force participation has gone from the lowest to the highest in Canada.

Now, not all of these outcomes are solely the result of the implementation of universal child care, but it is hard to argue with the author of the program when she asserts that the universal child care system has been a major contributor in each of these factors.

That author is Pauline Marois, the current leader of the Parti Québécois in Quebec. Pauline Marios was recently recognized as a Champion for Child Care by the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper, I hope you are taking notes.

Halloween as a community building exercise


I am a chocolate fiend, which means I love Halloween. But one of the things I appreciate the most about Halloween is that it gives me the opportunity to knock on my neighbours door and have a chat.

In recent years, it seems that walking around your neighbourhood has been replaced  by walking the malls as the way for families to have a safe Halloween experience. This is a shame and, to me, represents a missed opportunity to contribute to a stronger neighbourhood. The simple act of getting to know your neighbours goes a long way to creating a safe place for everyone.

In some respects, this thinking gets back to the post-pagan roots of contemporary Halloween, according to The History of Halloween from The History Channel.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment.

What could be more neighbourly than knocking at their doors with a couple of cute kids in tow? Is there a better opportunity to strike up a conversation about the issues in our neighbourhood? And what a chance to show my kids that the houses on our street, usually devoid of any signs of life when we walk up and down the street (except for our neighbour Tom 4 houses down who always seems to be tinkering with a truck in his driveway when we wander past) are homes inhabited by friendly faces.

So, this Halloween the kids and I will be taking our time walking up and down the street, making a real effort to get to know the faces behind the doors. Munching on Kit Kats and gummy worms the whole time, of course.

That’s one smart table

This is one cool little table. I look forward to the day when tools like these are affordable enough to have in the home. I suspect that day is pretty close at hand. Like any other technology,I would expect to see the price of these kinds of tables to fall in the next 5 years.

Surrey Dad and son banned from playgroup

Photo taken by me as an example of a stay at h...

Image via Wikipedia

I really hope someday I will never come across stories like Surrey Dad Rick Kaselj.

Rick is a fairly new arrival to daddyland, the Stay-at-home Dad world and to Vancouver. Like many Dads before him, he wanted to hook up with other parents for playdates. So Rick went online and found a group to join in Cloverdale – a group made up of Moms. But the group responded to his request with a resounding “you are not welcome”.

The email, signed Cloverdale Mothers Group, apologetically informed Kaselj that more than half of the members want the group to be for mothers only.

“I hate to discriminate,” the author went on, “but hope you can understand when it comes to the security of our children and especially since you have not been able to attend a meetup.”

What an idiotic excuse – for the safety of our children. For someone who hates to discriminate, seems like the author of the email is pretty darn good at it. And saying sorry doesn’t make actions acceptable.

If you are a Mom involved with a group that has to deal with the issue of allowing (apparently dangerous) Dads to be a part of the group, I sincerely hope you will help defend a Dad’s place in these groups.

At the very least, please realize that your actions send a message to your kids. If your 4 year old is like mine, then you know they are not oblivious. The Girl notices when I am the only Dad at a playgroup.

Nothing but Moms in a playgroup sends a message to the kids that when it comes to socializing, women are the only ones who do this with their kids. It is another subtle gender reinforcement to kids who are starting to form their gender identities that the responsibility for socialization is a Mommy’s role; a women’s role.

I know, you are thinking these kids are 4 and this is some pretty heavy stuff you are expecting them to internalize. But the truth is, they do internalize it as they struggle to form their gender roles. They are sponges, trying to figure out how society expects them to act. And they are looking to us for guidance.

This goes double for boys in the playgroup, who see absolutely no male role models in the playgroup setting. How do we expect these boys to grow into caring, nurturing fathers when potential role models get excluded from participating?

I don’t think any of this thinking was at play in this Mom groups decision. Maybe they truly felt threatened by a male in the midst. It wouldn’t be the first time Moms have felt their traditional roles threatened by a Dad. But I believe kids pick up on the underlying messages and decisions about whether to allow a Dad into a playgroup can have consequences for our children.

Thanks to RebelDad and At Home Dad for the link.

BabyCenter advertising redux

New BabyCenter ad includes DadsA few weeks back I moaned about an ad I received from BabyCenter, inviting me to join their new BabyCenter communities so I could “connect with Moms like me”.  So today I am on another website and see this targeted ad, again for BabyCenter. This time the text is different. The highlighted part says “A Lively Community of Moms (and Dads)”.

Score one for Dad inclusion.

This may seem like a minor thing to many people, but this kind of stuff does irk me. Leaving Dads out does send a subtle message that Dads are not welcome. Or at least the issues that a Dad may want to talk about are not being discussed here, thank you very much please move along.

I realize that BabyCentre is a company and will target it’s message to whomever they think they will profit from. But still this kind of small recognition does go a long way in making me feel like my input into the greater parenting world is welcome and appreciated, rather than simply tolerated.

My goal would be to see this divison between Moms and Dads be thrown out and the line would simply say “A Lively Community of Parents”. Simple and inclusive to all. But this little victory is a start.

Email is sooooo 2005

Text messaging incident

Image by JeanPierreG. via Flickr

Email is a tool for old fogey’s. According to a  study by Parks Associates, only 20% of teens use email to communicate with friends. In fact, the most common reason a teen would use email is to communicate with us old folks.

Not surprising, text and instant messaging are the way to go. Apparently, all the cool parents are doing it. A recent poll by AT&T (a company that has a vested interest in promoting texting) found that 76 percent of parents feel their kids keep them in the loop through text messaging than other communication methods, and almost 3/4 of parents said their kids were more likely to respond to a text message than another methods of communication.

If you have teens, you may want to check out these 7 reasons to take up texting with your kids. Note that these come from a document put together by Cingular (pdf). Like AT&T, they also have a vested interest in getting you to text message your kids- they make money. But I think the principles are sound nonetheless and deserve a mention.

  1. Parents get a quick answer to their questions – good for today’s busy kids and parents.
  2. Kids are more apt to respond to text messages when they are with their friends. It is more discreet and their answers don’t have to be as detailed as in a conversation.
  3. You, or they, don’t have to worry about tone of voice. Some kids automatically get defensive when they hear their parent’s tone of voice, which often results in delayed return phone calls or avoidance. Texting takes tone of voice out of the mix and can improve response times.
  4. Texting allows you to enter your child’s world. By using text messaging, parents can communicate in the style their children are used to, and become more hip in their children’s eyes. An example might be a parent who sends a text to her daughter on a blind date to ask her how the date is going. “Is he Mr. Wonderful?” or “Is he a frog or a prince?”
  5. Text messaging allows parents to compose and edit a message before pressing send. By making parents think about it more, texting removes explosive emotions from potentially charged communications and situations.
  6. Texting vs. calling gives kids more space but allows parents to keep in touch as often as necessary. For instance, it is a good way to double check their child’s whereabouts without nagging.
  7. Text messaging can also be used to strengthen parent-child bonds, and let kids know that their parents are thinking of them. Send them a text wishing them good luck before the school play,
    audition, or let them know you are thinking of them if there is something they were concerned about such as a difficult test or a grade.

17,325 kids – 5150 childcare spaces

There are 17,325 kids aged 5 and under in the city I live in, and room for less than 1/3rd of them in child care. That’s the finding of the 2008 Victoria’s Vital Signs report released this week by the Victoria Foundation, a local non-profit group dedicated to strengthening the community in the city I live in.

These number both illustrate and quantify the problem parents are having finding child care in Victoria. I suspect if this type of analysis was done in other regions, the findings would be similar.

Granted, not all of those 17,325 kids are going to require child care. Some will be at home with Mom, Dad or other relatives, usually supported by federal maternity and paternity benefits. But it’s hard to deny that the gap between what is out there and what is needed is significant.

What is even more alarming are these statistics, pulled from a recent PLAY Victoria study.

Within less than a 10 month period (March 2007 to January 2008), our region has witnessed:

  • a decrease of approximately 60 spaces for children aged birth to 5
  • no new Group Child Care (Under 36 Months) centres created
  • a net loss of 9% of Group Child Care spaces for infants and toddlers
  • a decrease of approximately 133 spaces for children aged birth to 12

And while there has been an increase of 53 preschool spaces, the fact that the rest of the numbers are dropping, especially the 9% drop in infant toddler spaces, will added further anxiety to the families currently looking for childcare in Victoria.

“It’s hard to respect a man who is not willing to provide”

Oh my goodness, where do we begin with this? This type of world view is so far out of whack with my own that it is hard to take it serious enough to comment on this point of view. But I’ll give it a shot.

Apparently the preacher in the video, Mark Driscoll, is some kind of rock star amongst the evangelical right. But if you ask me (and others), Driscoll sounds like your typical everyday right wing evangelist who, like all the rest, continually use the word of God to justify and advocate their patriarchal ideals that women do not belong in the workplace and that men are incapable of being caregivers.

A man who does not provide for his family is worse than a non believer?

At home Dads are a case for church discipline?

Having a stay at home Dad in your house is a surefire recipe for divorce?

It’s all crap.

Don’t tell a stay at home Dad that they are living a Peter Pan lifestyle. Stay at home with your kids for a few weeks, Mr. Driscoll. Change the diapers, feed them, care for them when they are sick, shuttle them around to practices, comfort them when they have been hurt. Then come back and tell stay at home Dad’s they are not taking responsibility or providing for my family. Tell them they live a Peter Pan lifestyle.

And since when did “providing for your family” become synonymous with bringing home a pay cheque? Is money the only way a man can “provide” for his family? Sorry, that just does not fly with me. I provide for my family in dozens of ways that are much more valuable than simply bringing home the all mighty buck.

I am also getting tired of hearing the comment that somehow parents who have their kids in daycare are abdicating the responsibility for raising their kids and leaving their kids in the company of “strangers”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When the kids started attending daycare both my wife and I made it a priority to get to know the daycare workers, and judging from the level of interaction we have with other parents at the daycare, many other parents make the effort as well. I know which of the Early Childhood Educators have kids, which ones have partners and which ones are single. I know what their hobbies are, what kinds of food/movies/music they like, the sports they play. Everyday we see them, we talk with them. They learn about us, we learn about them. I see them around town. These are not strangers raising our kids. These are people who live in my community. These are my neighbors, not strangers. To call them strangers is an insult.

Via At Home Dad.

Reena: A Father’s Story

In the city/province/country where I live, November 14th, 1997 will always be an infamous day. It was the day a 14 year old girl named Reena Virk was beaten and killed by a group of (predominantly) teenage girls. It was a brutal story and one that thrust the issue of girl violence into the spotlight.

This past weekend the Vancouver Sun posted an exerpt of a new book about Reena called Reena: A Father’s Story. It is written by Reena’s father Manjit. For those who have followed the story for the many years it has dragged on (and continues to drag on in the courts, as a 4th trial has been ordered for one of the accused, Kelly Ellard), you will no doubt agree with me that the Virk family has had the pain of their daughter’s death protracted to such a point that it borders on cruel.

Through it all, however, it has been Reena’s mother, Suman, who has spoken for the family. Rarely did you see or hear an interview with Manjit. Now, it appears, he is ready to speak though this book. Perhaps it is to  honour his daughter by remembering her in a public way, but I suspect writing this book was as much a cathartic act as anything.

But this is also the story of being a father, and what being a father means. In Majit’s case, it was being a father while walking in many different worlds where his views often clashed with those around him.The Virk’s were not only immigrant’s from India, but are also Jehovah Witness which meant they not only walked a cultural line between East and West, but secular and religious.

When I’d first come to Canada, I was delighted to find that many husbands and fathers helped with child-rearing and household chores. Back home, such behaviour was rare indeed. Even when I was a college student in India, some people praised me for helping my mother with errands while others thought it was below the dignity of a collegiate male to be doing such menial tasks.

Because it is not traditional in my community for fathers to spend a great deal of time with their children, I was criticized and ridiculed by some family members and friends. The norm was for mothers to look after the kids while breadwinner-fathers headed the household and administered discipline to unruly children.

I particularly remember one occasion when we were invited to a large family gathering in Victoria. The men were having drinks and snacks in the living room while the women and children were in the kitchen, preparing meals, chatting and gossiping. Although I was enjoying the male conversation, my ears were tuned to my one-year-old daughter, who was sleeping in a nearby bedroom. When I heard her cry, I excused myself, picked her up and brought her back to the living room. She shortly fell asleep again on my shoulder.

“It was your wife’s duty to go and get the child and not yours,” said one man who seemed upset by my behaviour. “That is why you married her.”

But how was I to sit and enjoy drinks with the men and not worry about my child? I politely told him that Reena was my daughter too, and that I wanted to take care of her and was under no pressure to do so. The assembled men seemed to assume that I did not understand what it meant to be a real man because I wanted to attend to my child.

I suspect many of us can relate to Manjit. Perhaps not the the extent where we have been verbally told by others that it is our “wife’s duty to go and get the child and not yours”, but I know there have been times where I have felt a similar attitude, but in a much more subtle way. And I suspect that once I am finished the book, the story of Reena Virk will resonate with me at a completely different level now that I am the father of a daughter.

Looking back, I am amazed at how orderly and happy our life was then, how little we ever imagined that everything we treasured could be ripped asunder.