A Love Letter To Canadian Health Care

I’ve probably had more experience with the Canadian health care system in the last year than I would ever have liked  but as I’m sitting here this morning, one coffee in and only 4 hours of sleep behind me, I can’t help but feel an enormous amount of gratitude for where I live at this point in my life.

I had 2 babies, both in hospital, one with an obstetrician and one with a midwife. I got home visits afterwards and all the best possible care. It cost me $0.

My mum had massive cancer surgery, an ICU hospital stay, home care, an oxygen tank, a wheelchair, countless doctors appointments, an at-home palliative team… and it cost us $0.

My father-in-law had 2 trips to the emergency room and was in the hospital 4 weeks before being transferred to a beautiful palliative care hospital. Unfortunately he also fell and broke his hip, needing surgery and recovery. He paid $0.

I know we all like to complain about our health care system and I do know that access to services is so very different depending on where you live. I am lucky to live in Toronto where the world’s best hospitals and specialists are at my finger tips. I am well aware that people in more remote areas just can’t get the same level of care.

So when I started having vision problems that led to an eventual MRI appointment, I joked that 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon was the perfect time to lay still and relax for a while. And when I got there and found out the machine was out of service, I took a deep breath and did what anybody should do on a Sunday afternoon in downtown Toronto – I went shopping.

And when the appointment got booked for 1am? Okay, I did bitch a little bit but laying there in this tremendously expensive machine being run by this guy who was being so very nice even at 2am? I was incredibly grateful.

As I’m getting older and my need for our health care system will no doubt increase I hope that I can keep this kind of perspective. Getting home at 3am and being tired today is a small price to pay for the kind of testing that would set an American back thousands of dollars. So, I am just going to make myself another coffee and drink it gratefully.


How Vi Got Her Groove Back

Well, hello there. What a strange feeling to be staring at a blank page for the first time in a couple of months. Turns out this winter really did a number on me. No, I wasn’t really sick per se. I wasn’t snowed in either. I was just really, really down. And, the thing is, I didn’t even really realize it until we took a much-needed family vacation and suddenly I was feeling so much more like myself. I didn’t even realize I had lost my groove until I started to feel it coming back. That’ll teach me to keep taking my vitamin D all winter long and not put off going to the gym, won’t it?

Here is right about when my groove started coming back…

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When we got back, I couldn’t believe how energized I felt. Once I got over the sheer exhaustion of all the travelling and the quite astounding tummy bug that I picked up, I was suddenly feeling like doing things again. I wanted to spend a day in the kitchen cooking. I wanted to go to the gym. I wanted to get back to my dance class.  Was it the Vitamin D? The adventures? The time away from our normal routine? I’m still not sure but I have to say that I am very happy that something seemed to snap me back to reality.

It’s going to be a fantastic spring.

Hearing Noises

It is blissfully silent in my house right now. After 2 weeks, our new kitchen floor is almost done and although I love our contractor and he is now a good friend, it is so nice to be sitting here, still in my pjs, sipping tea, with my hair looking like Medusa’s. I’m giving myself a bit of time to wallow!

It’s also a relief to have a break from what we are calling Monkey’s “Voices In His Head.” The secretary called me from the school Monday afternoon to say he was shivering and complaining of noises in his head that sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Being the good mummy I am, I rushed off to the school and he did look pale, he was shivering, but then he went on to talk my ear off all the way back home. Hmmm.

I assumed he would come down with a fever like his friend across the street who he had been playing with the day before. Nope. He even gladly took Tylenol in the hopes the noise would subside. Curioser and curioser. He was acting totally normal for the rest of the night but when we had a good talk at bedtime, he told me the sound had been there for a while (he said weeks or months but he’s 7 and has a crappy concept of time) and he wanted it gone. He would even go to the doctor to get rid of it. Okay, now I know this isn’t B.S.

Muppet trooped him off to the walk-in the next morning but his ears, nose, and throat were clear. The doc recommended having his hearing checked and gave us a number to call. He was thinking maybe there was a nerve being irritated or pinched. Turns out the place he recommended doesn’t take anybody under 18, so now we’re off to our pediatrician tomorrow afternoon to see what’s what. Sigh.

Thing is, as strange as his story sounds, he is a crappy liar, even if he is a bit of a drama llama. So, I think this is all legit and I am going to let him explain it all to the pediatrician and see what he makes of it. His story is remarkably consistent for a 7 year old with the attention span of a gnat. Anybody had similar complaints? I admit that I am going to feel guilty for how much we tell him he’s “not listening” if it turns out he couldn’t hear us!!


Picky Eater No More?! We Won!!!!

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this or not, but both my kids are picky eaters. Mini Me always has been and as he’s gotten older, he has gotten much better although he acts like I’m trying to kill him when I try to give him veggies. Or any fruit other than apples, grapes, and bananas. But his pickiness pales in comparison to Monkey who has been on a ‘beige’ diet since he was pretty much 2 years old. He was rocking the whole food thing, eating guacamole and all kinds of nifty stuff, until he realized that Mini Me would turn up his nose at many of the things on his plate. Not to be outdone, Monkey started to reject foods that he used to shovel in his mouth.

He’s 7 1/2 now and it has been years of frustration. Crackers, bread, rice, and any kind of processed meats like chicken dogs and salami are great. Bananas, apples, kiddie yogurt drinks, cheese strings. Hmmm. I think that may be it. Notice the colour code? We threaten, we beg, we refuse treats. You name it, we have done it. And don’t even go there with the ‘put it on his plate and make him taste it’ schtick. This kid can out-stubborn a mule except with much more shrieking and wailing. Even his grade 1 teacher, with 25 years of experience under his belt said that my kid was an 11 out of 10 on the stubbornness scale. We were rather relieved to hear that it wasn’t just us who thought that.

So about a week ago, I made Indian food. Rice, naan, all part of Monkey’s beige diet. Butter chicken and aloo gobi (curried cauliflower and potatoes) not so much. You could have knocked me over with a feather when, an hour after dinner Monkey casually says to me “Yeah, I tried the yellow stuff but I didn’t like it. Aren’t you proud of me?” Excuse me? He tried aloo gobi? WTF? I think I asked him for clarification about 5 times. “You mean the yellow stuff on your plate tonight?” Yes. “The Indian food I made?” Yes. He was looking at me like I had lost my mind by this point.

When I put him to bed I had to ask once more. “So sweetie, what made you want to try something new tonight?” He just looked at me and said “Well, I was tired of always fighting with you guys so I decided to try some new foods. Are you proud of me?” Proud? I was ready to weep with joy.

Since that fateful night, he has tried ham (delicious!), raisin bread (also delicious), sausages (too spicy, but we will try milder ones next time), pan-fried potatoes (wow, they’re kinda like french fries!) and yogurt that wasn’t strawberry or banana flavoured (yummy!). It has all been led by him so far because quite frankly, we don’t want to jinx it.

Last night he decided he wanted to try a hamburger (or Crabby Patty as he calls it). He took a basket at the grocery store and picked out some lettuce and buns, after making sure I had meat and tomatoes here at the house. I made them tonight and to be fair, he wasn’t a fan. I think the ground beef was off-putting to him. But he did go in the fridge and get out the salami and some cheese, then made himself a ‘hamburger’ with that and lettuce on a bun.

Next he wants to try chicken nuggets. I am crossing my fingers because at last this is something that I can make and which is reasonably healthy and not processed. Still, I wonder what goes on in that boy’s head. I shouldn’t be surprised though. This was the kid who went cold turkey from breast-feeding at 9 months between the 7am feeding and his usual 10am pre-nap feed. Done. Over. Never took the breast again. When he makes up his mind there is no going back.  I think we should just enjoy it for what it is and claim victory. How many parents get to hear that their kids are finally listening to them because they got tired of fighting? It’s a first for us, with 10 1/2 years of parenting under our belts and I’ll bet it’s the last.

I’ve Created A Couch Potato

It has been a rather frustrating week here with Mini Me and I’m sure Muppet and  I only have ourselves to blame. I heard on Monday that the track and field club had started up and suggested to him that he may want to join. He did training for a 5k run back in the spring and was really good at it. The whole thing culminated with a huge run involving kids from the whole school board and there were sponsors and goody bags. Really fun. So, he seemed game to join track and field although he had missed the initial sign up and the first day.

But here’s the thing about Mini Me and it’s the very reason he has this nickname. That kid can freak himself out over nothing and put up obstacles in his brain that are truly astounding. To the outside world he seems social and outgoing but if you know him well (which I do), he can be his own worst enemy. Can you say anxiety? I’m pretty sure it’s a genetic trait and one that I would have happily kept to myself but there you have it. My mother used to keep paper bags in the glove compartment of our Chevy Nova in case she had a panic attack. I was afraid of my own shadow as a kid and still deal with anxiety regularly. Looks like the Mini apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

His dad took him to the running club Tuesday morning while I had to wrestle Monkey out the door later amidst tantrums and tears. He wanted to bring a toy to school and I told him big kids in Grade 2 didn’t do that. I finally got him tearfully out the door and said that if he specifically asked his teacher and she said yes, then it was okay with me (FYI she said no –  I think I love that woman). We get to the school late and find Muppet and Mini Me sitting outside looking like somebody had peed in their Cheerios. Uh oh.

I guess Mini Me got there and all of the anxieties in his little brain just came crashing together to cause a total breakdown. There were too many kids on the course. He wanted to run 5k, not 2.5 (seriously?). He didn’t know what he was supposed to do (ummm, RUN?). It went on and on. As an added bonus, he didn’t want to go to class until he could see me and air his concerns, so now he was late as well as Monkey, who was still in a funk and dragging his heels the whole way to school. And poor Muppet, who thought he was going to drop off his kid and get to work early for a change ended up being especially late due to all the dramatics. Sigh.

After school that day Mini Me and his dad had a talk and they agreed that he would try again on Thursday. Which is today. Which is why I am writing this post. I could tell from the minute I saw his face this morning that it was a no-go. The complaints of fatigue only confirmed my suspicions. Then Muppet got out of the shower and the poop hit the fan. The end result? I think we have given up on cross-country but Mini Me has also lost his computer privileges. If he’s refusing to be active then we are taking away his main temptation to be inactive.

I want to blame myself for letting things get so far out of hand but I don’t know how much of Mini Me’s couch potato tendencies come because of a lack of rules or because he is naturally apathetic. The kids were home this summer for at least a few weeks where they were left to their own devices while I worked. The hours I had been working in the spring were easy enough to maintain when the kids were out of the house from 8:30 to 3:30 but come summer, they were nearly impossible. Monkey is 7 and, left to his own devices, flits between the odd video game or YouTube video, then outside to play, then downstairs for some Lego, then time for some crafts. Mini Me will play Minecraft. Period. The summer before, he would play outside and ride his bike, but that all seemed to be a thing of the past.

So now here we are in September, trying to right our wrongs. In a lot of ways, it’s just like having a toddler in the house again. Remember when you would put a new rule in place or say ‘no’ to them and they would tantrum, and all you could do was wait it out? Then, the next time the tantrum would get a little shorter, and so on. Yep. That’s gonna be my house this fall. I am imposing rules on a 10-year-old toddler who is going to tantrum. But I need to do it. He needs to be more active and I don’t want him to have to struggle with his weight because I can already see the tiny first beginnings of a bulge around his middle. No way. Not on my watch.

Which means I have to get my act together, make the rules and enforce them. There is going to be some tough love around here this fall and that couch potato is gonna get mashed (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Fat Is Not The Enemy

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately putting pressure on myself to be something I’m not. I’m lucky enough to work from home and part of my daily tasks is to follow a bunch of health and wellness bloggers. These are amazing women (and yes, they’re almost all women. Seriously, don’t guys blog?) who are striving to live fulfilled, lhealthy lives. Some have kids. Some don’t. Some have overcome tremendous physical hurdles to become fit and happy and I love to hear about their journeys.

I think I’m the kind of gal who focusses on what I should be rather than what I am, so these blogs have been doing a bit of a number on me lately. Raw food. Vegan food. Daily workouts. Yoga. Meditation. Smoothies that are an alarming shade of green. Quitting an office job to be a fitness coach, zumba instructor, yogi, life counsellor. I wonder why I can’t do that too. Why can’t I find the passion for health and fulfillment that these women have. They are so awesome and I am so obviously lacking.

Then it kind of hit me while I’m sitting here at Timmies having my medium coffee (double cream, one sweetener) that I am passionate. I am passionate about being me but I somehow don’t seem to think that’s enough.

I am more fit now than I have been since I was 20. I exercise pretty much every day even if it’s only the 35 minutes or so it takes me to walk the kids to and from school. I eat pretty healthy most of the time. I cook lovely homemade meals and bake cookies so my kids get a least a few less preservatives in their bodies. And if this keeps the scale over the number I idealize in my head, then maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

I’m not saying there are things I wouldn’t improve. I’m an emotional eater and stress always finds me munching on something. I love wine and a night chatting with the girls while splitting a bottle or two.

I guess my realization is that I need to be good enough for myself and figure out what that means. I can be my own worst enemy or my own best friend and maybe if I’m kinder to myself, I will find it easier to make more little changes. Yes, I take cream in my coffee today, but hey, at least I didn’t order a donut. One small step for woman…

Weight Watchers: Friend or Foe?

This is a subject that I’m really conflicted on. About three years ago, I decided to embark on my first ever diet (I’m not counting that brief time in my early teens where I supplemented snacking with a raging caffeine habit in the form of cups and cups of tea). I’m sure this would be surprising to a lot of women, particularly those who would identify them as lifetime plus-sizers like myself.  Most women I know, of every size, have at least a few diets under their belts (so to speak) by the time they hit 30. Why didn’t I?

Every woman on my mum’s side of the family is plus sized, and I was always one of the slimmest. At 5’8’ and averaging a size 16 in my adult life, my body was pretty proportioned and I could carry the weight less visibly. I had never experienced people making negative comments about my weight (until the Angry Skinny Chick incident that I wrote about a couple of posts ago) and I certainly never had helpful female relatives breathing down my neck to lose a few pounds “because we’re just worried about your health, dear.”

But, after two pregnancies and two humungous babies, I was feeling out of shape in a way I never had before. All of my extra weight was resting around my stomach and I was really feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. So, when my sister in law mentioned that she had joined the online branch of Weight Watchers, I decided to give it a try as well.

It made me look at food in a way I never had before. The thought of measuring out portions and figuring out point values was almost like a game to me because I had never worried about what I was eating before. Despite being heavy, I had never encountered a problem with my cholesterol or blood pressure and I went religiously every year for my full physical with the doctor. I had never been shamed for taking an extra portion or ordering desert in a restaurant and had grown up in a house where tea and “something sweet” was pretty much compulsory.

So, I cut back on what I ate and the first week I lost four pounds. I was hooked. After the first week and a half I started exercising more. I was already belly dancing once a week but as the weight dropped off, I would break into a jog on my way to pick the kids up from school. I would put on loud tunes and dance around the kitchen. People starting complimenting me and I was praising the virtues of Weight Watchers.

Then, after losing 30 pounds, I started to backslide. I’m an emotional eater and I had a lot of stress in my life. My wonderful Grandma passed away and that was devastating. I soon began snacking at night, telling myself it was only a little bit and it wouldn’t matter, but soon the pounds started creeping on.

So, here I am with still 6 pounds of my original 30 gone but I am conflicted about going back on Weight Watchers. I know that most people regain the weight, just like I did, but the fact is that I’ll be 42 in a month and I want to feel healthier. I think that those people who are heavy and happy, who love their bodies at any size, are simply fantastic. But for me, part of loving myself  is admitting that after a lifetime of being moderately overweight, I have health problems that come along with carrying the extra pounds. I have a chronic sore back, have gone through spurts with sore knees and achy hips, I have bunions, and am not as active as I would like to be.

I find myself trying to justify rejoining Weight Watchers since they have readjusted the way they calculate points. Every which way you turn, you can year Jennifer Hudson going on about how they are now encouraging health rather than weight loss. They want you to eat all the fruit and veggies you can with no point penalties and they no longer calculate food points by calories but by fat, protein, carbs and fibre.  The focus is on food quality rather than quantity.

On the other hand, I know that health at all size activists like Golda Poretsky or Jill Nash would tsk tsk me for falling back into that diet mentality of deprivation and obsession. Sigh. What’s a chubby mummy to do?

Here’s what my thinking is right now and I will certainly share my success or failure, although I do suck at admitting I’m wrong (you’ve been warned). I’m going to give Weight Watchers another try but with a different frame of mind. I think I do need to be mindful of what I put in my mouth. I’m a terrible nibbler and I will make my portions much bigger than they need to be, especially at dinner when there’s usually enough kid drama and distraction going on to get me to overeat to the point where I feel uncomfortable afterwards. I need to be reminded that I can nibble on blueberries in the middle of the afternoon instead of having some kind of baked good. Will I let myself feel hungry? Hell no. But I will keep track of how much I’m exercising compared to how many times I choose to eat some kind of fatty or salty treat. I’m also keeping my scale firmly under my bedroom dresser collecting dust because that’s where it belongs.

Will it work? Who knows.  Maybe I’ll become a point obsessed zombie with a shrine to Jennifer Hudson in the basement. Or maybe I’ll start to get healthier.  We’ll have to wait and see.