Monday, 18 November 2013

While Daddy's Away...

Two weekends ago, my husband, Chris spent a solo weekend in Los Angeles where the Vancouver Cycle Chic's films were being shown as a part of the New Urbanism Film Festival. I was very excited for him and his mini-vacation. Not only because of the honour to be featured in even a small film festival, but because after nearly three years, this was his first time away without the family. I've now had several trips away solo, and while most have been for work, I do understand how nice it is to have time where all you have to think of is yourself.

But of course, Daddy being away meant that I was only my own with my little rugrats. Nothing a woman who stayed at home for over 6 years with her kids couldn't handle, but I kept having this nagging thought in my head. You see, every time I go away, Chris and the kids have adventures all over the city. They get treats, they go to the beaches and parks, and they've even gone to a rock concert! I think that's true for most moms I know. When they go on a trip, the old adage, "When the cat's away, the mice will play" rings so true. But when it's the dad's turn to go away, not much changes, especially for stay-at-home moms. Chores still need doing, dinners need making, and life carries on like most other days.

Somehow I wanted our weekend to be somewhat different, even if I can't match the excitement of a daddy weekend. So I decided we'd take on a craft, something I know as awesome as Daddy is, he's no match for Mommy's mad creativity when it comes to a sewing machine and my passion for Christmas. This Christmas we're heading down the Coast for the holidays, meaning we aren't putting up a tree at home, nor can we take out boxes of Christmas decorations with us. I had seen paper trees at IKEA last Christmas, thinking that would be ideal, but when my search on the internet came up empty, I came up with a DIY option, something that was compact enough to fit into our luggage but still provide us with the tree necessary for Santa to leave presents under.

And so our own little adventure began with a trip to the crafter's wonderland that is Dressew. Aisles upon aisles of fabric, notions and anything else you can think of. After letting the kids play around with the fun fur (really...who can resist), we picked up some Christmas green felt along with a few other colourful options, some sparkly ribbon, a bit of polyfill, and, because I just had to, sequins. Then we headed home, ready for our big project.

All ready to get started!
Last Spring I started teaching Coralie how to use a sewing machine, and she even made her own pencil case. So she was very excited to be able to have another crack at it, especially for this extra special creation. After I cut out the main shape of the tree, together we pinned on the silvery trim, and then I sat her down at my machine and let her go. As she went along, she gained more confidence, I was able to adjust the speed and within no time, our Christmas tree was starting to come alive. After my sewing up the tree, filled with the polyfill, it was time to teach her a bit about hand sewing. From our other colourful felt, I cut out some shapes resembling various tree baubles, showed Coralie how to thread a needle, knot it off, and sew on sequins in any pattern she wished. 

Little brother watching while Coralie shows
off her ever growing skills

Project nearing completion...completed
project images will have to wait till Christmas
Sadly, Etienne doesn't have the dexterity or the interest to sit patiently and sew, nor do I think he would manage to get more than a few sequins in without pricking his finger several time. So while it may not have been as creative, his job was to place each felt creation on the tree, where they stuck safely without being physically attached. He was more than happy to take on that task. Our tree is still in progress while we finish up some more decorations, but I'm very happy with the results so far and excited for our tree away form home this Christmas.

So while I may not have taken the kids galavanting around the town, we spent a lovely weekend doing things only Mommy will do. And I've realized, that's ok. That just makes both the time Chris and I spend alone with the kids special and unique. We got to hang out, take a trip downtown to shop a little, and even create something special. I also got lots of cuddle time with my children without having to compete with my husband, something I've missed now that they're both off to full-time daycare a school every day. We certainly missed having Daddy around, but while Daddy's away, the rest of the Velo Family will manage just fine.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Look beyond the surface...

Look at this photo. What do you see? I see a young girl smiling. I think to myself, she seems really happy. Maybe because it's summertime, or maybe it's because she has an awesome red bike. Perhaps she's excited because this is the first time she's ridden her bike without her parents holding on, or that she knows she's really close to getting rid of her training wheels. All I know is that she looks happy, and that's what matters.

Now look closer. Read deeper into this photo. See the young girl, around age six, who is well on her way to enjoying riding a bike for years to come. If she continues riding her bike often enough, she will be healthy and active, helping to keep illnesses related to inactivity away. I also see confidence, which will help her as she starts to navigate around the city she lives in, knowing she is capable of mapping out her path, finding the best route, and if she gets lost, she will calmly be able to figure out where to go next. I also see the parents behind the camera that are helping to nurture her and support her. Otherwise, this photo wouldn't even exist. 

One thing I don't notice, or at least I shouldn't care to notice, is that she isn't wearing anything protective. No helmet, no pads or armour. Just a girl riding her bike. Why isn't she wearing those things? Her parents must not feel that what she is doing is unsafe, and therefore doesn't require a ton of safety gear. They simply think that they learned to ride a bike when they were kids, and want to share this knowledge and experience with their own child. And they should be congratulated like any other parent for starting their kid on the right path to a happy and healthy childhood.

The sad truth is, though, that many people will look at this photo and get angry. They won't see the joy, the possibilities and the positivity about this young girl on a bike. They will simply see a child without a helmet and think that her parents are awful, irresponsible people, putting their child in danger by allowing her to do a perceived dangerous activity without protection. These people would rather see this girl travelling safely in a car, or not leaving the house at all, safe on her couch, than accept that the dangers of riding a bike are not as extreme as they have been made out here in North America.

Just last week, the Canadian Paediatrics Society called for legislation to mandate helmet use for all ages across Canada. The concern is for a reduction of concussions and other head injuries, most specifically amongst the young. Studies were discussed, saying that bicycle related injuries account for four per cent of emergency department cases. Sure, that's relevant, but how many of those were related to actual helmet usage. What I'm hearing is four out of one hundred child and youth emergency department cases are bike related. Let's face facts here. Overall, that is a really low percentage, which translates to me that riding a bike is really not that dangerous, even for the young.

Part of the reasoning for the recommendation, Paediatricians in the society say, is that in areas where there is mandatory helmet legislation, helmet usage is up. Well, of course it is. If you want to ride a bike but don't want to run the risk of being fined, do you really have a choice? The study I want to see is whether or not cycling rates in those areas also decreased as a result of the legislation. In Australia, where a mandatory helmet law has been in place longer than here in BC, this is what studies have found:

"As reported in March 2007 and based on data from Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria, the number of Australian children walking or riding a bicycle to school has plunged from about 80% in 1977 to the current level around 5%. The data confirms that in Western Australia, the decline of cycling began around 1991 when the helmet law was enacted." (Source)

What has been increasing in Australia are cases of childhood obesity, the rates of which tripled between 1985 and 1995. A survey from 2008 reported that one in four children aged 5-17 were overweight or obese. So while children may be safer while riding their bikes due to helmet usage, the helmet law has essentially detracted children and youth from riding, therefore increasingly their inactivity and risking their health. Surely the focus every where should be more on keeping kids active and healthy in their every day lives, instead of putting restrictions on the fun and easy ways they can do that. And if safety is such an important concern, which I don't disagree with, then padding our kids up with body armour isn't the answer. Instead, cities should be focused on creating better, safer infrastructure for all cyclists. Traffic calming, separated lanes and driver education will go much further to keep us and our children safe and get more people active and on a path to overall health and wellness.

This photo was taken nearly three decades ago, and if you haven't guessed by now, the girl in that photo is yours truly. I have been avidly riding my bicycle now for over 30 years. From riding around my neighbourhood as a kid with my friends, to the other side of my suburban home town to meet up with my teenage boyfriend, to today, riding with that same boy, now my husband, and my own children, I have never once thought what I was doing was too dangerous. I don't take risks while I'm on my bike, I refuse to "ride with the bulls", preferring to stay on quieter roads or streets where I am separated from the cars. But most importantly, I am still that young girl in the photo, simply on a bike, smiling and having fun, and that's what should matter most.