Thursday, 26 December 2013

#icestorm2013 + The Next App You Are Going to Download

I hope the holiday celebrations have been going well in your home. Here in Toronto, we had quite the crazy start to Christmas. Overnight on Saturday, Dec 21st, there was a massive ice storm that hit the city and much of southwestern Ontario. Our power went out around 11pm on Saturday night and, like 300 000 other homes in the city, was still out the next day. It was getting colder by the hour and Toronto Hydro was telling residents to prepare for a 3 day wait to get power back online, so we started making alternative plans faster than you can say ice ice baby.

Our car was both A) covered in a layer of ice nearly an inch thick and B) blocked by a fallen, live wire so we weren't going to be able to drive anywhere. I found a kid-friendly hotel on the subway line that, thankfully, had a reasonable rate for a room with 2 beds. My parents, who were visiting for the holidays, headed home. Then we packed up a few bags, S and the stroller, and headed down to our hotel passing scences like this one:
(photo cred)

For more pictures check Instagram #icestorm2013.

S did not sleep well in the hotel at all, but although we were tired, my husband and I tried not be too upset because we were just glad to be in a warm room. Miraculously, when we checked with a neighbour in the morning our power was back on again, and we could come home.

It doesn't look like much, but here's a little info:
- the two cars on the opposite side of the street are still parked because both front windows were smashed in by trees and branches
- the wire hanging down blocking in our car (the silver one) was live. As were the other wires hanging down on the right
- our street at one point had police tape on both ends so you couldn't get in or out
- the cars were all coated a seriously thick layer of ice.
- inside our thermostat told us that the house got down to 9.7 degrees Celsius at one point.  (49.5 degrees Fahrenheit)

Later the large branch from our front lawn was moved into the street behind our car by some hydro crews and this sign was attached to it.

Christmas morning we woke up to the wires on our street removed. I am so grateful to the people who spent Christmas Eve working to clean up the city while I slept cozy in my home.

To get a sense of how just every single thing was coated in ice, my friend snapped this amazing shot of a decoration and tree.

Refinery 29 must have heard that the weather was getting a bad rep up north, because the day we got home, they posted this find on FB. For the Ryan Gosling fans, the new app Hey Girl Weather now allows Ryan Gosling to be your weatherman. The app is free and Ryan will give you the weather for the day, along with a Hey Girl quote. My friend E loves the Weather Puppy app and asked me to download it so I can send her the cute pictures. Weather Puppy and Weather Kitty are pretty darn adorable, but Hey Girl Weather may now be the cutest app on my phone (insert my husband rolling his eyes here).

Our experience in the ice storm was one of the more positive ones. There are thousands still without power and my thoughts go out to them. When we wished for a white Christmas, this isn't really what we meant. Stay warm. #extragratefulthischristmas


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Lessons from Nelson Mandela to my Son

When Nelson Mandela passed away, we started to hear many of Mandela's inspiring quotations and stories again, and I thought to myself, I really want my son to grow up knowing about Nelson Mandela. I want his messages of love, forgiveness, hope, and peace to seep into his soul and be part of the character he is building. Lofty goals I know, here are the lessons I hope he learns.

Nelson Mandela quotes - It always seems impossible until its done.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”  
Some days life will be hard. There may be days or weeks or months in a row that are hard. You must. keep. going. Don't you dare give up. Keep working towards your goal, and when you look back to see how far you have come, you will be blown away.

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” 
Once you have finished something big, be proud of what you have accomplished. Then look around; there will always be more work to do. There will always be another mountain that needs climbing. But it's ok. You are not alone. We will be there to climb with you.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
Stay in school, work hard, and respect your teachers. Learn as much as you can, and share what you have learned with others. I often wonder what you will be when you grow up. I do know that whatever it is, acquiring knowledge and thinking critically will give you the capacity to be a unstoppable force of change.

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
It is ok to be afraid. Whether it's monsters under the bed, a math exam, or the death of a loved one, the trick isn't to never feel scared. The trick is to live life anyways. That is courage. To look at something scary and, "I can do that."

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
The Japanese proverb "Fall down seven times, get up eight" has the same message of perseverance and resilience. Even when it's hard - keep going. Even when you think you've failed - keep trying. Find that point where it feels uncomfortable and hard, push just a little bit further, and try again.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Let yours be the generation that eradicates racism. And don't just settle for tolerance. Settle for nothing less than acceptance. You don't have to be best friends with every person you meet, but you do have to be respectful and compassionate.

 "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
This one is long, I know, but the vice-principal of my high school read it to us once, and it has stuck with me ever since. Find your path of excellence and dive in. Nurture the leader inside of you. And leadership isn't always loud and over the top and in the spotlight. You can inspire others and contribute in a calm and quiet manner if you'd prefer, just like Nelson Mandela did. You have much to share with the world, and the world needs you to share your gifts with others.

“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you can be that generation”  
I hope when I'm old and grey, I can look back and think I've done some good things in my life. You are absolutely one of them. But I hope you can be even greater. I hope that you can do even more good things. Learn from mistakes made in history and do it even better. I'm sure every mother wishes that for her son. Every mother looks at her baby boy and sees him as a king. Will and Kate don't get the monopoly on that ;)

“Appearances matter — and remember to smile.”
Be kind to others and remember the golden rule. Appearances matter in that if we are open, happy, and grateful with others, we may feel just a little better ourselves. On top of that, we are likely to make someone else feel a little better too. It is often said that people will not remember exactly what you said to them, but they will remember how you made them feel. So remember to smile :)

At Nelson Mandela's funeral, South African President Jacob Zuma said that Mandela was a, "fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength, and a beacon of hope for all those fighting for a just and equitable world order." For me, the silver lining of his passing is that his messages are now again in the spotlight to remind me of what is important and what I want to model to my son.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

The one with 1402 diapers

This is what 1402 diapers looks like:

After pledging to round up 1000 diapers in November, I was overwhelmed with support by my friends, family and colleagues. Earlier today, we dropped off the diapers to the Toronto Diaper Bank. As much as I love contributing $ to causes that meaningful to me, there is something different about making such a direct donation. Thank you so much to everyone who helped me reach this goal. 1402 is a lot of little bottoms that we'll be keeping clean and dry this winter.


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Personalized Gifts for Grandparents

Personalized gifts are the best kind of grandparent gifts out there. Here are a few of my favs.

1. Photo Calendar.
The photo calendar gift never goes out of style. I remember my mom making them for my grandparents when my sister and I were little....umm...20 years ago?! You can make them pretty much anywhere. Shutterfly (currently having a 30-40% off sale), Vistaprint, Snapfish, Black's (currently having a 25% off sale with the code CAL25), even Costco.

2. Today's Parent Magazine Cover
What grandparent wouldn't love to see their grandchild on the cover of Today's Parent? It's too late for this year, but keep this link bookmarked. We did this last year, and it was the cutest stocking stuffer. You can upload your pic and then pick the article titles you'd like to see on the cover surrounding your little one.

3. Personalized Photo Kleenex Box
I saw this idea on a blog once, and I had to try it. I had 2 made up last Christmas with Seb's picture and added "Welcome to our home. Would you like to see more pictures of our grandson?" While my mom tells me she still refills this kleenex box, I think Rob's mom is too delighted by the pictures to even open it.

4. DIY Painted Ceramic Pieces
This was one of my first Rookie Mom Challenges - paint your baby's feet. I made a framed ceramic tile with S' feet and his name when he was about 6 weeks old. Super cute. Then Christmas came around and everyone got painted ceramic pieces with decorated with little baby toes. In addition to the standard ceramic tile, we made this plate (inspired by this pin) and a Christmas ornament.

 5. Recordable storybooks
This gift is perfect for grandparents who don't live close to you. Next time you see them, they can record themselves reading the story and then you keep the book so the grandparents can 'read' a story to your little one even when they are not there. For older kids, another idea I've heard is to have each family member read a page or two of the book and then give the recorded book as a gift to the grandparents so they can hear your voices. We have a couple of these, and they are so cool.

6. Photo album
This one takes a little more work, but in the end you have an amazing gift and keepsake. When S turned one, I used Snapfish to make a photo album of his first year. I kept it for us, but really, it would be easy peasy to order another copy and give it as a gift, and I know S' grandparents would love one.

I've also heard of making photo magnets or even a DIY Andy Warhol Photograph of your kids, but I haven't tried either of these yet. Maybe next year.

Any other personalized gifts you think would be great for grandparents?


Monday, 25 November 2013

Les petits plaisirs - My Christmas Wish List

It's November 25th. Exactly one month until Christmas.  I love Christmas. I love the lights, the smells, the food, the music, sending cards, exchanging gifts, putting a little extra Bailey's in my hot chocolate. I love it all.

Have you started your shopping yet? I do most of the Christmas shopping for our family. In fact, really the only person Rob has to buy a gift for is me. And he recently told me he needs to start his Christmas shopping, soooo.... I know what that means.  Here is my wish list for Christmas this year.

I love Downton Abbey. I'm so excited to see season 4 start in January ....but sans Matthew :( . I'd love these little bath goodies to make me feel like I am actually relaxing in Downton Abbey this winter.

Graphic tees are super in style right now and this one rocks. It is soooo soft! I'd wear it with denim cutoffs in the summer and a cardigan winter. All US states are also available.

Audrey Hepburn knows her stuff. This is a great quote to read while I'm snuggling with some tea and a good book on a winter night.
To go with my Downton Abbey obsession, I also really admire Kate Middleton and the rest of the royal family. I also love little bits of interesting trivia, so I hope to see this magazine in my stocking.

Pretty stationery is a total vice of mine. I cannot resist. These cards would be an adorable addition to my collection.

Avalon Bracelet Clutch in Midnight Black
 I saw this baby at a Stella and Dot party I recently hosted and fell in love. To me it is the perfect date night clutch. I'm not a fan of wristlet purses so I was totally sold when I found out the strap can be removed and turned into a leather wrap bracelet.

Kiss Lock Frame Purse in Pearl Dots
This cutie has been on my Etsy favourites list for awhile now. It's not really big enough to be a clutch, but I would use it as a mini wallet in a smaller purse on a night out.

Openweave Plaid Scarf
I'm finally joining the plaid train for winter, and I think this scarf is super cute. Check it out styled here. It also comes in holiday green.

Cozy Robe by Victoria's Secret
I've had the same robe since high school so it's time for an upgrade. I love robes that are actually cozy and warm so this one fits the bill.

What's on your Christmas wish list this year?

Monday, 18 November 2013

Les petits plaisirs - Séan McCann and Great Big Sea

Here is the next post in the series Les petits plaisirs. My goal for this series is to share things I've found to be little pleasures in life. It could be a quotation, a song, something I like to do, or even just a comfort item. Whatever makes me feel good inside, and I think may make you feel good too.

For the better part of 16 years, my favourite band has been Great Big Sea. A full half of my life can be chronicled by their music. I have seen them live 5 times and even met them in a Tim Horton's the morning following one of those concerts. I once went to their concert only a week after an unexpected surgery while I probably should have been laying on my couch recovering, but I just couldn't fathom staying home with GBS tickets sitting on my dresser. There is always a GBS CD in my car. 

Great Big Sea recently celebrated their 20th anniversary as a band. This has to be a remarkable achievement in the music industry. God, I hope we're not still talking about Miley Cyrus in 20 years.

While I love all of the band members, Séan McCann has always been my favourite. I have always admired his infectious energy, his back and forth banter with Alan Doyle, and his addictive singing voice. At a GBS concert I am in a different, beautiful place, and Séan McCann has always been a significant part of that experience. I was shocked and saddened to find out last week that Séan will be leaving the band in the new year.

Séan and the other band members have always been fiercely private about their personal lives. He has made a few solo albums and has a wife and young children, so those are pretty good reasons to stick closer to home. Or maybe he has other new projects in mind? While I respect his decision to leave the group, I selfishly hope he still keeps a finger in the music industry.

In honour of Séan, today's petit plaisir is his music. I know I'll be listening to my Séan McCann and GBS albums a little more this week.

Here is one of Séan's classics - The Night Pat Murphy Died

And here is one of his more recent songs with Great Big Sea - Good People.

Be sure to also check out some of his solo music here and here. My fav is The Reply (the ballad of John and Mary). For the mamas, he also has a great lullaby album.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What I would tell you about sleep for babies if we were BFFs

I already mentioned that sleep was my biggest challenge when our son was a baby. If we were BFFs, this is what I would tell you about a baby's sleep in the first year.

The saying "Sleep when your baby sleeps" is still true. 
As science and technology advance, many aspects of the world today change at lightning speed and sometimes age-old advice is not always applicable anymore. That is not the case with this well-known gem. So leave the laundry, turn off your phone and take a nap.

Sleep deprivation may lead to severe nausea.
While the doctors at the hospital really could not explain the extremely severe nausea that I encountered about 36 hours after S was born, I'm convinced it had to do with the lack of sleep on top of giving birth. It took nearly a full day to get under control and then came back again a few days later. They gave me some pretty strong anti-nausea medications, and they didn't work. The only thing that really helped was getting some sleep.

Top up your baby before bed.
Even if you are feeding more on a schedule than entirely on demand, top up your baby with a feed before bed.

Newborns shouldn't sleep with a nightlight. 
A public health nurse told us about this shortly after S was born. Babies are not developmentally able to be afraid of the dark, and using a nightlight with a newborn can be damaging to their eye development. We were told on a darkness scale of 1-5, a baby's room should be about a 4.

Make a "going to sleep routine" and stick with it.
One day (of many) when I had called my mother in tears because I just couldn't get S to nap I remember she said to me, "You're doing too many things to try and get him to sleep. Pick 3 or 4 things you do with him before nap and bed. Do them each time, and he will learn the routine." Since then we have some milk, read a few stories, sing 2 songs, cuddle, and he goes into the crib. It took some time, but he did learn the routine, and it works.

White noise is magic.
Rob discovered the magic of white noise a few weeks after S was born, and then we downloaded our favourite white noise app. Genius.

Sleep training a baby does not mean he will start sleeping through the night.
I have no idea who put this ridiculous idea into my head, but I thought once we sleep trained S (we used the Ferber method), that he would start sleeping through the night. Nope. While he needed much less of the sleepytime-baby-rocking-dance to fall alseep, he still woke a couple times in the night for a good few months.

Sleep training a baby involves sleep training yourself as well.
It may be awhile before you get a full night's sleep again. My husband and I experienced levels of exhaustion we didn't know existed. I'd get angry because I was tired. Our bedtime moved from 11pm to 8:00pm. Lots of changes happen but, you're a team, and you can work through all of the changes together.

It's ok to talk to your mommy friends about their baby's sleep....a little.
I found it helpful to have a close mommy friend who's baby was just days older than mine. We were (and still are) able to check in and see if we are facing the same challenges. This can be so reassuring. Just be careful not to compare too much and create new expectations for your baby. Too often, I found myself assuming S should be sleeping a certain way because someone else's baby was or because the book said so. He is his own little man, growing his way.

Don't be afraid to ask for help.
After 5 months of really struggling, I saw a psychiatrist who asked me this question, "How many hours of sleep do you get a night in a row?" My answer was about 3 or 4. She told me that I had to figure out how to get 6 hours of sleep in a row at night. Restorative sleep happens at 6 hours in a row. So we put some strategies into place to make that happen for at least a week, and it made a difference.

Before having a baby, I had completely underestimated what it would be like to not have family in the city to help us. Were our families supportive? Yup. Did they want to help? Absolutely. Were they a 5 or 10 minute drive away on a bad day? No. But we asked for help anyways. Even if it was more inconvenient for them and a longer wait time for us until they arrived, asking for help from our families, friends, and doctors always got us back on track.

Also, feel free to contact a sleep coach. I waited way too long to do this with Seb. Catherine, from Motherhand,  helped us put a plan into place when S was a toddler and having a hard time sleeping without us in the room. She also specializes in infant sleep coaching.

It gets (even) better.
Having a baby is awesome. I am not strong enough of a writer to express just how amazing I feel when he brings me a book to read, or when I hear him laugh, or when I see him sleeping peacefully under his favourite quilt. It is the most incredible thing I have ever done. It is also the hardest thing I have ever done. On the days that it is hard, I promise, it gets better. And then after that, it gets even better.

Anything else you'd share about baby sleep with your BFFs?


Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional. These are just bits of advice I'm sharing based on my experiences. If you have any questions about your little one, please check with your family doctor. I'm sure they will be happy to help and understand if you are feeling overwhelmed. 

Monday, 11 November 2013


Today is Remembrance Day.  Last week at my work we had our annual Remembrance Day ceremony. Every year this ceremony never fails to bring me to tears. Now being a mom, this year was absolutely no exception. By the end, after the speakers, slideshows, and trumpets, the two minutes of silence is not nearly enough to feel through the overwhelming gratitude that is spilling out of me towards the men and women who serve or have served in our armed forces and protect so many lives. The sheer amount of time they spend away from their families is extraordinary. Maybe I should relax a little when Rob is late for dinner.

I can't get the images out of my head of a dad in the army coming home from deployment and holding his newborn baby for the first time in an airport. Or a mom in the navy who away on a sail and missing Halloween with her daughter. Or the son and his mother being driven along the Highway of Heroes following the hearse of a brave brave man who won't be coming home with them.

This year our ceremony had a focus not only on remembrance, but also on compassion. We were challenged to ask ourselves, "What would soldiers fighting abroad wish for us to take away from this ceremony?" It's likely what they want for us is to show just a little more compassion, a little more kindness to others that we meet.

If you aren't able to make it to a Remembrance Day ceremony today, or even if you are, I recommend taking a few minutes to watch this video.

Our lives get busy. And it can be easy to wish for world peace and forget the real sacrifice made by so many, but today, I'm remembering.

I had difficulty picking an appropriate photo for this post.  Maybe it is this one of poppies peacefully blowing in the wind....


Maybe it is this one that so clearly says the message we are remembering.....


But really, maybe it's this one. My sister. One of many men and women who possess the incredible amount of strength, courage, and determination to do what is right and necessary when it counts. That path is not for all of us, but I am so grateful that it is the path for some. Thank you sis.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Toys That Get Played With (0-12months)

Here is a list of the toys that got the most play time at our house during S' first year. I've already started my Christmas shopping, so maybe this list will be helpful if you are buying for a little one.


We were able to borrow an activity gym/playmat and an exersaucer from friends to save some $. I'd really recommend doing the same for these two toys because they are only used for 6 or 7 months tops.

Jump baby Jump! OMG the Jolly Jumper. S lived in this thing from months 4-8 until he physically grew too tall for it. I'd put him in, turn on Gangnam Style and let him go. It was amazing. Hands down his favourite toy as a baby. Even when he grew too tall to really jump, he taught himself how to just swing in it. Hilarious. Also, like the playmat and exersaucer above, we borrowed a walker from a friend. Not only does it save $, but in the end, it does lower the amount of baby 'stuff' you have to store.

Stay tuned for a whole other post on the best books for babies, but they are absolutely to be included in the "toys that get play with" section. S loved 'feely' books. Any kind of book that had textures in it was a hit at our house. And board books are a must. S is perpetually teething, and he will actually chew the corner right off a book if we're not paying attention, so his books need to be durable.

NB - most of my links are to Amazon, but they aren't always the best price. Be sure to look around :)

Know of any other 'must have' toys for babies? Add them to the comments section below!


Monday, 4 November 2013

Les petits plaisirs - This too shall pass

This week's petit plaisir comes from Sara and Marlene.

This past week was rough at our house. After already feeling run down, and a 13h work day on Tuesday with a lot of talking on my end, I lost my voice entirely when I got home. Our superfunandtotallyawesome Halloween plans were toned way down, and as I lay in bed thinking of blog post ideas and Googling remedies for sore throats that feel like they are full of burning glass, I remembered:

This too shall pass

Thanks ladies for the reminder. I also love what Sara wrote in her comment to me - that this quotation gets her through not only the rough times, but also reminds her to enjoy the little moments that are so wonderful with her family too.

Happy week everyone,

Friday, 1 November 2013

My First Diaper Drive {Local Love}

It's November 1st. For many men, this means the beginning of Movember. For many women, this means a month of seeing awkward 'staches every which way we turn (but totally worth it for a really great cause of course).

For me, this November is going to be my first Diaper Drive. I first found out about this idea here from the Rookie Moms website. If you've never heard of a Diaper Drive (I hadn't), basically you try to raise awareness about the need for diapers in your community and round up as many diapers to donate as you can.

The Diaper Bank of Toronto has posted some pretty real facts about the need for diapers in the city. Here are a few:
  • 1 in 5 Canadian moms have experienced diaper need. (In Toronto, the number is closer to 1 in 4.)
  • 24% of Canadian moms cut back on clothing so they can buy diapers. Even worse, 16% cut back on food.
  • Babies are kept in wet and dirty diapers for extended periods of time, leading to increased fussiness and irritation. In extreme cases, babies are using diapers for a full day or disposable diapers that have been cleaned or dried out.
  • This may also lead to babies who cry more, have worse diaper rash, and may be at greater risk for developing infections.
  • A mother's physical and emotional well-being suffers. They report feeling guilty, stressed, like a 'bad mother', frustrated, and anxious.  
The Diaper Bank says that "providing clean diapers provides moms with a sense of pride, joy and connection to their children."

My goal this month is to collect 1000 diapers. They can be new packages, opened packages, or even just loose diapers. Any size will do. Unfortunately, cloth diapers are not realistic alternatives for families experiencing diaper need so only disposable diapers are accepted by the Diaper Bank.

If you'd like to participate (and I hope you do!), you can give the diapers right to me or Rob when you see us, pass them along to someone who will be seeing one of us this month, or you can drop them off at the door of our house even if we're not there. I think the timing is perfect, because I'm so excited to know that a few more moms in the city will be able to spend less time worrying about diapers over the upcoming holidays, and spend more time making amazing memories with their babes.

So bring me your diapers and help a mother out ;)

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Run down....

I'm feeling run down. Two months ago I went back to work. In the past 2 months I've had the flu once and a cold twice. Ugh.

I know it could be worse. And I try to remember that. Thankfully (knock on wood), S. hasn't been sick, and Rob is a superdad. Looking ahead to this week, I have 2 extremely long and busy days at work on Tuesday and Friday, Wednesday S visits his new daycare in the morning for the first time, and Thursday is Halloween. So...I'm feeling run down.

I hate this feeling because I feel like I'm being neither a good mom nor a good wife. I am tired and cranky with my son and my husband; which I instantly regret. I just think to myself, if I was only feeling better, I could do so much more, and we'd have so much more fun.

As I watched S play after dinner, counting the minutes to bed time, it dawned on me that he has no idea I'm not feeling great. He's running around screaming and squealing and showing me books and toys. To him, he is having fun. It's just a normal day. This is life when you're one. And maybe he has to scream a little louder or bang me on the head with a flashlight to get any ounce of energy and response out of me, but it's a good lesson to be taught; that this is life, and sick or not, I can still try to make it a normal day.


Friday, 25 October 2013

Sleep. The new S-word

Do you know what sucks? Staying up late (10pm haha!) on a work night to write a blog post about going back to work after having a baby, only to have said baby wake up at 10:30pm and then stay awake until nearly 2am.

Sleep is the real s-word in our house. Since Seb was born, sleep has been my biggest struggle. My Achilles' Heel. My kryptonite. Not that Seb was ever a particularly bad sleeper. I'm sure he's totally normal. I just had an expectation in my mind of when he should be sleeping through the night or how long he should be napping, and nothing anyone could say to me could shift that expectation.

Lately, if Seb wakes at night, it takes him quite awhile to fall back asleep on his own. If one of us goes into his room and cuddles with him, he instantly falls asleep in our arms, but when we put him in his crib, he often wakes right back up. It's a delicate process; placing a 30-pound sleeping toddler in his crib gently, like a ticking bomb. Then, if he happens to stay down, how do you get out of the room? Our house is nearly 100 years old and the floors are squeaky when you breathe on them with any amount of force. A stealthy exit is not guaranteed.

And there are the questions. What does he want? Is he hungry? Is he thirsty? Is it his teeth? Is it because he goes to daycare now? What should we do? Should we give him some Tylenol? Should we let him cry it out? If we go in, is he learning a bad habit? Is he scared? Was it a nightmare? Does he need a nightlight?

Finally, if he's had a rough night, after Seb does fall back asleep, I am so wound up it can take me another hour (or longer) to fall back asleep myself. Which is what happened on this particular night.

I read recently, "No one ever looks back and thinks 'I wish I held my baby less'." I can't find where I originally saw this quote to give them credit, but I wish I had read this earlier. Now I think of it every time I hear a little cry from down the hall in the night.


Thursday, 24 October 2013

What Halloween Looks Like at our House

It's one week until Halloween. Seb will be one day shy of 18 months old, so he doesn't really get it, but it's fun to celebrate just the same. Here are a few little things we do to make Halloween special at our house.

Every year I like to buy one decoration to add to our home. Two years ago, I bought that burlap Halloween bunting. You can find a similar one on Etsy.

Then last year I picked up these two board books: Goodnight Goon and Spooky Spooky Spooky. Goodnight Goon is a nice little break from Goodnight Moon which is often in rotation at our place before bed, and Spooky Spooky Spooky is the perfect length for toddlers.

This year, I found these pumpkin gel clings at Target, and S loves helping us count them.

Our Halloween pièce de résistance is Ghostie. My husband, Rob, is a computer graphics guy so for the past couple of years we have projected this little ghost video out of our bedroom window onto our front lawn. The first time we did this, Ghostie just floated around the lawn while the kids chased him down and jumped on him. Last year, Rob controlled it from our iPad. Ghostie would float around randomly, and then just as the kids caught up with him, Rob would move Ghostie out of the way, resulting in much squealing and more running and jumping. We have new neighbours from England across the street, and this will be their 5-year old's first Halloween. I can't wait until he sees this!

Finally, here are S and his best friend on Halloween last year. They were Astro Boy and Superman. Yes, they are holding hands, and yes, the cuteness factor was pretty high.

We are hoping to recreate this pic with the boys again this year, but they are much squirmier now so we'll see if we can get them to sit still for a photo op!


Monday, 21 October 2013

4 Great Apps for New (or Newish) Moms

Here is a list of four great apps that I would recommend for new/newish moms.

The Wonder Weeks

What this app does:
The Wonder Weeks is based on research that there are 10 major mental developmental leaps that your baby will go through during their first year and a half. You enter your baby's due date, and then follow him through his leaps. For each leap, the app will give you a summary of that leap, the abilities your little one may be able to do at the end of that leap, signs that your baby is in a leap (increased fussiness is a big one), and then the best part is that it offers strategies for helping your baby through their leap.

Why I love this app:

I found that S followed these leaps relatively closely, and it was great to learn specific activities or experiences I could do with him to help him get used to his big, new world.
Cost: $1.99


What this app does:
This app keeps track of all of the vaccinations your child has had or will need to have in the future. If you turn the location feature on, it will also notify you of any major disease outbreaks in your area.

Why I love this app:

I love finding something awesome for Canadian moms, and this app was created by the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. The other very useful part of this app is the electronic version of the yellow immunization card (I always forget the paper one at S' checkups).  I can email to myself if I need a copy or right to S' daycare.
Cost: Free

Gymboree Play & Music: Baby

What this app does:
Designed for babies under the age of 1, this app gave me 365+ Gymboree games, activities, and songs to do with my baby based on his age in months.

Why I love this app:

Sometimes it's hard to know what to do for fun with a newborn. I loved that I could make a favourites list of the activities we enjoyed the most, and there are songs with lyrics and music included in this app.
Cost: $2.99

*We also have the book Gymboree 1001 Fun Ways to Play: Quick, Easy Activities for Your Baby and Child which has a ton activities for little ones newborn - 5 years old.

Relax Melodies (my husband's fav.)

What this app does:
This is the mother of all white noise apps. You choose your favourite type of white noise (we usually use city rain) and then let it go. We have it running on an old ipod in S' room when he sleeps. There is also a timer feature, but we don't use it.

Why I love this app:

Anything that helps S sleep is a plus in my book, and this app works really well.
Cost: Free (but there is an upgrade with even more selections for $4.99)

I know there are a ton of apps for charting breastfeeding, but I never kept track with that much detail. Let me know in the comments if you found one you loved or if you have another other app you think is essential for new mamas.



Thursday, 17 October 2013

Working Girl

It's been two months since I've gone back to work after an eventful 16-month maternity leave. Before I had our son, I hadn't planned on taking an extended mat leave but shortly after he was born, I knew I needed more time. However, I also knew that at some point I would have to go back to work.

I wasn't too scared about going back to work. I knew I would miss S. a ton, and I knew it would be a big change in routine for our family. I worried about how S. would adjust to being with a babysitter all day, even though she was a close friend whom he knew well.  But, I really enjoy my job. I consider many of my colleagues friends, and I missed them. And after 16 months with a baby, I was looking forward to something new. I was looking forward to doing something different with my brain and spending time with adults who would talk back to me when I talked to them.

I know not everyone feels this way. I have friends who wish mat leave could last forever; who wish being a stay at home mom was more realistic in the urban centre of Toronto. It made me really wonder, was I wrong for looking forward to going back to work? Did it mean I loved my son less? I don't think so.  He is safe and happy with his caregiver, and I love picking him up everyday. When I get there, his favourite thing to do is to show me all of the toys he's been playing with that afternoon.

There are many aspects of maternity leave that I miss. I miss the quiet alone time that S. and I used to have so much of. I miss going for walks with him in the stroller, and I miss my mommy friends - the women who were so essential to me during that time with a new baby. Not that any of us knew what we were doing. It just felt so good to be in their company.

And if I'm being honest, what I really do miss is nap time! I'm used to a break in my day from 1-3pm to get some personal things done and refresh before round 2. I'd check emails and Facebook, read, make dinner, watch some Netflix, or even nap myself! That's not happening anymore.

But I know S. is building resilience and experiencing great things in his day. And when we are together in the evenings and on weekends, we are still a united family. And when I hear someone at work say to me "We missed you here." or "I'm so glad you're back.", I know that being there is an important piece of who I am as well.


Sunday, 13 October 2013

My Year of Rookie Mom Challenges

I don't really know how I stumbled upon the Rookie Moms blog a few days before my due date with our son Sebastian, but I am sure glad I did. Like Whitney and Heather, I love lists and challenges, and when I saw their list of 52 Weekly Challenges for Rookie Moms, I knew I had found something great. I knew nothing about being a mom so the idea of someone giving me instructions for something to do each week for a year was very appealing.

What I love about these challenges is that it is impossible to complete this list on your own. For some of the challenges you must seek out other moms, spend time with your partner, meet up with your friends and family, or even (gasp!) spend time alone. Actually alone. Sans baby. We've heard motherhood is isolating, and this can be true, even on the very best of days, so it is essential to “get out of the house every day” and build connections with your family and friends, both old and new.

My Favourite Challenges

#2 – Go on a recon mission
One of my most proudest moments over the past year was the first time I took Sebastian somewhere on my own. He was just two weeks old, and we went (in the car!) to Chapters to get a latte and a cover for my new Kobo and quickly check out the children's book area. We were maybe there 20 minutes, but it was a huge deal to me.

#9 – Go to a mom and baby movie
We went to Movies for Mommies and saw the Great Exotic Marigold Hotel. Successful mom and baby outing.

#10 – Plan a mom's night out
One by one, many of the women in my book club are becoming mamas. We had one particularly lovely night out on a patio last July with great wine and wonderful company. We try to do this regularly and even did an overnight trip later in the year.

#20 – Visit a farmer's market
Along with grocery shopping, S. and I enjoy going to the farmer's markets together. The first time we went, I picked up some zucchini, took it home, and tried out my Baby Bullet and voilà – baby food.

#46 – Host a clothing swap party
I wasn't sure about this one, but it ended up being really fun! I can't wait to host another one. I really think everyone who came went home with a few 'new' goodies.

#50 – Launch Camp Grandma
I knew S. was in good hands and so my husband and I enjoyed a night (and morning) off.

#52 – Celebrate the Big 0-1
Along with celebrating Sebastian's birthday, my husband and I also celebrated making it through the first year.

I also loved the unique pictures we got of Sebastian on all of our excursions: finding some cool graffiti, taking a walk near the CN Tower, visiting the pumpkin patch, and making our Modern Family video and picture.

Baby Sebastian's Favourite Challenges

#5 – Go to the grocery store for just one thing
Sebastian loves grocery shopping. He used to just make flirty smiles at everyone. Now he also enjoys taking things out of the cart and throwing them on the floor when I'm not watching.

#11 – Visit spouse at work
It's always fun to visit daddy at work.

#12 – Host a breakfast club
While we didn't begin a club, we did have 3 other mamas and their babes over for brunch. It was super fun to play with the babies together.

#27 – Go swimming
Sebastian loves swimming. Loves it. Loves it so much he can't put his face under the water during the Humpty Dumpty song because he's too busy laughing and squealing with excitement that his mouth never closes.

#32 – Find bookstore events for babies.
We did find a free storytime at a stay and play café near us over the March Break. Seb loves stories and really enjoyed the added bonus of finger puppets.

#39 – Slide at the playground, baby style.
S. has always enjoyed sliding at the playground and at Gymboree. However, when at the playground with a baby, swinging was always the biggest hit for us.

#41 – Check out some music and movement classes
I thought this could be much earlier on the challenge list. I took Seb to Gymboree at 8 weeks old because I needed to get. out. of. the. house. Maybe 8 weeks is early, but we really liked it and kept going to Gymboree for the rest of his first year.

#50 – Launch Camp Grandma
My parents were delighted to have Sebastian for a sleepover. They kept him up (a bit) late to play, fed him chocolate ice cream, and I'm pretty certain he loved every minute of it.

#52 – Celebrate the Big 0-1
Who doesn't love a birthday party? We celebrated with family, friends, and yummy cupcakes.

A few challenges didn't work for us as well as the ones above:

#4 – Visit a fabric store
We received many a receiving blanket as gifts so, instead of a fabric store, we visited an art store and looked at all the future art projects we could do together.

#21 – Talk about something besides sleep
Epic fail for me. I have talked and read and talked and read some more about sleep. I have been making serious efforts to relax in this area, but it is not easy.

#33 – Get a free 8x10
Someone in one of our mommy groups was looking to get her name out there in the world of photography, so she took some photos of our little ones one day. Apart from that, I had trouble locating a place to get a free 8x10

#47 – Join a children's museum
There isn't a children's museum in Toronto so this one was tricky for us. Following the tip of another mom, we ended up at the Art Gallery of Ontario's Hands-On Centre for kids one afternoon.

Throughout the year, I kept a journal of my rookie mom challenges and wrote a short description each time we checked one off the list. For Sebastian's first birthday, we put together a time capsule for him to open on his 18th birthday, and I've included this journal. I hope he will enjoy reading about the fun adventures we had together during this special year. In Canada, we have are eligible for a 52 week maternity leave so I had lots of time to complete all 52 weekly challenges. I send mad props to any mom who completes this list while working or with other children at home.

Thanks again to Whitney and Heather for their guidance during my first year as a mama. Now to search out how to keep a toddler busy.....

This blog post was initially published here in June 2013 on the Rookie Moms blog.