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?

xo
Jenn

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Stella & Dot

Last week I hosted a Stella & Dot party. I had never heard of Stella & Dot until earlier this year when my cousin became one of their stylists. I am quite sensitive to certain types of jewelery so while I was happy for her venture, I was skeptical that their jewelery would be right for me. (My mom has the same sensitivity. We often joke that because we are so sensitive to many earrings and necklaces, my dad and Rob can only buy us expensive jewelery haha.)

Anyways, in May my sorority had a Stella & Dot party, and I was looking forward to seeing many of the pieces in person and hopefully finding something that I would be able to wear. Then I found the Petra Braided Bracelet, and it became my new BFF.


This bracelet really does go with so much. I've worn it with a grey t-shirt and denim cutoffs to a family picnic, and I've worn it with a LBD and this wine-coloured cardigan to work.

Since then, I've been to a few other Stella & Dot parties, and I promised Marlene I would host one before the holidays. She came over last Sunday and turned my living room into a full-fledged boutique. I am so in love with so many pieces of their collection, and better yet - every necklace and pair of earrings I've bought so far hasn't irritated my skin. What I love most about their pieces is that most of them can be worn more than one way depending on your outfit.





It was so fun to spend some time with friends and gush over the beautiful jewellery and bags on display. To quote one of my friends, "mmmmm... pretty things." 

I've already fawned over that clutch pictured above earlier this week. Here are my absolute favourites right now:

 

I've also been thinking about using my hostess credit to get the rebel pendant and these sparkly earrings for the holidays. And pearls are always a great addition to any wardrobe.

If you're interested in more, check out Marlene's stylist link here and her Stella & Dot FB page here.

And because shopping is always better with friends, my friend Nicole is also stylist with a link here. Nicole also has a Stella & Dot FB page here.

xo
Jenn

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?
xo
Jenn

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.

Enjoy!
xo
Jenn

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?

xo
Jenn

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

Remembering

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....

(image)

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

(image)

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.


xo
Jenn

Friday, 8 November 2013

Ladies' Night at Les Misérables

Les Misérables is playing in Toronto right now, and last night I was lucky enough to be able to go with my friend Kelly.

Like many women my age, my first major introduction to the music from Les Misérables was Dawson's Creek. Remember? Joey singing On My Own with Dawson watching from the side of the stage. Finally, he was figuring it all out. I still think Joey and Pacey made a better couple, but I digress...


I haven't yet seen the Les Mis movie, or even read the book (although it is on my bookshelf waiting patiently). To say I was blown away by what I have been missing would be an understatement. The music and power behind this story gave me goosebumps.

I am used to going to the theatre to see 'feel good' shows. Mamma Mia!, The Lion King, The Sound of Music. Those are the shows I've been to see. By the second act of Les Mis there are many deaths, and I start to wonder if I'm going to leave the theatre feeling totally depressed. But really, this is a story of hope, perseverance, and love. And each of those three things makes me 'feel good'.  I think Les Mis will be in Toronto awhile so check it out. You won't be disappointed.

“Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

xo
Jenn
 

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.

BOOKS!
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!

xo
Jenn


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,
xo
Jenn

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 ;)
xo
Jenn



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