Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Problem with White Felt

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I'm all about making special Christmas memories for Eloise and Spencer and now that November is nearly over, it's time to get this Christmas show on the road.

Chris took Eloise to Walmart on the weekend in search of lights for the cherry tree in the backyard and to wrap around the pillars at our front door. We both really, really hate Walmart for all sorts of reasons and I know it took a lot for Chris to willingly make the trip. The only problem is that the lights he brought home were the LED "cool white", which I despise. I think they look eerie and make everything feel cold and uninviting, good for Halloween, not for Christmas. Chris was understandably unimpressed when I explained that the lights will have to be returned. His look in response told me I will be the one responsible for taking them back.

Lights we'll figure out later, my focus now is on an advent calendar. Last year I bought a bunch of felt to 'whip' up an advent calendar but never got around to it. This year I am determined to create something that will become a family Christmas tradition for years to come. I want to make a special advent calendar that we can use annually and fill with little surprises - a candy cane, a hair bow, a tree ornament - for the kids to open each day instead of purchasing throw-away chocolate calendars year after year. The problem is I don't know where to start. So far I have two metres of white felt and no plan. I just keep starting at it expecting something to come to me, but no luck. There is something considerably uninspiring about white felt and perhaps that was my first mistake.

I have been cruising Pinterest for ideas and there are so many good ones for advent calendars!  Some of the sweetest advent calendars I've come across are as simple as paper packages clipped with numbered clothespins or small craft boxes glued to a board and stamped muslin bags strung on garland. Sadly, none of these involve felt. 

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Vacation that Wasn't


Imagine you're on a tropical beach. The sun is shining and warm, the white sand is the consistency of flour, the palm trees are rustling in the breeze, you've found the perfect lounge chairs under a palapa and unlimited drinks are being served to you as you read. Sounds pretty amazing, right?

Now add to this a three year old with a bad cold - the fever, sneezing, coughing, and vomiting kind - and a teething six month old who screams to nurse every two hours day and night. The three year old refuses to eat anything except for Mexican-brand frosted flakes and whines incessantly. When he is awake the six month old wants to be held and bounced. Now imagine doing this for seven straight days, this was the reality of our vacation.

Last week Chris and I took the kids to Cancun for a week to a beautiful resort on a beautiful beach. We saved up, planned our trip carefully and looked forward to our first holiday as a family of four. Our plan was to spend our days at the beach or poolside, head in around 4pm for the kids' baths and dinner. We'd put them into their jammies and pack them into the (new double) stroller with milk, then walk to one of the six restaurants where Chris and I would enjoy dinner while Eloise and Spencer slept. This plan worked exactly twice. 

For most of the week Eloise wouldn't eat anything - except of course Zucaritas. The options were basically unlimited and at any given time there were easily five meals she would have devoured at home. She would not even eat quesadillas, which I make for lunch at least twice a week, and apart from a few tomatoes she ate precisely no fruits or veggies for an entire week. Everything was "gross". I'm pretty sure she was messing with us on purpose.

Don't let that smile fool you. The Zucaritas were her 'meal' for the day.

I will admit it was bold of me to think that taking two young kids on holiday was going to be easy and even with the challenges of sickness and teething it wasn't all bad. Once Eloise recovered from her cold we were able to send her to the resort's Kids Club, which was a godsend. We dropped her off at 9:30 and checked in on her several times throughout the day, expecting her to be desperate to see us. Not in the slightest. Every time we poked our heads in she firmly said, "Please just go, Kids Club is not over yet". On the two days she was well enough to be at Kids Club (yup, just two) she was there until nearly five o'clock. We even managed to spend an awesome day at the mind blowingly, incredible Fairmont Mayakoba with my friend Robyn who was there on her honeymoon (she wanted us to come!). These were the good days. Spencer took his naps dutifully on lounge chairs in the shade while Chris and I basked in the sun. We both read a book. We got just a little bit of a tan. Chris went sailing. Eloise started eating again and the whining subsided. Everything was looking up, and then it started to rain.

At least the booze was unlimited.















Saturday, November 22, 2014

Maternity Leave

When it comes to having babies we have it pretty good here in BC. We don't have to consider the cost of giving birth, if we need a c-section or additional nights at the hospital thanks to our healthcare system. We can count on quality prenatal care and if you have a midwife (also paid for by healthcare), in home visits and office check ups for six weeks postpartum. Moms can take maternity leave for up to one year, paid at approximately 55% of their weekly earnings through employment insurance.

The reality in the States is significantly different, especially when it comes to maternity leave. A friend of mine from university and his wife welcomed their second baby boy a few weeks ago. Mom and baby are healthy and she is ecstatic to be enjoying time at home with their little boys. She is also counting down the days until she goes back to work, after just 62 days of unpaid maternity leave.

If you have had a baby, think back to how you felt eight weeks postpartum. Regardless of your delivery, chances are you were still recovering in one way or another and I can almost guarantee that you were still up a few times a night with your baby. Now imagine going back to work full time, leaving your newborn with someone else every day. Not only is this heartbreaking, you're exhausted caring for an infant, and possibly other children, but required to have a clear head at work. You cannot nurse your baby all day, retreating to pump instead, or more likely, giving up on breastfeeding altogether. You miss out on bonding and all the little milestones that happen in the first few months of a baby's life.

It's a pretty sad picture and since my friend's wife posted on facebook that she was on 'countdown' for going back to work I can't help but think about her situation constantly. How does she - and all of the other millions of women in the United States - do it? They are much stronger than me.

This article on the Huffington Post made me cry. And that's not an easy thing to do.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Three and a Half


Eloise was three and a half in September, so I suppose we could call this her "three years, eight months and 10 days update," though that doesn't quite have the same ring.

Late or not, I find it truly remarkable each time I do one of these six month posts how much Eloise has changed. Physically she is taller, her hair is longer, even her little hands are bigger and her personality continuously blossoms as she grows smarter, funnier, more lovely (okay, and challenging) with every day that goes by.

Six Months

 

Happy half birthday to our little man! 

Simply put, Spencer is pure delight. He charms the pants off everyone he meets with his smiles, happy coos and sweet personality. He is 22lbs and 71cm of big baby goodness. 

Spencer is cutting two more teeth on the bottom and as a result, puts absolutely everything he can into his mouth. He loves to eat solids and breastfeeds like a champ, but has also given up the bottle temporarily. Spencer is still not much of a roller - he kinda gets stuck on his side - but is working on sitting up. He sleeps 12 hours at night, likes to puts his toes in his mouth and has just discovered a love for soccer balls. 

Spencer, you are a dream. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The F Word and More

The thing about your second baby is that it is so much easier to see all of the things you did the first time around that didn't work. In our case we are still dealing with some of these things (ahem, sleep).

I am so much more confident as a second time mom and this has made Spencer's babyhood easier and go by more quickly. It helps that Spencer is easy to parent, but I attribute just a little of his 'angel baby' status to our relaxed attitude. There are also a few things I have learned to ease up on these past five months which have made all of our lives just a bit easier.

The F Word

F is for formula and I don't know why I insisted this was evil with Eloise. Actually, I do. The word out there is that 'breast is best' and this is basically forced down the throat of every new mom to the point where we are embarrassed to admit we give our babies formula. Or we make excuses as to why we do it. Even though I wholly believe in breastfeeding and plan to nurse Spencer for as long as I can, it is not such a bad thing for moms to give themselves a break. Sometimes you need a little help from your friends, and this friend is formula.

Tummy Time

Spencer has at least 13 hours of tummy time every day. When he was just a few weeks old I decided to see what would happen if I put him down to nap on his tummy and boom - he slept his first ever four hour long stretch! Since then I have put Spencer to bed on his tummy for naps and at night. He is able to move his head and there are no loose blankets or toys in the crib, so I don't worry about him. Spencer sleeps and we all sleep.

Self Soothing

I wish I had listened when people suggested that I let Eloise learn how to self soothe as an infant. What I confused this with was 'Crying it Out', something I am still not totally comfortable with, when really self soothing isn't about letting children cry themselves to sleep or making themselves sick, but allowing them to fuss and get comfortable in their own way. Another trick is that we put Spencer into his crib awake rather than nursed or rocked to sleep, and though he often fusses, whimper-cries a little, and snarffles a bunch, give him a few minutes and he will be sound asleep. This is his way of self soothing and it means that he can wake in the middle of the night and put himself back to sleep the same way, no boob required.

The Dirty D

I'll admit it, I was a hardcore cloth diaperer with Eloise. It was cloth time all the time, even on vacation. I refused to give up and made myself feel hella guilty when we did use disposable diapers. Spencer is a part-time cloth diapered baby, for a number of reasons. The first is that I have learned that boys wet differently than girls and there are only a select number of diapers in our stash that really work at keeping Spencer dry and we've had no success with cloth at night. The second is that I have a towering pile of around 20 cloth diapers that need to have either the elastic casing or velcro closures - or both - replaced and I have neither the time nor energy to take this project on. I even ordered replacement kits from bumGenius to make the process easier but everything is sitting stashed on a shelf. We have had good success with Earth's Best Tender Care Chlorine Free Diapers, which we can buy at the London Drugs down the street, and at least I feel slightly less guilty that we use a better diaper for both baby and the environment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Five Months

Spencer was five months old three weeks ago, but I am just getting around to posting his monthly update now. To my second born, yet equally as important child, I am sorry, Mama is pretty behind these days. 


I haven't even cracked the cover of Spencer's baby book as I was counting on using my blog to track his development until I could properly document it. But based on my lack of posts it appears this plan is not going very well, so here is the condensed version of Spencer's recent milestones: 
  • Spencer at five months is calm, happy and easygoing. He sleeps 10-12 hours a night and eats well. Always.
  • On October 15th Spencer was 20lbs and 70cm long.
  • Spencer started eating solid food on October 19th. We made him mashed yams and he dove right in, not surprising since he had been following and grabbing at our food for weeks.
  • We took Spencer on his first flight on October 23rd, to Calgary for the weekend. 
  • Our robust little boy finally rolled over on October 31st - in his Mickey Mouse costume! 
  • After months of drooling, Spencer finally cut his first tooth, the bottom left, on October 23rd. His second bottom tooth popped through on November 2nd and this one has made him snotty, cranky and clingy.
 
rolls and rolls and rolls
evaluating the offerings
sitting cozy on a late flight
the moment he rolled over, mouse nose and all


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oh Hey

It's been six weeks since my last post and not for lack of anything but time. I've thought of writing every day since and tried to carve out time to do so, yet here I am. With wedding season slowing down my busyness is supposed to too, but it still hasn't happened (which is actually a good thing since it means business is going well!). Eloise and Spencer both require so much everyday and I am learning that it is quite unsustainable to work and care for young kids simultaneously. I can get in a few minutes of work here and there but it is a wonder if I get through all of my work emails before 10pm. 

As I write this I am sitting at the foot of Eloise's bed, nursing Spencer. She is making a conscious effort to sleep in her bed all night tonight and so far we've been in to soothe her four times. She is trying though and goes right back to bed when we ask, it's just getting her to stay that way. Spencer is teething so he has been up three times since seven o'clock. A dose of Tylenol and some milk and my fingers are crossed that at least now he will sleep til morning. 

The reality is that this is the time I have to blog right now now. In the dark, at 1:30 in the morning, half awake. Oh hey. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Four Months


Spencer was four months old yesterday. How a quarter of his first year has already passed I have no idea. I've said it before, time is going way too fast with this little guy and I can't believe he is officially no longer a newborn.

Spencer is my dream baby. He has started sleeping 12 hours a night and is a babbling, cooing, laughing delight. He has his first tooth poking through on the bottom (without any fuss), holds his head up and is in the process of learning to roll over. At his check-up on Monday Spencer weighed in at 17 lbs 3oz and is up in the 95th percentile. In our doctor's words: "Spencer is certainly thriving." By the time he has his first birthday I'm going to have biceps of steel from carting this nugget around.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Missing Out?

For all the years I looked after Molly she was always super sensitive to movies and television shows. She couldn't watch Disney movies because they were too scary, leaning towards Dora the Explorer or Toopy & Binoo because she knew they were safe choices. Though I never pushed it I always thought this was a little silly; when I had kids they were going to enjoy watching movies like I did as a child.

Except that Eloise is just as sensitive as Molly, maybe more so. She will not watch certain cartoons and has deemed most movies, even commercials, too scary. Since I've been through this before I know that there is no sense in pushing it, but I worry that Eloise is missing out. Like it or not, movies and tv shows are a big part of childhood pop culture and I've always felt that the kids who didn't watch missed out a bit. 

The 'thing' for every child I know is Frozen. They sing all the songs, know every scene and play Frozen in the park. Eloise just stands there. She didn't even make it though the first two minutes if Frozen before running to us, distressed. "Why was there a big snowman and why is he so scary?" she asked. Eloise's best friend Ruby is all about Frozen so we thought we'd try introducing Eloise to the movie scene by scene. It's been unsuccessful.

My final attempt of helping Eloise get in on the Frozen craze is through the music. I downloaded most of the songs from the movie and we've been singing along. Eloise now tells people how much she loves the movie and is always willing to sing a few lines from "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" I may just be a genius.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lullabye

This summer has flown by faster than any I can remember. Every day since mid-July seems to have bled into the next and I am feeling particularly guilty about working so much and letting Eloise down in the process. She wakes up with such gusto and always asks, "What are we going to do today?" It breaks my heart to too often say, "Mama has to work."

I always hope that work will take less time than it does, and I make lofty plans in my head that we will be able to head out for the afternoon, but it hasn't worked out much that way lately. In between work there is baby feeding and multiple nap times, both of which most successfully happen at home. I try to take little breaks throughout the day to play, get Eloise involved in preparing meals and caring for Spencer, but it just doesn't feel like enough. Every day she grows a little more and gets a little bigger and I am becoming so afraid of missing out on this time in her life without even knowing it.

At my wedding last weekend the bride and her father danced to Lullabye by Billy Joel. It had been forever since I had heard this song and I found myself sitting at the back of the room, weeping silently. I broke down because every lyric rang so true to this stage in Eloise's life. All of the questions and the little stories and songs she has for me every day, one day they won't be there because she will be grown and I will no longer be the centre of her universe. One day she won't have the patience to call my name until I finally answer to tell me something special.

I am struggling as I write this because it makes me so emotional. I feel like I have really let Eloise down this summer by not giving her enough of my undivided attention, by expecting too much of her and not playing as much as I should. Our business has just been growing so quickly and with Spencer's birth my attention is divided in so many directions. September will bring the relief of routine as school starts up and weddings slow down, but I have some time I need to make up to Eloise.

Eloise often asks me to sing her a song at bedtime but usually I am so tired that I can't find the words for much more than Twinkle Twinkle. In trying harder I can at least commit to a bedtime song and Lullabye may be the perfect one.

Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) - Billy Joel

Goodnight, my angel
Time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you've been asking me
I think you know what I've been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away

Goodnight, my angel
Now it's time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I'm rocking you to sleep
The water's dark
And deep inside this ancient heart
You'll always be a part of me

Goodnight, my angel
Now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry
And if you sing this lullabye
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of me
  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Three Months


Spencer officially reached three months on Monday. We are so in love with this little boy!

At three months Spencer is a big, happy baby who spends his waking hours smiling. He eats a ton, likes his routine and is officially sleeping through the night (!). Last week Spencer started laughing and now I can't even get him dressed without hearing baby chuckles. 


This is what it is to have an 'angel baby' and it is so good!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Seeking Ken

That joyful picture of Eloise I posted after the second night in a row that she slept in her own bed? That was basically just for show. Since then Eloise has slept through the night in her own bed precisely once, and I think it was only because she stayed up too late.

The Sleep Through The Night chart on our fridge has three stickers, just one away from a fourth-sticker treat (something little like a lollipop or a new hair bow). Eloise needs 16 stickers to earn that Ken doll and at this rate she'll be seven by the time that happens. We keep reminding Eloise that all she has to do is stay in her own bed, even if she wakes, in order to earn those stickers but she is smarter than that. She knows if she wakes up and comes into our bed we won't fight it so when I am putting her to bed now and ask her if she's going to stay there all night and she says, "Um not tonight. I'll do it tomorrow, okay mama? Is that a good idea?" Sure, but it would be a better idea if you just slept, Eloise. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Little Ballerina

There have been plenty of great things lately, but this is just might be my favourite:


Eloise started dance camp on Monday and I'm actually not sure who was more excited. I think it may have been me. Not to sound stage mom-y or anything but I really think Eloise has the potential to excel in dance. She is musical, strong and quick to learn, she does not forget anything and is petite in all the right ways. Eloise is also really, really into it and I am all for encouraging her desire to dance. This little ballerina has something special and I can hardly wait for her first performance on stage.


WAHM

When I was pregnant the question was often, "How are you going to do it when the baby comes?"

The "it" was work as much as I do and care for my children simultaneously and I said I didn't know, it would just work out. And it has, mostly. If I didn't love what I do so much I wouldn't be able to keep going the way that I do. I love knowing that I have a hand in one of the most important days in someone's life. I love being there when my clients create memories and I feel fortunate that I can put my creativity to good use. When I am not at home I never worry about Eloise and Spencer. I often feel guilty for leaving them so much and that my work takes up time that we should have together, but I never worry. My parents are dream caregivers and Chris is an exceptional Dad. In fact, Chris handles caring for both kids so well that at my last wedding he sent me a photo of Eloise in the bath, Spencer bathed and in bed. It was 6:56pm. I'm lucky if I get Eloise down by 8:30pm when I'm on my own.

The biggest struggle, I am finding, comes with the day to day. I am struggling to figure out the best way to handle endless emails, field phone calls and work on projects for clients while keeping both kids entertained, making sure everyone is fed and staying ahead of the housework. I never seem to accomplish it all in a day and if I don't write down what I need to do it doesn't happen. An entire conversation or idea gone - poof! - unless it's on paper.

What I am trying to do now, as a WAHM (that's Work at Home Mom), is not easy. My 'office' is in the middle of the living room which means shutting myself off to the needs of my children or only working when they are asleep or with my parents. My Mom & Dad often offer to help with the kids before I even have to ask, but I still run around like a crazy person trying to get it all done. These days I never sit down unless it is for the purpose of feeding Spencer or working on the computer, if I am up from my desk there is something to be done around the house. Phone calls are an opportunity to fold laundry.   

Last Saturday I took on my biggest wedding to date, doing all of the planning and handling all of the decor. I handmade each sign, every piece of stationery, picked up every decor item and assembled a team to set it all up. It was a lot to take on and in the week leading up to the wedding Chris was in Toronto where he was the best man in another wedding. I spent several late nights working on seating plans, making place cards and hand lettering chalkboard signs, scared that I could not complete everything during the day with both kids underfoot. My parents assisted a lot with Eloise and Spencer and it all worked out (of course), but a crazy few weeks and made me consider what I can do to make life easier on myself. For the sake of my family it might be time to hire in a little help.