Quiet Time

Heading into this time change, C wasn’t napping. And when she was, she would fall asleep between 2:30 and 3:00. I would wake her up by 4:45 because late naps are ridiculous. 

Usually when a time change is coming up, I slowly adjust schedules over a week or two, but I just didn’t have it together to do that this time. Plus attempts to move C’s nap earlier a month before had started the nap strike. For the sake of bedtime, which would now be an hour earlier “body time,” the first few days we just ignored naps. 

But that was starting to drive me mad. I need my mid-day break (even if I can’t magically make both kids nap at the same time, being able to focus on just one is a break some days!)

Instead of insisting on a nap after lunch, we tried quiet time, immediately after lunch. The rules were simple: do whatever you want, as long as you are in bed and I don’t hear you. 

The first day went all right, at least so I thought, until I went to let her out and discovered her standing awkwardly on her bed. She had pooped in her diaper because she didn’t think she was allowed to call to me to go to the bathroom. Whoops! 

The second day, I checked on her at 1:45, forty five minutes into her 1 hour of quiet time, and she was asleep. 

The third day, she asked for quiet time at 12:30. 

It turns out I had been starting nap too late. She had been a terror at lunch every day, so maybe that had been the optimum time for a nap. Her attitude is also different because we aren’t forcing her to sleep, she chooses to sleep.

It’s not a perfect system. She misses naps on Mondays because we’re out of the house until close to three. Sometimes I’m busy with M during her peak tired time. And sometimes she just is so quiet I think she’s sleeping but is just reading. But in any event, having that hour of relative quiet, even without sleep, does us both good. 

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Friday Five

A few weeks ago, we severely limited the number of toys that C has upstairs. It seemed counterproductive. She was constantly complaining she was bored with her toys upstairs, and it is the area she plays in the most. Not only did it make our living room less chaotic, but it also unleashed this wildly imaginative child. Sometimes boredom must mean overstimulated!

C choose which kind of toys she wanted upstairs, and the rest were sent down. She knows if she wants to bring any other toys upstairs, she needs to choose something to go back down. Right now, here are her 5 top picks

  1. Old School McDonald’s Happy Meal Sesame Street toys: she calls these her “friends” and she is constantly carrying them around the house, building stores and playgrounds for them, or even reading them stories. She is uninterested in the TV show but loves the characters (though *crisis* Bert and Ernie are missing!!).

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  2. Foam blocks: these were the #1 thing on her very first Christmas list and they look practically new (their storage bag has been repaired a few times). She loves to knock over towers (aka “kaboom castles”), and I love that they are quiet and pain-free.

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  3. Doug & Melissa Pancake Set: this kid, like most kids, loves pancakes. She is always playing restaurant with her bear Bobo, who doesn’t seem to mind that the only variation in the menu is whether she serves them with butter, blueberries, bananas or chocolate chips.
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  4. Baby: A must for any child transitioning from only child status, C mimics whatever I’m doing with her baby sister. It’s hilarious to watch her burp her baby, and I’m constantly finding baby napping in the strangest places. It’s also a good mirror to see how I’m spending my time (apparently I tend to feed Madeline while I’m eating breakfast and sitting on my phone).

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  5. Necklaces: I worry about this one, given the strangulation hazard, but I might as well be honest and say that C is obsessed with beaded necklaces. She rarely has them around her neck, but usually other body parts, pretending they are bathing suits or triceratops or something else equally as bizarre.

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My favourite thing about this list is that not a single item on this list requires batteries, has flashing lights, or makes obnoxious sounds. Instead, I get to listen to the wildly crazy tales C tells, the songs she sings and the theories she has that make her the incredibly funny, smart, and weird kid that I love.

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I know that it doesn’t constitute a REAL challenge. My sister’s decision to literally not say anything when I told her my accomplishment kind of revealed how the average parent does it weekly without much thought. But I had been stressing about how to do this since we found out that M would have CTEV back in July.

But I went grocery shopping. With both kids. And no help. And it was fun.

I can remember the first time Scott and I took C grocery shopping.  We carried in her carseat, and, knowing that the common practice of balancing the seat on top of the cart is a big no-no, placed it in the cart. And then we realized there was no room for groceries. Scott ran out to the car, grabbed the stroller and we made it through that first shop. From then on, I carried C in a baby carrier. It was a little complicated in winter, but I’d crawl into the backseat and put her in the carrier under my jacket before stepping out into the cold. It was also quite easy to keep her out of the poking and pinching fingers of the local elderly who are full of wonderful knowledge and judgement. 

But add casts into the mix, which made it hard to fit into snowsuit, the lack of space on the backseat to do an in-car carrier transfer and the fact I never really felt I mastered supporting her casts in a carrier, shopping alone with both kids didn’t happen. 

And then there are the boots and bar. Thank goodness for a removeable bar (which I had to fight for… and we’ll find out today whether I need to keep fighting for it) which makes it possible to get her safely into the carrier with just the boots and then reattached once safely in. We can’t get a super ergonomic seat and I find myself using a hand to support the weight of the bar but for the amount of time it takes to grocery shop, it’s doable. And if you remember, my motto is “doable and passable”. 

I still like going to the grocery store with just C for some time with my big girl, or by myself for a bit of a kid break, but considering it’s been 8 months of worrying, I am being thrilled that I managed to pull it off. 

It may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but it finally feels like I can be a functioning, independent parent and that is amazing to me. 

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Back to the Routine

I can’t remember the last “regular” week we had. There was the tenotomy, potty training, adjusting to the boots and bars, and finally the cold to end all colds. But we woke up one Wednesday and life was back to normal so we went back to the usual routine. 

We ate breakfast. Sure, someone insisted on having strawberries and the only strawberries we had were frozen, so we had smoothies. 

We got dressed and made our beds. Someone thought it was funny to crawl into mommy and daddy’s freshly made bed, so I laughed and crawled in there with her. 

We went downstairs to exercise but the tv wasn’t working quite right. We kept our cool, did some troubleshooting and managed to get to watch The Magic School Bus while we did our strength training. 

I got to shower in peace. 

We had enough time to go for a walk before lunch to mail some letters. 

No one cried over lunch options. 

And everyone agreed to nap. 

I know kids thrive on routine.  They do much better when they know what to expect. It shouldn’t surprise me that they were much better behaved. 

What did surprise me is how much better behaved I was. I didn’t get mad about messes made where I had just cleaned. I didn’t lose my temper when fighting with the tv downstairs. I literally rolled with it when C asked to stop at a store on our walk to look at toys. 

I felt like the type of mom I always wanted to be. 

I guess it isn’t just kids who thrive on routine!

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SQT: Career Paths

I like my job. I like the people I work with and I like that they are finally starting to create some sense of movement which will allow me to progress a little further in my career. But I am not one of those people who is passionate about my work. As a result, I’ve often contemplated different career paths that I didn’t take. (For reference, I have a BA and MA in English Literature and a BEd with English and French as my teachable subjects and while I did enjoy school, I no longer have a yearning to go back).  After a tough day at work, these are the alternate jobs I consider:

  1. Fitness instructor: I assume fitness instructors never have to think about being in shape because their job is to work out. I’ve been told I’m quite wrong about this. This career always pops up when I’m on mat leave because I take mom&baby fitness classes and the instructors are all moms who wanted careers AND to have more flexible schedules to spend more time with their children. But without a sense of clear progression in a work path OTHER than becoming a business owner (no interest in that at all), it isn’t a good long term choice. 
  2. Photographer : another common mom profession, I’m not sure whether I would enjoy taking pictures of other kids as much as I like taking pictures of my own. Plus it’s an evening/weekend thing. That’s usually my time. I do want to take some hobby photography classes, so at least this one is attainable as a side hobby. 
  3. Nutritionist: I love reading about the “right” way to eat, the history of lobbyists affecting research and governmental health organization recommendations. I love looking at what people are eating and seeing how to take their preferences and make them much healthier. But a degree in nutrition sciences always reminds me that chemistry and biology are very key to this career and that is one area I am very weak. 
  4. Children’s Magazine writer/editor : I was reading Chirp the other day, and was thinking all the different ways I would have taken their theme of the month when it dawned on me that my interest in writing and my background in education would actually make me a decent fit for that kind of job. However, it would require a relocation as well as upgrading some skills (which I had looked at doing once, but my dad made some comment about it and I took it the wrong way and shut that door quickly). 
  5. Mechanic : I’ve always been frustrated with the fact that cars break down and popping the hood never reveals why. My inlaws actually owned a garage and jokingly asked if I wanted to buy it before they sold it and for a minute I considered it. But then I remembered I’d be the owner and not the mechanic so opening the hood would still be an exercise in frustration. 
  6. Financial Advisor/Life planner: I love to make budgets. I love to tell people why their priorities in life are wrong and what they should do to fix them. My spirit animal is Gail Vaz-Oxlade. I am the offspring of two bankers but I have no interest in doing risk management, cash Reconciliation or anything like that so I’m probably not going to find many clients that just want to be yelled at. 
  7. Manual labourer : sometimes, I just want a job that lets me work with my hands, and be able to see quantifiable progress. I want something routine and repetitive where I can shut my brain off. Of course, as someone who won’t clean her own sink drain, has no talent in construction and generally hates the weather for about 3/4 of the year, this could be a tough find. 

I generally feel like I’m floundering in this being an adult/ having a career thing. What I like most about where I am is that I work Monday to Friday. I can shut down my computer at 4:30, and walk away. I don’t need to do much overtime. I don’t need to worry about it at home (though I sometimes do). I encounter people in difficult situations but it’s my job to refer them to someone else to deal with it. Even with all of that, I feel the work I do is important. I guess if any of those things change, I can take a look whether a career from this list will fit my life any better. 

Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum 

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Spring Cleaning

Let’s be perfectly honest here: the only time I do a spring clean is when my mother offers to help and the only time we have time for that is when I’m on mat leave. If this kid is our last, then whoops, there goes the house. 

That being said, I have been anticipating this clean for a while and actually looking forward to it quite a lot. I don’t feel as much sentimental attachment to “stuff” so I’ve been able to let go of a lot. 

It’s been interesting the reasons I come out with for why I have something that really doesn’t make sense in my life. Some are rather hilarious: we put an incredibly expensive pair of salt and pepper shakers on our registry as a joke because “who would spend that much on salt and pepper shakers?” And of course, we found out just who would spend that much. 


My mother peeled the price tags off of the teacups that match our dinner plates. “Why did you get both the teacups and the coffee mugs” she asked, the latter of which she looked at skeptically considering she had come across the one mug which doesn’t match anything but is the only mug I’ll drink from. Ultimately the answer was: “I thought I’d need both for when I had people over for dinner parties or the holiday feasts. You know, in my fancy dining room.”

Oh there was that raised eye brow again. 

I’m not sure which part caused the skepticism first: the fact there is no dining room in the house (one of the two compromises I had to make), or the fact that I generally don’t host dinner parties or holiday feasts because it exhausts me just thinking of the planning and then anxiety of it all. 

I have hundreds of dollars worth of dishware going unused because I’m not living the life I thought I was supposed to. 

I did keep them – the teacups and the coffee mugs. I’m terribly aware that I’m raising at least one girl who is, at the age of two, planning elaborate tea parties. I have no vain hope of bequeathing it to her, given it’s no where near as durable as I had been told the brand was. But by that same token, I’m not going to be “saving it” for that perfect occasion. One day we’re going to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and lay out a picnic blanket in the backyard. We’ll invite all of her friends — both real and imaginary — and wear fancy dresses. And rather than using her pink, plastic, singing tea pot with the purple plastic teacups with holes in the bottom, I’ll bring out my teacups and saucers, the sugar and cream, and we’ll all drink “tea” with our pinkies in the air. 

It may not be the life I envisioned, but it certainly sounds like more fun. 

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C Reads

C loves books. We have tons of books, but do you know what’s better than all of our books? More books. Thank goodness for libraries. Here are the latest books we’ve borrowed:

The Cow Who Climbed The Tree by Gemma Merino was a fan favourite.  It’s a quick read about Tina the Cow who doesn’t stick to just doing what cows should. Ironically, the sisters who think she’s weird at the outset, who prefer to stay on the farm and eat grass also live inside a house. But that’s not the point.

C never let me get through If You Give A Pig A Pancake by Laura Numeroff. Maybe it’s too long for her? It’s from the author of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie which I am now realizing I don’t think I’ve read cover to cover either.

Can Anybody Hear Me? by Jessica Meserve was controversial. While I wasn’t a fan of this book, it got a lot of attention at our house. I think both C and I felt we could identify with the protagonist who is seeking to find his voice and place in his family.

Maple, Maple & Willow Together, and Maple & Willow Apart by Lori Nichols

This four book series (the last, Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree was not borrowed) starts with Maple, a sweet story of the parents’ wish for a child, the birth of the main character, and then the arrival of her sister, Willow. It is the sweetest of the three book.

Together is by far the best book of the three we read, following the sisters through a fight to reconciliation, with subtle lessons built right in.

Apart skews a little more weird as suddenly both girls become dependent on a mutual imaginary friend to survive the transition of Maple starting school. But if you’re going to read one, you might as well read them all!

Steam Train, Dream Train, by Sherri Duskey Rinker of Good Night, Good Night Construction Site fame, brings another children’s bedtime book that C insists on reading anytime but bedtime. It’s sleep inducing rhythms wound have even been useful at naptime.

I Scream, Ice Cream: A Book of Wordles by Amy Krouse Rosenthal may top the list for worst books for a two year old. The premise of the book is just listing (and illustrating) short phrases that sound the same. For the record, “wordle” is an actual word, but it does not mean what Ms. Krouse Rosenthal posits (“phonetically identical phrases”) but rather “any of several pivoted pieces forming the throat of an adjustable die used in drawing wire or lead pipe” (thank you, Mierriam-Webster). I kept getting the feeling that the few times C insisted we read it, she was doing it mostly to irritate me, or maybe out of a sense of obligation. But the illustrations, by Serge Bloch were interesting.

Olivia Dances for Joy by Natalie Shaw was going to be a clear hit. Despite having Olivia for a year before she would even let us touch the book, as soon as she made it through the whole book, she became obsessed with Olivia. While she did insist on changing the names of all the characters to her friends and cousins (if we avoid dementia, it will be due to her brain exercises), she loved reading this one on repeat.

Oh the Little Miss and Mr books! They are exactly as you remember them from your childhood. Little Miss Shy learns to overcome social anxiety. Little Miss Lucky has a bad dream. Mr Busy is a busybody, both in terms of productivity and meddling in other’s affairs. Little Miss Sunshine singlehandedly makes happiness a civil requirement. While Little Miss Sunshine was an instant hit, the sleeper hit of the group was Mr Busy.

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7QT: Why I’m Going to Run Tomorrow

I’m rocking a baby and it’s quiet and peaceful so even though she is asleep, I’m blogging rather than putting her down and helping with dishes. Shhh don’t tell Scott. 

It’s been a bit of a cluster…bomb… around here as of late. After M’s tenotomy, exercise was paused. And then between colds and boots we just never started back up. I made it to fitness class when I could but never pressured myself on days when M might get fussy. 

But starting tomorrow, we’re back. No excuses. And believe me, I have lots. And here are my seven reasons why (Seven because I’m linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum again!) 

  1. My dad adjusted my treadmill a few weeks ago and I forgot to go for a test run to see if it’s fixed. 
  2. I paid a lot of money for a fitness class that started last week, and I’ve already missed one class and that just doesn’t sit well with my financially conservative (aka cheap) ways. 
  3. Home workouts are the best way to get C off my case about wanting to play downstairs since my gym and her playroom co-exist in our family room. 
  4. We’re now in the end stages if the cold where the mucus is thick and cardio really helps get it moving
  5. Whitney of We’re Only Hsuman reminded me that outdoor running season is almost here and the transition to pushing a double stroller could be rather embarrassing if I’m not in better shape
  6. One piece bathing suits are hard to pee in, beach bathrooms are gross enough without being naked and I can’t quite fit into current bikini selection (see “financially conservative” in number 2) The only other alternative is to just go in the water which may work in the lake, but probably not appreciated in my sister’s pool. 
  7. If I manage to get a workout AND a shower in before lunch, I am totally allowed to slack off for the rest of the day, right?
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Every Parent Has a Right to Be Selfish

The third day after Madeline had her casts off and her feet were placed in a foot abduction brace (FAB) affectionately referred to as Boots and Bars (BNB) in the clubfoot community, I was so sad I couldn’t cry. I had wailed my sorrows out the two days before and while Madeline was doing better, I wasn’t. She was sleeping. I wasn’t. She was eating. I wasn’t. My darling little C even said to me “you look like you’re feeling sad” which is a very obvious statement but the concerned expression on her face and the cautious tone, she understood the depths of my sadness. Very scary to recognize in a child, let alone a child who is only two.

After I had C, I was sad. I was tired. I didn’t know who I was or how I was going to do anything. People kept telling me it was normal and so I assumed it was. But in preparing for a second kid, and then thriving after she was born, it became blatantly obvious that what I went through with C wasn’t normal. While not the most severe or lasting case, it was undeniably postpartum depression. Armed with that knowledge, we put some extra precautions in place to monitor my frame of mind this time around. Fortunately, they seemed foolish and unnecessary… until we wented into the BNB phase.

It takes a lot out of you to manipulate your daughter’s foot into an appliance designed to hold it in a position her body is unaccustomed to and causes your child so much distress that she vomits all over herself. And while it should be a process that only happens once a day, it takes time to figure out all the tricks to make the shoes fit properly, that some days, we were removing and replacing every couple of hours.

I would be concerned if it didn’t bother me.

Suddenly our precautionary strategies became utterly important. We set a minimum amount of sleep I needed to get in a 24 hour period. We made sure I remembered to eat, even when I felt too sick to want to. We insisted I shower regularly. And we made sure that even if Maddy was fussy with anyone but me, I still had the opportunity to get some time to myself.

It’s not easy asking for help. It’s especially not easy asking for help so you can go do something seemingly frivolous, like going to grab yourself a coffee from anywhere but your own kitchen. But the cliched airline example is right: you need to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help someone else.

Even with all these checks in place, there is still a pervasive sadness. But I don’t feel nearly as resigned to allowing the darkness to engulf me. And when my darling C says to me that I look sad, I can take her in my arms, give her a squeeze and a kiss, and let her know that while it’s ok to be sad, that she and her sister help make me happy, and quietly remind myself that trying to make yourself happy is important too.

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A Day In The Life

Being a working mom in Canada is both great and terrible. I get a full year off with my kids. But I also know this is the last year I get off with my kids. I love looking back at how different “a day at home” is compared to “a day at work” and so bare with me as I tell you all about the life I live as a lazy parent (which, it turns out, is not as lazy as I thought).

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7:47am : Scott’s alarm usually goes off at 6:30. And every 9 minutes until his cellphone alarm goes off at7:00. And sometimes neither wakes him, so it’s been a chaotic morning. He and C have been up since 7:11, letting me rest a bit, since nights are still all over the place with M. But by now, Scott’s off on the bus, and I’ve got to get moving. You know my kid is going to wake up just as I’ve started my breakfast, and M needs to get up soon if we’re going to get off to a good start. It’s a busy day, so I start with oatmeal, complete with apples, peanut butter and a small spoon of cinnamon honey.

8:14am : it’s Friday, so we all have to get dressed quickly and get out the door. C  looks the cutest, possibly because (as of the day I photographed this, not the day it’s going live) M can’t wear pants with casts, and I’m going to work out. No, it’s pretty safe to say C is always the cutest.

8:47am : Dressed. Teeth brushed. Hair done. And now to gather everything we need for the morning. I know we’re all ready to go when the floor is clear.

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9:16am : stop number one, dropping C off at my parents, so she can go to her weekly library programming with my mom (FYI: Stonz boots = THE BEST. Lightweight. Warm. Canadian)

9:36am : Stop number two, M and I make it to fitness almost 10 minutes early. Now we get to make awkward small talk with the other moms. Despite calling it “Mom and Baby” fitness, the babies stick to “Baby Island” while we work out around them. I’m not saying babies should be doing sit ups, but you’d think with a name like that, they’d integrate babies into more of the moves.

11:20am: back at my parents’ to feed M while we wait for C to come back from Time for Twos and see what books we’ll be reading on repeat all week. My mother, a former librarian, varies drastically in how much influence she exerts (and while sometimes that means some great books, other weeks she chooses based on what fits best in the backpack)

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12:40pm: C has invited us to stay for lunch, which is usually followed by tea with my mom. We’ve started drinking from assorted china teacups from my grandmother because we’re both on a “if you don’t use it, lose it” binge.

4:13pm: just about time to clean up our mess and head home. I’ve stopped trying to get C home for naps on Fridays because she always falls asleep in the car and won’t stay asleep once I bring her inside. Since my parents looked after her while I was at work, she has a blanket and a stuffed animal at their house. She’ll also be sleeping there when I’m back at work, so I consider this “nap maintenance” (and not just my excuse for lazy parenting). M sleeps sporadically (sometimes 25 minute naps, sometimes 3 hour naps) so I alternate between putting her to sleep and browsing my phone while chatting with my parents.

6:17pm: Supper is made and yet I’m not eating it.  I always forget how late babies still nap. Especially on fitness days where naps happen at weird time and places. It’s a tough nap so I’m usually stuck in this chair for a while.

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6:31pm: Even with being a “tough nap,” this kid is so much faster to put to sleep than C, and so back out in the land of light, eating the two slices of pizza they left for me. Fortunately, C is enamoured with her dad, so I can eat in peace before the bedtime chaos.

8:50pm: C is in bed, still singing to herself. Madeline is down-ish (she’s a sleepy clusterfeeder so she’s passed out on my lap until she gets hungry again). And of course, there’s a hockey game on. We pay over $100 a month so we can get the hockey channels (ok, that’s internet and cable), so while I don’t necessarily like hockey all that much, I feel I have to watch it.

10:26pm: I’m guessing we lost the game. I usually can’t stay awake. I get M settled into the bassinet in our room, but go back to check on C. She doesn’t like saying goodnight to me, so this is often my only chance to give her a good night kiss.

 

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