Currently: In May

I love May. I think it’s my favourite month. It doesn’t get too hot, but there are some gorgeous days. There’s always the fresh rain, too. If it wasn’t for the pollen counts, I think I could live outside in May.  This month we are…

Currently In May…baking: nothing. Trying to eat healthy here. Trying to limit sugar. Trying to limit snacking. Trying to not be ashamed to be seen next to my sister who had three kids but you can’t tell at the beach this summer (yayayaya, cut myself some slack, I just had a baby, blah blah blah. I drink Coke the way most people drink coffee, so my motivation may be misguided, but the process is probably still needed)

…listening (to): my kid controls the tunes around here and she has a surprisingly eclectic palate. Here is what she’s asked for in the last week:

  • Frozen
  • Sesame Street Platinum All-Time Favourites
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)
  • My Grandfather’s Clock (Johnny Cash)
  • Hotline Bling (Drake)

I think the last time I got my choice, I went with Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits.

…loving: family walks for ice cream. I had been bemoaning the fact that we have half a dozen chain restaurants within a 5 minute walk of our house but no ice cream places I felt we could walk to. I was tired of convincing Scott to go pick up ice cream when I finally Google Map-ed it and realized that the nearest DQ is only 3km away (6km/3.7mi round trip). Nothing like getting a treat and an exercise in at the same time! (We’ll ignore the fact the walk burns less than half of a small blizzard).

…planting: nothing, you fools! It’s Manitoba! I’m hoping our snowfall last week was it but I’m not putting winter coats away until Mother’s Day! I did start prepping the area I’m going to build raised beds for my vegetable garden.

…remembering: that sleep eventually happens. Our little chicken (why is she a chicken today?) will fall asleep on her own at the beginning of the night like all the books say to do, but still wakes up after 25 minutes, then 25 minutes, then an hour and ten minutes, and then three hours, and then three hours, and then one hour and then two hours. Every night. But it’s still a huge improvement. I think as soon as she realizes she can roll onto her belly to sleep we’ll get back to those beautiful 8-10 hour stretches she used to do.

Thanks to Anne and Nancy for this month’s Currently!

Categories: The new identity | 5 Comments

Routines and Night Terrors

About 6 months after I went back to work after having C, I took a day off. She woke up at her usual time. She ate her usual breakfast. And then she walked to the backdoor, put on her shoes, and looked expectantly at us, waiting to be driven to my parents. Once she realized that wasn’t happening, she pulled out the paper, read it and then asked for more breakfast. She was just carrying on the routine she would have gone through at my parents’.

What can I say? Kid likes her routines.

And that’s probably been the hardest transition for her now that I’m back home again. We haven’t established a routine, and that is in large part to the chaotic nature of having a baby in the house. Add to that the typical toddler behaviour of having difficulty with transitioning from one activity to another, and also the general resistance to sleep, it’s even harder. But we’ve got a new reason to really work on establishing a routine. On days when naps haven’t happened, or bedtime gets pushed too late, you can guarantee that 90 minutes after she falls asleep, Scott or I (or most times, both of us) will be back in her room.

C has night terrors.

We’re not talking about nightmares. We’re not talking about monsters under the bed.  We’re talking 20 minutes of her flailing about in her bed, shaking, her eyes partially closed, her mouth wide open, wailing, and yelling gibberish. Sometimes, she knows we’re there and will respond to our questions (incoherently). Sometimes, us being there wakes her up, and she is confused and upset, but doesn’t know why. But most times, we just lie her down, rub her back and quietly reassure her that everything is ok, as we wait for the fit to pass. The next morning, she has no recollection of any of it.

The next morning, we’re still shaken by it.

There are lots of compelling reasons to set up a routine. C responds well to them because it lets her know what to expect and so she is more willing to move from one task to another. But if that helps her sleep peacefully? That’s the best reason of all.



Categories: The new identity | 3 Comments

Five Things Friday

I’ve got this mental block where I am excessively reluctant to leave my baby’s side until they are no longer reliant on me for every ounce of nutrition. That means I spend 6 months having most of my “me” time happening in short little bursts — trips to Home Depot, dentist appointments, etc. But guess what’s coming up? Ah yes, the introduction of solid foods.

Here are 5 things I’m looking forward to doing oh so soon (even though I know I could have been doing them all along)

  1. Haircut. I made these a priority when C was born, but with longer hair, it wasn’t as much of an issue with M. I had to miss my last appointment because… hmm… I might have actually still been in the hospital (babies don’t follow schedules, now, do they?) so it’s been growing since September. I’ve got one booked for tomorrow. 
  2. Pedicure. It became a running joke with the staff at M’s pediatric orthopaedic surgeon’s office about how I spent so much time looking after her feet that she’s going to owe me a lot of pedicures. Plus, a pedicure was one more thing I wanted to get done before she was born.
  3. More time out with friends. I met up with a friend earlier this week for supper and the world didn’t fall apart. 
  4. Going for a run. Ok, this one is more to do with it finally getting closer to what I consider running weather, but now what M is older, I feel like I could go for longer runs. You know, if I had been hitting the treadmill over the last 6 months instead of hitting the couch. (Is it crazy that I want to bring Charlotte with me, though?)
  5. Out with Scott somewhere. His parents are great in that whenever we show up in Brandon, we ditch the kids with them for an hour and grab lunch. But that’s an hour every couple of months. We always say we’re going to get my parents to babysit in the evenings now that they’re not also on daytime duty, but they’re over at our house often enough for swimming, or dentist appointments, or library time. We still feel super guilty about asking for more from them.
Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

My house/brain/life is a mess

You would think that after living with my mother for essentially 25 years (yay for free room and board as I meandered through school!), some of her cleaning tendencies would have rubbed off on me. 

They didn’t. 

I struggle with keeping things tidy. There are times I do a really good job for a week or a month and then life gets busy, stressful or someone gets sick and all that goes out the window. It’s a terrible cycle where my house reflects the chaos of my brain and the house increases the chaos of my brain. 

And having two kids and all their junk doesn’t help. 

And since we struggle to keep things tidy, we really struggle to keep things clean. You can’t vacuum with toys all over the floor. You can’t dust with books all over everything. 

Let me scapegoat for a minute: I try really hard to set up routines where we keep things tidy on a daily basis and establish a day for actually cleaning. But with a baby, a toddler and a husband with ADHD, it means I have to be the one who enforces the routine which isn’t always popular with my two little sidekicks. 

Wait, I meant to blame all of that on Scott. How did I end up on me?

Oh probably because it is on me. I’ve struggled to establish an effective routine for this mat leave. Partially, it’s due to a toddler who stalks getting dressed and so will often keep be distracted until 10 before she finally gets her pants on. Partially, it’s due to a baby who needs toe stretches and massages, foot baths and my own special version of physical therapy for half an hour every morning and night. It takes basically all morning to get ready and then naps (which involve a lot of parenting despite what sounds like) take all afternoon. I feel like I’m spinning my tires most of the day. 

I keep reminding myself of the needlepoint I keep in a closet downstairs (because it’s not my decorating style but couldn’t bare to let my mom get rid of it when she took it down in her house): 

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow

For babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow,

So settle down cobwebs and dust go to sleep

I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.

But let’s face it: one of my babies isn’t so little and neither really tolerates all that much rocking. They both feed off of my energy and if a messy house makes me anxious, it’s making them anxious too. So it’s really up to me. I have no excuses left to use. We’re going to get this house under control. We’re going to get things tidy and then get things clean. There’s no magic routine that’s going to change our ways overnight. We will stop and start all over again, but the important thing is that we just keep going and keep starting over.

Because if there is one thing that living in a clean house for 25 years had taught me (even though I likely contributed very little to that), it’s how smoothly every part of your day goes when you’re not fighting against the mess. 

Categories: The new identity | 1 Comment

Rough Night Rant

We put M into her high chair for the first meal the other day. Her boot laces were a touch looser than usual, and where the strap of her boots lie was a bright angry red as a result. It’s not the first time it had happened so we knew what to do (brace tight and brace on), but it was the first time in many many weeks and it threw me into a tailspin.

When she had trouble going to bed that night, I didn’t remind myself she had a weird nap schedule that day and we tried pushing her a little longer to skip a nap that would have landed dangerously close to bedtime. No, instead I kept watch on her feet to see if she was kicking because she was upset or whether kicking her feet made her upset.

And that’s typical for how the last two months of the BNB phase has gone. My browser search history is always a weird combination of “BNB + learning to rolling” or “Clubfoot and Athlete’s foot”. While I know idiopathic congenital tallipes equinovarus treatment, following the Ponsetti Method, should not contribute to developmental delays, I still regularly assess her abilities using the ASQ-3 criteria for her age, and find myself blaming the boots when she isn’t hitting the benchmarks when I think she should be.

I still hold my breath when I take off her socks, afraid to find pressure sores, blisters or even another round of athlete’s foot. I spend hours and an obscene amount of money searching for the “right” socks, and the safest crib bumper alternatives.

I get irrationally mad when someone looks at her feet (booted or not) and says “poor girl, it must be so rough on her” because, dammit, this kid is brave, strong and resilient. She doesn’t need your pity. And I get irrationally angry when someone looks at her feet and says “she is so brave/strong/resilient” because, dammit, why can’t she be cute, or beautiful or adorable like every other baby? And while those are amazing words to describe her, I just want her to grow into those traits rather than have to develop them even before she can crawl.

Not every day is hard. Sometimes, I get to deal with regular baby issues, like when she decides to scream in the car, drop her soother in the dirtiest places, or spit up all over my sweater as we’re walking out the door already behind schedule. But there is a constant monologue in my head worrying about the 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles and ligaments that need to all play nicely together for the next 4 and a half years. It’s no wonder I sometimes get a little neurotic and watch her feet through the now-padded bars of her crib to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible so we can get this over without having to repeat any of the steps.

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Five Things Friday

I am a big planner. I’m not always a doer. But here is what I want to accomplish this summer in our backyard:

  1. Build two 3’x5′ raised beds for a square foot gardens, rather than buying a CSA (community supported agriculture) share this year 
  2. Remove one garden and one random area of wood chips and put in grass
  3. Replace the hose facet in the back so we don’t have to go inside to turn it on and off (or have crazy expensive water bills from its leak at the tap outside)
  4. Turn the crappy sandbox under our play structure into a play house
  5. Come up with a plan for the area behind our garage. There is a utility box and a very dilapidated fence so those need to be reworked so we can use the space without worrying about the kids getting into anything. 

I love that I can be planning summer projects, outside, without a jacket! It’s going to be cold and rainy all weekend so I’m soaking up the sun while I can!

Categories: The new identity | 1 Comment

Tears and Milk

It’s not often that I’m reduced to tears these days. Especially not unexpectedly. I assume it’s a combination of some of the hormones in my body levelling off and the fact that half of M’s nights are “good” nights so I’m feeling rested at times.

But the other day I was sitting on the  couch breastfeeding M and browsing Facebook when I realized if Scott looked over from the other end of the couch, I’d have to explain the tears running down my face.

I will admit that I click on the occasional sponsored link on social media when nursing because I can’t gaze adoringly at my baby 8-10 times a day for 5-20 minutes at a time. That’s upwards of three hours of just staring at a face. Every day. She’s beautiful and captivating but I have my limits. This time I was reading an article titled “Why This Lactation Consultant Told a New Mom to Stop Breastfeeding.

Ok, it sounds like click bait at it’s finest but it was a clusterfeeding kind of day. It started as an easy read since I could generally agree with her points. The central anecdote met the expected plot points. I glossed over the references to a mother who took her own life in the midst of her breastfeeding related postpartum depression because I wasn’t in the mood for sadness. Perhaps that’s why the tears caught me off guard. They came where I least expected it.

The author ends with a one-year-later update on the family from her initial anecdote. They were thriving. The mother recounted that she felt a shift in her attitude when someone finally gave her permission to stop trying to breastfeed: “The tears stopped. She started enjoying the little moments with her boy and their bond grew.”

C is and always has been a daddy’s Girl. Since Day One. It’s likely just her personality and I can’t begrudge them their relationship. But a large part of me wonders what our bond would have been like if I could have looked beyond what society told me was right and actually figured out what was right for us. The first two weeks of C’s life were a nightmare. We had issues latching, so we would try breastfeeding, then I would pump, and then fingerfeed C, supplementing with formula. The whole process took long enough that I would barely get 1/2 hour rest before it would start over. Heaven forbid we give her a bottle, even of pumped breastmilk — the nurses scared that idea out of our heads. The nurses also would review our file, nod and sigh: “this happens sometimes with babies whose moms have epidurals” as though it was my fault (a year later we found out that she had an undiagnosed upper lip tie).  Without a doubt, the exhaustion, guilt and fear did impact those early days of bonding.

C eventually figured it out, lip tie and all, and the following 14ish months of breastfeeding went well. Of course, our fear of bottle led to a very late introduction, and she never really took to one so I was never apart from her for long. Even though there were many a time I felt a little trapped, I’m glad I persevered, but I will always wonder what our relationship would have looked like if someone had given me permission to see breastfeeding as a choice I could make, rather than the only “right” option.

M has been a good eater since the mere minutes after her birth. And while  casts and braces can make it more difficult to get comfortable in the beginning, there no directly related medical complications. But part of the reason we’ve had a more successful start with M was a phone call I made the morning she was born to her orthopaedic surgeon’s office. We would have to introduce bottles at 4 weeks old for her casting appointments. “Doctor’s orders” I remember telling Scott with a smile. Whether it was the idea of flouting the “as late as possible, if ever, to avoid nipple confusion” rule, or the presentation of the obvious excuse if  breastfeeding failed, I don’t know, but that call finally made me feel as though I had permission to relax. And from then on, breastfeeding finally felt like my choice. 

To be honest, I’m not sure what about the quote from the article elicited tears from me. It might have been the memory of the stressful weeks with C. It may have been the relief of not feeling that stress with M. It could have been those residual breastfeeding hormones. But as it turns out, just like how I feed my child, I don’t have to explain my tears to anyone. 

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Five Things Friday

There are five stages you go through when your baby mysteriously goes from waking up multiple times a night to magically sleeping for 7+ hours

  1. I feel oddly rested. Wait. I have to pee. Why didn’t I pee the last time I was up with the baby? Wait… when was the last time I was up with the baby?
  2. Oh man, something happened to the baby. I’m too scared to check. Better wake Scott. There is no way I’m brave enough. Ok good. She’s fine. 
  3. Time to snuggle in to rest. Think of all the sleep I could get! Oh man it’s going to feel so great. Let’s just pull up the blankets. Damn it, now it’s too hot. Let’s flip over the pillow. Now it’s not in the right spot. Has there always been a lump on this mattress here? Great. Now Scott is snoring. I’m never going to get to sleep. 
  4. I miss that kid. I miss the quiet middle of the night snuggles. While sleep is nice I don’t get a lot of time to focus just on her with C being so demanding these days. And she’s not going to be a baby forever. She’s already so big. When did she start growing so fast? And by the time she wakes up, she’ll have grown again. I know I find the days so long being home with her so why do I miss her so much?
  5. Damn it, is that her fussing? 
Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

Broken nights and broken hearts

Perhaps it’s the sleepless nights talking but we can’t remember when M slept consistently well. We know she did all right after getting her boots, so close enough to know she’s capable of being a “good sleeper” but long enough ago to know that we have to do something. 

And so last night I sat in her room, watching her kick her feet and scream. I stroked her head, handed her a soother and told her I love her. And then I listed to her scream for five minutes before I started all over again. 

It’s not a popular method in this house but she is also not very popular at 2 am when it takes 90 minutes to get her to sleep and then she will only sleep 45. 

There was only one reason we went with this method. There have been countless times that I’ve been busy with C and so Madeline has had to fuss in her bouncy chair. It’s never been for long and I’ve never been far away, but I’ve watched her fuss herself to sleep. We know she can do it. 

But the variable we forgot to account for? It’s me. I can listen to her scream when I put her boots on because I know it’s best for her in the long run. I can listen to her scream when I’m wiping a poopy toddler bum because I know there is only one of me and the two kids each take a turn at coming in second. But I can’t listen to her cry when there is no immediately pressing reason to not pick her up, give her a hug and make sure she knows she is not alone. 

I made it 30 minutes of “five minute checks” last night. It’s 23 minutes longer than I made it with C. And now, at two and a half, she goes to bed easily and stays asleep all night. We tried sleep training various ways over various times and then one day, she just figured it all out on her own. But you don’t always remember that at 2 am when you know you’ve already had the bulk of your sleep for the night. Sleep training becomes oh so tempting. 

These broken nights are hard. But the broken heart of a mother? In the end, that’s even harder. 

Categories: The new identity | 2 Comments

New Budget

April 1st always marks the start of a new budget year for us. Every year, it’s the same thing: we make little tweaks here and there. It turns out we spend more on groceries than we thought (my little C is a hungry girl!) and less on diapers (woohoo for potty training!).  All in all, though, very little changes.

But every year in the last couple weeks of March, it feels like we’re starting all over again. Every year, we wipe our Budget app, take a look at the last three months of transactions, and set up the budget. Because every year we start out really good using our budget app and then slowly forget about it as the year goes on. Since our expenses never exceed our income, there aren’t any repercussions for ignoring the budget.

It turns out it’s easier to follow a budget when you don’t have money than when you do.

There was a time less than 5 years ago when both Scott and I were unemployed.  It wasn’t a long time period, and because my parents had instilled budgeting wisdom on me at a young age, we were able to subsist off of the savings that I had previously put aside. But it meant when we set a budget for food, we had to stick to it. I can remember one month when the grocery budget ran out before the month did, and we had some rather interesting meals towards the end, using up whatever we had left in the pantry.

It’s a far cry from where we are now, where we’ll go to the grocery store because we don’t have the “right” cheese to top our burgers, and while we’re there, we pick up a couple treats, some flowers, and a few other things that could have waited until grocery day.

And we’ve got the flexibility to do that. But that doesn’t make the budget less important. And so we’re stepping up our game. We’ve set a night each week to review our finances to make sure our budget meets our needs. We’ve switched (back) to a budget app that doesn’t just automatically record our purchases and categorizes them for us, so we have to actually be mindful of what we’re spending ourselves. And we’re putting into action the plans we have set for ourselves — paying down some of our mortgage, getting appliances, and increasing our retirement savings.

We know that we’ll have a dip income coming up (my employer only pays a portion of my wages for part of my leave), we’ll have an increase in expenses as our daycare needs shift and change, and we know piano lessons, hockey equipment and summer camp aren’t cheap. It’ll be a lot easier to weather the financial bumps that may come down the road if we are used to being accountable for each dollar now.

Categories: The new identity | 3 Comments

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