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Samantha Loewen

Samantha Loewen

Wednesday, 21 August 2013 07:00

Getting Away

Saturday morning, I woke up to this:

The sun was shining through the window, Brian was still in bed next to me reading a book, and we had nowhere to be until after noon. No little girls were calling to us, we had 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep (which has only happened to me once before in the past 10 months), and we had one of the best views in the city. 

It was Brian's birthday last week, and to surprise him, I decided to splurge a little on a night in a hotel overlooking the river.  My first call was to the Radisson Hotel, which couldn't guarantee me a room with a river view (what's the point in being close to the river if you don't sell your river view rooms???) so I called the Sheraton Hotel instead. They did guarantee a river view room, and their prices were quite reasonable also.  

There is also a well known steak house in the hotel that Brian had been wanting to try, and so this hotel was a great choice for that reason also.

Our awesome Brian's-Birthday-Plan began on Friday morning, when we went out for brunch - just the two of us! We went to a casual place that we go to semi-regularly, and it was fun and relaxing to be able to enjoy each other's company without having two little girls making demands every few moments.  Then, we went golfing, which we hadn't done in about three years! We suck at golfing, but we both really enjoy it.  

To illustrate our horribleness (I'll use my husband's example - because I'm writing this blog, and he's not), by the 9th hole we had lost all of our extra balls and were left with only one each. Brian tee'd off first, and sent his ball flying right into a grove of trees that was so thick there was no possibility of finding it.  Since this was 'his day', I graciously (because I'm that awesome) handed over my ball and said that he could play the last hole and I would just keep him company.

He lost that ball at the tee off also, so neither of us were able to play the last hole. :)

It was seriously hot outside, though, so neither of us really minded having to leave a bit earlier than planned.

Then, because it was a bit too early to check into our hotel just yet, we went to Indigo, got ourselves each an Iced Green Tea Lemonade from Starbucks and wandered around the store - with no kids to keep track of!!!

After Indigo, we headed to the hotel, where we discovered that our room came with all sorts of perks like free underground parking and access to their Club Lounge which offered free evening appetizers and a continental breakfast.  We checked in and admired the view from our 2-room suite:

We felt a little bit like royalty. I felt a lot like I was pretending to be someone else... 

I now have a dream that includes a room like this - all by myself - for a week - and a laptop so that I can write! It's a dream, I know, but maybe someday...

As long as I had enough coffee... 

Anyway, we wandered around the hotel for a bit, then wandered around downtown Saskatoon - because we had nowhere to be until 7:30 that evening - and window shopped, because window shopping is something that just isn't very easy when you have a toddler and a baby in tow. 

Supper was excellent, except that someone who sounded suspiciously like Headmaster Charleston (and who we nicknamed such) was sitting at a table next to us, talking loudly about his theories on time travel, but after he left our dinner was great! 

We took advantage of the hotel swimming pool twice - after supper, and first thing the next morning. 

We had a great little holiday, and it was really nice to get away for a little while. Interestingly, however, when we returned home we didn't find that our trip had given us any extra patience with our girls. Instead of feeling rejuvenated, and happy to return to our somewhat overly demanding daughters, it was actually a little bit difficult.  Of course, we love our girls dearly, and we know that all of the trials and not-getting-to-sleep-ness of having a baby and a toddler will pass all too quickly, but I think our time away was maybe not long enough to really be 'rejuvenating'.  I'd still do it again in a second, but I'd be aware that only one night of 'freedom' would not be enough to make me crave the crazy of home quite yet... 

As a parent, do you find ways to 'get away' for the sake of yourselves or the sake of your relationships? Or even for the sake of your kids? How do you do it, and how long do you stay away? 

Monday, 19 August 2013 16:31

Keeping Up With Baby Books

This post should actually be called 'Neglecting Baby Books', because that's what I've been doing lately. 

Dear Future Audrey: I'm so, so, SOOO sorry...

I had such good intentions when I purchased Audrey's baby book. I knew that it was possible that I would forget some things, and that I might miss entering bits of information because I might be a little bit more busy, or a little bit distracted, or Audrey might just do things differently making it impossible to keep track of things in exactly the same way that I kept track of all of Clara's milestones. I knew that the information I documented for each of them might end up being different, so I deliberately bought a different baby book when I was pregnant with Audrey, than the one I am using for Clara. 

I was right that it would be different, but I don't think even different baby books can hide the glaring difference in the amount of writing that is in each book. Here are some photos of Clara's:

Clearly each section isn't packed full of writing - I answered each question or prompt, and sometimes there just wasn't more than a sentence or two.  However, if I had some note or thought about something even slightly related to the questions or prompts on one page, I would add notes wherever possible - like, on the picture at left. 

For Clara, we had her weight marked for each month of her life - except 11 months.  This is what Audrey's weight/length page looks like:

And in case that isn't clear... I'll zoom in for you.

Audrey - I'm. So. Sorry.

And, although her 'Baby's Sixth Month' page is actually quite full of information, here is 'Baby's Seventh Month' page... 

I am a terrible mother.

 

That was the Ninth month page, and I should already be working on 'Baby's Tenth Month', but that page is so far blank as well.  Luckily, I've been keeping fairly updated with this blog and have been posting monthly about her growth.  At some point, I intend to sit down and transfer some of the blog information to her baby book - and to go through Clara's baby book for additional ideas (Clara's book has many more specific questions and prompts, which makes it easier to keep track of things, I think) so that I can go back into Audrey's book and fill in some of these blanks. 

These are my intentions, but we all know how good intentions can sometimes go. 

I find it a little bit hilarious that I was so determined to not fall behind on Audrey's baby book just because she was the second child, and to not take any fewer pictures of her - but it happened, despite my best intentions.  Am I alone, or are there other mothers out there who found it more difficult to keep track of information after their first child? Please tell me I'm not the only one... 

Thursday, 03 October 2013 08:00

Sister Act

The other day, Audrey woke up from a nap as we were just sitting down to eat a meal with friends (classic baby timing) and so she was a little bit disoriented when we picked her up and sat her in her high chair - right next to our friend Steve, whom she probably hadn't seen in quite awhile. She stared at him for a few seconds before her face slowly transformed into that expression of baby trauma and she burst into heartbroken sobs.  Suddenly, and inexplicably, Clara began to cry also - honestly distressed, tears began spilling down her face also. We had no explanation for it, and Clara couldn't tell us what was wrong. A few moments later, both girls were fine.

Some days we think they're connected. 

They love playing together more and more. Clara will chase Audrey around on the floor - crawling - saying "I'm gonna get you! I'm gonna get you!" And both girls will giggle uncontrolably. 

Wherever Clara is, Audrey wants to be also.

Whatever Clara has, Audrey wants to have also. If we give Clara some kind of snack or toy, Audrey's arm shoots out in front of her, expectantly waiting for some of her own. 

Now that both girls have been sharing a room for awhile - Clara almost refuses to sleep without Audrey in the room with her.  If Audrey needs to be fed after Clara has gone to bed, Clara will scream "Bring my sister back! Right. Now.!" 

Last night both girls seemed unable to sleep. At one point, I came into their room and explained to them that Mommy wanted to sleep (I dramatically slumped to the floor for effect) and that I couldn't sleep until they were quiet and so they MUST GO TO SLEEP!

The image of me lying on the floor between their beds was apparently too hilarious to handle, and so I had one giggly baby looking down at me from between her crib slats, and a giggly toddler joining me on the floor.  Then, when Audrey pressed her face between her crib slats for a kiss (you know how you can just tell when they want a kiss?) Clara jumped up and the two girls started kissing each other repeatedly, all the while giggling like lunatics. 

I love watching this 'Sister' relationship unfold. It's like watching The Gilmore Girls back when it was on TV - I just can't wait to see what happens next! 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013 07:00

Fly Lady House Cleaning Update

Four months ago, I started using the FlyLady website again to help me get my home - and life - organized. After a hot week in July, I was happy to report that despite my lack of energy due to the high temperatures, my house was less of a mess than it might have been - thanks to the FlyLady! 

After four months, my house is certainly not immaculate, and there is still some amount of clutter in each room of my house (except probably the bathroom...), but I have definitely made improvements. 

Let's start with the good, shall we?

  • I am learning that I may actually be capable of following a routine. It's not perfect, and I need a bit of reminding, but I am looking back and realizing that I am now performing some tasks almost automatically - which is a pretty big step for me, you have no idea...
  • My bathroom is nearly immaculate, nearly all of the time. Since we renovated our bathroom in spring, I have been more than a little obsessive about keeping it sparkling. And, after four months (it appears that my FlyLady following coincided with this event), it is still looking great! 
  • My bed is made. Right now - go look. In the past, making the bed was something we only ever did before company came over - not because they would see our room, but because we might need to throw some coats on it, or have a toddler nap on it, and so 'just in case' we might make the bed. Now, it is always made - this has pretty much become a habit for me.
  • About 50% of the time, my kitchen counter is clear before I go to bed each night. Of the remaining 50%, probably about 40% of the time my counter is cleaned at some point during the following day, and only about 10% of the time do dishes sit on our counter top for more than 24 hours. This may seem less than impressive, but then you didn't know our kitchen before. Prior to being back on the 'FlyLady' bandwagon, our kitchen counters were only ever cleaned when we were expecting company - and I mean large numbers of people, not just our parents or a couple of friends over for supper - it would have to be a big-deal party for us to actually clear our kitchen counter.  Looking back, I'm not sure how we lived that way - I think I would have days where I would do dishes for about an hour - get done as much as I could, and continue on the next 'dish day'. That, and we did the dishes when we needed them - right before we were going to use them - so that they would be immediately dirty again, and who wants to do dishes twice in a row? 
  • I'm caught up on laundry - mostly. I still have anywhere from a half a load, to two loads of clean laundry waiting to be put away - mostly the girls' laundry, because the time available to put their clothes away is so minimal - but neither of our dirty laundry baskets have spilled over in weeks. I have been successfully doing an average of one load a day - not counting diaper laundry, and often I miss a day on weekends - and this has done wonders for keeping the laundry task manageable and under control. 
  • I have more 'free' time now. This is somewhat counter-intuitive, and I think that it isn't exactly accurate to say that I have more time now - but because I have a cleaning 'plan', I require less mental energy to keep the house clean, and I don't have any guilt about the house work that I am NOT doing building up in the back of my head, so when I have some free time - it really feels like free time.

Now for the not-so-good - not the 'bad' exactly, but these are some things I have realized about house cleaning - and how house cleaning applies to my life.

  • Cleaning takes time. There's no way around this. There is no secret formula - no finger snapping - no wave of a magic wand - that will make my house instantly clean and maintenance free. I must spend time daily cleaning my house. This has been a big deal for me, because I have so many things I would like to spend my time doing, and in the past I have allowed cleaning to be a part of my schedule only very rarely - and I had to change my attitude about this. Ideally, I would like to spend a good two hours daily on my house - between regular things like dishes and laundry, to deep-cleaning and dusting and organizing. I'm not there yet. 
  • The FlyLady system was not created by a person with babies and toddlers. I could be wrong here, but I am quite certain that the formation of these routines and cleaning schedules did not happen while chasing down toddlers, and responding to the needs of an infant.  That being said, 'FlyLady' is all about taking baby steps - and as long as I don't berate myself for not completing every single task set out for me each day, I can be encouraged that each week my house becomes a bit more company-ready, and each month I am closer to a day when some of these tasks actually become habits.  During a time in my life when my morning list of tasks looks like this:
    • Shower and put on underwear - 13 minutes
    • Open girls' bedroom door and try to calm down screaming toddler so she doesn't wake the baby - 2 minutes
    • Put on shirt and pants, start brushing hair - 1 minute
    • Put toddler in kitchen chair and give her breakfast - 3 minutes
    • Finish brushing hair, wipe down bathroom (FlyLady task) - 2 minutes
    • Get toddler drink of milk - 30 seconds
    • Get baby out of bed, change diaper, get her dressed and put her in high chair - 6 minutes
    • Start making breakfast for baby - 1 minute
    • Refill toddler's cereal bowl - 30 seconds
    • Finish making breakfast for baby, start feeding baby - 3 minutes
    • Grind coffee beans (because I'm desperate at this point) - 1 minute
    • Feed baby a little bit more... - 2 minutes
    • Fill coffee maker with water and put grounds in filter and press 'on' - 1 minute
    • Feed baby some more - 3 minutes
    • Clean up half-eaten bowl of cereal that toddler tossed across the table - 4 minutes
    • Lecture toddler on wasting food - 1 minute
    • Finish feeding the baby...   
  • I'll finish there, because you can see where I'm going with this. Everything is done in 1-3 minute intervals, and no job can be completed before someone is crying or yelling that they have to go pee.  When you have an hour or less to get everyone ready to leave the house, including the arduous task of getting a toddler dressed and getting the diaper bag packed appropriately when you can't actually focus your brain for more than six seconds - even the two minute jobs that the FlyLady hails as being so easy to fit into a schedule can be difficult. But, the way I see it - if I start mastering some of these things while dealing with babies and toddlers, it will be that much easier when the kids are older.
  • When it comes to following the 'FlyLady' system, I have very much taken the 'baby steps' approach. Usually, I'm the kind of person who needs to become an expert immediately - or at least as fast as possible - and in this situation I really can't. I have to allow myself limitations, and allow myself bad days. I forgive myself for a lazy day, and try again the next.  In the process, I have been able to watch my home become gradually more presentable, although I still have a long way to go. 

I have heard rumours of other such cleaning and organizational websites and plans, and my thoughts would be to use what works for you!  I have an aunt who kept her home immaculate through the entirety of the growing up years of her four sons, and now cleans professionally, and while she was showing me how plain old water works just as well on cleaning a mirror as windex does, she encouraged me to 'use what works'. If it helps you keep your house clean - do it!  It's the result that matters anyway, not necessarily how you got there. 

Monday, 12 August 2013 14:29

32 Months and Counting

I found this list of milestones on Babycenter.ca, and thought it would be interesting to go through the charts from 18 months to 36 months to see what Clara is or is not yet able to do. I've found that sometimes I miss documenting things, because it didn't occur to me that she was doing something at all noteworthy, so lists like this are handy sometimes when writing down what she can do...

At 32 months, Clara can:

  • Use a spoon and fork - she has been eating with utensils since about 18-20 months, and is actually a really neat eater. I didn't realize this until I was babysitting another 18-20 month old girl who got food in her ears, in her hair and all over the kitchen floor.  A friend of mine confirmed that for a toddler - Clara is really good at keeping her face and clothes clean while she eats. Which is good, because I'm afraid of all things sticky...
  • Speak mostly intelligibly, and can carry on long conversations with multiple sentences.
  • Wash and dry her hands by herself, provided she can reach the sink, soap and towel.  I was taught years ago that children shouldn't brush their own teeth until they are quite a bit older than Clara, so we don't let her brush her own teeth, but she can brush and rinse her teeth by herself after we have made sure they have all been scrubbed. 
  • Give us enough notice when she needs to pee that we hardly ever have accidents anymore. About once or twice a week, she has a dollar-sized spot in her panties, but it has been months since she has had any more of an accident than that. 
  • Dress and undress herself - most of the time. Shirts can be tricky, and anything with buttons she can't do up herself - but that's because they're typically on the back. We get things backwards and inside out frequently, but she'll get there.
  • Walk up and down stairs - this one wouldn't be worth noting, except that she was pretty late doing this, so it's still a new skill. She still avoids stairs, or has to hang on to the railing. 
  • Do her Nemo 24-piece jigsaw puzzle

Some of the other things I'll have to test her on over the next few weeks, because I don't know how many blocks she can stack or how many body parts she can name. 

Dearest Clara,

After re-reading last month's letter to you, I'm happy to say that things are going much better for you and I.  We are still struggling with some behavior issues that we're not entirely sure how to handle, but we're impressed with you much more often than we are confused or disappointed.

We went to the lake a couple of weeks ago, and stayed in Grandma's cabin.  Even though your schedule was thrown off, you handled the transition beautifully. You slept wonderfully in the cabin, and although you didn't use the outhouse, you were happy to use your old portable potty.  You were so happy, and had so much fun playing with some of my cousins. 

You have become more affectionate in the last few weeks, and I'm loving that so much. You will come up and hug me, or cuddle on my lap, for no particular reason and although sometimes I have to deter you because I'm dealing with Audrey or cooking supper, I try to take advantage of it as much as I can.  You haven't been a very touchy person for most of your life, so I cherish every voluntary hug from you!

I think you are starting to outgrow your naps, which is hard for me because I love that bit of quiet time in the afternoon. Some days you will sing to yourself in your room and I will eventually decide that naptime can be over. Sometimes that backfires on me, and you're inconsolably difficult by supper time, but most of the time you are ok until just about bedtime. 

Our biggest challenge with you right now is at bedtime. After you have been tucked in and we have closed your bedroom door, you will yell that you need to go potty. Then, when we take you to the potty, you will sit there and chatter to us, completely forgetting about your need to pee. It's extremely irritating, because when we try to take you off the toilet, you cry that you need to pee - but then you never do. We don't want to assume that you're lying the first time you call out from your bedroom (even though I think you usually are), but we don't want to indulge this clever method you have concocted to stay up later at night.  Also, now that Audrey is sleeping in the crib every night, we hate when you yell and keep her up, but we don't really want to go back to having you in separate rooms... 

One day a couple of weeks ago, I made you playdough in 6 different colours. Then, I set aside my OCD and just let you play with it. I wanted to try to stop you from mixing the colours, but I didn't. I was very proud of myself that day...  

I'm still not very good at actively keeping you entertained, but you're getting a lot better at playing with toys by yourself.  You even play 'with' Audrey, by talking to her while you're playing and giving her toys to involve her in your play.  Every so often your toys use Audrey as a trampoline, but for the most part you're really gentle with her. 

You're finally getting old enough to bribe! :)

I mean... if we're going out somewhere - to the mall, or to your Grandparents' houses - it is starting to become effective to tell you that the consequence of bad behavior is to go home. We never make that threat unless we are willing to follow through, but so far we haven't had to. We also don't make that threat if going home might be exactly what you would like to do.  On more than one occasion, we have been happily surprised by how well you behaved during an all-day outing. 

I'll probably say this in anything I ever write to you - but you're growing up so unbelievably fast, I can hardly keep up.  You talk more like a child than like a toddler these days, and you say the most hilarious things.  I grow increasingly fascinated by the little person you are becoming, and I'm excited to get to know you better each day that goes by. 

I love you to bits, my big girl! 

Friday, 09 August 2013 08:02

You Are Busy Because You Want to Be

I read an article somewhere that talked about 'busy people', and how so many people in our culture will say 'Oh, I'm just so tired!' or 'We're just so busy!' when asked how they have been lately.  The writer of the article was saying that the people who make these statements are almost certainly not the kind of people who need to work 80 hours a week to make ends meet, or who are spending every spare minute next to a sick family member - the people who make these statements are the people who have lessons and social engagements, and feel the need to go shopping a lot.  The people who complain about being busy are the people who are busy BY CHOICE.  They are busy because they want to be busy.

The writer of the article also noted how statements like this make him feel - he said that when someone comments on how busy they are, his first reaction is to say "Well, then I'd better get out of your way because you're clearly too busy to chat with me."

This message hits me in my heart - in the place where I have been hurt and skipped over by people who are 'too busy', but it also hits me in the gut - because I have been guilty of this so often myself. 

A few weeks ago, I made plans with a close friend - honestly wanting to spend some quality time with her - and then in my 'busy-ness', the plan I made with her became shortened and rushed while other plans crowded in around it.  Sure - I have a husband who makes plans also, and two kids who have needs as well, but the truth was that I had absolutely no excuse.  There is no reason I had to accept other engagements after I had made the initial plan with my friend - I accepted because I WANTED to, and because I completely didn't think about how that would make her feel.

Today I had plans with a friend. They were tentative, but she seemed as though she wanted to meet, and so I didn't make other plans and expected to meet with her today.  She's going through a big life situation right now, and she also has a husband and kids who make plans and have needs, but when she cancelled this morning I still couldn't help but feel completely hurt and angry.

So the lesson for me going forward, and the lesson I need to teach my children is to respect other people's schedules as much as your own.  If your life is busy, never assume that anyone else's isn't. If you have to cancel plans or rearrange your schedule for something, expect that other people might be doing this also. If you're truly too busy to make plans with your friends, understand the consequences (eventually your friends will stop calling) and don't make promises you can't keep.   

I am definitely the kind of person who 'likes to be busy' and in the past few weeks, I've looked over my schedule and decided to quit a few things - because being busy is not a badge of honour. It is not something I should be proud of and flaunt as though it somehow makes me a better or more successful person because it actually has the opposite effect - running around in circles makes me a worse mother, and definitely a worse friend.  

I know there are situations where busy-ness is unavoidable, and I know that it will be really hard for me to keep my schedule simple when I have two children who are taking lessons and both wanting to be successful at these, but I want to try. I NEED to try, because I need my friends.

To all of my friends who are reading this - I'm so sorry if and when I have ever made you feel as though your schedule is less important that mine.  I'm sorry for times I have disregarded your time and your needs and selfishly considered only my own.  Please, please, please forgive me.

At the park, as we were moving a picnic table into the shade, Clara became stressed and started yelling at me to "Stop! Don't shade!". I tried to explain to her what 'shade' meant, but she got increasingly stressed, yelling "Stop shading, Mom! Stop!". It was either really scary or really embarrassing - I'm not sure which. We - the other Moms and I - found this comical so we were laughing at her a bit until she threw up her arms and said "It's not a big deal!" and ran away.


Clara was playing with her toy cash register the other day, and began scanning her face with the hand-held scanner - making it beep, and when she looked over and saw that I was watching her play, she said "I'm selling my brother." 

Clearly. 


 

 And the many, many, many conversations she likes to have about poop... 

Little bit of background information, not that it's really necessary - Clara typically has a 'big one' and a 'little one' when she poops.  She almost always has both - to the point where, if she has one and not the other, we will wait for the other one to drop as well.  She likes to examine her poops, and make comments about them, sometimes name them and often waves 'goodbye poop!' when she flushes them down the toilet. 

The other day, as I was asking her 'where is the little one?', I hear it drop and she exclaims "It came out to be with its Daddy! The big one was its Daddy!"

How juvenile does it make me that I find these little one-liners hilarious...?


 In the midst of giggling with Brian: "Daddy makes me laugh in my mouth!!"


 

The other day at the kitchen table, she said "ROAAARRR!" Which isn't unusual - she 'Roar's' occasionally. It's just a thing. But then, she said "I went 'Roar!' because I was smelling... and smelling is VERY banana..."

What???


 

Lately, her favourite thing in the world is singing - particularly 'Part of Your World' (I kept writing 'A Whole New World' accidentally, which really sounds similar - so confusing!!! Anyway...) from The Little Mermaid.  My first uploaded YouTube video... This is hilarious...

  

Wednesday, 07 August 2013 08:32

Sharing a Room - Take 2

The other night Brian got spontaneously motivated to move the furniture in our room around. Any configuration of furniture other than the way we had our room before leaves no room for Audrey's playpen - it just occurred to me now that this was probably his motivation entirely... 

So, Audrey's playpen can no longer be in our bedroom. 

After a weekend of having the girls sleep in the same room (with us also) at the cabin, we decided to try again to have them sleep in the same room at home. Last night was the second night, and I think - for the most part - this time it might actually 'stick'. 

The first night was shockingly good - Audrey woke up at about midnight to eat, then not again until about 4:30-4:45. Then, after I put her back in bed, she slept until Clara woke up at around 8:30. Yay! She's still certainly not sleeping through the night, but this is a definite improvement over the every-2-hours-I-need-to-wake-up-and-eat thing that she was doing before. 

I have no tricks here - the first night we put both girls down at about the same time and they fell asleep pretty quickly, and last night Audrey had just woken up from her 'extra' nap (she doesn't always nap in the evening), so she went into her crib for night about half hour later than Clara did - and this time it took them about two hours to finally fall asleep. 

If we get desperate for better sleep, we can always set up the playpen in the living room temporarily. At least if the playpen isn't in my room and I have to walk down the hall to get Audrey when she wakes, maybe I'll be less likely to bring her back into bed with us in the night. Hopefully we'll all be getting more sleep soon! 

Tuesday, 06 August 2013 08:00

I'm Dreaming of a White Kitchen...

This past year we renovated our bathroom, and installed new windows. I have all kinds of before and after pictures of my bathroom, but I completely forgot to take before pictures of our bedroom windows - all I can say is, you should have seen them, they were growing mushrooms! No word of a lie... 

Anyway, we got all of the bedroom windows replaced, leaving only one spot of mold in the house - the kitchen. There is black mold on the kitchen window, as well as under the kitchen sink where there appears to have been a slow leak for years that probably no one noticed or bothered to fix. 'No one' at this point has to include us, because we have been in this house for nearly 4 years - but I know the mold in this particular spot was already here when we moved in, so let's just blame the previous owners, shall we?

Anyway, this is what my kitchen looks like now:

I love our stove - especially since we got this beauty for free (thanks Grandma Lesser!). Our goal here is to do an entire kitchen reno for as little cost as possible (our budget is $10k for the kitchen, window and floor), and since we have perfectly good appliances, we won't be replacing these. 

There are a few things to note here - one is the random space to the left of the stove. What is this? I can't imagine anyone built a kitchen thinking "this is where we leave a space for one of those AWESOME $15 Walmart shelves..." I just don't get it...  

I also don't understand the random shelf above the stove. It's kind of low, and has the black sooty underside to show for it, and is too small for any microwave I've ever seen. We've tried to dress it up with some of our more decorative cooking and coffee accessories, but I can't help but hate it. It has a thick layer of greasy dust all over it from years of steam and cooking splatter and is therefore impossible to clean. Also, note the half-melted fish tank lamp mounted below the shelf... 

The countertop is ceramic tile... which is the stupidest thing I've ever encountered. Not only are there grout lines that catch all crumbs and make it impossible to neatly wipe down the counter, there is a wooden lip around the entire edge of the counter top. This lip gets in the way of brushing crumbs off the counter, as well as knife blades when chopping vegetables. The grout around our sink has also collected a bit of moisture and is almost entirely worn away in some places. I would be complaining about the maintenance involved here if we didn't intend to replace it within a few months...

Moving clockwise around the room...

I kind of skipped over the sink here, but there's not much to see - the window is a bit moldy, but not really newsworthy and I don't want anyone to see under the counter... 

Ok - starting at the top - we put in those white shelves from IKEA, and I've loved them. They add so much to the room, I think, and give us some storage space where there wasn't any before. If you glance down (we don't actually drink that much, we had a family gathering - should have moved those...), at all the clutter just above the countertop, you might notice that there are two plug-ins, about two feet from each other, which is a bit odd. However, if you keep looking down, there is a standard sized dishwasher with a significant spacer to the right of it. This is either bad kitchen planning, or this wasn't the way the kitchen was initially set up. 

I think (as in, I'm 100% certain) that this is where the fridge was when the kitchen was first built. There was no dishwasher, and the countertop was put in across this new space when the fridge was moved. This also explains why there were no upper counters here either. 

Just in case you didn't notice those bottom two drawers - her's a close-up! The panel on the right side of these drawers that used to hold up the right side of each drawer on wooden tracks, has separated from the rest of the cabinet at the bottom. Over the last couple of years, it has gradually inched outward, causing first the bottom drawer to slip from its track, and then the second. Now the bottom drawer is resting directly on whatever is below it, and the drawer above is resting on the bottom drawer. It's kind of a fun game to open either of these... When the drawer above them slips from its track, I think we will have to stop using them until after the reno, but I hope we manage to get the kitchen completed before this happens. 

Don't mind my clutter, or the obviously not cleaned up supper dishes still sitting on the kitchen table... Note the brick wall. I love this brick wall. It's not really brick, but a plaster wall covering of some kind, and if you look at it really closely you can see some of the original red colour leaking through the white paint, so it needs a new paint job badly.

This is where the fridge currently is, and although it's probably not obvious from this picture, the fridge juts out into the room a few inches further than the wall at its side, and it does feel a little bit awkward. We plan to return the fridge to its original position where the dishwasher is now, and to move the dishwasher closer to the s ink and have the two sitting next to each other. I 'Googled' this, and I think that if we put in an insulated spacer between the two appliances, this should work fine. 

We then plan to put a stretch of lower cabinets where the fridge and microwave stand is now, and probably remove only this stretch of the brick wall so we can hang the shelves here. 

My pantry is a bit cluttered, but I'm not too embarrassed by it - it used to be much worse! I'd like to put a pocket door here, instead of this hinged one, and replace all of the shelves - which are all random and different depths - with those white wire pantry shelves that are classic in newer houses. 

Hey, I didn't know we had Kinder Surprises... who put those there??? 

Anyway, so this is the task ahead of us. Part of the work we plan to have contracted, and part of it we plan to do ourselves. We've been browsing the IKEA options, and had decided on an off-white cabinet, but then realized this would probably not work with our white brick wall. IKEA also doesn't seem to have a middle-of-the-road counter top option, so we may have to do that locally. 

I'm excited to have this project done, but daunted by the task. Any tips or thoughts or ideas for me? Has anyone ever ordered a kitchen from IKEA? 

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 20:57

Help! All I Want Is Sleep...

When Clara was born, I read a book that encouraged families to develop a cycle with their newborns - breastfeed completely (both boobs), have some playtime (ie - no falling asleep at the boob), and then naptime. Feed, play, sleep, repeat.  

This book made an enormous amount of sense to me because it discouraged behaviours right from the beginning that I hoped would not continue past my child's first few years of life anyway. It discouraged what it called 'snacking' every 20 minutes, because it can wear out a nursing mother, giving her no time to sleep or get anything else done, and because 'snacking' every 20 minutes is definitely one of the contributers to childhood and adult obesity, it made sense that this was a habit you might not ever want to start. I'm no doctor, but as a parent, this obeyed my instincts completely. 

It also discouraged allowing babies to fall asleep while nursing, because then it might become something the child would always need to do to fall asleep, making it impossible for a nursing mother to step away from her baby for any length of time, as well as not allowing the child the independence to learn how to fall asleep on their own. 

This book suggested that a baby who followed the feed-play-sleep cycle (no 'clock watching') would fall into their own schedule, which would probably last anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours, and by 12 weeks old, most babies would be sleeping (on their own - no 'crying it out' required) about 6-8 hours over night. 

We struggled with following this schedule, because Clara was colicky for the first 6 weeks of her life, and would frequently cry for about 8 hours straight from about 7 or 8pm until 3 or 4am. Did I say 'frequently?' I think this may have been EVERY night for the first 6 weeks... So, I did a bit of clock watching, because her cries didn't change after feeding, and no matter what you did with her - change her diaper, take off clothes, put clothes on, swaddle her, snuggle her, burp her, Ovol, tylenol... the list goes on.  I needed the clock to tell me after what seemed like hours of listening to her scream that it had only been 30 minutes since she breastfed a large amount and was certainly not hungry yet. We were also probably somewhat inconsistent, because if she fell asleep - no matter how it happened - we took advantage of it.  We had been so determined before she was born that we would never become one of 'those parents' who would put their kids in the carseat and drive around the block, but after having a baby like her - if we had any hint that this might work (as it was, she screamed in the car too), we would have driven her around all night and taken turns sleeping. 

One night, after just over 6 weeks, Clara slept through the night. I woke up at 8am, certain that my poor angry baby was no longer breathing because she had fallen asleep finally at around midnight the night before and I hadn't heard a peep from her since, but she was breathing. And that morning she woke up happy. And from that night on, she slept beautifully - her colic mysteriously gone.  By 3 months, Clara was sleeping 12 hours overnight, and it was bliss.

Clara, sleeping in her crib at about 8 or 9 months old - looking SOOO much like Audrey.

When I was pregnant with Audrey, it didn't occur to me to do things any other way, but life sometimes has different plans. Audrey would have cooperated. Audrey would have been fine, but life with a toddler sometimes means that your newborn doesn't get the focus your first child received.  The biggest difficulty I found with Audrey was the concept of giving her 'full feedings', which was nearly impossible with a toddler who wasn't on board with giving you 30 minutes at a stretch to focus on someone other than her! So Audrey got used to snacking. And it felt like I was feeding her constantly - because I was. I was feeding her little bits of milk here and there - usually every 30-90 minutes.  Not that she was bothered by this - Audrey was the most easy going infant imagineable, but it sure was draining on me. 

During the day, things have gotten much better, but it has been over 9 months, and I'm still waking every 2-3 hours to feed Audrey in the night. Most nights, by 4am I'm so exhausted, I just pull her into bed with me so I can sleep while she nurses. I don't even care anymore if she's using it as a crutch to fall asleep, because I just want some rest! 

In hindsight, I really wish I'd tried harder to follow the same routine with Audrey that we did with Clara, because then maybe by now Audrey would be sleeping at least most of the night, and maybe we even would have been able to move her into the crib for nights permanently instead of giving up and having her sleep in a playpen in our room. 

But now I'll never know how things might have been, and despite the fact that I'm exhausted at least half of the time, I know that 'this too shall pass'.  Someday I will again have the luxury of sleeping straight through the night - most of the time. And someday Audrey will be old enough to be bribed by her pretty 'new' toddler bed (although I seriously hope we don't have to wait that long...) and she will no longer sleep in our room. 

Someday...

Has anyone else struggled with any of this? Any advice on getting a baby to sleep when you're exhausted, or ways to discipline myself to NOT bring Audrey into bed with us (half the time I don't even remember doing this, so I must be doing it in my sleep...)? I just want to sleep... 

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