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Sunday, 28 July 2013 17:42

Welcome Prince George

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I love history - and the history of the British Monarchy is especially intriguing to me. I remember where I was on the day Princess Diana died. I was 12 years old, and at the time completely uninterested in Royal happenings. We were camping and as I stepped out of our old canvas tent trailer that morning, my Dad - who was fixed to our portable cassette deck/radio listening to the news - informed me of the death of the Princess. 

My comment was "Who cares? Why is her death any more important than the death of anyone else?", or something equally callous. I may not have been entirely wrong, but it was a significant event nonetheless, and one that would forever be a part of history. 

This past week, Diana's son - Prince William, Duke of Cambridge - became a father. 

This may be a relatively small event in history, but in 300 years from now, it would be the kind of history (like everything that happened 300 years ago) that I would have loved to be witness to, and in this case I am. 

Congratulations to Catherine and William! 

Thursday, 25 July 2013 21:42

Travelling with Toddlers

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Last week, I told you all about my plans for taking a Road Trip with Babies.  Now that we have successfully planned and executed said road trip, here are my thoughts and tips post-travelling. 

1. Regarding Nap and Sleep times: When we left our home on Friday morning, we left crazy early with the hope that Clara would continue sleeping until her usual wake-up time, giving us a couple of hours of travel before needing to entertain her.  

On the one hand, this worked out fine, because we made it to our destination nice and early in the day with plenty of time for Clara and Audrey to have a nap before supper. On the other hand, Clara did NOT fall back asleep after we put her in the car (neither of our girls sleep through location transitions), and it sort of just shifted her day forwards by two hours.  She napped two hours earlier than usual, and started acting like it was bedtime two hours earlier than usual. 

Because we were travelling, and everything was new and exciting, we were able to keep her awake until her usual bedtime, so the next day her clock was back to normal and it all worked out fine.  

On the drive home, we decided not to leave too early and let ourselves relax a bit before rushing off home. This worked fine also, and although the girls were somewhat crankier for the last two hours of the trip than they had been on the drive to Alberta, it wasn't enough of a difference to be positive it was the time of day. 

So, in conclusion, we will not concern ourselves with the time of day in regards to the girls when planning our next road trip - we will leave when it is most convenient for us to leave, whether that be early morning, or late in the day. 

2. Planning Ahead.  Before we left, I planned each inch (practically) of our journey to Alberta. I located a suitable playground in each city between home and our destination and made sure Google maps knew where each one was so we wouldn't have to waste time searching.  On the way home, however, there was a shortage of cities between Calgary and home (read: none), and the forecast was also predicting rain so, no malls or indoor play areas, and no outdoor playgrounds due to weather. We prayed that the girls would drive well with few stops.

In the end, the weather was beautiful and although we tried to drive through as many towns as possible without stopping, we stopped to play once and even found a playground relatively easily after a short amount of hunting through a residential area. 

The verdict on planning ahead? I actually enjoyed the planning, so I'd definitely do it again. It saved us a bit of time when we were driving to Alberta on Friday, and if I had expected sunny weather it might have saved us some time on our drive home on Tuesday as well. However, I think in the future I should expect to be more flexible, and allow us to drive past planned stops if the girls are happy and comfortable sometimes. It was great to have a plan, but it's possible that our drive would have gone faster - and would have been just as tolerable - if we had skipped over a playground stop or two.  

3. Checking the Weather! Packing for the weather is great, but I was a little bit under-planned for any change of weather. Clara had 1 pair of pants, and nothing else to cover her legs. If she had peed her pants on a cold day, we would have had nothing to change her into. Luckily this didn't happen, but... 

My verdict? Obviously plan around what the weather is likely to be, but consider if the weather is different as well - and have a back-up plan in case of potty emergencies! 

4. How smart did we really pack? Considering the weather was pretty much what we expected, except for one cooler day that was not originally in the forecast, our clothing was exactly what we needed for the trip. We left the girls with my aunt for a day, and she mix and matched their clothes when she dressed them in the morning, not realizing whose outfit was whose. (Understandable, since Clara's clothes range in size from 12-18 months to 3T, and Audrey's clothes range from 6-9 months to 12 months - and sometimes even I have to check the tags on their clothes, because some of their clothes are so close in size!)

  • The potty: was excellent to have, although we never needed it on the drive. We used it once on our first day when Clara had a bit of a freak out about using a regular toilet with no toddler seat on it (we forgot her 'Dora seat' at home - oops).  The 'Dora seat' was one item that if I had to do this trip again, I would have made sure we had. 
  • Plastic bags and ziplocs: were a God-send! When I opened up the bag of Snap Peas, I had a ziploc to put the extras in. I used ziplocs for crayons and stickers. I even used a ziploc for my husband's shaving cup for the ride home - he had lathered up his soap to shave and put it loose into his toiletry bag, hoping that it wouldn't get knocked on its side or anything. I shake my head... 
  • Snacks: Lots and lots and LOTS of snacks was probably a bit overkill - I think we would have been find with Lots and lots. Or maybe just lots.
  • Car toys: I think it was good that I packed a ton in this regard, and it gave me practice for the future, but I think I overpacked a bit for Clara. I'm sure, though, that for each trip we go on in the future she will need more and more stimulation (until she hits that stage where all she wants to do is listen to her own headphones and stare out the window, but we're not thinking about that just yet...) so I'll continue to do what I did. 
Small markers, Sticker sheets, Crayons, Small colouring pages, a small pad of construction paper (for stickers or markers/crayons), 2 Melissa & Doug magnetic dolls, Books and magazines - one book that she had never seen before which kept her occupied for over 30 minutes on the drive home, and her bag of Disney figurines including a set of Winnie the Pooh figurines that she had never seen before. 
  • Familiar bedding: Although Clara loved sleeping in all of her 'new beds', having her 'Princess Blanket' was also comforting, and I think it helped Audrey also to have her Purple Hippo. 
  • Car music: Even more than the toys for the car, it was very important to Clara to be able to listen to 'her songs', so we were stuck listening to Fred Penner and Disney Princess songs nearly the entire trip; there and back. 
  • The baby monitor. A given, and as we sometimes wish at home, it would have even been nice to have two. 
Additional thoughts?

We overlooked one small (major) detail when we were filling the extra spaces in the car with extra toys to keep Clara occupied - we were planning to go to IKEA. This means that we SHOULD have left these extra spaces open for all of the things we would certainly be buying at IKEA. This didn't stop us from buying nearly everything we saw, however, and somehow we managed to cram it all in, but it was still a pretty big oversight on our part. Note to future self: when you plan to go to IKEA, leave space in the car!!!

I wish I'd taken more photos... I must have been overwhelmed or just distracted, but it would have been cool to have a picture of the girls in their carseats with all of our stuff crammed in around them, or photos of some of our stops, or even photos in the car while driving - why not? But I took almost no photos, except the ones at the bird sanctuary. Even the photos in this post were taken by my aunt (Thanks, Rox!).

So, it turns out that my daughters are pretty stellar travelers. Audrey had a bit of trouble sleeping our first night, but the next two nights were perfect, and only the last night was she quite difficult - but I don't think it really had anything to do with the trip, she's just really not a great sleeper.  Clara had a great time, and was so excited to sleep in her 'new bed' at each place we stayed. The only sign she showed of stress was her fight to use the toilet everywhere, which makes sense since at home she uses a potty seat and so she isn't used to sitting on a regular toilet seat even at home. She had no accidents, however, and was probably happier than usual most of the time. 

Yay for our first family road-trip being a huge success! 

How have your road trips been? Do you have any great road-trip stories?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013 13:44

Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation

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This weekend, on our first ever roadtrip as a family, we stayed with a friend in Alberta.  She came up with a list of possible activities to do while we were there, and in lieu of the Calgary Zoo flooding we decided to check out the Birds of Prey Center in Coaldale, Alberta - at least the girls could check out some animals!  

The center began with one injured bird, and has now become a significant establishment that takes in injured 'Birds of Prey' including owls, eagles, hawks and vultures. The center seeks to rehabilitate and release animals that can be released back into the wild, and keeps the birds that can't be released for other purposes such as breeding of endangered species, and encouraging positive habitat stewardship through increased public awareness.

When we entered the information building at the entrance to the sanctuary, I knew it would be an interesting trip because there were already a number of birds 'hanging out' in the room. There was an owl sitting on the counter, and a noisy magpie wandering around on the floor. A pigeon swooped overhead a few times (luckily none of us were afraid of birds), and in a bin on the floor, we saw these little guys.  These, if I recall correctly, were 3-week old burrowing owls and despite being kept in a public area, we were not supposed to touch them because there were being kept wild to be released. 

At the entrance to the greater sanctuary area, there was a large pond filled with ducks. In the information building we had purchased some pellets to feed them with, and they fearlessly swarmed us for food. 

Clara, unfortunately, seems to be afraid of everything and although she did eventually take a bit of the pellets and throw them out into the ducks (as far from herself as possible), she refused to leave the stroller and pulled her feet up to stay away from the birds.

At some point, I think she must have dropped a few pellets into her lap, because suddenly one duck started poking its nose into Clara's crotch - and when those duck bills are pecking for food, they get a little bit rough. Clara started screaming and we had to leave the duck area in a hurry! Poor girl - I can see this event being one of those things that causes her to fear ducks for the rest of her life. My dad was afraid of chickens his entire life because of a similar incident when he was a toddler.

Sigh.

Sorry, Clara...

In another area, they had a number of owls in an arena, and one of the owls was tame and able to be held.

I was the only one interested, and Brian told me - quite harshly - that we were NOT going to be getting a pet owl.  

(But they're so cute!)

Anyway, Audrey was much more intrigued than her facial expression lets on here, and I even held out one of her fingers to pet the birds wings, to which Audrey giggled uncontrollably. I think she will be the braver of my two daughters, and is already clearly more of an animal lover. I wonder if this will continue or if they will surprise me when they are older...

Clara seemed interested in the bird, but refused to pet it. She likes animals from a distance.

Shortly before we left, there was an eagle demonstration, where one of the trainers showed us how they rehabilitate the birds by letting them out to fly in small areas to strengthen themselves before encouraging them to get out for longer flights.  This was really interesting to watch, and even Clara seemed to really enjoy this part of the day. 

I am so glad that my friend suggested we visit this place - it was a really interesting day, and there were a lot of animals to see. There was even an information center where guests could look at various items under a powerful microscope that was connected to a large video screen, which kept Clara occupied for a long time.

If you're travelling in Southern Alberta, I highly recommend checking out the Birds of Prey center!  

Thursday, 18 July 2013 09:16

DIY - Lapdesk for Kids

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If you give me a random set of craft materials I will stare at them blankly and have no idea what to do with them. If, however, I am in need of something that I don't have, if it is possible, I will find a way to make that something out of the materials I DO have.  Just more evidence to the fact that I am not creative - I am resourceful. 

As I was packing for our trip, there were a number of activities I wanted to get ready for Clara to do in the car, but I was worried about how she would be able to do them on her lap. When I was a kid, I had a 'lap desk', which had a flat plastic top attached to a kind of bean-filled pillow. It sat nicely on my lap in the car, but even if I had run across something similar this week for Clara, it would still be much too big for her little lap.

So, I set about making a lap desk for my daughter.

Materials:

  • Heavy piece of stiff cardboard (or plastic/plexiglass if you have it on hand), cut to approximately 8 1/2 by 11 inches, or smaller if you want a smaller desk
  • Duct tape
  • Ribbon
  • Pillow or stuffed animal that is the approximate size of the cardboard, and is either flat or will flatten easily on a desk. A pillow filled with beans would be the ideal situation here, so whatever you have that resembles one the most.  There will be no damage done to the stuffed animal, and it can be removed easily for other purposes - so feel free to use something that is frequently used for other purposes as well! 
  • Medium binder clip 

Instructions:

Find your piece of plastic or cardboard, make sure it is cut to size. Here, I found two pieces of cardboard identical in size and used packing tape to make one thicker piece of cardboard. 

Take one length of ribbon - somewhere between 1/2" and 1 1/2" wide. My ribbon is a little wider than 1/2" thick and I think thicker would have been a bit better. I had this piece of ribbon lying around for the longest time - it was used to wrap a gift that one of the girls was given - and I was excited to finally put it to good use! 

The ribbon should be long enough to comfortably wrap and tie around the pillow or stuffed animal you plan to use. 

Next, tape the ribbon to what will be the bottom side of the cardboard desk surface.  I didn't measure or anything, but I centered it by folding the ribbon in half and lining up the ribbon fold with the middle of the cardboard.  I also taped it slightly closer to one end of the cardboard, based on where I intended to tie the ribbon around the stuffed animal. 

Then, I used my pretty patterned duct tape to cover the entire piece of cardboard. I had to be a little creative with the edges and where the ribbon came through - sometimes cutting pieces of tape, or folding the corners over slightly to make sure I didn't have any hangy sticky bits. 

I got this tape at Michael's a long time ago, by the way, but I've seen it at Walmart and Target as well (we have a Target now! Since Tuesday we have Target in Saskatchewan!)

And, voila! A small lap desk that can be untied and stored in almost no space at all. I'm all about having things that are either multi-purpose (the stuffed turtle) or don't make extra clutter. I can slide this lap desk into a bookshelf or a desk somewhere and it takes up almost no space at all!

I chose this stuffed turtle, because it is flat and somewhat heavy. It has a gel pack inside it that weighs it down, making it a good choice to sit on a lap.  The binder clip is to clip on the top edge of the cardboard to hold papers. I don't have one in the house right now, so I intend to either pick one up tonight or tape the edges of papers down for Clara. 

We just installed a new carseat for her, and I'm excited that it has two cupholders with elastic to keep things steady. I intend to give her one cup for things like markers and crayons so she doesn't have to try to balance these on her lap as well. 

Wish us luck! 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013 17:39

Planning a Road Trip with Babies

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This week we leave for our first ever road trip with two children.  Should I be afraid?

We will travelling just short of 700 km, which would typically take us about 7 hours or less to travel. In our childless past, we would take minimal stops along the road - only to fill up the car with gas, go to the bathroom, and maybe grab some fast food to eat in the car.

I expect things will be different this time.

Here are a few things I am taking into consideration in the planning stages to try to make our trip a little bit easier. 

1. Consider Nap and Sleep Times. It's so easy to forget things like 'naptime' when you're planning a trip that in the past you have done many times. Thinking about spending a day at the mall seems great at first, until you remember that this time you have two little people in tow who are not able to spend 'a day at the mall' without fussing and whining and stressing you out so you'd rather you'd just stayed home. 

Since the girls will often sleep in until at LEAST 8am, sometimes much later, we hope to leave the house on Friday at 6am. If we get everything ready to go, and plan to eat breakfast and snacks in the car, maybe - hopefully - we will be able to pick the girls up in their Jammies and buckle them into their carseats without waking them up too much. Maybe they will then fall asleep for a couple more hours, giving us a bit of driving peace.  Of course, this could definitely backfire, and simply create irritable children who haven't gotten enough sleep.

2. Plan Your Stops Ahead of Time. Typically when travelling, we would stop when we saw something close to the road that looked appropriate for what we wanted. This meant either a gas station or a fast food joint, because we typically have had no other needs while travelling. This time, we will need to find space for a toddler to burn some energy in between long stretches of sitting in her carseat. This time, we will need to find a playground or two. Unfortunately for us, playgrounds - unlike gas stations and fast food joints - are not conveniently located next to the highway (I wonder why?), so this will require a bit more effort on our part. I really do want to get to our destination as quickly as possible, so to avoid any extra time spent driving around looking for a place for Clara to run, I spent an hour last night on Google Maps, finding the best playground to stop at in each town or city that we may possibly want to stop in.  This is a little bit of extra work ahead of time, but I'm sure it will be well worth it when we already have a plan in each city. 

3. Check the weather. Our trip will be less than a week in length, so I can check the forecast to see what the weather is likely going to look like. This will help us pack lighter, since our car is quite small and we don't have space to bring much more than we really need. 

4. Pack Smart. Or as smart as I am able to with no experience in road tripping with a family... 

Besides the usual clothes, toiletries and all the stuff that usually goes in the diaper bag, here are a few things I plan to pack to make our lives a bit simpler. 

  • A portable potty.  I recall a particularly long stretch of road on this journey with absolutely no place to stop for a bathroom break. If necessary, we can pull this out at the side of the road so Clara can pee. When I was a kid, I had to make do with squatting in such emergencies, but my daughter is too posh for that and would rather pee in her carseat. I won't take that risk.
  • Lots of extra plastic bags. In case of vomit. In case of a spill. For all of our car garbage. Also a good place to keep the potty after it's used.
  • Lots and lots and LOTS of snacks. The best way to keep a toddler occupied is to keep feeding her, right? Right?
  • Car toys. I will go through all of the girls toys and choose items that are particularly good to play with while sitting still.  Clara has some Melissa & Doug magnetic dolls, Disney Princess figurines, and lots of books. I might pick up some Crayola Color Wonder travel sized sets of coloring pages as well.  For Audrey, I will find some toys that clip to her carseat so she can't throw them away.
  • Familiar bedding. For the girls, I mean, to make them feel more comfortable sleeping in strange locations. We will bring Clara's pillow and her favourite blanket, and we will bring the purple hippo that Audrey always sleeps next to. 
  • The baby monitor. Not something we typically worry about bringing with us places, but when we put the girls to bed on one level of a home and then go to visit on another, we will kick ourselves if we forget this at home. 
  • Entertainment! Although we don't have a DVD player for the car, Clara really enjoys the musical versions of some movies. We have the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast and the soundtrack for The Little Mermaid. We've discovered these are really bad to listen to if we want her to sleep, but they keep her occupied at least somewhat during awake time!

Here are some excellent links I found while looking up tips on this subject:

  • This list at Real Simple includes a lot of activities that are way too old for my girls, but I'd love to try some of these ideas when they are older. 
  • This guest post from Useful Beautiful Home on I'm an Organizing Junkie had some really neat ideas - also too old for Clara, but definitely thoughts I'd like to remember. 
  • Another guest post by Petit Elephant with some great ideas
This is enough to make my brain hurt for tonight... I hope this trip goes smoothly, but I will definitely post updates next week! I hope to put up some photo posts while we are away, but if I fail at that (which I likely will), I will be away from the blog from Friday until next Wednesday!
 
Is there any big gaping hole I've missed here when it comes to travelling with tots? I'm hoping everything will go smoothly, and although I know there are some things I will have learned by the end of the trip - hopefully we all stay sane!  Any advice from those of you where are more experienced than I would be much appreciated! 

Today there are storm and tornado watches across central and southern Saskatchewan, so we are on alert for dangerous weather conditions. I have been watching news reports and the #SKStorm Twitter feed on it, and so far I don't believe we've had any funnel cloud sightings, but the storms today could last all afternoon and I will keep an eye out!

We don't often get tornado warnings in this area, so we are not well equipped to deal with them.  Luckily for us, we have a nice and liveable basement that we can spend our day in.  Growing up, my Dad was pretty concerned about storm safety and - in addition to not allowing me out of the house if the weather was even slightly stormish - gave me a few tips on how to stay safe in case of a tornado in our home.  Many areas of the United States have tornado emergency preparedness procedures because of how common severe wind storms are in those areas.  For those of us who do not live in areas where wind storms are frequent, here are a few tips in case you don't already have a plan:

1. Make sure you have a plan in place ahead of time.  Prepare your family - including your children - so that you know what to watch for, and have a plan for what you will do in case of a sudden storm.  Without stressing anyone out, I think it's better - and less terrifying - for even small children to be forewarned of what could happen in an emergency.  In the event of an emergency, it will be less shocking and stressful if they have already been told what to expect.

2. Keep yourself Updated. As much as I would love it if we had sirens or warning gongs to inform us of any coming threat - we don't have anything like that in our area. This means I have to be responsible for knowing what is going on outside. Check your local news and weather reports regularly for any possible threats, and if you learn of a weather watch in your area, take precautions and keep yourself as updated as possible. Most local radio stations will announce weather updates regularly, and Twitter is also a good place to look for updates as well.  I am about as talented at using Twitter as your average 80 year old, so there may be a much better way to keep updated on this, but I searched for our local police feed, and then searched for a #Saskstorm, #Saskatchewanstorm, and #Saskatoon until I found #SKStorm which had the largest number of tweets on today's weather. Unfortunately for me, our house has no windows that look out in the direction that storms typically come from, so I can't physically watch a storm coming.  Do what you need to to stay informed. 

3. Know the safest places around you, and be able to get to them in a moment if necessary. In a tornado, the safest place to be is always as low as possible. There are a number of myths surrounding tornado safety - such as staying in the SE corner of a building, or opening all the windows in case of a tornado that have been disproven - but staying as low as possible, and in a small space like a bathroom or under a stairway IS safer than some other options. I have heard of people taking cover in bathtubs and under mattresses as well. If possible, do NOT remain in a mobile home but find another location to keep shelter in.  If you are driving, do not try to race away from a tornado, but drive at a right angle from the tornado's direction. If you can't possibly drive fast enough, getting out of your vehicle and hiding in a ditch or other low area next to secured walls or buildings - probably in a culvert - would be safer than remaining in the car. 

 

My cat for some reason wanted to be outside today, but I brought her food dish downstairs with us and shut the door - which is actually quite difficult to latch and unlatch, I just discovered.  Despite feeling a bit like we're locked in the basement, I do feel somewhat safer knowing the door won't fly open easily.

This is the beautiful little spot under the stairs that I cleared in case we needed to hide. It was my compromise between not doing anything and lugging EVERYTHING out from under the lowest part of the stairs (on the right), which I know would be the safest place to be. I was quite sure that our chances of being in severe danger were slim, but that we would be quite safe even in this space in case of emergency.  If I became aware of a severe tornado in our area, or if tornadoes become more common, we may need to clean this space out and make it easier to clean. 

After locking ourselves downstairs, it became necessary to continue our lives as usual in our basement. This meant finding ways for the girls to nap.  Here is Audrey lying in the space between the back of our couches, and the wall. I set her up on a soft blanket with her usual stuffed purple hippo. She actually fell asleep quite easily, although she didn't sleep as long as I would have liked.

Here is Clara, having a 'nooz' (snooze) on the couch, watching TV.  I was hoping she might sleep, but Audrey kept waking up right as Clara might have been sleepy enough to fall asleep so of course she never did. Had a bit of a quiet time anyway. 

Here are a few websites with information on how to prepare for tornadoes or high winds.

- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

- Do Something.org

- The Weather Channel

Hope this is helpful.

As I finish this post, I am informed that the tornado watch for our area has ended. Sigh. We're in the clear this time!

Stay safe, everyone!

Thursday, 11 July 2013 07:00

On the Road to 3 Years Old

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It occured to me today that Clara is now closer to her 3rd Birthday than she is to her 2nd. She is now OVER the Two-and-a-half mark, and if I stop to think about it, I am absolutely amazed at how much has changed in the past 7 months. Last month I reflected on her life up until now in this '30 Months Old!' post, and although her changes since then have been small, she is undoubtedly becoming more and more a 'little girl', and very little 'toddler' remains.

It's rare to get an honest smile out of Clara on camera, but this day she was so happy to have gotten this beautiful new playhouse from her Grandparents, she was all smiles. I love this picture, because I don't think I have another one like it where she's showing such an honest smile. 

We had her big 2 1/2 Birthday bash last month, and it was a pretty big deal.  We filled our house with about 30 people for each party - friends in the morning and family in the evening, and luckily for us, Clara napped in between!

Ok, here it is... 

I'm actually struggling to write this post, and have been pondering it for days, because after re-reading my post for her last month, it was so positive and warm that I wanted to write the same thing for her again. I also wanted to start writing her monthly posts as a letter to her, as I have been with Audrey. 

But lately, my feelings toward Clara have not been overly positive or warm. So I guess I'll go with being honest... 

 

Dear Clara,

You probably won't ever want to hear this, but you are so much like me.  You are stubborn, and independent, yet timid and the way you treat your sister makes it clear to me that you have a kind and loving streak in there also.  You even look like me, with a little bit of your 'other' Grandpa thrown in. The one who died. 

Lately, I have been fighting with you a lot, and I honestly feel at a loss.  I don't find that parenting a toddler comes naturally to me, and I'm not naturally patient. Some days I will actively plan some great activity for you, and you will turn up your nose at it, and instead want to 'go back to bed', or when I try to engage you in running around at the playground, all you want to do is stay in the swing. 

I love how much you love your 'Bo', but some days every little thing causes you to cry out for your 'Bo and gummy', and I wish there was something I could do to stop the tears like they do. I wish that when I offered to cuddle with you and read a book that you would take me up on the offer instead of running away from me to your room. You're not even three years old, and I thought some of these things wouldn't happen until you were a teenager!

We eat too much sugar in our house, and we're trying to change that - largely for you. I am having to learn what 'healthy habits' look like as an adult, and as diet-related illnesses like Type 2 Diabetes and Celiac disease become more prevalent, I want you to have healthy habits from the start so that when you move out on your own someday, cooking well balanced meals for yourself will be simply what is natural. 

I also want to somehow demonstrate an active lifestyle for you, but right now I don't have any clue what that would look like. I have never been a very active person, and I want to be - both for myself and for you. I want to find ways to get us both moving - and ways to get you away from the baby swing at least some of the time when we go to the playground.  Is it acceptable to get a toddler to play fetch?

Just kidding...

Sort of.

I know that God has given you to me to take care of. That means that despite how inadequate I feel as a parent, God knows what great things can come from you and that I am either capable of helping you, or at least incapable of stopping you from accomplishing those great things.  I also know that there are no guarantees, and that either you or I could be called home by God today and that the last moment we have together is the one we just shared. That may sound morbid, but I need to remember these things to keep me focused. I can't afford to be a lazy parent for a week. I can't afford an hour where my love for you isn't obvious. 

You are mine right now, but I can't take that for granted for a second. 

I am prone to laziness, and I hope that you will forgive me for all of my parenting (and personal) failings someday.  I hope that most of them you won't even remember and that our good moments outweigh the bad. 

I hope that you know - not because I have to tell you, but I hope you've also heard it said - that I think you are brilliant, and beautiful, and strong. Some days I wish you would just follow what your friends are doing, but I know that your insistance on doing 'your own thing' means that you will likely never be a follower, and that you will probably always stand behind what you believe.  Remind me to tell you about the time all of my friends stopped talking to me when I was in Grade 7 because I told them all they were going to hell...  

I hope you know that although your stubborness drives me crazy - I don't actually think it's a bad thing.  It is my stubborness that has allowed me to look back at my life and realize that ultimately, I have gotten whatever I have wanted in life - and you will be that way too. 

As much as I want you to need me sometimes when you're hurting, I'm really glad you don't - because I know that you will never let me hold you back. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013 07:00

Sisters!

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This is Audrey exercising her artistic talents a couple of weeks ago...

This is Clara at about the same age, two years ago... 

Not exactly the same angle, but they still look very similar... I see distinct similarities between Clara and my side of the family, however - particularly my Dad, and Audrey has significant traits that she inherited from Brian - particularly his mother.  So, I expect they won't actually look that similar when they are older - but who knows. Often times twins look identical until you get to know them better, and then you wonder how you ever couldn't tell them apart - maybe my girls will look alike to people who don't know them very well?

I'm remembering Clara's crazy fuzz head when she was this age - her hair was so fine, and it stuck straight up in the air. Audrey's, so far, doesn't do this, and I'm still holding out hope it will have some curl!

Anyway...

I'm loving watching my girls interact with each other - especially now that Audrey is old enough to sit on the floor with Clara and 'play'. :)

And big enough to pretty much handle whatever amount of cuddling Clara decides to inflict on her. And she doesn't seem to mind at all. As I said in Audrey's 8 Month Post, she watches Clara with an intense focus - as though she is taking mental notes, and determined to learn everything her sister might have to teach her.

Clara had swivelled herself so that the book was away from Audrey here, because Audrey had been reaching out to grab it. I thought they looked really cute and of course I had to take a picture! 

Clara has started to find some things Audrey does annoying - like when she grabs her hair and refuses to let go - but for the most part she still adores her.  The first thing Clara says each morning is "Where's Audrey?" and if she hears Audrey wake from a nap, she announces "Audrey wake up! I want to see Audrey!".

The other day we had set Audrey - sitting - on the living room floor and we came back a few minutes later to see Clara sitting next to her with an open book - 'reading' to her sister. Audrey was listening intently. 

Sometimes when Audrey cries, Clara will inform us about what Audrey needs. "Audrey want her toy!" or "Audrey want to eat!"

Or sometimes, Clara will just tell us that "Audrey not very happy..."

When she's talking to Audrey, her voice takes on a slightly higher pitch as she demonstrates her own version of 'baby talk' for her sister. "Audrey! It's ok, Audrey... You having fun, Audrey?" 

Every once in awhile she tells us that she's fighting with Audrey, but she doesn't seem to understand that fighting is a bad thing. She and Audrey will each hold part of a toy and then giggle at each other while they move it slightly back and forth. I don't know where Clara picked this up, but it's hilarious. Maybe I should try to discourage it, but for now it's just a game they play - so I suppose it's ok?

So, I'm curious. Is the fact that they get along so wonderfully now any indication about the future? Can any parents out there tell me how their toddlers and babies got along, and if they did - did they also get along when they were older? Or, if they didn't, did they fight frequently later on as well? 

The only thing we consciously did when preparing Clara for Audrey's arrival was to talk about it a lot. We also told Clara all of the potentially negative things that would happen with a new baby in the house, just so she would hopefully be prepared. Maybe Clara is just an adaptable child, but she never minded moving out of the crib to make room for her sister, and she has almost never argued when any of her old toys or clothes have been handed down to her sister either. She will even say 'this is Audrey's now' when I tell her that an article of clothing is too small for her. 

I ran into a woman at the park today who had a toddler daughter as well, and she commented on how she 'couldn't imagine having two already!' in reference to myself and a friend of mine who were both there with our '2 under 2' sets of daughters. I commented back that because I knew we wanted Clara to have a close sibling, I didn't give myself time to think after having her - we just dove into preparing for Baby #2.  If I had given myself time to think about how tired I was - or how tired I would be, I probably would have wanted to wait to, but watching these girls interact is making me so glad we had them as close together as we did!

Last week sometime the girls and I came home after spending the morning out, and I put the girls down for their much-needed afternoon naps. We have a sort of boarder, a friend who lives in a room in our basement, and after about an hour he came upstairs to talk to me. 

He told me that the white box that plugs into the wall downstairs had been shreiking at him earlier in the day, and that he hadn't known what to do so he had simply unplugged it from the wall and removed the battery. 

Uh... that's the carbon monoxide detector.  

He had no idea, and he felt terrible, but really it's our fault for not explaining it to him.

Anyway, I knew a little bit about carbon monoxide poisoning, and I knew that if we had a serious leak there is no way he would have been comfortably hanging out downstairs for the past few hours. So I wasn't too panicked, but I came downstairs to check it out. 

I put the battery back into the detector, and plugged it back into the wall. It did nothing, so I told him to let me know if it happened again, and started to go back up the stairs. I was halfway up when the beep started again - and it was loud! I returned to the detector and read 'GAS' on the screen. A note on the device said that 'GAS' meant that the presence of explosive gas had been detected. 

Again, I knew that we were probably not in imminent danger, but I wasn't sure, so I had my friend take Audrey from her bassinet, and I woke Clara from her nap and we carried the girls outdoors and strapped them into the double stroller as far from the house as possible while still remaining in the yard - and in the shade. 

Then I called the fire department.

A few minutes later, the truck arrived and a crew came in to check the levels inside our house. Luckily it turned out that our detector had a dead battery, and it was malfunctioning in a most annoying manner.  The fire department crew found no trace of any dangerous gases in our home, and so we were able to safely return inside - although naptime was officially over! :) 

Clara enjoyed being able to see the fire truck up close, and we had a little bit of drama in our day.

For those of you who don't know, Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and deadly gas that kills hundreds of people in North America every year. When I was in college, I had a friend who had survived a CO leak after her dad had unknowingly blocked a vent in their home.  She and her sister had bedrooms in their basement and they had both suddenly become dizzy, unable to walk, and began vomitting. Someone upstairs in the home had also developed sudden symptoms, and an emergency crew was able to remove both girls - by then unconscious - from their home.  It was only by the grace of God that they survived, because they discovered later - after opening all doors and windows and airing the house out for 3 hours - that the levels of CO in the house were still more than twice the level that is considered deadly. 

Stay safe! Install a carbon monoxide detector in the lowest level of your home and have the batteries checked and replaced regularly. The fire crew that came to our house recommended we change the batteries every 6 months, or at least once per year.  Also, be aware of the symptoms - CO poisoning can cause headache, dizziness, weakness, confusion, vomiting, and ultimately death. If you suspect CO poisoning, get yourself outside into fresh air immediately, and call 911 or the fire department! 

Check out this site or more information on keeping your home safe.  This article on Chemistry.About.com has some information on carbon monoxide as well. 

Monday, 08 July 2013 07:00

Audrey at 8 Months Old!

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My Dear Audrey,

You have gone from being the baby who hates nothing, to being the baby who hates everything. Not seriously, but you are certainly fussier these past few weeks than you have been in your life so far. I hope we will soon see a few teeth pop through those gums, because I suspect this is the problem.

You are still breastfed, but I may not make it to a full year with you like I did with Clara. You just aren't as interested in breastfeeding as she was, and you much prefer a bottle.  At this stage in your life, I don't feel like it's worth convincing my boobs to 'put out' for a pump, and so you may be transitioning to formula or milk soon.  You are old enough to get all of your nutrients from solids at this point, but you still seem to want to suck on something, so I don't want to give up milk entirely for you. 

Speaking of eating, I have taken a different approach to feeding you than I did with your sister. With Clara, I carefully mashed all of her foods and paid strict attention to babyfood labels that said 9 months +, or 12 months +.  With you, I breastfed exclusively until you were six months old (Clara was only 4 months when we started introducing rice cereal), and so I have been giving you just about everything - as long as it's not a choking hazard.

This includes baby foods with some texture, fruits and breads that dissolve easily, and mashed foods also.  I've been buying you babyfood instead of making it exclusively because 1-it's just not happening, so if it were up to me you'd get almost entirely rice cereal and 2-I read an article that said store bought babyfood, because of strict health and sanitary guidelines, was probably safer from germs than food made in your own kitchen. I'm not particularly concerned about kitchen germs, but the article made me feel less guilty about not making food myself.  So, you're getting a much richer variety of foods than I would remember to make at home.  And so far, you seem to enjoy everything!

This month you've had your first bath with your sister, although your part of it was very short. You love kicking in the water, and we hope to take you to the swimming pool soon, because I think you'll love that too.  We've been getting better at bathing you (don't even ask how often you were bathed in the first three months of your life... the number might be 3... I'm so sorry...), which is in part because you have been sweating a lot at night and despite what anyone says - baby sweat stinks!  Because of this also, you've been getting first-thing-in-the-morning baths which we never did with Clara. 

When I took this picture of you in your bassinet, I was shocked at how huge you looked - because you were still spending most of your nights in it! We have been back and forth on transitioning you into your crib but because of your size we were rapidly running out of another option for you.  Some nights you would sleep great in the crib, and we were really excited about that, but some nights you would cry a lot and we didn't think it was fair to Clara (or us) to do that. 

So, we finally moved the bassinet out of our room and replaced it with a playpen, where you will spend your nights for a few months until we have established a routine with you.  At this age, we had established a bottle-story-bed routine with Clara already, and because we have been putting you down either before or after Clara, you have not been a part of this all the time. I would like to start getting you used to an evening routine as well, and as soon as we feel confident that you are used to your routine - which includes sleeping in the playpen - for a few weeks, we will try to move the routine into the crib in Clara's room. Worst case scenario, we bribe you with the freedom and fun of a toddler bed when you're 2. Only 16 months to go... 

It's funny how some things that were previously so important to us, can change so quickly. We never would have 'approved' of having a baby sleep in our room at 8 months old - but here you are, and we're ok with it, because it makes our lives easier for now. 

You still love to be swaddled, which is irritating since you also fight the swaddle and can conquer all blankets. Recently my friend passed along an infant sleep sack that they didn't like for their daughter, but it's basically a long, narrow, stretchy sleep sack with snaps on the arm holes, so you can zip it up with baby's arms inside the bag. It doesn't hold your arms as tightly as a swaddle does, but you can't pull your soother out of your mouth - which has been the biggest problem - so we actually really love it for you.  We need to buy another one, speaking of stinky sweaty babies - so we can alternate washing them more easily. 

I quicklly took this picture with my phone. I had left you and Clara alone for a few minutes 'playing' in the living room while I was tidying in the kitchen or something, and I came back to this. Clara had opened a container of body lotion (one of those sudden toddler developments that she had never previously done before) and decided that you needed some 'sun screen'.  I'm glad I walked in when I did, because some of this is dangerously close to your eye, and you weren't complaining at all.  You absolutely adore your sister, and watch her with intent concentration as though you are taking mental notes about everything she does. 

You're moving a lot more, although you still won't crawl forwards. You try to call by pushing with your arms, so you end up sliding yourself backwards on the floor. You can swivel your body in all directions, though, so you manage to get yourself around somewhat. 

When I discovered you on this mat by the front door, you had the corner of this carpet in your mouth and were ravenously gnawing at it. Since it was already in your mouth, I figured a few extra seconds wouldn't hurt so I could get a photo, but you did the deer-in-headlights thing and just stared at the camera. 

I think you may start walking before you truly crawl. When anyone tries to put you down on the floor, you stiffen your body and try to keep yourself on your feet. When you are held upright, you confidently put one foot in front of the other foot already, so although you have no idea how to balance yourself yet - you get the idea behind walking.  

I've commented before on how I don't feel any instant 'connection' with my babies - Clara was born and she was just as much a mystery to me that day as she had been before I saw her face, and it was the same with you. As you grow, and I get to know you better, and my role in your life changes more in the relationship direction instead of strictly as a biological life and sustenance provider, I fall deeper and deeper in love with you.  You are becoming more and more your own person, who laughs - and cries - at very different things than your sister did, and so you surprise us each day.  

I love you immensely my dear girl - and I thank God daily for blessing me with you.  

 

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