Today's post(s) may contain graphic (some might say "intimate") descriptions of events (and anatomy), and may not be suitable for all readers. Some things, once known, cannot be un-known ;P

New Readers: This blog is funniest (totally biased opinion) if read from earliest to most recent post - so start at the bottom! And please "follow" if you like it!

Friday, 28 February 2014

Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Boosters, and Belly Button Rings

It's been forever since I've blogged. Not for lack of material; just lack of time/energy! This morning, however, I am filled with a powerful fury that needs an outlet. Writing is the mot appropriate one I can think of ;) However...that is all a tease, because the source of my rage will nt be the topic of this post :P

Baby 2 is nearing 2 years old! He's almost 22 months, anyhow. And it is only now that I can say I've regained my pre-baby body. I remember when I started to get back into shape a few months after his birth, my pilates instructor told me it takes and average of 18 months to return to your former glory - and I scoffed - who has that much time?? I had a wedding looming, so needed to lose my baby belly STAT. And I did. Sort of. I lost enough weight to look cute in  my beachy wedding dress, and compared to bing pregnant, I was quite pleased with my body's progress.

There is a big difference between "acceptable" and "good", though - and good, I was not. Not when I had spent most of my life as a skinny girl, and suddenly found myself uncomfortably close to the top of my healthy weight range :s For the first time in my life, I had to diet. And work out regularly. I chose Weight Watchers (online) on the recommendation of a friend, and paired it with 1-3 times weekly sessions with Jillian Michaels (on my TV, sadly). It worked! In about 3 months, I managed to lose the 23lbs that was my goal. I am now learning how to maintain my weight, and it's a work in progress - but I can say that I am HAPPY with my body - AFTER 2 BABIES! :) I'm not going to go on about the process, but am happy to discuss it with anyone who would like to message me, and highly recommend WW and JM to anyone looking to shed some poundage.

What struck me this morning, though, was the state of my belly button. Now that my belly has a distinctly different shape, I've noticed that my belly button looks different - a telltale sign that I've had children - but what's worse is the EXTRA belly button I have above it. Before Baby 1, I had a belly button ring. I took it out as my belly gre with him, for fear of it tearing through the skin and other horrific things I'd heard about :s And I never put it back in. But unlike an ear piercing, navel piercings are done with a hollow needle that actually removes a column of flesh :s - and that doesn't grow back. You've got that hole forever.

I briefly considered reinserting a ring to fill that hole - but quickly realized I'd then be just an old person with a belly button ring. Plus, it would interfere with wearing my pants up nice and high, as old people are wont to do. Okay, I'm not quite there yet, but let's face it Mommis: no matter how much weight you lose, that belly of yours will likely never have the same texture it used to - and low rise jeans are no longer our friends. I'm not ready for the under-boob rise, but have certainly graduated to the "mid-rise". Sigh.

While I have been working to lose weight, my babies have been gaining. The Little Guy must have gone through a growth spurt because he suddenly started EATING. Meal time no longer requries an hour-long song and dance effort just to get him to ingest the minimum nutritional components to sustain life! It's s friggin' miracle, I tell you. I honestly wondered on almost a daily basis how he continued to live - and thrive! - on the amount he was previously force fed. Now, I don't have to worry (as much - as if we ever stop, right?). Baby 2, who I now refer to as my Medium Sized Guy (I do realize at almost 2 and almost 5, neither qualifies as a baby anymore), has become interested in the scale, too - he wants to "grow bigger", so has been stepping on the scale every night, hoping for an increase. He's been eating up a storm lately, as well, and has finally broken the 40lb mark! Do you know what that means? He is big enough for a booster, instead of a full car seat.

People have varying thoughts about this, I'm sure. Personally, I've always been a car seat snob and put a high value on my child's in-vehicle safety. As such, I have never considered a booster before. We have a Diono Radian RXT and a Britax Frontier CT that keep the Medium Sized Guy secure and protected in a 5-point harness up to 65lbs. BUT...they are not cheap! And while the Britax seat actually IS very easy to switch between cars, sometimes the logistics don't make sense - for example: child is sick at school, Gramma is going to pick him up, but Gramma has no carseat and Mommi has hers in car at work... Do you buy another $360 carseat for Gramma's car? If yes, you rock. And we did, when there was only one baby to transport. But since then, we reclaimed that seat we gave to Gramma (actually, she pruchased her own, so we are technically borrowing hers - isn't she wonderful?).

When Gramma has plans to take the boys out, we switch cars, so she has access to both ultra-safe seats in one of our vehicles. But for occasional and unexpected trips, like the sick child at school scenario, or extremely short trips, like just the drive to and from school (about 1 1/2 minutes in a 40km zone), another $360 seemed a bit much. So...I caved and bought my first booster. It's a super ghetto booster, too :s We used it for the first time this morning, and I was horrified. Do people actually use these things for their children on a regular basis???  I know that the answer is yes. The booster seat itself does not even attach in any way to the vehicle seat! The regular seat belt barely contains any part of my wiggly child! And he plastic clip thingy that brings the seat belt in closer above his shoulder? - a joke! Just crazy. I spent the whle 1 1/2 minutes drive looking at him in the reareview mirror, sure he was about to be dislodged at any moment - and THAT can't be safe, either.

So...I'm saving up for another couple $360 carseats...and you should, too!

Also: Avoid the dilemma and an extra belly button. Just don't pierce your navel to begin with. My two cents for the day! :)

(P.S. I am actually much less ragey, so this writing therapy worked!!! :D)
(P.P.S. Oh, until I started thinking about it again. Now, ragey, ragey, rage, rage.)

Almost-Entirely Unrelatead Car Seat Humour. Just because.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Dear Childless Friends

Dear Childless Friends,

When we become parents, our lives change - but we are still largely the people we were before. And we miss you. We still want to go out, have fun, socialize - and we do. It's just that most of the time spontaneous events can't happen.

If we want to go to a party, for example, it takes advanced planning. We need to check not only our own schedules, but those of our children's appointments, sports, and activities, as well. If the time in question is "free", we then need to call a babysitter (and babysitters are limited, by the way, and consist primarily of family members if the children needing care are very young), and see if that time is ALSO free for them.

Then we need to check our bank accounts and see if we can afford to go to whatever the event is AND pay a babysitter (they're not $5 an hour anymore).

If all roads lead to "YES", we then have to hope and pray and perform good luck rituals so that no unexpected catastrophe or hurdle presents itself between the time we have accepted the social invitation and the event itself. And you would be surprised at the number of catastrophes that occur in any given week!

IF the Gods smile upon us, and we make it to the party, we are probably exhausted. We did not have a "pre-game nap", like we used to do before a big night out. And guess what? That babysitter goes home when we get in. And we have to get in that same night, which means we're not getting wasted enough to block our our fatigue - nor are we wasted enough to not care when you give us a hard time for leaving before 2am, and rag on us for being "boring", "lame", and "old". Good times for all, huh?

Since that babysitter went home, and our children don't care how late we stayed out the night before, we are up with them at 7am (if we're lucky!), and will stay up - and active - with them for the whole day. Our hangover recovery time is about 3 days now - and we don't even have to have had anything to drink to have that hungover feeling.

You might be wondering: why do we even bother then? It's because we love you, and miss you. We WANT to come out and have a good time with you. So we suck it up and make the effort, and deal with our misery the next day.

But that's why it sucks so much when we feel like you're not willing to make an effort for us. Give us some notice. Offer to come to us sometimes. (Those gracious offers to allow us to bring our children with us to your house are thoughtful…but spending the entire time wrangling our kid from destroying your possessions or finding their perilous deaths because your house isn’t child-proofed isn’t actually that fun for us.) Maybe meet us for dinner or a more low-key event earlier in the night (you can still go out and enjoy your youth and freedom afterwards, even!). And maybe try not to give us such a hard time, when we've gone to great lengths to spend some time with you.

Many of you may also become parents down the road, and I can't even offer a threat or warning of "what goes around comes around". Because once you've joined The Parenthood, we are obligated to welcome you and keep company your misery - you're now our brothers in arms. So no, there will be no payback, no repercussions for you not doing unto us as we will later have to do unto you. This is just me venting. But maybe, just maybe, someone reading this will remember it and give their old friends (who then became parents and now they never see) a call - make some plans that are more feasible for them. Or just slap them on the back and tell them you're glad they came when they have to leave an event earlier than you. Something.

And for those of you IN The Parenthood already, well, hopefully your own misery enjoyed the company of mine while reading this ;)

Here are some supporting videos you may enjoy :P


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Okay, Fine, I'm Screening Your Calls

Recently, I've been taking a lot of flack from a few people who are frustrated that I rarely answer their phone calls.  It's not that I consciously choose not to answer them, and it's not exactly "screening"...

The home phone has become a glorified answering machine.  Neither my husband nor I ever give that number out as one by which to reach us.  The home number is saved solely for registering for services like hydro and water and cable and our home security system.  We sometimes use it to make long distance calls.  But otherwise, only telemarketers call us on it (and Tara and our moms, when sometimes stalking us, because we didn't answer our cell phones).  Furthermore, it has a "night mode" setting on it, which we have set to NOT RING between 7pm and 7am, because we sure as hell don't want to talk to telemarketers then, and it reduces the risk of me killing someone because their call work up the kids.  See?  SAFETY FIRST! ;)  This line does have call display, which I sometimes check for missed calls, and voicemail - but the voicemail recording specifically tells callers that they will receive a faster response by contacting us at our cell numbers (not given - those who need them, have them).

If you call us on our cell phones, we will try to answer. BUT, if we are trying to sleep, our phones will be set to silent, and we will not hear your call.  If we are awake, our phones are set to vibrate.  Cell phone vibrations are LOUD - loud enough, anyway.  I know I'm not alone in preferring this setting, because I hear an actual ringtone so infrequently these days, that I actually find them jarring and alarming!  I teach teenagers, who are not allowed to use their phones in class, so they all become accustomed to operating in stealth mode at a young age, and I really believe this will be the way of the world in years to come.  I digress...  If the environment we are in is too loud for us to hear our phones vibrating, it is also too loud for us to have a phone conversation with you - so no opportunity lost!

Seriously: how much do you like repeating yourself, because I didn't hear you the first (or second or third) time, because there's a child screaming, or a truck crashing (toy, I mean), or a baby crying, or Handy Manny carrying on in Spanish on the TV?  Annoying, right?  And how 'bout when I have to interrupt our conversation because Avery wants to know where a snake's poop comes out, or I have to save one of my children from certain death?  D  I can't focus solely on what you're saying, I'm not being a very good conversationalist - I KNOW this - because I've felt super annoyed when it's happened to me, the other way around!

So, yes: sometimes when I hear my phone vibrating, I look at the screen to see who is calling, and if it is not the police or Children's Aid, I make the conscious decision to not answer your call.  This is to save YOU the aggravation of the annoying phone conversation I know would ensue, and  NOT because I don't want to talk to you. I'll try to remember to call you back the next time I get a conducive minute.  I will often send you a text instead - not to be impersonal or evasive, but because I can read and type while children are hollering, and I can read and respond to electronic messages in bits and pieces - I just can't TALK or HEAR.

Really, the best time to actually have a phone conversation with me is when I'm driving - withOUT kids in the car!  A rare occurrence.  But it does happen - Monday to Friday from 3-3:30pm, when I'm driving home from work!  The kids are in bed by 9 at the latest (well, HOPEfully :s), but to be honest?   By that time, I'm so worn out from talking, talking, talking...I really just don't want to talk!  I want to have a half hour to be with my husband (or not!), just decompressing, before I got to bed (yes, I DO go to bed at 9:30 - sometimes even on weekends - because, you know what? Demands on my time on the weekend don't really change much from the work week!).

I'm sorry.  That's just the way it is.

I'm ending with links to two related articles, not authored by me - just in case you don't believe what I'm telling you here ;)  Pick your poison:

Read this for hilarity: This is what a Stay-at-Home Mom Does All Day

Read this for sincerity: Tell Me About It

Now, tell ME about it! :)  What did you think of this post?  Leave a comment here - or call me between 3 and 3:30pm to discuss by phone :P

Baby 2's First Steps and "The Last Time"

Baby 2 took his first two independent steps on Sunday, April 21st, 2013.  He was 2 1/2 weeks short of his first birthday, my wonder child :)  Of course, we didn't catch it on video - and when we tried to recreate the scenario with the camera ready, he wasn't having it.  He was gracious enough to do this in the middle of the living room, though, during one of my Sunday Family Dinners, so there were lots of witnesses!  And I take that as his silent support of my SFD initiative, also ;)

Getting excited about his "firsts" reminded me of an article I read a couple months ago, that really hit home for me.  I didn't write it.  A friend shared a link to it on her facebook wall (thank you, Tara!), and I thought I'd share the text of it with you, here.

Devon Corneal's
"The Last Time"

Tonight, Little Dude asked for a snuggle before bed. It was well past his bedtime and I was tired, cranky and had a stack of laundry to fold, a memo to write and a blog post to finish. I told him I'd snuggle for two minutes.

He crawled under his blanket, squirmed until he was comfortable and pushed me to the edge of the mattress. He offered me his favorite blankie to keep me warm. I put my arm around him and he was sound asleep before I had finished cataloguing the list of things I had to do before I could crawl into my own bed. I considered making a stealthy escape but stopped when he threw his arm around my neck while mumbling unintelligibly. A sleeping 4-year old's arm has as much strength as a soggy piece of toast, but I didn't move. Despite my earlier desire to leave, I stayed and pulled him toward me.

I had one of those rare blissful parenting moments when everything else fades away and you appreciate the simple physical presence of your child. I marveled at the amount of heat a small boy produces when he sleeps and the ease with which he leaves the world behind. I smelled his hair. The laundry could wait.

It hit me in the darkness of his cluttered room that these days are numbered. Some night in the future, Little Dude will ask me to snuggle with him before he falls asleep, and I will have no idea that it will be the last time. I won't know to pay attention or to try to commit every minute to memory. Days or weeks or months later, I will try to recall when that last snuggle happened. I won't be able to. I know I will ache to slide next to him on his narrow bed, listen to him breathe and wait for the moment when he surrenders to his dreams. All of the irritations, the inconveniences and the wishing for time alone will seem insignificant in comparison to the warmth and peace of his nighttime routine. I will regret the times I hurried through bedtime and left his room even though he asked me to stay "Just one more minute, Mommy."

It will be too late.

I just now understand that in anticipating my son's "firsts," I've forgotten to appreciate what he's left behind. The firsts are monumental, celebrated and captured on film. I reveled in Little Dude's first steps, jotted down his first words and am prepared to save lost teeth. There isn't a first I haven't recorded in some way. I've paid less attention to his "lasts." I've ignored the finality that comes with moving from one stage to another.

I don't remember the last day that Little Dude's eyes were blue before they turned green. I can't recall the last time his hair was baby soft and curly, or the last time he crawled or took a real nap. I can't pinpoint the last time we shared the peaceful quiet of a 3 a.m. feeding, or he squealed with joy to be riding his wooden rocking horse. There will be a hundred last times to come. And I won't know they've passed until there is no hope of recapturing them. I know this because I don't remember the last day he used a pacifier or waited for us to get him from his bed rather than clomping into our bedroom at some ungodly pre-dawn hour exuberant and ready to face the day as we struggle to open our eyes. I've forgotten when he stopped liking sweet potatoes or saying "Pick mine up!"

Not that there aren't stages I'm happy are gone. I don't miss teething, two-hour feedings, biting or needing to be carried everywhere. I'm neither Pollyanna nor a masochist. Babies are darling; I'm also glad I don't have one anymore. Raising children isn't all warm snuggles and charming memories. Parenting can be a long, hard slog.

But for today I'm focusing on the last times still to come, even though I won't know that they're the last chapters until long after they've gone. The last snuggle. The last time Little Dude asks me to bring him chocolate milk. The last time we play fire trucks. The last time he falls down and comes crying to me with his entire body shaking, tears streaming down his face, believing with childish certainty that a kiss from me will make his skinned knee better. The last time he asks to marry me. The last time he believes in my omniscience. The last time we color together at the kitchen table. I'm not naïve enough to believe that this moment of reflection will stop me from becoming irritated, impatient, frustrated, bored or upset tomorrow when my son whines, spills spaghetti sauce on the rug or throws a fit because I won't let him stay up late. Maybe, though, I'll temper my response if I can remember how fleeting this all is. That for every moment I've prayed would end, there is something I miss.

 Like Corneal, I'm not naive either - I still get angry, frustrated, impatient...but this realization has caused me to spend a little more time, snuggling in bed with my oldest; it has made me a little bit wistful when I see my youngest doing things that my oldest has since stopped doing. If it was even possible, it has maybe made me a little bit more aware of HOW MUCH I love them, and how all the crap parts of parenthood, while far outnumbering the good, can never outweigh them :)

Friday, 12 April 2013

Tradition-Preservation Society of One

People change, lives change, and traditions get forgotten.  The last part makes me inherently sad :(

"A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past...Traditions can persist and evolve for thousands of years—the word "tradition" itself derives from the Latin tradere or traderer literally meaning to transmit, to hand over, to give for safekeeping...A number of factors can exacerbate the loss of tradition...In response to this, tradition-preservation attempts have now been started in many countries around the world...Tradition is usually contrasted with the goal of modernity" (wikipedia).

Consider me, then, a Tradition-Preservation Society of one.

Here is a bit of background: My mother once said she had two only-children.  I have a brother - technically a half-brother, from my dad's previous marriage - but I can picture my dad rolling over in his grave right now, because in life, he'd become furious if I ever referred to him as my half brother.  My brother lived with my dad (his biological father, as well as mine) and mom (his stepmother), in the same house I was raised in, with the same rules, etcetera - but because of the 12-year age difference between us, we didn't really have a typical sibling relationship, and it would be a bit deceiving to say we were raised "together".  My cousins on my dad's side of the family were the same age as my brother, so considerably older than me, as well.  My cousins on my mom's side of the family were closer in age to me, but were also significantly closer to their cousins on the other side of their family, so placed higher priority on functions and occasions celebrated with them, than with my family.  All of this is natural, to be expected, and understandable - but the cumulative effect is that I didn't form close relationships with any of my extended family members.

The age difference that plagued my childhood and disabled close familial relationships, now, threatens to have the same effect on my own children - and I desperately want to prevent that.  My kids don't have any relatives close in age to them. Because of my own situation growing up, I know that this arrangement doesn't naturally lead to forming close relationships - they have to be worked at. I want my children to have a different experience; I want them to have many close relationships among members of their extended family, and I know that a real effort is going to have to be made to facilitate that.

Avery and Ashton love spending time with people they feel comfortable with - but that feeling of ease only comes with time - time spent TOGETHER with other family members. I know it isn't evident in Ashton yet at less than a year old, but it is in Avery, and Ashton won't be far behind. They don't care about who bought them the coolest present or brought them the best treat that one time they came by last month; they care about who got down on the floor and played cars with them, or took them to the park, or had a tickle fight with them, and who they see on a regular basis.

I thought that a good way to facilitate opportunities for our extended family members to do these things with the kids would be to bring back the Sunday Family Dinner.  The bonus, for attendees (in addition to the lifelong relationship with and adoration of our children ;)) would be a delicious (most of the time), home-cooked (most of the time) meal! :) It's not all about the kids, of course - Justin and I want to see our extended family, too!  They're our family, we love them, and we want to see them - ALL of them! :)

But sadly...there will not be a Family Dinner this Sunday. Well, there will be - but only our immediate family will be there, because no one RSVPed "yes" this week. In fact, hardly anyone bothered to RSVP at all. Although we've had several successful dinners, with some family members in attendance, My Sunday Family Dinner initiative, on the whole, has been rather poorly received and attended :( Not only that, but attendance at Holiday Family Dinners has been dwindling, as well :( :(

This is very disappointing and discouraging, because spending time with our extended family is important to us. When people don't even bother to acknowledge the invitation, or don't prioritize getting together with us, or break commitments they have made to us, it is hurtful. I haven't known what to do about it. It makes me sad, then it makes me mad, then it makes me perplexed. Constant rejection is hard to endure. My instinct is to just stop trying - but my dad wouldn't have liked that - and then no one, including my children, benefits at all :( I don't think I could stop trying in good conscience, unless I have given it everything I've got. Maybe if everyone understood where I'm coming from, why traditions and family functions are so important to me, and just how important all of them are to my little immediate family (even if they boys don't realize it yet)...it would make a difference.

I know it's not always convenient - it's a long drive, it interferes with work, there's something more exciting to do, it's more effort than simply staying at home - and I realize that my immediate family is quite inflexible about the times at which we can be available and places we can meet at, due to the kids' schedules (and yes, to me being a Sleep Nazi). But this stability and regularity is only for the first few years, and I feel it is more reasonable to ask adults to be flexible and make small sacrifices, than children and infants. Sharing time together and creating lasting family traditions is important! And, in my opinion anyway, worth the inconvenience.

We want to see all of our extended family members at birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, for sure! And, in the interest of trying to make things as feasible as possible for everyone, we have chosen unpopular days on which to celebrate: Thanksgiving and Easter are always celebrated in our home on the Saturdays of the holiday weekends, and Christmas dinner is always held on Christmas Eve day. But, really, a few times a year is not enough to build lasting bonds with children. They need to see their family more than that.

I don't know what other families do as far as traditions go, or when they might have family gatherings for no reason at all. But whatever the arrangement, if you have mini humans in your life in one capacity or another, I hope you'll think about my little diatribe here, think about what's important in your life, too...consider committing to the odd Family Dinner and other occasions :)

Monday, 25 February 2013

Master of the Universe

That's a He-Man reference, by the way.  I wonder how many readers will get that.  To be honest, I barely remember He-Man - he's a fuzzy figure related to She-Ra: Princess of Power on the earliest edge of my memory.  I wanted to find some images to support this post, so I did a Google search and it got me to thinking...

I titled this post Master of the Universe, because that's what my ex-husband seems to think he is, believing that he knows all, and is the only person capable of teaching our child all he needs to know in life (you know - essential skills like baseball and tree planting).  But upon finding some images, it struck me that he kind of resembles He-Man, too!  He would love that.  But, you know what?  There was a brief period in my life where I didn't look too far off from She-Ra, either!  And I vaguely remember my mom making me a She-Ra costume one Halloween...I wonder if I still have it...

Well, anyway, a quick Wikipedia consult reminded me of another detail I had forgotten: Did you know He-Man and She-Ra were brother and sister?  Twins, actually.  In my mind, they were kind of dating :s  And with images like THIS, what was I supposed to think??  Raises some questions in my mind...  And I would like to point out that my ex-husband and I were never twins, or related in any way other than through marriage.

Ooh!  But She-Ra and I do have something else in common, too: a love of horses - and superior equitation skills ;)  I have owned a few great horses in my day, but I must admit, Swiftwind kicks their asses, being a pegasus unicorn and all...

Getting to the point, it is that time of year, when mommis and daddis must decide which sports and activities they'd like to register their children for.  I learned the hard way last year that registration happens WAY earlier than you might expect!  And the early bird gets the worm - or the best times slots for activities, anyway.   In 2012, Avery participated in swimming and skating.  I missed out on gymnastics and hockey, by being too late :(  He LOVED both of them.  He really thrives in the group lesson setting, and is WAY better behaved for the instructors than we ever thought possible.  He's been in swimming lessons since he was an infant, but this year was the first year one of us wasn't in the water with him.  The experience has been amazing for him.  He went from being a kid who didn't like having his hair washed because the water might go in his eyes, to a kid who dunks himself right under the water in the pool voluntarily, again and again!  In skating (which we call "hockey"), he went from a kid who couldn't stand up on his skates, to a kid who can stand up, get up when he falls, jump, and skate all the way around the rink multiple times without falling! He doesn't really "push and glide" just yet - it's more like walking - but it's a huge improvement, and throughout his lessons, he has never been discouraged by falling or struggling, and is enthusiastic about his progress.  We support his learning by taking him ourselves to public swims and skates as often as we can - but the trained instructors have little methods that work better than ours, and are able to help this kids in ways we can't.

This is where my ex-husband and I disagree.  I asked him last night which sports or activities he wanted Avery to participate in for 2013, suggesting swimming, soccer, t-ball, hockey, and skiing or snowboarding.  Master of the Universe supports Avery's involvement in none of these, or any other activities :(  He knows how to snowboard, and was a pretty good baseball player in his day, so feels that he is the best person to teach Avery these skills, but not until he is older.  He didn't comment at all on any of the other activities.  He said he took Avery snowboarding once this year, but the child lacked the leg strength and understanding to be successful, and was too distracted by eating snow.  Fair enough; he's 3 1/2.  But if we were to enroll Avery in Snowboard School, it would be for the very end of 2013, when he is a full year older.  (Aside: Avery and I went for a walk yesterday, and beforehand, he was very tired. When we got back, I was exhausted, but he was raring to go.  I asked him why, and he said, "I was tired but then I ate some snow, and then I wasn't tired anymore."  This could be the secret to eternal youth, and we just don't know it.  I've taught him about coloured snow, and I'm aware of acid rain and such...but come on...how many of us ate snow as children, and have lived to tell about it??)  Furthermore, he feels that Avery is too young for "organized ball", and needs to "learn the fundamentals, one on one" before engaging in t-ball.

That's total crap.  He has never come to any of Avery's lessons or performances (Christmas concerts and the like), so hasn't seen how much the kid thrives in such settings.  I'm all for his dad supporting his endeavours with opportunities to learn from him and practice his skills outside of formal lessons, but an almost-4 year old is very capable of participating in organized sports, and I think there is a lot to be said about formal instruction.  The people who coach and teach kids' sports are trained in TEACHING, and know ways to make the learning fun for the age group they are working with.  There is a difference between being good at something, and knowing how to teach it to others - especially children!  My ex accused me of "not understanding the role of parents, especially the duties of a 'dad'" (he put the quotations around "dad" himself - teehee).

He-Man, and all of the other Masters of the Universes out there need to realize that entrusting someone else to teach your child a skill is not a reflection of or insult to your own abilities.  PLUS, playing sports with other kids is FUN!  Kids develop social skills, sportsmanship, and more, in addition to whatever the particular sport or activity is.  Luckily, He-Man doesn't have final say on the matter.  He was too focused on the bottom line, dollar-wise, in our Separation Agreement to care about details like who actually makes decisions about our child's welfare (She-Ra!).  So, Avery will be playing soccer, t-ball, and hockey this year, as well as continuing his swimming lessons, and perhaps taking a music or arts program, if he shows any interest.

I'm not going to become one of those stage-mommis, who put incredible pressure on their children.  But I am certainly going to encourage both of my children to try different things, and to get involved in activities they enjoy.  Avery is 3 1/2, and a total SPONGE!  He absorbs everything, and wants more.  He LOVES learning, and you can actually see him blossoming in these lessons.  He is excited to share his new skills with us (Mama, Daddy Jussie, Gramma, Auntie Pat, Grandma JenJen, primarily), wanting us to watch him, and showing us what he's learned when we engage in these activities with him outside of his lesson times.  That kid really IS Master of HIS Universe - and ours! :)

I haven't written any baby updates in a long time, either, and he's a Mini Master, himself! :D  He is now 9 1/2 months, and has been crawling since about 5 months, standing since 7, and being able to get down from a stand since about 8.  He is now "cruising" - I believe that is the correct term for walking while holding onto things?  I remember reading that sleeping is sometimes disturbed when babies are hitting developmental milestones, and prefer to practice their new skills in the middle of the night (or naptime) than to sleep - and this couldn't be more true for Baby Ashton!  Right around 8 months, he suddenly stopped sleeping through the night.  He would wake, and where he would previously have just rolled over and gone back to sleep, we found him pulling himself to a stand in his crib, then crying because he didn't know how to get down!  After a few terrible weeks (sleep-wise), Ashton spent an entire hour in his crib when he was supposed to be napping, just getting up, looking behind himself, and letting himself fall onto his bum about 200 times - happily!  And that was that!  He had mastered getting down, and returned to his good-sleeping baby self! :)  Mini Master of our Universe!

My point (and I do have one), is that we should leave the mastery to he kids, check our egos at the door, support our kids' efforts and interests, and provide them with as many learning and social development opportunities as we can.  And, He-Man?  Consider me your Skeletor.  (Provided that Skeletor has our child's best interests at heart ;))

What are your thoughts on toddler sports and activities?  What will your children be participating in this year?  If you like this blog, please share it with others and become a follower! :D

Thursday, 29 November 2012

There's a Reason You're Supposed to get Married, THEN have Kids

It's so that you don't have to take your kids with you on your honeymoon.

Justin and I got married! It was a destination wedding, or "Weddingmoon" if, like us, you are too poor to afford another week away after your destination wedding ;) The wedding was beautiful and perfect. On the beach of Paradise Island, Bahamas, my best friend waited for me, looking dashingly handsome and holding our almost-6 month old (in coordinating shorts and shirt with the groomsmen) - awww! But wait, it got cuter: my dad passed away shortly before my first wedding, so I needed someone to walk me down the aisle. Who better to fill that big man's shoes than my 3 year old! It was touching and adorable - and the stars aligned to have him actually behaving himself for the few minutes necessary for the ceremony! Bunch of words, some great tunes (processional: Lauryn Hill's "Tell Him" - think it's a weird choice? The lyrics are pretty much Corinthians 13...recessional: City and Colour's "The Girl" - a song Justin played on the guitar for me early in our relationship, first dance (which took place later, but I'm telling you now): Adele's "One and Only"), a few swoon-worthy tears from my groom...and we were officially a family, in legal terms ;)

*Photos by the fabulous Beth and Ty*

It was just perfect. However...the trip on the whole, was not :s. One of the problems was just that we were trying to cram 4 vacations into 1: a wedding/honeymoon, a family vacation, a friends trip, and an extended family trip. It wasn't possible to please everyone, or ourselves; we couldn't fit in everything everyone wanted to do; we all had different agendas. But, being a blog on mommihood, I won't go on about that: I'll focus on the traveling with kids part :)

Given that stressing and worrying and obsessing about things is kind of my deal, I began well in advance of ever leaving. The first thing I honed all of my crazy-mommi powers on was choosing the wedding date and resort. Time-wise, we had to get married between June and December - because it had to be AFTER I had given birth, and before I returned to work post-parental leave (I am a teacher, so can't request vacation time outside regular school holidays, which happen to be the busiest and most expensive times to travel - other than the summer, but I am morally opposed to paying to go somewhere hot when it is hot in our own backyard). And we wanted a hot, destination wedding, so that eliminated a lot of options. Because we were going to be traveling with kids, I was even more afraid of food and water-borne illnesses in countries like Dominican Republic. Justin was afraid of getting murdered in Mexico. We like Jamaica, but wanted somewhere closer so that some guests could go for a shorter duration if they liked. So, we chose the Bahamas. Then we wanted an all-inclusive, because it's ridiculously expensive to eat there and we didn't want our guests to be blind-sided. There are only 3 all-inclusives on the beach in the Bahamas: Atlantis was out of our price range; Breezes looked great and offered Martha Stewart wedding packages!...but was 16+, which would have been awesome, had we not had children...; so, the RIU Palace Paradise Island it was! I had heard good things about RIUs, so we booked it!

First note: just because a resort allows children, does not mean it is child-friendly :s But I'll get to that; I need to go I order or I'll miss something.

My next source of anxiety and distress was over the actual getting-there of the trip. My kids had never flown, and as anyone who has read any of the previous posts on this blog will know, I'm a sleep nazi, and don't like anything to interfere with my kids' sleep schedules. Because I am one of the unluckiest people in the world, the only flight offered as part of our vacation package was at 6:20am, which would mean having to wake the kids at like 2:30am. I believe you should almost NEVER wake a sleeping baby, so this caused me many hours of angst - but try as I might, I couldn't find a way around it. I resigned myself to the fact that the first day would totally suck because we'd all be exhausted and cranky, but MAYBE a nap or 2 would happen, and restore order for the night and following day. Now, as luck would have it (please see above re. my luck :s), Hurricane Sandy would blast through the Caribbean and cancel our flight anyway! All that worry for nothing! New worry focus: saving the wedding. That's not what this blog is about, so I will spare you the details, but must say this: Cancellation Insurance is in case you decide to cancel your trip for some reason, right? Right...but it also protects you if the airline decides to cancel the flight, doesn't delay or reschedule it, and you and your wedding guests stand to lose upwards of $30 grand. We had not purchased cancellation insurance :s Long story short, I played travel agent and managed to get us back on track - LUCKILY! But wouldn't you know it? Our new flights were even WORSE than the original! The flight there got us in late, but the flight HOME was the kicker - we didn't leave until 10:45pm (11:45 after the hour's delay - oh, Luck, you slut!) - considerably PAST bedtime! Panic, panic panic for a sleep nazi like me!

But...it was all okay :) I was worried about ear issues and air sickness, but both kids traveled beautifully! They were well behaved (the big one was adorable, actually) and then slept. We didn't purchase a seat for the baby. I know this goes against a lot of safety rules, but the simple fact is that Sunwing does not discount seats for children, and we just couldn't afford it. So, we wore him in a Baby Bjorn, facing in, to facilitate sleep. This worked nicely because the flight attendants told us we would have to hold him in a "burping position" during take off and landing anyway. (Note: on the return flight, one of the attendants tried to tell us we had to take him out of the Bjorn and put this lap belt extension thing on instead. Another one told us he would look the other way, so we didn't - why wake a sleeping baby?? Plus, I feel he'd actually be safer strapped to one of us in the Bjorn, than with just a nylon strap across his legs!) The baby would have slept the whole ride, I suspect, had it not been for an errant and very drunken best man's interference :s And when we finally got home on the return (at 5am!!!), the kids went back to bed, and actually slept in! Till 8:30 and 9:30am. But that was amazing for them, and particularly fortuitous, because it was the night after the dreaded Daylight Saving Time! The crazy sleep disruption may have actually HELPED them make the transition! Oh - I forgot to add that consideration to my decision making process for our destination: had to be within our same time zone, or within an hour of it, for sleep nazi reasons :P

I've gotten ahead of myself. Let's pretend we just arrived in Nassau. Things at the airport were pretty efficient and problem-free. We boarded a ramshackle van (no carseats in Bahamas and often only lap belts, if any seat belts at all, by the way) that took us to the resort in about 30 minutes. On the way home, we had a much nicer bus to take us to the airport, and my 3 year old thought it was the coolest thing ever. He absolutely LOVED looking out the window and asking "why" questions about everything he saw, and was enthralled by the fact that we got the "bump seat", over the wheel on the bus.

The hotel was beautiful, but packed with many travelers just checking in. It was 11:30 at night, and my sleep nazi-ism was on high alert, pushed almost to the breaking point already - so I was delighted when one of the hotel employees decided to check in people traveling with children in a separate, much shorter line :D Prior to arrival, I had called the hotel to check on various things at least 6 times, and one of the most irritating things to me was that they would not confirm a crib and a cot for our kids before check in! They kept assuring me it would not be a problem...but then why the eff wouldn't they just assign me one ahead of time?? Because you know what WOULD be a problem? Not bringing a playpen, and discovering that the hotel did not have one available to us! But (deep breath), all was well - they did have them available. It was another delay, having to wait for them to be delivered to our room, when they could easily have been waiting there already...but anyhow...it worked out. Not that it's a big deal, but the Bahamian hotel workers seemed very uncertain what the difference between a crib and a playpen was. I got a different response every time I called about what type of bed was actually going to be provided for the baby, even when I used detailed descriptions. It only mattered because I wanted to bring our own sheet, and the mattresses would be different sizes. I brought both. It was a playpen.

When we booked this trip, our travel agent totally screwed us and had us pay for an unnecessary room upgrade. The hotel had 12 Family Suites, which had 2 bedrooms and a living area in them, and would have been perfect for diving where the kids and adults slept, allowing for some private time, and not requiring everyone in the room to sit silently in the darkness past 8pm. Sadly, those suites would have cost us an extra $7000 over the exorbitant price we were already paying! :o So, that was not to be. I thought that if we just had one bedroom and a separate living area, that could work, because at least whoever was stuck in the room after the kids went to bed could be in the living area, watching TV or reading or whatever. I explained my needs to the travel agent, specifying that the living area needed to be separated from the bedroom by a door. I also explained that I did not care about the size or view of the room - it was the room division that I was willing to pay for. She charged us an extra $700 to have a Superior Oceanfront Suite, as opposed to the Oceanview Junior Suites that were standard. Fine. But during one of my many calls directly to the hotel (because the travel agent was proving to be incompetent and ill-informed), I learned that no such rooms existed in the hotel. The room our agent had booked for us simply had a better view, and was bigger - exactly what I had painstakingly explained I would not be willing to pay more for. I contacted the agent and told her to put us back in the standard room then, and refund our money. She told me that there would be a $400 fee for changing it!!! This post isn't going to be about the in competencies of said travel agent...because I could go on and on (and I will, in a well-worded complaint letter) - it was crazy how much she sucked.

Anyhow, 2 fantastic things happened when we checked in: 1. Our room was the only room of all of our guests that had a walk-in closet. Other rooms had a slightly better view (though ours was also fantastic) or a separate glass shower in their bathrooms. But for me, this closet was an early Christmas gift. Why, you ask? If you've been reading my blog faithfully enough, you should know this already...because walk-in closets make excellent baby rooms! :D :D :D So, technically, we DID get our 2 bedroom suite :P We set up the playpen in there, equipped with his white noise machine, video monitor, and nightlight (although the front desk attendants were not interested in accommodating us, the lovely gentleman who delivered the playpen and cot went hunting and stole us an extension cord from housekeeping - LOVE that man!!!), and had the main bedroom to ourselves. Where was the big boy? 2. My mom and aunt got a room directly across the hall from us, and offered to let Avery sleep in their room. It was set up nicely with this big dresser kind of separating the sitting area from the bed, so his cot got set up behind that, and they effectively had 2 rooms, too! Sort of. Close enough. The fact that their room was across from ours only mattered because - drum roll, please - the video monitor worked across to their room. So: on nights when my fabulous mother and aunt were willing to stay in with the kids, the baby could still be sleeping in his closet-room across the hall, safely locked up, and diligently monitored by them with Avery on the monitor! Brilliant! They could see and hear the baby, while he could not see or hear them! No one could steal the baby, because they'd see or hear that, too, and open the door to apprehend the baby snatcher! :D (Note: no one did try to steal our baby.) Listen, a lot of people I've spoken to thought it was weird that one of my children slept in another room from us. Weird? Maybe. But if you had the opportunity, why wouldn't you?? Avery slept better, Ashton slept better, Justin and I slept better. The only people who didn't were probably my mom and aunt, and that's only because Avery wakes up considerably earlier than they might on their own, and woke a few times in the night, needing me to go across the hall for a quick snuggle before going back to sleep. Everyone (almost) wins!

A note about kids in your room: friends of ours were traveling with their 3 children, and the resort only allowed 4 people in a standard room. If you run into this issue, but are traveling with a group, be aware that you can do a little shuffling on paper, and make it work. They registered their baby as staying (and flying) with our young, childless (fun-having, sleep-getting...) photographers, but really stayed in my friends' room with the rest of her family. Paper arrangements like this can also sometimes save you some money. For example, our upgraded room cost more per person to stay in (obviously). So if we had registered Avery in our room (whether he slept in it or not), he would be subject to the higher rate, as well - whereas putting him with my mom and aunt in a standard room made his rate lower. Children's rates are lower anyway (they tend to consume less booze at all-inclusives, I'm told), but are still expensive! So, any savings you can find is well worth it!

Anyhow, next note: just because a resort allows children, does not mean it is child-friendly :s Now, contrary to reviews I had read, the staff and other guests were fantastic with the children. They were always smiling and polite, even when our oldest went running around the buffet and restaurants, nearly knocking people down, and the baby made a huge mess. One of the ladies let us know that some of the women there were available for babysitting. But there were no formal kids' activities, no kids' pool, no anything, really. Sure, our 3 year old loved the beach and the pool...but we got there just after Hurricane Sandy had blown through, so the waves were pretty big, and the undertow strong, and there was no way Avery could have swum in the ocean, and the pool was pretty cold! And really, you can only play in the pool or in the sand for so long - and we were there for 8 days :s Luckily, we were located right next door to Atlantis. Now, THAT really seems like the happiest place on earth. It was $110 per person for a day pass, so that wasn't happening - but the aquarium was free after 5pm, so we made several trips across the way to check that out. It was truly awesome, and both kids friggin' loved it (as did the adults). I was a bit worried Avery would have nightmares, because he did after we took him to Big Al's Aquarium store a few months before :s...but all was well :) Still, a few days in, Avery was BORED, and started behaving badly as a result. Next time we travel (with the kids! Because the next time we travel will sure as hell NOT be with the kids!), we will make sure there are kids' activities and facilities wherever we go.

The baby hated the beach. He squinted in the bright sun, there was no shade on the beach and vendors wanted $25 a day to rent you a crappy umbrella that I doubt had any USP factor anyway. We had brought along a play mat and covered it with a towel to create a little tent (because we're idiots, and forgot to actually bring the UV Sun Tent we had bought specifically for this purpose), but he'd roll over and get sand in his mouth, sand on his toys...he just hated it. Not to mention, because of his age, he was only able to stay awake for an hour and a half between naps, so by the time we got him up, changed, fed, and down to the beach, it was pretty much tie to go right back up to the room. When I planned this wedding, I envisioned the baby to be sitting independently by this time, sleeping through the night, and so on. He was essentially sleeping through the night - but paused that for the duration of the trip, of course. The sitting was nowhere near happening, though, which meant bringing a lot more items to facilitate that with us. We brought his playmat for him to roll around on, his Bumbo chair to bed fed in, and a Jolly Jumper for him to hang out in in the room. The Jolly Jumper didn't work out, though, because the door frames in the suites did not conform to North American standards, so it just didn't fit. The other 2 items, I'd say, were necessary.

Packing List: in addition to the regular travel stuff you'd bring on any trip (sunscreen, clothes, whatever), we brought...
  • 2 white noise machines for the kids. We use them at home, so they made the surroundings a bit more familiar and comforting for them, plus they just help drown out weird noises and stuff.
  • night lights
  • video monitor
  • walkie talkies. International cell phone packages were just ridiculous - almost as ridiculous as roaming charges would have been - so we decided to avoid them by using radios. They actually worked pretty well! My aunt was very willing to help with the kids, and stayed with the baby while he napped in the room on several occasions, but she has limited mobility. So, these allowed her to notify us as soon as he started to stir from his nap, so we could get up there and get him, so she didn't have to try. Fantastic. We borrowed ours, so they cost us nothing at all, but you can pick up a decent set for about $50, which is a lot less than you'd pay for using your phones. Highly recommend.
  • as mentioned earlier: playmat, Bumbo, Jolly Jumper
  • lots of baby chew toys (or whatever you call the human equivalent to chew toys - you know what I mean)
  • hand sanitizer
  • Lysol wipes
  • prescription antibiotics for the baby's UTI, which we were not treating because he wasn't having any symptoms, but which we wanted to be prepared TO treat, should he start experiencing anything while we were away
  • infant and children's pain relief
  • gripe water in little squirt bottle, similar to an eye drop bottle - to squirt in the kids' mouths to get them to swallow in the event they suffered ear pain from pressure changes on the flight. Personally, I think this was one of my more brilliant ideas, though we didn't end up needing it.
  • baby food sized BPA free containers for use as bowls for baby feeding
  • nylon bib that could be rinsed and would dry quickly between feedings
  • liquid dish soap. I can't take credit for this idea. I consulted tipsforbabytravel.com, which is by Nicole and Cameron Wears of travelingcanucks.com and stole the idea from them. It was the best advice ever. We were able to wash the baby's dishes and bottles and everything right in our room. I'm not sure what we would have done if we didn't have it. Note: I also asked Nicole and Cameron for some room-sharing ideas, and they responded to my comment on their blog quickly and helpfully! Great people!
  • lightweight stroller. We don't often use our stroller at home, but I borrowed a lighter-weight one from a friend (thanks, Christine!), and it proved to be very useful on long walks to and from Atlantis, as well as at the airport, when the kids were tired because we were traveling so late. We didn't use it for the baby, though - it became the 3 year old's chariot :) If you're traveling with children, airlines will allow you one item to be checked at the gate, and the stroller was ours. We took it right up to the door of the plane, and it was waiting there for us when we got off.
  • Baby Bjorn (Ergo, Cybex, whatever). Since Avery was in the stroller, Ashton was in the baby carrier - and as mentioned earlier, it was great for keeping him safe(ish :s) (and sleeping!) on the plane and shuttles that didn't have car seats.
  • Blackberry Playbook. Or whatever your brand of electronic game playing and video watching device. This entertained Avery on the plane before he fell asleep (Justin and I even got to watch a Mad Men episode we had previously downloaded on the plane), and also in the room, when he refused to nap, but everyone else needed to!
I'm sure I've forgotten a lot of important details. But my point was to share some tips from my experience of traveling with children. I mean, the best tip is: DON'T :P But of you're going to...maybe something I've written will help :) What do you think?