The Magic of Christmas

January 3, 2012

Sometimes having children causes you to experience life as a child all over again.

We excitedly stop and stare and point at fields full of grazing geese. We “ooh!” and “aahh!” at every airplane and bird passing overhead. And there is something tremendously exciting about squishing play dough in your hands or splashing in a tub full of bubbles.

Everyone’s heard the saying that sometimes the box is more fun that what’s inside? It’s definitely true at our house!

It’s because of this unbridled childhood excitement for all things that Christmas truly delivered.

Tristan especially, at three and a half, is at an amazing age to really experience the magic of Christmas. He truly believes and it takes such little effort to elicit amazing displays of joy and excitement.

Every activity we did turned out to be “one of the greatest things ever!” which makes this mama only want to find better, even more exciting activities to keep us busy every day. It’s so rewarding to see such delight spread on the faces of my children, and it makes the activities fun for me as well to get to share these precious first experiences.

Exhibit # 1: Our mitten Advent Calendar. Each day throughout the month, a note, a treat or a small gift awaited Tristan. The kid never missed a beat (often reminding me to stuff that day’s mitten!)

Then of course there is writing a letter to Santa….

… and the excitement that follows when he actually sends you video in return!

Top all that off with baking a seemingly endless supply of Christmas cookies, making crafts and homemade gifts, and sprinkling sparkling reindeer food on the front lawn, and it was a  pretty busy month (leading to poor Tristan being fast asleep by 5:00 Christmas Day!)

But oh we had fun! It was a great holiday filled with joy and time spent with family. I hope your Christmas delivered as much as ours did. 🙂

The Spirit of Giving

December 8, 2011

My children lead blessed lives.

Just by the simple occurrence of being born in Canada, they are probably a kajillion times were more fortunate than most other children in the world.

Safety. Freedom. Health care. Education.

Add to that being born into a loving family with educated parents who are able to provide plentiful healthy food, toys, trips…. the list goes on.

They are fortunate little souls. We all are.

I want my boys to grow up thankful. To understand that while we have, there are many more others who have not. I want for  them to want to reach out and help others. To help the bullied child on the playground. To be a good friend. And to share some of what we have with some others who are not as fortunate.

At three and half, I feel like this Christmas Tristan is old enough to understand a little more about what it means to help others. In the Christmas spirit, and to hopefully light a spark of generosity and kindness, we’ve had a few little projects on the go.

Firstly, I took Tristan on a shopping spree to purchase toys for Operation Christmas Child. We easily (over!)filled two shoeboxes for little boys Tristan’s age with goodies they may not have received otherwise. I explained to Tristan that we would be going shopping and that we may find things that we would really like for ourselves… but that this shopping trip was not about us – we already have lots of toys at our house. I explained that the toys we bought would be for children who didn’t have many toys to play with.

I was a little nervous that he would go crazy when he saw things like his fave dino toys, or some really cool stickers, demanding that he just had to have them. But Tristan amazed me yet again. He happily filled our cart with toys for two unknown strangers, exclaiming, “Oh mom! The friends we don’t know are going to love these!”

Be still my heart.

Making wrapping paper for our gifts

We’ve also been talking about how some “friends” wake up in the morning and have nothing to eat for breakfast. When we get up, we go downstairs and make our toast and pour our cereal so that our tummies aren’t hungry. I explained that some children go to school with hungry tummies, because they just don’t have enough “snacks” (as Tristan refers to most food products!) at their house. We wanted to share some of our “snacks” with other children, and Tristan happily handed off a couple of grocery bags full to our local OC Transpo food drive.

I can only hope that I am instilling a sense of gratitude and lessons on giving that Tristan (and eventually Logan) will carry with them as they grow. I want them to understand that even the smallest of acts can make a difference in the lives of others.

There was a poem I heard as a child that communicates this same wisdom, and it still resonates with me today.

The Starfish Poem (From the works of Loren Eisly)

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “I made a difference to that one!”

source

Real Food

December 6, 2011

When I was pregnant with Logan, a friend lent me the book “Real Food for Mother and Baby” by Nina Planck. In it she presents an interesting notion about how and what to introduce for a baby’s first foods.

At the most basic level, Planck suggests giving baby real, whole foods. Nothing packaged, nothing pureed.  She suggests that the best place to obtain real nutrients is from real food – ie) we get iron from meat, not cereal.

I was quickly on board with most of her ideas: Give baby whole foods,( a pear for example,) and let them chew away. Babies have hard gums – they do not need teeth to chew. She suggests that good first foods are proteins (meat and yogurt) and good fats (avocado and olive oil). She sees no need for purees and spoons.

Having been down the puree road with Tristan, I was interested and intrigued to try this new approach with Logan. There was just one thing that I thought Ms. Planck went a little far with. She told a story of her little baby happily chewing  away on a meat bone.

“Seriously?!” I thought. “I can see myself working with a lot of these ideas… but I don’t think I’ll be handing Logan over a T-bone anytime soon…”

Fast forward to around Logan’s six month birthday. He was sooo interested in food and it was evident that he was telling us he’d had enough of a purely liquid diet.  Not quite ready to give in entirely to the “whole food” notion, I had decided I would try a little of the puree, and a little of the whole food, such as whole smooshed blueberries.

He put up with the purees for a whole two days. Mouth clamped shut, he wanted nothing to do with the spoon coming toward his mouth. Whole peas on his plate? Yes please! Green mashed up goo on a spoon? Not a chance.

I’m so glad that I read this book and had these other options at the forefront of my mind. I may have thought he wasn’t interested in food, when what he was really telling me was that he wasn’t interested in mush.

Around the six and a half month mark, we BBQ’d some  steaks for Luc’s birthday…

… and Logan had one of the most satisfying meals of his short life.

Never say never, right?

Whole asparagus spears and steak quickly became one of Logan’s favourite meals! Not a tooth in sight, and Logan would eagerly plow through six asparagus in a single meal. Along with the t-bone of course. 🙂

After 6.5 months, Logan never had to endure another spoonful of puree. I fed him real foods. He happily gobbled up small pieces of chicken, cooked carrots, baked apples, steamed broccoli.

Fast forward to eight months when we learned that Logan had been struggling with reflux. In hindsight, it’s no wonder he resisted the purees so intensely. Whole food (besides being so much more appetizing!) probably felt a lot more comfortable in his tummy and were much easier to keep down than liquid!

Logan continues to enjoy eating real, whole food!

——————–

If you’re interested in finding out more about her theories, you can find a quick summary of Nina Planck’s ideas here.

Back at it

November 27, 2011

Wow. A whopping four months since my last post. I’m hoping this quick “I’m still here and I hope you are too!” post will be the first of many more to come! I’ve enjoyed blogging and love all the feedback I get from you out there who like to check in every once in a while!

I’ve had several posts started in the last several months, but I haven’t seemed to be able to concentrate on anything for very long. I blame the darkness. It’s been an long uphill battle, always feeling like I’m going two steps forward, one step back. Or, on a really bad day, five steps back!  After months of therapy, extensive medical testing, and enough supplements to choke a horse, I am finally starting to feel like myself again (*touch wood!*)  But that’s a whole post all in itself.

I’ve started back at the breastfeeding drop in clinic one afternoon a week, and am really enjoying my time there with the mommies and babies. I know enough now that my mentor actually trusts me working with the mommies on my own (still under supervision of course!) but I love the feeling of realizing that I know enough to help a lot of these wonderful women.

Today marked the last Sunday in November. It was another lazy day filled with a leisurely french toast breakfast and playing with the boys in the living room, all while still cozily nestled into our pj’s. I’m usually a “Christmas-decor-and-music-does-not-come-out-until-Dec-1” kind of girl, but today felt like a good day to bring it all out.

Tristan and I started to get the place looking festive, Christmas tunes making the soundtrack to our afternoon. Some good quality time with my boy and feeling the spirit and excitement of Christmas – now that’s as good as any therapist. 🙂

Who I Am

July 21, 2011

Have you ever had an experience so powerful that it defines you? Has it literally shaped who you’ve become? Where a person, place or event has become engrained into your very soul?

During a heart to heart with my friend Sarah this weekend, it became incredibly clear just what one of my most defining moments is.

In July 2003 I traveled with World Vision’s Destination Life Change program to Romania, where I spent one month caring for abandoned infants in an orphanage.

This was at once the most difficult and the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

An excerpt from my travelblog on travelpod.com:

This task is so much harder than I had ever anticipated. Logically, I knew it would be difficult, but there was no way I could have known what it would do to my heart. The most difficult part of being here in seeing the daily life of these babies. To the caregivers, working there is just that – a job. The babies are often treated as objects, there are few soft, gentle touches, just quick, task oriented ones. Diapers are changed twice a day, so consequently most are wet for most of the day. It is not that the children are mistreated per se – they are physically very well taken care of for the most part. Emotionally and psychologically however, it is a different story.

The babies are in their cribs all day, and they belong to no one. If they are one of the lucky chosen ones, they will spend an hour in the play room in the morning. If not, it is 24 hours a day of seeing the world through the metal bars of a crib. No child has any possession of his own and each is known only by the piece of masking tape on the end of each bed, displaying the name of the child. The children do not get to go outside, nor do they get a breath of fresh air from an open window. The reason being that the Romanians believe that they will get a “draft” and get sick. Babies cry from their cribs with nothing to comfort them. No soft toys are allowed in the bedrooms because they cannot be washed should they fall on the floor. A few may be given rattles to play with, but it is pretty hard to snuggle plastic.

I have really broken down sobbing a few times, hurting so badly for these perfect, tiny little people. I’ve had to really start concentrating on the little things that will make a difference in each child’s day. Each hug I give, each smile I receive, and each laugh that I evoke are moments that would not have occurred had I not been there. I, along with the other two volunteers, have gone out and bought stacks of diapers so we now change them regularly. At least now they can be a little more comfortable! It is so hard when all I want to do is save them all!

…. (After returning home I wrote:) The babies in the orphanage have left imprints on my heart that I know will never fade. I have cried so many tears since I’ve returned, relaying my tales of daily life for the tiny, innocent people who exist and experience life through the metal bars of a crib. I’ve cried for the lack of attention and stimulation. I’ve cried because some of them don’t even have names. I’ve cried because it is so rare that loving arms hold them. I’ve cried because I remember them reaching out to me. And I’ve cried because I love each of them so much.

10 Months Old

(To read the full blog, click here)

~~~~~~~~~~~

Phew. I am crying again reliving those memories.

I truly loved those sixty babies who rarely let out a sound because they knew no one was listening.  And when they did cry, it didn’t matter anyway.  This was the ultimate ‘cry it out.’

And this is why I can’t let my children cry.

Because even though my heart burst with love for those babies, even though I made it my mission every day to be sure that I snuggled each and every one…. I couldn’t save them. I came home with a wounded heart and empty hands.

So every night now my baby is rocked to sleep. And at bedtime my boys are sung  to and told that “I love them to the moon and back.” Because I couldn’t save those Romanian babies, but God help me, I am going to save my own in every way I know how.

I just want my children to know with every thread of their being, that they are cherished and loved.. to the the moon and back.

Just another piece of who I am.

Soother Fairies and Other Tales of Growing Up

May 28, 2011

My big boy is growing up.

Since he was about 4 weeks old, the little guy has been quite addicted to his soother. I must admit, there were times when Luc and I depended on the darn thing just as much as he did. With the third birthday come and gone, we all had to face the terrible truth: it was time to say goodbye to the soother.

I had been preparing Tristan for this inevitable end of an era for months. He knew that when he was three, he would be a big boy and wouldn’t need his soother anymore. There were vague references to the soother fairy and little babies needing soothers that big boys had grown out of. A friend of mine also told me of the soothers at their house “popping” (adults read: being cut) because the user had simply grown too big. A soother just can’t sustain that sort of big boy sucking.

Sure enough, once he turned three, soothers mysteriously began popping around our house. The first time one popped, Tristan picked up said soother and inserted it into his mouth, all the while I sat there with bated breath, waiting for an emotional reaction.

Nothing.

Nothing?

Nothing. No reaction whatsoever. I was floored.

We continued on with bedtime routine, snuggling in for a story. Suddenly, about five minutes into the book, Tristan pulled the soother out, stared at it with gaping mouth and said, “Mommy! It popped!”

I looked down intently, shock and concern plastered onto my face. (Seriously, it was most definitely an Oscar performance!)

“Wow, Buddy,” I replied. “I guess you are getting too big for soothers!  You popped it!”

He literally tossed the defective pacifier aside and quickly found another one on his floor.

“You’ll have to be careful,” I warned him. “That one might pop too.”

Not wanting to scar the child, a few days passed before another popping incident occurred.  Systematically, one by one, each soother met it’s demise. Each one was discarded over the side of the bed and an intact one was popped in his mouth secconds later. Having a finite number of soothers in his room, this charade could only last so long.

I am happy to say that the last soother popped without much incident. A couple of tears on the second night with an emphatic “But Mommy, I don’t want to be big!” (I know, heartbreaking right?!) and that was the last of it.

So proud of my big big boy, I did have a silver lining in store for him. We gathered up all of those old, destroyed soothers and tossed them into a shoe box for collection by the Soother Fairy. You know the one -she collects soothers from all the kids who’ve grown too big to use them anymore and she takes them to all the new little babies. We placed that shoebox on our front step before bed, and went to sleep in anticipation of what she might leave us in return for our generous donation.

An excited little boy awoke the next morning to a shoe box overflowing with dinosaur stickers and other paraphanalia. However did she know what items would make him so happy? Ahhh, that soother fairy. She’s one smart lady. 😉

——————————————

And the milestones keep coming. Tristan was reasonably consistent with peeing on the potty, but I needed something to take him to that next level. Something to propel him to the washroom even if he was in the middle of lining up all 100 of his dinosaurs in a neat row, or “camping” in the blanket fort. Enter the supercool sticker chart and the amazing dinosaur stickers kept in the bathroom that can *only* be accessed by peeing in the potty. The kid is so over the moon to put two ( I said one; the savvy little negotiator upped the ante) stickers on that piece of paper, he’s in there peeing all the time. And he totally “halves” his pees…. like he’ll go but not completely empty his bladder so that as soon as he finishes sticking his TWO stickers up, he climbs back on top of that little Diego seat, effectively dribbles again, and earns two more stickers.  The kid knows how to play the game!

Going number two, well that one’s been eluding us. He was saving everything up for nap time so that he could do his business in the comfort of a diaper. Being sooooo over changing a preschooler’s diaper, I knew I had to find the most amazing motivator if I was going to get this done quickly. Having no idea what I was looking for, but trusting that I would know it when I saw it, I headed off to Scholar’s Choice with a mission to find the ultimate reward. Stickers just wouldn’t be good enough. And I found it. There it was, sitting all neatly packaged in cellophane at the back of the store: a dinosaur bulletin board kit. Twelve large cardboard dinosaurs, waiting to be punched out and hung to his wall. I paid for my purchase and drove excitedly home to showcase the bribe, er, I mean reward. Tristan was beside himself with excitement. Where he saw the coolest 12 “big dinosaur stickers” ever, I saw 12 poops on the potty.

And did they work?

Hell ya! Like a charm.

Daily for a week now,  Tristan has been independently making his way to the potty, doing his business, flushing the toilet, and choosing his reward.  The whole nine yards. And I couldn’t be more proud.

I’m Gonna MissThis

May 26, 2011

Have you ever heard a song that makes you stop in your tracks? One that makes you think and take note? One that may as well have been written for you?

Today I heard this song on the radio. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and that God, or the Universe or whatever you want to call it, speaks to us. And the voice is often a whisper, so if you’re not listening, you’re not going to hear the message. Somebody knew that I needed to hear this whisper.

It’s a song I heard before, but today I took a lesson from the words. To slow down. To laugh. To love.  To enjoy.

The chorus of the song, “You’re Gonna Miss This” by Trace Adkins:

You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this

———-

… And it’s so true. They days do go by so fast. My baby is now crawling for goodness sake. Tristan’s going on the potty, Logan’s eating real food. Never again will I have a newborn baby in my arms to call my own.

Sometimes, amid the sleepless nights and contrary preschoolers, it’s easy to get caught up in the exhaustion and the difficult moments, and forget to focus on enjoying the little things – the bright eyed gummy smiles, the silly giggling fits, the arched-back, pursed lipped stretch of a baby,  the way a mama’s kiss will ease just about any boo boo around.

I heard ya universe, loud and clear.

My Birthday Boy

May 12, 2011

Somehow, three years have passed since I became a mama. After 15 hours of labour, six months of colic, seemingly endless sleepless nights, family vacations, first day of preschool, music class, gymnastics, picnics at the park and lots of baking/crafting and play dough-ing… my little boy is three years old! Three years have flown by so fast yet at the same time I can barely remember a time without Tristan. (Though I do have a *faint* recollection of heading out for drinks on the market at a moments notice, sleeping in, and watching movies all afternoon on a rainy Sunday…)

Three is a big deal. No longer considered a toddler, my boy is a pre-schooler now.  And of course, a big deal is cause for a big celebration! A week of celebrations. Three to be exact.

One family BBQ, one special lunch (at McDonalds… Shhhhh!) on THE actual big day, and of course a fun-filled party at Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo.

For our family BBQ, Tristan requested pink cupcakes with candy and  a cherry on top. My boy asked. His mama delivered.

Little Ray’s was a perfect party locale for my typical boy. Being the birthday boy, he got special treatment and was able to hold and feed several creatures.

Apparently he takes something from his mama, cause he wouldn’t hold a tarantula either!

Daddy worked on the cake for the big partay. Another great looking cake… I wonder what he’s going to make next year?

A Little More Sleep

May 3, 2011

It’s been about a month since I’ve been trying to help Logan (and I!!) get a little more sleep. I made another log last night and I’m happy to see that at least we have seen some improvement!

7:25 nurse, put in crib

11:11 Up, nurse (BUT it’s almost four hours since I first put him down. Yahoo! This is a GIANT step!)

11:25 Back to crib. Getting him back in his bed after the first wake up is a struggle…

11:30 Back in Logan’s room to give soother

11:43 Finally get him to fall asleep by leaning over crib and letting him hold my arm

12:42 Logan wakes again. Way too tired to keep this up all night so I brought him into my bed where he fell asleep instantly.

2:40 Nurse

5:00 Nurse

6:25 Up for the day

Total number of awakenings: 5

Longest sleep span: 4 hours

Total hours of sleep: 11

There are huge improvements here! Seeing a new “typical” night gives me hope of more sleep to come. In a month, Logan has decreased his number of night wakings from nine down to five. His longest sleep span has increased from three hours to four, and his total hours of nighttime sleep from nine up to eleven. Baby steps.

Daytime sleep has already improved dramatically. I am now getting Logan down for a couple naps a day, often ranging from one to two hours at a time.

Despite not always being so well rested, my sweet boy is always so happy!

Hanging with my pal Max!

Easter Eggs

April 26, 2011

What a beautiful time of year! Dinners with family, beautiful spring time weather (finally!) and of course for the kids, enough chocolate to choke a horse.

The whole Easter Bunny fiasco is quite hysterical when you really think about it. Really? A giant rabbit hops around to everyone’s houses leaving assorted chocolates and other sugary treats sure to create hyperactive children bouncing off the walls in every house in the neighbourhood? Oh the innocence ( or shall I say gullible-ness) of children…

Hysterical and far-fetched as it may be to us grown up types, the kids just eat it up. Oh, was my boy ever excited. The night before Easter he carefully placed a carrot and cucumber and cookies (of course the rabbit would need to eat dessert right?) out for Mr. Easter Bunny to snack on. Unfortunately for the bunny, the snack grew considerably smaller when Tristan decided that he, in fact, would like to eat the carrot and swiped it off the plate. This was a step up in mommy eyes, however, because at Christmas time it was a cookie that was reclaimed from Santa’s plate.

Easter morning he could not wait to get downstairs to see if the rabbit had arrived. No time for a hug, mom, the chocolate calls.

Off we traipsed down the stairs, eagle eyes darting to and fro on the lookout for the prize. With every new egg he spotted, Tristan would exclaim, “OH! There’s one!” and it never got old. He could have egg hunted all day long. Once his basket was full, he sat down to open each egg and make a pile of his chocolatey treasure. I must say I think the pile in his tummy was just as big as the pile on the floor. (As a side note, I was happy to see that ‘ol Easter Bunny filled some eggs with stickers in an effort to curb the sugar high!)

By the end of the day, Tristan’s diet was looking sadly unbalanced. Amongst the jelly beans and chocolate eggs that filled his belly were one breakfast sausage, and… wait for it… one entire baby  carrot. Yup. One.

Yeah. No nutritionist mother of the year award for me today. Meh. My boy had a blast and tomorrow’s a new day.

Happy Easter everyone!