Thursday, October 27, 2011

I can be....myself

I hated elementary school. I liked high school even less. I had a hard time fitting in. I was too short. Too skinny. Too smart. I belonged to the "geek brigade", the name they gave to the kids in the weekly enrichment program, those of us who were ahead of the others in our classes. People called me "rich girl" because my parents owned their own business.  We were comfortable but far from rich.

All I wanted was to fit in. Instead I was the target of endless teasing, nitpicking from mean girls, many of whom I considered my friends at one point. I didn't have any friends I could really trust, because eventually they would betray that trust and hurt my feelings.  The few times that I stood up for myself, things got worse, so I tried to just ignore the teasing (advice from my mom) and take each day as it came.  I remember lying in bed at night, praying that the next day would go smoothly and that my friends wouldn't get into a "fight" with me.  Remember those "fights"?  When girls decided they wouldn't like you for a day or a week because of something really stupid?  Then they would move onto someone else and you were back "in" until you became the target again?  I tried to be careful and not draw unnecessary attention to myself, thinking that was the best way to stay "in".  It wasn't.  I tried to get bad grades, thinking that people wouldn't call me a nerd anymore, but it didn't help and ended up hurting me more.  Girls were girls and there was no rational reason for why we behaved the way we did.  All I wanted was to be like everyone else and fit in.

In high school, I found a few close friends, but eventually things fell apart with most of them too. I know I was partially to blame, because I was cautious and untrusting.  I never really let my guard down, except with a few key people, because I figured I would get burned yet again.  I struggled to find myself in high school.  I wasn't a cool kid, I definitely wasn't a jock, so where did that leave me?  I continued to try to "lay low" and not draw too much attention to myself.  I counted down the days until I could move away and start fresh.

After graduation, I was beyond excited leave my small town and to go to university to start with a clean slate. It was there that I met so many wonderful women, all bringing diverse backgrounds and experiences I could learn from. I met women who showed me the true meaning of friendship, many of whom I still connect with today.

In those 4 years I learned to embrace who I am, and embrace the endless options ahead of me. I wasn't trying to please anyone but myself, and I finally felt free to be myself - not the person everyone else around me thought I should be.

I discovered a lot about myself, namely that I was a stronger person than I gave myself credit for. I moved five hours away from my family and friends to start fresh and find myself. I discovered that I actually loved being around people, being social and helping people. I also discovered I had a sense of humour that drew people to me. At the end of those four years, I met a wonderful man who eventually became my husband. And I've now gone from wife to mother with the addition of Noah earlier this year. I couldn't feel more complete.  I have a number of close female friends who support me every day.  I value their friendship more than anything.

I've had so many positive female influences in my life, on "I Can Be Day", I'd like to acknowledge these wonderful women and what I learned from them:

  • My Mom - She taught me that family is important, and it's ok to put your children before your own dreams.  She gave up a great job when my sister was born and didn't go back to work for 16 years.  She was always there when we needed her, and even when we didn't think we needed her.  She always told me to be strong and not let others get to me.  That advice is what helped me survive all those years of unnecessary drama.
  • My Sister - She was always there to stand up for me, pick me up when I stumbled, and kick my butt when I needed a jolt of reality.  She was like a mirror that helped me discover the best and worst things about myself, and wasn't afraid to tell me the truth, whether I wanted to hear it or not.
  • Diana - She was one of my bosses early in my PR career, and my first career role model.  She was pretty, smart and successful, and showed me that all three were possible at the same time.  She pushed me to become better in my career, and to tackle challenges well outside my comfort zone.  She was a mentor and friend.  I will always be thankful for her support.
  • Jane Goodall - I discovered her work in high school, and she was a total inspiration.  She chased her dreams despite what everyone around her told her she could do.  I decided to pursue a career in marine biology (which ended up shifting to psychology after some bad grades and self reflection early in university).  I met her once, years ago, and was surprised a woman so seemingly delicate could be so strong and have a huge impact on the world.  Click here to find out more about Jane and her work.
  • Dixie Chicks - After their criticism of Bush many years ago, they received a lot of death threats and were told to "shut up and sing".  They never apologized for their opinions and speaking their mind.  When their song, "Not Ready To Make Nice", came out, it felt like an anthem to anyone who ever spoke their mind and felt the consequences, but didn't feel the need to apologize for it.  That song reminds me of all the mean spirits I've encountered throughout the years, and my belief that I don't have to apologize for who I am.  They showed me that you don't have to make everyone else happy, as long as you are happy with yourself, that's all that matters.  As they say in the song, "forgive - sounds good, forget - I'm not sure I could.  They say time heals everything, but I'm still waiting...."
  • Twitter #zombiemoms - This informal group sprung up around the time Noah was born.  It was a group of women all facing the challenges of caring for infants and young children.  Since then, it's exploded and become an international network of moms (and some dads) who provide 24/7 support to each other.  It's still hard to believe that you can be having a really bad day (or morning) and you have a huge group of women who are ready to boost your spirits and make you feel better.  I've never encountered such selflessness.  This group has really renewed my faith in friendship (even if most of us have and will never meet IRL).  Click here to check out the #zombiemoms twitter stream.
  • Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope - After we lost Olivia last year, I was searching for people who would understand what we were going through.  And I found this group.  There are unfortunately thousands of couples who have lost babies, all to different circumstances.  But the one common thread is the pain of losing a child, and the challenge of moving on afterward.  I've met a number of amazing women through this network, all who have picked me up on my bad days, and have let me do the same for them.  I couldn't have made it through the last year without their support.  Click here to find out more.
Thank you to everyone on this list, and to those who I didn't mention but play a role in my life every day.  I wouldn't be who I am without you all, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Travelling to New York with an infant - lessons learned

    This past weekend, Noah and I went to NY to visit hubby who is there for eleven days for work.  We left on Friday and came home on Monday.  I did a lot of research leading up to this trip to make it go as smoothly as possible.  I thought I'd put all my learnings in one place, so hopefully other parents travelling with infants can benefit!

    Follow-up note:  this trip was FAR from easy.  The travel days alone were long and exhausting.  I had no time to myself, and spent most of those days trying to keep the baby quiet and happy so he would drive me and the other passengers crazy.  He was great in NY, but got very fed up of shopping and being in the stroller, so we had to take him out and feed him frequently to keep him happy.  None of us had great sleeps because he woke several times, plus he's just a noisy sleeper in general, and he was at the foot of the bed.  That said, we had a lot of fun and wouldn't trade it for anything.  But be warned....travelling with an infant isn't for the faint of heart!

    Lesson 1: plan flights around naptime

    Hubby thought I was a bit nuts, but I was insistent on booking our flights to ensure Noah could nap beforehand.  He doesn't do well when he's tired, and I didn't want to expose the other passengers to an extremely crabby baby.  On Friday we left at 12:30, which meant we left the house at 10am to be at the airport two hours beforehand.  It was perfect because he went down to nap at 8:40 and slept till 10, so he had a solid nap.  On Monday we left at 8am.  A few weeks ago we yanked him out of bed super early to go to Buffalo and discovered he did really well in the morning.  So on Friday I got up at 4:30am, got myself ready and finished packing, and woke Noah at 5 for a 5:15am pickup.  He was a bit cranky initially but then was all smiles as we headed to the airport.  In both instances, I fed him a bottle after we got through security, and he fell asleep before takeoff.  Score!

    Lesson 2: pack LIGHT

    Since we now have to pay for every checked bag, I decided we would share a suitcase.  This meant mommy only brought 2 pairs of jeans (one pair I wore), a pair of yoga pants, and several long sleeved t-shirts and a warm wool cardigan.  I also brought a couple pairs of shoes.  It's nice to wear different shoes at night when you've been walking in one pair for 6 hours during the day.  For Noah I packed an outfit for each day and jammies for each night, plus a few extras - just in case.  I also packed a few extra toys, some empty bottles, linens for the playpen the hotel provided and a can of powdered formula.  I had a very small purse that I could wear across my body, which provided easy access to my wallet, passports, blackberry and camera.  Everything else was in the diaper bag.  Plus we had the stroller.  Maneuvering an airport with an infant is tricky, especially when you're alone.  You need as few bags as possible because at some point you'll be carrying them PLUS baby.  Here's some good info from Air Canada for travelling with an infant:

    Lesson 3: anticipate security obstacles

    As Noah had to eat before and during the flight, I put his pre-measured formula, a small container of cereal and several jars of baby food in a ziplock bag at the top of the diaper bag.  I had all my electronics (flip camera, blackberry, digital camera, ipod) in my purse so they were easily accessed.  When we hit security in Toronto, we were told we were chosen for a random search.  Awesome!  I went through the usual steps and took off everything (coat, shoes, purse) and put it all into bins.  I had to take Noah out of the stroller and show the security guy how to collapse it so it could be scanned.  Of course when I took him out, I discovered he had pooped and was very stinky!  When we came out the other side the guard patted me down and began swabbing and searching everything in the diaper bag, and made me turn on all my electronics.  It took about 15 minutes and by the end, Noah was VERY cranky.  I was too, especially when the guard started asking me random questions like "are you wearing makeup? are you wearing any lotions?".  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

    Lesson 4:  make sure you have enough baby food

    I pre-measured enough formula for two bottles.  One for before we boarded the plane, and one for landing.  I also brought several jars of baby food so I could feed him before/during/after as needed.  I bought a bottle of water once I passed security, I just asked for unchilled water so it was the right temperature.  Both times he drank his bottle before the flight, and then when he woke up and during the landing.  It worked perfectly.  It was also good to have jars handy.  Our departing flight was delayed so he was starving, so I fed him before we boarded.  Since we were delayed, we got stuck in rush hour traffic in NY so it took almost three hours to get to the hotel.  That jar of sweet potato really calmed him down when he had a meltdown in the last 45 mins!  Make sure you only pack what seems reasonable for the baby to consume during the flight, it's all they'll allow.  We brought a can of formula (a friend tried her brand in the US and her kids refused, so recipes MAY be different) as I didn't want to take a chance.  Once we got to the hotel, we went to a store and got a jug of water and several containers of baby food.  Easy peasy!

    Lesson 5:  make sure you have the right travel documents

    We got Noah's passport over a month before our trip.  It only took two weeks to arrive, which was surprising.  We also got a letter notarized from my husband giving me permission to travel with him alone.  I packed the long form of his birth certificate which states that we're his parents.  That form lists both my maiden and married names, which is helpful because my passport has my maiden name.  Not one person asked to see the notarized letter or birth certificate, but I would've been ready if they did.  Better safe than sorry.  You don't need any hassles when you're travelling with a baby.  Here's a link with info about travelling to the US with an infant:

    Lesson 6: take advantage of hotel services

    We discussed buying a travel crib for this journey, and looked at the Phil & Teds Traveller, but it seemed like a big investment.  We called the hotel and were told they provided cribs.  Since hubby went before us, it gave us the opportunity to check out what they offered so we could make an informed decision.  The crib was actually a pack and play, which was perfect.  They provided two flat bedsheets, one we wrapped around the mattress and one we draped around the sides so Noah couldn't see us while he slept.  They worked like a charm!  We forgot to buy dish soap so the front desk provided some shower gel, which worked great to clean his bottles and spoons.  We probably could've stored the stroller, since the room was REALLY small, but it would've been a a huge pain to get it out every time we left.  I also found a company that rents baby gear, but I send them my order form and they never responded.  I could've called to follow-up, but I actually changed my mind about renting a bouncy chair and playmat as hubby said our room was tiny.  Here's the link to a directory of baby gear rental companies in the US that's useful: 

    Lesson 7: do whatever it takes to keep baby happy

    We fully expected that Noah would be out of sorts since his routine would be upside down, so we were prepared with food and toys to keep him happy when he fussed.  Since he's not a fan of his car seat for extended periods of time, I found a car service that would take us to and from the airport and they provided infant car seats!  This meant he could sit in his toddler seat for his stroller, which we knew would make him very happy.  We also have a flannel bag for the seat so we can easily zip him up and keep him cozy when he would fall asleep.  We tried to keep his feeds on track as much as possible, but we would make sure we fed him when he was hungry, regardless of the time.  When it came to naps, most of them were in the stroller.  Thankfully he can sleep in there.  We brought a light playmat with us and at some point each day we would find a place to put it on the ground and let him lie down and play.  When we got back to the room at the end of the day, we would let him stretch out and roll around on the bed with some toys.  He needs that time each day, otherwise he's super edgy!  His bedtimes were later than usual, but he handled it well.  He could easily sleep in the stroller when he wanted, which helped a lot.  Unfortunately the walls of our room were thin, so he was woken several times each night by street or hallway noise.  Thankfully he's sleeping through the night now, so we didn't have to worry about him freaking out every few hours.  When he woke, he'd settle himself fairly quickly.  I can't imagine travelling with him any earlier, I think it would've been a disaster.

    Lesson 8: strollers ARE doable

    Before our trip, everything I read said that taking a stroller to New York was a total hassle.  I will be the first to admit it was a total lifesaver!  At the airport, it gave me a place to store gear.  Sure it was a pain collapsing it with him in my arms, but I was able to get to the plane door with him inside, and then it was waiting for us when we got off.  Sure the sidewalks of New York are crowded, and not for the timid stroller driver.  You basically have to look for an opening (sometimes using your partner to clear the way) and then barrell through.  People WILL move if you charge through.  Putting an 18lb baby in a carrier isn't reasonable.  Your back would be destroyed after an hour (hubby could only handle 30 mins).  PLUS, you have a place to store all your gear and purchases while you're out and about.  I highly reco bringing your stroller, particularly if it has a large storage space and collapses easily.

    Lesson 9:  relax, go with the flow, have fun and take pictures!

    When you travel, inevitably there's going to be bumps along the way (like security searches, three hour cab rides, delayed flights, etc).  You had to expect these and just roll with it, otherwise you'll make yourself CRAZY!  We tried to balance our itinerary with things we liked, and things we knew Noah would enjoy.  We made sure to take pictures to remember this trip.  After all, it's about having fun, right?  Here's a few pics from our journey.

    He loved to roll around on a blanket at the airport gate. 
    Great way to kill time and make friends with the other passengers!

    Content before his first flight!

    Comfy in his toddler seat and Baby Ganoosh!

    Proud papa.

    A little windy!

    Some downtime after a long day of shopping and sightseeing!

    Enjoying a swing in Central Park!

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    I wanna be a Fisher Price mom!

    My son LOVES to play.  He spends hours a day in his Fisher Price Ocean Wonders bouncy chair.  He loves to watch his Ocean Wonders Aquarium when he wakes up in the morning and from his naps.  And did I mention that his room is decked out in Fisher Price Zen bedding, draperies and even a matching Zen bouncy chair?

    Fisher Price is now accepting applications for mom ambassadors.  Here's why I should be chosen (I have to say, he's a pretty convincing little guy!):

    Baby Bullet review

    Before I begin, let me say that if you have the Magic Bullet, you probably don't need the Baby Bullet.  That said, you get a lot of cool accessories with the Baby Bullet that are super handy!

    We got the Baby Bullet as a shower gift.  My 7 year old nephew is a tv shopping junkie and insisted they buy it for us.  I was so excited to open it because I was secretly coveting it after seeing the teaser commercials.

    After the doctor gave us the green light to start solids, I eagerly pulled the Baby Bullet (from this point forward known as BB) and accessories from the box to wash them.  The kit contains:

    The Batchbowl
    The larger vessel, the Batchbowl, is for creating large amounts of baby food for storing. The Batchbowl is BPA-free and dishwasher safe (top shelf only). I use this most of the time.  Never operate without the cover on. (and make sure the cover is tight otherwise the liquid shoots everywhere! I found that out the hard way.)

    Two Short Cups
    These cups are used to mix and store your ingredients. They are BPA-free and dishwasher-safe (top shelf only). I used these initially when I was making smaller batches.

    The Power Base
    The Power Base is the heart of the Baby Bullet system. Simply place either the Batchbowl or one of the Short Cups on to the High-Torque Power Base, press down and twist! It couldn't be easier!  I use this daily, sometimes to re-puree frozen food that got chunky.  It's small enough to store on the counter.

    The Baby Blend Blade and Milling Blade
    The Baby Bullet comes with two blades: The Baby Blend Blade is for puréeing and blending foods. This is my primary blade.  The Milling Blade is for milling grains to make cereals. Note: The Milling Blade is only used on the Short Cup. I've never used this.  I can't be bothered to make cereal.  I buy Gerber cereals.  Both blades are BPA-free and dishwasher-safe.

    The Pocket Nutritionist
    The "magic" behind the Baby Bullet Baby Food Making System starts with your handy in-store companion, the "Pocket Nutritionist" which teaches parents:
    • Which foods to avoid in the first year
    • Which foods should be organic
    • How to choose a well rounded weekly menu
    • How to select the freshest produce
    • Exactly how much produce to buy to meet your baby's needs
    • The health benefits associated with the foods your baby eats
    • And more!
    This book is has some good info, although I admit I've never used it.

    The Baby Bullet User Manual and Cookbook
    This wonderfully comprehensive, easy to follow book contains everything you need to know about operating the Baby Bullet and feeding your child for the first 18 months.
    The book includes:
    • The signs that Baby is ready to start on solids
    • The "No-No" Food List for the first year
    • A Step-By-Step plan for Baby's first meal
    • The proper schedule for introducing new foods
    • Eating schedules for each stage of development
    • Wholesome recipes!
    • A food journal for tracking favorites and reactions to foods
    • How to choose a well rounded weekly menu
    • And much, much more!
    LOTS of great info in this book!

    Six Storage Cups with Date-Dial Lids
    Your Baby Bullet System comes with 6 revolutionary Date-Dial Storage Cups that are both refrigerator and freezer friendly. Simply spoon your baby food in, twist on the lid and turn the Date-Dial to show the date you created the food. Now you never have to guess when you made the food - you'll know exactly when you made it. The Date-Dial Storage Cups are BPA-free and dishwasher-safe (top rack only).  These are in a CONSTANT rotation.  They're either in the freezer, fridge thawing or empty in the cupboard awaiting the next batch of food.  The kit also includes a handy storage tray that keeps them in place.  These are microwave safe, so to thaw food I either microwave in 10 second intervals, or put the jar in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes and shake to mix.

    The Batch Tray
    To save even more time and money, it's easy to make large batches of your baby's favorite foods and freeze them for later use. The Baby Bullet Batch Tray is perfect for freezing over 24 ounces of baby food and the BPA-free silicone "easy pop" cups make it a breeze to pop out one serving, several servings, or all 12 Baby Bullet servings with ease. This tray is awesome.  Not too big, it's soft so it's relatively easy to push out the frozen cubes (if they're REALLY stuck, I let the tray sit on the counter for a few minutes so the outside starts to melt, and they pop out easily).  And it holds a lot.  The cubes are the exact same size as the jars.  So I've been popping out the cubes into "fruit" and "vegetable" ziplock bags and then I thaw the food in an empty storage cup.  This way I can use the tray for additional batches.

    The Soft Tip Spatula
    The Baby Bullet Soft-Tip Spatula has been specifically designed to get your baby food creations into the Baby Bullet storage vessels with ease. This spatula is dishwasher safe (top shelf only), but can typically be cleaned with just a quick rinse with warm soapy water.  This is a little big but it does a decent job of scraping out stuck purees.  That said, a spoon works just as well!

    I LOVE this system.  I LOVE the fact that I know exactly what's in my baby's food - water and fruit/vegetables.  So far we've made peas, sweet potato, butternut squash, apples, bananas, pears, green beans and peaches.  We haven't attempted meats yet, but that's next on the agenda,  Jarred meats are not that appetizing, so I'm hoping I can do a better job myself.

    Other moms ask me how I find the time to make baby food in the midst of everything else.  To be honest, it really is easy with the BB!  Today I made 5 servings of bananas from 3 over-ripe bananas that I would've tossed tomorrow (I like them on the greener side).  It literally took 5 minutes to peel, puree, pour in the tray and pop into the freezer.  On a night where I had more time, I got 34 servings of food for $7.  It was a combination of pears, sweet potato, green beans and bananas.  There's NO WAY you could buy that much food for so little.

    Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against jarred food.  In fact, I buy organic prunes (Noah gets constipated easily and they help to keep things moving) and jarred meats (Noah's liking chicken casserole and beef/veg and spaghetti).  I also keep some jars on hand for times when we aren't able to keep food cold.  I just like the idea that I can make it fresh, control the ingredients, and save some money!

    I've used it so much that I bought the storage expansion kit, which includes an extra freezer tray and 6 extra storage jars and a storage tray.  I also got the recipe book, which has lots of great suggestions for combo meals, which we will be moving to very soon.

    What's your favourite baby food to make?

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Breaking the swaddle habit

    After 6 months of swaddling, reswaddling and uber-swaddling, we finally decided it was time to move Noah to a sleep sack.  He's at a point where he's very adept at maneuvering his soother back into his mouth, and after we sleep trained him, we realized he was only waking for his soother (which meant we were up several times a night, staggering down the hall to put it back in).  He's a very tactile baby, and he's always holding onto something when he's awake.  When he's upset his arms flail and his hands/fingers move spastically.  We were worried it would be a rough but necessary transition, for all our sakes!

    On day 1, I decided to try the sleep sack with his afternoon nap, when he was REALLY tired.  It worked great!  Almost too good to be true.  I decided to push my luck and try it at bedtime and it was a disaster.  He wasn't quite ready for bed when we put him down, and usually we can put him down awake and he'll soothe himself, but this was too much for him.  So after 40 minutes of him crying and shouting, I swaddled him and he was asleep within ten minutes.  At that point I decided we needed to master naps before we could tackle overnight.

    For the next three days, he was in the sack for his morning and afternoon naps.  I made sure there were plenty of soothers nearby so he could easily find one when he wanted it.  He also had his two comfort blankets (a bunny and a lamb) on either side so he could hold onto them.

    Once we mastered the naps, which went a lot smoother than I expected, we decided to try bedtime again.  The first night we tried it, I let him fall asleep in my arms before transitioning him to the sack in his crib.  He didn't wake during the process, and he even slept through the night!  Success!  The only "bump" was putting him back to bed after his dream feed.  He woke up and it took him about ten minutes to settle.

    After a few nights, we were able to put him down like we used to - awake with his bedside light on.  After we zip him up, we kiss his forehead and turn off the light.  He settles in about ten minutes and he's been sleeping through the night for about a week now - whoo hoo!

    I have three sacks, one that's lightweight for hot days, and two heavier ones for the cooler nights.  We make sure to adjust his jammies and sack according to the weather so he isn't too hot or cold.  It's also good to have a backup in case of "accidents"!

    He seems to have adjusted to the "freedom" nicely.  In fact, he's become quite mobile during the night.  Sometimes we find him sleeping on his side, sometimes he's turned sideways with his head against one bumper and his feet on the opposite bumper.  A few times we've even found him turned around with his head at the other end of the crib.

    Funny kid.