Saturday, September 26, 2009

Parade of Daily Adventures

I just read someone's FB update on my newsfeed that said: "When you have kids, Saturdays are just another kind of Monday." Amen to that, sistah!

Today our Parade of Daily Adventures included a 6:00 am 5K run, soccer photos, 2-1/2 hours of dance, a hockey practice, followed by a soccer game...some which was happening at the same time (thanks for helping out today, Mom)! Oh, and breastfeeding a baby wherever he can grab some "booby snacks" (as my friend, Jennifer, calls it).

Now I need a weekend to recover from my Saturday. But tomorrow brings birthday shopping, more soccer pix, soccer "games" for the U7 crowd, and a birthday party...I think we'll order in dinner tomorrow!

Friday, September 25, 2009


I am a relatively recent convert to babywearing. When I had my first baby, Trevor, he was a whopper! That kid's rolls had their own rolls. By the time he was four months old, I think he was already pretty close to doubling his birth weight. At the time I had an el-cheapo Snugli and I found it soooo terribly uncomfortable. When he was really new, I didn't find it supportive enough for his floppiness. When he was a bit sturdier (about 2 months) I thought it was uncomfortable because Trevor was such a chunky monkey. Of course, now I realize it probably had a lot more to do with its not-so-great design. The straps dug into my neck and shoulder muscles and Trevor was literally hanging, and not in a comfortable sitting position. Honestly, at the time I thought people who would cart their babies around all day in one of those things must be martyrs who were really into having a sore back all the time! So I really didn't bother with it too much when Amy came along. They were so close together that I just went out and got a double stroller and used that any time we were out and about. Which, by the way, wasn't that often because one or the other of them was always napping and I was a slave to the nap schedule.

I realized pretty quickly that things would have to be different this time around. I don't have the luxury of being able to stay home whenever Gavin is asleep. We have a busy family with two school aged kids that need picking up and dropping off at their school, their friends', and their activities. Poor Gavin could very easily spend 80% of his day in a car seat being carted around from place to place. He's such an even tempered kid that he would probably be ok with hanging out in his car seat that much but the idea of this really bothered me.

Shortly after Gavin was born I contacted my friend, Victoria, who I know is an experienced baby-wearer and asked for some advice. She was awesome and let me try out her Cuddlywrap and made a couple of other recommendations for other carriers that work well depending on the situation/setting you're in.

I have three carriers at the moment. I love all three of them for different reasons and in different settings.

1. My Hotsling: I love this one for it's simplicity and versatility. It's basically just a tube of fabric with one curved seam that you fold in half to make a pouch. It comes with an instructional DVD that demonstrates how to fold and the different carries you can use with it. I've used this one since he was tiny and have recently started using it to carry him on my hip now that he has some more trunk strength. The carrier distributes the weight nicely on my skeletal frame rather than sitting only on the muscles, so I can wear him for long periods of time in comfort even though he's getting bigger and heavier. It folds up to nothing and fits nicely in the pouch behind my driver's seat in the van.

2. My Cuddlywrap: I love this one because it really is cuddly, it distributes the weight nicely and he can face in or out. It's made of a stretchy cotton and is essentially a LONG strip of fabric about a foot wide and a few yards long that you wind around your body and tie up. The down side is that all that fabric can be cumbersome when you're out and about; this one is definitely best for around the house. I found it a little intimidating, but the instructional DVD makes it really simple to learn to tie. Hint: tie it pretty snugly! When Gavin was brand new, this one snuggled him up close to my heartbeat and he'd stay there happily for hours. Now that he's a bit bigger he likes to face out while I do stuff around the house.

3. My Babyhawk: This one really is my favourite because it's the most comfortable of all three for wearing long periods of time. It's a Chinese style mei tai carrier that offers excellent support and can be worn on the back or the front (Gavin's not big enough for a back carry yet, but I'm excited to try it this way when he is). You can custom design one on their website with different trim and panel fabrics, pockets or not, reversible or not, toy rings or not, and a warm winter-type liner or not. My Babyhawk was the most expensive of the three that I have at about $125.00, but I feel like I've already gotten my money's worth from it in the past two months! It's not bulky or cumbersome and can fit in my diaper bag and is so handy for places my stroller can't go like muddy soccer fields and hockey rinks with lots of stairs.

Now that I have a few soft carriers that are well-designed and fit properly, I love carrying Gavin around. I often find myself leaving the carseat in the van and plunking him into one of the carriers I have kicking around in the backseat. We get to cuddle and visit as we go about our day and I feel so much closer to him. Gavin gets to participate in conversations WAY more than he does when he's in car seat or a stroller. When I have him in the sling and he's awake, people talk to him. And about him. And he has a much greater awareness of the conversations around him because he's physically at that level. I am no expert, but I think this can only benefit his social and language development.

(There's Gavin in the Cuddlywrap.)
Plus I get way more comments about how cute he is, and who doesn't like that?!

Monday, September 21, 2009

We've Been Disney-fied

Disney-fied: the process by which little girls become conditioned to believe that things are "good" if they are "beautiful."

Ok, this world-view bias has probably been around a lot longer than Disney and there are multitudes of psychological studies exploring the topic of bias with regard to appearance vs. perception of internal qualities (i.e. race, gender, level of attractiveness, etc.).

But however it happened, Amy has been quite sucked in by it all as evidenced by the following conversation. This happened over the weekend as we were getting over an argument about having her hair brushed:

Amy: Why do you love me?
Me: Oh Amy, you're the best little girl I know. You're smart, and funny, and kind, and great at soccer, and such a good sister...
Me: Why do you love me?
Amy: thinking Well, because you're beautiful.
Me: Really?! Well, thanks Amy, that's a nice compliment to get, but is that the only reason? Like, what if I was in a car accident and my face got all broken up and I didn't look like this anymore. Would you still love me?
Amy: It'd be ok, Mommy, I'd just give you a makeover.


Friday, September 18, 2009

The Joy of a Sharp Pencil

I recently installed this very snazzy pencil sharpener, given to me by my mom.

I had no idea it would be such a hit! Amy spent half an hour sharpening every pencil that we could find in the house. I wish I had installed when my mom gave it to us a year ago!

And now I can always find a nice sharp pencil when I need it. :-)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Obligatory Breastfeeding Post

There's Gavin on his favourite side...the right one.

Mommy-blogs are rife with posts about breastfeeding. Some may roll their eyes at this, but I think all this sharing of our breastfeeding experiences arises out of a need. In today's society, we are generally more isolated than in generations past; rarely do people have a network of family and friends to share knowledge and experience and offer support in the area of breastfeeding. I know that reading about others' successes and challenges in breastfeeding fed my determination to stick with it, so if my story can help someone else I feel like I should put it out there.

I have three children, and getting started with breastfeeding wasn't easy with any of them. When I thought about how to organize this entry, I started writing it kid-by-kid, but honestly, it was kind of depressing to re-visit it in that kind of detail (and I don't want to scare anyone off breastfeeding). Instead here are some of the challenges I faced in getting started with breastfeeding:

- Latching problems. One thing led to labour = not as much time to squeeze mucous out of baby's system = not very hungry baby = baby not terribly motivated to latch or to feed vigorously when I did get him/her on.
- Supply problems. Because they weren't latching or feeding much, my breasts weren't being stimulated enough to begin producing milk for several days.
- A vicious cycle started. Eventually they did get hungry but were almost too frantically hungry to get a good latch and feeding rhythm going, and eventually all three of them dropped below the 10% weight loss expected while breastfeeding gets going.
- Add to this a solid bout of post-partum depression after each birth, especially the first and third children, which also fed into and off of the breastfeeding issues.

At the end of the week after they were born, our family was pretty frantic. I was very determined to breastfeed, but incredibly frustrated that it was so difficult to get started.

So here is what helped me:
- Pumping at every feeding (at least every 3 hours) to empty both breasts and stimulate milk production. I found it worked best to latch baby on one side and pump the other (a rented pump from the drugstore is essential!). Then I'd feed the baby whatever expressed breastmilk (EBM) I'd managed to collect.
- Taking 2 capsules of Fenugreek, 3 times per day (second baby) as well as pumping.
- Taking 2 pills of Domperidone, 4 times per day (third baby) as well as pumping.
- Family support. My husband stayed home for a week and half to help with the kids. My in-laws dropped off dinner on more than a few occasions and only stayed briefly. My mom came to my house every morning for eight weeks to walk my two older children to school when my third was born. My mom also recognized my symptoms of depression and supported me in getting to the doctor to get some medical help.
- Friend support. More dinners for the freezer saved my sanity on many a weeknight. Also, offering to take my older kids for playdates - golden!
- "Institutional" support. I was lucky to have all three kids in a health authority that is baby friendly. I was never offered free formula, I was offered a great deal of help with breastfeeding while in hospital, my public health nurses made themselves as available as possible and were very supportive of my efforts to breastfeed, and after my most recent delivery my fantastic doctor made a point of seeing us every week until he was satisfied that we were on our way and my baby was thriving.

Being a breastfeeding mom has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I'm so grateful that I had the help I needed to make it work. I hope that this post helps someone else as much as the reading of blogs that I did helped me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tooth Fairies and Other Lies We Tell Our Children

Amy's first tooth FINALLY fell out on Friday morning. It had been dangling from the tiniest bit of gum for a couple of days but she refused to let us in there to give it a good yank. On Friday morning, she had a great, big sneeze and atchooed it right out, a la Andrew's Loose Tooth by Robert Munsch. She was so thrilled! We made a huge deal about it, put it in an envelope to put under her pillow for the Tooth Fairy and then went about our day. That was my first mistake, I should have put a great big reminder on my pillow before leaving so I'd remember at can see where this is headed.

That evening we were at our friends' house for an evening of poker for the grownups and movies for the kids. I had a glass of wine, and not having had much to drink the past year or so I was definitely a little fuzzy (mistake #2). We didn't get home until after midnight and everyone promptly climbed into their beds and zonked out.

I still had a chance to remember in the morning when Gavin got up wanting to be fed. Alas, I sat on the couch nursing him and watching a PVR'd episode of Glee. I still didn't even clue in when Amy came downstairs with a quivering bottom lip! Talk about a Homer Simpson moment!

I did some quick thinking and came up with an excuse that we got home after midnight so we must have missed her. Then we sent an email to her (really my mom) explaining where we were and asking why she didn't come. My mom is AWESOME! She (the Tooth Fairy) wrote back saying that she was looking all over for us and even clipped a picture of a fairy with a searching expression in her email reply. Thank heavens for Grandma!

The Tooth Fairy did come last night, and she left double the amount in compensation.

I still feel really guilty, though. Why do I keep forgetting this poor kid's major life events? You might remember Kindergarten show and tell last year...? This time mommy guilt looks like a Disney Barbie. Now I just have to try to get it together so I don't forget anything else...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy School Year!

I love back to school time. I was kind of a sucky, goody-two-shoes, rule-following type of kid, so I was pretty much in my element as a young student. I became a little disenchanted with high school (37 absences from Chem 12 by the interim report...ring a bell, Mom?), but I still loved the structure and routine of a new school year. I liked the beginning of school so much that I quit university repeatedly and got to start a new school year three times before I finally decided what to do with my life. And what did I parlay my love of a new school year into a career - teaching! Now I get to start from scratch not only with shiny new school supplies, but with a fresh bunch of kids ready to craft a school year together with my teaching partner and I.

But the beginning of September can be a really stressful time for a lot of families. This was really driven home to me this week as I watched my own kids and their friends begin the school year. So much worry! Uh-oh, my kid is in the job share class. Uh-oh, my kid is in a split class. Uh-oh, my kid is not with her friend this year. Uh-oh, my kid is in with the "dim" Grade 2's, does that mean he's "dim," too?

I'm in an interesting position as both a parent and a teacher. I find myself making the same reassurances to my friends as I do to the parents of my students. So here is a summary of those reassurances that I hope will set parents' minds at ease:

1. Combined classes are not a bad thing. Notice I used the word combined and not split. Within any given group of children, you have a wide ranges of strengths and talents in a variety of different areas. Whether the children all have their birthday in one calendar year or the next doesn't make much difference to this range (this has always seemed like such an arbitrary division to me, but that's a subject for another blog post). Teachers teach children, not curriculum. In 10 years of teaching, I've yet to meet a teacher who teaches the children in a combined class differently based on the grade they are in. Teachers so their best to meet each child where they are and design instruction that best meets their needs. If anything, the advantage of combined classes is that there is usually a range of maturity that affords children a chance to be role models and learn from each other. Further, having combined classes allows schools to group children together to their advantage, and separate children who need to be apart from each other.

2. If your child is in the upper grade of a combined class, it does not mean that the school thinks they are "dim." I sometimes wish parents could see the process involved in loading classes. It's incredibly complex and usually begins the spring before the beginning of the following school year. We take into account balancing of gender, special needs, ESL, behaviour, friend groups that are socially supportive and should stay together, friend groups that are negative and should be separated for a year, school district staffing allocations, educational assistants and where they can be of maximum effectiveness. There are usually at least four or five different configurations proposed and debated before the staff and principal finally come to an agreement about the best one and can officially organize the school (in my district this does not happen until the first Monday of the school year). If your child is in a combined class, there were probably several reasons why he or she was placed there. If you have concerns about it, the very best thing to do is to have a conversation with the teacher about it...hopefully they can ease your concerns. If you still have them, then at least you've begun a dialogue about it and hopefully the school will work with you to resolve the situation.

3. Having teachers who job share usually works out just fine. Okay, I'm a little biased on this one having been in a fantastic job sharing situation for the past seven years...I've also dealt with this concern A LOT! Most parents are concerned about two things: a) the teachers are only part time, therefore, they are not fully committed to the job at hand, and b) it's confusing and inconsistent for the children to have two teachers. To the former concern, let me assure you that in all the teachers I've ever known who job share, they put way more effort in than their allotted percentage of the position. One principal I know used to say that she really loved having job shares on her staff because you ended up with way more than 1.0 FTE's worth of contribution to the staff and school community. To the latter concern, I can only think of one child out of the 24x7=168 or so that I've taught where he perhaps may have been better off in a situation with one single teacher. Kids work with all kinds of different adults in their lives (parents, coaches, childcare providers) and even within the school often have at least one other "specialist" teacher. They usually adjust to each of these adults' expectations for behaviour based on whatever context they're in. I can't speak for every job share situation, but certainly in mine and those of my close colleagues, we're in frequent communication about classroom issues to ensure that we're being consistent in our philosophy and practice. One added benefit of having your child in a class with a job share is that the children get to work with people who may have different strengths; for instance, I am passionate about teaching science in a very hands-0n way (more than my partner), and she is passionate about developing social responsibility through her personal planning and social studies lessons (fantastically, I might add). Plus, we always have someone to bounce ideas off and brainstorm with who knows the workings of our classroom and students inside-out. There are also advantages to having a single teacher; one situation isn't necessarily better than the other, they're just a bit different.

4. Your school is there to help support your child's learning journey, and that includes your input. You are your child's first educator. Of course you know them better than anyone. Parental input is crucial, and most teachers and principals welcome you it. With email, teachers are more accessible than ever these days. I routinely give out my cell phone number and email address to the parents in my class just in case they have a class-related question and it's never been a problem yet. I would never want a child to go to be worried about something that could have been cleared up with a quick phone call at 8:30 pm. A word of advice, though, 9:00 am drop-off time is not a good time to start having a conversation with the teacher as we're usually about to start the important work of providing an excellent program for your kids!

So take a deep breath and head into the school year expecting the best. Chances are your child will follow your lead and it will be a great one.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Shrinking Jill - revised

If you've been reading this blog since the beginning you will remember that I used to track my weight loss journey under the heading, Shrinking Jill. You may have also noticed that I haven't posted that for a while because, well, I didn't do much shrinking over the summer. I didn't gain much, but I sure didn't lose any weight either.
Health has been on mind a lot lately so I decided I needed a new focus for motivation. Not so much on shrinking, but more on being a healthy weight. I'll be especially prone to Type II diabetes having had gestational diabetes three times (insulin dependent all three times), so maintaining a healthier weight is really crucial for me.
And guess what...just keeping that in mind, I've lost 6 lbs. in the last 2 weeks! I am keeping in mind that I can make healthy choices about eating and I'm really trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour (before the crazy late night snacking sets it). I'm now almost where I was at before I got pregnant (a couple more pounds) and the jeans I bought in May are now too about motivating! And the routine of the school year is really helping, too.
Now to try to work the exercise back in...that's the hardest part for me! Got any tips? I'd love to hear them...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Looooong Weekend!

I decided to hit Seattle Premium Outlets this weekend to do some back-to-school shopping...actually, I had planned to go mid-week last week to avoid the crowds, but my plans changed drastically with my m-i-l's recent passing. My family needed me more than the Gymboree outlet. Anyway, Gavin and I packed up our stuff and headed south to the outlet mall, along with about a million other people. I was fully prepared to deal with crowds of people and wasn't at all in a hurry. All in all, it was a successful day and I got most of the stuff on my list.
One big pet peeve from the day, though...why oh why can't they leave enough room in the stores where they sell children/baby clothes for people to maneuver with a stroller?! I can see avoiding the super-hip fashion stores, and don't even bother going into a shoe store, but Carter's? Gymboree? Oshkosh? I couldn't move in there with my stroller without knocking stuff off the racks. Normally I'd wear Gavin and carry the diaper bag and stuff if it was a shorter shopping trip, but this was the mucho-shop of the year, so the stroller was a necessity.
Anyway, the whole weekend has felt a little bit looooong. We're in Birch Bay and the weather is pretty sucky so the kids are going a bit stir crazy. It's a great place for kids when the weather is good but murder when it's not. And I feel like our whole family is in limbo until my m-i-l's Celebration of Life happens on Tuesday. And then we're right back into the swing of things.
We had some lovely times together this summer, as a family. And we had some really difficult times, dealing with cancer. I'm just not sure I'm ready to be thrust right back into the craziness of the school year and activities...