5 reasons to get away with your significant other and nobody else.

Dinner for two on the beach

Dinner for two on the beach

It has been exactly 18 hours and 7 minutes since my husband and I basically washed up on the shore of Negril, Jamaica. We had been frolicking for 6 days, baby-free, on vacation with a capital V, and it was absolutely wonderful. So I’m writing a quick post to encourage you to take a break. A short one, a long one – whatever you can do. You know you want it. You know you deserve it.

Here’s 5 reasons to:

1. Because your kid/s will be FINE. Not only was our daughter not mad at us, she seems to love us even more when we got back (as if that were possible?!).

2. Because it’s so good to know that underneath this whole mommy and daddy thing are best friends, lovers, artists…. free spirits. It literally took us 24 hours to go from frazzled and burned out to feeling like whole people again.

3. Because 5 days (or 3, or 1) vacation is actually the equivalent of a year in toddler-free time. (Think: 1 hour pedicure? Feels like a day right?)

4. Because you deserve to have some FUN. (Not the kind of ‘fun’ you talk yourself into before a visit to Ping’s farm)

5. Because there’s nothing kids hate worse than loser parents that gave up their whole lives to dote on them. Right?

Just sayin’.

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She eats everything….

I wouldn’t have guessed my 10 month old would be eating these things, but she has a mind (and flavour palette) all of her own. And growing up in our house, there will be no shortage of interesting things for her to try. Here’s a few of her oddest choices:

1. Pickled burdock root.

We get it from Sanko (Japanese food store in Toronto) and she gnaws on it like it was licorice. She doesn’t bite into it or swallow, but for gumming it has been her favorite teething food. Bizarre! (The vinegar level is probably higher than recommended, but burdock itself is a reputed calming herb, and she had no bad reaction)

yamagobo

2. Hummus.

I’m not a huge hummus fan myself but I wanted to try something with veggie protein since I don’t cook with many beans or lentils. Lo and behold, she loves it. Particularly with pita and cheese.

Hummus

3. Jambalaya. She went nuts for this clam-juice and tomato soaked rice. (I left out the meats for her portion.)

creole jambalaya

4. Cranberry sauce It was her favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. She loved the turkey quite a lot too.

cranberry sauce

5. Mango. This might not sound strange, but my kid isn’t a fan of apples really, or bananas, or strawberries. Her pick is mango. Eats it for breakfast 7 days a week. Funny little monkey. I buy the Europe’s best frozen mango, blanche it, and cut it up small.

mango

Happy Valentine’s Day, baby.

Today is Valentine’s Day.

Next year, we’ll have a one-year-old to celebrate this day with, and in a few more years we’ll be helping her write Valentine’s for all the boys and girls in her class.

She’ll know us better than anyone, and love us more than anyone. And vice versa of course. But I was really touched by this quote about giving it time:

“All new parents work at knowing, understanding, and loving their babies. Your baby will work just as hard at learning to know, understand, and love you. This is the process of attachment-the work that parents and babies do together to form a deep and lasting love. It is what becoming a family is all about.”

– From You and Your Newborn Baby – A guide to the First Months After Birth

By Linda Todd

Lofty aspirations on the eve of parenthood…

With a baby coming in less than a month my parenting ambitions are kicking into high, HIGH gear, but those other more personal (selfish?!) dreams and aspirations are fading into the background.

Is that good? Bad? After some careful thought… I think it’s pretty awful actually. And I want to consciously put an end to this back-burner instinct. Pronto.

How terrible, that so many people must feel like we feel do right now… that babies and children mean the end of personal dreams and aspirations. Its almost as if we feel irresponsible about dreaming freely and imagining wonderful and exciting things.

I want to put together a quick little Pre-Baby Bucket List to remind myself, and my husband, that we need to keep dreaming to stay alive. And no matter how practical we try to be for our child, it doesn’t mean that we stop walking our own path to personal fulfillment. So here it is…

THE PRE-BABY BUCKET LIST

1. Start a charity

2. Publish my novel

3. See Leonard Cohen in concert. I hope he tours again!

4. Learn to make a scrumptious, braised Beef Bourguignon (in a Le Creuset pot that I don’t own yet.)

5. Create a pied-a-terre in the Caribbean.

6. Get chef/resort/dinner party idea off the ground (could include #1, and #5)

*With only six things on this list, my mind is filling with worries about my mother’s finances, my child’s education, and my own retirement. I can see how it’s much easier to put this sort of list in permanent limbo. But isn’t it through additional income and entrepreneurship that we can escape the loop of pay check dependancy? (P.S. Notice how none of the above involves Twitter or Facebook… why do I waste my time on that crap?)*

7. Write an article for a national newspaper.

8. Give an inspiring speech (And yes, I’d happily settle for giving a reading while on a book tour)

9. Live in a glass house. Surrounded by beautiful trees and/or water.

10. Take a wine tour of Bergundy by canal.

11. Learn to play piano.

12. Learn French (#11 and #12 have been on my list since forever!! I’m terrible…this is really kind of helpful for focusing. Although I’m finding it kind of depressing for some reason. Onward ho!)

13. Earn a Master’s Degree. Likely an MFA in creative writing.

14. Tour Japan. Visit the zen gardens. See the cherry blossoms. Eat the food.

15. Learn Scubadiving.

16. Dive.

17. Get nominated for an award.

18. Attend an award show.

19. Learn some tricky salsa moves/get thrown in the air.

20. Start a Speaker Series (I’m thinking this will tie in with #1, #5, and #6!)

21. Grow hair long, like past elbows.

22. Finish reading Proust, Remembrance of Things Past. Seriously. Finish. It.

23. Publish second novel.

24. Become a stronger swimmer.

25. Go to Greece. Island Hop.

Wow, ok. So 25 things… and it would be hard to come up with more at this moment. I feel inspired though, and focused, and I truly believe that happy, fulfilled parents make happy, fulfilled children. I want my daughter to know me as a writer, a doer, a maker of change. So why put my own life on the back burner?

Thoughts? Oh, and if you make a list of your own, send me the link!

~ ♥ LMF

Life after baby is born… bedlam, bliss, or both?

Four weeks to go.

Most people I know with babies say it’s going to be hard, it’s a lot of work, it’s not easy, you won’t sleep, you won’t have any time, the beginning is so tough, take all the help you can get…

But where are the stories of new baby bliss? These are the only ones I hear from the aunts and grandmas…

Were earlier generations (my mom and aunts) really more in the spirit of bringing up babies with joy and ease? Or are they just so many miles away from the days of new parenthood that they barely recall the tribulations of it? I’m stumped. My own generation just seems less susceptible to the thrills of having a baby and more inclined to focus on (and share) the hardships. I’m a little tired of being warned all the time… you know?

Truth be told, it’s upsetting me.

New baby. Hard work.
Motherhood.

With only a month to go, I’m finding it hard to not be influenced by the negativity. And it just seems so strange, considering how my mother-in-law and other older women in my life talk about raising babies in retrospect as the most wonderful thing in the world. Could it really be that they’re just so far from the challenges that they forget?

I think you forget the bad. My mom has no memory of me crying inconsolably, or sleepless nights, or any of the awful things I put her through.

At the end of the day there’s sensation and emotion, memory and desire. I’m sure within these, there will be both the positive and the negative, and over time the negative will fade but the positive will stay. I suppose the people I’m surrounded by are just so in it that they don’t realize how ephemeral the hardness is.

And nobody can feel their lack of sleep, their lack of sex, their frustrations at trying to do and balance everything. We just see the happy baby pictures.

Dear self… in one month’s time…. yes, there will be tricky, frustrating times, and you may feel like you’ve reached the end of your rope sometimes, but wait a day. Wait a week. It’ll all change, and before you know it… a new phase will set in with it’s new challenges, and you will be a stronger woman for having overcome what came before it. Seek out the silly, the joy, the laughter, the understanding, the rare, the opportunity to dance and sing. There are no guarantees that any of these moments will ever come again. This … is… it …

More on this later (probably much, much more on this!)

*** note: my daughter is now 2 months old and I am happy to say the answer for me was bliss!

P.S. Anyone who reads this and happens to be in the midst of the hard part… please write if you want to talk about it! Even though I’m determined to stay focused on the positive and the bliss, I do understand (theoretically, at this point! Still don’t have my girl here yet to keep me up all night) that shit happens and it can be brutal at times. Reach out to me anytime at justine.elyse@gmail.com or @mrsjpirate on Twitter.

♥ LMF

The Baby Whisperer – the good, the bad, and the confusing

Baby Books

While I was laid up in my 6th month of pregnancy with a busted back, I read a bunch of baby prep books. The Baby Whisperer (and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems) by Tracy Hogg, stands out among them as being a pretty smart and savvy approach. I highly recommend! But while it’s good knowledge to have in the back pocket…. at the end of the day it’s al just tools for your mamma tool belt, not rules to live by.

The biggest takeaways from the book were these:

#1 Eat, Activity, Sleep: The idea: Basically, this means keep your baby up after a feeding for a short time before they conk out so that you don’t become their sleep blanky. This will set the stage for allowing them to fall asleep on their own, and helps them learn to put themselves to sleep instead of allowing a milk coma and a warm body to do all the work.

The reality: I’ve learned that there are babies who like to eat and run, babies who like to lounge and snack, and babies who like to cuddle and suck. Since my daughter turned out to be an ‘eat and run’ type, I take full advantage of those times when nursing knocks her out. For people with the other types of baby… you know what? If you want your baby to sleep and a big meal will do it… why not just do what works and enjoy?

#2 Babies need to learn how to put themselves to sleep. The idea: In other words, they don’t come here knowing how to stroke the silk on their blanket or how to count sheep or how to allow their bodies to relax into rest. It’s learned. So unless we can help them learn that, they may have trouble. What I gathered from the book is that they learn it best from you being near, but not doing all the work. Put the baby in the crib awake and use different methods to help them fall asleep – like the sound of your voice, or music…

The reality: Hard to do!! I find that as my daughter gets older she’s more receptive to silk blankies, soothing sounds, etc. But until 3 mos, forget it. She wanted to be held and I wanted to hold her! I think babies are programmed (for a good reason) to need body heat. Being held is how they survive. So if it takes a few months for them to realize there are other ways, let it take time…. My daughter is a great sleeper. If I have to bounce her or hold her for now…. I’m okay with that.

#3 Breastfeeding habits have a major impact on baby (and mommy!) sleep habits.

The idea: The two biggest takeaways for me on this one were that food missed during the day (from a long nap for example) will come to haunt you at night. It’s like a cumulative thing. And also, one of the ways to keep baby sleeping is to feed them after they’ve gone to bed for the night. She calls this a dream feed. And get this…. they won’t even wake up, they can eat while they sleep. This one really reminds me of my puppy-mummy days when I would carry Lemon out to the front yard in the middle of the night so she could pee. It was an adorable (because she was so sleepy and stumbly!) and pre-emptive way to keep her from waking up, needing to go, and peeing on the floor. And it worked. She successfully learned that peeing was an outside thing, and by the time her bladder grew big enough to support full nights, she was trained.

*NOTE: I’ve just read some parent comments on dream-feeding and for the babies that tend to wake more easily, it seems to be troublesome. http://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/dream-feed/

Now I KNOW that babies are more complicated than this, but doesn’t it make sense to feed a baby before they get hungry, especially during the night, when they need sleep as much as food, and both needs are kind of battling each other? The author also recommends tanking baby up around dinner time, with longer, closer together feeds, so that babies tummy is nice and full when she goes to sleep. Then topping up with the dream feed before you go to bed yourself.

The reality: My baby would not wake up for dream feeds. Mouth shut, not interested, no chance.

#4 Schedule, Schedule, Schedule: The idea: Get your baby on a sleeping/eating schedule (eat, activity, sleep) which starts on about a 3 hour cycle when they’re 4 weeks old. I don’t know about you but I’m not scheduling ANYTHING until at least then. The 4 week old schedule looks like this: eats at 7, diaper change, playing and talking at  7:45, napping at 8:15, repeat at 10:00 am. By 3-4 months, the cycle changes to a four hour one, which means 2 naps not 3, up to 2 hours awake-time after feeding, 4 feeds + dreamfeed instead of 5 feeds + dreamfeed. This change is based on the baby’s tummy size having grown to accommodate more at each feeding.

My more intuitive style tells me that sticking too rigidly to these rules could drive me as crazy as an unhappy baby. I think sticking loosely to the ideas is fantastic, but as she mentions in the book, there are so many variables when it come to babies and their behaviour, it seems impossible to achieve this blissful state of daily ritual for more than a day or a week before something sent it awry. Maybe I’m wrong, but a growth spirt, or a change from swaddling to not, or a new tooth could throw all this into havoc, no? Babies are ever-changing little beings. I can’t imagine having so many milestones to hit or miss in a day. But maybe I’m getting too hung up on the timing – Tracy does say it’s not about the TIME so much as the structure. This I agree with.

The reality: It’s a good guideline and something to aspire to and keep your sanity, but the reality is you’re in the moment with your baby and following your instincts. Also, sometimes a boob is the only thing that will quiet a screaming little one. Nursing is not just about eating, it’s about comfort, and ‘resetting’ sometimes. So I think this is a simplified equation where baby’s hunger would be the only reason you nurse. It’s not… it’s like a hug… and sometimes you know that a hug is what’s needed. So why restrain?

The book also goes pretty extensively into solving problems that have emerged for your and your baby, but since this is all still theoretical for me I can’t comment on whether her solutions work or not.

I’ll be on the front lines soon (6 weeks to go) and I have to say I’m looking forward to putting it all into practice. And then throwing it all out the window if need be, when I start to learn what my baby’s own unique needs are.

Good luck to you and yours!

xo, La Mamma Futura

My parenting style is still TBD… but I love this.

When I had a puppy I was a great puppy mummy. I took her out in the night time, I taught her how to be a good dog, and I could calm her down like no other. I was patient and loving but stern. Will there be any correlation between that puppy mommy and this baby mamma… I’m not sure. But I kind of hope so. Because raising that little dog was a wonderful, rich experience, and feeling like I was able to do a good job of it rewarded my heart so fully.

In any case, I came across this quote yesterday and I thought WORDS TO LIVE BY! Our daughter will have “at least” this:

“Children need at least one person in their life who thinks the sun rises and sets on them, someone who delights in their existence and loves them unconditionally.”
– Pam Leo

Natural Childbirth?

6 weeks away and the hardest part is waiting. Ok it’s also hard to know that the home stretch will include quite a bit more stretch (another inch or two??) … and not much home (still working, till the 39th week).

I’ve researched and read a lot about birth and I’ve decided that I’m going to try for natural, unassisted, birth. I know it’s going to hurt but honestly – so what? I’ve never had pain before that so obviously leads to the greatest pleasure imaginable (my little girl, plopped onto my chest). And I’m starting to feel like my athletic experience and build will be helpful, psychologically and physically.

I found this AMAZING birth book called Birth Skills by Juju Sundin which details all the ways to keep the pain of labor manageable, like using your hands and legs, making sounds, breathing, using visualizations, positions… And some other things I’m probably forgetting.

It explains that the major pain of labor is from muscle fatigue. Specifically, the uterus being tired from all that scrunching your baby out. What an insight! It’s actually not the pushing that hurts or the giant head making its way down your tiny vaginal canal … It’s just a tired muscle. Like a bicep or a quad that’s been working too hard and too long.

Well… I don’t know about you but this seems manageable to me. I’ve been an avid mountain biker and yoga student for over a decade now and I definitely know the pain of hills and prolonged positions. Not to say that it’s anywhere close to what I’m going to feel in 6 weeks or so, but hopefully at the very least I’ll understand the pain.

Birth Skills also explains that using up the adrenalin produced by labor helps activate the body’s natural painkillers – endorphins. In other words, using my legs (squatting perhaps!) will help burn off some off the extra energy that the body produces to cope with the birth itself. And then…. Burning off that extra energy helps the endorphins naturally kill pain.

It makes sense then, that lying flat on your back with all this fight or flight response going on would keep the endorphins from doing their painkilling thing. And mamma want that painkilling!

Anyways I think I’m getting at least a basic understanding of the impending doom known as b..b…b…birth!!

How to make an Origami Mobile

I started this quest with an interest in making an origami mobile for my baby’s room, but with lots of searching and some careful thought, I’ve been swayed more toward the butterfly mobile. Although origami mobiles (as pictured) are exotic looking, they seem like they would be very labor intensive with a short lifespan…

butterfly mobile, origami mobile, best, how to make a mobile, mobile, nursery, origami, pinterest
butterfly mobile, origami mobile, how to make a mobile, mobile, nursery, origami, pinterest, best

The one pictured above is a mix of shapes and animals, from fish to cranes to pointy balls, and it was the first to inspire me. But it’s not so much a DIYMPLE (DIY Mamma Project that Looks Easy) as a… PRIC (Project that’s really complicated?). In any case, I would use YouTube for a head start on the animals (crane video here, fish video instructions here) and then string them together just like the mobiles below, with fishing wire and sewing circles. If you have an ambitious and talented group, this is also a great baby shower activity! At least then you can source some help on all that Orgami.

When I discovered the “punchout” I shifted gears and really fell in love with this butterfly version:

Paper Butterfly Mobile
Paper Butterfly Mobile

More pictures and instructions available on the original blog it’s from here.

The butterfly punchout is available at giant art stores (Michael’s in Canada) or on Amazon here. I found the size a bit smaller than I would have liked but that just means…. more butterflies! You can also get the non-monarch butterfly which has no holes and would look more like this (below):

Butterfly Mobile

Butterfly Mobile

Full tutorial for this one is available here (by its creator Carina Gardner)

I haven’t made mine yet but I will be sure to post my pics and tips once complete!

How to make homemade baby wipes

I’m EXCITED to start making things at home, especially when there are stories everywhere about big companies putting sh*tty, dangerous ingredients in baby products, including wipes (I’m looking at you HUGGIES).

Below is my favorite recipe, mostly because of the apricot oil and castile soap, but my instinct is to substitute chamomile instead of tea tree. This is just personal preference because my skin has always reacted so poorly to tea tree.

So the basic idea is to take a roll of paper towel and cut it in half, then remove the cardboard core. What’s left is a tube that you can pull from, through a narrow plastic top opening (like the typical baby wipe container or even more like the household wipes style tube container.) Once you’ve got your half roll and your container, you just poor on the solution and then let it soak in. VOILA!

Homemade Natural Baby Wipe Solution

• 1 tablespoon almond or apricot oil

• 1 tablespoon Dr Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap (comes in several natural scents)

• 2 drops tea tree essential oil (an antibacterial agent)

• 1 drop lavender essential oil

• 1 cup water

Thanks go to My Organic Baby http://www.my-organic-baby.net/organic-baby-wipes.html

The baby wash and baby oil method is also popular, and the instructions are good on these:

http://babyparenting.about.com/cs/diapering/ht/wipes.htm

How To Make Your Own Homemade Baby Wipes