Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Mommy Mental Health: Planning for Labour

For me, the big lesson in planning came at 39 weeks, when my ob told me that my baby had flipped around into a breach position and it was too late to try to coax her head back down. In one hour, what  little labour planning I had done was moot: I had to have a scheduled c-section a few days later. Up until that point, I had read a lot about what to expect and I was constantly changing my mind about my preferences since I really wasn't sure what to expect. Did I want an epidural? Would I take a cab to the hospital or would my parents have time to come pick me up and drive me there? What flavour of granola bar would I throw into my go bag? I was constantly mulling things over in my head, but I was hesitant to put anything into a written birth plan since I was so unaware of what labour would look like.

Honestly, though, in all my planning for getting to the hospital and pain medication and support people, I never even considered a c-section. I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me that it was a possibility I might face. Maybe, as an emergency during labour, but that didn't require planning - it would happen or it wouldn't happen. So, when I had to face the fact that I was having a c-section, I was scared. In the end, everything went smoothly, and my baby was born without complications. There were a few perks to the surgery: I knew when it was happening and could make arrangements and I didn't have to push, for example, but there are also different issues I had to deal with like a prolonged period of healing and worries about pain medication while breastfeeding.

Regardless of how you end up delivering your baby, planning for labour is an important exercise for your own confidence, comfort, and sanity. Here are some things to consider when making your version of a birth plan:

  • Plan to be patient. Labour isn't usually like you see in the movies where it's less than an hour from the first contraction to the baby being birthed in a cab or elevator. In real life, there is a lot of waiting. My c-section was booked for 6:30am and they didn't take me into the operating room until noon. My sister started having contractions 5 days before her son was born, and had to wait patiently, through the pain, to be fully dilated. After the birth, there is waiting, too. Waiting to get the feeling back into your legs after a c-section, waiting for visiting hours, waiting to be discharged to take your baby home, etc. Be prepared to go at the speed dictated by the doctors and your body.
  • Plan to be flexible. There are certain parts of the process that you can be steadfast about. If you don't want your mom in the delivery room, (or your husband to be on the "business end"), make it clearly known. These are reasonable requests that can be respected no matter what transpires. You have to be realistic in other wishes, however; it might not be a vaginal birth, it might not be able to happen at home, you might change your mind about not wanting an epidural once you feel the pain, or you might get to the hospital too late for an epidural even though you wanted one badly. If you are ready to go with the flow, and not married to a vision of a perfect labour, you'll be less likely to be disappointed with the experience. Save your emotional energy for bonding with your new baby!
  • Plan to be exhausted. It is often suggested that you pack light reading or a tablet
    with movies to entertain yourself in the hospital. I had both and didn't use either one once. Instead, I had a baby who cried almost non-stop and an aching incision. If at all possible, have your husband (or another family member) stay with you in the hospital at night to give you a break to sleep. Your body is recovering from a traumatic experience, and unlike the woman in the bed next to me whose baby somehow had nursing and sleeping down immediately, you may not get as much rest as you need if you're alone to tend to a newborn. Likewise, don't invite everyone and their brother to visit you and your little one in the hospital. You have every right to take the time to yourself and limit visitors while you recuperate.
Labour is an exciting time, in positive and negative ways. A birth plan is an awesome tool for people who like to feel prepared and in control of their situations. Whether you make one or not, however, it is prudent to manage your expectations in advance. That way, you can focus on the wonderful new life you've brought into the world instead of dwelling on the fact that your husband forgot to load your push song onto the iPod.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Special Report: New Year's Goals

A large number of women, post-natal especially, think a great deal about their to-do list. There's laundry to keep up with, brain stimulation to maintain, and eventually you're going to have to sneak a meal in there. With the amount of things to get done in a day, it's a wonder that you get a shower in most days. In fact, some days, you just don't. When the new year begins to creep up and the guilt of clutter and comfort food is at it's peak, the very thought of adding chopped veggies and squats to your already packed routine can be downright depressing. So how can we as parents make reasonable, attainable, and largely personal resolutions for ourselves this year? Here's some advice:

Eating Better

If your aim is to eat better-whether that means weight-loss, clean eating, or just putting hand to mouth (I am notorious for skipping lunch)-start small. Eating is both the easiest and the hardest place to make change. Each meal can feel like an opportunity to succeed or fail at your goal. You have probably heard it said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so set yourself up to stay consistent.
  • Shop smart: avoid the centre aisles so that your cart gets filled with the right ingredients (whole grains, low fat dairy, lean proteins and produce, produce, produce!)
  • Pre-washed, pre-chopped: if you're worried about your dedication to the prep work, buy it ready to eat. We love salad kits, sliced veggies, and portioned yogurts. Grab and go.
  • Water, water, water: we all know that H2O is a body's best friend, so buy yourself a quality reusable container, stock the garage with a case of bottles, buy a filtered pitcher for the fridge... whatever you have to do to squeeze it in.

Getting Organized

If you've brought home a haul of presents or are wondering where to put your now non-seasonal decorations, home organization is probably on your agenda for January. There are thousands of pins and check lists that can help to guide your process (and by all means get them, a visual is a great goal tool), but they will largely tell you these main tips for getting the job done right.
  • Work in chunks: whether you set aside a few hours, or just enough time to complete one task, don't pretend your whole home will sparkle by the end of the day. Picking a manageable goal will help you see steady progress and therefore stay motivated.
  • Tricks of the trade: vacuum-able space saver bags are great for bedding and clothes, heavy totes (Rubbermaid, etc) keep books and toys clean in basements and garages, magazine racks and tension rods help declutter those lower cabinet messes.
  • It gets worse before it gets better: designate a room, or an area of a room, to pile all things that are going to be trashed, donated, or relocated, then make sure it's dealt with before you move on. 

Work It

Perhaps the most common, and oft-failed goal is fitness. It's not hard to see why - if you've got 30 extra minutes in the day (a laughable rarity to begin with), the last thing you want to do is sweat to exhaustion. Be honest, you're no going to go from plus size to bikini model by March, so don't try to hold yourself to a regiment you can't maintain. Do what you can do, and do it often. Build on your success and watch the results follow.
  • Say good morning: highly successful athletes often get their work out in before the day begins. You might not run a mile before breakfast, but you could do a small routine of stretches and strength before you hit the showers (whenever in the day that happens).
  • Take a commercial break: if you can find a little time for some TV, you also have some time for quick exercise bursts. See how many crunches, push ups, or jumping jacks you can do. Challenge yourself to plank for an entire ad, then make it two.
  • Bring baby: From Zumba to yoga to aquafit, many group classes use babies as fun and weight training! If you're trying to keep it frugal, take a brisk walk while pushing your stroller or baby-wear when you grocery shop. There are so many ways to get junior involved.

Over the course of the month, we at WIYDB will be featuring in detail more about these and more common goals. We'll show you core training tips for postpartum, ways to make money from home, and so much more, all with a little one to consider. Resolutions can be inspiring, but also daunting and discouraging. Let us help you manage what you can, and let go of the rest!

Got an idea for a topic, or a time and money saving tip? We want to hear about it! 

Friday, 26 December 2014

Mommy Mental Health: Keeping it Together with a Sick Baby

Sickness is almost inevitable this time of year. Cooler temperatures are matched by dry furnaces. Outings to shop mean even more public exposure, so you wash your hands until they are cracked. Just the pace of it all contributes to not really eating, sleeping, or exercising like you should. And to top it all off, you tote around a little drool machine that puts everything in his or her mouth. Your poor immune system!

Even if you do manage to sanitize your way through the holidays, your little one, like mine, will probably still get a cold. It's a major stress as a new parent. This article is meant not to help you diagnose or treat baby, but to hold yourself together when facing a really difficult setback. As the caregiver who has to dress baby all nicely for functions, and then change them out 20 minutes later, the one who has to think about temperatures, consistencies, and signs, the person to apologize for, rock, and endure those hard nights at someone else's house, you need to know that you can do this.

Be prepared, be realistic

Babies are going to catch something eventually, and that's okay. Their young bodies need to be tested to develop the antibodies to handle more difficult bugs later on. Baby group has nothing on public school. Reasonable people will understand this, and there's no use justifying yourself to unreasonable people.

Set yourself up to make junior as comfortable as possible, while watching for signs of something more serious. Don't assume the worse, you'll quickly become one of those paranoid, unreasonable people. Read our list of suggested tools to have on hand to manage fevers and other mild symptoms.

Trust your gut

Some moms are worried about looking silly, over protective, or seeking unnecessary medical attention. Sure you may be new at this, but no one knows what "normal" looks like for your baby better than you. If you're concerned, just go.  Take the jokes if it was nothing. If you can try to book in with your family doctor before a trip to the ER, that's probably preferable, but high fever, multiple days of vomiting or diarrhea, and dehydration are not things to ignore. In my opinion, it's better to overreact than to under react in in the case of the above symptoms.


As much as you think you have to accomplish this time of year; shopping, cleaning, entertaining, etc.  You don't.  Pare down your list and state your case matter of factly. Stay close to home and keep your little one happy and well rested. Trying to keep up appearances will only serve to further exhaust you and infect others. Things (especially laundry and dishes) will pile up, but such is life. Between a clean house and a smiling son, I choose the latter every time.

It gets worse before it gets better

If you think frequent wakings and extra diapers are bad, just remember that this is nothing compared to school aged illness. A good friend of my husband's shared a story that really put things in to perspective for me:

As the mother of 4 year old twins, when one gets sick, they both do. A call from the school sent mom to pick up the ailing duo. Before getting home, one had thrown up all over the back seat. Upon arrival, it became obvious that the other had made a mess of, ahem, a different sort. She was ready to set fire to the car before dealing with it.

Laugh it off. Take an extra long shower when hubby gets home. Spend the day in track pants. Do whatever you need to do to cope. No one said motherhood was easy. If you didn't worry at least a little bit, you wouldn't be doing your job. In the long run, this cold is just a blip on the radar, and it will be a war story to share with your sisters in arms.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Controversy Corner: Gender Specific Toys

When I was a child, my favourite toys were Hot Wheels. I had a vast collection of those miniature sports cars and spent hours perfecting my "vroom" sounds. I had no idea that these were considered boys toys and that I was being subversive by preferring them over dollhouses. (Although, my number one favourite toy was my Cabbage Patch doll Christina.) My parents encouraged me to choose the toys I liked - regardless of gender stereotypes.

Fast forward a couple of years, I worked in a children's book and toy store and was taken aback by the intense gender segregation of products being sold to children. The boys costumes were fire fighters and the girls got fairy princesses. The boys books were about sports and the girls books were about first crushes. Children who start their lives with no specific tastes or interests are quickly ushered into the appropriate gender camp. But, what purpose do these stringent rules serve? It is not to the benefit of the child and, let's face it, it's silly. Why is a kitchen set a girl toy? Many of the world's most accomplished chefs are men. Why can't a boy play with a baby doll? Most of the women I know find a man who's a good father really sexy.

When it comes to toys, girls have it a bit easier than boys. They are not generally chastised or shamed for wanting toys that have been segregated into the "male" category (sports equipment, building blocks, etc) - so long as they get them in "girly"colours like pink and purple. Lego is an excellent (and sad) example of this requirement; while boys are building cities and vehicles and secret agents and medieval scenarios, girls are building cupcake shops, hair salons, juice bars, shopping malls, and "Cinderella's Romantic Castle." All in shades of pink, purple, teal, and pale yellow. It's true you can just buy any Lego set for either gender, but the commercials make it pretty clear to the children who should buy each kit.

The fault does not lie only with the toy companies. They are businesses looking to make money and thus create products based on consumer demand. If parents made more of a fuss about the advertising practices and blatent sexism in the toy market, the businesses would make changes. They're not, though. When the Lego Friends line was launched, I overhead many a mother say "finally, a Lego set for girls!" Sigh.

The answer isn't "gender neutral" toys (play doh, for example) either, because that should not be a distinct category. All toys should be available and encouraged for all children inclined to play with them. As parents it is our job to help our children navigate the world by exploring, creating, imagining, learning, and playing, no matter what they choose to use in order to do this. Girls can be superheroes fighting crime and boys can be princes preparing the castle for a ball. Let's take the shame out of play.

Merry Christmas Eve! What was your favourite toy as a child?

Monday, 22 December 2014

What to Pack: Holiday Visiting

Whether near or far, most of us will do some form of holiday get together in the next week. Along with pinched cheeks and a mountain of presents, one of the most stressful things on your mind might be all those seasonal snapshots, made ever so easy with that smart phone even the grandparents have.  Then there is the sheer weight of travelling with holiday gear in tow. Carrying so many gifts, side dishes, and baby stuff already, no one would fault you if the kids arrived covered in chocolate, but let's face it, it's not ideal. You want to make a good impression and you want to feel organized. For this reason, we've put together some tips for packing for parties and looking your best with Santa, grandpa, or even simply tucked in to bed.

Family Photos or Mall Shots with Santa

Creating memories for albums or walls is a major part of this time of year. Candid shots of moments unwrapping presents and the like are always nice, buy you may also want to create a card or a collectible that requires a more formal shoot of your family.  At the mall Santa, for example, if your baby is like mine, he'll make a mess right before your turn with the big guy. I had a change of clothes, but nothing that read Christmas like I had hoped.  Since then, I have a couple holiday options in my diaper bag just in case. I bought a two-pack of seasonal onesies for $3 (bargain!) and pair them with an inexpensive pair of neutral emergency pants. A plain shirt and holiday bib would do as well. I found at least 4 options on offer at the dollar store of my local mall. Older kids might need to dress in layers. Cute matching sweaters would be nice, but be sure the t-shirt underneath is decent just in case.

Family Dinners and Meetings with Friends

More lengthy visits and overnight stays means a number outfits and accessories for sometimes days at a time. For these occasions, don't go crazy. Your children do not need to deck the halls at all times of the day and night. If you manage to buy quite a few outfits for cheap, or receive a bunch as gifts, go nuts. Otherwise, save your money. Seasons change, kids grow, and their bright little faces are the real show the grandparents want to see. Pack light, but pack smart. 

  • Extra bibs will prevent some unnecessary shirt changes. 
  • Plain sweaters can be worn on multiple days. 
  • Make sure the pieces you pack are interchangeable with one another for quick dressing.

Jammies Chic

Arguably, no other day of the year involves as many photos of happy folks in their nightwear. Cuddling in for a story or setting out cookies in the evening, then running downstairs in the morning to gleefully eat and open presents. If you arrive to stay with family early, you don't need to showcase different seasonal sleepwear every night. Save the snowmen or the elves for the big night. Many people make a new pair of pajamas part of their Christmas tradition. It doubles as a gift and reassurance that your little ones will be looking their best. This goes for the whole family, so treat yourself to something (as well as maybe 2 minutes to throw up your hair and wash your face pre-photos). If you're not buying new, a lovingly pre-worn, family pair might be the ticket. Something that adds to the sentimentality of the day. 

The bottom line is, what you are wearing is not as important as the company you keep. A little mess and chaos is a real part of family life. You are not in a catalog after all. You can think ahead, but airlines lose luggage, babies get sick, and cookies make crumbs. Be flexible and remember to live the moment as it happens.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Mommy Musings: Baby's Online Presence

Social media has changed the way we document our lives. Gone are the dusty photo albums that mostly only represented the big events. Now, it is so easy to upload a picture to the internet instantly for all to see. While it is great to be able to keep track of the every day adorableness of our families, and share images and videos for free with loved ones near and far, there are some guidelines we should stick to when sharing online. The decisions we make with our own photos are a little different from the ones we make with the image of others, children included. Here are some photo sharing don'ts to consider.

DON'T - Upload the entire set of shots from one day or event into a Facebook photo album and call it a day.

The beauty of a digital camera is that you can take unlimited shots of your daughter blowing out her birthday candles without fear of wasting film. You can make sure you get a great shot; eyes open, candles ablaze, dress unstained. However, it is unnecessary and lazy to just create an online album of the party and throw every single blurry, repetitive picture into it. No one wants to scroll through 30 of the exact same image in an album of 300 pictures from one day. Take the time to pick the 5, 10, or 20 shots that best represent the day and share only those pictures. You can keep the others for yourself, but I'd suggest paring down even for your own collection so that you can easily stroll down memory lane without thumb blocks and blurry messes making it feel overwhelming.

DON'T - Post pictures of your child in the bath.

I'm not telling you to not take pictures of your toddler with a bubble beard or your newborn's first bath, I'm just suggesting you don't post these pictures on the internet for all to see. It may be hilarious how your baby wiggles around to scratch his bare bum on the carpet the second his diaper comes off, but if you tape a short video of it, it should be kept for your own memory - offline. The recent celebrity privacy breach is a reminder that nothing we post online is safe, no matter what privacy restrictions you think you're placing on your content. Internet predators aside, you don't want your picture to get turned into an offensive meme that gets around the internet. On top of that, though, it's not really fair to put intimate pictures of your child online when they cannot give consent. Anything you post now is there forever and has the potential to embarrass them when they are old enough to build a social media presence of their own.

DON'T - Feel guilty about the choices you make when sharing pictures of your child(ren).

A friend on my Facebook page shares one bright, happy picture of her baby every day and was accused of misrepresenting the difficulties associated with parenting an infant. That's ridiculous! Why would she want to post a picture of a wailing baby? We all know there are tough times mixed in with the blissful ones. You are curating your own experience online, and you get to choose what you want to represent to your friends and family. This also includes how often you want to post. Don't feel pressure to post more pictures of your child then you are comfortable with just because people are demanding to see them, and equally, don't feel guilty about posting too many pictures. If someone doesn't like seeing images of your life (baby included) they can unsubscribe to your feed, check your Instagram less often, or not click on Twitter photo links. If you are uncomfortable with posting lots of pictures online and you have relatives who live far away, come up with another way for them to see your little one. A monthly photo e-mail newsletter? A Skype visit? Find something that works for you.

DON'T - Be afraid to ask others to respect these guidelines, as well.

People come to meet your baby or celebrate your 5 year old's birthday party and bring along their own cameras to document the festivities. Its perfectly fine for them to take a bunch of shots - your child is adorable after all - but you have every right to limit what they share online when it comes to your child. If you don't want a hundred pictures (or any pictures) online, say so. Friends and family may make different decisions when it comes to their children's online presence, but they will respect your wishes if you make them known.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Special Report: A Less Commercial Holiday Season

A lot of hard work and planning goes into making a very special Christmas. My adult self can see that.  I admit, however, that young Seana was not quite as fond.  To me, Christmas was just another day.  Slightly better, because it involved gifts and good food.  Also slightly worse, because it involved waking up early to the shrill voices of my excitable younger sisters.  I've always been a hibernating sort.  One year, I happened to receive as gifts two of the exact same long haired, surfing Ken doll.  Without a second thought, my mother gave the duplicate to my sister with the promise of a suitable replacement at a later date.  By my math, I was still in the negative... why does she get a bonus gift? 

Sad but true, that age worries a great deal about equality.  It's nearly impossible as a parent to make everything "even."  You can do your best with dollar value, but all the kids will see are the number, sizes, and perceived desirability of the presents! A nearly impossible task! When thinking about how to turn that impression around, we kept going back to the reason(s) for the season, such as community, gratitude, and reflection.  There's no better way to teach kids about the real meaning of the holidays than how to share, care, and be fair.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or another seasonal holiday, there's often an element of community. Spending time at church, over prayer and light, or just cookies and milk, you feel the warmth of the people that surround you. My son and I recently went to a craft time at a local retirement home that we enjoyed so much.  The babies got social time, the moms made wonderful keepsakes, and the seniors loved the smiles and laughter that filled their halls. 

  • Involve the kids in the process; allow them to suggest favourite prayer or story or song, decorate the tree with sentimental objects, create homemade gifts that emphasize the love that went in to their creation.
  • Focus on family; events and traditions that require real togetherness.
  • Get out in to the community; with parades, pageants, and tons of other events this season, the opportunities to make new memories are all around.

There's no doubt that we live in a commercial world. The subtle increase in toy ads that creep up as early as September impacts what kids want and think they need. Shifting the focus to gratitude is an important counterbalance to this perspective. My aunt, for example, takes time with her kids to donate a box of dog treats to the humane society. Seeing the puppies that don't have homes this year might help them to better take care of their own furry family member.

  • Make donations part of your holiday tradition; be it time, items, or money, there are so many in need and so many ways your family can help.
  • Guide gift lists with an eye to what kids already have in their cupboards; do you need another X? Is there something that we can give up to make room for it?
  • Always include some practical items amongst the presents.  I like the adage "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read."

"I always gave age appropriate gifts that included items they needed, rather than just wanted. By age 2 or 3 they were able to understand that the gifts were based on different interests/needs and that everyone was getting what was best for them. I tried to keep it even but it is not always possible. Same when out shopping, not everyone needs or gets a new coat, shoes, etc.- these things are based on need not want and they seemed to understand at a fairly early age." Pam, mother of 2

Monday, 15 December 2014

What's In Your Diaper Bag? Celebrity Edition - Fictional TV Babies

Celebrity baby culture has been huge for the past couple of years, with myriad famous women giving birth and showcasing baby couture. Here at WIYDB, we love to scour the internet to see what these mommies are buying: to ooh and ahh, to be inspired to find inexpensive alternatives, and to roll our eyes at the extravagances. It's not too hard to find information and pictures about some of these celebrity choices, but it got us to thinking about what some of the TV babies we know and love would need in their diaper bags. So, here we put forward our packing recommendations for some of our favourite fictional babies.

What's In Your Diaper Bag?

Mommy's Name: Marge Simpson 

Baby's Name: Maggie Simpson

Most Important Thing in Your Diaper Bag: Pacifiers! You can never have enough.

Mommy's Name: Lois Griffin

Baby's Name: Stewie Griffin

Essential Splurge: Plutonium. It's really worth the extra money and effort for powering your most important inventions.

Mommy's Name: Lori Grimes

Baby's Name: Judith "Judy" Grimes

Basic Save: Pretty much everything. We've never spent a dime on clothing or food to this point. Our lifestyle proves that you don't need a specific brand of formula or an entire wardrobe of fashions to be a happy, thriving baby. Just people who love and take care of you.

Mommy's Name: Unknown

Baby's Name: Kermit

Best Preparedness Advice: Always pack a toy or two for distraction and entertainment. I make sure to pack a banjo to strum. Kermit is also a very social little frog, so we only bring toys that we're willing to share with other Muppet babies.

Mommy's Name: Wilma Flintstone

Baby's Name: Pebbles Flintstone

Final Words of Wisdom: Don't try to keep up with the Hardrocks. Be confident in your own parenting choices and be proud of the things you do for your baby rather than focussing on things that you can't afford. A simple bone hair accessory looks just as cute. Your baby's favourite thing in the world is you.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Best of Brands: Bum Creams

Of all of the perceived advantages of being a baby (frequent naps, being lovingly snuggled in to a stroller, etc), wearing a diaper isn't one of them.  Doing your, ahem, "business" in a fixed location strapped to your behind until someone else notices?  Yuck.  You do the best you can, but with shopping trips and over night, the diaper can be a scary place. I feel terrible when I find my son has a mess or has been wet too long.  Another side effect is the occasional rash due to a change in diet, moisture, teething, or a myriad of other, sometimes mysterious, reasons.

But it's not just junior that suffers when a bum cream is in order.  Someone has to buy it and smear it on there. Facing a whole shelf of pastes, gels, and ointments with various pros and cons, we decided to get to the bottom of diaper creams.  We surveyed several moms and dads, in addition to trying them ourselves, and we have a review of some of the biggest brands out there. A dozen products were put through the ringer, and today we bring you the top 4 (in no particular order); two extra thick/heavy duty and two medium-thick/spreadable.

So, how did we decide how to rank our various products?  First we asked what you looked for while perusing the baby section.  Other than effectiveness of the treatment (duh), the most common virtues people were after were the ease of application/ texture (thickness mattered a great deal), smell (or lack there of), and cost.  As expected, no consensus was reached as to the very best kind, but the reasons they chose their faves will help you decide what's best for your tiny tush. The prices listed were taken from Walmart, simply as a point of comparison.

Penaten (paste in tin 166g, $8.46)
This seems to be the classic diaper cream, and it's my husband's favourite. We received 3 as presents at our shower, so that demonstrates the trusted nature of the brand name. People describe the smell as slightly medicinal and I would add "plastic."  It goes on incredibly thick and leaves quite the residue - so, not ideal for cloth diapering. I find the film off-putting on my own hands, but it is certainly effective as a barrier and treatment.  It received far more pros than cons for baby, if mom can deal with the mess and the scent.

Aveeno (cream in tube 105g, $6.97)
For babies with sensitive skin, Aveeno is often a good choice. With natural ingredients and hypo-allergenic formula, this product also ranked highly.  The cream is scent-free and very thick like Penaten.  While it seems to leave less residue, it also seems to provide less benefit than its traditional counterpart. Due to the slightly higher price tag, this product falls behind the competition.

Live Clean Baby (cream in tube 75g, $5.96)
This lesser known brand is my go-to and ranked number one with another of our moms. The smell is fresh, in the vein of clean laundry.  Very mild, but pleasant. It applies very easily, as it has a medium-thick texture, and leaves minimal residue on hands.  Because of this, I feel it is easier to spread one-handed and much easier to clean up. Our reviewer also mentioned how well this product absorbs, leaving little one's skin less sticky.

Sudocrem (cream in jar 125g, $7.47)
With international recommendations and over half our surveyed counting it among their faves, Sudocrem has a following of its own.  The smell is light and faintly sweet, not at all chemical.  It also has that medium-thick density that makes it easy to spread and tidy up after.  I find the plastic pot format a little tricky, but it travels well and stands out from the many tubes you end up accumulating. 

Other favourites included Desatin and Zincofax, both for their thickness and mild scent.  In the end, they all do the job for mild irritations and it's up to you what you like.  Obtain samples where you can, or buy a few travel sized ones before you commit.  If you choose wrong, you're not out a great deal and there's far less waste. Plus you can always refill those little jars for a more diaper bag friendly size!

If your diaper rash is not getting better, getting worse, or bleeding, seek medical attention. A professional can tell you if the problem is yeast related or due to an allergy, and offer other helpful information!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Trend Watch: Elf on the Shelf

Around the holidays, we constantly hear the word "tradition" being thrown around. Some traditions are quite common (a turkey feast, opening presents bright and early Christmas morning) while others are unique to a family and can date back decades. In our family, we are always open to starting new traditions. Every year we add something different alongside the tried and true activities and foods; some ideas stick and some don't make the cut the next holiday season. As families grow and change-with new partners and babies added-it makes sense to find a balance between things passed on from great-grand parents and new 21st century traditions.

The Elf on the Shelf is just such a new tradition. Introduced in 2005, this story book and toy combo requires quite a commitment from anyone looking to add something new and special to their Christmastime. After reading the rhyming story book, parents must find new and creative ways to display the elf to be found by excited children each morning for the month leading up to the big day.

From the website: "The Elf on the Shelf®: A Christmas Tradition includes a special scout elf sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists. When a family adopts a scout elf and gives it a name, the scout elf receives its Christmas magic and can fly to the North Pole each night to tell Santa Claus about all of the day's adventures. Each morning, the scout elf returns to its family and perches in a different place to watch the fun. Children love to wake up and race around the house looking for their scout elf each morning."

While purists will head to the craft store in November to buy felt and other supplies for the coming month, official branded accessories are available to add to the  expense  fun of the experience. Examples include: an apron, an aviator jacket, and a sports jersey.

The necessary dedication, time, money, and surreptitiousness required is beyond anything I would sign up for, but I am impressed by the parents who decide to take on the challenge in order to add some whimsy to their home. Many of the most creative ideas can be viewed  on (and copied from) Pinterest or other social media photo sharing. It does beg the question: is this solely for the children, or is it just one more way to show off your flawless family to an audience of bedraggled parents? Regardless, I am of the opinion that if you're willing to commit to 25+ original elf tableau every year for the next 10 years, more power to you!

Monday, 8 December 2014

What's In Your Diaper Bag? Nicole and Hayley

Nicole and I, despite living on separate coasts, share a lot in common. We happen to be the lucky women who married into a super tight group of childhood friends. They share every important occasion; every wedding, every birth, and unfortunately, every sad passing. Having long time friends at a similar stage of life is a major advantage, and as the first of my husband's friends to enter parenthood, I really wanted Nicole's advice.  Just as I expected, it is just as levelheaded as it is valuable. Today we share her tips for maintaining your sanity and bank balance.

What's In Your Diaper Bag?

Mommy's Name: Nicole

Baby's Name (and age): Hayley (11 months) and Blake (3 years)

Most Important Thing in Your Diaper Bag:

Diapers :)

Basic Save: 

Formula dispenser. Great because you can measure out formula into sections and then can dispense one bottle at a time. Have enough for 3 bottles without bringing formula tin. Don't waste your money on a name brand one. As long as it is BPA free plastic.

Image borrowed from
Here's an example of a formula dispenser.  They retail for around $4 and come in a variety of colours. You can find one in the baby section of most big box stores.

Essential Splurge: 

My coach diaper bag. (Just kidding, not a necessity.) I love Bum Bum balm. It is excellent when baby has diaper area irritation/rash. It costs approx $13 for small container, but a little goes a long way and the rash starts to heal by the time you change the next diaper. I have religiously used it for both of my children.

Best Preparedness Advice: 

I went out with my son when he was a few months old and all of a sudden he felt warm. I didn't have a thermometer or baby Tylenol with me. Of course as a first time mom, I was freaking out and rushed home. It turned out he didn't have a temperature and I didn't get my errands done. Now I always carry infant Tylenol and a thermometer with me.

Final words of wisdom: 

When you are out and your baby has a blow out, pukes on you, you have lost their shoe, you have eaten a chewed up cookie they have spit in your hand because there is no other option, you realize you may not have showered in 2 days and are wearing your pjs. You are not alone :) We have all gone through this and you are a great mom. Even after all of that, you will look at that sleeping little person that you have created and it is all worth it. Try to be prepared for as much as you can when leaving the house but the most important thing to remember is these little people have minds of their own and nothing ever goes exactly how you planned. Those moms who tell you that their lives didn't change and that they still do everything the same as before they had children and are giving you advice on what you are doing wrong, are lying

Friday, 5 December 2014

Special Report - Giving Kids Confidence in Math

We are descendants of a long line of word nerds - bookmobile loving, scrabble playing, grammar correcting nerds.  I come by it honestly.  So naturally my son and I read often.  We love to point at the pictures, discussing the characters and imagining possible outcomes.  I know I can raise him to think that books are as magical as I do, even if he struggles mildly with reading at the start.  I can't, however, say the same thing about math.  

I used to be good at math in primary school. Eventually, at some point, I remember thinking math was too hard and beyond my grasp even if I studied.  I think a lot of parents struggle with this fear.  What if junior comes home with his 5th grade textbook and I realize I can't help? Although my son is many years from that point, in the interest of preparedness, I decided to look in to what I can do to help with math confidence from the start and what to do if I notice I struggle.

Owner/ operator of a local Kumon Math & Reading Centre, Corina Floca-Maxim, spoke with me to quell my fears. She admitted from the outset that she saw a large number of parents frustrated by the lack individual support children received, due in part to classroom sizes. But it is true also that parents occasionally view education as an outside responsibility, expecting the teachers to do an impossible job in the hours they have with students. Realizing a child's potential is as much about reinforcing routine and good habits, as it is about learning the fundamentals.

Ready to do my part, I asked how I can improve my boy's math at home before his formal education starts.  Her solutions were as easy as they are intuitive:
  • Count things in your surroundings as you would mention words to form vocabulary (stairs, animals, red cars, etc.)
  • Read prices, count change, and discuss monetary transactions. Also good for understanding the value of a dollar.
  • Purchase number magnates, blocks, or boards to make numbers present for conversation.

These things may sound simple, but skills even as basic as these, means a comfort level on which to build. The daily reinforcement which then comes with homework and increased responsibility (say, with an allowance) begins to create more confidence.

At a certain point in schooling, I'm sure you have heard it said, boys seem to excel beyond girls in subjects like math. I asked Corina if that was her experience. Surprisingly, she said no. Knowledge of math is about repetition and exposure to examples, reinforcing the fundamentals before moving on to more complex concepts. Students often graze over important information and lean on calculators to get through a topic rather than truly learning it. She had seen a grade seven student who placed closer to the second grade, not having knowledge of the multiplication tables and even finger counting to obtain the answers.

Lack of knowledge or the perceived lack can be frustrating for kids, making them not want to study. Parents need to recognize that progress can be slow, but it is always possible if they maintain a routine. Corine recommends a dedicated study space that is quiet with minimal distractions.  Homework time at a consistent hour (more or less) also helps to reinforce learning as part of the child's day. 

If your child continues to under-perform their potential, it might be time for a 3rd party to step in. Other than special education and school sponsored assistants, there are two ways to get your child the extra help they need: tutoring businesses and personal or private tutors. Both have their pros and cons.

Tutoring businesses such as Kumon, Oxford Learning, Sylvan, and more have a reputation and a system that has been long tested. The Kumon philosophy, for example, is Japanese in origin and has been in existence since 1954.  They preach a home-based study method in which, through lesson planning and skill building, they help students understand math and reading at their grade level and beyond. They provide a placement test, 2 weekly visits in a local office, and daily home tasks to start improving upon fundamentals, then building up. A disadvantage might be the fact that the learning system might not fit all children, and additional sessions per week are not available.

Private tutoring is also a good option, such as by a retired teacher, a university student, or other qualified individual. These teachers might have a variety of techniques at their disposal, form a buddy relationship with the student, and be creative with their approach to learning.  The advantages of this may also include instruction in your own home, as many visits weekly as required, and perhaps a lower cost.  Potential disadvantages may be possible, such as instructor inexperience and unknown credentials. If you would like to hire privately, remember to ask for references or seek candidates recommended by the school or other parents.

As with testing, students will have good days and bad days.  Test anxiety, lack of sleep, less than ideal nutrition, and the like can all be factors in low test scores.  Your best defence is almost always a good offence. A solid knowledge of the basics and a commitment to understanding the new skills expected of them will get them better results in the long run. My job as a mom is simply to be patient, help my son become confident and independent. This means taking an active roll as a member of his educational team, and I am excited to do so!

Corina Floca-Maxim is excited to be able to share the method of learning that so helped her two talented sons achieve their success.  She can be reached at

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Mommy Mental Health: Stress Free for the Holidays

It's no secret to anyone that knows me - I don't really like the holidays. Oh, sure the lights on my street look beautiful, and I enjoy special treats and time with family, not to mention my favourite Bing Crosby movie, but overall, the season can be very tense. Especially now that I have two families to visit, to shop for, and to share my time with, I find the lead up to be full of stress, and the day itself to end with a major let down. All that time, that money, that work and in a matter of hours, its over. As I think about how to make the time more special and full of love for my own little family of three this year, I identified the four major stressors that make me most unhappy this time of year; the lack of time, the pressure of family, the expense, and the lack of daylight. Well, daylight I can't do much about, but the other three I plan to mitigate as much as possible. Here are my strategies for a merrier Christmas:


As discussed in my article about budgeting, I have set a clear and definite amount of money I am able and willing to spend on gifts this year. I have been listening to tips and hints that my family have been dropping on their wants and needs, and am focusing on thoughtful presents that I can buy within those constraints. I saved and I planned what my son will need in the coming months, and have also shared this list with my family so they know how to best gift us as well.

Beyond this, I am focusing on the spirit of the holidays that do not cost money. In the spirit of giving, we are going to make a small donation to the food bank. We are making a trip to the library to pick some holiday themed books to read on the night before and morning of Christmas. We will lovingly unpack the ornaments we have acquired over the years, remembering why each one is special with a cup of egg nog. We will spend time with our loved ones, sharing memories and games that make us happy.


But loved ones though they may be, they can also cause us anxiety. Whether it be guilt from a lack of time together, stress over gift expectations, or other common problems, it can be hard to strike a balance in our increasingly blended and extended families. You can never fully alleviate this, but you can be honest with your feelings, which goes a long way. 

And start early. My husband's family lives across the country. We knew we couldn't be in two places at once, and historically our every-other-year system had us home for this season. With a young baby and my sister's new bundle to enjoy as well, we addressed this in the fall. We agreed that my in-laws could visit us here early December, and that we could have a nice long video call on Christmas Day. A fair compromise to which everyone agreed. Have a straight forward conversation about your limitations; financial or otherwise, and people will understand.


It is a limited resource at any time of the year, but it really seems to slip through your fingers immediately following Hallowe'en. There are parties to attend, shopping to do, baking and decorating... does the list ever end? You have to define a line for yourself; you have to know when to create the time and what you can eliminate from your list.

For myself, I love to bake, but the mess and potential danger with an active baby is a huge panic I have chosen to avoid. A family friend of mine has created a side business baking for the hoildays. For a reasonable price, I'm getting a tray of a variety of home baked cookies delivered to my home. I get all the benefit of the goodies without the dishes! The added benefit is the support of my friends' own holiday goals. Whether you call in a pinch hitter to wrap for you, make your dinner pot luck, or just don't bother with a tree, find a way to unburden yourself of something.

The spirit of the season can get so easily marred by the whirlwind that is the holidays. You really do have to pause, regroup and focus what really matters. Create memories and traditions that give you something to look forward to and look back on down the road. From my childhood, I think of decorating the tree with my sisters and our own personal bells, watching A Christmas Carol with my dad, and constructing the perfect trifle with my mom. I can't wait to share a future of new memories with the best reason to be happy this year.

Monday, 1 December 2014

What's In Your Diaper Bag? Amber and Eloise

When we started this blog, I was 25 weeks pregnant and looking for any and all information I could find to prepare for my baby's arrival. Now, I have a 2 week old baby girl and can finally share what I've got in my diaper bag! The experiment proven useful because many of my packing decisions were based on the advice from our contributing mamas. Since Eloise is still so young, the contents of my diaper bag will change drastically as I get the hang of it, but I thought it would be fun to do an early questionnaire for posterity. I'm still figuring things out, but I'm loving every minute of motherhood. (Well, the majority of minutes - I could go for more sleep!)

What's In Your Diaper Bag? 

Name: Amber

Baby's Name (and age): Eloise (17 days)

Most Important Thing in Your Diaper Bag: 
Ready-to-Feed Bottles. Obviously diapers have proven indispensable (I can never pack enough) but the next most important thing I keep in my diaper bag is a formula nursette. Eloise is mostly breastfed, but we are supplementing with formula and I've been saved by the bottle a few times already when breastfeeding hasn't been an option and she can't be settled without food.

Basic Save:

The diaper bag itself. I was shocked at the high price tag on most diaper bags. I was almost swayed by some of the extra bells and whistles on offer, and the patterns and styles were beautiful, but at the end of the day, I was more interested in what went into the bag than the bag itself and I couldn't justify paying over $150 for one. My diaper bag cost $30 at Walmart and it is easy to wipe down, lightweight, and (in my opinion) looks nice.

Essential Splurge:
Modesty cover for breastfeeding. At home I can let it all hang out to feed my baby, and when I'm out running errands I rely on formula (if hunger strikes, we try to work around feedings), but when I'm visiting friends or family, or hosting guests at home, having a modesty cover that doesn't cling to Eloise's face, keeps me fully covered, and allows me to see her face, is crucial. I don't want to excuse myself to another room or make my baby wait to eat, so a good, structured modesty cover is 100% necessary. I couldn't settle for throwing a receiving blanket or towel over my shoulder, in this case.

Best Preparedness Advice:
When in doubt; pack two (or more). In only two weeks - and a handful of trips into the outside world - we've already: lost a pacifier, dropped a receiving blanket into a mud puddle, and ran out of diapers. You never know what's going to fall out of the stroller when you're racing to get to an appointment, or when the bus will leave you waiting for over 45 minutes with a poopy baby. Now, I always make sure to grab two of the easily lost or soiled items so that I'm never in a lurch and pack twice as many diapers as I foresee using, just in case.

Contents (L to R): 2 changes of outfit, book, vitamin d, wipes, diaper genie travel bags, 2 receiving blankets, diapers, no scratch mitts, 2 pacifiers, modesty cover, pyjamas, 2 Enfamil nursettes, bottle.