Friday, 28 August 2015

Mommy Musing: Three Stages of the First Year

The first year with your first child is both the longest and the shortest year of your life. The days can be filled with both joy and exhaustion, both peace and panic, and both priceless memories... and moments you only wish you could forget. As I reflect on the blur that was my first year with a son, I've picked out three distinct phases that I went through along with him. If you're a parent, I hope you will laugh and commiserate. If you're not yet a parent, well, I hope I don't scare you too much.

She was awake just before you got here...
Stage One: The Potato Phase (birth to 4 months)

Parenting a newborn is like being the owner of town fair winning Idaho Red - you're incredibly proud after months of work, and everyone is eager to see the results... at first. You see, they don't do much. They're adorable, fun to cuddle, and amazing to watch, but mostly if you're family. Friends without kids likely can't fathom that, despite that fact that they only seem to be eating or pooping, if they are not asleep, that they do this at irregular intervals through out the day and night, leaving you absolutely exhausted. So, you likely haven't see that blockbuster or have tried that trendy new restaurant. Friends with kids will probably have war stories from later on, and won't really sympathize either. Well, they do, in that head nodding kind of way that will make you wonder what you've gotten yourself into. It can be tough, but it's worth it. You just don't always realize that at 3am.

My tip? NANA's HOUSE

Go to your mothers, your aunts, your grandparent. Take a nap, take a shower, take a free meal for pete's sake. You need your strength!

Did he just clap? That was amazing!
Stage Two: Did You See That? (5-8 months)

Somewhere around the 5th month of your child's life, you start to see an awakening. They smile, they can hold focus on a toy, make some giggles, possibly crawl... It starts to be that everything they do is absolutely incredible. If you didn't before, by now you're ready to put an ad in the newspaper every time your child does something new. Your Facebook feed is horrendously packed with little snippets and photos, and you've been out of regular adult conversation long enough to believe that you've given birth to the next Einstein. It's exciting, but it's also scary, because you start to worry about every decision you make, and how it might stunt or increase your child's development. Do I have to make all organic home purees? Should I play classical music while she sleeps? No toys with batteries, we need to encourage his creativity!

My tip? Mommy Groups

When you need to brag a little, compare what's normal, and ask advice on age appropriate brain stimulus, it's okay, because SO DO THEY! A safe (and free) place like the Ontario Early Years program also include resident Public Health Nurses and print resources from a reputable source.

Stage Three: Teething and Walking (9 months plus)

By this point, you've got a certain grasp of parenting. It's never easy, but you've seen some stuff. You probably dealt with a cold, an untimely poo-splosion, a fall, a sleep regression... and you think things are going well. Until they stand up for the first time. Pride is quickly swept away by absolute terror as you wonder if their legs can support themselves, and why you didn't replace your coffee table with a padded ottoman sooner. They get brave, they get braver, they sometimes get hurt. Perhaps even more troublesome than the amount of Sesame Street bandages and ice you now need on hand, is the sudden onset of cutting teeth. For my son, they came in bulk starting around 5 months, but the molars were the worst. A happy, sleeping baby is suddenly an inconsolable mess! If you've gotten used to sleeping through the night, or have to go to work the next day, the panic is worse for you than baby! You rack your brain, you try every trick in the book, you consider the hospital (for yourself more than baby), and finally you realize what's happening. 

My tip? Oh heck... I don't even know what to tell you.

The thing is, parenting can be like paradise with landmines. You love your child so much, that any disruption in the natural order is going to be a pain, but you can handle it. A mommy once told us that, if you're losing your grip, give that baby a hug. It might not help them, but it will certainly help you. It's an adventure alright, but it's the best one ever!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Best of Brands - Baby Thermometers

There are few things scarier to a new mom than when her baby has a fever. Is it because of teething? Is he sick? Was it her shots? Is it serious? PANIC! That's why, when it comes to taking baby's temperature, it had better be easy and it had better work. You can always use your wrist or your lips to get a primary gauge of the situation, but if junior is warm, it's time to break out the equipment. There are a few different style of thermometer, and each have their pros and cons. Here are a few I've tried, along with some new technology that I'm excited to look into!

This model sells for around $8
Oral Thermometer - $8 to $25

This model is a step up from the classic mercury model you worried about being inserted into the wrong end as a child. It is simple, and effective, if you can make your child sit still. Taking a baby's temperature under their tongue, by holding it under their arm pit, or -ahem- that other way, is difficult, especially if your child is mobile. This also means it might not be the most accurate method when it really counts. Still, because they are cheap, portable, and work most of the time, it's not a bad idea to have one in your diaper bag.

Model Shown $38.77 at Walmart
Ear Thermometer - $30 to $90

These things are quick and accurate. Your son or daughter might not like it, but it's over with so fast, that they don't have enough time to protest before you have an accurate temperature. They have a lot of features, as well. Most give readings in Celsius or Fahrenheit, allow you to record previous readings, and glow red to indicate a fever. They are a bit bulky, however. It's not exactly the kind of thing you want to add to your already-stuffed bag. Plus, the battery power does have a tendency to drain quickly, depending on the price point of your unit. Especially if a certain baby thinks the beep is funny, and plays with it during a diaper change. Sigh.

Model Shown $12.97 at Walmart
Pacifier thermometer - approximately $15

If your baby takes a soother, you might be inclined to choose this (seemingly convenient) method. There isn't a large selection in terms of brands, but they are all small and easy to use, with a large temperature display, and a cover to keep it clean. Heck, it might even serve a back up if your normal pacifier got left at home! The problem is, children are picky. Just as not all bottles work for all latches, not all soother shapes please baby. My son didn't like this style, so I found it ultimately harder than the above two styles.

This model sold on Amazon for $5.99 +Shipping
Sticker thermometer - approx. $8 for 6

OK, I've never tried this style of thermometer, but they are so darn cute I just had to mention them! The ones pictured are called Fever Fish, and are just one style of measuring temperature by actually applying a sticker to your child's forehead. I'm not sure all children would like the idea of a sticker on their face, I have a hard enough time keeping a hat on my son, but maybe school aged children would enjoy it, especially if it was a character or animal they liked. The same sort of idea as branded bandages.

What's your favorite way to take take baby's temperature? Have any comforting sick day tricks? We want to hear about it! Join the discussion on Facebook!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Quiz: What Kind of Mother Are You?

With all the different parenting theories and all the products on the market to make motherhood easier, it’s easy to feel like you can’t catch up or you’re making the wrong choices for your child. There are a lot of opinions out there about what is best for babies, toddlers, and children of all ages. It’s enough to drive you into a cycle of doubt and guilt about every single choice. To help you out, we’ve put together this easy quiz to help you see exactly what kind of mother you are. 

1. If a friend stopped by unannounced to your house right now, they’d find:

  • a) A spotless house free of any clutter. Every toy has a home, and we always return it there before grabbing the next one.

  • b) A pretty messy place. The laundry is only half folded and pushed to the side of the couch and last week’s pillow fort is still up.
  • c) Something in the middle. The floors are freshly mopped and the dishwasher is emptied but every single toy is out of the box and I haven’t put the mop away yet.

2. When it comes to feeding, what most closely matches your choice?

  • a) Breastfeeding and baby led weaning.
  • b) Formula and home-made purées.
  • c) A mix of breastfeeding supplemented with formula feeding and store bought food.

3. Where is your family most likely to be found on a Saturday afternoon?

  • a) At the farmer’s market getting organic produce for the week, then at the petting zoo so my children can connect with nature and animals.
  • b) In the living room, still in our pyjamas, reading books and eating grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • c) At the mall shopping and then at the park to run off some of the energy.

4. What daycare option did you choose?

  • a) I am a stay-at-home mom offering one on one care for my child.
  • b) I take my child to a local home based daycare with 4 other children.
  • c) I send my child to a mini-school or Montessori daycare.

5. Where do you go for parenting information and advice?

  • a) My parenting support group and books.
  • b) My mother and grandmother.
  • c) My paediatrician.


Mostly A’s

You are a good mom.

You do what makes sense for you and your family. You've researched the options, asked advice of your friends and family, taken the time to get to know your child(ren) and considered your own health, sanity, and well-being. You know that families are not built on parenting formulas, but grow and thrive on the support and happiness of a group of people who love each other very much. The food, the house, the daycare – none of that dictates how good of a mother you are. Don’t doubt yourself. You’re doing a good job, mama! Keep it up!

Mostly B’s

You are a good mom.

You do what makes sense for you and your family. You've researched the options, asked advice of your friends and family, taken the time to get to know your child(ren) and considered your own health, sanity, and well-being. You know that families are not built on parenting formulas, but grow and thrive on the support and happiness of a group of people who love each other very much. The food, the house, the daycare – none of that dictates how good of a mother you are. Don’t doubt yourself. You’re doing a good job, mama! Keep it up!

Mostly C’s

You are a good mom.

You do what makes sense for you and your family. You've researched the options, asked advice of your friends and family, taken the time to get to know your child(ren) and considered your own health, sanity, and well-being. You know that families are not built on parenting formulas, but grow and thrive on the support and happiness of a group of people who love each other very much. The food, the house, the daycare – none of that dictates how good of a mother you are. Don’t doubt yourself. You’re doing a good job, mama! Keep it up!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Special Report: Finding a Quality Caregiver

Image borrowed from Huff Post Parents

Having a new born, a toddler, a pre-schooler, or a child of any age really, comes with some interesting challenges when it comes to your to do list. You want to spend time cuddling, colouring, playing on the floor, and all the fun that goes with, but eventually you’re going to run out of underpants if you don’t get some laundry done. If your chores and errands are building up, or perchance, you have an opportunity to get out and have some kid-free fun, you’re going to need a sitter to ensure your little bundle of awesome is okay while you’re out.

Finding a qualified sitter can be a hard thing. You might not feel comfortable asking your crazy friends, you might not have family in town, and maybe your 13 year old neighbor doesn’t have quite enough experience for you to feel comfortable yet. That’s why the clever ladies at Modern Mommy Events have created an opportunity for the residents of my neck of the woods, Guelph, Ontario. It’s a spin on “speed dating,” that classic way for singles to meet up. Parents can have a quick sit down with highly qualified care givers looking for opportunities. It’s a win-win!

If you’re planning on attending the event, or looking to interview some sitters in your own neighborhood, co-founder Eva Shortt has you covered. Here are some questions about what expectations for parents looking for care:

WIYDB: What if I’m new in town? What’s a good place to start?

Modern Mommy: There are some amazing resources in Guelph! As a new mom myself, I find that people are so helpful with recommendations and reviews on caregivers, babysitters, schools and day-cares you just have to start with a simple Facebook search for these groups. Try searching Facebook for Guelph parenting groups. There are a few really popular ones with active members, such as “Guelph Mommies & Due Mommies.”

WIYDB: What’s the going rate now for sitters? What if I just need a 4 hour in-house help/evening out? What if I need a 9 hour work day?

Modern Mommy: Each caregiver is different. It really depends on who you are asking. If you want a specialized Early Childhood Education caregiver your going rate would be approximately $14 an hour. If you are looking to hire a student for a few hours that are looking to make a little bit of extra money their range is between $8-$12 an hour. 

Keep in mind that the age of your child and the time of day have a huge impact on the overall price of your sitter. 
Daycare for babies under 15 months is a lot more expensive than toddler care. 

WIYDB: What sorts of qualifications should I look for in a caregiver?

Modern Mommy: When you are looking for a caregiver you should have some basic guidelines:

- Does this person have up to date first aid?

- What is there experience with kids- ie. Have they worked with kids before?

- What age range have they worked with?

WIYDB: When should I use a babysitter/ short term caregiver?

Modern Mommy: [Use a] babysitter when you need someone for sporadic occasions like a night out with friends or a spouse, a quick errand.

WIYDB: When should you choose a nanny?

Modern Mommy: If you are not yet ready to send your kids off to daycare or preschool and you need someone to be with your child for the duration of the day it is probably best to use a nanny. There are lots of ways to find nannies! There are companies out there that charge a finders fee for finding nannies, they advertise on different websites or you can also find someone through word of mouth.

WIYDB: I’m nervous leaving my little one. What kinds of information should you provide to your sitter for reference?

Modern Mommy: Your phone number in case of emergencies. Then a list of one or two other trusted people in case you are unreachable. If you are planning on having your caregiver watch your child during the day then you should provide them with a list of activities (ie. nap schedule, meal and snack times). If its for the evening/night provide them with a bedtime routine as well as dinner instructions (if necessary).

WIYDB: If I had I night to myself, I wouldn’t even know where to start! Do you have ideas for a fun girls night or a date with someone special?

Modern Mommy: If you are looking for a fun girl’s night out and want to really let loose dancing or karoke are my favorite activities. If you are looking for something more mellow, dinner and drinks at a restaurant are always fun. Some restaurants also provide girls night out and date menus so you can get some pretty good deals. For the crafty moms: bring out some needles and yarn and have yourself a stitch and bitch night. If you love a particular television show then why not get a bunch of girlfriends together and watch it together especially if it is a trashy (yet super addictive) show like the Bachelor!

There are some great date spots here in Guelph! Rent a canoe and go for ice cream at the Boathouse. Dinner at a restaurant (can you tell I am hungry right now? I've got food on the brain!) Or even a romantic stroll in the Arboretum.

The ladies at Modern Mommy Events have tons cooked up for parents looking to connect and talk to other parents. From relaxing conversation in a friendly atmosphere, to high energy social events, they’ve got you covered. For more information about Modern Mommy Events, and for Caregiver Speed Dating ticket information, contact Eva and Jess here
Parent tickets are $25 or $35 at the door.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Mommy Musing: Parenting Heros

When sorting through all the choices we have as mothers (breast vs bottle or both, cloth or disposable diapers, purees or baby-led weaning...) it can be hard to zone in to the "right" thing to do. Of course, all of the above choices are fine for baby, but what is natural, fits with your morals, and works best for your child might not be obvious. That's when you need an adviser to point you in the right direction. Some one whose parenting you understand and respect. Someone who has shown you love, taken care of you, or someone you've watched with amazement, wonderfully caring for their own.

The first person to stand out in my own mind is, of course, my mother. She's a wonderful cook, did crafts, kept a level head, and showered us with love when we needed it. It was the ultimate goal to make her proud, and I would love for my son to respect me the way I respect her. Plus, I like to think I turned out pretty well... And while I think about what a wonderful grandparent she is, she recently told me a little about how her new role makes her feel:

"I didn’t grow up with a Grandmother myself but when I married my husband; I met and fell in love with his Grandmother. Granny was both pious and irreverent. She made everyone feel loved and welcome and foremost her favorite. She of course baked and knitted and went to church every Sunday and will be forever the most perfect of Grannies in my life.

When I became a mother and had the chance to see my own mother and mother-in-law become their own modern Grandmothers, both had vastly different styles of showing interest and affection, both hands on and hands off but clearly adoring their large broods. Now I’m a Nana, choosing that moniker to distinguish myself from the ones before me. I don’t know how to be the perfect (Granny) example of love and adulation but I know that it is so strong in me and I definitely want my little ones to know that they can tell me anything and do most things.

Most important of all for them to know is that as imperfect as parents and grandparents can be, we see them as a wonderful light in our heart and give us the bravado to whip out a portfolio of pictures to show strangers standing in line at Walmart."

Your hero doesn't need to be a strong, female family member, or female at all. I've gained information about coping with the hard times, and enjoying the fun that comes with being a mother. My father and grandfather have the best senses of humour, joking and teasing my son without over-thinking the mess (or the potential of puke.) They let boys be boys, and yet treat my niece no different as a petite, little girl. My friend Laura was a the very model of grace under pressure with two boys under 6, reinforcing manners, and that actions have consequences. She always explained why, at their level, with a loving tone that also conveyed the seriousness.

You will always worry about the choice you make, and how you're doing as a parent. I know that I have made and will make mistakes as a parent, but that's okay. When I feel that it's going all wrong, I take a deep breath and think about my parenting heros. What would they do? How would they counsel me right now? Personally, I think my lovely Scottish Granny would smile, give me a big hug and say that's he's "no broken." I'm doing fine.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Mommy Mental Health: Keeping Your Mind Sharp (Part 1)

In our family of three girls, two of us are currently enjoying the challenges and joys of parenting daily, and the third sister is currently earning her Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management. As much as a relief as it is when you’ve finished a rough semester of tight time lines and rough exams, the lifestyle of a student is a wonderful experience. Manage your own schedule, plan your own time, and of course, you have the flexibly to socialize whenever you want!

Sounds like maternity leave... except, if you’re a stay at home mom, or have light part time duties, guilt and exhaustion usually prevent you from doing much for yourself. You might experience some of that freedom, without the constant presence of friends, or the stimulation that classes and readings offer. That very first stage of motherhood can be as boring as it is tiring, and long nap times are more likely filled with housework or Netflix.

Why not combine some of that independence with some low commitment learning? It will give your brain some exercise, and might just offer an interesting topic to talk about over dinner or baby groups. We are going to look at two different approaches to banishing the baby brain without emptying your pocket book in the process. Today's options are FREE!

Mini Documentaries and Independent Films – If you’re pinned to the couch anyways, whether you’re breastfeeding or just too tired to move, why not watch something a little more exciting than reruns of the Simpsons or the talk show of the day? You can search for some ahead of time to add to a favourites list or set your PVR, so you just have to hit play. Try looking up lists of Oscar nominees from those little known categories, or asking your friends for some suggestions. Start with a few tv shows with some synapse tickling material. Here are a few shows I enjoy:

·         Through the Wormhole – Discovery Science (Science and Philosophy)
·         Inside Man – CNN (Politics and Social Science)
·         Brain Games – National Geography (Science, Sociology, Psychology)

Websites (ie. Lumosity) and MOOCs – If you happened to be sitting in front of a computer and you’re looking for a little more brain training; why not consider a training program. It can be as easy as a few minutes of game-based play on a site that tests for memory and logic, or as involving as a Massive Open Online Course. Never heard of a MOOC? You're not alone. Luckily we have a clever resident librarian to tip us off!  Google describes MOOCs as "
  1. a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people.
    "anyone who decides to take a MOOC simply logs on to the website and signs up"

A quick search of the available material and I found courses in economics, Spanish, nursing, and a lot more. Delve in to some material that has interested you for a while without the tuition fee to go with it! 

Library and Community Center Classes - If part of the reason you're feeling slow and unchallenged is spending too much time in the house, why not see what resources are in the public spaces near you. There are things you can do with or without your little one in tow. Just having conversation with new people can lighten your mood and help you find an interesting hobby. Join a book club, learn to knit, learn to dance, or improve your computer skills. Since you're out anyways, pick up a book to bring home with you. It might (and by might, I mean definitely will) take you a little longer to read with a kid or two around the house, but giving yourself 15 minutes to read, even light subject matter will utilize a different aspect of your brain. Personally, I love an Agatha Christie mystery. They are well written, witty, and relatively short, so it won't take up too much room in your diaper bag or purse!

How do you shake off the mommy fog on a budget? Tell us about it on Facebook!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Baby's Own Health: Toddler Food

From fun purees and messy faces, to the delicate balancing act that is eating Cheerios, discovering food is as fun for parents as it is for baby. At some point, however, individual taste begins to emerge and the act of defiance becomes a part of your little one testing their boundaries. Picking meals that are balanced, nutritious, and not on the floor, can be a chore.  Of course, your own taste are also a factor. Maybe you have dietary restrictions for health or ethical reasons. Maybe certain foods have an "ick" factor for you, that might not be true for your son or daughter. I'm writing a blog about what to feed a toddler, mostly because I'm trying to figure out what to feed my toddler. Experimentation is the name of the game, and here are 3 fun ways to "try out" some fun toddler meals!

Crescent Wraps

Wrap anything around anything and a toddler is at least curious. These finger foods are a great way to get creative with any number of delicious combos, such as these enticing Parmesan and Spinach Twists from Little Grazers.  Why not try ham and cheese baked up in the crescent roll, or cream cheese and salsa pinwheels on a tortilla! Make a batch, so that if it's a winner, you can grab a few in a pinch. No takers? Well, throw it in your lunch bag for your own meal! Win, win.

Oodles of Noodles

Food can be fun as well as filling. If you have time to be messy, let them get their fingers in a pile of noodles! It's a good way to practice those pincer grasp skills at the next level, with the added challenges of sauce and cheese! It doesn't have to be all about the carbs either - pasta is a great way to hide some produce, or even gain it some approval. Try a scratch spin on the classics like tuna noodle casserol, mac n' cheese, or these fun Homemade Spaghettios!

Mini Muffins

Both sweet and savoury muffins are a great way to make a portable meal to take to the park or to quickly munch on when time is short. If you're thinking breakfast, add rolled oats and yogurt for added nutritional punch. Cut the sugar and the fat by substituting your butter with apple sauce, or by adding a mashed banana for a cakey texture (always a toddler fave.) 

Don't limit yourself to batter either - meatloaf muffins, mini quiche with ham and cheese, macaroni cakes with cauliflower, or try these healthy quinoa bites! I'm thinking these would be great at a potluck buffet or as a side dish for the whole family! If seeing the veggies is a problem, puree them nice and smooth before adding them.

Have you got some great ideas for meal time? Have some trick for snacks on the go? Tell us on Facebook and join the conversation!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Mommy Mental Health: Your Child in the Hospital

Any parent would prefer to be just about anywhere else with their child than the hospital. As grateful as we are that they exist (and are largely free for Canadians), the feelings of fear, impatience, and discomfort are magnified 100 times over when the patient is your baby (which they automatically revert to, even if they are 12, when you feel they’re in pain.) Whether an emergency has arisen, or it’s something routine, no trip to the hospital is small, and it can be very taxing emotionally. I recently had the misfortune of taking my son to the Children’s hospital, as well as watching a huge number of kids in the emergency ward while I was there having hurt my knee. It was a stressful couple of weeks, let me tell you, but I learned a few things. I hope that by offering you a few coping mechanisms, you might survive the experience a little more comfortably than I did. 

For Emergencies 

If you have to go to the emergency room, you pretty much have to leave immediately. That already sets you behind the 8-ball in terms of preparation for long waits and boring beige walls. Of course, the best offense is a good defense, so taking a moment every day to plan for the unexpected might really save you some stress later. In addition to having your child’s health card/ insurance card with you at all times, here are a few things that should be in your diaper bag or back pack: 

· FOOD: Pack something, I cannot express this enough. It could be a long time until you’re seen, even for just a scheduled doctor’s check up. A hungry child can result in any number of melt-downs, plus eating is a good boredom distraction. Hey, a few puffs, even if they aren’t hungry, won’t hurt them. 

· Toys or books: While some waiting rooms are equipped with items for kids, you might wind up in a triage, exam, or other medical area that is not. Having a fun, interactive activity will really help lessen the loud ticking of the clock. Since you never know if you’ll be waiting 20 minutes or 4 hours, multiple small pieces for quick, new distractions are best. 

For Surgeries and Longer Stays 

When you have a planned treatment or procedure that will certainly take hours of your time, taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of junior. There could be extended periods of time in which you are by yourself, or left alone with an equally nervous and irrational spouse! When you are with your child, comfort and a sense of ease is important. You might be freaking out on the inside, and that’s totally fine, but try to be brave on the outside. Somethings that might help include: 

· Comfort items for the family: If your child has a blankie, a soother, or a stuffed alligator – you need it now more than ever. Make sure you put it right by the door or in the car the night before, so that you don’t forget it. For yourself, wear loose, comfy clothing. You’re not there to impress anyone. If you’re sitting in a small waiting chair for multiple hours, or climbing in to a hospital bed with your child, you need to be comfortable! 

· Distraction items: As always, you’re going to need toys, but they need to be mentally involving for longer periods. For toys, something with buttons or multiple functions is best. Books with more than one story, or items to find and count will last longer. A stuffie is good for comfort, but will grow old fast unless you make it sing and dance! This applies to mommy, too. Bring a book, and maybe a charger for your phone if you’re going to play games. 

It’s a hard fact of parenthood that you can’t protect your child from everything, but you can be their rock and support. It hurts to know that my son saw a hospital room so early in life, but the feeling of holding him in recovery, and being there for him as he healed is a bonding experience I will always remember. Sometimes the trials of raising a child are the most rewarding. To feel pain and suffering and come out the other side stronger as a family is an amazing thing. I would have given anything to have taken the pain for him, but I felt it with him, and we recovered together.