Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day Three and Four of Daycare

Gwen had another good day at daycare yesterday. She even slept for two hours instead of one, which is awesome. I am feeling so grateful for her adaptability. I know we're not out of the woods yet, that three good days doesn't guarantee that every day will be easy and great. But I guess it makes me feel like I know she *can* have a good day. It's like the first night of sleep training, where she fell asleep after 14 minutes: it didn't preclude several more nights of crying, but we knew she could do it and that made it easier to get through.

Then this morning, Denise called to let us know her daughter had been up all night throwing up, so no daycare today. Chris decided to stay home with Gwen rather than call one of our backup people, because it seemed cruel to throw another curve ball at her in a week of transition. And now we get to look forward to Gwen coming down with whatever Denise's daughter has, because they've been playing together for the last three days. I knew being in daycare would make her sick more often, but I didn't expect it to happen quite this quickly ...

As for me, it's starting to feel more normal to be back at work. The afternoons and evenings are actually not as rushed as I feared: I think because I wrote out a huge list of who is doing what every evening (including making dinner, prepping Gwen's bag, doing laundry, and so on). We just follow the list. Mornings, on the other hand, are a little nuts. The last two days I have gotten Gwen dressed and as a result been late for work. The problem is that Gwen wants to eat as soon as she wakes up, and if you choose to make her breakfast instead of conjuring it out of thin air, she will spend that 45 seconds whining and clutching at the backs of your legs, so it's really nice to have someone running Gwenterference while you deal with those tasks. We're going to have to figure out a better way to deal with that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Daycare/Work: Two Days In

Sorry for not updating earlier. I could throw a litany of excuses at you, but the truth is I just suck. Sorry.

So, daycare! Work! Life! Etcetera!

Day One, Chris dropped Gwen off at daycare. She cried a little bit when he left but got over it very quickly. I went to work and had an absolutely awful day. A lot of the things I used to enjoy and appreciate about my job - things that made my job worth keeping, despite the lack of challenge and the relatively low pay - have drastically changed and/or been taken away. On the way to work, I felt so sick I thought I was going to throw up on the side of the road. I knew I was doing it to myself, but could not figure out how to stop.

All morning I promised myself I would call the daycare at lunch to see if Gwen had had her nap. Then when it came time, I realized I couldn't take more bad news, so I didn't call.

Chris picked Gwen up and I met them at home. Her face when she saw me was absolutely indescribable! She toddled over to me and gave me a big hug, patting me on the back with both hands, cooing with glee. It was pretty awesome. Chris reported that she had only napped for an hour, but other than that, "had had a pretty good first day".

Day Two, Chris dropped her off again. He called me at work to report that Gwen had pushed him away as he tried to take off her coat because she was so eager to go play with her friends. I was so happy to hear this news that a lot of my work-related stress melted away. I had a pretty good workday, wherein I tried to sort through all my perceived problems and determine which ones were actually genuine, long-term issues to deal with, and which ones were short-term bumps along the lines of hey, it's freakin' hard to start working again after a whole year off! (This is complicated by the fact that my department is moving to a new office next Monday, so a lot of stuff is in chaos - double transition.)

I picked Gwen up and she was once again really happy to see me. The moment of reunion at the end of the day is quickly becoming the day's highlight. Once again she only napped for an hour. Denise reported no separation crying, however, there were a few moments of frustration as Gwen does not like being told "no" she can't touch something. (We are quite familiar with this scenario!) She's just got to learn; all the toys and balls and books are for her, the VCR is not. Other than that, another good day.

The only issue so far is that with those short naps, she's getting really cranky in the evenings. Hopefully the naps will lengthen as she gets used to the new environment.

On the whole, she's doing well!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Trial Run

In all the birthday hullaballoo I didn't have a chance to mention that on Friday I took Gwen to Denise's place (her new daycare provider) and left her there for about an hour and a half. I had my cell phone with me and Denise had promised to call if anything went wrong. I did some errands, including exchanging my last $5 for a Midnight Truffle Blizzard on the recommendation of my best friend (YES) and waited anxiously for the phone to ring. It never did. Gwen did really well - not a fuss, not a cry.

When I went to get her she was just finishing lunch. Denise commented, "She's not a picky eater, is she?" Um, yeah, NO. "I would have had her cleaned up and ready to go, but she just kept signing more, please," Denise continued. Reportedly, Gwen had pasta and bread and fruit for lunch. I was amazed as Gwen did not have pasta sauce in her hair. That Denise knows what she is doing.

Tomorrow is my first day back to work, and Gwen's first full day in Denise's care. I am working very hard - and mostly succeeding - at not being anxious about this. As in all things, I just need to believe in the amazing Gwen and her well-adjusted ways. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gwen's First Year

This is a slideshow I put together to celebrate Gwen's first year of life. I hope you enjoy it!


video

Crying to Calm Video Contest

Hey y'all,

Here's a forwarded message from the good folk at Miracle Blanket:

The Crying to Calm video contest we’ve launched isn’t getting any response. And I have a feeling it may actually be easier than most people think. It’s likely not a lot of new parents want to grab the video camera at night when they’re putting their newborn down. (Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be at night, it might be a mid-day nap.) So, even though we all know that the MB works nearly every time, we are not going to receive as many entries as you might think. So I wanted to personally invite everyone to keep it in mind and maybe take a shot at making a little extra cash.

Remember the grand prize is $500! And there is also a second place $100 and third place $50.

What we're looking for is the best video example demonstrating the true miracle of Miracle Blanket®. See what you can capture on video showing your baby going from fussy & crying to a peaceful serenity after being wrapped in the Miracle Blanket. Quality is not super important, but it has to be a continuous roll with no cuts, transitions, edits so we can see the actual, real-time effect of the Miracle Blanket.

If you have any suggestions on getting this thing rolling, I’m open to ideas! I’m also asking that you pass the word along to your readers or friends. Heck, feel free to even borrow a baby if you don’t have a newborn age 0-3 any longer.

You never know, you could win $500! Here are the complete rules and details: www.miracleblanket.com/images/VideoContest.gif

___________________
So here I am, spreading the word. Dude, I so could have won this thing if I'd heard about it, like, a YEAR ago! I'd have shot footage of Gwen every darn day. But as it is, I have no video of her in the MB, so I'm SOL. Too bad, because that $500 would come in handy. Anyway, feel free to enter yourselves, and forward this on with abandon!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Year One in Photos

A few hours old.

One month old.





Two months old.




Three months old.

Four months old.

Five months old.
Six months old.
Seven months old.
Eight months old.

Nine months old.

Ten months old.

Eleven months old.


Twelve months old.
Happy Birthday, sweetheart.

Dear Gwen: Month Twelve

Dear Gwen,

What an amazing month it's been!



There have been so many firsts this month. You got your first haircut, after much agonizing on my part, and you somehow look even more beautiful than you did before (I wouldn't have thought that possible). You got your first big owie, which has already been documented and photographed. You had your first overnight - in fact, two overnights - without me, and you did great. You transitioned with an absolute minimum of grief to a one-nap-a-day schedule. And now you're getting your fourth tooth.



As of Tuesday, April 21st, I would officially call you a walker. Though you took your first solo steps many weeks ago, I didn't want to say you were officially walking until you started to consistently choose walking over crawling. You are now at that stage. Delightfully - and this won't last long, I know - you seem to think the only place you can walk is from one adult to another. So you walk giddily from your dad to me, so proud of yourself, and collapse into my arms; then get up, turn around, and walk back to Dad. It's like it hasn't occurred to you yet that you could actually walk away from us. Which is fine, because we're not ready for you to do that anyways - we're having way too much fun with you! For the record, Easter Sunday (April 12) was the first time I saw you get up and walk without anyone prompting you to do so, and as mentioned above, April 21st was the first time I saw you do more walking than crawling.


Your sleep continues to be one of the very easy parts of our day. You now nap once a day, right after lunch, for two or even three hours. You still go to bed easily at 7pm, giving your dad and I time to (theoretically) connect as a couple or (in actuality) get our chores done. As if life couldn't get any better, we discovered that if we give you a four-ounce bottle in the morning, you will feed yourself and then either go back to sleep or just play and talk happily to yourself in your crib for up to an hour. This has been a real lifesaver on those mornings when you wake up at 5am.



For a few days, you were a bit sick with a lowgrade teething fever and, I suspect, having a little trouble shifting from two naps to one. During that time, you were a little more cuddly than usual, and ended up taking more than one lap-nap. Dad didn't mind at all; in fact, he'd never had the experience of you falling asleep in his arms before, and I think he really enjoyed it. He even took advantage of it by falling asleep himself - smart man!


As for mealtimes, your appetite continues to increase (though at last weigh-in, you were still just 1.5 ounces below 20 pounds). You are all about the self-feeding these days and spoon-fed purees are a thing of the past. The only thing still spoon-fed is that blasted infant cereal, which apparently I have to keep giving you for another YEAR, grumblegrumble. Most of the time, you eat enthusiastically and very, very messily! Many nights we have been sent scurrying into the kitchen to see what else we can serve you after you eat your entire meal and then happily sign for "more, please!"



One of the lessons I've learned this month is that you can choke on things I didn't think you could possibly even fit into your mouth. Last month, your Grannie gave you a Sesame Street clubhouse that used to belong to me when I was little. I spent hours and hours playing with that clubhouse, and I thought it was so neat that she saved it for you! Your dad went on Ebay and bought some Sesame Street people to go with it, and the day they arrived, we all got down on the floor and showed you how the people could go through the trapdoor, down the slide, round the merry-go-round, and so on. Your dad and I were having a great time reminiscing. Next thing we knew, Elmo - it would be that blasted Elmo! - was entirely inside your mouth and you were gagging. Elmo was easy to retrieve, but then we had to reluctantly pack all the little people away until such time as you are old enough not to put everything in your mouth.


As well as your toys, you continue to be very into your books. You routinely pull all the books off the shelves (which is fine, because we keep only the board books at your level), and now you have started to bring one to us so we can read it to you. This utterly enchants us and we are always happy to oblige. Also, since you've only recently learned how to walk, your method of transporting the book to us was completely amusing: you would hold the book way up in the air, with the other hand and the bottom of one foot alternating pushing you along on your bum and other knee. You looked ridiculous, and of course, completely charming.

We've noticed over the past week that your comprehension skills are scarily good. For example, I saw you pulling out the birthday crown that Amber made you, and try to put it on your head. Expecting nothing, I said, "Do you want Mom to help you put it on?" You looked towards me and grunted, so I said, "Alright, bring it over to me," and you did. I was floored, though I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised. I talk to you all the time, and the whole point is that you should be learning to understand me! I guess now is the time to start paying attention to what we say and do in front of you, because you are becoming quite a little mimick. You are quite consistent with your cow (muhh) and dog (wow-ow) noises, and "nuh" (no), "buh-buh" (bye-bye) and "uh-oh" are becoming quite common too. When you know you're doing something you shouldn't, you look up at me and say "nuh". Then go right back to doing it.


Easter Sunday
One of my favourite memories of this month happened just this past weekend when your Grannie and Grandpa Campbell came to visit. You had had a really long nap, so I let you stay up late to play with them. You were in fine form, showing off all your tricks, giggling and walking and charming the hell out of them. I was so glad to see you all having some time together, as you don't get to see them as often as your other grandparents. I know they absolutely loved it too.

Last Sunday was your family birthday party, and tomorrow we are having a birthday playdate with your baby friends. Then on Monday I'm back to work and you're starting daycare. It seems like such a whirlwind right now, and I know the next couple of weeks will be hard for our family, but I also believe we will settle into a routine fairly easily and before long, we won't even think about it. I know you won't remember what it was like to be home with me all the time, but I hope I never forget, and I hope that the memories and experiences of the past year have given you a good start to a wonderful, happy, full life.


Happy Birthday, Gwen.

Love always,
Mama



Gwen's Birth Story

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Daycare Q&A

Q. What's the latest on your daycare situation?
A. We have found a daycare space for Gwen. If you look outside and see the trees waving and bending, you might assume it's the wind, but it's actually me breathing a HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF.

Q. What's the place like?
A. Gwen's new care provider is named Denise. She has three daughters of her own; the youngest two (16 months and 5 years) are at home with her while the oldest is in school (though the 5-year-old goes to outside daycare 2 days a week). There is also a 14-month-old girl and a 14-month-old boy in her care. When I went to meet with Denise on Tuesday, her youngest daughter and the 14-month-old girl were there, and I immediately knew these were the playmates for Gwen. I brought Gwen and Chris along with me yesterday and the decision was unanimous.

Denise worked in a daycare centre for 13 years before making the decision to stay home with her youngest daughter and provide daycare there. I love that she has all that experience, I love that she loves working with kids, I love that she has lived in Nanaimo all her life and doesn't foresee moving or any other upheaval.

Q. How on earth have you been so calm for the last three days? I would have been ranting and cursing so much, I would have been useless!
A. Don't get me wrong - I can rant and curse with the best of them. And this was a really rant-worthy situation. Without a doubt, the past 72 hours have been the absolute most stressful time since I became a parent. There are, I think, three reasons why I didn't completely fall apart.
1. I assessed the situation very quickly and realized that the time to rant and curse was a luxury I didn't have. There was a ticking clock counting down until my first day of work, and I needed to spend all my energies finding a solution to the problem.
2. I instinctively felt that I had a large enough and generous enough group of friends that even if there was a gap of a few weeks between my work starting and us finding the perfect place for Gwen, she would be well cared for by one friend and another over that time.
3. I kept thinking of Madeline's mom and Thalon's mom and telling myself how either of them would gladly give just about anything they have in order to have their worst problem be a flaky daycare provider.

Q. So, what have you learned?
A. I've learned that my backup plans need backup plans. That Plans A and B are a good start, but ideally we should have Plans C through G on standby. I've already started a phone list of friends who've said they're willing to be backups for Gwen's care. I've also learned that I have a really incredible group of friends. I posted a note on Facebook asking for help and the response was absolutely overwhelming. My phone kept ringing and my email box was stuffed full of suggestions, sympathy, encouragement, and offers of help. I am really, really blessed. Even knowing that there were other moms out there sympathizing with me and thinking of us in our predicament, helped me get through it with a little more grace.

Q. What now?
A. Well, I took Gwen to Denise's today and spent about 2.5 hours there with her. At one point, I left for 20 minutes to see how she'd do. She did absolutely fine - didn't even seem to care that I was gone. She seemed to do really well with me there, too. Not clingy (surprise surprise - when is my little girl ever clingy?) or shy, just exploring and having a great time. I feel good about her being there. I know she'll enjoy it and learn so much. Tomorrow, I'm going to try leaving her for an hour or maybe even two, depending on how she does. Then next week, she'll be there for four solid days in a row.

Q. Four whole days? Wow! Not much of a transition there, eh?
A. Nope. Next week is going to suck, and I don't think there's any way around it. Obviously, this is not how I planned to transition Gwen into daycare, but I have to keep reminding myself that she won't even remember this time. There's nothing we can do but brace ourselves.

Q. And what about you? Starting work fulltime again - how do you feel about that?
A. Just to ramp up my own personal stress level, I spoke to my boss a few days ago and was informed about some changes to my job that I am unenthusiastic and even somewhat fearful about. At one point, before we solidified our daycare plans, I felt that I was really in a losing battle: that I was going back to work at a job I hate, and leaving Gwen with some as-yet-unnamed stranger, and for what? (Chris eventually reminded me that the "what" was that whole thing about continuing to be able to pay our mortgage. Oh, yeah.) The next couple of weeks will be a big transition for me too. Nothing to do but brace myself. The paycheque will be nice, I suppose.

Q. So, now that you've got daycare figured out, are you feeling relieved?
A. You know, it's really selfish of me, but I feel really sad. I just realized last night that I am going to really miss Gwen while I'm at work. I guess I made the decision that staying home fulltime wasn't the right option for me back when she was, oh, under six months old, I'd say. But she's a different kid now, so entertaining and hilarious and bursting with personality. I still don't want to be at home fulltime, but I feel so frustrated and sad about being away from her so much. Talking to Chris has helped, as he pointed out that he is away from her every day as well, and I know their bond is incredibly strong and that they get so much joy from each other. I guess it's all just another step away from me and towards the whole wide world. Her birth was one, and sometimes I still miss how it felt when she kicked and bumped from inside me, responding to my voice or my touch. But I wouldn't want her to stay in there forever, either. Change is good, and necessary for growth. I'm working on reminding myself that it's okay to grieve the end of this time, and that my sadness doesn't mean I've made the wrong choice.

Q. Okay, that last part was sad and made us all sniffly! You'd better cheer us up.
A. Okay! Check out this adorable picture of my daughter, taken by Brooke at Captured Essence Photography.



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Green Gwen

In honour of Earth Day, I thought I would use today's post to talk about the efforts I make, as a mother, to reduce our family's impact on the environment.

Let me state upfront that I am very new to environmental efforts, and I know I have a long way to go. Be assured I don't pat myself on the back and congratulate myself for saving the planet just because I use a cloth bag instead of plastic. But I do believe that every bit helps, and so I am doing my best to change one bit at a time.

We use cloth diapers, and honestly, I so much prefer them to disposable. We also use cloth wipes: simple j-cloths that I soak in water (though you can also buy or make your own wipes solution), then wash with the diapers and re-use. When researching before Gwen was born, I learned that the most environmentally friendly option for diapering was cloth diapers through a diaper service (as they will be washing huge loads in large industrial machines, there will be less water and electricity wastage). There was no diaper service available then, so we bought our own diapers and wash them ourselves. I don't find it that much of a bother, though it does take a bit of planning ahead (and a bit more when I get back to work, I imagine).

I do a few things to make the laundering process a bit more friendly, as well. I do an extra spin after washing, before transferring to the dryer or clothes line; I've read that the extra spin, which takes only a moment, saves up to 20 minutes of drying time - and the dryer takes a lot more electricity than the washing machine. I try to dry Gwen's clothes and diapers on the line where possible, though I'll be honest and confess that this hasn't happened since last fall. I'm going to make the effort to get back in the habit now that Spring is here.

Gwen's food is mostly homemade, something that I undertook not for the sake of the planet but for the sake of our bank account. All that jarred food is pri-high-cey! And where do all those little containers go when you're done with them? Here I digress for a moment and mention that yes, recycling is great and I am an avid recycler, but there's more to environmental activism than just throwing something into your blue bin. The famous motto has three elements: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse. I think a lot of people (my husband included) forget those other two pillars. Also, recycling facilities require money, manpower, and a re-manufacturing process, and the reusable product that comes out is much less than what went in. My point is, recycling alone is not going to save the planet. Responsible consumerism, as practiced by the folks at the Clean Bin Project, is a much more helpful tool.

So, as I was saying, I've inadvertently saved a lot of plastic by making Gwen's food instead of buying pre-packaged stuff. For the household as a whole, I buy in bulk where I can, reusing my plastic food bags and using green cloth bags at the store. I've even gotten into the habit of having one or two foldable green bags in my purse and/or car, so when I go to stores other than the grocery store, I can still skip the bag. Also, we compost - not because we garden, but because I want to reduce our landfill waste.

Again, being cheap proves to be an environmental advantage, as most of the books, toys and clothes I buy for Gwen are from consignment stores. We are then extending the product's lifespan rather than dumping the toy in a landfill and buying a new one. Less plastic manufacturing = good for the environment, and again, no bulky packaging to deal with. Gwen doesn't care whether her stuff has been worn or played with before - why should we? And when she outgrows these items, they go back to the consignment store for the next person to use.

Speaking of books, I am a keen user of the local library, and Gwen already has her own card. Chris likes to buy books, but at least he buys them used. I recently hit up the Books for Kids sale, where books were donated and all proceeds went to elementary school libraries. I got a (reusable) shopping bag stuffed with board books and juvenile novels for $5.

There are definitely areas that need to be improved. We drive a lot, and haven't had the mental energy to reassess that. We were buying locally-grown organic groceries from Spud.ca and had to give it up to save money, so now we're back to buying at the big-box store, foods that come from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Our skin, hair, and cleaning products ought to be examined for environmental impact in manufacturing, packaging, and disposal. All these things are on the back burner for the time being, but they're on my mind to be dealt with when time and finances allow.

If you'll allow me to get up on my soapbox for one more moment, I have to confess how aggravated I get at certain magazine articles that miss the point entirely about Earth Day and environmental awareness. I've seen quite a few articles with titles like "Help Your Kids Go Green!" and for the most part, the articles recommend buying a DVD about recycling, or a book about the planet, or maybe a few different environmentally friendly products. This makes me so mad I could spit. In my view, if you are trying to figure out a way to help the planet, the LAST thing you need to do is go BUY SOMETHING. (This is, of course, the EXACT thing the magazine and their advertisers want you to do. But you're smart enough to see through that, right?) To me, this epitomizes the North American attitude that we can just make a small, meaningless gesture - especially one that involves spending money - and then spend the rest of the day feeling smug and self-righteous, when in fact we've contributed nothing towards the solution of the problem.

Whew. Yeah, that was my ranting for the day. I've one last eco-friendly decision to share with you, and then I'll end the post and send you off to enjoy your Earth Day.

The biggest thing our family has done, or will do, to positively impact the environment, is to make the decision that Gwen will remain an only child.

Chris has always wanted just one child. I waffled back and forth between one and two, but reading this book helped me decide that one is the right number for us. Again, finances are a big factor, but I also feel good about the fact that we are doing some small part to address overpopulation. In some Third World countries, birth control isn't a realistic option, and so it would be easy to blame overpopulation on them. But North Americans have a far larger ecological footprint, so it actually will make a big difference to the planet if we in the First World limit the size of our families.

So, that's what we do to ensure the planet continues to exist for Gwen's children's children's children. How about you?

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's always darkest before the dawn, or some sh*t like that ...

A future conversation I hope to have, circa 2014:

Chris: Can you believe our little girl is six years old? Wow.
Laura: I know! It's amazing. She's amazing.
Chris: We are so lucky. She's healthy, she's smart, she's so fun to be around! She is just such an incredible kid.
Laura: I know. I am really excited about her birthday party this year, too! It's been such a blast to plan it with her.
Chris: Well, we are pretty good party planners, you know. I guess she comes by it naturally.
Laura: Yeah, I guess so.
Chris: Remember her first birthday party, and how fun that was? We thought your mom and dad wouldn't be able to come, but then they did! And you made the cake, and the strawberries kind of slid down the sides ... but it was delicious anyway!
Laura: I know! That was great! And then we bought her that playhouse, and she loved it so much. Remember, she kissed the baby in the mirror? Oh, it was so funny!
Chris: That was the beginning of the "Happy Birthday Gwen" slideshow! I had no idea, way back then, that you were going to do that every year. What a crazy, er I mean dedicated mom you are!
Laura: Yeah, I love the slideshow. Maybe someday I'll even get around to finding a new song instead of using the same one over and over.
Chris: Hey, I just remembered something! After her party, all our guests left, and Gwen went down for a nap, and we cleaned everything up and got the dishwasher going, and we were just sitting down after a very exhausting morning and you decided to check your email. And ... who was it? Oh yeah! April! The daycare provider that we had lined up, had emailed you to say she could no longer provide care for Gwen!
Laura: OMG! Right, and I had like a week left before I started work again! And we were like: FUCK!
Chris: Yeah! We were so totally screwed!
Laura: Man, I had forgotten all about that. I was convinced it was karmic justice, but really, it seemed kind of unfair that Gwen should pay the price for my immaturity.
Chris: That was a very, very bad week.
Laura: Yeah. I kept thinking I should be spending my energies doing the mental and emotional work to process the fact that my daughter was going into daycare, and that I wouldn't be with her all the time. And instead I was scrambling around trying to find someone to look after her!
Chris: But then we found the perfect place, didn't we?
Laura: Yes, thank goodness, everything worked out just fine in the end. And Gwen is so adaptable - she might have had a hard time if she had a different personality, but ultimately it was a lot harder on us than on her.
Chris: Yeah, things didn't work out how we expected. But I think we handled it pretty well. And the place she ended up in was just terrific. Everything happens for a reason, I guess.
Laura: You're so right.
Chris: And wasn't that also the week that you lost 15 pounds without any effort?
Laura: Yes it was. And then you discovered that magical wallet that always had a $50 bill in it whenever you opened it!
Chris: Hey, if you're going to dream, dream big!
Laura: That's what I always say!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Owie

Gwen got her first real owie today. As in, there was actual blood coming out of her and hours later the marks are still visible on her face. Despite how dreadful that sounds, she is actually quite fine; just banged up enough to look ridiculous in her upcoming photo shoot this Saturday. (We're having professional photos done to commemorate her birthday.)

She and I went out to her daycare today for an acclimatizing visit. Despite the best intentions of myself and (I believe) her daycare provider, April, this is only the second such visit we've had, and clever readers will note that there are only SIX MORE WEEKDAYS until I start work. It's fortunate, then, that Gwen seems to have had a good time there this morning, bloody chin and all.

It's a challenge for me to try and figure out how close to hover over Gwen on these visits. I want her to know that I'm there if she needs me, and yet I don't want her to rely on me, because ultimately she will need to adjust to being in that environment without me, and relying on April to meet her needs. I should have hovered a little closer, I suppose, while Gwen experimented with how to walk a riding toy over gravelly concrete, a surface she's not very familiar with. As she likes to push the riding toy sideways (as seen in my previously posted video), it was only a matter of time before the wheels stuck on the bumpy surface and Gwen went headfirst over the seat. I'm not a very wimpy mom - I know, and accept, and even expect that my kid is going to have a lot of bumps and bruises as she learns the abilities and limitations of her body and her world. But even so, the first time you see your daughter's mouth full of dirt and pine needles and her chin bloodied, it's a chilling moment.

What I view as positive is that after a bit of a cry and getting cleaned up, Gwen went right back to the toy (we quickly moved it to the grass for her - a more forgiving surface) and continued exploring. She didn't let this upset her day; she didn't even get clingy with me. On the whole, like I said, she seems to be adjusting well, which is great because HOLY COW there is not a lot of time left.

April is unavailable tomorrow, but we plan to go out on Monday morning again and try a couple of things: first of all, I'll stay for a little while and then go out for a walk, to see how she does on her own; then I'll come back and we'll hang out together some more, have some lunch, and then try to get Gwen down for a nap. If that all goes well, maybe I'll leave her for a longer period on Wednesday (as Tuesday is, of course, Gramma time).

(Sorry I don't have a picture of Gwen's owie - what kind of blogger am I?! I'll try to remember to get one tomorrow.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vaccinations - My Views

When I urged people to comment about their own experiences/outlooks on vaccinating their kids, I expected I might get some drama in the comments. That didn't happen, and I can only conclude that my readers are people of class, style, and integrity, a rare breed who effortlessly respects other parents' child-rearing decisions. Obviously, I have the awesomest readers on the internet. You guys rock.

What I *didn't* expect is that I would actually learn something. I kind of didn't mean to, actually. Reluctantly-learned lessons are the hardest. (My last reluctantly-learned lesson was on Christmas Day, when I watched this documentary that Chris bought me. Boo.)

Before I get into the meat of the post, I'd like to point out two links left by my (classy, respectful, knowledgeable) readers.
How Anti-Vaccination Hysteria is About Sex, Accidentally Helping Big Pharma - Anything But Science
and
Ian's Voice

Right. So, before Gwen was even born, I did some research about vaccinations. I went into it with my own biases and shortcomings - for one thing, I'm terrible at research. I have two very specific impressions of my time on this task, and I am now struggling to be as fair and respectful as my readers as I share them with you.

First, I found a parent-run site dedicated to the dangers of the MMR vaccine and claiming that it made their children autistic. It was everything you'd expect: heavy on rhetoric and personal anecdotes, light on facts, statistics, and hard data. Parents would submit their "stories" - often just a few sentences - that all amounted to the same thing: my child was healthy, happy, and intelligent; s/he got the MMR vaccine; s/he is now diagnosed autistic. After wading through a few pages of this, the impression I got was that these parents were desperate for someone to blame. I can understand that - I'd be doing the same thing, if it were my child.

Next, I found an article written by a pediatrician, using correctly-spelled words and proper grammar and even a convincing argument. He used the same concept Dooce mentioned, herd immunity, and argued that the reason we don't see polio anymore is because our health care providers mounted such an effective vaccination campaign against it. He pointed out that due to the MMR scare, some countries saw a significant dip in vaccination rates, but no corresponding drop in the autism rates.

That was enough for me - I was convinced. Herd immunity made sense to me, and I soon learned, as suspected, that the MMR hysteria was media-fuelled frenzy based on a hoax. However, I then drew a bad conclusion. Like those who assume every Christian is like this or this or this, I assumed every anti-vaccination parent was a crazy hippie who took our advanced health system for granted. From her birth until today, Gwen has had every vaccination the health system recommends, on the schedule they recommend.

Then I asked you for your opinions, and the can of worms was opened. I was mildly surprised to see my friend Jen - a nurse - comment that "We are choosing to vaccinate for everything except chickenpox," and state that she had not taken that decision lightly. (I guess I'd assumed that any mainstream health professional would be toeing the line as far as vaccinations were concerned.) In reading her comment about the research she'd done, I realized that I had not come close to educating myself adequately about the issue. As she wrote about the vaccination schedule, I realized I didn't even know what vaccinations Gwen had already had, or which ones might be considered controversial or dangerous. Shame on me.

Then today, I had some spare time and followed the link that Rhea posted to Ian's Voice. I was shocked and appalled at what this family experienced, and was soon brought to tears: both in sadness for their loss, and in shame for myself at not learning about this earlier. I dug out Gwen's immunization record and learned that she has, in fact, had the Hepatitis B shot, an allergic reaction to which caused Ian's death at only 47 days old. I thank God that Gwen has had no adverse reactions to any of her shots.

Clearly, I have more learning to do, but I think it's likely that I'll continue to vaccinate Gwen. She's already had one of the dangerous ones and done fine (thank God thank God thank God) and at this point I see no compelling reason to stop now. I feel guilty that I didn't learn more about this ahead of time, but what's past is past. The MMR is next on the docket, and I don't buy into the autism business for a second, so I have no issues with that. I guess after that I have six months to research the next group of shots and reassure myself that they're alright too.

Whatever your personal stance, it seems clear to me that the vaccination schedule and/or ingredients could be improved. As Jen asks,"Has anyone ever questioned the Canadian government about why they encourage all pregnant women to get the Flu Shot (that contains mercury/Thimerosal) yet we're sternly warned not to eat tuna because of its mercury content?" Doubtless there is an advocacy group out there doing just that, and pressuring the government to do something about it. In the meantime, we all just keep doing the best we can for our kids, swimming the seas of mis/information and trying to stay afloat. Best of luck to all of you, my wonderful and respectful readers.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Walkin'

We now interrupt the vaccination debate to bring you this breaking news - Gwen is walking!

There must be something about being 11 months, 2 weeks, and 5 days old, because Jen's son Anderson - born the same day as Gwen - started walking today too.

video

Please keep the comments coming on my previous post. Very interesting stuff there so far!

Vaccinations

Happy Easter, everyone!

Nothing much to say today, but I wanted to point out this post by Dooce about vaccinations. I was very, very interested to read this, and would love to hear what my Circle of Moms has to say about this topic. I'll save my own opinion for a follow-up post.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nearly One

Gwen is two weeks away from her first birthday. One year ago today, my blood pressure rose to 140/100 and I instantly went from "lalala I'm 36 weeks pregnant and everything is going fine!" to "hello, you are on bedrest now, and by the way that means you're off work." The next two weeks were spent - hilariously - only getting off the couch to haul my giant pregnant self to non-stress tests at the hospital.

Anyway, like I said, Gwen is nearly one year old, and I am facing the uncomfortable truth that my image of a one-year-old child is dismally inaccurate.

I guess all of these preconceived notions come about from the fact that at one year old, parents go back to work, and kids head to daycare (or Gramma's, or nanny's, or whatever other child care situation is going on). So I guess I thought that 12 months was an age where kids got a bit more independent, and didn't necessarily need Mom and Dad so much. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Fantastic wishful thinking, and fantastically wrong.

I thought 1-year-olds could walk, for one thing. I figured they'd be all over getting themselves from one place to another, and that they could both follow a beloved caregiver and escape an unfriendly playmate. I thought 1-year-olds would be a little more able to defend themselves; that they wouldn't just sit passively while an older kid stole a toy from them. I thought they'd be able to feed themselves, so that a daycare worker who is in charge of six other kids didn't have to sit and spoonfeed an entire meal. I thought 1-year-olds might be a little better at communicating their needs, allowing *anyone* to understand that s/he wants a toy/cookie/new diaper/nap, not just Mom: The Ultimate Authority and Toddler Reference Manual. For sure, I thought 1-year-olds could amuse themselves for more than 15 seconds at a time.

Some of these things, some of the time, in some circumstances, are true for Gwen. But not all of them. Not even most of them. I still feel like I'm the Gwen Decoder most of the time, and that she'll be helpless, unhappy, and misunderstood if I'm not there. Ridiculous, I know, and it's even more ridiculous that at a time when I should be bemoaning how fast she's growing, instead I'm pointing out all the things she still can't do. So instead, let me share with you some of the things I've noticed lately.

Gwen can now stand up without pulling up on anything, and she has even taken a few steps without being coaxed or tricked into it. She signs "more" quite reliably and has started signing "please" (though the sign she uses for the latter is one she made up and has no relation to the sign we tried to teach her). She sometimes signs "milk", and, rarely, "all done". She can say and wave "buh-buh", she demonstrates that cows say "moo" and sheep say "baa", she likes to dance (on her knees) to music, and she is starting to show a lot of interest in books.

Last week, she picked up a toy that rattled. She spent the next ten minutes picking up all her toys and shaking them, to see which ones rattled and which ones didn't.

Earlier this week, she discovered "open" and "close". She opened the door of her Noah's Ark, took out one animal, closed the door, started over. Open, remove, close. Open, remove, close. Repeat until Ark is empty.

She has learned that when she's wearing a dress, it's easier to walk on hands and feet than to crawl.

Who will notice all these little changes when she's in daycare?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I have returned

My weekend away was great. Gwen, from all reports, had a terrific time as well. Chris kept me up to date via text message and Facebook status messages (4:31pm: Chris: Gwen, don't touch that. It is fragile. Gwen (Trying to use the DVD player as a climbing hold) : NUH! (her version of no.) Chris: Ah, and now backtalking begins. Gwen sprouts a huge grin). Good times. Also - hi, Chris! Welcome to my life!

For the most part I found it easier than I expected to be away from my little girl. It was difficult to actually leave on Friday afternoon, which was odd, because I leave her all the time, and of course she had no idea that I wouldn't be back in a couple of hours like I usually am. But I almost got tearful as I walked out. The other exception was on Sunday morning, when I woke up and felt ready to go home. I was really starting to miss her, and the feeling intensified over the 2-hour drive home. I imagined a giant grin and an excited hug when I finally appeared, but such was not to be. Gwen can be affectionate, but it's on her own terms - just because Mama happens to wander in after an absence of over 48 hours doesn't mean she's going to stop playing with her fascinating array of toys, I guess.

So, the sad part is that she didn't seem to miss me one bit. But the good part is, she didn't seem to miss me one bit. Despite the fact that this makes me feel a little sorry for myself, the bigger picture is that she is doing fine, and that's great. She's growing up. Sniff, sniff.... I'll just be over here with the ice cream, weeping over her outgrown onesies...



My big girl after getting her first haircut.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Big Steps

Gwen took about fifteen consecutive, unaccompanied steps yesterday afternoon. In fact, yesterday marked a real turning point with her walking, I think. Up until now her solo steps have been a case of Mom and/or Dad setting up the situation, which often includes physically setting Gwen on her own two feet, then distracting and enticing her to walk towards one of us. It's generally true that if she realizes she's walking, she'll stop, crouch down, and go back to crawling. Yesterday, this wasn't the case. It was as if she finally 'got' the concept of walking, and was practicing it, over and over and over again. At one point, I was laying on the floor and she used my body to pull herself to standing, then took a few steps away from me, crouched back down and crawled back to me, and repeated about a dozen times - getting more and more confident and steady each time. It was just incredible to watch.

I'm hoping to have a little montage of some walking videos to share with you next week, because as of this afternoon I am heading to Victoria to visit my best friend. Yes - I, solo. As in, Gwen is staying here with Dad. _Whoa._ I am nervous about this, but excited too, and I feel the time is right for her to have a weekend without me. Whether I'm ready is another question! I will admit, though, that when I realized I was going away for a weekend and didn't have to pack for Gwen, nor plan my driving times around her nap schedule, I felt absolutely giddy. I haven't felt this carefree in a long, long time!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Go read Amber

Amber recently posted an entry called "The End of The Breastfeeding Relationship" with some thoughts on breastfeeding, weaning, and the judgement that we as mothers are subject to. All topics near and dear to my heart.


First of all - isn't it a tad overdramatic that we call it (cue ominously thundering organ music) The Ennnnnnd of the Breaaaaaaaastfeeding Relaaaaaaationship"? When we toilet-train our kids, is it the End of the Diapering Relationship? When we teach them how to walk, is it the End of the Carrying Relationship? When we teach them how to talk, is it the End of the Grunting and Guessing Relationship? Get serious. Why do we overemphasize breastfeeding so much, to the point where we tack on the word "relationship" and, more terrifyingly, "end"? I can honestly say, a few months post-wean, that my relationship with Gwen has not changed one bit. Not. One. Bit.


Amber points out that "the entire breastfeeding debate or discussion, whatever you’d like to call it, does a pretty good job of making women feel either superior or inadequate but does little to provide a supportive and understanding cushion for most new mothers." Truer words were never blogged.

I wanted to write a well-thought-out post on the subject myself, but it turns out that most of what I want to say is either (a) already being said by Amber, (b) repeating stuff I've said on this blog before, or (c) just more frustrated ranting/whining. So just go read Amber's post and join the discussion there (or here).

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