Thursday, February 26, 2009


Hey! You guys have two days left to send your stories for The Miraculous Giveaway. Come on, get on it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dear Gwen: Month Ten

Dear Gwen,
Today, you are ten months old. Double digits. I did the math, and this is your 306th day. Plus, my subject line rhymes. You are officially on the downhill slope towards your first birthday - and things are looking up!

Most of the time, you are a fiercely happy little girl, as the picture above shows. You are bold and curious and love to explore and figure out how things work. For example, you have recently figured out how to open our closet doors. You also continue to be very social, and are happiest when there are lots of babies, children, and adults around for you to interact with.

Every month when I sit down to write this letter I look over the previous month's letter first, to remind myself where we were at and see if there's anything in particular I need to update. Last month, I talked a lot about sleep - or, more accurately, the lack of it. I think the amount a blogger (or any parent, really) talks about sleep is inversely proportional to how much sleep they are getting. This is corroborated by the well-known fact that as soon as you talk about your kid sleeping through the night, he or she will stop.

I will now simply draw your attention to the fact that I haven't made a post about sleep here in nearly three weeks. And that is all I am going to say. Draw your own conclusions.

So, you are a busy girl. You are determined to explore every inch of your environment, and nothing draws your attention faster than an adult trying to inconspicuously tuck a dangerous or fragile item out of sight. This has been the month of Nothing is Safe. It's getting pretty frustrating, to be honest, as your physical abilities have far outgrown your cognitive ones, and thus you have no idea why I keep barking "NO" whenever you try to stick a toy into the VCR, strangle yourself in the power cords, pull to standing on that shaky floor lamp, and so on. You just look at me for a moment as if puzzling over the strange noises, then go back to your willfull destruction of self and property. In order to keep anything away from you, we have to remove it altogether from the ground floor of our home. Our upper story is getting mighty crowded, my girl.

This month I had to go donate blood, something I used to do every few months before I got pregnant but haven't done since then. Your dad and your grandma were both unavailable, so for the first time I left you with a non-family-member for a couple of hours: my friend Amanda and her daughter Evangeline, who is just a couple months older than you, came over to play and keep you company. I was very anxious about this but of course I needn't have been. From what Amanda tells me, you were far less concerned about your mommy being gone, than Evangeline was about sharing her mommy with you!

It's so hard to believe that your first birthday is just around the corner. I'm doing a lot of preparation for my return to work and the resulting huge shift in your daily routine. I'm thrilled to say we have lined up a daycare for you to attend 3 days a week, and you'll be with your dad and I and sometimes your Grandma the rest of the time. I can't wait to see how the environment of daycare with its numerous toys, childproofed space, and older playmates affects you.

You have started trying to communicate with us this month, both with gestures and with sounds. You can (but don't always choose to) sign both "all done" and "more", and I think I've seen you sign "milk" a couple of times, though I'm not convinced you are connecting the motion with the meaning quite yet. You have mastered the word "bye-bye" which in your world is pronounced "buh-buh" and is uttered, accompanied by enthusiastic waving, whenever anyone moves even slightly towards our front door. You are also working on "hello" - though many of your little friends can already say "hi", in our house we tend to say "hello", so you're stuck learning a much more difficult word. It currently sounds kind of like "hrrlrr", way back in your throat.

You are also starting to understand context really well. For example, when someone says "yaaaay!" you start to clap, because you know those two things go together. It's so impressive to watch you making those connections, which after all is evidence of some pretty complex learning.

Your mobility is getting better. You can balance unassisted for as long as 10 seconds, and there has been one unconfirmed sighting of you taking some steps. We have only four days left until my predicted timeline of you walking, and I'm starting to think I might be wrong. But even so, I'm sure this milestone is just around the corner, as you are eager to get moving. In the meantime, I'm just pleased that your attempts to stand unassisted end now in controlled bending-and-squatting, rather than a complete toppling over complete with your head crashing into the floor.

You are loving your food these days, and especially love to feed yourself. I'm happy to let you do this, but the price is that I have to wash your face, and heavens, the screaming that takes place when I dare to do so! As revenge, I take pictures of your adorably messy face to post on my blog.

Gwen, we love you so much that we end every night by talking about you: the adorable and clever things you did that day, our hopes for your future, our guesses as to your personality development and which skills you will grasp next. It's already impossible to imagine our lives without you. We are so glad to be your parents, and we will always love you.

But we're still not going to let you put that power cord in your mouth.

Monday, February 23, 2009


This is how our mornings look currently.

7am: Gwen wakes up. I get out of bed, quickly use the washroom, and make her a 4-ounce bottle. She drinks the bottle while I change her diaper and get her dressed.

7:15 - 8:30am: Then we go downstairs and she plays for an hour or so. During this time I do whatever chore(s) need doing: empty the dishwasher, handwash the bottles, put in a load of laundry, etc. Then we eat breakfast together.

9am: I make a 6-ounce bottle and we go upstairs. If there's a load of laundry from the day before, I fold it and put it away while she drinks her bottle.

9:30am: I change her diaper, read her a story, and put her in her crib for a nap.

Now it's close to 10am and for the first time I get to get dressed, wash my face, brush my teeth and hair, and have a moment to make myself human.

This is actually okay with me. I'm not complaining. But I am more than slightly concerned about what the HELL is going to happen when I have to go to work. I can only imagine that I will be required to get dressed and groomed and presentable well before 10am, since I start work at 7:30. And as for the question of when the dishwasher will be unloaded, the laundry washed and folded, and so on, I'm afraid to even think about that question, since I can't begin to answer it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Valentine's Day

I know it's a little late to be posting about Valentine's Day but I wanted to wait until the applicable parties received their valentines in the mail before blowing the surprise in my blog. But now I have to tell you all about it, because I was really proud of this project!

First of all, you should know that I consider myself a crafty person but not neccessarily a creative person. The work I am best known for is my embroidery and cross stitch, but when people compliment my work, I am quick to point out that all I did was follow a pattern, and that I didn't actually create anything original at all. To take the leap and make something unique is a bit scary for me, as I don't like to fail. But this time around, the muse hit me and it would not be ignored.

I saw an article in a parenting magazine suggesting that kids make valentines for their dads (subtle cue here about which parent they expect to be reading the magazine) by unwrapping a large rectangular chocolate bar, replacing the wrapper with fancy paper that they decorated themselves. The part that caught my attention was the red lettering "I (heart) you" with the accompanying instructions for how to create a heart out of the child's fingerprints. I loved that idea, and kept the fingerprint concept while throwing out all the rest of it. I decided Gwen's dad needed his very own Valentine's Day card.

I started thinking about how I could create the card, and the first thing I wanted was a suitable picture of Gwen. One day while Chris was at work I dressed Gwen in an adorable red sweater she'd gotten as a gift from her Auntie Sara. I took about 20 pictures: this was the best one.

Then it was off to Michael's to buy supplies, which I did on Gramma Time. I had a gift card I'd received from my Mom for Christmas, but between my frenzy of card-making supplies and the felt I bought for another project, I overspent the gift card by nearly 100%. I ... can sometimes go overboard.

Plus, at this point I still had no real idea what I wanted to end up with, so the supplies were bought blindly. I just knew I wouldn't get another chance to return to Michael's before V-day, so I wanted to make sure I had enough for whatever inspiration might strike.

I bought a pack of 50 blank white cards and envelopes for a bargain price. I bought a red inkpad for the finger prints. I bought some fancy red paper. I bought some nifty charms and ribbon. And I bought approximately one shitload of stickers.

I enlisted the help of Gwen's high chair to manage her limbs while doing the fingerprints. This was a wise idea.

By this time I had decided I ought to make several cards: one for Chris, one for each set of grandparents, one for Auntie Sara, and one for Honourary Uncle Mike. I got out my set of rubber stamps, got Gwen down for a nap, and set to work.

I could probably ramble on for a few hundred words about what exactly I did with the stickers and stamps and charms and paper punches and so on, but oh my word, wouldn't that be dull? Instead, here are a few pictures of the finished product, and if you are curious about how a particular thing was done please ask me.

Two things I will draw attention to: the paper inside the card is scrapbook paper with a feathery heart design on it, which I cut to size and then glued on (and then stamped with my own designs as well). Secondly, the alphabet stickers, which were my favourite part. I bought more than a dozen different 'fonts' of stickers and mixed them randomly together. I like to do that because if you start out with no intention of making things uniform and ruler-straight and perfect, then it won't look glaringly awful when things don't go according to plan. I think in the end, the random letters sort of mimicked the way a child would write, too.

Either that, or they look like ransom notes. Moving on ...

After working so hard on the cards I had to decorate the envelopes too.

I really enjoyed the project, and I think this may be something that Gwen and I can do together in the future. I've never done any paper-type crafts before, and scrapbooking intimidates the hell out of me, but cardmaking is much less stressful. I like the idea of making cards for our friends and family: it will be time spent, instead of money spent, and the cards will end up being more personal and hopefully more interesting, something that might end up being a keepsake, instead of just being thrown in the recycle bin the next day.

The only downside is that I will have to forego the use of my beloved stickers. I did the math, and these cards cost me more than $6 apiece to make, which is a little ridiculous. If I spend some money to get some good rubber stamp alphabet sets, which can be reused over and over, it will be much more cost-effective. In the meantime, I returned all the unopened stickers to Michael's and managed to walk out the door without immediately spending my refund, which is pretty amazing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Whole Daycare Thing

This has been a really stressful week. Every time Gwen slept, I was on the computer searching for potential daycares, answering ads that proclaimed the daycares had spaces, following up on the daycares whose waitlists we were already on, setting up appointments to view, and so on. Every time Gwen was awake, we were out at those appointments. We saw four daycares in five days, including yesterday when we saw two in one day.

When I first started looking for a daycare, back in the halcyon days of June 2008 when Gwen was two months old, I had certain prejudices and preferences. I really wanted Gwen to be in a centre, not a home-based care, and here is why:
  • I wanted her to be around several kids her own age and older
  • I wanted her to have access to lots of different toys and equipment, both inside and outside
  • I wanted her to get opportunities to do field trips into the community: to the library, the playground, the mall to see Santa Claus, etc.
  • I wanted there to be backup care available should her main caregiver become sick

I had an image in my head of what in-home care was like.

  • It would be run by a bored, distracted mom who was not only tending kids (her own and others), but also trying to get the laundry done, prepare dinner, etc.
  • It would be held in a darkened room with no windows and/or a small living room that allowed the kids little opportunity to explore
  • There would be a small selection of old, half-broken toys
  • There would be one or two other kids, so much older than Gwen that she was unable to relate or gain anything from socializing with them

I've spoken to and met many caregivers over the past week, and I am sad to say that the stereotype does exist. I encountered:

  • The caregiver who wanted to switch Gwen to one nap a day as soon as possible, because that way the younger kids could nap together, the older kids could watch tv for a couple of hours, and she could get some time to herself
  • The caregiver who presented me with the most beautiful "Better Homes and Gardens" living room, with knick-knacks perfectly aligned on every surface, and three small toys in the center of the floor, and told me that Gwen would just love to play there
  • The caregiver with four kids of her own and a living room the size of a postage stamp, which smelled overwhelmingly of cigarette smoke and cat dander

Yesterday was a roller coaster of a day. From very early in the week, I'd picked one provider as my favourite, and after having a 25-minute phone conversation with the owner, I was absolutely sure it was the place for Gwen. However, Chris wanted to check out lots of other options to see everything that was available. I respect his approach, but I don't think he sees the cost: the fact that we are disrupting people's work and personal lives when we have very little intention of selecting their care, and the fact that spending so much time popping in and out of these various locations is hard on Gwen's schedule and well-being, too. In any case, we couldn't get in to see My Favourite Spot until Friday afternoon.

On Friday morning, we went to see another care provider. And truly, there was nothing wrong with that place at all. The woman was kind and gentle, the space was suitably large, the kids were fun, the yard was gigantic. But upon leaving, as I reflected that I couldn't find a single thing to complain about, I knew I still didn't feel good. It began to dawn on me that perhaps this was a preview of what it will be like in fifteen years or so when Gwen brings home a boy for the first time: it won't matter who that kid is, he won't be good enough for our daughter. Maybe daycares are the same? I started to prepare myself mentally for a disappointment in regards to My Favourite Spot.

That afternoon we piled in the car and headed out. We were tense and quiet. I think we recognized that of all the ads I'd seen and answered, this one looked the best, and that if it wasn't right, we didn't really know what we'd do next. All the places whose waitlists we'd been on since last summer had called back to say they still didn't have space - an appalling situation. We were predisposed to like this place, but also felt afraid that it might be too good to be true.

On the contrary, when we arrived, everything was just as I'd hoped. The space - a large addition on the side of a gigantic country house - was bright and airy and PACKED with wonderful toys and equipment, with shelves running the length of the room to store the toys that were not in use. There was a gigantic fenced yard in the back with lots of climbing equipment and slides for the kids to play on. A large table with booster seats on every chair. Separate napping rooms for every child. Cubby holes for their outside clothes, diapers, and so on. A dress-up box. A kitchen where the snacks and meals were prepared.

The caregiver herself, a woman named April, was just as warm and lovely as when we'd spoken on the phone. The crowning glory for me is that she is currently taking the Early Childhood Education program, which tells me that she is both serious and passionate about what she does: she's not going to close up shop in a year or two when her kids enter school, which was another concern I had. She also has a background in nursing, so I know that any medical issues or accidents that come up will be handled appropriately. And another huge plus - she has a backup staff who come in when she is doing her practicum work, sick, or taking vacation days, so we won't need to worry about making alternative arrangements for Gwen's care.

We stayed and talked to her for about 35 minutes, and probably would have stayed longer if not for the fact that Gwen, fractious after missing her afternoon nap, made it clear that she was ready to leave. As we headed out, I reflected that I didn't feel the huge weight off my shoulders as I had expected to feel in the wake of the decision finally being made. I had hoped to be flooded with relief and even joy and excitement about finding quality care for Gwen.

I am relieved, but there's still anxiety there. I thought that if I found the right caregiver I would feel instantly comfortable about leaving Gwen there. But it seems I am still nervous about leaving her at all, in anyone's care. More nervous than I expected. I will still do it, for her good as well as my own. And I know it will get easier. I just feel surprised that that anxiety - smaller than many people's, I'm sure - is still present at all. I'm not even sure what I'm nervous about, as I do trust April immensely. I guess I just worry about how Gwen will respond to being without me for an entire day.

Two months left till we find out.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Big Girl

This week, we had to replace Gwen's infant seat with a convertible seat. I had sorta missed the boat on this one: a month or so ago when it seemed that she was getting rather large in proportion to the seat, I checked the user manual for height/weight requirements. All it said was that the seat was good until the child was 1 year old and over 20 pounds. Well, I knew she was getting up towards 20 pounds, but she wasn't yet 1 year old, so I figured I didn't need to worry about upgrading her yet.

I was wrong, and in retrospect I should have dug further at the time. There *is* in fact a length requirement - infant seats are only safe if the child is less than 29 inches long. Gwen hit 30 inches on January 22nd. This fact was only brought to my attention in the most coincidental way, chatting with other moms and hearing one mention that she needed to upgrade her son's carseat due to his length.

So technically, Gwen had been "unsafe" in her carseat for about four weeks, without me knowing. Once I did know, I got all snaky about taking her out, and wanted to buy a carseat that exact day. I forget why that didn't happen, but it probably had something to do with having a whole bunch of daycares to visit and interview.

In any case, the new seat was obtained (on Tuesday), installed (on Wednesday), and checked by a carseat inspection agent (today). All is now well. We are very grateful to my grandpa George and grandma Rena for giving us the money to buy this seat way back when Gwen was born. It's a pretty skookum seat, the kind that converts from rear-facing to front-facing (once she is a year) and then a booster seat (which she will use for many years).

The bonus is that after putting the giant hulking Gwen into the teeny tiny infant seat for a few weeks, now when we put her in the Big Girl seat she once again looks like a little baby. Well, a bit, anyway.

First time in infant carseat - 3 hours old

Last time in infant carseat - 9.75 months old

First time in convertible seat - 9.75 months old

She seems to really be enjoying the new seat. I think she is much higher up, so she can more easily see out the windows, and she has even discovered the mirror that we've placed on the headrest of the backseat: it's there so that we can see her face by looking in the rear-view mirror, but if it serves to entertain her as we drive, that's pretty cool too.
Thanks again, Great Grandma and Grandpa!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Miraculous Giveaway!

Hey you guys! Go check out the second comment on this post. Go ahead, I'll wait here.

*humming quietly to self*

Okay, are you back? Now ... isn't that awesome?

I'm guessing the love between me and the Miracle Blanket is most accurately reflected in the post "Most Useful Products: Birth to Three Months" which I wrote back in August, you know, when Gwen was four months old. But I've mentioned the Miracle Blanket lots of times. Still, I'm just tickled that my mentioning has attracted the attention of the inventor himself. Don't worry, little people, I will still remember you now that my blog has hit The Bigtime.

Obviously, the appropriate thing to do is to have a giveaway on my blog! Which millions thousands hundreds dozens pairs of people read! I can't wait!

Since I know many of you have your babies already, and most of them are past the swaddling stage, I would love for you to enter this contest on behalf of someone who's expecting. In fact, I would double-plus-love if you entered this contest on their behalf, and then showed them this blog. Imagine the power I could wield if each one of you introduced one new reader to Blogging For Two! Why, I could rule the world!

(Hmm. A brief interlude while I try to find the page on that states World Rulers are chosen by blog readership... I'm sure I saw it somewhere...)

So, here's the contest. I want a story about a product that helped you in your (or your partner's) pregnancy, birth, or first six months of parenting. The product can be a book, a baby-related item, or maybe just the set of noise-cancelling headphones you whipped out at 2am when you couldn't take the screaming anymore. The catch is: I don't want just a product review, I want a story. Tell me about when you bought this product, or how you came across it, or how you thought you didn't need it at first but then found yourself begging the Wal-Mart greeter to open the doors even though it was 9:01pm because your baby needed a soother, dammit. Tell me about who recommended it to you, or who advised you against it. Tell me about how it saved your life or your sanity or your marriage. Make me smile. Make me laugh. Make me weep in recognition.

Everybody wins: we all get to read some great stories and learn about useful products, someone is going to get a free Miracle Blanket, and I'm going to have effort-free blog fodder for a few days. SCORE!

(If you're nervous about me sharing your story, let me know. We can change names and identifying details so you can remain anonymous, or we can just keep the story private.)

Send your stories to Please let me know if you are okay with having your name and/or website listed. In deference to the fact that when it comes to parenting, our time is not our own, I will leave this contest open for TEN WHOLE DAYS, meaning it will close on February 28th. I'll choose a winner and contact them to find out where they want their Miracle Blanket sent.

Now get writing! Entertain me, dammit!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Meeting Gwen

When I changed the date on the perpetual calendar today, "February 16" rang a bell. It kind of nagged away at the back of my mind on and off all day. Finally this evening on the way home from yoga I remembered what that date meant. It was exactly one year ago today that we had our 3D ultrasound and learned that Gwen was Gwen (not Nathan).

(I love how she's looking so patient here, just floating around in the amniotic fluid waiting to be born.)

I must have looked forward to February 16 last year with so much anticipation and eagerness that the date got stuck inside my brain forever!

Sometimes I really miss having her inside me. She's growing so fast now, exploring the world and becoming less mine every day. But the joy of seeing the wonders of life through her eyes make it more bearable that she isn't all mine any longer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Gwen can now sign "more". I've been working on this sign with her for a couple of weeks, which means whenever she is eating I make sure to pause partway through the meal and say, "Do you want more, Gwen? More? Would you like more? More? Do you want some more?", making the sign each time I say the word. Then I say, "Okay, here's some more," regardless of whether she responds, so that she starts to understand what the word more means.

It seems to have worked. Yesterday she finished off a bottle after naptime and signed "more". I quickly rushed to the kitchen to make another one. Today she did the same thing for her dad when he was giving her oranges.

It's so amazing to see her starting to communicate with us. She's not even a baby anymore. I am simply in awe.

Next, I hope to teach her "all done" (for when she's finished eating) and "eat" (for when she's hungry). If we get these down, I'll never have to guess again about how much food she needs! Hooray!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Questions for me to Answer:

Q. Why do you want Gwen to go to *that* daycare when they are so disorganized?
A. Because the Office Woman aka Manager has nothing to do with the kids or the care they receive. She is the gatekeeper of administration and can determine whether or not Gwen gets in - but once she's in, she will have nothing to do with Gwen at all. The people who work in the childcare area are wonderful and not morons at all.

Q. Why don't you just take Gwen to a home-based daycare?
A. Well, obviously at this point that is what we'll have to do. I had a lot of prejudices about that, but as I am learning, there actually are good home-based daycares out there. (There are also not-so-great ones, like the woman I talked to who told me that she wanted to switch Gwen to one nap a day, and that way she could have some quiet time while the older kids watched TV in the afternoons. Hey, if I wanted Gwen to have half-assed, distracted care, I'd do it myself.) Part of the reason I am stressed about her not getting into a centre is that I want her to go to preschool in two years. There are three preschools in town, two of which have infant/toddler programs as well. The best way to ensure she gets into the preschool is to make sure she is in the infant/toddler program, since they will give waitlist preference to "their" families before letting in new kids. So yeah, now I'm stressing about something that's two years down the line. Go me!

Q. Why are you taking her to daycare at all, if it's going to make you so broke?
A. Because even if I don't go back to work, thus eliminating the daycare expense, I still need to pay my car loan and student loan and put food on the table. That is hard to do on an income of $0.

Q. Can't you blog about something Valentines-y? It's Valentine's Day!
A. I have something very Valentines-y to blog about, but it will have to wait a few days until certain people have received certain things in the mail. It is a Rule of Motherhood that parents of young babies don't ever get things into the mail on time.

Questions for me to Ask:
Q. At what age can a child be taught to understand (and obey) the word "No"? It occurs to me that a distinct disadvantage of being so mobile so early is that the child's physical development far outstrips the cognitive development, and thus let's cut to the chase and say SHE GETS HERSELF INTO DANGEROUS SITUATIONS about 3,295 times a day.

Q. When I am supposed to stop giving her a bottle? I've read that 12 months is the "recommended" time, but this seems hopelessly unrealistic. I'm pretty sure I saw my 2-year-old nephew drinking from a bottle last summer. Why are we supposed to take them away at 12 months? And don't say "switch to a sippy cup" because sippy cups are just bottles in disguise, so what benefit does that have, really?

Q. Enough about me. What's new with you?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Hint Bricks

Further to my post earlier in the week about daycare.

I didn't write about it in that post, but the "things that make you go hmm" have added up over the past week or so.

First strike was when I found out the daycare centre in question was closing for a month in July. Now, I'm assuming this is because they want to give their staff some holiday time, and I have no problem with that. No, the problem is in the fact that I need to make an assumption at all, rather than being told upfront. There is no information anywhere - on their website, their extensive parent manual, the contract that they have people sign when registering for care - that there will be a 31-day closure over the summer. The contract goes so far as to list all the year's statutory holidays, with the clause "I understand that I will be responsible for finding alternate care for these days". But doesn't mention being closed for an entire frigging month. I have a problem with how underhanded that is.

Second strike was when the manager of the centre let two weeks go by without calling me back about "the February spot". I wasn't overly pleased with that, but I was willing to let it go.

Third strike came yesterday. I called and left a message since the manager wasn't in, and when she called me back later that day, this was the entirety of our "conversation":

Her: Hi, is this Laura?
Me: Yes, it is.
Her: Hi, this is (manager) from (centre).
Me: Oh hi, thanks for calling back.
Her: So, are you the Laura who left a voicemail or the Laura who left a message with my staff?
Me: No, I left a message with your staff ... with (name) I believe.
Her: Oh, okay. I just have messages from two different Lauras and wanted to make sure I was speaking with the right one!
Me: Yep, makes sense.
Her: So yeah, I'm glad that follow-up is working well around here today.
Me: Yep.

Then right around the time you'd expect her to say, "So, how can I help you?" or even "Why did you call?" she instead said, "Well, thanks for calling!" and HUNG UP.

I stood there, stunned, for about five minutes, wondering what on earth had just happened.

That was, um, strike three, I guess.

But this is Gwen's daycare. And I love that child a ridiculous amount. And so I gave them ONE LAST CHANCE and called back a couple hours later, even deciding that I would pretend the previous conversation never happened, to allow the manager to save face.

Me: Hi this is Laura Buechler, I'm calling about the waitlist, we spoke a couple of weeks ago.
Her: Oh yes we did, didn't we! Oh how funny, I just talked to another Laura this afternoon.
Me: Oh yes, that was me actually. But we didn't really get a chance to talk.
Her: Oh?
Me: No, you just thanked me for calling, then said goodbye and hung up on me.
Her: Oh, well, I must have gotten cut off then.

I don't know about you guys, but I don't really go around sprinkling "goodbye"s into my conversation just in case I get randomly cut off. And then don't bother calling people back. But maybe that's just me.

So, she denies that she hung up on me and doesn't apologize. Fine, whatever. But then, THEN, it turns out that "the February spot" has disappeared and that she has no openings until September.

The hint bricks, as my sister pointed out, are mounting up. This daycare is not the one for us.

I've just spent an hour at the Nanaimo kijiji site replying to every single ad for daycare. Hopefully something will come up.

Peek a Boo!

Gwen's version of hiding her face for Peek a Boo is putting it down on the couch. Also, listen to her working on her pronounciation of the word "Boo"!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First Words!

As you may recall, Gwen sometimes says "buh-buh" when waving goodbye, and she first did this on January 24th.

I was hesitant to call this the Official First Word, however, because it was really a mimicking of what everyone else in the room was saying. I kind of felt like the Official First Word should be spontaneous.

On Sunday, my wish came true.

I was trying to distract Gwen from her pastime of eating my bookmark. "No," I said, removing it gently from her hand and mouth for the third time in 30 seconds. "No, Gwen."

Well, Gwen is very into words right now. She immediately looked very closely at my mouth, concentrating intently, and said, "Nuh."

"That's right," I agreed. "No."

Half an hour later, I was wiping her face after a meal. It seems to be a universal truth that babies hate this with a passion. She whined piteously, pushed my hands away, violently shook her head from side to side, and cried out: "NUH!"

(This is the part of the story where my parents laugh knowingly and settle in to enjoy watching me being taken on the exact same ride I took them on for the first 17 years of my life. I can hear the self-satisfied chuckles from here...)

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Post About Daycare

I've posted little bits here and there (there being Facebook) about the daycare situation, but I don't think I've pulled the whole story together into what is sure to be a gigantic and unwieldy post. You can't wait, can you?

Original Plan: in effect April 27th, my planned return to work date
Gwen in daycare 3 days per week
Gwen with her Gramma 1 day per week
Gwen with Mom or Dad 1 day per week

This works out super well as Gwen's Gramma - who is officially retired, but takes on fill-in work once in a while - is on a contract working Thursdays and Fridays until May 1st.

Keep this plan in mind as you read the following.

I finally managed to speak to the manager of my top-choice daycare centre. I told her that I had submitted my paperwork last July and wanted to get a sense of the likelihood of Gwen getting a three-day spot for the end of April. She responded that she was "just getting the waitlist organized" but mentioned that there was a three-day spot for Mon-Wed opening up for February (this was in late January). "Would you be interested in that?" she asked. "Herm, um, maybe," I said. She told me she would call when she finished organizing the waitlist.

I talked it over with Chris later that day, and we decided that we would ask about the likelihood of another three-day spot opening up in March or April. If it didn't seem optimistic, we would take the February spot. We wouldn't put Gwen in for full days right away, but would do a more gradual transition. We feel she is ready for outside care, and will function well there.

So we came up with the Early Daycare Plan: in effect "in February".
Gwen in daycare 3 days a week
Gwen with Mom 2 days a week

Wait, you might say, what happened to Gramma? Well, Gwen's Gramma is working Thursdays and Fridays until May, remember? And the centre is talking about a spot for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. So Gramma isn't available. And that means that even though Gwen is in daycare three days a week, Mom can't go back to work yet, because there's no care for the other two days.

(There is a chance, though very slim, that should this come to pass my managers will make use of me for 1-2 days per week until my original return-t0-work date. They have been absolutely immovable on the issue of making my job part-time instead of full-time on an ongoing basis, as it would mean the permanent loss of FTEs for their department and no manager wants that. But if "the February spot" does materialize, I will let them know that for the months of March and April I am available for some work, and the choice will be theirs.)

(If they can't make that work, it means that I will be paying for part-time daycare while my only income is EI. That'll be fun. More on finances below.)

So, the next issue is that it's now edging towards mid-February and I haven't heard back from the centre. It seems obvious to me that either the spot in question is not actually open yet, or that she has given it to someone else - perhaps once she perused the waitlist, she saw that there was someone looking for a three-day spot who ranked above me.

Now, most people would probably say, "Call her back and get this sorted out!" After all, it's been two weeks since we spoke. How long does it take to organize a waitlist anyway? Srsly.

On the other hand, a friend of mine has a daughter in the same centre and she has given me some insight into the situation. I learned:
- because the centre is affiliated with a high school, many of the parents there are high school students
- high school students - even, or perhaps especially, those who have babies - are not known for their organization and straightforwardness
- as such, it is difficult for the manager of the centre to get answers about whether these students require care in the coming months
- which then makes it nearly impossible to "get the waitlist organized"

This friend then advised me to just wait, that some darn day the manager would get her list figured out and would call to offer me a spot.

Well, if this were any other service or product I was seeking I'd be close to walking away right about now. I don't have any shame or qualms about calling a prospective employer to remind him or her constantly of my presence, availability, and suitability to the position they are trying to fill; because after all I am trying to convince them to give me money. But it irks me to have to do the same things in persuasion of giving my money away.

But this isn't any other service or product. This is the centre that, hopefully, will be providing Gwen with care, attention, stimulation, and learning for the next four years of her life. On her behalf, I will put up with the incompetent management and lack of organization. I will grit my teeth and jump through the hoops, once I figure out where they are.

In the meantime, though, we're kind of living in limbo. The centre might call any day to offer us a spot, and if we don't hand over $500 right away then that spot will go to someone else. It's getting more and more difficult to plan anything at all in advance, as we're never sure whether the coming weeks will be spent in continuing our current pastimes, or in transitioning Gwen to daycare. As you can imagine, it's frustrating and more than a little anxiety-inducing.

In the meantime, there is the money issue.

Now, this one really stunned me. I originally reserved only a three-day spot for Gwen because I really wanted to work only three to four days myself, and I knew that her Gramma would be taking her one day a week. Even as it became more and more obvious that my managers were not going to budge on the part-time work issue, I felt good about the fact that Gwen would still be spending the majority of her time with family, and that with my full-time wage paying for only part-time daycare, we should be in a fairly good financial position.

Rarely in my life have I ever been so drastically mistaken.

I suppose it's in poor taste (not to mention terribly dull) to spill all our financial details on the Internet, but here are the salient points. After paying for our absolutely critical expenses: mortgage, car insurance, car payments, student loan debt, utilities, groceries, RRSP contributions, and of course daycare - we have less than $50/month between the two of us to pay for the extras. Extras ranging from personal care products like shampoo, to a new item of clothing once in a while, to gym memberships and yoga classes, to birthday or Christmas presents, to trips to see our family over the holidays.

The really good news is that I only have one year left on my car loan, so while 2009 is going to be a really challenging year, 2010 will be better. Chris and I have talked at length about some coping mechanisms we are going to put in place to survive the year and make it not too horrible. I have faith that we can make it work, and we are both approaching it with good attitudes, trying to make it into sort of a game of how to spend the least amount of money.

The other bit of good news is that Chris is, after all, a commissioned salesman, so while the budget we live by is based on his base salary, at busier times of the year he will bring home more money, which can then be put aside for leaner months. It's hard to remember that now, this being a very lean time of year, and it's a little frightening to try and predict what This Terrible Economy is going to do to his commission (his sales are mainly to school districts, cities, restaurants, and resorts: the latter of which are greatly affected by the downturn).

The biggest surprise in all this is, as I said above, how grossly wrong I was about the cost of daycare. Chris and I both work full-time and while we are not professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc) we have solid white-collar jobs, he in industrial sales and me in government. We are not minimum wage workers flipping burgers at McDonald's. And yet to get our daughter into part-time daycare is going to nearly put us in the poorhouse. What a sorry situation!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Attention World: Gwen is now a Toddler.

We have totally entered the realm of Nothing Is Safe. Here she is unshelving our video collection.

And just look at how happy she is to be engaged in such an act of destruction! You can practically hear the evil cackle!

And here she is climbing into "her" cupboard. This cupboard doesn't have a door, so I long ago gave up and took everything breakable out of it, filling it instead with some Tupperware and other things she could play with.

And finally, this is the scene I came upon yesterday morning. She managed to pull the hingepin out of the door and had it (of course!) in her mouth. Note the grease all over her hands and face.

And note what she did with the grease all over her hands.
Apparently, there will be no more leaving the room for me! Her ability to get into anything and everything has simply grown TOO RIDICULOUS.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Laura's in the Kitchen!

I am becoming quite the little cook, I must say.

In the past few weeks, I have learned how to skin tomatoes by plunging them into boiling water. I have learned how to make a lovely cheese sauce. I have learned how to cook fish, which I have never done in my life. I learned how to make mashed potatoes (up until now I got them out of a package). I've even learned how to make a rich and fragrant pot of stock from scratch.

And it's all because of The Baby's Table!

Yes, that's right, my darling daughter Gwen is the recipient of all this marvellous food. Just yesterday I made her "Florets in Cheese Sauce" which is made from the cheese sauce I mentioned above, plus 4 cups of broccoli and/or cauliflower florets. It was incredibly easy to make, and oh my, it smelled heavenly! The only thing differentiating this meal from Grown-Up Food was the fact that the sauce contained formula instead of milk. Oh, and the part where I put it in the food processor to puree it. But other than that? Oh my goodness! My daughter eats real food!

I am so enjoying doing this for her. Probably because I can make a recipe (or two or three) while she's napping, freeze it in ice cube trays, and then have meals on hand for the next two weeks or so. There are few things I enjoy more than avoiding the 5pm debate about what's for dinner! But even aside from the convenience, I am just really enjoying the process of it: choosing what I'm going to make, learning the new procedures, organizing the cubes into baggies so that every baggie holds about three days' worth of a variety of meals. Man, I am such a geek.

I know that making one's own baby food is one of those Meccas of Excellent Motherhood. It's one of the ones that most people intend to do, at some point, but they just find it too difficult, or time-consuming, or whatever. And maybe once I get back to work the novelty will wear off. But honestly, I'm loving it right now. I'm excited to try out more recipes and sock away tons more food in the freezer so Gwen will have wonderful, tasty, healthy lunches while she's at daycare. I love the fact that her food has no additives or preservatives, and honestly I'm finding it way easier than I expected to prepare a lot of natural, healthy foods.

If I could figure out a way to make money at this, I would!

Friday, February 6, 2009

In Which I Ramble On For a Few Hundred Words About Only Vaguely Connected Subjects

We have a gate at the bottom of our stairs, but every once in a while I totally gap and forget to close it, and sure enough I find Gwen halfway up the first flight. It's always a forehead-smacking moment (for me, not her). Speaking of head-smacking, though, I've seen her take some fantastic headers while cruising the couch, even landing face-first so dramatically that I was *sure* there would be blood when I picked her up. (There wasn't, though.) And sometimes this makes her scream like a banshee and other times she just shakes it off as if she barely noticed the sudden transition from vertical to horizontal. My point is, I don't know why I bother trying to protect her from the stairs when she does such a terrific job of destroying herself on solid ground.

Things are going well these days. In fact, I would say the past few weeks have been the best since this whole motherhood adventure began. Gwen is sleeping well, which, let's face it, is the key factor in any assessment of life satisfaction. We have found a real groove with our days, heading out to one baby-related activity every weekday, which instead of making me feel rushed makes me feel appropriately non-bored (and Gwen the same, methinks). If I don't get out of the house and have a face-to-face conversation with someone I'm *not* related to at least every second day, I get a little irritable.

As such, we've been going to Strong Start a couple of days a week, and man, I really don't know why I waited so long to check this program out. It's made of everything wonderful: it's free, it's any age from birth to 5 years, it's fairly unstructured, it's every weekday, and best of all it's drop in. Come when you're ready, leave when you're done. Absolutely beautiful, and Gwen loves it. A gigantic classroom full of appropriate and stimulating toys, as well as a group of older kids to follow around and adore? PERFECT.

We also go to our Mother Goose classes on Wednesdays, and on Tuesdays Gwen hangs out with her Gramma and I get out on my own. Last week I took my laptop to an Internet cafe and did a few hours' worth of work for the volunteer organization I am a part of. It was bliss (not the work itself, but the aspect of it being uninterrupted).

Other than that, I've got a solid group of friends that I can call and/or contact on Facebook to arrange walks, playdates, and so on. It's a very good groove, and I am loving it.

That said, Gwen has had a cold the past week or so, and fear of spreading the germs around to our friends has kept me home from many activities, which I'm not enjoying. On the plus side, Gwen has been - for the most part - the most cheerful sick baby I've ever seen, not getting any more cranky for the nasty cough or the streams of mucous hastily exiting her nose. Woe betide you if you try to wipe it, though, for she will scream and weep as if being beaten.

Speaking of Facebook - and my awesome friends - one of them has started an Adequate Moms Group. It turns out there was a study done on the quality of parenting and the effect on the child's development. There is a significant difference in development between children who have negligent parents and those who have adequate parents - which is what you'd expect. However, the surprise is that there is NOT a big difference in development between those who have adequate parents and those who have excellent parents (whatever that means). So, with a sigh of relief, we can all embrace our adequacy. I'm writing a creed for the group: "I am an adequate mom. I have fed my child a Cheerio that she threw on the floor. I have fed my child a Cheerio that she threw on the floor the day before. When my child is playing in the next room and I hear a thump, sometimes I wait to see if there are tears before I go investigate." You get the idea. How freeing to be adequate!

Gwen's nap schedule has been weird lately. It almost seems like she's shifting from two naps to one - on Monday I put her down shortly after 10, and she didn't get up until 1:20 - nearly 3 hours!! Which left no time at all for an afternoon nap, because I wasn't about to have her nap from 4:30 - 6:30 and then be up until 10, thank you very much. So we got her to bed at 6:30 and she was SO ready. It's hard to predict from one day to the next where she will be at, and her being sick makes me want to just stay flexible and resist trying to squish her into a routine right now, because I know when I'm sick I need a little more downtime. So, once she gets better we'll work on the structure again. On the other hand, while the timing is unpredictable, the naps themselves are happening beautifully. At both naptime and bedtime she is putting herself to sleep in her crib after a diaper change, a bottle, a story, and a lullaby. It's absolutely heavenly to know that "getting Gwen to sleep" only requires 5-10 minutes of parental involvement.

I'm heading out on an ambitious trip next month. I owe my sister a visit (said visit was cancelled due to snow conditions in December) and I thought I'd make a week of it, visiting some folks in Vancouver and Powell River in a circle tour (since I missed out on seeing those folks due to the same damn snow). I plan to leave Nanaimo on the afternoon of Wednesday March 4th; spend two days/nights on the Lower Mainland; travel to the Sunshine Coast and spend the weekend with my sister and her family; then travel to Powell River and spend 3 days/2 nights there before heading back to the Island. One last hurrah before heading back to work. It will be so fun to show Gwen off to all the folks who haven't seen her in a while. Dude, she'll be walking by then! (maybe.)

Oh, and another thing. I think the combination of weaning Gwen + making some progress on her sleep (meaning *I* am getting more sleep) + losing nearly 20 pounds has just made me feel like my body is becoming mine again. I dug out some of my work clothes and even bought myself a gorgeous non-nursing bra, and I've been doing my hair and just taking a bit more care with my appearance. This has had a real effect on my self-esteem. Those women's magazines know what they are talking about. Also, certain activities that we thought would never happen again have actually begun to happen. And they are far more pleasant than I remember them being. Isn't that awesome?

Gwen is developing at a mad pace these days. She spends nearly all her time standing or cruising. She can cruise really quickly, and I kind of think that once she learns to walk she will progress to running and never look back. On Saturday, her grandpa saw her standing on her own for a couple of seconds: she pulled up using their sliding glass door, then pulled her hands away and just stood there for a moment. I haven't seen her do that on her own, but since I missed the original incident and was intensely curious to see if she could do it, I have stood her up myself a couple of times and then taken my hands away. She can, in fact, balance for 2-3 seconds. It's not much, but it's a start. Oh, and she has also mastered the pincer grasp (using her thumb and finger to grab something, instead of palming it) which should make self-feeding immeasurably easier. I'll try to get some video of her doing these things soon, because they are both awesome to watch.

I could easily write more, but wow, this post got really long. They call me wordygirl for a reason.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Better Writers Than I

In lieu of wordygirl content today, please go and read the following two items. You won't regret it, I promise.

Dooce's letter to her five-year-old daughter.

Linda's letter to her one-year-old son.

It's amazing how the very women who inspire me to write - moreover, to write in this particular medium - are the same women who make anything I might ever write here utterly irrelevant, not to mention hopelessly clumsy and dreary in comparison. As I read their words, I agree with every emotion they express, and wish that I could convey my joy, my gratitude, my frustration, my love, my amazement, my pride, my exhaustion, and a million other things just half as well as they do. Maybe some day I'll just show these two entries to Gwen and say, "yeah. I felt that way too."

Somehow I don't think that'll quite work. Oh well.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Poll Results

Well, I didn't get a LOT of responses to the poll, but the responses I did get cracked me right up.

Kim states that "the correct answer is a) or b). a if you're not sure of the sex. b if you are," which is absolutely true. I always err on the side of caution, using phrases like "baby" or "cutiepie" or "little one" rather than making a guess as to gender. The only time I will use the words him/her or boy/girl is with someone I actually know.

Surprised Suburban Wife agrees that the problem seems largely confined to "old men in hats," who somehow still confuse her daughter Megan with a boy, despite "a pink and brown stroller - who on earth would buy that for a boy? And pink boots! And her jeans have little flowers on them!"

And finally, Nata tells a story about a similar incident where her daughter - in a pink baseball cap - was referred to as a boy. When she gently corrected the man, he responded, "Well, all babies are boys until they are older." Clearly I missed the class in Sex Ed where they covered this phenomenon, and I'm now curious about whether my sister knows her sons could transform at any moment.

No one had any guesses as to why this whole thing pisses me off so much, but no matter, as I think I've figured it out myself. Forgive me as I meander distractedly towards the point.*

A little while ago I posted some pictures of Gwen on Facebook. A friend of mine pointed out cheekily that she was wearing pink in nearly every picture. I felt the need to defend myself, pointing out that it's actually pretty hard to find clothes for baby girls that are anything other than pink: there isn't much that's neutral, and if you stray out of the pink area you're apt to end up with something covered in frogs, dinosaurs, bugs, trucks, etc. Which, one could argue, ought to be gender-neutral, but we all know they aren't. Boys get to wear gray, orange, red, and blue. Girls get pink, pink, pink, and purple. Yellow and green could go either way, depending on the garment, but the truth is that anything not ostensibly girly ends up looking boyish.

As proof: here is a picture of my daughter dressed in "neutral" colours. Even to my feminist heart, she looks like a boy.

Wait. That pink girly blanket gives it away, doesn't it? Okay, here she is in the swing. Which is blue.

Seriously, what a cute little boy!

So, the point being, I would *love* to dress Gwen in non-pink outfits. In fact, I get very excited when the opportunity arises (such as in the pictures above). She's recently gotten some outfits that include the colour BROWN and this thrills me to no end. I dread the day when Gwen discovers (and then no doubt embraces) the Disney Princess phenomenon. I don't like the fact that I have to define her through her clothes right now. But those are The Unwritten Rules of Baby Clothing, and most of the time I obey them - my choice in snowsuits notwithstanding.

I guess what irks me is that even when I do obey The Rules, I still get the stupid comments from the Great Unwashed (Elderly Hat-Wearing) Public. It seems so unfair. No matter how I dress her, I'm either defending my choices to my feminist heart (and my feminist friends), or I'm trying to persuade some foolish old retiree that yes, she actually is a girl. Or both.

The ultimate revenge, I suppose, would be coming up with a witty comeback that calls into question the sexuality of the Elderly Hat-Wearing Man, such as mentioning that the he looks a lot like Gwen's grandma, or something. That ought to make for some awkward conversation!

*Come to think of it? What a GREAT name for my blog.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Short Poll.

Suppose you see this baby at a drugstore and want to compliment the cuteness.

What do you say?
a) What a cute baby! How old?
b) Oh, you are a sweet little girl!
c) You are a cute little boy! You're going to be a big, strong man someday!

No, I'm not kidding. I actually got that third comment on Friday. I took a picture when we got home so I could examine her appearance at my leisure and try to determine which item in her wardrobe is particularly confusing to people.* Is it the pink hoodie? The pink pants? The shoes with the giant pink flowers on them? What am I doing wrong?

*Okay, I'll be honest: it seems to be mostly retired men. Why? Do they actually not realize that women exist, and further, that they are born as baby girls?

There is this one gentleman who lives between our house and the health unit, and by default I often see him when I am out walking with Gwen. No matter what she is wearing, he thinks she is a boy (and he's just senile enough not to realize that we've had this conversation half a dozen times before). One time when I corrected him, he accused me of not dressing her girly enough, and told me I should put her in a dress. This was in late October. The last time I met him, he didn't say anything specific about the sex, but asked the baby's name. When I replied "Gwen" you could just see him stewing, wanting to say, "Hey, isn't that a girl's name?"

For bonus points, after you have answered the above poll, please make your best guess as to why this annoys the hell out of me. Because I really don't know.


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