Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Killed Me Some Time

I spent nearly four hours away from Gwen today, which is notable not because of the length of time but because I had nothing much to fill it with. I couldn't spend money as I had none, and I couldn't take Rachael's brilliant suggestion and take a bath because ... maybe it's just me ... but I don't feel completely loungey if someone else is in my house taking care of my kid? Silly, I know. But if Gramma's there looking after Gwen I feel like I should vamoose, so I did.

I spent one hour getting a massage.
I spent half an hour driving back to 'my' end of town, gassing up my car, and making a bank deposit.
I spent half an hour checking out three different dollar stores for a particular item. (I never found it, but I found something else that will work.)
Then I spent nearly two hours in my car doing embroidery. Amber, I didn't get your brilliant advice until this evening - obviously - but we were thinking alike! It was far too windy to sit outside, but the car was comfy and I got to listen to the radio and watch the world go by as I stitched. No way could I have been that 'idle' in front of my mother-in-law; I would have felt like I should be mopping the floors or scrubbing the toilets or something. So, it was perfect.

Also, Gwen was not fevery or whiney or clingy today. I could tell from her first squawk of the morning that she was back to her crazy busy self. It was so nice to have her back!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Help Me Kill Time

I had planned to do a bunch of bulk cooking for Gwen tomorrow as Gramma time was supposed to be a full day at Gramma's. Now plans have changed and instead, it's a half-day at our house. So I need to spend 3-4 hours tomorrow afternoon out of the house. And I have no money (seriously, NONE) so I can't go shopping. I already booked myself a massage (shut up, my benefits pay for most of it) and I'm at a loss as to how to kill 2-3 more hours.

If I can't think of anything I'll just take my laptop to a cafe and dick around online all afternoon. But there must be something better to do with my time.

Suggestions ... please?

First Fever

Gwen is not herself today. She has a low-grade fever (38c) which isn't much, really, but she's undergone an entire personality change and it's just so sad to see. She's already taken a 30-minute nap on my chest this morning. She did the same thing yesterday too, but before that she hadn't slept on me in more than six months. I can't put her down at all without the droning whining I-want-my-mommy cries. After her power nap I fixed us both breakfast, but she had no interest in it, even the stuff she got to feed herself (which she usually adores). Most telling of all, I finally fixed her a bottle for comfort (and to stave off dehydration) and her eyes didn't even light up when she saw it.

She's down in her crib now for a nap. She whined for about 30 seconds, breaking my heart, when I put her down and she realized I wasn't going to let her sleep on my chest again. Then she promptly fell asleep. I've never seen her so clingy and so listless.

I'm not worried at this stage about getting her to a doctor, as her only medical symptom is the fever (no vomiting, diarrhea, or other physical clues) and the temp, at one degree above normal, is not too big a deal. But I sure feel sorry for my little girl: she must be miserable indeed if she's more interested in cuddling with Mom than creating havoc with her toys, and if even food doesn't much interest her.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Cost

In our house, there is always a cost associated with completing a particular task.
For example, this morning, I accomplished the folding and putting away of Gwen's freshly-laundered cloth diapers and wipes.

And this was the cost.

Incidentally, there was also a cost associated with me neglecting my child for the fifteen seconds it took to snap these two pictures.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Naptime Intervention Update

Phase Four - Gwen acting like a human being for the rest of the day - complete.

Phase Five, going to bed at 7pm - complete.

Final Phase, Gwen sleeping past 6:30am for the love of all that is holy - FAIL.

6:19am when I heard her melodious voice irritated fussing from down the hall. Sigh.

I guess the next step is to keep her up a bit later at night. I don't know if we'll actually go there quite yet . Given that I'm starting work in only a few weeks, and that it wouldn't be so terrible for her to be up at 6:30am on those days, we might not want to mess things around too much. On the other hand, daycare is only three days a week, and that leaves four days when we could conceivably be sleeping until at least 7am. Decisions, decisions.

In any case, I think it's time for Chris to start getting up in the mornings once in a while. It'll be his responsibility to take care of Gwen on daycare days, while I head off to work. And there's no magical reason why he should get to stay in bed till 8am while I haul my tired self up to start the day.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Naptime Intervention: So Far, So Good

Phase One - delay naptime until afternoon - complete.
Phase Two - Gwen actually falling asleep at new naptime - complete.
Phase Three - Gwen sleeping for more than an hour - complete (going on two hours now).
Watch for bulletins on Phase Four, Gwen acting like a human being for the rest of the day, and Phase Five, going to bed at 7pm.

Final Phase, Gwen sleeping past 6:30am for the love of all that is holy, will be available tomorrow. We hope.

Apparently I'm a writer - Adrienne says so

I've been going to WordStorm here in Nanaimo for the past few months. It's like an open mic for writers, or a poetry slam (Effulgent!). I don't write poetry, I write ... um ... this bloggy type stuff? I guess I could call it memoirs if I was feeling pretentious.

Anyway, in my enthusiasm for encouraging another woman to get up and read at the last session, she made me promise that I would read at the next session. So I need to find something to read.

It must:
- be written by me
- take less than five minutes to read aloud (or I will get gonged)

I'd really like it to be:
- interesting to people who don't necessarily know me personally
- maybe funny or thought-provoking or something?

It's sort of a humbling thought that in over six years of online journalling, I can't think of a single appropriate post. I'm really hoping this is due to modesty and poor memory on my part, not an utter failure to produce anything worthwhile. Ahem.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Naptime Intervention

On Monday morning, Gwen woke up at 6am.

On Tuesday morning, Gwen woke up at 6am.

On Wednesday morning - today - Gwen woke up at 5:30am.

Well, that's enough of that, isn't it?

There are two main avenues to dealing with this (well, three, if you count industrial-sized earplugs and a slug of brandy): either we adjust her bedtime or we adjust her naptime.

Thus, only a few days after writing that her nap schedule is good and solid and doesn't need any intervention, I'm intervening. I really don't want to change her bedtime if we can avoid it. Those evening hours are vital for Chris and I to recharge, to connect, and to Get Things Done. Just the idea of her staying up for another hour makes me want to curl up and whimper. It'll be fine when she's a bit more self-sufficient - when she can at least entertain herself, for Pete's sake - but for now, no.

So, naptime it is. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, she napped for over 3 hours, and on Monday, it was over 2.5. On each of those three days, she declined to take a second nap, and who can blame her? Three hours of midday sleep is entirely adequate. I was a little worried about how she'd deal with the long stretch between waking after the so-called "first" nap, around noon, and bedtime, around 7pm. But she has done fine.

I had these preconceived notions that if she was to have only one nap, it should be in the afternoon, not at 9:00am (if she wakes up at 6, she's down for a nap by 9). I even examined these assumptions to make sure I actually had some reason and logic behind them rather than just blindly following protocol. Admittedly, protocol is the start, because after my in-depth search for daycare last month I heard over and over and over about every daycare's daily routine, which invariably included "...then lunch, and then naptime." I reasoned that her current nap schedule often prevents us from eating lunch until 1 or 2pm, and that eating at noon and then napping afterwards does make more sense.

Furthermore, assuming she can be awake for six or seven continuous hours - which, wow - they may as well be the ones for which interesting things are happening. For now, this includes playdates, swim sessions, library story time, Strong Start, etc. In a few weeks, such a schedule will match up well with the other kids at her daycare.

So, she's been getting about 11 hours of sleep a night plus 3-4 hours of naptime. The hope is that if we eliminate the second nap altogether, and possibly set a limit to the naptime if necessary, she'll sleep longer at night. According to my sleep Bible, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, kids this age still need about 12 hours at night as well as 2-3 hours during the day.

I'm going to try delaying her naptime tomorrow until after lunch - a three-hour change. Dramatic, yes, but she coped fine this afternoon with no sleep between 1:30 and 7pm, so I'm optimistic.

Overall I know we're pretty spoiled. Plenty of parents are still dealing with night wakings, and we encounter them so rarely that when they do occur, we look at each other in confusion, like "....um ... do you remember how we're supposed to handle this?" On the flip side, though, it's one thing to sleep for a few hours, then get up and feed/soothe a baby for 20 minutes, and then go back to sleep. It's another thing altogether to sleep for a few hours, then get up and feed/soothe a baby, and then start your day. Plus, have I ever mentioned I don't drink coffee?

Wish me luck tomorrow!

Pride Goeth Before a Dirty Diaper

I've been thinking over the last couple of days that hey, I'm really starting to get good at this stay-at-home mom business! I feel confident, I feel capable, I can take her out places, I can keep her entertained and happy, life is good! Reflecting how odd it is that just when I feel I'm getting the hang of it, it's all about to end as I go back to work.

And then for two days in a row I left the house with inadequate diapering supplies.

On Monday we were at Strong Start and I sensed a Familiar Odor. Now, in general, I rarely change Gwen's diaper when we're out. My reasoning being that I usually change her about every 2 hours, and we aren't usually out for more than 2 hours, so it's just as easy to wait until we're home and have all our particular amenities close to hand. However, when the Familiar Odor appears, action must be taken, and so I took her down the hall to the changeroom/washroom and did what needed to be done.

She was, of course, in a cloth diaper. And I had a disposable diaper in the diaper bag, because I keep a couple in there for just such occasions. And I had wipes in there too, so that was no problem. Only veteran moms and dads will be able to spot what was missing.

If you said "a plastic bag to transport the soiled cloth diaper home," then give yourself a drool-sodden, pre-gnawed teething biscuit. I usually keep one in the diaper bag, but see, there's not really a place to keep the diaper bag itself when we're at home, so it ends up being stored in any one of a half-dozen places where Gwen has access to it. Which means things - especially things as fascinating as a plastic bag - get removed and played with and strewn about and, I suppose, thrown in the recycling bin instead of being returned to the diaper bag. Whoops.

On Tuesday, I took Gwen out to Costco where we met a church colleague and shopped for a church function this weekend. As we passed the Health Unit on our way home, it occurred to me that Gwen, having turned eleven months old, was due for her monthly weigh-in. Ten minutes later I found myself in the weighing room with a naked baby (19 pounds 7.6 ounces of her) and no clean diaper to put on. Because I'd used the disposable diaper the day before and hadn't restocked. Whoops, take two.

Well, after reflecting on these two incidents I am still going to give myself a pat on the back and full credit for being fairly skilled at this motherhood business. See, back in the early days of anxiety and hormones and vague unsettled worry - the days when I was afraid to carry my new baby from one room to the next, let alone take her OUT OF THE HOUSE - I spent a lot of time and mental energy Preparing for Eventualities. When I did finally leave the house, it was with a diaper bag much larger than my daughter, stuffed with a ridiculous amount of baggage. My OCD ran away with me and I somehow believed that if I just kept the baby bottles clean all the time, if I just made sure the baby's clothes were always clean and folded, if I just kept the diaper bag packed just so, I'd stop feeling so overwhelmed and helpless.

It didn't work, by the way. I don't know exactly how I overcame those fears, but I'm sure it had nothing to do with the three spare baby hats in the diaper bag.

The point is, though, that nowadays Gwen and I can leave the house with far less forethought and far less stuff. It doesn't take me forty-five minutes and a two-page checklist to ensure that the diaper bag is ready. And if my fairly casual attitude sometimes results in being caught short, well, I still count the resourcefulness and flexibility used in those situations towards my motherhood skills. Monday's dirty diaper got folded tightly and wrapped in a receiving blanket instead of a plastic bag. Tuesday's dirty diaper got turned around and refolded it so the wet side wasn't against Gwen's skin, and re-used for another five minutes until we got home and I changed her properly. Life went on. I rolled with it. And isn't that ultimately what motherhood is all about anyway?

And you can darn well bet that I restocked the diaper bag that very day, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dear Gwen: Month Eleven

Dear Gwen,

I kind of wish you could stay eleven months old forever, and that the magic allowing that to happen also enabled me to stay home from work forever. I feel like the next few weeks will be the last of our "babymoon" where, for the most part, it's just you and me exploring the world, and that "real life" is about to invade, conquer, and take over entirely. My longing to keep the real world at bay isn't just about busyness or dislike of my job (although, YES); it's also about the fact that you are at a really fun age right now.

Our weeklong trip to visit family and friends seems to have caused you to become a more affectionate little girl, and you will frequently give me or your dad big snuggly hugs. This is a lovely development. A few days ago you spotted me across the room as I sat on the floor, crawled towards me with great purpose and determination, climbed to standing in my lap, and wrapped your arms around my neck, flopping your head down onto my shoulder. Gwen, do you have any idea how wonderful that makes me feel? It's like after all these months you've finally figured out that these tall people who hang around you all the time are your parents, and you love them, and it makes you feel good to be around them. The feeling is definitely mutual!

We have a lot of pictures of you eating, because that's the only time you sit still.

Another recent change is your appetite, which seems to be increasing. I am still feeding you pureed food which I cook and freeze in ice-cube trays. Where a month ago you only wanted 2 cubes per meal, you now will take 3 and sometimes eat some food off my plate as well if I'm eating something Gwen-appropriate. The pureed food is almost gone, though, and that's a good thing, because you are less and less interested in being spoon-fed, and much prefer to fingerfeed yourself. I'm planning to make up some fish sticks, chicken fingers, and so on, to allow you to do just that.

Your daily meals at present are:
Upon waking: 4 oz bottle formula, because you've just slept for delve sours and I don't want to make you wait till we're both dressed and toileted and so on before feeding you
Breakfast: small container sugar-free yogurt with daily quota of rice cereal mixed in
Before morning nap: 6 oz bottle formula
Lunch: 3 cubes of pureed vegetable dish, i.e. Tuscan Tomato and Chick Peas, or Carrots and Parsnips au Gratin
Before afternoon nap: 6 oz bottle formula
After nap snack: either 6 oz formula or some kind of easy finger food: could be half an avocado if we have it on hand, or it could be a handful of Nutreeos.
Dinner: 2 cubes of pureed meat dish, i.e. Sole, Vegetables and Cheese, or Charlie's Cheesy Chicken + 1 cube of pureed vegetable dish
Before bedtime: 6 oz bottle formula

Your strength and mobility absolutely astound me. You are getting very good at standing unsupported, and yesterday, I saw you go from standing ... to a squatting position ... then back up to standing again. The whole time, your bum didn't touch the floor, and you didn't use your arms to support yourself either. It was all strength and balance. I don't think I know any adults who could perform the same feat, even if they were totally intrigued with a fascinating new toy.

Another fun change recently is that you have discovered books, and more specifically, how to turn the pages. When we read you your bedtime stories at night we have to make sure not to have our finger behind the next page in preparation for turning, because if we give you any opportunity whatsoever, you'll turn that page. Contents of the current page be damned. We've even seen you playing with books on your own, which is very exciting for both your dad and I. We are big readers, and we hope you will be too. I think most of the other skills, hobbies, and attitudes we hope to instill in you are probably negotiable, but reading probably isn't.

You really enjoyed playing with Kiera and Hannah's toy kitchen.
You've started babbling bigtime this month. Your favourite noise currently is a "lurdle-lurdle-lurdle" sound. It's absolutely hilarious. You say "mama" and "dada" with fairly low frequency and no sign that you understand their meaning. "Bah-bah" for bye-bye is sketchy, too, as you sometimes deign to wave goodbye to people until after they're long gone.

You were also really interested in Kiera's workbench. Take that, gender roles!

Alright, so with all this positive stuff going on, I have to mention the negative stuff too. Your temper has started to emerge. Like me, you're strong-willed. Like me, you're convinced you know best. Like me, you're not shy about showing your displeasure. A prime time to see this temper is at mealtime. You love to eat, yes, but you don't love anything else that goes along with eating:
- getting your bib on
- getting into your chair
- waiting more than 0.0000245 of a second for food to appear
- any method of eating that doesn't involve smearing the food into your hair
- having your sippy cup taken away after the third time of throwing it on the floor
- having your bib taken off
- having your face and hands wiped off
- getting out of your chair

Your tantrums at this point are mostly just laughable, but I have no doubt that soon they will be progressing into truly appalling and embarassing behaviour. Unless my wish comes true and you just stay eleven months old forever.

As I wrote a few days ago, your third tooth is now on its way after four entire months of no new teeth. If you keep up with this schedule, you might have all your teeth by the time you head off to kindergarten. I'm more likely to believe that you'll have no new teeth for a couple of months, and then SIX will appear overnight. At which point, logic dictates that you will be acting like the Anti-Christ.

The last thing I'm going to talk about today is your nap schedule. I've gotten really good, after eleven months of practice, at establishing a flexible daily routine that works well for you, allows me some downtime, and ensures enough daytime sleep. I can read your tired signals really well and I make sure not to let you get overtired. Currently, you seem to be on a pretty good two-and-a-half-hour schedule, meaning I need to start thinking about putting you down for a nap about 2.5 hours after you wake up.

I was really anxious about your transition from two naps to one - then I decided not to stress about it. I've noticed that your afternoon nap has been getting shorter and shorter, and while I used to worry about putting you down for a nap at 3pm - what if she sleeps till 5:30 and then she won't go to bed tonight?! - now I don't think twice about it. If it's late in the day, you're probably going to take a shortish nap anyway, and that's WAY better than trying to keep you awake from the time you wake after the first nap - usually around noon - until 7pm. You seem to be adjusting fairly smoothly, without me doing anything at all, and Gwen - I am SO grateful for that. So many things about being a mom are really, really challenging, and I'm just so very lucky that sleep seems to go more easily for us than for many others. Thank you for that.

We're all dressed up Japanese for an SCA event - and the camera caught you signing "more"!

Gwen, as I'm sure you know, it's my job as your mother to love you. I kind of can't help it. But this month, I realized that I think I'm going to really like you, too. I think you're going to be the kind of person I enjoy, respect, admire, and appreciate, even if we weren't related. I know, being mother and daughter, that you and I are going to bash heads our fair share of times over the years. But I'm going to work hard at making sure we have a good strong bond of trust and love to keep us making up after all those fights. You're my only daughter, and I'm your only mother. Even though the real world is about to get up in our faces something awful, it's still you and me, baby.

March 2009 - the discovery of pigtails. There's no going back now.

Love always,

Monday, March 23, 2009


By the way, the widgetbox countdown on the sidebar noting how long until my return to work is NOT there because I'm eagerly anticipating becoming a fulltime wage slave once again. Actually, it's there because I have this huge blind spot about how quickly it's approaching, and I figure if I have a countdown ticking down the days I'll be more likely to get myself and Gwen organized for a realistic transition instead of waiting till the last minute.

It's a theory.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Drama Queen (hmm, where does she get that from, I have NO IDEA)

Gwen is starting to get a bit of a temper. It leaves me a bit worried, knowing that things like this are just around the corner. Currently, she's at a really good in-between age: old enough to be interested in what's going on around her, but young enough that she's not desperate to assert her independence. I've taken her grocery shopping with me a few times, plunking her into the childseat in the front of the cart, and she loves it. She loves all the bright colours, all the smiling people. Again, perfect age: old enough to sit in the shopping cart, young enough not to scream that SHE WANTS THE CANDY.

But there have been a few incidents, in the safety and privacy of our own home thank goodness, that let us know what's coming. For example, a few days ago I placed a peeled banana on her high chair tray with the intention of mashing it. She picked it up before I could, and started shoving the whole thing down her throat. When I gently removed it from her esophagus to make it less chokable, she screamed at me. Not her usual whiny-moany-fussy cry, this was a full-on squawk of "I WAS EATING THAT DAMMIT, YOU NEVER LET ME DO ANYTHING!!!" Keep in mind I moved the banana about an inch away returned it about two seconds later. This was the equivalent of the End of the World as far as Gwen was concerned. I have no doubt that if she had not been in the high chair, she would have flung herself bonelessly to the ground, shrieking about the injustice of it all.

It must be really hard to be this age. So much has been said about the learning abilities and intelligence of toddlers, and yet their communication skills are so limited. No wonder toddlers are famous for their tantrums. Still, unless we're going to barricade the door and keep her out of the public eye from her first birthday until her eighteenth, I guess we'd better figure out how to deal with that temper - before it rears its ugly head at the most inopportune moment.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Teeth, Part Two

Back in November, Gwen cut both her bottom front teeth one after another. We were expecting the next one to pop up about six weeks later, but months have passed and no teeth.

Teething symptoms, yes. Drooling, fussing, biting, fist constantly in the mouth, chewing the hell out of her crib, yes. But teeth? Not so much.

Until today. Four months later. You can't see it yet, but I stuck my finger in her mouth and felt the top right one coming through. Hallelujah.

I'm now trying not to imagine how ridiculous she'll look if that one comes through and the other top one doesn't follow soon. At least the pictures will make good blog fodder now, and good blackmail material later.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Transitions and Trust

Yesterday was a learning experience. Gwen's Gramma, the one who looks after her one morning a week and who will be taking care of her for an entire day per week once I am back to work (in six weeks, wow), has been hinting for a while that she'd like to do some of that Gwen-care at her own home, instead of ours. Yesterday was the first time we gave this a try.

The plan was that Chris would feed Gwen breakfast and drop her (and her stuff) off in the morning, then Karen would call me when Gwen woke up from her nap so I could kind of judge the timing, and I would go pick her up in the early afternoon, after Karen fed her lunch.

It all went well. I absolutely loved having the house to myself, and got loads of stuff accomplished (though not nearly as much as I would have liked - we'll have to do this again soon). I didn't realize until I got the call from Karen - reporting that Gwen had fallen asleep at a reasonable hour, and slept for a reasonable amount of time - that I'd been quite tense, in the back of my mind, about whether she would nap at all. I was quite relieved to know that she had napped just as well as she does at home.

I knew there was some learning to be had through this experience. It fairly accurately mimicked the pattern, if not the timing, of our planned daycare day: Chris will drop off, I will pick up. I had been anxiously mentioning to Chris that if he is to be responsible for Gwen in the mornings, he won't be able to spend those mornings the way he does currently, which is by rolling out of bed between 7 and 8, and then locking himself in his office for two hours or more to divide his time between work email and webcomics. I had talked about having Gwen's lunch prepared and diaper bag packed the night before, so that the morning would be less rushed. I think he thought I was getting myself all worked up for no good reason.

...I don't think he thinks that anymore, though!

What I didn't expect was that I would have some things to learn as well. I need to learn to let go. If Chris is going to be the one to get Gwen (and her stuff) ready, whether in the evening or in the morning, then I need to trust him, and to accept that it might not be done exactly the way I would have done it, but that it will be just fine. I need to stop double-checking about whether he remembered the diapers or told his mom about the formula or included a bib in the bag, because if I'm just going to spend all that energy and anxiety thinking about it I may as well just do it myself.

Gwen is going to be in someone else's care most of the time now. Whether it's her dad, her gramma, or her daycare worker, for four days a week, it's not me. I won't know everything about her anymore. It won't all be up to me anymore, and I need to let go. Let go of the responsibility, the anxiety, the constant awareness. Trust these other people who care about Gwen and are going to do the best that they can for her. They might not remember to dress her in green for St. Patrick's Day. They might not read the same stories I'd choose to put her to sleep. They might not value self-feeding the same way I do. But this is Gwen's village, and I need to respect them. What they bring to her life is just as important for her as what I bring.

Whenever we travel with Gwen, we bring along her lovey, the Goodnight Moon book, and a CD of ocean waves that we put on repeat near her playpen when it's time to sleep. We read Goodnight Moon before every nap and bedtime, and settle Gwen in to sleep next to her lovey. Yesterday, all three of these items were forgotten at home - and Gwen slept just fine. So perhaps this is a humbling lesson for me, that I am not after all an infallible judge of what she needs.

The Spring Circle Tour

On Wednesday, March 4th, Gwen and I left for a weeklong tour of several important locations, to visit family and friends. It was a huge success!

Rather than write a detailed post which is sure to top 5000 words about all the things we did and all the people we saw, I thought I would try doing it in list format. Hopefully this is less boring.

- spend two nights in the Lower Mainland
- visit family, Amanda, and Kat
- spend two nights on the Sunshine Coast
- visit sister and family
- spend three nights in Powell River
- visit parents, grandparents, Karin, and Crystal

Happy Surprises:
- coincidentally being in the Lower Mainland at the same time as Rachael and Ira (whom I hadn't seen since he was a few weeks old - he's now seven months!), and getting to spend a few hours with them.
- being invited to Erin's baby shower, where I got to hold a four-week-old baby and get into some nitty-gritty details about the "joys" of breastfeeding.

- Gwen slept through the night every single night, and napped in the car on the days I managed to arrange our schedule appropriately.
- Some days, she missed her nap, but she didn't make us suffer for it.
- I finally got to spend some time hanging out with Karin's boys, Zak and Eli, who are totally cool.
- Hanging out with Amanda and her family - especially her older son, Kai, who is four - makes me really look forward to Future Gwen: the one who can talk and ask questions and provide an endlessly amusing commentary on life.

- Saturday morning while I was at my sister's, Gwen took a 2.5 hour nap, which allowed me TONS of time to hang out with my nephews for some quality "let's show Auntie Laura all our cool toys" time. It was awesome!
- That afternoon, we all went swimming at the new pool in Sechelt, which was also awesome.
- On Tuesday night I put Gwen to bed then followed my mom to her vocal ensemble practice where I got to hear them work on the pieces they were preparing for the local Music Festival. I haven't heard my mom sing in years, so that was a great experience.

- For the entirety of my stay with my sister, I thought my camera had been left behind, so I have NO PICTURES of that portion of our trip. Fortunately, it was found again when I got to our next destination.
- I left behind various objects at every place we visited. I'm missing a baby bottle, one of Gwen's toys, my sunglasses, and a tiny booklight I used to read in bed while Gwen slept in the playpen two feet away. Typical of me to lose stuff - but at least it wasn't anything critical (see previous item re: camera).

- The time Gwen couldn't go to sleep at 7pm because my dad's band was practicing downstairs. When they finally finished practicing and I put her to bed, I think she was asleep before I even left the room.
- The time my younger nephew Scotty jumped into my arms at the pool without warning me, and he flew over my head and apparently I made a truly hilarious face.
- The time my mom took Gwen and I to Wal-Mart (where she works) so she could show Gwen off. She strode proudly up and down the aisles, hailing everyone she knew by saying, "Look, my baby's here!" She would then talk all about how old Gwen was, how much she slept, what her personality was like, etc, often without even introducing me. I should have excused myself and gone to the spa, as my presence was clearly not needed!

- I figured she'd have learned to walk by the time we got home. Nope. I also thought she'd have about four more teeth by this time. Not even one.
- Every single place we stayed gave us stuff. Robyn gave us a table toy (the kind I'd been wanting to buy for Gwen) as well as a huge bag of 12- & 18-month clothes; Sara gave me some toys her boys have outgrown, including a LeapPad; Mom gave me a giant bin of vintage Fisher Price stuff that used to be mine (how freaking cool is that!). I ended up bringing home way more stuff than I left with. Fortunately, I have totally made my peace with the fact that Travelling with Babies Means No More Packing Light, so it's all good.

My absolute favourite moment of the whole trip:
One night in the middle of our trip Gwen woke up. There was no clock in the room so at first I thought it might be morning (maybe 6am, and still dark). So I picked her up and cuddled her. But my body soon told me it was not morning yet, because I was still exhausted, and all I wanted to do was lie back down in my bed. Gwen was snuggled into my shoulder. I wondered if she'd let me get away with it - usually if you try to cuddle her lying down she just gets up and crawls away. She's not much for the co-sleeping. But I was so tired I thought I'd try. I lay down and she snuggled right up beside me. I got to cuddle her for about 30 or 40 minutes while she dozed. When I started to doze off too, I got up and put her back in the crib, so she wouldn't fall off the bed (it was a single).

It was a lovely feeling, snuggling with my perfect little girl as she slept beside me, the house silent and dark around us. She was so relaxed and I just basked in her perfection and my love for her.

Okay but we can't end the post on such a shmoopy note, so tell another funny story:
I can't think of one, so instead I'll just post a picture of Gwen playing on the ferry on our way home.

Gwen is a good traveller. And I have learned why travelling with her works well for me too: with other people around to talk to, and without the nagging feeling that I should be dealing with housework and my many other life obligations, I am way more relaxed and way more attentive to her (and for the brief times when I'm truly unavailable, hey, look! It's those other people again!). I enjoyed this trip so much that I think taking a little "mommy and me" vacation together once a year might become one of our little bonding traditions.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dogs and Babies

Gwen and I are back from our trip, which was a huge success, and which I will share details and pictures of later. But for now, a subject more present in my mind is the caretaking of babies and dogs.

When I arrived home yesterday, I found that Chris's parents' dog - Fritz, a miniature Schnauzer - was at our place. Chris's parents themselves had left town for a funeral, so it was up to us to dogsit. This is the sort of thing families do for each other and I am not at all resentful of that. But it has led to some interesting observations.

Chris "dogsat" the previous day on his own, which translated as him leaving for work and Fritz pacing the floors alone all day. Today, however, Gwen and I and Fritz have shared the house, and this has not been entirely without difficulties. For one thing, Fritz seems to share the trait all Buechler males inherit, which is to intuit exactly where you need to be, and stand between you and that place with a blank look on his face. For another, Gwen is enamoured with the dog and follows him merrily from place to place, reaching out to pet him. Meanwhile, Fritz scampers from one refuge to another, desperately trying to find a spot where she can't reach him. At one point, he turned and looked at me with an expression that could only be interpreted as "Can't you DO something about her?". "Sorry, Fritz buddy, she lives here," I responded. (On the other hand, I do know just how he feels.)

Caring for babies and caring for dogs don't seem all that different. They are both dependent on me for their survival, being too dumb to face the world alone. They are both utterly self-centered and regard the other's needs - let alone my own - as immaterial. They are both demanding, and, most irritating of all, they both shun the use of proper English for stating their demands, preferring instead to communicate through meaningful looks and various high-pitched whines.

There are differences, though. As far as I know, it's still frowned upon to put diapers on a dog or to leave a baby outside on a leash. As long as I can keep those things straight, we should manage to get through tomorrow.

Monday, March 9, 2009

First Place: My Dear Bouncy Chair, How I Love Thee

First place in our Miraculous Giveaway goes to Jennifer, a talented mommyblogger whose son, Anderson, was born on the same day as Gwen.

Jennifer writes:

When first skipping off to Sears to complete our baby registry, I had never even heard of a bouncy chair. To be honest it was one of those things that, pre-baby, I would have rolled my eyes at and thought it was “just another gimmick”.

Fast forward to the end of May, and Anderson is about 5 weeks old. We go over to our friends' place for dinner. They have this wonderful contraption in the middle of their living room floor. It has an aquarium on it. It plays music. It vibrates. It bounces. I’m thinking, “Do these come in my size?” Her daughter, 6 months old at the time, is sitting in there mesmerized, like some sort of drug-induced trance. At this point, I am just as mesmerized as she is. Immediately, I inquire about what this amazing contrivance is and I’m openly invited to let Anderson try it out. I was, at that beautiful moment, introduced to benefit #1:

I got to eat my dinner. With both hands. I was very excited.

As soon as we could pile into the car we headed over to Walmart to see what they had available. We decided on a Bright Stars bouncy chair. No aquarium, but complete with vibrations, bouncing, toys and music. As soon as we got home, we set it up. I was utterly disappointed that Anderson fell asleep for bedtime and we didn’t get to try it out right away. The next day, I put him in there as soon as the opportunity arose. I had a fussy, cranky baby on my hands. Unbeknownst to him, he needed a nap. I bounced him for a couple of minutes with my foot, while checking my e-mail. I looked down from my laptop, and to my sheer and utter joy, I experienced benefit #2:

He was asleep. I think I might have shed a small tear.

Fast forward again to July. We’ve now reached the “Entertain me, Mommy” stage and I’m so stuck for ideas. In desperation I plop Anderson in the bouncy chair and watch in amusement as he discovers the little green frog hanging in front of him. He studies it for a good 10 minutes. I then find out that this frog must be very witty, because he’s provoking some very funny faces and smiles from my son. Benefit #3:

Baby entertainment centre. Almost better than HD.

We’ve now reached August, and Anderson has learned how to wildly bounce himself about, and finds this quite funny. (Benefit #4: Baby Home Gym). For the past couple of days we’d been concerned that Anderson hadn’t had one of those beautiful poosplosions that we always looked forward to. We were discussing what to do, and decided that if he hadn’t gone by tomorrow that we would call the doctor. Rich and I sat down to a game of Settlers of Catan that evening, and naturally, we sat Anderson in his bouncy chair so that we could play and he could be engaged with us. I plopped him in, and set it on vibrate.

About 10 minutes into the game, I heard rumbling from the depths below. Appropriately, I said “Oh Sh^%!” as I saw a line of Crayola yellow liquid rise up the front of his white shirt. Welcome to benefit #5:

Laxative effects. The experience was truly cathartic, in all regards.

From that day forward, the bouncy chair was not only our dinner companion, our entertainment center, our baby gym, and our naptime favorite but we turned to it to elicit poop if we thought we hadn’t seen enough of it yet. It got very messy. Better yet, we appreciated benefit #6 most of all:

It’s machine washable.

You can read more of Jennifer's hilarious and poignant writing at Adventures of Being a Mommy. Congratulations, Jennifer!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Second Place: Arnold's Swingin' Good Time

Second place in our Miraculous Giveaway goes to Arnold, who has the distinction of being our only male contestant.

Arnold writes:

I would say that the best item we ever had was a battery-powered swing. Now, this was a much bigger deal for my first daughter, Katerina, because we used it _all_ the time. In particular, we often did the Lower Mainland trek and this swing saved our weary souls many-a-time. Set it up in the VW Camper van, get on the ferry, tie the baby down and start it a rockin'. (ed. note: THIS IS PURE BRILLIANCE.) Katerina went to sleep quickly 90% of the time, and then so did we. Compressing a two hour ferry ride into less than 30 minutes waketime was a God-send. And with 4 D cells for power, it was able to operate for up to something like 12 hours straight. It was used a lot at home too, putting her to sleep without leaving our sight - much better than wailing in a crib that was cold and lonely.

Since it was so successful for baby #1, we got another one for baby #2 (11 years apart - sold everything in between, so we needed a full resupply). This child, Alexandra, was a much more boisterous, action-packed baby, who fought sleep (and straps, and laying down) with a vengeance. While Katerina lay and fell asleep in the swing, Alexandra flailed. It worked occasionally, though, and that was good, but was used far less than the first time around. That being said - at 18 months now, Alexandra wants to get back into the swing to play again!

So, I would consider this product one to really consider investing in for those early months. (From 6 months to a year, my highest recommendation would be an ExerSaucer - but that is an item for another post.)


I've had the pleasure of meeting Arnold's daughters, and they are both lovely and charming. Thanks for your entry, Arnold!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Third Place: Heather & the Heater

Third place in our Miraculous Giveaway goes to Heather. Heather has the distinction of being the farthest-away contestant, as she is from Wisconsin(which according to one source is "The Badger State").

Heather writes:

My favorite and most useful item for my daughter's first 3 months of life has been the space heater. Yes! I know! The space heater. She was born December 6th, in WI, so obviously it's freezing. When we first brought her home, she was like any normal baby, not wanting to sleep in her crib. So her and I nursed and slept in a chair. I would get SO cold after breastfeeding, that I needed that heater blasting on me. Then after we fell asleep in the chair, it was lovely to have it warm and toasty.

The space heater also came in handy when the little one had a bout of diarrhea at a week old. Which of course burned her butt up and gave her horrid diaper rash. So I would put her in the bathroom on a stack of towels, naked. The space heater warming the room nicely while her butt healed. She still loves her naked time, still with the space heater. We love that darn space heater.


Heather was kind enough to include a picture of the lovely Annabelle.

Say it with me now: AWWWWW!!

You can read more of Heather and Annabelle's adventures at Heathrow's World. Thanks for your entry, Heather!

So, see ya in a week or so

It took me all damn day yesterday to get packed for my weeklong trip with Gwen.

I was lucky, too: yesterday being Gramma day, Karen was here to look after Gwen and keep her fed and entertained while I scurried around the house packing. She even folded our laundry and ran the dishwasher! It was such a huge help.

Despite the fact that Gwen is no longer a newborn - and that I am determined, every time, to pack light - the car is stuffed with Gwen-related items. The playpen and the booster seat. Toys and blankets. Bottles and formula and jars of food. Diapers and wipes. (Seven days of travelling equals a LOT of diapers, yo.)

I am both excited and nervous about this trip. Excited to see my family, especially my cousin and her (relatively) new baby, who in the typical timewarp fashion of the younger generation, has the audacity to be turning five months old in a few days. Excited about seeing friends. Nervous about how Gwen will behave when taken out of her routines. Up till now she's been a pretty good traveller, but you just never know how the upheaval is going to affect them. Oh yeah, and Daylight Savings Time starts on Saturday, and that's nothing to do with our trip, but it can also be a cause of upheaval and child-related difficulties. And I get to manage it all without Daddy!

Ah well. It's going to be an adventure, that's for sure. This trip is our last hurrah for quite a while: when we get back, we'll be focussing on getting Gwen ready for daycare, transitioning her to longer and longer times without Mom. Spending a whole week with her before that seems like a good idea.

The entries of our Miraculous Giveaway contest will be posted while I'm away, to keep you company, and you can look forward to a few lazy-ass photo posts of our trip when I get back. Cheers!

Monday, March 2, 2009

I am not Mature

I just got a chance to hang up on this lady.

And I took it. Gleefully. And I only feel a little guilty.

(She called to tell me that hey! She does have a 3-day spot opening up soon after all, and there are only 3 people on the list ahead of me! Aren't I excited? It was when she sheepishly said, "Oh, you must kind of think I'm out to lunch," that I decided I could be straightforward with her, and when she AGAIN denied hanging up on me ("I didn't hang up on you, the phone just did whatever it did,") that I decided immaturity was the better response.)

(The last thing I heard her say before I hung up was "So, you're telling me that after we've done all this work, you don't want the spot? FINE!")


Sorry for the total lack of posts lately, guys. Here is my lame list of excuses:
1. I have recently been appointed to my church's Council and to the Call Commitee (our pastor of 11 years is leaving, and it is the Call Committee's job to find a new one). I've held these "jobs" for about a week and have already spent nearly 8 hours in meetings. Not to mention a lot of time emailing and phoning and networking, oh my.
2. Gwen and I are leaving for our week-long circle tour in TWO DAYS. So any time not spent dealing with Church stuff, has been spent packing and confirming plans with friends and relatives.
3. I don't have a third reason, but I think lists should always include at least three items. Hi! I have OCD, have we met?

In other news, the Miraculous Giveaway is now closed, and I have three fantastic stories that will be posted over the next week (while I'm away! How brilliant! Almost like I planned this, except srsly, I'm not that organized) sharing tips about important and useful baby products. I have already contacted the winner, and a Miracle Blanket will hopefully be winging its way through the mail post haste.

Also, Gwen took a few steps last night - one day later than I originally predicted! She just likes to mess with me, I guess. Her dad and I were both playing with her on the kitchen floor, and I guess she was revelling in our devoted attention so much that she didn't notice she was walking. It was way cool!


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