A Holiday Wrap-Up

We had some record-setting beautiful weather over the holidays this year. Crystal blue skies with temperatures warm enough to play outside yet cool enough to keep the snow fluffy and dry. Because good weather always comes with a price, I’m now wearing a blanket, have blinds covering all the windows and am confined to the house. (It’s actually not really that cold at the moment. -20s range. I’ve just been spoiled.) Which means it’s finally time to blog!

I had high hopes for Christmas this year.

I love Christmas. That childhood magic never dissipated for me and this year I was thrilled to both finally share it with a child of my own as well as actually have time to prepare and enjoy the season. As an adult, I’ve always been in some kind of low key permanent state of burn-out, first from school, then from work, causing December prep to be neglected. And when working, I usually only have Christmas Day and New Years Day off, so it actually feels more rushed since I don’t get the two days off in a row like a normal weekend.

This year, thanks to maternity leave, I actually managed to decorate my house a little, bake cookies, wrap presents, visit the display at the mall and put some effort into my gift shopping.

Our Pinterest/Facebook/Instagram worthy tree!

Last year, our young cat went nuts on my full sized tree. Broke most of the branches and chewed through the light wires. Even cat deterrent spray (some citrus scented stuff that cats don’t like) didn’t dampen his spirits. This is how cat deterrent works in our household:

Older cats: This tree smells bad, lets avoid it.
Young cat: Your tree smells bad, let me fix that for you.

Young cat was still feeling “helpful” this year, so we just put up the little tree. Surprisingly enough, we really enjoyed it. It was easy to put up and take down and we didn’t have to worry about the cats or the baby getting into the decorations. Even though it wasn’t standard festive living room attire, we still found that it brought a lot of joy to our home. Plus, as it turns out, 10 month olds aren’t as into Christmas lights as grandparents and TV specials would have you believe. I tried introducing our little guy to the colourful tree, but he was far more interested in the bottle of cat deterrent.

Gift-wise, I gave myself two things I really wanted for Christmas:

– A clean bathtub to soak and drink wine in
– Clean bedsheets

I swear I’m not gross and I often have one of the above. To have both at the same time, though, what a luxury!

*music* I don’t want a lot for Christmas, these are just two things I need…

The little one loves ripping paper, so I expected him to have a blast opening presents but it turns out that ripping paper is way less fun when you’re actually encouraged to do it. In the end, we “helped” him open the presents from his grandparents (a xylophone and a convertible wagon/sled, in case someone is reading this and is curious about what other people give their babies – I know I always am) and one of ours (a set of buckets with holes to play with in the bath). The rest of the presents were put away to be opened on his birthday in February. It’s for the best, I think. Now we don’t have to shop and wrap presents again.

What I was most looking forward to though, since this may be the only Christmas I’ll be able to do this for many years to come, was to cook some awesome food for my family.

For Christmas Eve, I really wanted to celebrate my Québec childhood and prepare a traditional tourtière. I’m not from the region known for its tourtières, but it doesn’t matter, I’ve still dreamed of making one ever since I first moved out to Alberta.

I wanted to stick to a fairly traditional style (although, like most cultural dishes, everyone’s mom and grandmother has their own recipe) and make the dough from scratch so I used the recipe from La Foodie Scientifique (and discovered a super interesting food writer at the same time).

The steps of making my tourtière.

As you can see, the crust on my pie looks nothing like the crust on her pie… Given that it was my first time making pie crust, I think it turned out okay. It took a long time, two full afternoons, but I imagine I would have been more efficient if I hadn’t been entertaining a needy baby as the same time.

I’m no food blogger, just a hungry and exhausted cook. This is as fancy as my plating is going to get.

If I were to make it again, I think I would quarter the recipe (I halved it), make more dough and less potatoes. I really had to stretch my dough and I had enough cut up potatoes left over for like 4 separate meals. I would also use some spices in the filling. I didn’t this time because I wanted to stay as close to the recipe as possible, but in the future I think adding some thyme and rosemary to the mix would be delicious. When we ate leftovers, we topped it with gravy from the Christmas turkey which was seasoned with thyme and it worked really well. Using higher quality cuts of meat than what I put in would probably also enhance the dish.

Speaking of turkey…

I used this recipe from Cafe Delites.

I didn’t have enough garlic on hand to use the heads to raise the turkey so I tried with onion quarters instead. I’ll spare you the trouble: it didn’t work. Too slippery. The end result was still fantastic, though.

As usual, no fancy plating, just yummy food.

I improvised the gravy with the turkey drippings and leftover butter mix. While it didn’t look the part, it definitely served the part, taste wise.

The salad is just a basic couscous salad with tomato, English cucumber, cilantro, sea salt and lemon-olive oil dressing.

After we ate, I peeled off the bigger chunks of leftover meat and boiled the carcass to make some turkey broth, which we used in our ramen (instead of water) for the next few days. 10/10 would recommend.

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I don’t get the opportunity to make elaborate meals very often and I don’t know when it will happen again, so I’m really excited about and grateful for the experience.

When I wasn’t in the kitchen or wrangling my little monster, I spent the rest of Christmas “break” (I guess it’s kind of a break since all the activities I normally bring the little guy to were closed for two weeks) getting the house ready for when I go back to work, since I know that once I’m back on the clock, the rest of my life will come to a screeching halt. I spent a whole 5 days sorting through the bedroom closet. The first day or so was fun – little guy freaks out when I’m not in arm’s reach, so we had lot of fun playing in the closet together, but eventually having a baby tearing piles apart and screaming for attention gets old. I wonder how single parents (or oilfield widows, of which there are many around here) handle keeping their house afloat. Maybe their babies become less needy out of necessity? Or maybe they just tuned out the screaming? Anyway, everyone breathed a sigh of relief once I was satisfied with my closet.

With that, I hope that everyone else had a lovely holiday season and I’m eager to find out what the next year will bring.

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My Favourite Gift Shopping Strategy As Long Distance Shopper

I realize it’s a bit late in the season to be sharing gift buying advice, but every Christmas, I have the urge to write this post and never get around to it. So this year, even though it’s less than a week from Christmas and everyone is either finished shopping or in too much of a hurry to invest a lot of time, I’ll finally do it: excitedly talk about my favourite way to shop for gifts.

Everyone I shop for over the holidays (or birthdays and other special occasions) is long distance. The generic solution to that is to order some cheesy, likely mistreated-labour made object off Amazon and ship it to the recipient’s house. The recipient will unwrap it whenever they celebrate Christmas, admire Amazon’s admittedly decent gift wrapping and thank you for the gift. It’ll be used a few times (if by chance it isn’t a duplicate of an already-owned item), then put in a cupboard or closet where it will stay until downsizing day. Holiday social obligations are fulfilled as a mediocre experience for everyone involved (including the exhausted, overworked Amazon warehouse employees).

What if I told you it doesn’t have to be like that?

What if I told you that in return for a tad more effort, you can feel a sense of ownership over the process, the gift recipient will have their horizons broadened, the people you are buying the gift from will be genuinely thrilled, a community will benefit and, as a bonus, you will be more environmentally-friendly (hot topic of the year!)?

My Fantastic Strategy

You know all about shopping local, right?

Well, I like to take it to the next level: shop local…in the locality of the recipient.

In other words, I look up cool and unique stuff around where someone lives and choose a gift among my findings. Maybe it’s a gift card to a restaurant or farmer’s market. Maybe it’s a useful craft from an artisan. Maybe it’s a membership to a local attraction. It all depends on what I find, on what I think my recipient will enjoy and on whether there’s an easy way to get the gift into my recipient’s hands (I’m not going to expect someone to travel across town to pick up their gift).

What I Love About This

1- I get to discover different corners of the world: My favourite part of traveling is researching what makes a destination special. What’s the best food? Where do I find the best music? Are there traditional (or non-traditional) crafts to purchase, or maybe even be introduced to in form of a workshop? Where’s the most unique place to stay? Who’s the best guide? Shopping someone else’s local motivates me to explore, without the hassle of having to leave my house. And even if I’ve shopped for the same person living in the same place for years, maybe multiple times a year (hello Nova Scotia), I still learn about different restaurants, craftsfolk, tour operators and other small businesses in the region.

2- I usually learn something new: If I’m buying from a craftsperson, I’ll do some background research to make sure I’m buying the right thing. Say I’m buying a cutting board from a woodworker. I’ll look up different kinds of woods, cutting board maintenance, expected price ranges… Knowledge I wouldn’t normally take an interest in, but that could be useful (even if only as conversation material) to me down the road.

3- I have a pretty clear idea of the quality of what I’m buying: If I’m buying a generic item from a big box online store, unless I have personal or second hand experience with the brand, it’s hard to speak to the quality and ethics of said item. I usually don’t know who made it, where it was made it (beyond the country), what went into making it. When I buy a gift right from source, I’ll usually be told a lot of the story behind the it and the person/people who made it. While there is always the possibility of being misled, it’s fairly unlikely as these small business live and die by their reputation.

4- The gift recipient learns something new about where they live: Even when the recipient is aware of the business I bought the gift from, the specific product will probably not be something they’ve thought to buy for themselves. I do try to be creative, though, and buy something I know the recipient will enjoy but wouldn’t go out of their way to treat themselves to. This way they get to discover something cool about their region and hopefully kindle a feeling of pride and belonging about where they live.

5- I’m supporting a small business: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hopping on the “big businesses and corporations are always evil” bandwagon. There are things that small business cannot provide, for which we need larger businesses. That said, small businesses make up the personality of a location. Every reasonably sized place has a Walmart and a Starbucks. Only this place has Tim’s Bake Goods, Mary’s Coffee Roasting, Jack’s veggie farm and the This Place Historical Museum. Without clients and customers, these small businesses can’t keep operating. They close up shop and the identity a town or neighbourhood is diminished.

6- It’s more environmentally sound: If you buy a gift from nearby, it doesn’t have to travel halfway around the world from factory to warehouse, then again from warehouse to recipient. And if you’re buying a quality craft that will last for many years, or a consumable with minimal or reusable packaging or an experience with barely any footprint at all, then you aren’t contributing to landfill problems down the road.

Do I have you convinced? Yes, but you don’t know where to start? I’ve got you covered!

Getting Started

1- Check out travel advice websites like the local Tourism Bureau or Trip Advisor: This is great if you’re shopping for tours, courses (like cooking classes), restaurants or memberships to attractions. I like using the map on Trip Advisor to find points of interest within walking or short driving distance from my recipients’ home. Having access to reviews is helpful too, however keep in mind that in large cities or heavily touristy areas, reviews may not be genuine.

2- Local Business directory: Most regions will have some sort of Artisan Association or Shop Local website. I find these super helpful if I want to step off the beaten path. For example: The Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design or Edmonton Made

3- Type “Location gift ideas” into the search engine of your choice: I’ve always had pretty good luck with this.

4- Check out local farms: You can check the local farmer’s market directory (if there is one), search for “farms near location” or search for “Location CSAs”. While a true CSA (community-supported agriculture) share might be a bit steep for a gift unless you’re rich, a lot of farms have the option of delivering a one time box of seasonal products to your recipient.

5- Don’t use Etsy as your search engine: There’s nothing wrong about ordering off Etsy. Their search feature, however, does not sort by location. Perhaps I’m just using it wrong, but every search for “location gift” pulls up endless pages of souvenirs and not the local businesses I actually want to browse. So don’t waste your time. Do your searching elsewhere, find who you want to buy from, then go to their Etsy store.

Need some gift ideas? Or perhaps some guidance into what to look for?

Suggestions on what to Buy

1- Gift certificates: This is especially good for local restaurants, spas or other services (car detailing, pet grooming, housekeeping, etc). These days it’s not too hard to order a gift certificate online, even for really small businesses in fairly remote locations. I prefer gift certificates that are for a specific item or package as opposed to a dollar amount – that way I won’t over or under estimate how much money to spend, but I will do dollar amounts if I have to. I like to print out the certificate, decorate it if I’m feeling productive and seal it in an envelop that says “Do not open until Christmas (or other relevant date)”. I stick the envelop in the Christmas card and support Canada Post by mailing it. If I’m gifting a service or experience that requires a reservation, I write a note encouraging the recipient to let me know which dates work for them. I follow up with them later on, get their dates and make the reservation for them. If the business allows online or telephone booking and payment, I might even handmake the gift certificate and pay when making the reservation. For example, one year I bought my parents a package at the Glenora Inn & Distillery for Christmas. At the time, the Inn didn’t allow online bookings, plus they were closed for the winter. So I made the certificate myself and mailed it to my parents. When the Inn reopened in the spring, I asked my parents about their availability, then called the Inn with my credit card information to make and pay for the reservation. (I don’t make a habit of giving my credit card information over the phone, but it is fairly standard procedure for hotels.)

2- Memberships to local attractions: These are especially good for families with children, but anyone can enjoy a membership to a museum, zoo, aquarium, amusement park or other. Before buying, though, you’ll want to maximize the chance that your recipient will actually use their membership, so choose an attraction that is near their house, easy to access, has free and abundant parking (if needed) and that has some interest to the recipient. My example here is the aquarium membership I bought for one of my brothers and his girlfriend. They aren’t especially into fish, but they do enjoy unconventional outings. The aquarium is also a quick 10 minute drive from their house, has a large dedicated parking lot and offers plenty of features and events that would be of interest. The price was really reasonable, far more reasonable than daily admission, so I figured the value was excellent.

3- Tours/Courses/Workshops: You’d be amazed at how unusual or niche tours/workshops/courses abound in even the most remote of localities. Gifts like these are best given to recipients who have specific interests or who really like to get out of the house to ensure that they actually use their gift. Just avoid the obviously touristy stuff that your recipient has probably already seen (unless your recipient is into looking at old cannons for the 80th time). Think food tours, brewery or distillery tours, cooking classes, art workshops, boat tours. When I was shopping for my parents this year, I came across this Photography Tour which doubles as a photography course. It would have made an awesome gift had my parents lived closer to Halifax. Like with gift certificates, if reservations need to be made, I happily find out my recipients’ preferred dates and make the reservations for them.

4- Gourmet Consumables: These are my favourite gifts to give because they’re creative, tasty, affordable, usually easy to ship and don’t clutter someone’s house. You can place an order with a specific specialty shop, as an example, back when Ed and I were living in separate countries, I once gifted him chocolate and candy from a nearby confectionery (I unfortunately don’t remember which one, hence the lack of a link). The treats were exquisite and the shop owners even included at handwritten thank you note. As a different example, this year my parents are getting some sweet liquors from Ironworks Distillery. I’m not sure what shipping laws are for alcohol, but I had no problem having hard liquor shipped. I’ve never tried with beer or wine. If you can’t make up your mind on a specific product, many localities offer gift baskets with several items from a variety of nearby vendors. Taste of Nova Scotia, for example, has received a lot of business from me. (I swear I’m not sponsored by Nova Scotia! I just shop for Nova Scotian gifts a lot.)

5- Crafts: If your recipient prefers something more tangible, local crafts are a great option. They’re usually of a certain quality and have a great story behind them. Shipping can sometimes be a challenge, but the popularity of Etsy has lessened that barrier in recent years. I don’t have a whole lot of experience with craft shopping to pull from to share an example (I’m gift certificate/gourmet kind of gal), but one of my prized possessions is a wooden pot holder, carved into the shape of an octopus. It was handmade in Edmonton by a local woodworker and I use it every day.

Go Now, and Shop! Or Shop Next Year

Whew! When I started writing this post, I figured 500 words and I’d be done. I should have known I don’t roll that way… But anyway, I hope my goal of sharing my enthusiasm by bragging about awesome gift ideas I’ve had over the years has been met.

I included a lot of links in this post. None of them were sponsored or affiliate or anything like that, just good ol’ fashioned, no strings-attached love from me.

Whatever your approach is to gift shopping, I hope you get the most out of the experience (because Christmas shopping does not have to suck!) and that gift exchanges with your loved ones strengthen the bonds that unite you. (/cheese)

Happy holidays to anyone reading this, may 2019 end on the highest of notes and all the best for 2020!

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The 10 Month Post

I wouldn’t say I miss the WoW blogging days, but I often wonder how I managed a nearly twice a week posting schedule for years while juggling the demands of both pharmacy school and the competitive aspect of the game I wrote about.

I had high hopes for my maternity leave. “No time” was my biggest excuse for most of my blogging life, and I would have time during naps, after bedtime or when baby is bonding with Daddy. During the Epic Journey “no time” became “no energy”, despite how I was way more tired during school than during travel, but surely a baby would be less exhausting than travel or school. And while my baby is less draining than sustained travel or pharmacy school (don’t throw tomatoes at me, I know I’m lucky), “no energy” is still my excuse. Creating is just so hard.

Reflecting on the thrill of WoW blogging, I suspect that my need for community was the powerful driving force back then. Even before the blogging days, as a science CEGEP/IB student I sacrificed sleep, health and sanity (and no doubt, my grades) to post on message boards (of all things!). I’m pretty sure I’m still feeling the damage I did to myself in search of community via message boards.

That urge isn’t so strong anymore. Other than gaining a spouse, I don’t really have much more community now than I did back then, but perhaps age tempers social needs? I mean, I always love meeting new people and sharing experiences, but the desire just isn’t enough to overcome my tiredness and push me to write and create.

Shame though. I have lots of thoughts that I’m excited about and would like to share. Mom stuff, medical stuff, hobby stuff. That sort of thing. I know I’m holding myself back by approaching every “Add New Post” screen as a monumental project. I’m sure if I could bring myself to just vomit on the page and publish, I could generate so much more. Resolution for the New Year perhaps?

Baby is 10-months old

It’s funny how my last post is about baby and I being sick. We’ve been sick twice since then. I’m sick right now! I’m less restrictive on going out while sick because, man, we’d never go out! And my little guy’s not one to approve of sitting around the house. The pharmacist in me is properly horrified at our germ spreading, so we do try to frequent less crowded or highly sanitized (hi overly chlorinated pool) places. And we wash our hands a lot. I fear what will happen when he starts daycare though. We’re already sick all the time, what are we going to do with the real illnesses start?

Shown here: Angry 9 month old baby attempting to escape winter.

This age is pretty exciting. The Spoonling (thank you Fannon for the nickname!) has finally figured out that sign language isn’t just for us to talk to him. He does still have trouble telling the difference between “more” and “finished” (confusing, I know), but at least he knows he’s talking with his hands. He’s inconsistently waving “hello” and “goodbye” and I think he has signed “milk” a few times, though it may have been accidental. I know there are tons of moms who brag about their 6-month old signing and I know my kid is on the slow side with communication, but still, I am skeptical.

We thought he’s be an early walker since he started pulling to standing well before crawling…but once he discovered crawling, he was all “this gets me to where I want to go, why would I put in all that work to walk?“. (I say he gets that from his dad.) So no interest whatsoever in walking for now. Good climbing skills though. (I say he gets that from me.) He climbs the walls of his baby jail (thankfully he hasn’t climbed over them yet… not for lack of trying. How do you handle a determined explorer in an impossible to totally babyproof house?) and has no problem dashing up stairs. He can eat with a spoon (sorta) and his fingers (his skill level matches his hunger). Drinking is a work in progress but I have high hopes.

In a partly heartwretching, partly exciting moment, I signed him up for day care. He can’t formerly start until his first birthday, but we’re hoping he can go for an hour or two in the weeks leading up to it, so it’s not too much of a shock for him. He’s a social butterfly and does well with childcare at Parent Link (they don’t routinely offer it, but they do host information sessions for parents, during which they’ll watch the children) but is really not a fan of being picked up by strangers, or being separated from mom while in new places. I’m also really not looking forward to going back to slavery work, but the idea is becoming more bearable. I’ve been preparing some templates and tools that I’m eager to try out, plus it will be nice to add a new dimension to my days. I’ve loved my time at home but I’m ready to spice up my life. And hopefully I’ll be pregnant again before I burn out.

Things I’ve been up to

I love how more efficient motherhood has made me. While, yeah, I probably had more free time before, I usually spent it staring at my phone. Or the wall. Now, baby keeps me on a schedule. Morning routine, then morning activity. Nap. Lunch routine then afternoon activity. Nap if we have time. Chill, supper then evening routine. Usually morning activity is going out, but sometimes it’s baking. Sometimes doing a craft. Naptimes are when I condense eating, keeping house, working on projects and watching YouTube videos. I don’t think I’ve ever been so efficient!

I made Christmas cookies! As you can probably tell by my decorating skills, I never make Christmas cookies! (Note: there were more cookies than shown here.)

To dispell myths that maternity leave is a huge exhausted but brain numbing ordeal, here’s what I’ve been packing into my days:

Studying for a specialty board exam: My clients are primarily seniors, so I figured I’d take a go at the geriatrics board exam. Why not add a few letters to my qualifications! There’s a lot of material to cover, so most evenings and nap times have been dedicated to this. It’s all super relevant, though, and I feel like I’ll be doing so much better at my job once I’m done. Plus I love studying. If I were rich, I would probably just spend the rest of my life taking random courses, just for fun.

Reading: My little guy is easily distracted and needs to be fed in a quiet room, in the dark. Preferably in the middle of the night. Thank goodness for e-readers with back-lights! I’ve read more in the past year than I have in, like, the past 10 years. I’ve read video game books, random fantasy books, classic novels, books on child development, books on breastfeeding, self-help books, you name it!

Climbing and swimming: I’ll admit that I’ve slacked on that since bedtime has become more of a battle lately, but starting at 6 weeks post partum, I bought a rec centre membership and twice a week, once baby is down for the night, I (aim to) go to the bouldering wall, then the pool. Our wall is small, not fancy at all, but at least we have something, plus it’s usually deserted so I get the whole place to myself.

Making baby food: I never thought this would happen, and I know it’s super weird, but I love making baby food. I found a recipe book at the Share Shop and I came up with the goal to make every recipe. I think the simplicity and wholesomeness of baby food takes the intimidation factor out of cooking. I don’t know why anyone would buy premade baby food. Making your own is so easy and so fun.

Watching Youtube: Ok, yes, nothing to brag about. But for some reason, I never really got into watching videos until mat leave. I have a preference for more medical videos, helps me come to terms with going back to work, but I’m also partial to voice/performance coach videos, the more quirky makeup/lifestyle videos and cat videos… Especially the cat videos.

I gamed a lot in the early days, but decided to cut back in order to better prepare for the geriatrics exam. I do kinda miss WoW even if I wasn’t doing anything besides questing and achievement grinding. Blizzard’s recentish support for China’s human rights violations has left a bitter, bitter taste in my mouth, though, so I’m unsure if I’ll ever go back. I did play Greedfall shortly after it came out. I have a few more games in my queue, but I do suspect that my newfound productivity has a lot to do with my big step back from gaming. We’ll see how things go after I go back to work and after I write my exam, but I feel like my free time is either gaming or everything else.

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Quarantined!

Last Friday I planned to take my family to a town about 90 minutes north of here. Our pool was closed for maintenance and their pool is very nice. With a lazy river and waves and warm water and everything!

Unfortunately, a blizzard ruined what little visibility was previously available on the narrow, twisty, undivided, slippery highway so we went grocery shopping instead. Then I brought my little guy to a special storytime at the library.

It was at one of those places, the grocery store or the library, that I’m positive I was ambushed by A Virus.

By Sunday afternoon, my throat hurt, by Sunday sleeepless night, I knew it wasn’t a false alarm, and by Monday, I cancelled all my plans for the week. Goodbye storytime, early childhood nutrition information session, indoor playground, infant development meeting and baby rhyme time.

It’s jarring because I was raised that, no matter how sick you are, you suck it up and power through it. MAYBE you had a pass if you were throwing up (no wants to clean up after you) or legit couldn’t get out of bed, but the Adults in your life made it clear that they were Very Disappointed in your lack of willpower. They reminded you of all the times they begged to go to school as children even though they were so sick they had to go to the hospital. (Like that happened… one of the first signs that you’ve grown up is realizing how much your parents lied to you.) To be fair, though, if Canadian children missed school whenever they were contagious, schools would be empty for like 2/3 of the year.

I’m not even all that sick. My sinuses only hurt enough to make hot water with honey and lemon actually enjoyable.

I’m just being…responsible.

Almost everything I do these days involves really small children or parents of really small children or people who work with really small children. And when it comes to really small children, even the more trivial of sniffles will RUIN YOUR LIFE AS YOU KNOW IT. As I typed this, I took a moment to thank the Parenting Gods that my own little one is neither fussing with a sore throat or fighting to breathe through a runny nose. All praise to the Parenting Gods! Please do not let my baby be sick.

On the bright side, little one’s getting lots of napping in, my living room has never been this clean and I’m making excellent progress in Greedfall! And I can’t say I really want to be outside in the late Autumn weather anyway.

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The Breastfeeding Pain Advice I Wish I’d Had

Disclaimer 1: This post is written by me as a patient and ordinary mom, not as a pharmacist. All tips and tricks here are practical, not medical. If you need personalized medical advice regarding breastfeeding, please consult your doctor, public health nurse, lactation consultant or other trusted member of your healthcare team.

Disclaimer 2: The Amazon link is affiliate. I figured that if I’m linking a product I may as well create an opportunity to reinvest in the blog. None of the other links have any sort of affiliation.

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To the greatest delight of my delivery team, my baby latched on right away.

To my greatest frustration, it felt like a mouthful of razors mutilating a very sensitive body part.

I’ve always wanted to breastfeed. I grew up watching my mom, champion breastfeeder, nurse my younger brothers. She looked so relaxed, cuddling them in the rocking chair as they ate. When asked about it, she glowed as she shared how happy it made her. I was eager to one day follow in her footsteps.

Pharmacy school had taught me some basics (the highlights: “it’s called breastfeeding, not nipple feeding” and “if you use gentian violet to treat thrush, you should take a picture of your baby’s first goth look”) and my prenatal class provided other pointers. I felt totally ready to feed my newborn! I even envisioned becoming so enthused with breastfeeding that I would go on to train as a lactation consultant to help other women get the most out of nursing.

Imagine my shock and disappointment when baby did not agree to the sweet, zen-like feeds I signed up for!

My knowledge may be limited but I knew breastfeeding should not hurt. Pain almost always means poor latch. Except that everyone (the nurses, the aids, the doctors, even veteran nursing moms who offered their help – it’s a really small town!) told me his latch was perfect. Tongue ties were ruled out (very important! – this is probably the most common cause of a bad latch that looks fine from the outside). Eventually, they would give up with a “pain is normal at first, you need to power through it”. (Did you know that about a generation ago, doctors actually recommended that pregnant women rub steel wool on their nipples to desensitize them? I’m not sure how widespread this was, but in my quest for solutions, I encountered many older moms who had breastfed kids 20+ years ago and spoke very highly of this practice. Personally, would not recommend.)

Our small, remote hospital had no lactation professionals on staff and it would be a few days before I would have access to the knowledgeable public health nurses (they visit after your first night home and we had an extended hospital stay due to birth complications). A lot of people did their best and I am so so so grateful for the patience and compassion that were shown to me. That said, advice came in two formats. One was like those bad drawing tutorials: “here’s how you draw the eyes and the nose…then draw the rest of the owl” (“here’s how you get the baby interested in the boob and to open his mouth…then you breastfeed him”). The other was like puzzle pieces that I couldn’t quite fit together. Something about breast compressions, something about skin-to-skin, something about un-latching and relatching…but why?

The good news was that it eventually got better! I did get some help from public health, though by then my nipples were like ground beef and I needed to heal. I did a lot of googling (not very helpful, actually – which is why I decided to write this post) and a lot of experimenting. By 6 weeks I was completely pain-free.

So I’m sharing what worked for me (or what would have worked had I discovered it sooner). Hopefully someone who needs it will come across it and reach pain free status in less time! Continue reading

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The Places You’ll Go (with Baby)

Disclaimer: The Amazon links are affiliate. I figured that if I’m linking products I may as well create an opportunity to reinvest in the blog. I’m not sponsored by anyone and none of the other links have any sort of affiliation.

I don’t know if it’s unusual or not, but my little guy loves going out.

Ed and I are homebody couch potatoes (when I’m not dragging him around the world) so we joked that our kids would rebel by being athletic and social. Guess what guys? It’s already started!

This post was originally part of my 6 month check-in/public notes, but my old habit of turning everything into a guide resurfaced, giving life to a “this is how we go out” walkthrough.

Leaving the House: Babywearing or Strollering?

While I was pregnant (and well before), I was convinced I would primarily babywear.

During the Epic Journey, we made a 10 day stop in Tokyo where I watched local moms comfortably navigate the city with their babies and toddlers nestled tightly against them. I also watched tourist moms fight battle after battle against unruly strollers. The message was clear: babywearing for the win!

When my turn came to lug my child around, my attitude became more nuanced.
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The 6 month check-in

Me (before maternity leave): While I’m on leave, I’m going to write every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes! Gotta get those skillz back!
Me (while on leave): Ooooh 15 minutes to myself! I wonder how many World of Warcraft dailies I can fit in?

I eventually let my subscription run out and so now here we are.

These days, though, writing is more like this:

Baby actually fell asleep for a nap!
*makes tea*
*tidies up kitchen*
*hangs laundry* (cloth diapering, yo!)
*sit at computer*
Time’s up! Baby’s awake!

But by keeping it up, bit by bit, after a few weeks I have enough written for a post!

Maternity Leave

More than in 6 months in, I’m now solidly past the halfway point.

I was embarrassingly excited about my first Mother’s Day! We celebrated by taking a nice walk around Lake Annette in Jasper. It also ended up being the warmest day of the summer, with lots of families sunning themselves on the beaches.


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Motherhood is so Glamourous

The glamour of motherhood dawned on me in the wee hours of the morning during my first or second week as a mom. I woke up with my front soaking wet. Night sweats again? Maybe? Doesn’t feel quite right… Then I figured it out. Milk. Leaking. Everywhere. MILK!

That was topped a few days ago. I was all dressed to go out. I pick up baby from his nap and he proceeds to vomit all over me. Fine, I didn’t really want to wear that outfit anyway. I put him down for a last minute diaper change and he poops on his change mat. I clean it up, only for him to produce a baseball size ball of poop before my very eyes. I swear that if that change mat hadn’t been a handmade gift from my mother, it would have ended up in the Diaper Genie along with the 15 wipes it took to clean it up. Oh and did I mention that I was out of disposable wipes? Luckily this happened the day after I had cut up old clothes to make cleaning rags.

The Two Month Check-In

The first two weeks are pretty rough. The advice I wish I had received sooner was “the two first weeks should be bedrest“. Me, I was desperate to morph into a domestic goddess now that I didn’t have a giant belly in the way or spend all my waking hours at my job. Exhausted from blood loss and being up all night, monopolized by a tiny, voracious beast who wants to eat 24/7 and in pain from my poor, poor boobs, I was probably as far as you could get from any kind of goddess. And newborns are angry, ungrateful things. I swear my little guy had two modes: unhappy and less unhappy.

After that, it got better. Little one figured out sleeping and eating (glorious!). Then he started making eye contact. Then smiling. Then making cute noises. Then laughing. And now, while I’m still totally not a domestic goddess, I’m having the time of my life.

My reflections and the bits of wisdom I picked up along the way:

1- Bonding can be a gradual thing: A lot of moms, myself included, are shocked when they aren’t overwhelmed with love when their newborn appears on their chest. I had written it off as my baby wasn’t fully alive for his first few hours, but it seems that even moms with healthy babies go through this. I may even dare say that I suspect the majority of new moms aren’t feeling it right away, despite their bragging. I think my feelings the first few days were more along the lines of shell-shocked. It’s so weird. One minute you don’t have a baby, then someone hands you one and you’re responsible for it forever. Mind-boggling. Anyway, I started using terms of endearment and saying gentle things right off the bat. Over time, I meant them more and more. And once baby started smiling and laughing in return, it was a done deal.

2- Breastfeeding: When women describe it as a journey, they aren’t kidding. I swear that the first few weeks, whenever someone asked me how I was doing, all I could answer was “my boobs hurt“. Labour was painful, but at least it was only a few hours. Breastfeeding pain lasts weeks. It takes over your mind and body and makes it hard to do anything. It became obvious to me why a lot of moms find breastfeeding takes a toll on their mental health. Then one day, around 5 and a half weeks in, the pain just stopped. Breastfeeding’s been great ever since.

3- Cloth diapers: My mom used cloth diapers on all her kids. How she managed to figure it out before the internet, I have no idea. But anyway, I wanted to carry on the tradition, hopefully saving money and landfill space. Several weeks in, I don’t think I’m saving a whole lot of money (today’s fancy pocket diapers are way more of a luxury item than my mom’s re-purposed flannel sheets), but I do admit that I really enjoy the micromanagement that comes with cloth diapers. Insert strategies, washing schedules, cover rotations… Makes me feel alive! Ed refuses to use cloth and I do try to avoid having reusables on when I feel that little guy is going to be messy so I probably do cloth like 75% of the time. It would tough to maintain if I had to go back to work, though. It’s not hugely time consuming but it is a commitment.

4-There’s way too much overthinking: How do I get baby to sleep in his bed? How do I drop the swaddle? How do I manage naps while going out? How do I get into a routine? At less than 2 months old! I understand not everyone has the luxury of parental leave and need results right away. I also may have an exceptionally chill baby, but I got him to sleep in his bed by putting him in his bed. I dropped the swaddle by not swaddling him. (He seemed to hate it after the first 2-3 weeks anyway – when we ditched it was when he started sleeping better.) Going out is how I get him to nap (I suspect he’ll be a roller coaster aficionado when he grows up – he lives his best life when the rest of us are motion sick). We don’t have a routine down yet, but one is emerging organically. I feel like all the (conflicting) how-to guides out there are treated more like recipes than the troubleshooting suggestions they are supposed to be.

5- Cats: Everyone IRL wants to know about our three firstborn. Our older two don’t care. One isn’t a fan of the crying. He has a similar relationship with baby as he does with the vacuum cleaner and coffee grinder. The other is a sweetie who actually tried to groom our little one. (Baby wasn’t impressed, cat tongues are a tad exfoliating. Probably kinda unhygienic too.) Our young cat, though, is jealous AF. Whenever I’m feeding, he tries to walk on me, jumps on forbidden counters, knocks stuff on the floor, claws the furniture… Oh and I gave up on keeping the cats out of empty baby beds. Look up “futility” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of someone chasing cats away from baby stuff. Soft blankets make reasonable baby sleep space protectors. Obviously the cats (and the blankets) are removed when the beds are in use by their rightful owner.

François, trying so hard to be a caring big brother.

6- I don’t know how anyone can do this by themselves: I’ve never had more respect and admiration for single parents than the first time I sleepily handed baby over to my husband and said “please take your child”. The key our sanity (and our hygiene…) has definitely been taking shifts with the little one. It’s hard enough to make food and scrub pink stuff off the bathtub while keeping the little human from shrieking when you have two sets of hands. It blows my mind how some people do it with one. (And some people are single parents to twins! Like how does that even work?!?)

The Final Word

It’s like a rite of passage: Have a baby and suddenly share milk, vomiting and poop tales. The moment where I fully realized the glamour of motherhood, though, was when I put baby down on the bed to grab something in the room. A half hour later, it occured to me that I was still standing over him. The world around me had faded away and I’d been making squeaks, fart noises and silly faces to my giggling spectator the entire time.

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Starting April 1, Baby Box Co. Boxes Won’t Be Distributed in Canada Anymore

I’m quite heartbroken about this. I was planning to write a Baby Box post to let everyone know how how awesome the box is, but instead I’m writing a “get it while you can!” post.

I ironically don’t have a picture that doesn’t violate almost every safe sleep rule outlined in the course you take to get the box… Rest assured the blanket and bear are photo props only!

The concept is this: you watch videos on safe sleep on the Baby Box Co. website and when you pass the test at the end, you can order or pick up a box (if you live near a pick up spot) that works as a lightweight, portable bassinet. It also comes with some nice freebies and samples that vary based on supply and region. (An unboxing video I watched even had a box that came with a membership to the local public library, which I thought was brilliant.)

I suppose switching from the box to a sleep sack makes sense since I don’t think many people actually use the box for its intended purpose. Shipping a large piece of cardboard can’t be very economical either. I absolutely used my box, though, and loved it. My little guy was getting kinda cramped in it for overnight use by 4 weeks (the company says babies should fit until 5-6 months old in developed countries, which I find hard to believe – at 6 weeks he only has an inch leeway), but I still keep it in the living room as a nap space next to my computer desk.

It looks like US parents can still get the box (plus other rewards for the completing the various courses on the site) – so US parents who share articles about the Finish box and lament their lack of boxes can go to the Baby Box Co website and rejoice, but Canadians only have two days left to get theirs.

For readers who enjoy unboxings, here’s a look at what was in my box:

Everything together. The box is easy to assemble upon reception. (For some reason, I was expecting them to ship it pre-assembled, but it makes sense this way as it would be easily damaged in transport).

The box came with a onesie. It’s plain and white, but the quality is great and the fit is perfect.

I hadn’t opened this sample from Lansinoh, so it wasn’t until I was going through my pictures that I noticed that it contains breastmilk bags. I was considering buying some now that my pumped supply has outgrown the demand, so this was a fortunate discovery.

This hat and diaper cover are super cute! I don’t know when I would use them, but they are adorable!

Can never have too many muslin blankets!

Every sample bag comes with some kind of baby shampoo and soap. Not complaining, though, I love the travel sizes.

The bag everything came in. Not sure what I’ll use it for yet, but it is a nice bag.

And the final product put together! It also comes with a properly fitted mattress, mattress protective cover and mattress sheet (not shown). The only complaint I might have is that there’s no way to obtain more than one sheet, so you have to go sheetless during laundry time.

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A Baby’s Story, Or, How Almost Nothing Ever Goes to Plan

Content Warning: Close call for baby but everything turns out ok in the end. Also possibly too much information (TMI) and slightly graphic… the easily grossed out may not enjoy.

It felt like it would never happen, but finally, on Feb 10, baby boy Garrett joined our family. He was a big one at 8lbs15oz and 52 cm long (exactly the same length I was as a baby, interestingly, and a few ounces lighter).

We are all doing well and adjusting to having our new, always hungry, family member.

“Oh, I’ll never share pictures of my child on the internet.”
– Me, prior to becoming a proud mom.

In my last weeks of pregnancy, I really enjoyed reading birth stories and looked forward to sharing my own. It ended up being unexpectedly eventful, especially since my pregnancy was so uneventful, but fortunately everything worked out and we have a healthy mom and baby.
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