Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Why Moms Need Other Moms

Because other moms are the only ones who get it.

Because no matter how much childless friends "understand" how much work it is to take care of kids, there's still that sense of envy that you don't have to "work," the implied question: "but what do you do all day?"

Because no-one else in the world actually gives a shit the way you think they might about every little thing your precious baby says or does, but another mom will at least hear you out before launching into an equally dull story about her own little angel's exploits.

Because only another woman with two or three or four kids in tow will see you unshowered, braless, wearing what are obviously last night's payjamas and a pair of flip-flops out in public as you trudge your troops to school and think it's perfectly normal.

Because while some days you can run a business, run a home, run the errands, run the carpool, manage the soccer team, raise three kids and find time to squeeze in a workout and write a blog post, some days it's more like, "quick head count - yup, all present - and I remember feeding them today. Parenting success!"

Because someone without kids might judge you for having a glass of wine at 11am the day their grandparents offer to babysit; another mom will help you search for the corkscrew.*

Because sometimes you're like, "Is it bedtime yet? Oh, it's only four-thirty..."

Because only another mom can understand how you can love another human being so much it completely changes you, how they become your entire world and you would cheerfully cut off a limb or kill for them while at the same time wanting to strangle them for five minutes of peace and quiet - and how "you are my heart and soul and universe" and "please shut the fuck up for five bloody minutes" can exist at the same time and in equal measure in your head.

* "Corkscrew": Who are we kidding? Pop the plastic tab on that box of wine and proudly siphon yourself a glass, sister.


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Bedtime for Baby

(sigh.)
Mommy is really very easily amused. And I'm honestly not sure she's all that bright.

We have been playing this peek-a-boo game for twenty minutes straight now. Peek-a-boo. (Honestly? You thought I disappeared when I put a towel over my head? I'm RIGHT HERE.) But it seems to make her happy, so I suppose we can carry on for a while.

Although I am getting rather tired.

I don't know what time it is (they keep the clocks absurdly high up in this house) but it's dark outside and the other boys have been in bed for a long time. Honestly, if I wasn't able to take one for the team and stay awake to keep Mommy entertained, I don't know what she'd do. Those other two are bloody lucky I'm willing to cover the night shift for them.

Oh, Mommy. More kisses? (sigh.) Do you never get tired of kisses? Mmm, you smell good Mommy. Let's snuggle. Wait - wait - that's my tummy - ahahaha - omigosh that tickles - wait - stop - ahaha - no don't stop - that tickles - ahahaha - oh Mommy. I love you Mommy. Yes, big squeeze. Yes, I'm your baby.

Wait - what are you doing? Why are you handing me to the Daddy? I didn't authorize this. Where are you going? Mommy, where are you going? Omigosh-Mommy-where-are-you-going? Wahwahwahwahwahwah (gasp) wahwahwahwahwah, oh thank God you're back. Come here, pick me up. Immediately. Don't do that again. EVER. We really must discuss this bathroom thing. You have taken me to the bathroom before - when we're out running errands, when we're in a restaurant, when I'm throwing a fit and it's just the two of us at home. You know this, and I know this. I really see no reason for you to just hand me off to the Daddy simply because he happens to be here. No offence, Daddy, I think you're super. But you ARE NOT Mommy.

All right. I'm hungry. Feed me, please. Immediately.
No, not an orange. Did I not just clearly say banana? No, not a cracker, either. My God, are you deaf? I WANT A BANANA. I realize I don't have the firmest grasp on language yet, I'm working on it, but I'm making the sounds and pointing and, frankly, we spend all day together every single day. You are usually able to work out what I'm saying. Put a little more effort into it, please. We're in this together here.

Now I'm thirsty. Water. Where's my sippy cup?
No, nevermind, I'm not thirsty. Let's see what else we can do with this water, shall we? I've noticed if you pour it out of the cup it's a lot more fun - look, it goes everywhere, and now we can splash and play and smear it around - hey, what are you doing? I was playing with that. I am trying to keep us both entertained here, and frankly, you're not giving me a lot to work with.

(sigh.) Forget it. I'm getting backup.

Wait, Mommy. Wait. Why are you picking me up? I just climbed up onto my big brother's bed. Which was a fair amount of work, I'll have you know. I could have had him up in just a minute. He could have helped us. He's lots of fun.

Ohhh, your sweater's soft. I'm just going to snuggle in for a minute. Don't worry, I won't fall asleep on you. Just...want...mmmmm...comfy. Love you, Mommy.


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Monday, 28 October 2013

Thumb sucking

My youngest, now fourteen months old, sucks his thumb. He always has - well, since he was old enough to find both his thumb and mouth.

Sucking is a completely natural, instinctive reflex in babies - obviously linked to breastfeeding. The sucking reflex helps baby self-soothe when he is hungry or tired, and is a way for him to calm and comfort himself, even helping him fall asleep easier at naptime or bedtime or if he half wakes up during the night.

I've had a few moms question the fact that I let Baby suck his thumb, which causes me more than a little confusion. First of all, "let him?" His little thumb will end up in his mouth by instinct without any help from me. It's attached to him. There's very little I could do to stop it, even if I wanted to - which I don't. 

Thumb sucking is totally natural and incredibly useful. I see no harm in the habit, nor is there any evidence that it is in any way harmful for babies. According to the Canadian Dental Association, thumb sucking is completely normal, natural and harmless until the permanent adult teeth begin to come in around age five. The majority of babies and young children who suck their thumbs have stopped by this age anyway. If mine doesn't, we'll deal with breaking the habit at that time. But it makes no sense to me to stop a habit that helps my child soothe and comfort himself, fall asleep easier and settle down when he's tired or fussy or worked up simply because it's a habit that he shouldn't have several years down the road. To me, that would be like trying to sleep train a four-month-old who requires feeding every few hours, or potty train a one-year-old who's body doesn't tell him when he has to go until he's already going. It simply doesn't make any sense.

Those same moms who tell me I need to break my son of the bad habit of thumb-sucking have also told me I should use a pacifier instead. I have had dozens of other parents tell me that pacifiers are so much better for babies to suck than thumbs. Why, I asked? Oh, something about the teeth and the jaw. So I looked it up. 

The Canadian Dental Association, while acknowledging that it's perfectly normal for babies to suck their thumbs, does recommend using a pacifier if possible - because a pacifier is something that the parent can control access to. Not because it is in any way better for the child's health or development. Sucking anything, thumb or pacifier, is equally acceptable until their adult teeth start growing in, at which point they need to be weaned of the sucking habit (again, whether it's thumb or pacifier) because it could affect the growth of the teeth and jaw. The only reason a pacifier is suggested is because at this point, if they are five years old and still sucking, it might be easier for a parent to break the habit of sucking a pacifier than that of sucking a thumb. As far as a habit for your baby goes, there is nothing better about sucking a pacifier than sucking a thumb.

My baby sucks his thumb when he's sleepy, when he wants to nurse, when he needs quiet time, when he needs to settle himself down and have a snuggle. It soothes him, it comforts him, it makes him happy and feels good for him. It helps him to fall asleep at night and helps him to sleep more soundly and for longer. To me, these are all positive associations - and with no known negative associations at all, he can keep sucking his thumb for as long as he likes until those grown-up teeth start to pop through.


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Friday, 25 October 2013

How we'll miss those made-up words

There's something so special and heartbreakingly sweet about those made-up words our little ones have when they're just learning to speak, their own interpretations of names and words they can't pronounce and those words they've invented out of the clear blue sky to explain and describe the world around them. But those words disappear so quickly; they grow so fast, they learn so fast, they develop so fast - and of course we want them to. But there's a little ache of loss accompanying the maternal pride each time they outgrow any of their sweet little babyish ways.

Youngest son turned two this week. My brand-new, bouncy little baby boy - two years old already! It's amazing how quickly time flies. I swear I was pregnant not two weeks ago. How could that baby be this big already? This birthday is even more poignant for us with our youngest, now that we've decided our family is finally complete, because with each birthday, each milestone, each developmental step we're moving further away from that baby and toddler stage of our lives.

Some of my favourite little made-up words have been the names that my boys have called one another over the years as the tricky sounds of consonants rolled around their tongues - by far the funniest is our youngest's most recent effort; he calls his eldest brother "Nahnah" and after several variations on his other brother's name he's settled on - wait for it - "not Nahnah."

For years, every time we went out to dinner it was to a "restronot" (you know, where astronauts would eat). Our eldest's favourite food was "kageeze" (cottage cheese), his brother's was "foopfoops" (Fruit Loops) and the youngest likes "balalalars" (granola bars.)

There are even a few as they get older: my Grade Two was telling me just this week that his teacher told him not to write in the margarine - the little pink line that goes down the side of the page. And Baby has recently made up a new all-purpose word, "she-dar" that seems to describe everything he can't pronounce. But every day he's growing and learning and trying so hard to be just as grown-up as his brothers, and every day he can say a new word he's never said before or pronounce a word he couldn't manage before.

It's inevitable, it's a part of growing up, and it's what we want as parents; but as our babies grow and learn and those sweetly lisped little made-up words start to disappear we realize with a pang just how many things we'll miss about these few short baby years.

What were some of your little one's made-up words? Let me know in the comments below!


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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Custom cakes: icing or fondant? (A how-to guide to fondant for beginners by a beginner)

kid's birthday cake, Cars The Movie, Tow Mater, cake, birthday party
I love doing custom cakes for my kids' birthdays - a favourite character, movie or sports themed cake handmade by Mom has become one of our family's special birthday traditions. Over the years I've made a couple of dinosaurs, a pirate ship, a treasure chest, a racetrack, Lightning McQueen, Mater, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Mickey Mouse, and a couple of soccer balls.
pull-apart cake, cupcakes, kids birthday, kids birthday cake
birthday cake, kids birthday cakeTraditionally, one is meant to use fondant for these sorts of finicky cake decorating projects - it's much more precise, it can be cut and molded and the colours don't melt or bleed into one another. It's the perfect medium to turn a dessert into a piece of art - but I've never tried it. My cakes may not have been perfect - but I'm pretty proud of how they've turned out, even with plain old drippy, imperfect icing.


kids birthday cake, kids' birthdays, custom cakes

This year, though, with plans for a Thomas cake and a rare soccer-free weekend to prepare for my youngest son's birthday party, I thought I'd try my hand at fondant. Thomas is a pretty basic shape (I'm not terribly artistic) and uses primary colours so I thought it would be a perfect beginner project.


It didn't turn out perfectly, but that's more due to my lack of artistic skills, I think, rather than the trickiness of working with the fondant; and, given my artistic limitations, I'm relatively happy with my Thomas cake.

 Here's my how-to guide to fondant for beginners by a beginner:

1. Materials: flexible cutting board, sharp blade, icing sugar, water, paintbrush (and fondant, obviously).

2. Image to copy. If you're not the artistic sort, find an exact image to copy so you don't have to change the angle. Fortunately, we have no shortage of Thomas-related items in this house.

3. Colouring. I bought the plain white fondant and used plain old food colouring to tint it. It was messy, but it worked.

4. Sprinkle your surface with icing sugar - I used a flexible plastic cutting board to work on in case the fondant stuck. Break off a piece of fondant to the size you need, knead for a minute or two, then roll out on your cutting board to 1/8 inch thick. Make sure any fondant you're not using yet is covered - wrap it tightly in plastic or seal it in tupperware as it dries out very quickly.

5. Use a sharp blade to cut out your shapes, dust fingers with icing sugar to pick up, and place gently on your cooled, iced cake. Brush the back of each fondant shape with water to "glue" it to the previous piece of fondant.

6. To ice on top of fondant (for finicky little details like eyeballs or thin lines) wait a few hours for the fondant to set, then pipe icing on.

Have you tried working with fondant? Please share your tips & pics in the comments below!


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Monday, 21 October 2013

Halloween goodies

Halloween is a great time to exercise your creativity in the kitchen - whether cooking, baking, or just decorating ready-made items you can really go wild making your family's Halloween meal a fun, spooky celebration. I love to theme out all our family holiday meals and try to do a little something different every year - I can't wait to try a few of these fabulous online finds this Halloween!
Stuffed Pepper Jack-o-lanterns
Photo: littletownhomelove.blogspot.ca
Ghost Pops
Banana Ghost pops
Photo: nuggetmarket.com
Candy Corn Treats
Candy Corn Treats
Photo: blog.tinyprints.com
Witches' Hats
Witches' Hats
Photo: bettycrocker.com
Marshmallow Witches Recipe
Marshmallow Witches
Photo: tasteofhome.com
wtich legs
Witch leg cupcakes
Photo: blog.tinyprints.com
donut-eyeballs-halloween-treat.jpg
Donut Hole Eyeballs
Photo: mademan.com
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Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Halloween decor

Halloween is a great time to go all-out theming and decorating for the season, particularly if you have kids. If (like me) you're not particularly fond of Halloween decor in all its orange-and-black gaudy glory - but (also like me) you are rather fond of your children who happen to adore Halloween, you might like some of these slightly more muted, less tacky decorating ideas for the season.
Creepy fireplace mantel
Photo: digsdigs.com
Fireplace decor
Photo: fancycribs.com

Silver painted pumpkins
Photo: petitelefant.com
Spooky sideboard
Photo: fancycribs.com
Dark tablescape
Photo: la-bouilloire-noire.blogspot.ca
Hanging ghosts
Photo: iblue.hubpages.com
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Monday, 14 October 2013

Thanksgiving...so much to be thankful for!

Thanksgiving weekend is a time to celebrate family and friends and everything we have to be thankful for. It's a time to enjoy all the great outdoors has to offer in autumn - warm, golden sunshiney days and crisp, cool nights, brilliant crimson and blazing orange leaves on the trees and crunching underfoot, the smell of colder weather to come hanging in the air.

It's a mini holiday between summer and winter, an extra long weekend to cozy up at home for some extra-special family time. It's a time to eat too much and drink too much and feel grateful for the incredible life we're blessed with.

Thanksgiving with the flamingos.
We spent one beautiful, sunny day at the Toronto Zoo, celebrating the holiday with some of our favourite lions and tigers and bears (and elephants and monkeys and giraffes and penguins...) and another afternoon at the apple orchard eating our fill and picking bag after bag of crisp, juicy apples for our holiday baking.








Our big Thanksgiving dinner was up north at my parents' place - a great big noisy jumble of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and what always seems like dozens of children underfoot, one group gathered around the bar, one clustered in the living room, a game of pool in one room, Wii sports in another, a dozen conversations at once, the game playing on a couple of tv's, kids and toys everywhere and way more food and drink than seems possible for one family to consume.

For our own, smaller-scale celebration we invited the in-laws over. I made my first-ever turkey with all the trimmings - sweet potatoes, stuffing, eggplant, squash, beans, salad, bread and everything smothered in gravy - and an apple pie and cake with our fresh-from-the-orchard just-picked apples. The kids gathered pinecones and leaves and made handprint turkeys for decorations.

And now, as the holiday weekend comes to a close and the festivities wind down we loll about lazily on the living room couches, overfed and overstuffed with too much turkey, too much wine and too many sweets, grateful to be where we love best with those we love best and thankful for our incredible life together.


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Friday, 11 October 2013

Thanksgiving desserts

Turkey, shmurkey. As far as I'm concerned the star of Thanksgiving dinner is dessert. Or, in our house, desserts. Several desserts. As many different desserts as I can make with all the rich, sumptuously sweet tastes of the season: maple and caramel, apple and pumpkin, cinnamon and ginger, pies and cakes and crumbles and tarts - the richer and sweeter the better!

Here are some of my favourite finds for this holiday season. I can't wait to add some of these to our Thanksgiving table!
Vanilla Apple Crisp with Caramel Sauce
Apple Crisp with Caramel Sauce
Photo: closetcooking.com
apple pie, baking
My own amazing homemade apple pie!
Photo: littletownhomelove.blogspot.ca
cranberry, caramel and almond tartlet
Cranberry, Caramel and Almond Tart
Photo: smittenkitchen.com/blog
Pumpkin Roll Cake
Pumpkin Roll Cake
Photo: blog.foodnetwork.com
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Pumpkin & Cream Cheese Chocolate Souffles
Photo: ivillage.ca
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Kid-friendly Candy-filled Cornucopia
Photo: .ivillage.ca
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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Thanksgiving craft ideas

candle holder, autumn craft, crafts with leaves, Thanksgiving decor
Autumn leaf candle holder craft
Photo: gingerbreadsnowflakes.com
Autumn is a great time of year for crafting with the kids - they love collecting the brightly coloured leaves that fall off the trees and using the colours of nature to inspire their artwork.

Here are some of my favourite finds this year for fun fall kid-friendly crafts - great projects to keep them entertained and then show off as adorable handmade Thanksgiving table centrepieces or decorations for your home.

We'll be making a few of these for sure!
autumn craft, pumpkin craft, Thanksgiving decor, turkey craft, kids crafts
Pumpkin turkey craft
Photo: easypreschoolcraft.blogspot.ca
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Clay pot turkey craft
Photo: dotcomwomen.com
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Paper bag turkey craft
Photo: ourcraftsnthings.com
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Pinecone turkey craft
Photo: swankybaby.net
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Pinecone turkey craft
Photo: mycupoverflows-johnson.blogspot.ca
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Turkey bowling!
Photo: makeandtakes.com

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Construction paper handprint turkey craft
Photo: learningenglish-esl.blogspot.ca
handprint crafts, kids crafts, turkey crafts
Painted handprint turkey craft
Photo: thecraftycrow.net
handprint craft, turkey craft, kids crafts
Painted handprint turkey craft
Photo: happiestmommies.wordpress.com

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Craft foam tree of thanks craft
Photo: familyholiday.net
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Paint & Q-tip fall tree craft
Photo: laclassedellamaestravalentina.blogspot.ca
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Construction paper pumpkin mobile craft
Photo: allfortheboys.com


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Monday, 7 October 2013

Thanksgiving decor ideas

Fall is such a beautiful time for seasonal decorating and bringing the spectacular colours of nature indoors, but I am not a fan of the typical fake craft leaves, twig and faux-flower wreaths, cartoonish garden scarecrows and garish orange pumpkin-themed tchatchkes. Here are some of my favourite finds this season for a comfortably contemporary Thanksgiving:
contemporary Thanksgiving, decoupage, pumpkin, autumn decor, Thanksgiving centrepiece
Photo: nynewdesign.com
silver, painted pumpkins, modern Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving centrepiece, autumn decor
Sexy silver painted pumpkins
Photo: petitelefant.com
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Flower pumpkin decorations
Photo: nynewdesign.com
pumpkins
Simple seasonal decor
Photo: simplemom.net
Natural, seasonal tabletop decor
Photo: eugeniamariaefendy.blogspot.ca
Warm, elegant, seasonal tabletop decor
Photo: eugeniamariaefendy.blogspot.ca
Thanksgiving, wagon, front porch, outdoors, pumpkins, autumn, front entrance
Autumn front entrance decor
Photo: flooringhunt.com
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Pinecone & berry wreath
Photo: sherrisreadingjubilee.blogspot.ca
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