Cottage Packing for Todders

Is it just me, or does packing happen last minute for everyone? Regardless of how much notice I have I feel like I am always in a mad dash to get out the door. My children use so much of what we need to bring with us right up until it’s go time; so packing is pressure filled and by far, the least relaxing part of our vacation time.

I try to think of everything that might be helpful in a variety of hypothetical situations because, while I can get away with forgetting a few things of my own, if my children are comfortable and accommodated the rest of our trip is that more relaxing for everyone – and that makes this whole packing ordeal worth it!

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If last minute packing is required – so to is a packing list! So, here is my:

“Week-Long Cottage (Summer in Canada) Getaway Packing List – Toddler Edition”

Clothes

  • T-shirts -6
  • Long-sleeve shirts – 2
  • Sweaters – 2
  • Shorts – 4
  • Pants – 2
  • Jumpers/onesies – 2
  • Socks (mornings can be cold!)
  • Pajamas – 6
  • Bathing suits – 1-2
  • Running shoes
  • Rain jacket/muddy buddy/rain boots

Food

  • Sippy cups/toddler sized utensils
  • Bottles and milk
  • Kid friendly snacks
  • High chair

Play-Time

  • Beach towels
  • Sunhats
  • Water/dock shoes (sometimes docks are splintery/areas of forests are prickily)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sand toys (I went to the dollar store to pick up some new buckets, shovels, beach ball, farm animals, etc.)
  • Floatation devices (water wings or life jackets)
  • Mesh bag for transporting wet/sandy things around
  • Bug catcher
  • Books (I went to the library and took out a stack of books my children had never seen before)
  • Quiet time activity – we like magnetic tiles and building blocks because they are mess free, good for all ages, and if you loose a piece the kids won’t notice…

Night-Time

  • Lovie, Bunny, “Banky”, that thing they can’t sleep without
  • Sound machine, nightlight, or anything else that helps them sleep at home
  • Pacifiers
  • Pillow + sheets + one extra change of sheets (or at least an extra flat sheet) – because accidents happen, and so does sand and water, and laundry is rare/time consuming while on vacation. Also, we totally change out any provided bed linens in a rental (someone elses personal space) when we arrive so we don’t have to worry about their laundry. At the end of the trip, we replace what they had out and get out the door.

Emergency

  • Flashlight
  • Bandaids
  • Bug Spray
  • Aloe vera for burns and Lavender oil for bites
  • Baby powder (miracle worker for getting sand off skin)
  • Shampoo
  • Facecloths
  • Tweezers
  • Polysporin
  • Advil
  • Benadryl
  • Ziplock bags

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Did I forget anything? What are your “must have” summer vacation with toddler items?

Happy Cottaging!

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Weaning

It’s International Breastfeeding Week and I’ve just finished weaning my youngest child. It’s so bitter sweet – because nursing is so sweet, but so is freedom, and so is watching your little one grow. And I would be lying if I said that no tears were shed, but not if I told you that they were all mine. So, I thought I would try to type out how I weaned my children because, that’s the phase I am currently at in my breastfeeding journey, and because, for us, it really worked – so much so that I could say that, in many ways, they weaned themselves.

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And I think (or I’d like to believe) that the spirit of International Breastfeeding Week (and the whole “normalize breastfeeding” movement) is not just about advocating for breastfeeding – in public, in general, through difficulty, short term, or extended, etc – but about creating an accepting space for our experience and conversation on the subject – whether you’re all about it, or you can’t do it, or you don’t want to, or you’re weaning. It can feel like such an independant experience, and it certainly is personal, but it is something we can share in – and sharing is good.

The way I see it, from the moment I gave birth to my children they began a journey to become their own people – as breastfed infants my children relied on me, quite completely – but I believe that part of my responsibility, as their mother, is to help them grow into themselves (and in many ways, apart from me (in the sense that they started inside me, next to my heart…)). So I don’t mean for this to sound cold, it comes from a place of deep love and admiration of who they are as individuals. Though I strive to help them grow into strong independent people it is of the utmost importance to me that they feel loved, supported, safe, nurtured, and never forced by me along the way. All this is to help frame my perspective on weaning – I see it as an important step in the development of their person, perhaps lovingly encouraged, but never forced. The last thing I would want is for my children to feel rejected, or like I am not there for them, so it is with pride that I say that I guided them through a process of self-weaning around their first birthday, after they had grown their first 12-teeth.

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For the first 6-months of their lives they were strictly breastfed – they had their first solid foods at 6-months (but I will leave that for another post!). I nursed them on demand well beyond their infant stage and throughout the entire period that they were living off breast milk alone.

Once they started getting comfortable with solids (sometime after they turned 6-months) I began regimenting our nursing sessions. I started the gradual shift from “whenever you want” to “let’s wait at least 2.5-3-hours, between feedings”. This never needed to be an issue and I am not sure they ever even noticed the change in routine. They were starting to learn how to crawl and their attention was more often focused on exploration at this point in their lives. I made sure to offer lots of snacks and water in the intervals between nursings. And we keep such a busy schedule that our switch from on-demand to scheduled nursing sessions was well integrated.

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Archer took to solids eagerly from the start so his throughout-the-day nursing decreased at 6-months naturally – he enjoyed food. Atlas’ nursing increased from 6-9-months – though I kept him on a schedule he took advantage of all nursing opportunities. Both my children had 6-teeth by this point, which is a lot for this age and they handled their early teeth differently. Archer enjoyed useing them to chew solid food while Atlas prefered the sore-gum comfort of nursing, which is all to say that each baby (however similar) will have their own preferences.

Around 10-months my children went through another big developmental leap. They were learning to walk and interact with the world in an all consuming sort of way that I took full advantage of. Aided by their distractions and the alternative comfort methods we had put in place I stopped nursing based on time intervals and started nursing them based on their sleep routine. At this point I was nursing them upon waking, before nap #1, before nap #2, and before bed.

Archer was sleeping through the night well before this point but Atlas still woke once per night so Atlas also got a middle-of-the-night feed, in addition.

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A couple notes on things that played a role in our journey:

1. I personally don’t offer my children milk with meals – I do this for a few reasons but one of the unexpected benefits of it was that it helped to transition them into associating milk with comfort, settling down, and sleep, and separate it from meals and daily activities.

2. My children were never given a bottle until this point in their lives, which meant that before I could wean my children from breastmilk I needed to first work on weaning them off of the breast, and onto a bottle.

3. I pretty much always have healthy snacks and water around and because I am a stay/work from home mom I am always available to them. Perhaps it is easier to wean children when you are around to provide constant nurturing and sustenance or perhaps it is easier to wean when you are not around your children 24/7 – but I do think this plays a role in the journey.

4. Our sleep routine is involved and consistent. One of the key elements is their comfort object (Archer’s “banky” and Atlas’ “lovie”) that remain consistent regardless of whether they are nursed to sleep or not, which I think helps dampen the shock to a lack of breast involvement. We still say “night night” to Toronto, we still rock in the same chair, with the sound machine on… the only thing that changed was the method of milk delivery.

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After we set our new feedings-around-sleep routine we started to gradually swap them out. The first to go was the middle-of-the-night feed and that was all Atlas’ doing. Atlas replaced feed #5 with sleep – yay! Once I moved him into his own room he started sleeping through the night. And yes, it totally took me over 10-months to get him out of my bedroom – I just so loved having him close, so much!

The next feed we replaced was the first feed of the day. Because their daddy’s around in the mornings he was able to offer Atlas a bottle of pumped breast milk (which is often something a transitioning baby will have trouble doing with mama because the milk delivery method of preference is so close by). This is a good feed to transition first because if your baby isn’t completely accustomed to taking a bottle, and isn’t getting a “full” feed in, a breakfast of solid food options comes right after. In a short amount of time the boys began to accept the bottle comfortably and 3-nursing-sessions-a-day (with daddy offering a bottle of pumped breastmilk first thing in the morning) became our new normal.

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The next transition came in two parts. That morning bottle of breastmilk turned into a morning bottle of whole organic cows milk and, once that was going well, I started being able to offer them a bottle before their shortest nap. Our biggest nursing session became our before-bed-for-the-night feed. I held onto our nap #1 feed mainly to keep my supply up and to help ensure the transition wasn’t too extreme (on either of us).

When Archer was 11.5-months old I was 6-months pregnant with Atlas. He was down to 2-nursing sessions a day and comfortably taking a bottle (of the whole organic cow’s milk) and my milk started changing to colostrum for my growing baby. Nursing became uncomfortable for me and less enjoyable for him as he wasn’t able to get the same volume (or product). He fed eagerly every time I offered him a bottle, as if relieved actual milk came out of it. I tried to get him to keep the before-bed feed until he turned 1, but a few days shy of his first birthday he was done for good.

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Atlas wasn’t completely weaned until 13.5-months because that’s just what happened naturally with the same process. Because I wasn’t pregnant through our weaning there wasn’t the added encouragement of changing milk/painful nursing’s. Once we were down to two breastfeeds a day I offered him a bottle mid-way through his morning nap nursing and when he unlatched and took it willingly we dropped the morning nurse. A week later I did the same thing with our before bed nursing session, each night I would offer him his bottle a bit into nursing him and he’d take it – happy to hold all the power in his own hands. After a few of nights in a row with him willfully accepting the bottle in exchange for the boob I felt confident that he was ready and said goodbye to my supply.

My children never looked back. Archer didn’t show any jealousy when Atlas arrived and I started nursing him. Once we dropped his final nursing he never asked for it again. Atlas, perhaps due to being slightly older and more communicative than his brother was, might still have, on rare occasion, tried to pull down my shirt but, as he didn’t have words, this was less to request to nurse and more a signal to show me that he was thirsty or hungry or tired and seemed satisfied as soon as I reached for his sippy cup or took him into his bedroom so he could sleep.

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My experience was different weaning each of my children though I stuck to a similar process. I already discussed being pregnant at the time I weaned Archer. My breasts were so sensitive and my milk was changing but the transition felt really natural and, pain aside, comfortable. I remember being concerned that Archer was only weaning because his brother was on his way and I didn’t want him to be rushed, or to skip out on doing baby things, just because he was going to be a big brother. I have come to recognize these thoughts for what they are – the worries of a mother, that really start and end with me and evolve with time but never really go away. Sometimes things are harder on us than they are on our children and I think it’s important to try to not project too much onto them and their experience. Children are resilient and live in the moment – they aren’t concerned with what was or what will be or questions of why? At least not at 12-months.

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It surprised me when weaning Atlas was more difficult – I should be an expert by now right?! By the time I got to weaning Atas I had been either pregnant or nursing for 3-years straight and I really felt the (slow and grueling) return to my regular hormone levels – to put it mildly. I think Atlas would have given up nursing comfortably a week before I let him on account of the fact that I didn’t want to go into shock. My milk production was too high and I felt uncomfortable and tired all the time. Perhaps I am being dramatic – but really, that only adds to my point. I was also feeling a mix of emotions over being “done” breastfeeding – maybe forever (if my husband gets his way). It was a mash of “yay! I get my body back!” and “oh my goodness I might not be able to use my body to do something it was MADE to do, again!” – drama, that really just sort of worked itself out with time. I try to take a note from my children and live in the moment because in the moment things are usually okay; and if they aren’t, they are fleeting.

At 2.5, Archer still enjoys warm milk before bed (sometimes with honey) and I am okay with that since he still doesn’t get any throughout the day or with meals. Atlas, at 14-months gets a bottle before his nap (he’s down to 1 now, on most days) and before bed.

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And that’s that!

Happy nursing, happy nurturing, happy weaning – happy happy International Breastfeeding (awareness) Week.

 

 

 

My Kitchen

For someone who takes food, and home-cooking very seriously I can be quite insecure about my kitchen.

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When I got pregnant with Atlas, and realized I would not be returning back to work, we did some juggling around within our Toronto home to create an income unit in the back and lower level. This meant losing my dream kitchen to my tenants. I won’t go into the details of that kitchen but it’s all to say that I loved it and I miss it and I feel like I downgraded, just a bit. I still work on a gas stove but I had to get rid of a lot of my tools that took up too much counter-space and turn a blind eye to orange (seriously, orange!) cabinets – at least until I can find the time and energy to refinish them.

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I suspect we will keep our income unit for as long as we can, certainly for the forseeable future, but likely not forever so I haven’t felt inspired to invest in this temporary (but potentially long-term) kitchen. It has now been about a year since I moved into it and I’ve changed very little – I added a butchers block for more storage and counter-space; swapped out the faucet for a better one with an extendable head and multiple water settings; and although my cabinets are still orange, I am resolved to repaint them (one day). For now, I have made peace with the space. I still compare my modest-shabby(chic?)-eclectic-patchwork of a kitchen to those that exist on my Pintrest and in the dream houses that surround my own – but I am learning to appreciate what I have, and take pride in it.

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Seeing Julia Child’s kitchen on museum display helped too 😉 I keep the things I use most often out in the open so they are easily accessible. My kettle and favourite pot live on top of my stove. And in the spirit of Konmari (which might actually be a joke because I am the opposite of “minimal”) I try not to keep anything that doesn’t both fill me with “joy” and serve a purpose – so the spoon plate I keep on my stovetop is actually an ornate, hand-made (in Montreal!) dessert platter that is now both beautiful and functional. I keep kid-friendly items at kid-friendly level, and converted shelving that should be used for spices into a toy-car display. I make my own all-purpose cleaner and use knit wash-clothes, which I don’t try to hide. I have a bronze mouse that lives on my shelf and looks quite at home in the chaos.

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I try to put our family needs first and I think a lot about what makes our life easier, more enjoyable, and what adds a bit of magic – especially in the eyes of our children. Plants, natural light, and wood surfaces go a long way towards creating a comfortable space. Flowers arn’t just for adults and I try to keep some on the children’s snack table as well as the dinner table. I think about what my children might remember about this early-childhood space – the birthday calendar; the Chinese pillow box of coins; opening up jars of powders and spices while “helping” me cook; climbing up the step stool to get a better look; ringing the brass dinner bell that once belonged to my Nonna to call everyone to the table; sharing dinner together every evening after a melodious “Aaay-men”; collapsing on the kitchen rug after a good meal. It might not be pretty but it is, in many ways, the heart of our home and we imbue the space in respect and ritual and it serves us well.

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Tea Time!

Atlas is sleeping a little bit longer than usual this morning so I am taking advantage of the quiet by listening to the new Chick Corea album and reflecting over some tea.

I try to make a conscious effort to stay in the moment and appreciate all the little things because it’s the “little things” that make my day. The smiles on my children’s faces, watching Atlas try to stand up on his own, listening to Archer correct people on his name (“my name is not “little man” it’s Archer, say it right”), the sun on my skin, this tea in my hand, the music in my ears…

So I thought I would share a little about some of the teas I like – because I drink a lot of tea, and because as a parent, or anyone who has a busy-non-stop kind of life tea can be especially lovely.

Before I get started on my list of current favourites a few things:

My husband and I have tea together every single night before we go to bed and I’d have to recommend it. It’s such a lovely way to end the day.

Also, I was (we were!) disappointed to discover that a lot of those big brand “specialty” tea shops (like David’s Tea and Teavana) add an ingredient called “flavour” to their teas, some loose leaf and boxed teas (like Tazo Teas) do too! – I am not quite sure what that’s all about but it weirds me out so I stay away. I have far too many culinary guilty pleasures to add tea-with-who-knows-what-in-it to the list so I will always check the list of ingredients before purchasing tea.

Now, without further ado, my favourites:

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Coffee substitutes (with caffeine):

My favourite morning tea is Earl Grey – specifically Clipper “a bag of our Earl Grey tea” and Twinings “English Breakfast” (when I can’t find Clipper). They are smooth and delicious and I enjoy them black or with a splash of whole milk.

Coffee substitute (without caffeine):

Dandelion tea is incredible – specifically Traditional Medicinals “Organic Roasted Dandelion Root” it’s the next best thing to coffee, even though it is caffeine free! – it’s that good – so if you haven’t tried it, give it a go!

For the girls (or for anyone dealing with hormone cycles and period cramps):

I like having a few floral teas on hand, they are especially lovely in the spring – currently I’m into Pukka’s “Three Tulsi” (bright and uplifting) and Traditional Medicinals “Organic Chamomile with Lavender” (calming and relaxing).

My husbands favourites:

My husband really likes Green Tea so I’ve got Traditional Medicinals “organic Green Tea Lemongrass”, we also like Yogi’s “Green Tea Kombucha”, in addition to caffeine (a requirement on most days haha) it has a lot of other health benefits. I also have Twinings “Pure Peppermint” because it’s his favourite and because it happens to be a great digestive.

For special occasions:

We drink a lot of echinacea tea when we catch a cold so I’ve got Yogi’s “Echinacea Special Formula” on hand. And for those nights when settling down seems impossible, we like Traditional Medicinals “Nighty Night” or Yogi’s “Bedtime”.

Let me know what you think – I’d love to hear any other suggestions you have of things I should try next!

 

 

It’s been a while

It’s been a while since I have sat down to type. And I say it like that that because I do a lot of writing. I have a journal for just about everything. I have a journal for my children’s progress, one for daily/seasonal activities that’s a bit like a calendar but also like a to-do list, I have a gardening journal, and a food journal, and I could go on, but it’s all just to say that I like to write and record. I have been trying to find a way to carve out some time to get back into the swing of blog writing – I so enjoy the knowledge share that comes along with this community – but I haven’t been spending much computer time as of late.

My husband suggests it’s because I tend to write more when I am working things out and less so once I get into the swing of things. Perhaps there is some truth to this, though I would never admit to ever being in a state where I am not “working things out”. There is something to be said about getting into the groove of keeping up with life where time and space to stop and reflect becomes scarce. I’d like it not to be, so I am going to make a better effort to write more.

Atlas is now at the age where he wants to interact with everything that is not a toy, is too young for me to set up with “activities”, and too old for me to place on a playmat. Archer is now at the age where he is learning so much so fast and wants to go out, explore new things, and show me everything he is accomplishing. and by the time their bedtime comes along I’m often lose the ability to articulate complete sentences. Needless to say it’s been difficult to sit and write.

In order to help make this time for myself I’m giving myself more lax “rules”. And isn’t that what becoming a mom is all about? Making things work minus the perfectionism. It’s not easy for me to lower my expectations but it’s also a great thing for me to be working on. So, my new rules: One: from now on, I will write and publish pieces in one sitting – as much as I’d love to sleep on it, I haven’t been able to make the time to come back to it in time. and Two: If I don’t have a great photo – I will use a good photo, or no photo at all!

I really hope, these new allowances will enable me to make this work. I am optimistic – I am not sure who said it first but the quote: “if you want to get something done, get a busy person to do it” comes to mind. So stay tuned for more! (…hopefully).

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Document Your Days

Most of us document our days – at least little bits of them. We have Facebook to document our social engagements, Instagram for snapshots of that which is most aesthetically appealing in our lives, Twitter to record snippets of our thoughts and Snapchat to record snippets of our actions.

I set out to keep this blog “like a journal” and I think part of that ought to be sharing regular days – not just the major breakthroughs, holiday adventures, and pivotal discoveries.

So here is the story of last weekend:

Thursday August 18 2016

Our weekend started on Thursday because Archer stayed over at my parents house for the night and going from two babies and a dog to one baby and a dog feels more liberating than a day off work.

I had an 1.5-hour massage at home in the morning – something I would highly recommend any postpartum recovering mama who is juggling kids and breast feeding on the regular. Make them come to you – it’s totally worth it.

The afternoon was a combination of productive work and mental health breaks.

I made a 7pm dinner reservation at The Good Son, on Queen Street – close to our house. This is something we could not do with Archer 1. because he wouldn’t be able to handle himself, in his current toddler state, at that particular restaurant and 2. because it would cut too close to his bedtime. So we excitedly headed out with Atlas in tow and had a most delicious experience. Their spicy brussel sprouts were super yummy as was sweet tea inspired “Kentucky Cobbler”.

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We got home around 9:30pm, put on some music, had another drink, and cleaned our house from top to bottom. Now this might sound somewhat mundane to you but in our world these are sans Archer luxuries – and we reveled in them.

Friday August 19 2016

I did some work at home before heading out to my parents house to pick up Archer.

I stopped by our local flower market and picked up a bouquet of flowers for my mom.

The drive to my parents house takes about an hour and Atlas was having an unusually tough time with it. I had to pull over four times to feed, burp, change, and comfort him. He was just not having it. He cried a lot, I cried a little, and the 1-hour drive took twice as long as it usually does. Before merging onto the 407 from the 400 I actually pulled over on the side of the highway because Atlas was just completely loosing his sh*t and I knew it would be my last opportunity to help him. It was not a fun ride. I didn’t even turn the radio on.

Once at my parents house things improved. I sat on a lounge chair by the pool with a rye and coke. Atlas was sprawled out naked in the shade next to me. Archer, Jasper, and my parents dog Bonnie, buzzed around the backyard. I dipped my toes in the water, we ate dinner outside, my dad tried to sell me on Sturgill Segal, Archer danced like a maniac to the Ramones, my mom bathed Archer, I nursed Atlas, and we spent a good half an hour wrangling my two kids and dog into the car to head home.

That night Archer woke up at 2am with what I am guessing was a nightmare. Jacob and I took turns rocking him back to sleep. As painful as these nights can be I know I will look back on them fondly.

Saturday August 20 2016

Saturday morning was an early start for us. Jacob had a 9am call time at the CBC to be on air for their special on The Tragically Hip.

With the help of my father-in-law, I got myself and the boys ready and headed up to the Annet Public Library. The Waldorf Home Educators course I am taking started at 10am. I was late, as usual, but I made it. Atlas (along with Jacob and our nanny Chrystal) made the odd appearance in the class so I could nurse Atlas and Archer walked over to play at High Park with his Opa.

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By the time we broke for lunch it seemed our whole family had assembled on Dundas, including my in-laws. The weather was so beautiful that the walk up to the restaurant was an especially welcome break from the basement level classroom and general chaos of the morning. We ate at The Beet – think: super healthy, brightly coloured dishes that are so yummy even your toddler will love them.

I nursed Atlas at the table. I don’t particularly enjoy nursing my babies in public, or while I am eating, or with so many distractions around but the day felt so warm and full and rushed and chaotic that I didn’t care.

When I got home with Atlas Jacob was ready to head out to do another televised interview, this time with CTV, so it was just me and my boys. Since we were all a little tired we took it easy and just kinda hung out. I nursed Atlas while Archer had a snack, we read books, watched a bit of Peppa Pig, built a fort out of blankets, I had some wine and ordered Thai food for dinner, and Archer raided Atlas’ wardrobe and insisted I help him put four of Atlas’ pants on him at the same time.

After dinner Archer insisted we go outside so we all walked to the park just up the street and Archer kicked and screamed the whole way home.

My husband was the kid in The Tragically Hip’s “Ahead by a Century” music video and, like most Canadians, The Hip have always felt like an intrinsic part of our heritage. We streamed what will likely be their last concert and watched, with tears in our eyes, as we held Atlas and felt so many big feeling best left to share in another blog post.

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We also watched the UFC fight.

Sunday August 21 2016

I was supposed to go grocery shopping but I bailed on account of needing a day “off” even though days off don’t exist for me because I’m a mom – not having to make myself publicly presentable and go anywhere was a relief.

Sundays often feel like a call to prepare for the week ahead and after such a busy weekend I really felt the urge to get back into our regular rhythm. Sometimes this can cause me some stress – because I feel this sense of urgency to hurry up and get all of the things in all of our lives set up in time for Monday – so this day was a strange mix of trying not to take on too much and doing all the things.

Jacob and Archer spent the morning in the park while I stayed home with Atlas, accommodating his need to cluster-feed, making lunch for the family and doing some productive work around the house.

Being back in the swing of things largely means accommodating Archer’s schedule. So I put Archer down for his nap around 1pm…made a roast chicken dinner and sat down with the family to eat around 6pm, nursed Atlas while Archer had his bath and then put Archer down to sleep for the night around 8:30pm.

 

Aunt Nel’s String Bean Salad

A tasty, healthy, kid friendly, make-in-a-large-batch-and-keep-in-the-fridge vegetable recipe is one of the most valuable items a new mom can have.

When free time (or free hands) for cooking are hard to come by it’s all too easy to reach for (not so great for you) convenience items to get through the day. Often times when I can’t find something easy and healthy I will resort to living off of coffee, which is not any better – at all, so having a large batch of something fresh and green and ready to eat improves my whole day.

I should mention that this isn’t really my Aunt Nel’s recipe, in that she didn’t invent it herself. It comes from The Armenian Cookbook by Rachel Hogrogian (1971) and is actually called “Fassoulia Salata”. But Nel found it and has been making it for our family gatherings for years and walked me through my first attempt at it so in my mind it is hers.

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The following is our version of this recipe:

1 lb string beans: washed, with both ends cut off, cut into 2-inch long pieces

1 sweet onion: sliced very thin

2 larger tomatoes from the vine: either halved and sliced very thin or cut into tiny cubes

1/2 cup fresh parsley: finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh dill: finely chopped

2 tbsp white vinegar (or more to taste)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt

1. Steam beans until they are just tender. If you don’t have a steamer you can boil them but be careful not to overcook them – you want them to be hold their form well and have a slight crisp to them. Set them aside to cool.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine a tbsp of salt with the sliced onions and stamp the onions with the heel of your hand – this helps to release the strong juices. Once limp, rinse the onions under cold water to remove the salt and expressed juices. Strain completely.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the onion, tomato, parsley, dill, cooled beans, vinegar, olive oil, and salt to taste. Cover, and place in the fridge or serve.

I like to let the dish sit for at least an hour before serving as it allows time for all the flavours to combine. I find it is best during the first 3-days but it can last in the fridge for up to 1-week.

Farmers market season is still upon us and this recipe is the perfect use for your farm fresh finds. My toddler loves it because it’s bright and colourful and he can eat it with his hands and I think you will really enjoy it too. 🙂

Our Dog

We got our dog back last week. He had been staying with my in-laws since Atlas’ birth.

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Thankfully, as is the nature of dogs, they don’t hold grudges and Jasper didn’t seem the least bit upset with me for leaving him for so long.

I am extremely attached to my dog. He has been with me though all the major changes in my life – he was there when I moved away to do my Master’s, got married, bought a house, and had my babies. He’s been there for me though more than I can even remember; and in many ways, is my best friend.

Actually, Jasper knew I was pregnant with Atlas before I did. It was because he had started acting ‘weird’, the way he did when I was pregnant with Archer, that made me decide to take a pregnancy test.

But Jasper likes to be very much involved in everything and has no real concept of personal space and I knew I wouldn’t be able to give him the care and attention he needed after I gave birth.

I needed time to recover from my c-section and wrap myself and our routine around my newest baby.

Archer likes to eat his snack sitting on the floor, and I needed to be able to leave him to do so without it getting swiped by Jasper. I needed to be able to forget to push in the dining room chairs while there was still food on the table or leave the garbage by the front door without worrying if Jasper would get into it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to bend over to put his leash on or take him out on walks with two babies while recovering from surgery.

Plus, getting two kids down for a nap is hard enough without a dog barking at the squirrels out the window or the delivery man at the front door.

 

So I sent him to my in-laws the morning I went into the hospital.

 

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But last week we got him back and now our family is complete again and everything feels right in our little world.

He seemed to know Atlas as soon as he met him. He acts concerned about the boys, like he knows they are important. He is patient when Archer insists on holding his leash and pulls him around the neighborhood. He is constantly helping me watch over the babies and sits up with me at night while I nurse Atlas. And his happy face brightens up everything.

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But he’s also a lot of work so we’ve had to develop some strategies to accommodate him.

We use baby gates (thanks to the babies we have MANY) – that way he always has visibility (which seems to be important to him) but not the ability to get in the way.

We picked up some massive smoked pork bones from our butcher for a major distraction that we use when there is a particularly tempting floor activity going on.

We keep dog treats at the ready to reward him for good behaviour – anything we want him to do all the time. So if he gets off whatever I tell him to get off of, he gets a treat; if he stops barking when I ask him to, he gets a treat; if he sits and stays out of the way while Archer dumps all of his food onto the floor, he gets a big treat.

We make sure he’s been fed, walked, and has water. This one seems obvious enough but it’s easy for me to forget to fill up his water, or to let him out to pee, when my hands are perpetually full and I’m juggling many things at all times. We stick to a strict routine to help us stay on top of everything and are careful not to chastise the dog if he acts out because his basic needs aren’t met.

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As much as it was ‘easier’ with him at my in-laws I wouldn’t trade in the extra work for his absence and we couldn’t be happier to have him back.

Also, the look on Archer’s face when Jasper came through the front door for the first time in so long was priceless. Dogs and kids are made for each other.

 

Homecoming

When I started writing this blog I promised myself it would read like a journal. I LOVE me some mom blogs but I didn’t want to get stressed over not having sponsored posts or sage advice about how to have the perfect house while raising angel babies.

My house is not perfect and my babies, despite appearances, are not angels.

But the day I brought Atlas home from the hospital was perfect.

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The day we came home from the hospital

My parents had brought Archer to the hospital to visit us the day before we arrived home so he had already met his brother. Their first encounter with each other was, to date, the greatest thing I have ever witnessed.

Archer, then 17-months old, came walking into my hospital room carrying a teddy bear for his brother without knowing what a “brother” even was. I was trapped in bed recovering from the c-section I had had less than 24-hours before with smarties at my ready in case things went south – but they didn’t.

Archer embraced me and then spotted his brother on the other side of the room and locked onto him like he knew he was special and important and his. We brought Atlas over to join us in the bed and Archer gave him a kiss and insisted on holding him and I gave him his brother and I cried.

Perhaps I should share that Archer, while extremely affectionate, doesn’t take well to strangers and is much more into observing other people/babies/creatures than actually touching or interacting with them.

So this was big.

And the next day, when I came home from the hospital after spending two nights away from Archer (the longest I had ever been away from him) their getting to know each other continued.

Archer had this look in his eyes, like he was on an edge that I really didn’t want to push him over and I was ready to pass Atlas to his Daddy and spend some one-on-one time with him if things got too much. But he embraced his brother whole heartedly once again.

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Archer was not about to let him go

He was intent on holding his brother, giving him kisses, checking out his tiny toes. He was gentle and loving and concerned and really, honestly: angelic.

Then Atlas cried, as babies do and for the first time ever I saw concern spread across Archer’s face and be bawled along with his brother – for no other reason than that he was sad that Atlas was sad; he was worried about him.

and for the first 3-days Archer cried every time Atlas cried.

Those were fun days let me tell you.

I remember teasing Atlas when Archer wasn’t around telling him “okay, your brother’s gone: you can go on and cry all you want now” – because sheesh.

But Archer loved his brother right from the start.

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Archer holding Atlas made everything better

On some innate level Archer knew Atlas was his brother and felt for him in such a real and loving way my heart could hardly handle it. To this day Archer has never shown any animosity or frustration or even disinterest in his brother. I can’t count the number of kisses Archer has insisted upon Atlas, or the number of times he has tried to care for him in his own way.

Their love is one of the greatest blessings I have ever received.

Life isn’t without hick-ups, I want to write about real life and I won’t sugar coat things or ignore the parts that are tough or uncomfortable – but that day was perfect. I can’t say a single bad thing about that day.

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The day Archer met Atlas in the hospital