Archive for July, 2011

July 27, 2011

Road trip!

by Decemberbaby

Yes, a road trip. With two kids under the age of 4. Should be interesting, yes?

It takes roughly 5 hours to drive from Toronto to Montreal, but we’ll have to make more stops than usual to let the kids stretch their legs and move around a bit… not to mention time for diaper changes and potty trips. In an effort to stave off whining and moaning, I’ve prepared a bunch of surprise “gifts” for K to open – 5 in total, one for each hour on the road:

  1. Digital camera (a kid one, of course)
  2. Sticker album and reusable stickers
  3. Toy car (she requested one, actually)
  4. Washable markers and some blank paper
  5. Play mais (corn-based puffs that stick together when wet) and a small damp sponge in a tupperware
  6. Foam stickers and blank index cards
  7. Wooden blocks
  8. Magnetic dress-up princess tin (as in, the princesses are printed on the tin and their magnetic clothes are stored inside)
  9. Veterinarian kit – doctor bag and small stuffed farm animals
  10. Play-doh, rolling pin, and cookie cutter

You’ll notice that of the first five items, four are things I don’t mind losing. I kept some of the “keeper” toys for the homeward trip so that there’s less chance of them going missing. There’s nothing that can’t be cleaned up with baby wipes, and nothing that could be dangerous if N got his hands on them.

But how, you ask, can K play with a toy car, markers, and blocks in the car? Simple. We bought her one of these:

If you guessed that K requested a toy car after seeing the front of this tray’s package, you’re absolutely right. Kids are so suggestible.

Anyhow, I’m hoping that with the hourly surprise toys, the stop at a petting zoo, and some judiciously applied kids’ music, the trip might actually be fun for us all.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

July 21, 2011

Who’d’a thought persistence would pay off?

by Decemberbaby

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Internets, I present you with photographic evidence that it CAN be done! We’ve installed three carseats across the backseat of our Yaris hatchback. What’s more, it looks like we’ll be able to keep 3 across even when the littlest one switches to forward facing.

Behold:

This is the view from the driver's side. Britax Roundabout forward facing, Sunshine Radian forward facing, and rear facing Graco snugride.

That’s right, we didn’t even need a second Radian – in fact, the difference in seat height and base design between the Roundabout and the Radian really helped us out. The Roundabout seat is higher and farther forward, so the sides can overlap the Radian a bit without encroaching on the Radian’s seating space. Here, have a look from the other side:

See what I mean about the overlap? You can see how the side impact cushion of the Roundabout is just slightly forward of the sides of the Radian.

The keen observers among you might have noticed that all three carseats have been installed with seatbelts rather than with the LATCH belt. The locations of the LATCH anchors wouldn’t allow us to place the carseats this way. Don’t worry, seatbelt installation is perfectly safe. And the two forward-facing seats are properly tethered at the rear. See?

For some unfathomable reason, the Yaris has 3 rear tether anchors but only 2 sets of LATCH anchors. I'm not complaining, though - this is a very good thing for our purposes.

So that’s it. Not only have we managed to fit three carseats across, we’ve done it with the three carseats we already owned – so not only do we not need to buy a new car, we don’t even need to buy new carseats! WOOT!

We’re going to drive around with this configuration for a month or so and make sure that it’s workable for us. Of course, this brings me back to an old dilemma: which double stroller that I like can fit into my tiny hatchback trunk?

July 20, 2011

Kid number three is going to be the expensive one.

by Decemberbaby

Let me begin by saying that I LOVE my Yaris hatchback. It’s tiny, I can parallel park it almost anywhere, it’s fuel efficient. Ever since we bought it, I’ve been saying that this car would see me through two toddlers for sure. Of course, that was when I assumed I’d have at least 2 years, and probably 2.5, between kids. So this car was “supposed to” last me another year and a half, or until K was 5 and N was 2.5.

And then I got pregnant, and we’re staring down the barrel of the “3 kids under 4” gun. For those of you who don’t get the issue, I’ll be specific: we need to fit three carseats in the back of our little Yaris.

“Just get a minivan,” says pretty much everyone. But no! We don’t want to drive a massive gas guzzler! We love our Yaris. Our kids are small. If it weren’t for the size of the blasted carseats, three kids would fit in our backseat just fine.

Not to be deterred by what other people say, Mr. December and I headed over to a baby store to try for ourselves. Using a demo model of a Sunshine Radian carseat as well as our own Radian and the Graco bucket seat, we tried to make three carseats fit. While all three seats could sit on our back seat together with the doors closed, they somehow didn’t work anymore when we tried installing them. We concluded that we could maybe make it work, with the two Radians on the outside and the Graco in the middle, but only if we used the Graco without the base and installed it with the seatbelt each and every time. Oh, and doing that would likely mangle our hands nine times out of ten.

Neither of us wanted to hear that we needed a new car, but by the end of the exercise we concluded that we’d have to bite the bullet and go car shopping. On the upside, that would leave us with a lot of choice in terms of a double stroller.

Now, I had seen the Bugaboo Donkey in this store a few weeks ago and decided that it was the answer to my double stroller dilemma. Large front wheels (= easy travel through snow), narrow enough for a standard doorway, side-by-side with seats that can independently face forward or backwards… and turns from a single into a double and back again. Perfect, right?

Wrong.

While I’m sure they’ll work the kinks out in future production runs, Bugaboo had a few design flaws with this donkey. We tried un-telescoping it to switch from double to single mode… and the handle wouldn’t retract. It was just stuck, and nobody could un-stick it. And then we tried folding it in double mode anyhow, which worked, but when we unfolded it the frame got caught in the storage basket.

So no donkey.

We puttered around the store looking at other double strollers. Most true doubles are huge. Phil and Teds are pretty small, but you lose the whole cargo basket when there’s a kid in the lower seat, they are pretty tippy, and I’ve heard not-so-great things about their durability and customer service. Baby Jogger city select is a really neat idea, but it feels long and unwieldy compared to the other in-line doubles, and if you’re going to go unwieldy you might as well go all the way and get a full-size tandem so everyone can lie down in any position they want. UppaBaby has a rumble seat, but it doesn’t recline.

And then I saw the Britax B-ready. It’s basically a single stroller with a rumble seat, but the rumble seat reclines flat! And the storage basket is huge and has front and side access zippers! And the handlebar adjusts from an articulated joint instead of telescoping (which matters when you’re short like I am and don’t want to be kicking the rear wheels just because you prefer a really low handlebar)! And you can fit a carseat on it! And and and…

We didn’t bother folding it up and trying it in our car, although now I’m starting to think that we should. After all, the “never say die” December attitude is leading us to consider how we might jigsaw together three carseats across if two of them were rearfacing and only one faced forward… hmm…

Work in Progress Wednesday will return when it’s not too hot to garden, or when I finally finish those felt numbers – whichever comes first. Hats off to Lisaleh for being generally awesome and for sticking with the WIP Wednesday thing. I feel like if she keeps this up, she should get a prize. What should it be?

July 13, 2011

Work-in-Progress Wednesday – July 13 edition

by Decemberbaby

Oh my, it’s Wednesday already, isn’t it?

First things first: hats off to Lisaleh over at Crafting my Mama Leave for an awesome WIP Wednesday post! She’s just taken up sewing and already has a cool drawstring bag to show us.

Now for the part where I hang my head in shame. I didn’t complete either of my goals this week. I bought the door hardware but haven’t installed it yet (although it would probably only take a few minutes… hmm… I think I’ll go do that. Excuse me, would you?)

*20 minutes later*

Hey, folks! It’s time for Work-in-Progress Wednesday: Now with 50% less shame!

Here’s my report:

Completed (just now): Door latch replacement

Up until half an hour ago, we had the usual screen door hardware where you have to apply pressure with your thumb while pulling with the rest of your hand. It’s a feat that only able-bodied people above the age of 5 can accomplish. Woe betide you if you have tendinitis or carpal tunnel or if you’re K’s age.

Problem solved! Have a look:

Hmm, maybe I should have cleaned the door first before installing new hardware. I’m pretty sure that square outline near the handle is dirt.

Anyhow, in the second pic you can see that the latch is released from the outside by just pulling on the handle. I can do it with just one finger. K was in bed when I installed this, but I’m pretty sure that it’ll pass her test as well.

This job should have taken 5 minutes… but I didn’t realize that the strikeplate was just a bit off, and I ended up having to take it (the old one) off and drill through the metal plate to install the new one a fraction of an inch to the right. The end result is wonderful, though: a door that my kid can operate from both sides.

STILL in progress: Montessori fabric numbers

I worked on these quite a bit this week, but I just didn’t get them done.

I did find some lovely old strips of linen in my mom’s fabric stash, and they’ve been cut to size. I also decided to fortify the squares with some white denim so that they’re a bit stiffer and easier to handle. That has also been cut to size. I found a Montessori-type font, printed the numbers, and cut them out of coloured felt. And that’s where it fell apart just a bit.

I thought I was brilliant, using scrapbooking glue (the kind that rolls from a dispenser) to stick the paper numbers to the felt so that I could cut really accurately. Turns out that only works if you remove the paper immediately. I didn’t, and now it’s hard to remove the paper without stretching and distorting the felt numbers. Oops.

So my numbers are currently soaking in water, in the hope that it will dissolve the glue and I’ll be able to salvage them. If it becomes apparent tomorrow that I can’t, I’ll cut out new ones while K is at kindergym.

So here are some pics: a couple of numbers on stacks of linen and denim rectangles, and the “number soup” that I hope will save the day:

Appetizing, isn’t it?

So what are you working on this week? I know some people who are working on some stuff… but they won’t blog it. Why? Do we need a separate WIP Wednesday blog with open posting rights or something?

Happy Wednesday… for another 49 minutes.

July 9, 2011

Some days, life is just wonderful.

by Decemberbaby

Since K’s not doing any kind of camp program this summer, we’re trying to do at least one major outing per week. The first week it was Centre Island. Yesterday we decided to go strawberry picking.

It was less fun than I thought it would be – the kids got bored after 20 minutes of picking and the farm (chosen for the organic nature of its produce and its proximity to the city) didn’t have any other attractions. Nevertheless, we made off with 7 litres of berries. In a brilliant show of spontaneous planning (if I do say so myself), we stopped at a small, free petting farm on the way home. Success! K loved talking to the llamas (“do you wear pajamas?”) and N watched the animals and generally enjoyed lazing around on the grass.

Here are some pics:

Nothing is better after a day in the sun than a nap in a cool room. The kids slept while I made challah and thawed some carrot-ginger soup. Dessert was strawberry shortcake. We even made strawberry jam – one freezer batch, the other canned the old-fashioned way. A hand-picked daisy bouquet graced our Shabbat table, and Mr. December and I said kiddush over cold sangria.

It was simply wonderful. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to polish off the last of the fresh strawberries with some whipped cream before they go mushy.

July 7, 2011

A Birth Manifesto

by Decemberbaby

I recently heard about a friend of a friend who is pregnant and absolutely convinced that birth will be the most horrifying experience ever. I felt sad for her. First, on a practical level, because fear=tension=pain and her fear could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Second, on an emotional level, because birth has the potential to be a truly wonderful experience.

Our main cultural belief about birth seems to focus on pain. Last year, when people heard about my plans for a home birth, everyone’s first reaction was, “but what about the pain?!?!?!?” After N was born safely and quietly at home they were still asking, “didn’t it hurt?”

This focus on pain actually amused me. Yes, it hurt. But nobody ever asks a marathon runner, “what about the PAIN?” as if the pain is the whole essence of the exercise. I’ve heard that marathon runners hit a “wall” where suddenly their legs are burning and they just want to lie down and quit. Labouring women hit that wall too – it’s called “transition”, it hurts like a bitch, and it makes you want to call the whole thing off. But like marathon runners, labouring women push past the wall. Yes, it hurts. But that’s besides the point.

During K’s birth, the transition contractions freaked me out. They were relentless, I couldn’t get on top of them, and I was imagining having to cope with them for hours on end. During N’s birth the contractions were no less intense (if anything they were more intense as that labour moved much more quickly), but I was mentally prepared. I took them one second at a time. I focused on relaxing my facial muscles, lowering my shoulders, and continuing to get oxygen into my body. I paced myself. I focused on getting to my finish line, and I made it.

My point is, birth is so much more than just painful. Our cultural focus on pain really does women a disservice. How about telling women about the amazing endorphin rush you get afterwards? How about talking about the clarity and relaxation of moments between the contractions? Why don’t we talk to women (and girls, too) about the mental game that is birth?

And then there’s the excellent point that pain does not equal suffering. There’s a difference, as many athletes could tell you. Yes, there was pain. But that just wasn’t the point.

I’m aware that every women needs to make her own choices, and many women wouldn’t be comfortable with mine. This post is not meant to denigrate anyone who used pain medication during birth or who had a highly medicalized birth for whatever reason. But I hate that we’re sending girls and women the message that labour is painful and awful and unmanageable. It doesn’t have to be, if you’re prepared and have the right support. I just wish more women believed that.

July 6, 2011

Work-in-Progress Wednesday – July 6 edition

by Decemberbaby

Hi everybody!

(if you responded with “hi, Doctor Nick!” you win the internet. Just saying.)

Apparently it’s Wednesday again. And apparently I missed posting last week. But here we are, chugging along.

I’m not even going to bother with the WIP Wednesday sales pitch today. If you want to join me, I’ll be thrilled. If not, well, I’ll be a meme/feature of one. Whatever. Here’s my contribution to productivity this week:

Completed: Photo editing and printing

I went through the contents of 3 computers (four, come to think of it – I raided my mom’s photos too) and came up with close to 600 pics. Cropped ’em to 4×6 dimensions, dropped ’em off with instructions to duplicate most of them, picked ’em up. I now have 900 prints awaiting their destinies. I’d like to say that I’m going to scrapbook some and organize the others to give as gifts, but I can’t. It just isn’t going to happen this week. As far as I’m concerned, scrapbooking will have to wait for miserable weather.

Completed: Teacher gifts

In the end I didn’t do the fabric book covers. I reconsidered and realized that they’d probably just end up as more clutter… so K and I made challah dough in the morning before school, and at lunchtime I dropped off freshly baked challah for her teachers. Each challah was wrapped in a pretty piece of cloth and accompanied by a handmade card. I actually had the foresight to photograph the cards, so here you go:

In progress: fabric number cards

In Montessori, children learn the numerals by feeling them – tracing along a sandpaper number. The sandpaper provides a “control of error” (i.e. the child easily knows what is part of the numeral and what isn’t) and the tracing motion prepares the child for the motion of writing the numerals later on.

K began working with the sandpaper numbers just before the end of the school year. She’s confidently identifying numbers 1 through 4. While I’m generally a fan of letting the kids play freely, I’ve noticed that K loves this kind of work. And given that she’s not in any kind of program this summer I’m pretty sure that less than an hour of “work” per day isn’t a problem.

And, of course, I got inspired by a blogger – Meg McElwee over at Sew liberated. Her new book has just come out with a whole bunch of sewing projects that kids will adore using. I haven’t gotten my hands on the book just yet, but I was instantly drawn to her “irresistible numbers” – fabric numbers appliqued onto fabric squares. I’m creating my own this week, using felt for the numerals and some soft, smooth linen (ripped up strips from some very old pillowcases) for the squares. In the photo from Meg’s book the numbers are organized/stored using clothespins attached to a pretty branch. I love it!

So by next Wednesday, expect to see some colourful numbers here. As for the branch, I’ll keep an eye out.

In progress: back door hardware

We had an accident last week. K was playing in the backyard, I was in the bathroom and Mr. D was in the basement. Apparently K started calling for us to open the door so she could come in and pee, but neither of us heard her. The result? A puddle of pee on the back porch, and a sad kid.

The problem is this:

Yep, it’s one of those door handles that requires a fair bit of thumb strength to use. K can’t open it from the outside.

The good news is that it’s an easy problem to fix. $15 and a trip to Canadian Tire should get me what I need, and it probably only takes fifteen minutes to replace the thing. I plan to get the kind of latch where you simply pull up on the handle to open it.

I’ll be very relieved when K can go in and out as she pleases.

 

That’s it for me, folks. What are you doing with your time this summer?

July 5, 2011

Menu Plan Monday – Tuesday edition!

by Decemberbaby

Yep, Tuesday is the new Monday!

Once again, our fridge is bare. It’s time to go shopping… and I won’t go without a list, so here comes the planning:

Tuesday – Fried eggs, turkey pastrami (bacon-style), toast, sweet corn

Wednesday – Moroccan spiced chicken breast, citrus-nut couscous (never got around to making this one last time)

Thursday – Beef and sweet pepper stir-fry, rice

Friday – Carrot soup, challah, quiche, whatever fruits and veggies we can harvest from our garden

Saturday – Borekas, wacky mac, baby carrots

Sunday, Monday – Mr. December and I are off for a romantic getaway. My parents can figure out what to feed the kids!

Tuesday – Tandoori chicken breasts, basmati rice

Okay, now off to make a list!

July 4, 2011

Saga of the Scarves – then what happened?

by Decemberbaby

If you haven’t read my first post about my headscarf-wearing days, you might want to go back and read it now.

My miscarriage changed a lot of things for me. Let me first explain that the pregnancy was hard-won (we were already dealing with fertility issues, although no specialists had been consulted yet) and that we saw a heartbeat and a perfectly-sized baby on an ultrasound at 7 weeks. Then at 9 weeks I began spotting, and at 10 weeks it was over. Just like that.

I was heartbroken, then angry. Was I angry at God? Yes, but that was just the beginning. My anger at God developed pretty quickly into anger at myself. After all, I was behaving like a spoilt child: “Okay, God, you took away something I really wanted. But I WANT IT! NOW! Fine, I’m just gonna ignore the world and sulk until you GIVE ME A BABY!”

This attitude made me take a long, hard look at my understanding of God. Did I really believe that good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people? Did I believe that by loving God and doing the right thing I would ensure that no tragedy would ever befall me? Well, I kind of did, before the miscarriage shattered my illusion of a just world. And that new awareness, the knowledge of how childish my relationship with God was, was just another hole in my little canoe of self-assuredness.

I didn’t stop covering my head right away. But one day I didn’t put anything on my head, and once the pattern was broken it became easy to discard. And I gradually fell into major depression, which made it hard enough to care about anything. Sure, I put on clothes, but only because I had to wear something. I put no thought into it. In fact, having to decide what to wear every morning was enough to stop me in my tracks and make my cry for an hour or two. I just couldn’t handle anything.

I’m not going to chronicle my depression here, or talk too much about my changing understanding of God. Maybe one day I’ll re-post some of those entries from my infertility blog, if there’s interest. But this post is about the headcovering, so moving on…

Once I had stopped covering my head, I noticed that people were treating me differently. Nobody made assumptions about me. Frum women in the grocery store didn’t automatically smile and say “good shabbos” anymore. Our friends once again became comfortable telling “dirty” jokes around me, and people on the street would make pop culture references without immediately apologizing and trying to explain.

Part of me missed, and still misses, wearing long skirts and scarves. But another part just isn’t willing to do it again. The baggage is heavy – I’m not willing to be anyone’s example of what a frum woman is (mostly because I’m not frum). I’m not willing to be treated like I have half a brain, which is pretty much what I got from anyone outside the religious world. And I’m not sure how I feel about on-again-off-again headcovering and modest dress, and yet it would be a necessity for me. No, I’m not going to do my woodworking and work with power tools in a flowing skirt and headscarf. When I go to the beach, I will wear a bathing suit that allows me to actually swim. You can see where I’m going with this.

The other issue, and it’s a serious one that I feel I may never resolve, is about choice in religious observance. I’m well aware of the problem with observing only those mitzvot that make you “feel good” – when they stop feeling good, you stop observing them. It’s kind of hypocritical, isn’t it? On one hand – God commanded us to do certain things. On the other – “this one doesn’t make any sense. What’s the point in doing it?”  I don’t have an answer, but the problem is frequently a nagging voice in the back of my mind.

So for now, I only enjoy my skirts and scarves on shabbat, and they give me the feeling of holiness I remember. I still have a drawer overflowing with beautiful scarves, hats, and even snoods. Sometimes I look at them and realize that I really should give them to women who will use them. But somehow, I can’t part with the scarves. I don’t know if I’ll ever wear them again the way I once did, but I just can’t let go.

July 1, 2011

One year old…

by Decemberbaby

One year ago yesterday, N looked like this:

Here he is, enjoying his birthday “party” (cake with the grandparents, decorated so that photo evidence that “yes, we cared enough to throw you a party” would be available later).

Wow. So much growth. Sure, I’ve also been known to gain thirteen pounds in a year, but somehow it’s more impressive when he does it 🙂

N at one year – the highlights:

Food – LOVES avocado, yogurt, and sliced cheese. Eats pretty much whatever we eat, with varying levels of interest. Drinks whole milk.

Play – His favourite activity is pulling out all of the tupperware containers. Sometimes he even tries to nest them inside each other. His favourite toys are the small egg maracas and his baby-sized drum mallets. Oh, and the drum. He loves his drum. He’ll initiate a game of peek-a-boo by hiding his face behind a blanket.

Movement – N crawls strangely. One leg is crawling, on the knee, and the other leg is trying to walk (i.e. weight on his foot). It looks funny, a la Igor in Frankenstein, but boy, is he fast! He can get from the living room to the bathroom before you can say “don’t play in the toilet!”

He can also swim short distances underwater between two adults and comes up smiling. He likes to push his walking wagon. He climbs stairs proficiently but can’t get back down.

And he smiles. His smiles are gorgeous and wide and really just make my day. He loves to give kisses. He babbles constantly and has figured out how to blow raspberries.

I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next…

Happy Birthday, beautiful boy!