Raising Hell…When is it Worth it?

After my husband’s recent traveling debacle where he got re-routed, re-booked and delayed for more than 36 hours on his trip to France, I started to think about the oxymoron, “customer service.” What is the best way to solve conflicts with large corporations?  Life is short. I think most people would agree on that. As such it’s often hard to justify getting into arguments over “trivial” things, but where does one draw the line between letting the small things go and getting walked all over in a big way? When is it worth it to raise a little hell in order to get stuff done? We’ve all seen it; the pushy A-hole who’s screaming and yelling his way to the front of the line. Most of us roll our eyes, but amazingly, more often than not, this guy gets what he wants. Unfortunately, there is some truth to the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” While it’s one thing to “squeak” once in a while, where is the line between being vocal about your concerns and turning into the aforementioned A-hole? And if the squeaky wheel gets the grease, what about the saying, “You attract more bees with honey than vinegar?” Is there still room in our instant gratification, impersonal, busier than busy society for a little honey? I’d like to think so and I also think that combining these two ideologies is the best approach. I don’t like being walked over and take pride in the fact that I can stand up for myself. In my marital relationship, I tend to be the “squeaky” one when we have a problem with telemarketers, corporate mishandlings and the likes. In the last several years, however, I’ve learned that sometimes a little sugar-coating can get you just as far (or farther) and is MUCH more pleasant. Not to mention, it’s easier to look at yourself in the mirror when you’re nice to people. So, for what it’s worth, here’s my approach. If I’ve got something that’s actually worth complaining about (and this is a fairly personal barometer with more variables than this post has time to deal with) I’ve learned to start with the sugar. There’s no sense throwing venom around when sugar can get the job done! Sometimes even a little extra sugar comes in handy too. But when sugar fails, as it sometimes does, forget the WD40, and let the wheel squeak!

Baby Led Weaning Meets Pinterest: Baby Veggie Burgers

They don't look like much but this turkey burger (top) and veggie burger (bottom) are awesome for both baby and parents!

I recently joined Pinterest. For those who don’t know, it’s a super addictive website for DIYers, crafters, recipe-hounds, foodies, fashionistas, home organizers, etc., etc., etc. It allows you to find ideas on the internet and then “pin” them to various “cork boards” that you create. Have you ever stumbled across a cool idea on line and thought, “Gee, I should write that down!” but then never did and then tortured yourself trying to find it again later? This is the problem Pinterest solves. It allows you to look at a neat idea and pin an image of that idea off of the website onto a personal database that you create and manage. It’s like a jumbo recipe box, but certainly not limited to recipes. One of the problems with Pinterest, though, is it’s easy to spend hours pinning cool ideas, instead of hours doing cool things! It’s definitely a screen-time hog! Regardless of your feelings on Pinterest, there are some great ideas on there and I actually managed to make one of my Pinterest recipe pins. As many of you know, Finlay is enjoying the world of baby-led weaning. As such, I’m always looking for new ideas for recipes for him so that he can explore new flavours and textures. I came across an awesome veggie burger recipe on Pinterest and I modified it for Finlay. I realized after trying it that these are really awesome and I should have made some adult sized ones for me too!

The original recipe came off of a blog called 100% Vegan Healthy Happy Life. Without Pinterest I would likely have never found the recipe as I’m not vegan and don’t intend to raise Finlay to be a vegan either.  Anyway, here’s my version of the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

Mashed beans, Mashed sweet potatoes and Maple syup

  • White beans cooked, drained and mashed (I made about 1 cup of dry beans, once mashed it made about the same amount as the sweet potato)
  • 1 large sweet potato, baked/peeled/mashed (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • optional: additional seasoning (whatever you have on hand- I used 1/4 tsp onion powder and a smidgen of garlic powder).
  • salt/pepper to taste if needed (I didn’t bother)
  • Lots of Panko crumbs
  • Butter for the pan

Directions:

Formed patty dipped in panko

1. Bake sweet potato. Peel, place in large mixing bowl.
2. Add mashed beans to mixing bowl. Mash beans and potato together.
3. Mash in flour and any additional seasoning. Your mixture will be quite soft and moist. But you should be able to form a patty. Add more flour or a scoop of breadcrumbs to thicken the mixture if needed.
4. Add in maple syrup
5. Form into patties and coat in Panko crumbs.I made my patties small (about the diameter of a soup can) for little fingers, but you could make adult sized patties too

A container full of individually frozen patties.

Now at this point, I put the patties between pieces of wax paper and put them in a reusable container and froze them. This way I could pull out a patty whenever I needed something for Finlay (great for quick lunches or to add to supper or to give with a turkey burger- told you I’m no vegan!).

When you’re ready to cook them, defrost them at room temp or in a microwave on low-med for 1 minute or two. Then melt some butter in a pan and cook on both sides until browned. They’re pretty moist inside and may crumble a bit if you make big adult patties, but they taste delicious!!!

P.S. The turkey burgers in the top picture are super easy and Finlay loves them too. They’re just ground turkey mixed with some pureed carrots, quick oats and a dollop of apple sauce. Mmmm! When I serve these to him I usually cut them in half or in strips.

Finlay's reaction to dinner!!!

Cheese Making 101. Homemade Ricotta Pasta

Pasta with homemade ricotta and herbs. Just looking at this picture makes me want more!

I’ve always wanted to try making my own cheese, but thought the process seemed complicated. This is not the case for all cheeses though. This homemade ricotta is super easy and extremely delicious and works beautifully in this pasta recipe. It is mildly flavoured, but wholesome. It was in this past month’s issue of Canadian Living. I’ve added some of my own notes in as well (in bold).

Homemade Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 8 cups (2 L) organic whole milk (3.8% MF)- The magazine recommended this as it has a richer flavour and is higher in fat than regular whole milk. My only issue with this is organic milk is twice the price (nearly $8 for 8L here in PEI). I did use the organic 3.8% this time, but think I’ll try it with regular milk next time (or if I can get my hands on some goat’s milk I think that would give this a nice bit of extra tang).
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 5 tbsp (75 mL) vinegar

Homemade Ricotta

Preparation

In large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat milk with salt over low heat, stirring often, until temperature on digital rapid-read thermometer registers 203°F (95°C), about 40 minutes. (This does take a while. It took at least 40 minutes and I found myself stirring it every 5 minutes or so. I did not have a rapid read thermometer-just a regular meat thermometer, and it worked out fine). Add vinegar; stir slowly 3 times. Remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes.

With slotted spoon, gently skim off curds and place in sieve lined with damp double-thickness cheesecloth. (I didn’t have cheese cloth, so I used dampened coffee filters and it worked like a charm!). Let drain for 30 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl.
Source : Canadian Living Magazine: March 2012

Pasta With Homemade Ricotta and Herbs

Ingredients

Preparation

In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes. Reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid, drain and return pasta to pot. Meanwhile, in skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat; toast bread crumbs, stirring often, until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Add ricotta, basil and 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid to pasta; toss until coated, adding more liquid if desired.

Transfer to serving dish; sprinkle with 2 tbsp of the bread crumbs. Serve remaining crumbs separately to sprinkle on top. (My initial thoughts were that the flavours were a bit bland, but after eating at least 2 servings, I realized that it is the simple flavours in this recipe that make it so good. The cheese is creamy, light and fantastic, but I think in future I might add a little bit more to this though. I might try some toasted walnuts or pine nuts in addition to/instead of breadcrumbs. Adding some parmesan curls might be nice too. Perhaps using chicken stock instead of reserved pasta water could up the flavour too. I guess it’s probably a delicate balance between adding too much and taking away from the enjoyment of the homemade ricotta or having it be just a touch bland. If anyone tries this out and has any other ideas I’d love to hear them!).
Source : Canadian Living Magazine: March 2012

WANTED: A New Home For Our Lovely Cat Lexie….

I have to face reality. It’s been staring me in the face for years (but I’ve been in denial). Yesterday, though, it hit like a bag of rocks. My husband is allergic to animals. I am a veterinarian. It’s one of the few points where we lack compatibility. Don’t get me wrong, he loves the animals and has suffered through runny noses, watery eyes, wheezing episodes and the likes to put up with them. But yesterday, after a particularly bad episode of night time wheezing and having to sleep in the cat-free guest room, Jarrod decided it was time to see the doctor. The doctor, who had Jarrod’s allergy tests in hand, told him that he was severely allergic to the cat and in no uncertain terms that we should get rid of her. And while Jarrod is also allergic to the dogs, it’s not as severe, dog dander is not as allergenic, and the dogs are kept in an isolated area of the house (unlike the cat, who has free reign and can even come up into our bedroom). So, here I am, facing the reality of trying to find a new home for our lovely cat Lexie. Lexie will be 11 this summer. She is no spring chicken, but she is in excellent health and is a lovely cat. People who have met Lexie have commented on what a sweetie she is. She is not your average cat. She is cuddly and friendly. She comes when she is called and she is warm and social (she wants to be around you all of the time). The hardest part is she loves our son and he loves her too. In fact, he loves her so much that I’m quite certain his first word will be, “kitty.” (He already says, “kheee” whenever she comes around him). But, after the scare of epi-pen and anaphylaxis  talks from the doctor I have to face the reality, that as much as I love Lexie, I love my husband even more and I want him to be able to breathe in his own home. So this is as much an advertisement as it is a post. I’m on the hunt for a loving home for Lexie. I want her to find a home where someone knows and appreciates what a cool cat she really is and someone who will love her. Prior to adopting her out, I’m more than happy to have her go in for a full check-up, get her vaccines updated, get geriatric blood work and urinalysis done to ensure she is in good health and get her teeth cleaned so that whoever takes her is starting with a clean bill of health and not having to undertake any major expenses for her. I think ideally she would be happiest as the only cat in the house. She can get along well with dogs, but at this point in her life, if she was the only pet in the house she’d probably prefer that. She really is a great cat, the best as far as cats go, and has very few issues. If you know anyone who would love her as much (or more) than we do please contact me. Here are some more pictures of our sweet Lexie:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Motherhood is a FIVE letter word…(Well really 5, Five letter words)!

Going out for a cold winter's walk (it wasn't quite -20C on this day).

GUILT. Motherhood has been good to me. In fact, it has been great! It has been challenging but rewarding, full of simple pleasures and abundant joy. But through it all there’s been this lingering bit of guilt that’s around every turn. Every Mom I talk to has the same feeling (and I think most Dad’s do too). It’s just a fact of parenthood that no one tells you about and you don’t fully experience pre-child. It happens because now there is this little person dependent on you and you so desperately don’t want to let them down. So, you feel guilty when you leave them (he shouldn’t be on his own), but then you feel guilty when you stay (how will he ever learn to be independent). You feel guilty if you give them certain things (those silly electronic toys), or if you don’t (he really should be playing freely). You feel guilty if you don’t do certain activities with them (we really should be outside on this glorious day) or when you do (It looked so nice out, how could I not have checked the weather before we left. It has got to be -20C and the wind is howling!). And, you feel guilt if you indulge in a blogging session (even if they’re napping, because you could be spending this time running a load of laundry or getting meals ready or getting some other endless household chore ticked off the to-do list).

“Food, love, career, and mothers, the four major guilt groups.”  ~Cathy Guisewite

I had just finished my old job about a week before this photo was taken. So much has changed!

You may be wondering where all of this is coming from…As some of you know (but most of you don’t) I’ll be starting a new job TOMORROW. Finlay is not quite 9 months old. I still have more than 3 months left of paid maternity leave that I could be taking. So why am I taking a job now? Why would I ever want to willing go back early? (Trust me, these are questions I’ve asked myself once or twice). But, it’s the person who has the security of a job to return to after maternity leave that asks these kinds of questions. You see, before Finlay was born, I was working on a short-term contract  that ended the day I went into labour. The place I worked for owed me nothing and 2 months after he was born my old part-time, contract position was converted into a full-time, permanent position and I was unable (or really was unwilling) to apply. We also live in a place where people in my career are not exactly in demand….there’s just too much supply. So, as you can imagine, it was about this time that I started to sweat. Not knowing what I would be doing when my precious maternity leave pay expired was something which has plagued me throughout this time off. Many of my friends would say, “Don’t worry about it. Something will come up. Just enjoy the time you have.” Excellent advice, but impossible to follow. While I know you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, I was! So, there’s another 5 letter word for you….WORRY!

“That’s the secret to life… replace one worry with another.” ~Charles M. Schulz

Little dragons may not be very flexible, but as a Mom, I have to be!

With that in mind, when a good position came up in my field about a month ago that offered flexible hours, the opportunity to work from home and the chance to work part-time, I jumped on it. If this meant I wouldn’t have to worry about where a paycheck was going to be coming from in a few months time and the work looked rewarding (which it does) why wouldn’t I? My husband and I are not big spenders and live within our means, but there was never a question that I’d have to return to work. Like most people, we have debts (mortgages, loans, etc) which need to be paid. We like to live a certain way, which requires two incomes. We have dreams and future aspirations that require money. But aside from the financial aspect of returning to work, I had a rewarding career. While motherhood has been wonderful, I do find myself lacking a certain mental stimulation that I used to receive from my job and from time to time (usually while singing goofy songs, and juggling toys) I find myself missing adult interaction! So while there has never been a question of returning to work after maternity leave, coming back this early wasn’t quite on my radar either. I guess that’s another 5 letter word..ADAPT.  If there’s nothing else, I’ve learned from life as a Mom, it’s that change happens, you have to learn to adapt, you have to learn to go with the flow.

“Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.”  ~Bruce Barton

The Jolly Jumper reminds me that I should, "Leap, and the Net Will Appear." ~John Burrows

I will say this, the job I have lined up has a lot of pros. While it’s in the field of veterinary medicine, it’s doing something I’ve never done before and will be a challenge (I like challenges). I can work from home for a lot of it. For the month of March, Jarrod can help out with the childcare so that we can avoid day care for another month. And even once I do put Finlay in daycare in April it will only be for 2 days a week as I can work around his naps, in the evening and on weekends. Even still, it does feel a bit scary and stressful. I find myself wondering, “Did I do enough for him in the time I had off?” (That damn guilt talking again). And, I find myself thinking of the future. How will I manage doing everything that I did while I was on maternity AND take on a job without burning out?!? I guess that’s the point. I won’t be able to do everything (which makes me think of the saying, “If you try to be good at everything, you will end up succeeding at nothing.” ~Unknown). I can only do what I can do and I will have to rely on others, on childcare providers, on my husband and perhaps on my crock-pot! I will STRIVE to do the best job I can at being a working mother and know that it will come with successes and failures.

The family that I adore!

And so that brings us to the last 5 letter word, ADORE. In order to embrace change and all of the uncertainty that it brings, to embark upon the new challenges and paths in my life, I have to focus on the important things. As I’ve stated in previous posts, the important things aren’t really things at all, they are the people I love; my family, my husband, my child, my friends, and the experiences I have with these wonderful people. Love isn’t a strong enough word to describe the feelings I have for my son, for my husband. I adore them. And so while I may not be around as much to make culinary creations, to keep the house in order, to change diapers and wipe snotty noses, as long as they know I am there for them and I love them, than that is what really matters!

“A mother’s love is instinctual, unconditional, and forever.” ~ Unknown

It’s more important to enjoy the moments!

Snuggling After a Feeding.

Today, thanks to my friend MH, I stumbled across an excellent blog by another mom who shares some similar ideals as I do. I haven’t asked her permission to link to her blog, so I won’t, but suffice to say if you Google, “Minimalist Mom” you’ll find her.  I sat reading her blog about simplifying your life and finding it HUGELY ironic that my post a few days ago was all about “My Favourite Things.” While my intention behind writing that blog post was to serve as an aid for my friends who are about to have their first baby, perhaps the spirit of the post was wrong. Perhaps, instead of sharing a list of my favourite things with them, I should have shared a list of my favourite moments. It’s true that all of us have our favourite things in life, that special bowl that makes cookies turn out better, that tee shirt (holes and all) that fits just right, the pillow that has just the right divot in it to get the best night’s sleep. These are our creature comforts, but they are just things after all. When I look back at my blog post on my favourite things, I realize that while a lot of these items were a big help and nice to have, they were still just material items and really have not contributed in anyway to the important moments in my little boy’s life. The first time he reached his arms out to me, the first time he laughed, the first time he looked me in the eyes; these have been the experiences when my heart has truly fluttered and not one of them involved a material object. So, in the spirit of celebrating experiences over things, I thought I’d share a list of my top 10 favourite moments with Finlay so far.

Skin to skin

Skin to Skin– Immediately after you were born you were diapered and then placed onto my bare chest. Feeling the warmth between us, smelling you, looking into your eyes and touching your skin is something I’ll never forget. I’d been up for almost 24 hours straight by the time you were born, but for that first hour or so after your arrival I didn’t feel a bit tired. I was elated, abuzz and deeply in love with my new baby. That might just have been the best moment of my entire life.
Practice Makes Perfect– While breastfeeding was initially a struggle for us (I’m not going to sugar coat this for anyone, in those first few weeks it was toe-curlingly painful) we finally hit our groove around the time you were 6 weeks old. Ever since then it’s been one of the most delightful aspects of being a Mom! It was a hugely empowering feeling to know that up until the point that you started on solid foods, that I was responsible growing you. The bonding we’ve had has been so special, and there is really no better way to wake up in the morning than beside your baby, looking down at him nursing and stroking his little hand.
Who Flung Dung- Poop may not seem like a particularly heart-warming experience, but there’s something about funny poo moments that make you smile. We had one when you were just a few weeks old. I was changing you on your change table and had your legs hiked up high in the air. I heard a little rumbling in your tummy and before I could grab a cloth or a diaper you pooped in a perfect, projectile arc clear across the room and into your basket of clean diapers. It was a laugh-out-loud moment and one I’ll never forget.
Smile, You’re on Candid Camera We’ve got lots of funny breastfeeding moments but there are two that are worth sharing and this one is one of them. You would have been only a few weeks old when I had headed out to Wal-Mart with you to buy a few items. While I was there I wanted to find a sun dress that would be breastfeeding friendly. We were in the change room and you started to wail. I figured you were hungry so I stripped off the dress and sat on the bench in the change room in nothing but a pair of panties. That’s when I noticed the sign on the wall that stated that Wal-Mart used closed circuit cameras in their change rooms to prevent theft.  Wow, some pimply, teenage, security guard got an education on breastfeeding that day!

Finlay with Great Gram

Heartbreaker- While seeing you smile at me makes my heart flutter, watching you smile at others and seeing their reactions to your beautiful grin is nearly as great. In particular, we took you to meet your Great Gram (who is 93 years old) when you were 6 weeks old. We plucked you out of your car seat and pointed you in her direction and you gave her the biggest ear to ear smile I have ever seen. She saw it too and she clutched at her heart, a tear came to her eye and she melted right there on the spot. That was an incredibly special moment for all of us (and Gram said to me when we were leaving, “You have no idea how much this visit meant to me!”).
Giggles Galore- It is an absolute hoot for us to listen to you laugh. There’s something about a baby’s laughter that just makes everyone around them feel better. As a ticklish baby we can coax laughter out of you easily, but it’s even nicer to hear when you laugh on your own accord.

Going for a paddle on the lake!

Ahoy!-Another slightly humiliating breastfeeding experience happened this summer on your first canoe ride. You would have been about 2 months old and we decided to get you out in the canoe with some friends. You were at the front of the boat with me and you started to fuss. Like most times when you’d fuss, I’d give you a boob. So, we’re enjoying the ride, you on my breast and me sitting back and letting your Dad paddle us on a beautiful, sunny, island day. We came around a point and there was a boat with a couple of guys in it fishing. I should add that these were not recreational, beer-in-hand fishermen, these were commercial, hauling nets, wearing oil-slicks, hardworking fisherman. So as not to appear impolite we all waved and I pulled off your little sunhat and put it over my exposed breast and we kept going. As we got a little further away we heard the one fellow exclaim to the other, “Now that’s something you don’t see every day!”

A lovely November beach walk

Enjoying the Great Outdoors- Whether it has been having you on our back deck listening to the birds as a newborn, enjoying the cottage in N.S. on lazy summer days, going for an unseasonably warm beach walk on a sunny November day, or snowshoeing with you in your sled across our frozen lake in the winter; some of our best moments have been (and likely will continue to be) outside.
Chatterbox-You pontificate with great conviction and even though everything you say is nonsensical at this point, you’d think you were delivering the sermon from the mount. I know this skill will likely haunt us during your teenage years, but right now it’s a huge amount of fun to listen to you babble.

Mmmm!

Meal time- Baby-led weaning has been one of the best things we did as parents.Meal time is pure joy. I love sitting around a table with my family, all eating together and talking about our day and who would have thought it could have started when you were a baby. You love feeding yourself. It is a process of exploration in colours, textures, and tastes. It’s been fun for us too, watching you hoot, holler and throw food around.  It has made for great photo ops and at times it has bordered on the hilarious.

I realized after writing this list that I wrote it as if I was talking to Finlay and not to another audience, but the reality is, I hope that someday down the road I can share this list with him. So, in fact, it really is written for him (and for me). And for those of you needing proof that experiences are more valuable than material goods, check out this study on how experiences make you happier than possessions.

Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.~Martin Luther King, Jr.

These are a few of my favourite things! (Baby Edition)

This past weekend we went away to Ontario for a good friend’s wedding. The wedding was lovely and the weekend was a great getaway and it was our first time having a date night sans bébé (and we got to have 2 nights back to back). While we were there we also had the opportunity to catch up with another couple who we haven’t seen in almost 2 years. They were (and still are) great friends of ours and it was so nice to have the opportunity to see them too. We have the type of friendship with them that is so easy. The kind where you can slip right back into where ever it was that you left off without missing a beat, without any awkwardness. This was a really nice weekend as it was about rekindling past friendships.  Perhaps, the nicest part was to realize that true friends don’t care about the distance between you or the time that has past. Anyway, as usual I digress. The purpose of this post is to talk about my favorite things for baby, but the intro was necessary. You see, my friends are having a baby of their own within the next couple of weeks. And like all expectant parents, they are clambering for advice on what to buy, what to expect, what to do and so forth. I have always felt strongly that it’s hard to give advice on what to expect and what/how to do things as each person’s experiences are so individual. But when it comes to what to buy, I have no fears on sharing my opinions! So this is it….my list of favourite baby things! This is by no means a comprehensive list. I could dedicate a whole blog to cool baby/kids things, but this is a good start. (Links to the various items are in bold and underlined).  = LOVE THIS ITEM (i.e. It’s on my Can’t Live Without List)!!!

Sleep Aids: Both of these guys got ’s because there really is nothing more valuable than sleep and both of these items were huge helpers.

  • Tiny Love Sweet Island Dreams Mobile()- This is the best mobile on the market as far as I’m concerned. There are lots of cute, plush, designer mobiles available that will look pretty and magazine spread ready. This is not that mobile. It has garish neon colours and is plastic, but what it lacks in appearance it makes up for 100 fold in functionality. Unlike those pretty mobiles which only play a tune for a minute or two, this will play music for 20 minutes and it is lovely classical music mixed with nature sounds. The mobile part is fantastic too, because as it spins the little animals actually pivot and wobble individually. Finlay found it highly amusing and would watch it for upwards of an hour, cooing, kicking, giggling and screeching all the while! Once baby is too big for the mobile it actually converts to a crib side nightlight and music box. To top it all off it comes with a remote so you can activate it while you’re still lying in bed The only issue is it didn’t really help him sleep. It was more for entertainment, visual stimulation and for quiet time. We got ours at Sears and they go on sale regularly for 20% off (just call and ask when they think their Tiny Love stuff is going on sale again and then start watching the fliers).
  • Fisher Price Aquarium()- Because we had the TL Mobile, I didn’t think we’d need anything else, but once Finlay hit about 5-6 months the mobile didn’t hold his attention anymore and we were in need of something that actually helped put him to sleep. This is where this LIVESAVING toy came into play. Many of my friends were using this and swearing by it so I broke down and bought it. I so wished that I’d done so earlier. It really helped him to self soothe once he was sleeping in his own room. It plays music for about 20 minutes, has bubbles, lights, and soothing ocean noises. There are about 10 different tunes or water-sounds to choose from. It also comes with a remote. It’s a definite sanity saver and Wal-Mart has them for the cheapest price (~$35).

Diapering: Again, this topic could be an entire blog all unto itself and believe me Cloth Diapering Blogs exist in abundance. But for the purpose of today’s post I’m going to limit this to a few main points. As most of you know, we chose cloth diapers and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  There were a lot of factors involved. They’re better for the environment, they’re better for baby, they’re better on your pocket book, and they’re kind of addictive too (trust me they’re way more fun to shop for then disposables….all the colours, prints, accessories, etc).

  • Diapers: My favourites are the Bummis Prefold System with Bummis Covers and Snappi Clips when Finlay was a newborn and now I like the Bum Genius All-In-One or Bum Genius 4.0 Pocket diapers the best.  We use doubled up prefolds with a snappi and a Bummis Super Brite gusseted diaper cover at night (and have never had a leak!). I think though, with cloth, it’s important to have a couple of different types/systems. The reason being is you may like one type better than your husband and so it’s nice for him to be able to use the ones he likes because trust me, if your partner’s not on board with using cloth diapers, you will fail at the attempt.  Also, some diapers fit baby better at certain times. For example, I’ve found that I really like Bum Genius, but if Finlay’s just gone through a growth spurt, his legs may be a bit too skinny for them and then I switch him back into prefolds or FuzziBunz. Conversely, there are times when he’s been a bit more filled out and he fits better into something else. It’s just a good thing to have a bunch of options. We’ve used FuzziBunz, Bummis Prefolds and covers, Bum Genius All-in-one (one size) and 4.0 Pocket Diapers (one size) and Mother Ease Diapers and covers. In terms of the number of diapers you need, it’s highly variable depending upon your budget, the frequency with which you plan to do laundry, the system you go with, the age of your baby, etc, but a good round average number is about 2 dozen. There are a couple of excellent cloth diapering resources that can give oodles more information about cloth diapering systems, recommendations, etc (so instead of me just repeating what they have to say I’ll provide links for those who want more cloth diapering details).
  • http://allaboutclothdiapers.com/
  • http://www.cloth-diapers-made-easy.com/
  • http://www.eastcoastdiapers.com/shop/index.php?p=home
  • http://www.diaperingdecisions.com/VirtuesOfCloth.htm
  • Diaper Sprayer- Not a necessity and in fact we didn’t even use it for the first 6 months, but it’s a huge help once baby starts eating solid foods! It’s much nicer to be able to spray of the poop into the toilet than to dunk your hands in.
  • Wet Bag(s)-We use 3 large wet bags and 1 medium and 1 small one. They are all made by Bummis. The large ones fit perfectly into a diaper pail and have a zip and toggle close. You need at least 2 Large ones (so that when one is in the wash/drying you have another for in the pail) and it’s nice to have 3 so you have  a bag for dirty clothes when you go away. The smaller bags are used with your diaper bag so you have something to put dirties in when you’re away from home. In retrospect, I would have rather have had 2 medium bags instead of a medium and a small as I find the small bag gets filled up really quickly with diapers, wipes, etc and really only holds one change, whereas the medium holds at least 2 changes.
  • Barrier Cream- When using cloth diapers you have to be really careful about the creams you use on baby’s bum. The last thing you want to do is ruin the absorbability of your diapers and have leaks. We’ve used Bum Bum Balm by Dimpleskins since the beginning and have really liked it.
  • Laundry Detergent- Again, this concerns absorbability. Some detergents have harsh chemicals, dyes, perfumes and additives that can affect baby’s skin or can create a film on your diaper causing it to lose absorbability. There are lots of detergents that have been created specifically for use with cloth. The problem with many of them is that they are only sold in specialty stores and on-line, and if you’re like me and want easy access to detergent without paying an arm and a leg for it then I recommend Down East detergent. On the East Coast it’s available in most Sobeys stores and is reasonably priced.
  • Swim Diapers-Bummis Swimmi diaper is what we’ve always used and I really like it. I always have a little smile on my face when I see all of the other moms using the disposable (and expensive) Little Swimmers diapers when I get to reuse Swimmi over and over.  Plus, it works just as well (and it’s under $15).
  • Wipes and Solution- Again, I went with cloth wipes. You can use anything or make your own, but if you’ve got other things to do then cut and sew little squares of fabric I highly recommend the Fuzzi Bunz Wipes. They’re really soft and absorbent too. As for solution, you can use plain water, but I always liked having something a little bit more, especially for poopy-bums. I came across Punkin Booty Bits at a natural parenting store and loved them. They’re really well priced, are homemade with natural ingredients and smell great! My little guy has never had any kind of reaction to them either. Our favourite scent is, “oatmeal, milk and honey”. Ordering them on-line directly from the lady who makes them is the cheapest and easiest way to get them.

Diaper Bag:  This is a spoiler item, meaning that it’s an item I bought to spoil myself. I bought a JuJuBe Be All Bag  () and I LOVE it! It’s definitely not the cheapest bag on the market, but I use it as my purse and I take it everywhere and the pattern is so cute (I got the Drip Drops pattern). It’s a great size if you’re using disposable diapers. For Mom’s like me who are using cloth, you may want to consider an even bigger bag like the Be Prepared (although personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable carrying around that big of a bag for daily use, and the Be All is plenty big for most adventures out).

Teething toys: Both of these items look like glorified doggy chew toys but with a higher price tag, but don’t let appearances fool you as my little guy loves both of these!

  • Sophie the Giraffe– She’s become a staple teething toy in households everywhere. Finlay didn’t love her in the beginning, but once he started to teethe she became a favourite. He chews on all of her surfaces, but especially likes her feet and ears. I like that she’s made from natural rubber and food based dyes as he has chewed her spots off in some places. Downfall is she is expensive ($20-25), but if you search around on e-bay you might find someone selling “seconds” (i.e. slightly defected Sophie’s) for a lot cheaper (I got mine this way and paid about $15 for her with taxes and shipping included- her only flaw was her cheeks weren’t as rosy).

  • Teether ball (aka the nipple ball) ()- This teether toy is the best! The price is right (under $10) and Finlay loved it from the start. There are lots of little prongs to grip onto and each one of them is shaped like a nipple. Before he was teething, he was sucking and slurping all over this toy.  When it got left behind somewhere at Christmas time, there was no doubt that we’d have to buy a replacement! On PEI it’s available at Owl’s Hollow.

Baby Books: I could probably write an entire post (or for that matter and entire blog) on great children’s books. My Mom was a librarian and so I was raised in a reading environment and thus wanted to raise a reader too. We try to find time every day to read a book or two. With that said, here are a couple of our absolute favourites:

  • Baby Boo! () – This book is the clear winner for young babies and as such deserved a sentence or two about it. We were given this book in the hospital when Finlay was born as part of PEI’s raise a reader program. It’s a GREAT book and he LOVES it! It has lots of pictures of babies and is interactive. It’s part of the Amazing Babies series of books and due to the popularity of, “Baby Boo!” we ended up buying a bunch more of them.
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox.
  • Matthew Van Fleet Touch Books (Tails and Dog are our favourites).
  • Sandra Boynton Board Books (Snuggle Puppy and Barnyard Dance are favourites).

Advice Books: These were all hugely helpful to me during pregnancy and the first few months.

  • Birthing From Within by Pam England()- A pre-labour support reference which is even better when paired with the program (if available in your area) or the Keepsake Journal Activity Book (if the program isn’t available).
  • Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett – A fabulous breastfeeding reference.
  • The Baby Book by Dr. Sears- A huge reference book for babies 0-24 months that is devoted to the attachment parenting method and has lots of medical advice too.

Highchair/Chair: The absolute best baby chair/highchair is the First Years Newborn to Toddler Reclining Feeding Seat (). I love this product for so many reasons. It’s portable, it’s easy to clean, it doesn’t take up a lot of space, it can be used from the time a baby is a newborn right up until they are 2-4 years of age, and it’s inexpensive. You can get this from Wal-Mart for about $40 and we have used it for everything from a baby seat to put Finlay in as a newborn (it doesn’t vibrate or play music, but it’s a comfy spot especially when there’s an extra pad put into it- We used this Pad made by Summer) right through to a fully functioning high chair. Friends of ours with a big 3 year old still use it as her booster seat too. I like that I can set him on the counter beside me while I read the paper, or use it at the table, or take it into the bathroom and set up toys on it while I’m having a shower.

Activity toys: Finlay is an incredibly active baby. From the time he was born he was alert and curious, so naturally he has loved doing things where he can be active. We try to get him outside a lot for walks, beach visits, stroller rides, etc, but some days are just not terribly nice out. During those days I try to make sure he gets to use one of the following

  • ExerSaucer ()- This replaced those baby walkers that my generation had as kids. They were the saucers on wheels and invariably we all know someone (or were someone) who rode one of these down a flight of stairs, hence why they are now banned in Canada. This is their stationary cousin and it’s a lifesaver! Friends of mine call it, “The Ring of Neglect” and while I don’t use it to neglect Finlay, it certainly does keep him occupied so that I can get stuff done (showers, meals, blogging, etc). There are probably 100 different variations of this toy. We have the farm themed one. There are also 3-in-1 versions which can come apart and be used earlier and later in a child’s development. Those were expensive and there were none available 2nd hand in our area. I found the farm based one second hand for $25. New they’re around $100-150 depending on what features you want on it.
  • Jolly Jumper– Finlay really likes this toy. Some babies are swing babies, some are vibrating chair babies and some are Jolly Jumper babies. Finlay’s a jumper! He’s been in his since he was 3 months old and still loves it. It won’t be long now though until he’s too big for it and that will be a sad day for both of us! Again, we got this used for $20 and I have the model that attaches to your doorway so it hardly takes up any space.

Bath tub: Yet again, The First Years, has made another product that can be used for multiple stages in a child’s development. We have The First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe Newborn to Toddler Bathtub () and we love it. It’s easy to clean, perfect for newborns, great as baby get older/bigger, fits in a big sink or bathtub and is priced well. I got mine 2nd hand for $5!

Baby Carriers: I’ve used 3 different carriers and have liked all at different times. Originally, I bought the Moby Wrap and had planned to use that exclusively, but I found it awkward witha newborn and was worried about squishing him into it. It was mostly due to the fact that I didn’t know the product all that well, and now as I’ve gotten more comfortable with it I think I would have been fine, but because of my worries, I ended up buying a Baby Bjorn (). I actually loved the Bjorn! It’s only down fall is that it doesn’t fit him anymore (which makes me sad)! So now we’re into a Maya Wrap. I really like this wrap and perhaps in future, I’d use just this and the Bjorn. I like the hip carry position with it and it is really comfortable and well made. None of these carriers are cheap but sometimes you can find them gently used for a deal. Our Bjorn we got 2nd hand for about $30 on eBay.

Sleep sacks: I loved having my baby sleep in a sleep sack. No fear of blankets being too heavy or getting tangled around him while he slept. Finlay is 9 months old and still sleeps in a sleep sack and probably will for a while. While there are a huge range of sleep sacks out there on the market. My favourite are the ones by Gagou Tagou. There are undoubtedly higher quality sacks, but the price of these “designer sacks” is really a turn off ($50 and up) especially when baby grows so quickly. GT’s sacks are made in light, mid and heavy weights and are very reasonably priced ($10-20 per sack).  You can pick them up at most TAG stores and on-line.

Stroller/Car seat: This is such a tricky one as there are a zillion different strollers on the market with a zillion different purposes. To do an extensive review would require a whole post (and that seems rather boring). The same is true for car seats. So instead, I’ll just recommend my favourite. I ended up winning a Euro Grace travel system from a baby show.  I found the stroller part of the rig rather cumbersome though (i.e. it was heavier than a lead balloon and difficult to fit in and out of my small car). I really liked the bucket car seat though and I have the one that went up to 32lbs and 32” which I would strongly recommend. Finlay is still able to use this system, whereas most of my friends who have babies that are younger/smaller have already had to upgrade to another car seat as they bought the model that fits 26lbs and 26”. The issue though is it’s extremely heavy to lug a baby around in one of those seats without a stroller or cart to put them in (the bruises all up and down my legs prior to buying the “SnugRider” are a testament to that fact). So as you’ve guessed, I recommend the Graco SnugRider Frame () paired with your Graco bucket car seat (again buy a big bucket seat so you can get a lot of use out of it, because once you stop using the bucket seat, the SnugRider is useless). We bought this prior to a plane trip when Finlay was 3 months old and it was one of those purchases where I wished I’d had it from the very beginning. It’s AWESOME! It’s small, lightweight, portable and just a smart design. They’re not cheap and you may struggle with paying $100+ for a car seat stroller frame but trust me, they’re worth it (and if you are El Cheapo like moi try looking on Kijiji or Used sites. I got mine for $30 second hand and it’s the best money I ever spent!).

Breastfeeding:

  • Nursing wear- This is especially important at night as no one wants to go through a big production of undressing to give your baby access to your breast in the middle of the night. Majamas brand were my personal favourites and my absolute favourite was the Adelaide Gown ()  which I wore late in my pregnancy and also took to the hospital with me to wear after Finlay was born. Undoubtedly having daytime nursing wear is equally as important for the same reasons, but I don’t have any personal preferences in brands (honestly, I think you can get away without using nursing wear if you’re okay with lifting up your shirt and showing your tummy).
  • Sterilizing system– Instead of a big bulking sterilizing unit, or boiling bottles in pots and pans the sleekest system I’ve seen was the Medela Micro-Steam bags which could be used to sterilize bottles and pump supplies simply in the microwave. You can get these just about anywhere that breastfeeding supplies or baby bottles are sold.
  • Other breastfeeding accessories-
    • Nuby Natural Touch Breast Aid– an ice/warm pack used to help soothe aching breasts. Especially helpful in the early days to help with let-down, soothe pain from engorgement, etc.
    •  Medela Breast Shells–  again a useful tool in the early days if you are experiencing nipple pain from breastfeeding. This helps take the edge off of pain experienced when your nipples get rubbed by your bras/clothes/etc but be warned you want to wear these with loose fitting tops or you’ll look like Madonna .
    • Breastfeeding cover- My favourite was the Bebe Au Lait covers as they had the best quality design and nicer pattern options. I got a cheaper version as well, but the rigid material (metal?) in the neckline bent too easily and became distorted.
    • Bottles-Finlay would not take a bottle until just recently, but when we did finally get him to take one, it was an Avent bottle.  Literally, I have tried over 20 different brands of bottles and this one is the one he prefers and the one that in my opinion most closely simulates the natural breast. Another highly recommended bottle is the Medela Calma , but it’s really expensive and is for breastmilk ONLY and this not as practical to have a lot of.
    • Other critical items include: nursing bras, nursing pads, nipple creams, nursing pillow, rocker/other comfortable place to nurse, bibs or burp cloths although I don’t have specific recommendations for any of these products.