The winter of disease

Everyone told me that sending Arthur to daycare would mean a string of illnesses. They told me, but I didn’t quite internalize it.

On day three of “school” he developed a serious, heartbreaking fever. Since then, we have all suffered from an array of infections and viruses. He’s had a runny nose since November. Thank the cherubs for grandmas!

Sick baby

Add pregnancy to this cocktail and you get a potent recipe for misery. With so much help from JF, I (mostly) managed to keep functioning through baby building, full-time work, raising a toddler, caring for Odie, and the barrage of colds. All of my relationships have suffered – I’m sorry!

Three weeks ago, my body just decided to stop fighting. A day after Arthur vomited all over his bed, JF and I both felt strangely dizzy and nauseous. By 4 p.m. I couldn’t hold down food or liquid. By 2 a.m. my body had been rejecting water for about 10 hours. I was severely dehydrated and went to the hospital where I was put on an IV and strapped to baby heart monitor.

Breakfast of champions

The following days were a haze of vomit, Pedialyte, intermittent work hours, and trying to keep my family alive. Then (just as I was beginning to hold down non-bread substances), it was mucus city. I had a nasty virus that lasted about seven days. Earlier this week I thought I was recovered. Nope! I have a sinus infection. My cheeks feel like they’re on fire, I have no taste buds, and I’m running out of Kleenex.

Today, I finally stopped being an idiot and went to see my doctor. I’m on the road to regaining what little stamina one has during the third trimester of pregnancy… I hope. Having survived this assault on my immune system (flipping and kicking enthusiastically), this baby is going to be the toughest little cookie on the block.

Boulette and I

Why am I sharing this tale? This post is a PSA. If you’re thinking of simultaneously launching into pregnancy and daycare adventures, just don’t. Unless you have the disease-fighting abilities of Khan, it’s not worth it!

To make up for this whiny post, here’s a runny-nosed Arthur singing “Clementine”

The end.

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On l’appelle Boulette: the return of the four gestational dwarves

I’m coming out of blog semi-retirement (a.k.a. parenting a toddler) to announce that Jean-François, Arthur, Odie and I are expecting an addition to our family in June.

The four gestational dwarves are back! We’re nicknaming the fifth – the squiggly human in my belly – Boulette, which is French for meatball.

Boulette: view from above

When we embarked on our first adventure in human creation, I had no idea how difficult being an adequate all-at-once parent/wife/employee/family member/friend/neighbour would be. We’re knee deep in child-rearing and I don’t know how I keep up with my life.

So much mischief

Here’s a quick comparison of my two pregnancies.

Pregnancy awareness

  • Baby 1: I kept a lengthy journal, read a dozen parenting books, and took prenatal classes. Lumpy was the centre of my universe.
  • Baby 2: I actively have to remind myself that I’m 22 weeks pregnant. I lift heavy boxes before noticing that my belly is in the way. I pour myself a second cup of strong coffee before realizing I can’t drink it.

One of two belly pics I’ve taken

Exhaustion

  • Baby 1: I napped regularly. I took baths. I meditated. I went to bed before 10 p.m.
  • Baby 2: I wake up with my toddler at 5:30 a.m. I fall asleep at 11 p.m. having spent my evening cooking, playing and cleaning. I don’t sleep well because my brain worries about all sorts of dumb things. Remind me, what are naps?

Diet and exercise

  • Baby 1: I ate pretty well and made time for long walks with Odie. I biked, stretched, and focused on making my body a friggin temple.
  • Baby 2: I make a balanced breakfast and dinner (for my son) but lunch is a disaster. I binge on cookies. And my BBQ chip consumption is way up. I’m lucky if I can get my tired ass out to yoga class once a week.

Me and my main squeeze: BBQ chips

Preparedness

  • Baby 1: I kept a ruthlessly organized to do list and steadily ticked every box. When Arthur was born my house was spotless, freezer full, birth plan printed, nursery fully stocked, carseat installed, and hospital bags packed and loaded.
  • Baby 2: I’m kinda getting there, I think?

Telling people

  • Baby 1: When I announced my pregnancy on Hello Field I was three months pregnant and had already told close family and friends.
  • Baby 2: I’m about five months pregnant and I still have a niggling feeling I forgot some people on my “Yo, I’m knocked up!” list. Sorry guys!

The photo I JUST took to announce the pregnancy on Facebook

Money

  • Baby 1: Boy did we have it good! Our expenses were limited. We were showered with gifts, and bought all our additional baby supplies without batting an eye.
  • Baby 2: Daycare is hella expensive. We’re saving aggressively for a) a (eye roll) minivan and b) 18 months of parental leave. This little girl is going to be wearing a lot of red plaid and blue stripes, because we’re not buying her a new wardrobe.

Our relationship

  • Baby 1: We went on weekly date nights, talked for hours about what life with the baby would be like, and stayed constantly connected.
  • Baby 2: We’re lucky if we get to slump onto the same couch for 30 minutes to watch TV. JF is still my superhero, but now it’s because he devotes his heart and soul to being an amazing parent. Dates are a distant memory.

JF is my all-star

Given the lack of care and attention Boulette is already experiencing, I am a bit anxious about life with two children. Will I manage to offer them both enough love and support? How in the name of Moses will my house stay clean?

BUT that doesn’t take away the excitement, deep in my gut, at the prospect of meeting this brand new person. I look forward to that baby smell, first smile, and the weight and warmth of her tiny body on my chest.

This time around, I have the added anticipation of watching my first baby fall in love with my second. What a joy that will be.

Arthur, at three(ish) days old

10 pros and cons of mat leave

Arthur is already 10 months old. My brain is having difficulty processing this. Where has my baby gone? How is my leave almost over? Why is time even a thing?

Photo credit: Doug Crawford

Over the last ten months, there have been some amazing moments, and some not so amazing. Here is my totally honest maternity leave pros and cons list.

PROS

  1. The actual baby: Babies bring so much joy. They’re soft, they’re cute, they (mostly) smell good, and they’re wonderful to cuddle. When it’s your baby, that joy quadruples. Even when you’re exhausted and covered in vomit, a baby smile will make you feel like the luckiest person in the universe.

    Arthur is a few days old in this picture – so small and sweet!

  2. Time (kinda): Once you’ve recovered from the hell of the first few months, you’ll find babies sleep a lot during the day. During nap time, you’re free to do cool things, as long as you’re within range of your baby monitor and don’t mind that your house looks like it was hit by a tsunami. I spent a lot of my mat leave cleaning and planning our move, but I also enjoyed visits with family and reading Outlander.
  3. People come to you: Babies are like little magnets. They draw in all the people you love. Some of those people bring food, offer gifts, and clean your house. It’s amazing.
  4. Not working: When Arthur was first born, I had no time or energy to think about work. When things got easier, I opted to continue to not think about work. I mean, I love my colleagues and like my job, but focusing my family has been a nice change. DISCLAIMER : I live in Canada, the land of 12-month parental leave.
  5. Comfy pants: On a similar note, I am really digging that I can wear whatever the heck I want. My outfits these past ten months have generally consisted of tights and stretchy jeans with t-shirts.
  6. Mom squads: To get out of the house offer the baby cool new experiences, I started attending play groups. It’s great to connect with dozens of other haggard-looking adults who are going through the same crazy shit. I really appreciate the circle of trust I’ve built.
  7. Running errands during business hours: During mat leave, you never have to worry that a business is busy or closed. There is no rush hour. As long as baby is cooperating (you do NOT want to deal with poop or tears in public) visits to the bank, liquor store, and pharmacy are quick and painless. Have you ever been to a grocery store on a Wednesday morning? It’s a whole new shopping experience. No lineups, no need to park in Siberia, no jostling for the best produce.
  8. Rediscovering: Remember when you were small and super excited about Christmas, toys, and snow; then you became a grownup and the magic went away? Well all of those things (and more) become exciting again because your baby is experiencing them for the first time. I’ve loved dusting off my childhood books and doing all the voices.

    Here’s a video of Arthur saying “wow!”

  9. Baby gear: I really enjoyed setting up Arthur’s nursery. Picking colours, framing art, folding little pairs of socks, assembling the crib… it’s all super fun. I haven’t had to buy much (thanks friends and family!) but when I do, I get a real kick out of second hand baby shops. Is that a $3 pair of itty bitty corduroy pants? Sold! Tiny $2 bowties? Yes please!
  10. New dads and grandparents: My husband seems to have been born for this job. One of my very favourite things is watching him with our son. Same goes for Arthur’s grandparents. It has been so much fun to see his connection with them grow.

The A Team

CONS

  1. Sleep deprivation: Early maternity leave is almost cruel. After more than 24 hours of being kept awake by regular bursts of pain, you push a watermelon-sized human out of your vagina. Then you spend the next two months awake around the clock, trying to keep your baby fed, clean and happy. Then you finally kinda get a routine, but you are still waking up two or three times at night to feed your baby. Even when your baby starts sleeping through the night (for me it was at four months) your day starts at 6 a.m. with a feeding. I still feel exhausted.

    Will I ever look untired again?

  2. Poop: A lot of my life revolves around Arthur’s feces. When he was brand new, it was making sure he was getting enough milk. Then it was dealing with poopsplosions as he figured out how to use his bowels. Now that he’s eating solids, I’m constantly thinking about whether he is getting enough fibre. Sigh.
  3. Your body changes: Since giving birth, I’ve had a giant, fatty flap of skin hanging from my lower abdomen. I have stretch marks. None of my pants fit. Also my lochia flow (code for massive amounts of blood) lasted seven weeks. My rotten diet from the early days of mat leave (hello BBQ chips!) has persisted, so I’ve gained about ten pounds since Arthur was born. We do a lot of walking, but not enough to counter the BBQ chips.
  4. Your relationships change: Maintaining a relationship with your partner is hard when you don’t have a small child. Trying to find time to connect when you do is even harder. The same is true for your friends who aren’t on maternity leave (i.e. almost all of them). You just have to do your best to make it work.

    Thanks to all the awesome friends who’ve made the trek to visit!

  5. Confinement: Baby naps offer time to get lots done, which rocks. But sometimes you also feel trapped in your own house. I resent the fact that any outing requires a giant bag of supplies. And dressing babies (at least my baby) is like dressing a feral raccoon, so getting ready to go out can be difficult.
  6. Cleanup: I spend SO much time picking up after my kid. Tidying toys, washing poop-stained onesies, wiping down his high chair… it never ends. If I let it pile up, the mess just takes over – eating away at my sanity. There are pieces of baby rice cracker stuck on my slippers as I type and they are driving me bonkers. As soon as I finish this post I am washing them.
  7. Guilt: When I was pregnant, I totally thought I would be that mom who made baby purees from organic, locally-sourced food. I thought I would : teach him sign language; do all sorts of research on brain-building games; and wear him in my baby carrier 24/7. In reality : I feed him whatever I’m eating; I know a minimum about baby development; and my back gave out after five months of carrying him. My guiltiest mom moments are when I put him in his play room (a.k.a. baby jail) so that I can have 10 minutes to catch up on social media and Clash Royale.
  8. Feeling like a cow: Often I really love breastfeeding. I love feeling connected to my baby. I love the quiet and the snuggles. I love knowing I’m giving him the best (and cheapest) possible food out there for his development. But sometimes, I just feel like a cow. Pumping milk is pretty much the worst thing ever. I look and feel like I’m hooked up to a dairy farm sucking machine. Also, sometimes I would really rather not whip out my boob in a public place.
  9. Feeling insignificant: Sometimes, when Arthur is being particularly rambunctious, all I manage to accomplish in a day is keeping him alive. JF gets home after a day of fixing problems and the house is a disaster, the baby is crying and my left eye is twitching. It can be rather demoralizing.
  10. Questions about the next baby: As Arthur gets older, people just can’t seem to help themselves. « Are you going to have another one? » « How long will you be at work before your next one? » « Is Arthur going to have a little brother or sister? » My stance on questions related to my uterus is this : don’t. My reproductive system is no concern of yours.

Our family is a perfectly good size, thank you! Photo credit: Joël Forget

And that’s it! My honest assessment of maternity leave. All things considered, it really is an amazing stretch of time. I give it a solid eight out of ten, most days. Some days are an eleven.

 

Movin’ on up

It’s true. We’re moving. We put our house on the market in early July and it just sold a to a nice couple — a bittersweet moment.

House with sold sign

Our lovely old home, sold!

Public service announcement

If you have a small child, staging and cleaning a house for viewings is not advisable. You will find vacuuming with a wriggling fifteen-pound baby in your arms exceedingly annoying. You will also seriously resent regularly dismantling and putting away exersaucers, activity mats and jolly jumpers.

Those of you not watching my Facebook feed are no doubt thinking « what the damn hell!? »

It is rather confusing. We quite like Elmvale – particularly the high quality doughnuts. We also love our pretty victorian home. But the arrival of a certain little goober has changed a few things.

A baby on the ground, surrounded by toys and smiling

Arthur is the reason we’re moving

Why we decided to move

  • We want to live closer to family and friends in Lafontaine, Perkinsfield and Midland. Our parents are going to offer part-time daycare when I return to work. Ah-mazing.
  • We’d rather move while I have “free time” (ha) to pack up and manage logistics. Mat leave for the win!
  • We’d also rather move while baby Arthur’s mobility is limited. I do not want to have to renovate/set up a home while chasing a toddler.
  • The kid is going to a French school in North Simcoe County (Elmvale is already in that catchment) so we want to ease his commute.
  • We still want a country house! Or a least a house on a quieter street with a bigger yard.

Which brings me to my next public service announcement. We need help finding a home. Do you know someone with a great house who’s thinking of selling? Are any of your elderly neighbours (with well-maintained homes) on the brink of death? Awesome! Let us know!

What we want — must haves

  • Something in Tiny Township — south of Balm Beach Road so our drive to Barrie remains bearable
  • A quiet street, low on traffic — so Arthur and Odie can roam free
  • A big yard that is either a) private b) fenced or c) ready for fencing
  • At least three bedrooms
  • Good, solid bones — we can update a kitchen or put in new floors but we don’t want to rejig walls, put in new electrical, or replace plumbing

What we want — nice to haves

  • Acreage — one or two would suffice, more would be great
  • Surrounded by trees for privacy
  • A garage
  • Two full bathrooms
  • A finished (or finishable) basement

Is that so much to ask? Probably, in this market — especially with our limited budget. But we’re putting it out to the universe anyway. Wish us luck!

To the kale washers

I hate washing kale. I like eating kale, cooking kale, and even picking kale. But I hate washing it.

When I’m rested and happy, I manage to push past my distaste for the task. I even find the energy to de-stem it, carefully cut it into bite sized pieces and make salad dressing.

When I’m tired and cranky, the kale slowly yellows in the fridge until I guiltily throw it into the compost. As I toss it, I think about the hungry people in this world, the money I just wasted, as well as the resources it took to grow and ship the kale to Elmvale.

Here’s the thing about being a new parent; you’re always tired. Always. Why? Because :

  • Labour itself is a sleepless two-day marathon.
  • Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, so they cry — a lot.
  • They need to be fed every two to three hours, day and night.
  • Newborns are preceded by months of sleep deprivation (imagine snoozing with a bowling ball on your bladder).
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Me and the babe. I’m happy but can you see the bags under my eyes?

I love my little dude – so, so, so deeply. With a love intense enough to frighten me sometimes. But all that wakefulness is starting to take its toll on my body.

So the short version of the story is : I haven’t been washing much kale lately.

Luckily my enormous, beautiful, supportive network of friends and family has once again jumped in to save me from a BBQ-chip-based diet. They’ve cooked, cleaned, driven, dog-walked, babysat, grocery-shopped, and gardened for us. Many travelled long distances — through cottage country traffic — to visit.

As I watched my little sister scrub kale in my kitchen sink the other day, I thought about the wealth of love underpinning my whole life. Kale may be an odd topic for an initial postpartum post, but I can’t think of a better way to describe how special our baby’s “village” is

I want each benefactor (a.k.a. kale washer) to know: it mattered. Every kind action was noticed and appreciated. Thank you. xo

Third trimester musings

With five weeks until Lumpy’s due date, I can feel my whole focus shifting. Between my pea-sized bladder, sore hips, and overactive mind, sleep is beginning to elude me.

Here I am today – 35.5 weeks pregnant and feeling quite whale-like

The little energy I have, I direct to working, eating and preparing for Lumpy’s arrival. My relationships, Twitter feed and housework are suffering a bit.

A month ago, I was tweeting regularly, but living on the edge of nesting panic. Our bathroom was in shambles and Lumpy’s room was still filled with construction debris. But with a giant boost from family and a week off work, we managed to :

  • Finish the bathroom
  • Finish the nursery
  • Pack for the hospital
  • Take a hospital tour and drop off our forms
  • Meet with our lovely doula and doctor
  • Attend an ultrasound
  • Install the carseat
  • Finish our birth plan
  • And more!

Bathroom, before and after

Lumpy’s room, before and after

Since that busy week, our dear friends Mireille and Patrick hosted a beautiful shower so that we could celebrate Lumpy with our Toronto crew. The gifts from that event, combined with those from the lovely local shower my aunts JoAnne (a.k.a. the paint fairy) and Denise hosted in January, mean we have more than we will ever need to care for this little gaffer. He is already so very loved.

JF and the awesome motorcycle Daryl and Kyrsta made us out of baby supplies

We’re not totally ready. I still haven’t bought nursing bras, prepped healthy frozen food, sterilized bottles and breast pumps, or given our house a good scrub down. But the bottom line is, if Lumpy were to pop out of my uterus tomorrow, we’d be alright.

More than alright, really. Because we have the best support network in the whole land. Everyone (parents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbours) has offered to pitch in and help us when caring for a needy newborn turns us into zombies – or in my case, a pair of zombie boobs.

My favourite corner of the nursery, because it’s filled with gifts from our friends and family – everything from the crib, to the books, to the stuffed animals

Plus I know I have a stellar partner to get me through. JF continues to be amazingly thoughtful and patient through the wild hormone adventure that is pregnancy. I’m grateful for him every day and can’t wait to see him get his dad on.

This man is going to be a great parent – and Odie is going to be a stellar brother!

Given my recent tiredness and upcoming labour, this may be the last post for awhile. Wish us luck! I’ll update you all as often as I can. xo

32 gifts

Early winter kicks me in the shins every year. I can’t help feeling glum as the merriness of Christmas fades and I look ahead to three cold, hard, vacationless months. Plus, I’m pretty sad and anxious for the world right now.

I temporarily banished the doldrums this morning, with what’s become a January tradition: listing some of the highlights of the year gone by — one bullet for every year of my life.

In 2016 I…

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

A view from the side of the road in Slovenia

  • Performed in a band
  • Skated the ice trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park
  • Celebrated my amazing grandfather, Dinis Rebelo
  • Had pancakes at the Wye Marsh Sweetwater Harvest Festival
  • Replaced the ugly mudroom ceiling with handsome beadboard
  • Hugged Odie on his one-year anniversary with us
  • Had my first Thai massage
  • Travelled to the top of 30 Rock to watch the sunset
  • Checked out a California beach
Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

Violet, Joël and Avery at Ocean Beach in San Diego, CA

  • Learned to throw an axe
  • Got awesome false eyelashes
  • Bought my first king-sized bed
  • Came second in the five family nerd tournament
  • Joined Weight Watchers and lost 15 pounds
  • Attended my 10th Festival du Loup
  • Hosted an epic garage sale on my birthday
  • Started the world’s longest bathroom renovation
  • Went to the ballet
  • Spent time with my avo
Hanging with avo usually looks like this - except add food

Hanging with avo usually looks like this – except add food

  • Attended my first night time santa claus parade
  • Danced with mom, Yève and Elise on international women’s day
  • Got to level 23 in Pokémon Go
  • Powered through a few injuries and illnesses (concussion, poison ivy, an epic battle with a nettle tree)
  • Partied with the Lefaives at JoAnne and Dan’s 40th anniversary party
  • Bought a new mommy mobile – Linda the Forester
  • Greeted many friends’ adorable new babies
  • Drank margaritas the size of my head in Mexico
Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

Some of the gang that travelled to Mexico with us. So cool!

  • Started focusing on our little family — quitting several volunteer roles
  • Helped good friends move into their first home

Somehow I forgot to post my list from 2015, but here are those from 2014 and 2013.

As usual, counting my blessings makes me feel a heck of a lot better. 2016 may have been a shit year for the human race, but it was a great one for me. Thanks to everyone who played a part.

xo