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.


  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


  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.



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

Watching my weight

The wedding dress is just an excuse. I’ve wanted to shed the Elmvale 15 (a.k.a. the pounds I gained when we moved here) for almost three years.

I’m a strong woman. I try my very best to think and speak positively about the way I look, even on the days when I put my pants on backward and feel like regurgitated peanut butter. I don’t aspire to perfection. I just want to feel good and healthy again.

I’m happy to report that as of yesterday, I reached my preliminary goal. I’m back to the slightly less depressing 175 lbs I was when I lived in Toronto and walked all the time. My pants fit better. My blouse buttons are no longer popping off.

My stretch goal — 160 lbs — feels far away. But for the first time in years, I’m headed in the right direction: down instead of up.

You see, I joined Weight Watchers in March. We have a love-hate relationship, WW and I. I love seeing results. I hate not being able to eat brownies. It loves when I stick to my daily point allowance. It hates when I deviate for major holidays, special occasions, or particularly delicious-looking rice krispie squares.

How could anyone NOT eat this adorable Easter cake made by my aunt Fina?

How could anyone NOT eat this adorable Easter cake made by my aunt Fina?

In any case, we’re making slow and steady progress, despite the occasional regression into fat, sugar and carbs.

What I like most about Weight Watchers is that they, ahem, watch you. You literally attend meetings every week. And those meetings literally start with a weigh-in.

I cringe every time I step onto that scale. That moment — that exact second when I see the numbers climb higher and higher — is why I try to stick to the program. Who knows how long I’ll stay motivated; perhaps as long as I’m seeing results. But so far, so good.

Where to start?

So much has happened these past few months, I hardly know where to begin. Serves me right for waiting so long to post! Here’s a poor attempt at a recap.

  1. Sunny Mexico: After Christmas, we stayed in a small town called Puerto Morelos, just south of Cancun. The company, food and locale were increíble!
  2. Three kings: We toasted the magi with our friend Pascal, who I am convinced only recognizes this holiday because of this gorgeous French cake.

    La galette des rois. Probably the most delicious thing I've ever eaten.

    La galette des rois. Probably the most delicious and pretty thing I’ve ever eaten.

  3. Neil visite: My papa was in Canada for a week or so, which meant a visit with plenty of conversation and tea.

    Neil and tea

    Neil and tea

  4. Showered with love: I couldn’t say no to my persuasive aunt JoAnne when she offered to throw me a bridal shower. In the end, all I felt that day was love and gratitude for the amazing women in my family.
  5. Skating trail: Mireille, Patrick, JF and I went to Arrowhead Provincial Park to try the skating trail. Plus, we ran into an old high school friend.
  6. Recycled valentines: Some colleagues and I exchanged valentines of a different kind – second hand items from our homes and wardrobes. I scored lace, records, art and lots of other good loot.
  7. Smoked salmon-flavoured barf: After a fun meal out with friends, I spent over 24 hours vomiting. I will never eat smoked salmon again.
  8. Familying: We spent the February long weekend with JF’s family in Ottawa, which was its usual really really ridiculously cold self. Luckily our hosts were warm and generous.

    A walk through a park in Ottawa

    A walk through a park in Ottawa

  9. Francophone women unite! Local French-speakers gathered for a great concert (check out Cherry Chérie) and meal for International Women’s Day. I was accompanied by some female powerhouses : my maman, sister and mother-in-law.

    Gen and I at the gala

    Gen and I at the gala

  10. A smack in the head: Two weeks ago, I slipped on some ice and fell on my head – quite hard, as it turns out. The doctor told me to take several days off work without TV, books, phones or computers. It was terribly dull.

    I made the best of my sick days and snuggled with Odie

    I made the best of my sick days and snuggled with Odie

  11. Rebelo invasion: I hosted my sisters and cousins for a weekend of games and food. It was kind of like that scene from Home Alone where everyone is rushing around to get to the airport. JF looked like this the whole time.
  12. Hogtown: I visited Toronto twice. There were baby showers, meals out, meals in, and walks downtown. Thanks for the company, friends! Xo

    Jasel, Yishey, Rigden and I trying the selfie stick I got for Christmas <3

    Jasel, Yishey, Rigden and I trying the selfie stick I got for Christmas ❤

  13. Does Georgian have talent? I participated in (and sort of helped with) the Georgian’s Got Talent… or Not benefit concert. I definitely fell in the “or not” category, but enjoyed the whole event thoroughly.

    Two extremely talented Georgian students who performed in the show

    Two extremely talented Georgian students who performed in the show

  14. Wye Marsh? Danielle, Naomi and I went to the Sweetwater Harvest Festival. It was good fun, but I felt I was cheating on a) Tiny Marsh and b) the Elmvale Maple Syrup Festival.

    Danielle and Naomi, and some pancakes

    Danielle and Naomi, and some pancakes

  15. Whispering bells: We keep chipping away at wedding planning. So far my favourite element is the sparkly white knit bow tie my avo made for Odie.

    Odie's bow tie

    Odie’s bow tie

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There was also volunteer work, a friend’s adorable new baby, dog ear infections, breakfast with my grade school bestie, JF’s 30th birthday, Weight Watchers, house renos, and more.

With so many commitments and our wedding less than three months away, 2016 is shaping up to be “pleine a craquer” — full to the point of cracking. But so far, the adventures have been enriching, varied and plentiful.

As I thank baby Jesus for the end of snow and ice, I can only look ahead —to sunshine, tulips and forsythia.

Here's Odie at Tiny Marsh just over a week ago

Here’s Odie at Tiny Marsh just over a week ago

A biased introduction to the towns of Simcoe County

Many of my Toronto friends remain confused about Elmvale’s location. I routinely get asked if it’s near Blue Moutain or Huntsville. The answer is well, kinda. It’s somewhere in between.

Here's a map with Toronto, Blue Mountains, Elmvale and Huntsville, for context

Here’s a map with Toronto, Blue Mountains, Elmvale (in green) and Huntsville, for context

I think of Elmvale as the centre of Simcoe County. Not the cultural or economic centre (that’ll be the day!) but the actual geographical centre. We live 20 to 30 minutes from the following places: Midland, Orillia, Barrie and Wasaga Beach. Here’s my uninformed, totally biased opinion on those four hubs.

BARRIE (south of Elmvale)


Spirit Catcher

  • Claim to fame: nearish to Toronto. Also, where I work.
  • Populationish: tough to say because it grows by 1,000 every time someone sneezes. Maybe 150,000?
  • Cool stuff: surprising number of decent restaurants, Sir Games-a-lot, waterfront park, great Mayor, Georgian College
  • Less cool stuff: sprawl, unreliable transit

MIDLAND  (north of Elmvale)

Midland, retro edition

Midland, retro edition

  • Claim to fame: Martyr’s Shrine and Ste. Marie Among the Hurons. Also, where I lived in my teens
  • Populationish: probably about 15,000 most of the time, but 100,000 in July and August
  • Cool stuff: lovely downtown, random murals, cheap real estate, Midland Cultural Centre, awesome bowling alley, proximity to Penetanguishene (another cool town)
  • Less cool stuff: Lots of poverty. Also the waterfront could be nice if it didn’t have the grain elevator, lumber yard, giant mineral pile, busy road, graffiti and drugs

ORILLIA (east of Elmvale)

Opera House

Opera House

  • Claim to fame: Casino Rama. On the way to Muskoka
  • Populationish: guessing 30,000ish?
  • Cool stuff: great downtown, Mariposa Market, Mariposa Folk Festival, Stephen Leacock museum, OPP headquarters, opera house
  • Less cool stuff: keeps trying (unsuccessfully) to compete with Barrie – do your own thing, Orillia!

WASAGA BEACH (west of Elmvale)

The beach

The beach

  • Claim to fame: duh
  • Populationish: maybe 10,000 in the winter a zillion in the summer?
  • Cool stuff: the beach, the kitschy stores around the beach, proximity to Collingwood (which is lovely), paintball, go carts and mermaid hotel sign
  • Less cool stuff: driving through sucks. Also, noisy motorcycles zoom past my house all summer to get there.

In conclusion, if you’re planning to visit me OR Simcoe County (which you should!) there’s plenty to do. I suggest you go to all of the towns listed above, but also:


My life in Toronto was hectic. Between my beautiful friends, my busy job, and my volunteer adventures I was lucky if JF and I spent even two hours a week together on the couch. Weekends were filled with late nights that contributed to my sleep deficit with regularity.

The constant frenzy was part of why I moved. I thought maybe the city, with its americanos and office towers, was the root of the problem. I remembered – and yearned for – the slow and easy pace of my youth in Perkinsfield.

Toronto skyline from the ferry

Okay Toronto, I guess it really wasn’t you, it was me.

For awhile there, it looked it really had all been Toronto’s fault. Minus a month or two of frantic spackling and painting, I spent our early days in Simcoe County reveling in the luxury of an relatively empty calendar. “Aha!” I thought to myself as I watched home decorating shows, “country life IS slower!”

Then I joined a committee or two. Started singing in a choir. Signed up to help with Georgian’s variety show. Made new and awesome local friends. Took on some big projects at work. Began planning my wedding. Got a dog.

You get the picture. We’re back to the old non-routine. My weekends are booked into October. I’m rarely home, and when I’m in Elmvale I’m either:

  1. walking my dog
  2. cleaning stuff (because it’s usually been awhile)
  3. sitting at my laptop volunteering/blogging
  4. sleeping

Oh how I long for uninterrupted couch zombie time!

JF – the master of taking as much time as he needs – has always said that I made myself this way. That I choose to live in a tailspin. That I can opt out any time. That this probably isn’t healthy.

Why is he always right?

Why is he always right?

It’s time for me to admit that he’s right. My life, as it is, isn’t sustainable. I must slow down. I must choose to do less. I must learn to say no.

Confession: balance has eluded me since I was about 16 years old. For years, my M.O. has been run run yay run run busy run run run ok run CRASH OW BURN… cough… sputter…splat. And lately, the splats have been deeper and heavier.

I’d say I’m in a solid sputter phase right now. All my brain and body seem to want is sleep, snuggles and Star Trek – life’s trifecta of laziness. I’m functioning, but I’m exhausted. I can’t even be bothered to edit this unfiltered blog post. Looking down at my life from above, it’s pretty great. I know that. But when I’m like this, everything feels like a burden.

This is the face of a tired and whiny woman

This is the face of a tired and whiny woman

So friends, don’t be surprised if I can’t come to that volunteer meeting. Can’t hang out this weekend. Can’t commit to that cool project. It’s not because I don’t love you – I do! – it’s because I’m trying remember the grouch anthem, right this tubby old sinking ship, and bail myself out… again.

Toronto: an honest and updated pros and cons list

I spent the last few weekends in Toronto. Highlights included martinis at Pravda with my dear friends Mireille and Patrick; Indian food with some of my favourite former colleagues; an outdoor Back to the Future screening in Liberty Village with Humber PR gals; and decadent high tea with my old roommie Steph at the Royal York.

Whenever I’m in the city, I can’t help weighing life there against life in Elmvale. Some things about Toronto are just amazing. Some things, erm, less. As JF and I drove up the 400 yesterday afternoon, we discussed both.

When we got home, we decided to clear our heads with a walk through Tiny Marsh before tackling our long list of chores.

Tiny Marsh is starting to show its fall colours.

Tiny Marsh is starting to show its fall colours.

While quietly plodding (so as not to upset the birds) I remembered this blog post from a year ago. Not surprisingly, most of the list is still accurate. But I feel differently about a few things. So here it is, revisited — original thoughts in italics, new thoughts indented.

Things I miss about Toronto (revised)

  • People — friends, colleagues, Cantores choristers, and the Rebelo family
    • This is still the toughest part of being in Elmvale.
  • Matt Galloway
    • Sorry, Wei Chen.
  • Good sushi
    • Barrie’s good sushi offers a view of the highway. But at least it exists!
  • Any Indian food
    • It’s expensive, but again, available!
  • The plethora of job postings with decent wages
    • Surprisingly, we’re both gainfully employed. So I don’t miss this anymore.
  • Diversity
  • Solomon’s seal tea
    • Yishey gave me a big, giant box so I’m set for at least a few more months. Thanks Yish!
  • The Toronto Blue Jays
    • Don’t know why I put this on the list in the first place.
  • The St. Lawrence Market
    • NOTE: We have excellent local farmer’s markets that are cheaper. If only they sold cheese and bagels and eggplant parmesan.
  • Pride
    • As in LGBTQ — there isn’t enough of that here.
  • Regularly discovering new corners and nooks
    • There are tons of corners and nooks in our new neighbourhood, they’re just plant-filled instead of building-filled.
  • Driving through yellow lights
    • I must truly be a country bumpkin because I don’t have the urge to do this anymore.
  • The Grid
    • R.I.P.
  • Anonymity
  • Properly stocked LCBOs
  • Social media that actually keeps up with local news
    • At first, I thought our local media outlets were slow. Now I realize they just don’t have as much news to report.
  • Concerts
  • Starbucks
    • I don’t find I need pumpkin spice lattes anymore — weird!
  • I’m adding a new one: the wide variety of amazing restaurants and shops. Barrie just doesn’t come close.
  • Another new one: cool stuff happening everywhere. Like the oddly appealing Tweed Ride — in which historically-attired hipsters ride their vintage bicycles through town.

Things I don’t miss a mite (revised)

  • Looking nice all the time
    • The number of perfectly-groomed people per square kilometre in Toronto is so indimidating to me.
  • Congestion
  • The TTC
    • I won’t cross this off, but I will say I miss not driving on a Saturday night.
  • Noise
  • Warmer temperatures, with sticky air and half-assed breezes
    • In the summer, this is true. In the winter, it is not. So I’m half crossing it off.
  • The smell of garbage day
  • The pace of everything (but driving and social media)
  • Crowds
  • Feeling totally disconnected from the people around me
    • After months of tight-knit Elmvale, this was kind of nice for a weekend. But I wouldn’t want to live in it forever.
  • Biking accidents
  • Yorkdale mall
    • I finally understand why hordes of people descend on Yorkdale every weekend: Anthropologie, J. Crew and Tory Burch.
  • House prices
  • Eating at restaurants almost daily
    • Truth: for all my diatribes against eating out, sometimes I kinda miss this.
  • Rob Ford
    • Surprisingly, I missed his antics after awhile. Springwater politics are dull. Wishing him and his family strength.
  • Parking downtown
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs
    • There are probably more fans per capita in Elmvale than in Toronto. Ugh.
  • Crazy rent prices
  • Getting lost in the PATH
    • Not sure why this was on my list in the first place. I rarely used the PATH.
  • The cost of food at farmer’s markets

It’s good for me to think about these things from time to time. To enjoy my Toronto time, while I’m there, and appreciate Elmvale’s Elmvaleness.