Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More potty talk

So far we haven't really gotten anywhere with the "potty independence" that I wrote about a while ago (I mentioned the idea of giving her little potty to a friend and Annika did NOT like it at all), however it seems that Annika has reached a different, and very significant, potty milestone.  She's staying dry through the night!  She's had quite a few nights in the past where she's stayed dry, but what has just recently developed is that she will wake up and go to the bathroom if she needs to go at night, rather than just staying asleep and going in her pull-up.  I'm excited that she's reached this milestone, however, it means that now I get woken up at night with a frantic "mommy I have to pee!!!" (how come it's always "mommy"??).  The first time she did it, she startled me so much that I had a hard time getting back to sleep afterwards.  Last night I think I was still half-asleep when I took her to the bathroom, because I told her to pull up her "buffalo pants" (I meant pajama pants - not sure where "buffalo" came from!).  So I guess this is more incentive to get her to go by herself, so I can stay in bed!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A few of my favorite things: "OK to Wake" clock

So, if you're friends with me on Facebook, or have talked with me in person lately, it should not surprise you that this is my new favorite thing. I seriously love this alarm clock - one of the best ideas ever!


I read about the OK to Wake clock by Onaroo a while ago on a blog that was actually giving one away.  I didn't win it, but after reading about it, I decided that it would be worth it to buy one for Annika.  I bought the clock from an online store located in BC -, but it's also available on the Chapters website (not sure if it's available in-store anywhere around here).  Here's the basic idea behind it - kids get up early, earlier than what parents would like sometimes.  This clock helps kids to stay in their rooms until an acceptable time.  Parents set the clock for the "ok to wake" time (which really is the "ok to come out of their rooms" time), and at that time, the clock glows green.  It's a great idea, because it's simple for kids to know if it's okay to get up (they don't need to try to read numbers, although it does have a digital time display), and it's not an alarm that will wake them up, if by chance they happen to sleep later than that time.  The green light will stay lit until you turn it off, or after the auto-off time (which you can set for up to an hour).  It also has a nap timer, which we've been using for quiet time.  For older kids, it has a regular wake-up alarm.  It also has 2 changeable face-plates - a pink flower, or green "shrek ears" as Annika calls them. :)

So far the clock has been working wonderfully for us (we've had it for about a week).  Annika doesn't usually wake up super early, but when she does it always seems to be on the weekends.  This past weekend, she didn't come out of her room until 8:00am (on the nose! She must've been up and watching it).  During the week she's also been staying in her room until at least 8:00am (sometimes she actually sleeps later than that), which is nice because it gives me time to get ready and have breakfast without interruptions (as long as Emmett is cooperating - the clock doesn't do anything for him!).  When it's time for her to come out, she shouts "mommy it's green!!" like it's the best thing in the world.  Hopefully the novelty of it doesn't wear off too quickly.

The clock has also really been helping with her quiet time.  I try to get her to have an hour of quiet time in her room every afternoon, but usually she'll come out before the hour's up and ask "can I come down yet?"  Sometimes she'll come out quite a few times, which is a bit of a pain.  Things have gotten a lot better with the clock.  She'll still occasionally come out and tell me she has to go to the bathroom (which is okay with me, as long as she really has to go), but the "can I come out yet?" has pretty much stopped. 

There are just a few things that I don't like about the clock.  The main thing is that it is only powered by batteries - there's no option to plug it in.  The other thing is the night-light on the clock.  To save battery-power, the night-light turns off after the auto-off time period.  So the light will be on when the kid falls asleep, but if they wake up in the night, they have to press the button to turn the light back on (which I'm not sure a little kid would do if they woke up and were scared).    But Annika already has a night-light in her room, so we don't bother using the night-light feature. 

Overall, though, I think it's an excellent idea, and I would definitely recommend it.

**Please note: this is not a paid advertisement, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review.  It's just something I like and want to share with you.**

Monday, June 27, 2011

Healthier eating monday: sticking with 8

Last week's recap:
  1. No juice boxes: check!
  2. At least 1 homemade baked item: hmmm, not sure about this one.  I baked cookies from frozen cookie dough, and I baked cinnamon buns, courtesy of Mr. Pilsbury.  So technically, I did bake, but I just didn't make the doughs from scratch. 
  3. Limit sugary cereals at breakfast to twice a week: check!  
  4. Have fish for supper once a week: check! We had leftover Tuna Fiesta (the recipe makes enough for two meals for us, so I always put half in the freezer for a ready-made meal for the following week).
  5. Have vegetables at lunch: check! 
  6. Drink at least 500 mL of water a day (outside of mealtimes): I did this everyday except for Wednesday and Sunday.
  7. Drink only 2 cups (500 mL) of milk a day: check!
  8. A little less white: So-so.  I bought whole grain Ritz crackers this week, but I also gave in and bought white buns (they were on sale - buy one bag, get one free.  Couldn't pass that up!).  Since I didn't really do any baking from scratch, I didn't have a lot of opportunities to incorporate more whole wheat/grains.  We did have multi-grain tortilla chips on our taco salad, though! :)
I don't have a new goal for this week.  I've actually made the decision that 8 is enough goals to work on for now.  There are still lots of changes that I could make, but I feel that if I make any more right now, I won't be able to follow through with them all.  Already this week I felt like I was starting to slip.  So I'm going to continue working on these goals, and perhaps add more in the future once I feel like these goals have become habits.  I will probably still keep doing "healthier eating monday" posts, though, just to keep myself accountable.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Emmett's eczema

**This post is quite long, which was not my intention when I started writing it a few days ago.  However, it sort of evolved into a place for me to collect my thoughts, process all the information I've been taking in, vent my frustrations and form a strategy.  So it's been a bit therapeutic for me to write it.  I hope it's not boring to everyone else.**

Emmett has eczema. For those who aren't familiar with eczema (lucky you!), here's some information from the Eczema Canada website:
Eczema is a recurring, long-term inflammation of the skin, and there is no cure. It usually begins in childhood, appearing within the first 6 months, and can continue through adolescence into adulthood. Although some children may eventually outgrow eczema, about 80% will have dry, irritable skin their whole lives.  
Eczema can be different for everyone who has it. Yet, no matter how severe your eczema is, everyone deals with the same basic symptoms - dry skin, sore rashes, and terrible itching. It can be frustrating and uncomfortable trying to manage eczema and keep 'flare-ups' under control. At its most severe, eczema can cause serious health problems, profoundly affect quality of life, and interfere with normal, everyday activities.    
Eczema is often called the ‘itch that rashes’ rather than the ‘rash that itches’ because the itch starts long before the rash appears. The itch leads to a lot of scratching and that's when the red, raw rash appears.
Eczema may be caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, and immune system factors, and is often accompanied by asthma and/or hay fever.
We noticed that his cheeks were red, dry and bumpy quite a while ago, and I tried just about every cream imaginable to help clear it up. I'm not crazy about putting lots of chemicals and stuff on him, so I tried mostly natural products. Nothing seemed to work, though, and it seemed to be really bothering him, as sometimes he would scratch at his cheeks until they bled. :( So I took him to the doctor in mid-May, and he prescribed a steroid cream for Emmett. He also said to use Vaseline to help keep the moisture in. So much for all-natural products! The prescription cream seems to work quite well, but I really don't like using it, so I try to put it on very sparingly and only when it gets really bad. I did slather him in Vaseline every morning and night though.  However, lately with him trying new foods, it seems to be getting worse.  Luckily it's just on his cheeks so far, and not anywhere else on his body.

So far I can tell that wheat (or gluten) seems to cause a flare-up, and I sort of wonder if banana does as well (I know sugar can cause flare-ups, but would that include the natural sugar in fruit?).  I guess the one advantage to the stage that we're at is that he has a very limited diet, and we're introducing foods slowly, so it's easy to see what he reacts to.  I also wonder if his formula is contributing to it (I've read that milk can be an irritant), but I'm very hesitant to switch that.  One (obvious) reason is that I'm cheap - right now Emmett gets the W*l-M*rt store brand of formula, which I usually buy on sale for about $11 a can (I stock up when it goes on sale).  To switch him to a soy formula would mean paying about $30 for a can, and I think those are smaller cans too.  The other reason I'm not sure about switching is that I've read that soy can also cause eczema flare-ups, so we could go through the hassle (and cost) of switching over, and still might have the same results.

I've been doing tons of research and reading about eczema (I think I google it almost every afternoon while Emmett is napping and Annika is having quiet time), and I feel a bit like hitting my head up against a wall sometimes.  There's so much info and opinions out there, and a lot of it is conflicting, so what's a mother to do?  There are endless creams and ointments that promise results, but how many can we afford ($-wise they're not cheap!) to try?  Some suggest treating from the "inside out" (i.e. eliminating foods, etc), but the kid's gotta eat something, right?  What do I give him if I can't give him milk or soy?  It's not like breastmilk is an option anymore.  It just breaks my heart to see him suffering, scratching himself till he bleeds, and it frustrates me that I can't help him more.

So here's my current "plan of attack" for prevention and treatment.  Some days I feel so helpless to make him feel better, so writing it all out has been good for me, as I can see which areas I can help.

Prevention - to prevent or minimize the occurrence of flare-ups:
  • Probiotics - I've started giving Emmett a probiotic.  In my reading, I came across some information that said that probiotics can help the body properly process stuff like milk so it doesn't cause a reaction, especially in young children whose systems are still developing (at least that's my interpretation of what I read, I could be mistaken).  When Emmett was a newborn, we gave him probiotic drops called BioGaia because we thought he was fussy because of his digestive system, and this was supposed to help improve digestion.  We were never really sure if they made a difference, so when the bottle was empty, we didn't bother getting more.  And he seemed to "grow out" of that fussy stage anyway.  But now I went and bought another bottle, and we'll see if it makes a difference for his skin.  It's an easy place to start (just add the drops to his food once a day) anyway. 
  • Diet - I'll be watching his reaction to new foods (I started a food journal when he started eating solid foods so I'll be keeping track there), and limiting those that seem to cause a flare-up.  I think I'd like to discuss this a bit more with our doctor, though, just to get his opinion on restricting Emmett's diet at this stage.  I'd also like to ask him if he thinks we should switch formulas.  At least for now limiting his diet is not too difficult, as I make most of his food myself, and he doesn't know what he's missing out on.  This will get harder if it's something we need to continue long-term.   I will also try to include foods in his diet with vitamins A, C, E and Omega 3, all of which are good for the skin.  This will take a bit more research to find out which foods would be good for him, and that he can handle at this stage.
  • Environmental factors - I will try to only use natural, fragrance-free products on Emmett's skin, clothes and in our home (as much as possible).  This won't be much of a switch because it's something I already do, as Annika also has sensitive skin, and Carey and I are sensitive to overly-scented products.  And I'm a little bit of a "treehugger" and like natural products anyway!  I will also make sure that Emmett wears 100% cotton clothes and that his room is comfortably cool for sleeping (overheating can also cause flare-ups).  Dust mites can also aggrevate eczema, so I will try to make sure Emmett's room is cleaned and his bedding washed once a week.  I have a bit of a hard time with this one.  Some stuff I've read says that dust can trigger flare-ups, and other stuff says that a little dirt is good for kids, to strengthen their immune systems.  I have always been a believer in the "dirt is good" school of thought, and Annika has never suffered for it (she's never had any sickness other than the occasional cold - never even had an ear infection!).  I figure that cleaning Emmett's room weekly is a good compromise - it will ensure that he has a clean environment for sleeping, but not too clean.  And with my cleaning habits, he'll still be exposed to plenty of "immune-system-builders" (we won't call it dirt ;) ) in the rest of the house.
  • Personal care - I will use moisturizer on his whole body at least once a day, to keep his skin healthy and hydrated.  I will also check Emmett's fingernails every 2-3 days and trim or file them as short as possible (when we were at the doctor's office, he actually complimented me on my nail-trimming skills!).  This way if he does start scratching, he is less likely to break the skin.  In regards to bathing, I've read a lot of conflicting opinions about baths.  Some say frequent bathing is good, some say it's bad.  However, since Emmett's eczema is only on his face, I don't think this is much of a concern right now.  We'll continue to give him baths every other day, making sure that the water is lukewarm, not hot, and moisturizing immediately after the bath.  I will also try to apply moisturizer to his face after each time I wipe it.
  • Amber necklace - Emmett has a baltic amber teething necklace, and amber is supposed to help with all kinds of things, so I'll try to put it on him as much as possible.  Not sure if this will make a huge difference, but it can't hurt to try.
Treatment - for when a flare-up occurs:
  • Lanolin - for Emmett's most recent flare-up, I have been putting lanolin on his cheeks, instead of Vaseline.  I had some leftover from when I was nursing, and I figured if it was safe enough for a newborn baby to ingest, then it would be a good option to try (for those who aren't familiar with lanolin, one of it's uses is to help with sore nipples from breastfeeding).  So far it seems to be working well for him, but I'm going to keep an eye on it, as some people have reported that lanolin actually makes eczema worse (one of the down-sides of reading forums and message boards - you find so much conflicting advice!).  The lanolin has a few functions - it moisturizes his skin, reduces the itchiness and forms a protective barrier that promotes healing.  I've been putting it on him several times a day.  The tricky thing with lanolin is that it's so thick that I have to pat it onto his face, as it doesn't rub in nicely (and I don't want to pull on his already-delicate skin).  The upside is that if my lips get a little dry, I just have to kiss his cheek, and I've got instant lip gloss (have to find some humour in the situation, right?).
  • Socks on his hands - the hardest part of a flare-up is watching him scratch at his face until it bleeds.  Even with his nails trimmed short, it can still happen, so when it's really bad, I will put socks on his hands for sleeping, and if necessary, during the day.  It's impossible to tell a baby to stop scratching, but it's also impossible for the skin to heal if he keeps re-opening the wounds.  Hopefully this will limit the amount of damage he does.
  • Steroid cream when necessary - if it's really bad, I will put the prescription cream on.  However, this will be my last resort.
So I think that's it.  The one other thing I will be doing is praying that this is something that he grows out of, and that's it's not something we'll have to be dealing with for the rest of his life.  No parent likes to see their child suffer, whether it's a serious illness, just a cold, or itchy skin.  It hurts my heart, and I will do whatever I have to do to make him feel better.


Here are a few pics from our camping trip last weekend:

Saturday morning was a bit rainy, but we couldn't stay cooped up in the camper any longer!

Saturday supper - so tired from the day (and a short night) that she fell asleep, hot dog in hand.

Emmett also fell asleep, but that's nothing new.

Happy father's day!

I love his "old man with no teeth" expression.

Can't go camping without having a freezie, even if it wasn't freezie weather.

Goodbye buffaloes of Buffalo Point.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Emmett is getting soooo close to being able to sit on his own (and my nursing pillow is getting used again!).

In case you're wondering why he's wearing a sock on his hand, that's so he won't scratch at his face (he has bad eczema, a post on that will be coming soon).  I've found he really only scratches on the one side, so I only need a sock for the hand on that side, as he hasn't figured out yet that he could reach across his face and use the other hand.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A few of my favorite things: Garrett "chicago-style" popcorn

This week I was lucky enough to enjoy one of my all-time favorite treats - Garrett chicago-style popcorn, straight from Chicago!  My brother and sister-in-law flew home from Bolivia on Saturday, and they had a stop in Chicago, so they picked us up a bag.  Mmmm mmmm good!!

The Chicago Mix - CaramelCrisp<sup>&reg;</sup> & CheeseCorn&trade;So what is chicago-style popcorn, and why do I love it so much?  It's a mix of cheese popcorn and caramel corn.  Yup, that's right.  I know, at first I thought that sounded like kind of a weird combination, but it's really soooo good.  And the popcorn from Garrett is unlike any other.  I've tried Kernel's "chicago-style" popcorn, but it's really not the same.  Garrett popcorn stores are only in Chicago or New York, so perhaps that's why it's such a treat - I rarely get to have it.

It all started in the fall of 2007, when Carey and I took a road trip to Chicago.  I was a couple months pregnant with Annika, so it was our last vacation before kids.  We did one of those "hop-on, hop-off" bus tours of the city (I really recommend those - lots of fun and you get a really good overview of the city), and with the tour came a coupon for a free bag of Garrett popcorn.  One of the tour stops just happened to be right in front of a Garrett store, so we got off the bus and went in to get our popcorn.  At first, the mix sounded weird, but we figured "when in Chicago..." and we gave it a try.  It's all history after that.  We've been lucky enough to have had the popcorn a few times since then.  When we've flown to Florida, we've stopped in Chicago a few times along the way, and we always pick up a bag in the airport.  One time we almost missed our connecting flight home because we stopped for popcorn.  Oooops.  We made sure to hide the bag as we walked onto the plane with all the other passengers staring at us. ;)  We've also had friends and relatives travel to Chicago, and they've been kind enough to bring us back a bag.  Even day-old, it's still delicious.  You can also buy the popcorn online, on the Garrett website, but it's quite expensive with the shipping so we've never actually done that.  Maybe one day, for a special occasion (like my 30th birthday next year??  Hmmm, I'll have to start hinting).

So thanks again to my brother and sister-in-law for making it possible for me to enjoy one of my favorite things this week. :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Packing up

We went camping this past weekend (pics to come later), and of course, before you go away, you have to pack.  I have come to loathe packing.  It used to just be my stuff that I had to pack, and it wouldn't take long.  Then when we got married, it was mine and Carey's stuff.  A little more work, but still manageable.  Add in a kid, and it would take most of the day to get ready to go away for 2 or 3 days.  Add in another kid, and it's a whole day's job that leaves me physically and mentally exhausted by the time we pull out of the driveway.

When I was little, we used to rent a cabin for 3 weeks each summer and that was our vacation for the year.  There was a lot of packing to do, but at least then you only had to do it once.  Now, because of Carey's job, we can't really take vacations in the summer, so we take 2-3 day weekend trips camping or to my parents' cabin.  I think it's almost the same amount of packing (except for food - usually I only have to pack snacks or special food for the kids and the rest is provided) for our little trips as for a 3-week trip.  And we've got at least 4 more weekend excursions planned, so I think I'm going to need to come up with a better system for getting everything ready, or I'm going to lose my mind by the end of summer.  I'm thinking about making detailed lists on the computer for each person, as well as a "toys" list, "extras" list, etc to see if that would make it easier.  And I would be very detailed - I wouldn't just say "shirts" or "shorts", I would specify which particular shirts, which shorts, etc.  We might end up wearing the same clothes in all our pictures from this summer, but at least that would eliminate the need for choosing which clothes to take along.  Also, if I'm very specific in my lists, then it will hopefully cut down on the amount of "what did I forget?" worrying when we leave.  I was also thinking that I should try to have all the laundry done by the night before, so everything's ready to be packed the day of.  Again, if I knew ahead of time which clothes I wanted to pack, then I'd also know to have them clean and ready to go.

So those are a few of the ideas I've had so far.  Do any of you have tips or systems that you use for getting things packed up?  I'd love to hear any suggestions.

Healthier eating monday: a little less white

Last week's recap:
  1. No juice boxes: We were camping this past weekend, so I made an exception and Annika had 2 juice boxes.  But I'm okay with her having them for special occasions like that, it's just in everyday life that I want to avoid them if possible.
  2. At least 1 homemade baked item: check! I made apple struesel muffins.  I wanted to share a picture with you, but they didn't turn out very good-looking, although they were still quite tasty.
  3. Limit sugary cereals at breakfast to twice a week: check!  Annika had Froot Loops once last week.  I'm finding goal #2 and this goal seem to go together.  If I've made something yummy that Annika can eat for breakfast (banana bread, muffins) then she doesn't even ask for the cereals.
  4. Have fish for supper once a week: check! We had cod for supper on Wednesday (it's becoming our "fish night").  I did it in the oven with a bit of dill and garlic, but not enough I guess, since it was kind of bland.  It was also kind of rubbery, so I guess I overcooked it.  Still getting the hang of cooking fish.  I need to find some good recipes because I'm just kind of making it up as I go along.
  5. Have a serving of vegetables at lunch: check!  Well, we at least had some vegetables, maybe not a full serving though.
  6. Drink at least 500 mL of water a day (outside of mealtimes): I did good with this during the week, but not on the weekend while camping.  Then I drank juice and pop. :S
  7. Drink only 2 cups (500 mL) of milk a day: check!
My goal for this week is a little vague, but it's going to be a tough one for me, so perhaps it will be easier to do if I don't make it too rigid.  I'd like to start cutting back on the amount of "white" things we have (like flour, breads & buns, pasta) and incorporate more whole wheat or whole grains.  I thought about including white sugar with this, but that's a bit too much for right now.  So far I think we're doing not bad with the "white stuff."  We only eat whole wheat bread, and I've started incorporating some whole wheat flour into my baking (usually I'll do half and half with regular flour).  I used to buy whole wheat pasta and mix it together with regular pasta, but I haven't done that for a while.  I should start doing that again.  This is going to be hard for me because I absolutely love white stuff.  When I was pregnant with Annika, I craved French bread.  With Emmett, it was fresh baked white buns.  I couldn't get enough.  However, Canada's food guide recommends that at least half your grain products in a day should be whole grains, so at least I don't need to give up the white completely!  This whole "healthier eating" process is about making changes a little at a time, so even if I can just make a few small changes, it will be a good start.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Potty independence

This post is about potties.  If that's TMI for some people, then consider yourself warned and go check Facebook instead of reading it.

It's now been almost 10 months since Annika was been potty-trained, but we still have one big transition to make.  We need to get rid of the little potty and have her use the regular toilet instead.  I've been putting this off for quite some time, but I think I need to just suck it up and do it.  She'll be going to preschool in the fall, and I want her to be able to function independently in the bathroom by then.  Currently she still requires quite a bit of help, which means she'll often just hold it if I'm not around to help.  Luckily, she's pretty good at holding it.

I think it's mostly my fault that Annika is still using the little potty, and needs help going.  It's what's easiest for me, so that's what I do.  Most of the time she can get her pants off by herself (unless she's wearing some pairs of jeans), so when she needs to go, she can go sit down on the little potty by herself and go.  That gives me a few more minutes, if I'm upstairs changing Emmett or feeding him.  Then she just calls to me when she's done.  I'm sure she's quite capable of finishing up the rest (wiping [at least for #1], pulling up her pants, etc), but she's so slow that most of the time I just do it for her so I can quickly get back to whatever I was doing.  The only thing she really does need help with is turning on the taps in our downstairs bathroom.  We have a large decorative bowl sink, and she can't quite reach past it to the faucet yet (even when standing on her stool).  So that I may still need to help her with, but with the other things I need to take the time and encourage her to do them on her own. 

I think she would be okay with making the switch to the regular toilet, because she will use them no problem when we're out, and sometimes even at home she'll ask to use the "big potty" instead.  It will just be a bit of an adjustment period, as she learns how to get on and balance on there by herself.  We have one of those trainer seats for on a regular toilet, but I'm a bit hesitant to use it.  We have dual flush toilets, and the seats are shaped slightly differently from regular toilets, so these trainer seats don't sit very securely on them.  I would hate for her to slip off the toilet because of the seat.  Also, if she gets used to using the trainer seat, then there's still another transition to make to get her to just using the toilet by itself.

I'm thinking about doing it cold turkey - just put away the little potties (we have one downstairs and one upstairs) and tell her that she's big enough to use the toilet.  I'll just have to be prepared to take a bit more time with her, and perhaps go back to scheduling potty visits every 2 hours (like we did when she was potty training), instead of waiting for her to tell me she needs to go (because by then it's usually pretty urgent and there's not a lot of extra time).  Not sure when I'll do it - I know I shouldn't put it off much longer.  Maybe next week.  Does anyone have any advice for me?  Either about switching to the toilet, or getting her to do more for herself?  I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A walk around the block

I try to take the kids out for a walk each afternoon to get some fresh air and exercise.  We don't go very far, but it takes quite a while with an inquisitive 3 year old.  I took my camera along for yesterday's walk, to document some of the things that happen on our walks.

Of course we have to start out with jumping in a few puddles...

then pick a dandelion...

inspect a caterpillar...

and see if the caterpillar wants to smell the dandelion.

Then there are flowers to examine...

have to see what this tree feels like...

and what sound it makes to drop pebbles down the drain.

then it's over the "rainbow trail" (aka the shortcut path) and back to home.

And we can't forget about Emmett, who, despite the "stink eye" in this picture, really enjoys going for walks too!

So that's a glimpse of what happens when we go for a walk! :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A few of my favorite things: Bye bye boo boo

I've decided I'm going to start writing posts called "A few of my favorite things" (not sure how often, maybe weekly, we'll see).  These will be about products and stuff that I like.  These are not paid reviews, and I did not receive anything for free to review (nor am I giving anything away).  It's just stuff that I like and want to share about. 

Bye Bye Boo BooYesterday we were outside enjoying the weather in the kiddie pool and when we came inside, I noticed that Annika had gotten a bug bite.  She usually gets rather large welts from bites, so it's pretty easy to see where she's been bitten.  As sad as I was that the bugs were out (we've been enjoying the bug-free days so far), I was excited to get out one of my favorite products to treat the bite - Bye Bye Boo Boo by Broody Chick.  It looks like a chapstick, but it's made to be applied to "bites, stings, scratches or scuffs."  It's a Canadian-made, all-natural product and contains stuff like cocoa butter, beeswax, vitamin E, chamomile, lavender and tea tree oil.  It's supposed to "soothe irritation and promote healing."  We discovered it last summer, and since then I've stocked up, as we go through it pretty quickly.  Last summer I kept one in my bag, one in the kitchen and one upstairs in Annika's bathroom.  I bought it online, but the other day I was in Vita Health and I discovered that they sell it there too.

So why do I love it so much?  Because it works so well???  Well, that's debatable.  I tried it on my own bites last summer and didn't think it made that much of a difference, at least not for more than a few minutes.  But to Annika, it's a magic stick.  I think it's the power of a placebo - I tell her that it will make her feel better, and she believes it (at least she did last year, we'll see if it works the same this year).  It's easy and safe to apply, so I let her do it herself.  She's such a little princess and loves putting on lip gloss, so this is just as fun for her.  It may not work exactly as described, but it does work as a distraction, which sometimes is just as good.

For more info about Broody Chick all-natural products (they actually make compostable disposable diapers and wipes too!), check out their website!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Healthier eating monday: water, water everywhere

I'll start off with a recap of how last week went:
  1. No juice boxes: check! 
  2. At least 1 homemade baked item: check!  I made this delicious (and hopefully slightly more nutritious) banana bread.
  3. Limit sugary cereals at breakfast to twice a week:  check!  Annika actually didn't have Froot Loops or Corn Pops at all last week, because she wanted banana bread instead (big boost to my baking ego). :)
  4. Have fish for supper once a week: check!  We had "Tuna Fiesta" (a yummy tuna casserole with salsa, corn and black beans) for supper on Wednesday, and fish sticks on Thursday (which don't really count, but they were fish at some point). 
  5. Have a serving of vegetables at lunch: Not sure if we got a full serving at each lunch (that we were at home for), but close to it.  Most days it was baby carrots or snap peas (I love prewashed, precut veggies - they're my stand-by).  On Friday I had a chicken caesar salad for lunch, but Annika didn't want to have any (which I find surprising, since she usually like caesar salad).
My goal for this week is to drink more water.  I have a water bottle that holds about 500 mL (about 2 cups), and my goal is to fill it up each morning and have it emptied by supper time (I don't like to drink a lot after supper, then I just have to get up to pee at night).  Annika has a matching water bottle, and I'm also going to try to keep hers filled and accessible.

I'm also going to try to cut down on the amount of milk I drink.  I love milk, and I have it at lunch and supper, and sometimes snack time too.  I drink skim milk, to try to reduce the calories and fat.  However, Canada Food Guide recommends that a woman my age only needs 2 servings of dairy products (one serving would be 1 cup or 250 mL of milk), and I'm guessing I easily drink at least 3 cups of milk a day, plus sometimes I will also have cheese or yogurt.  So I'm probably getting a bit too much of a good thing.  My goal is to have only 1 cup (as in 250 mL, not one cupful, as my cups hold more than 250 mL) of milk with lunch, and 1 cup with supper.  If I need more liquid than that with my meals, I'll drink water, and I'll drink water at snack time.  Unless, of course, we're having cookies for snack (which we don't often, just sometimes as a treat).  Cookies need milk, that's just a fact. :)

So that's it for this week!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dedication Sunday

Just wanted to share a few pics from Emmett's dedication in church this morning.

A fun family picture at home, before going to church

Being dedicated

Another family picture, at home in our backyard

We had our families over for a barbeque after church, and for dessert Emmett got his first taste of ice cream!

It's been a good day! :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Swimming and ballet recap

Today was the last day of Annika's swimming lessons, and ballet lessons ended last week already.  I'm really proud of her for doing so well, and I think we all coped pretty well with the busyness of having 2 activities in one day.

Annika didn't pass her swimming level, but I was expecting that and I'm just really proud of her for the progress she did make and for sticking it out after having a really rough time at the beginning.  This picture is from a few weeks ago. She's now confident enough to be in the water without the step, and without holding onto the side of the pool.  :)  One thing that surprised me when looking at her progress report was that the instructor had checked off all the items under "skills and water safety", yet she had never really even addressed those things in class.  There was almost no "pool safety" talked about at all, other than when they yelled at the kids if they ran by the pool.  But that's not really an effective way of teaching, at least not in my opinion.  Another one of the items checked off was "PFD/Lifejacket and Me" - but unless they had lifejackets the first week, which we missed, I never saw a lifejacket once during the whole time.  Now, I understand that each teacher has their own style, and may have different teaching techniques, but you'd think if something was listed in the booklet, that it would be required of them to teach it!  Anyways, I'm really glad that we were able to do swimming lessons at this time, as now Annika has all summer to practice on the items she missed (eyes open underwater and front glide 3 seconds unassisted) and hopefully she'll be much more confident and at ease when we try again in fall.

Annika finished her ballet class last week Thursday, so it's nice that we don't have to rush off this evening!  She really enjoyed her ballet class, even though most nights I could see in her eyes that she was really tired.  Regardless, she still enjoyed being there and tried hard to learn the moves.  She got a few of them down, even though her plie looks sort of like she has to go to the bathroom. :)  She just needs a little more practice with waiting her turn.  The teacher often would ask them to line up and then go one at a time across the floor, and Annika would often just go when she felt like it.  Granted, a lot of the other girls did too. ;)  I think we'll try to put her in the same class again in fall, to get a little more wear out of her dance shoes and outfit while they still fit!  Plus, it's a good opportunity for her to get some exercise and interact with other girls her age.  Hopefully in fall we'll be able to get it on a different day than swimming, though.  These past few months haven't been as bad as I anticipated, but it's definitely not my preference!

Better banana bread

I was going to wait until next Monday, and my next "healthier eating" post, to write about this, but I'm so excited about it that I couldn't wait that long.  I made banana bread on Monday and it wasn't gooey in the middle and burnt on the edges!  Hurray!!!  I think this is a first. :)

So what did I do differently?  I covered the pan with tin foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.  And it turned out beautifully!   Annika has been gobbling it up for breakfast.  I did a different recipe this time, to make it a bit healthier, and I'm really pleased with how it turned out.  It still tastes delicious, though, because of course, I couldn't leave out the chocolate chips.  Banana bread just seems naked without them. ;)  Anyways, here's the recipe I used (it's from the blog The Balanced Plate):

Banana Bread


1/4 cup Applesauce, unsweetenend
1/4 cup Canola oil
1/2 cup packed (3.75 ounces) Brown sugar, light or dark
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt     
1/2 tsp Cinnamon, ground
1/4 tsp Nutmeg, ground
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Bananas, very ripe, mashed 1 and 1/2 cups (about 3 medium) - I used 2 large and it turned out fine
1/4 cup Honey     
2 Eggs, large
1 and 1/2 cups (6 ounces) Flour, Whole Wheat - I did half and half with whole wheat flour and regular white flour
1/2 cup Wheat germ, ground flakes
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Walnuts, chopped, toasted - I did chocolate chips instead

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Combine all ingredients up to the whole wheat flour in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk swiftly with a fork until all ingredients are well-combined and honey is not sticking to the bottom of bowl.
  4. In seperate bowl combine the flour and wheat germ.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the banana mixture into it.
  6. Using a spoon stir the ingredients together (do not beat or over mix!) Stop when there are no more dry spots of flour. Mixture will be lumpy.
  7. Gently fold in the nuts (or chocolate chips!).
  8. Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and put in oven.
  9. Bake for 50 minutes.
  10. Lay a piece of foil loosely across top of loaf pan and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of bread comes out clean.
  11. Remove from oven and allow to sit in pan for 10 minutes.
  12. Turn bread out onto cooling rack and cool completely before slicing – at least one hour!! This ensures that all the moisture and flavor is fully absorbed by the bread.
Mmm, mmm good!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Emmett's dedication

We are having a "parent-child dedication" ceremony for Emmett in church this coming Sunday.  For those who don't know, we belong to a Mennonite church, and as part of the Anabaptist faith, we don't believe in infant baptism.  We believe in adult baptism, or "believer's baptism" - a person chooses to be baptised upon confession of their faith.  So instead of a baptism or christening, we have a ceremony for babies (or even older children) that we call "parent-child dedication."  It acknowledges that our children are gifts from God, and we as parents dedicate ourselves to raising our children with the knowledge of God, so that they can make the decision to believe (and be baptised) when they are old enough.  Here's what it says on Annika's dedication certificate:

On this 15th day of June in the year of our Lord 2008
Carey and Pamela
make a commitment to the Lord and their daughter
Annika Beth
that they will raise her in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus so
that she may choose to follow Him.
Witnessed by the congregation of the _ _ church

It's not a big ceremony or anything, but it is very touching (at least for an emotional mama like myself).  I think my favorite moment during Annika's dedication was when the pastor asked the congregation if they would support and encourage us in raising Annika, and they all stood up to show their support.  Seriously, I almost cried at the time, and my eyes are tearing up now just thinking about it.  It's just so awesome to know that we have the love and support of so many people - truly a church family. 

Emmett never had a baby shower (like most second babies, I'm sure), so I was thinking that perhaps if anyone wanted to write a message of encouragement for him, or give him a Bible verse, they could leave it as a comment on this post (or email me if you don't want it to be public), and I would print out all those messages and put them in his baby book on the page that's designated for the baby shower.  That way I don't have a blank page in his book, and he'll have something special to look back on when he gets older.

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.
So now I give him to the Lord.
1 Samuel 1:27-28a

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Emmett's new ride

I got a new baby carrier on the weekend, and yesterday we took advantage of the nice weather and tried it out.  It's called a Boba, from Tiny TreeHugger, and it's really quite comfortable.  I still love my Sleepy Wrap (and Emmett does too), but I wanted a different carrier for a few reasons - I wanted to have the option to carry him on my back, I wanted something with more structure then the wrap (Emmett's a big guy, and while the wrap still supports him now, I'm thinking it might not as well as he gets bigger), and I also wanted something that would be cooler (temperature-wise) to wear in summer.  The fabric of the wrap is fairly lightweight, but when you wrap it around yourself 3 or 4 times and add in a baby, it gets a bit hot.

Man not included!
Before Emmett was born, I bought a very nice Rockin' Baby adjustable pouch sling that I had hoped to use with him, but it just never seemed to work for us.  As a newborn, he hated the cradle position (he didn't even like to be held like that in our arms), so I just used the wrap, as I could have him in the upright position that he loved.  Now that he's bigger, I was hoping to use the sling for a hip carry, but neither of us seemed to like that either.  After using the wrap (which goes over both shoulders and around your waist), I just couldn't get used to the sling, which just goes over one shoulder.  Not sure what Emmett didn't like about it, but he just never seemed quite comfortable.  Maybe he was just responding to my discomfort.  Anyway, I'm trying to sell the sling now (it's size S/M and still practically brand-new!), so if you or anyone you know is interested in a sling, let me know!

So far I've just had Emmett in the Boba in the front position, because I need some help getting him into the back position.  I tried it yesterday and almost dropped him (good thing we were on the couch!).  So, just for fun, I decided to try Annika instead (she was easier to get in).  The Boba has a weight limit of 45 lbs (which she is nowhere near), so I thought why not?  She thought it was fun, but I have to admit, it wasn't very comfortable for me.  Maybe I didn't have her quite in the right position - it felt like all her weight was very low on my back, which was hard on me.  I probably won't carry her around very much, but I just wanted to give it a try.
I wasn't much into babywearing with Annika, but I have to admit that I'm really getting into it with Emmett.  I guess it started out with the fact that when he was little he always wanted to be held, and I still needed my hands free to do stuff with Annika.  Now I do it because I actually really like it.  On nice afternoons, I try to take the kids out for a walk around the block, and I'll usually put Emmett in a carrier instead of the stroller because it makes it more of a workout for me.  Walking at the pace of a 3 year old doesn't really count as aerobic exercise, but when you strap on a 19 lbs baby, it gets a bit more challenging!  I think Emmett also likes it because he gets a better view of everything, compared to being stuck in the stroller.  He's so content being carried, it seems like he could stay in there all day.  And I love it when he falls asleep, all snuggled up to me.  Definitely a memory I'll treasure when he's all grown up and running around!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Healthier eating monday: more veggies

Another week of trying to improve our eating habits.  Here's how it went:
  1. No juice boxes: check!  Annika hasn't really seemed to mind the change at all these past 2 weeks.
  2. At least 1 homemade baked item: check!  I made granola bars this week, although I wasn't overly pleased with how they turned out.  I burnt the nuts and oats a bit when I was toasting them, and the chocolate chips completely melted when stirring it all together (which doesn't taste bad, but still, I don't think that's how it was supposed to be).  Annika helped me make them, but so far she's refused to eat them - not sure why.  They do taste a little burnt, but the chocolate mostly covers that up. :)  I've also been busy this week making homemade baby food for Emmett.
  3. Limit sugary cereals at breakfast to twice a week:  Didn't quite succeed on this one.  Annika had Froot Loops for breakfast 3 times.  She had them twice during the week, and then when she asked for them again on Saturday, I didn't have the energy to say no and fight her on it by myself (since Carey was off on a fishing trip and I had been up at 6:30 that morning with Emmett). 
  4. Have fish for supper once a week: check!  We had sole for supper on Wednesday.  I wasn't quite sure how to prepare it, so I just followed the instructions of the package - I did it in the frying pan with a little olive oil and seasoned it with a bit of salt and pepper.  I added a bit of lemon juice when serving it.  It wasn't fantastic or anything, but it wasn't bad.  Annika ate most of what we served her without much complaining.
The new goal for this week - have a serving of veggies at lunch (at least when we're at home for lunch).  We usually have fruit at breakfast and lunch (and sometimes snack), and only have vegetables at supper.  I'd like to add in a serving of veggies to our lunches, even if it's just a handful of baby carrots (a vegetable stand-by in this house).  I used to try to eat a salad for lunch once a week (when Annika was still eating baby food or limited table food), so perhaps I'll even try to get back in that habit.  I'm not sure if Annika would go for just a salad for lunch, but even if she just has a bit of salad alongside the rest of her lunch, I'm sure that would be a good thing. 

Emmett will also be eating more veggies this week, as I plan to make him peas and green beans to try this week.  Last week he got carrots and yams, and he wasn't a huge fan of either of them.  He's coming around on the yams, but they're not a favorite yet.  I'm guessing he probably won't like the green vegetables either, but I guess you never know until you try!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

101 uses for a nursing cover

Shortly after Emmett was born, a friend of mine made me this lovely nursing cover.  It came in very handy while I was nursing (especially over Christmas when we went to 5 family gatherings in 3 days), and when I stopped breastfeeding, I was a bit sad that it would no longer be used.  However, it gets used more these days by Annika than when I was using it. 

When I was still nursing, sometimes Annika would pretend to nurse her babies underneath the cover as well.  Since she no longer sees me doing that, I haven't seen her do it either lately.  However, she does use the cover as a sling (with her baby propped up against the boning of the cover) or as a blankie.  When her imagination really starts going, the cover becomes a ball gown, an apron, a cape, or a jacket.  Who knows what she'll come up with next.  It's so neat to see her imagination blossom, and see the cover get so much love.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Alone time / together time

This weekend Carey is going on a fishing trip with a bunch of his guy friends, so I'll be on my own with the kids.  However, this evening, my in-laws will be taking the kids for supper and the evening (until about 8:00 - bedtime), so I'll actually have a bit of time all to myself.  And guess what I have planned - absolutely nothing.  I didn't even attempt to make plans with anyone.  I'm looking forward to spending that time alone.  Now that may sound strange to some of you, but I really thrive on having alone time.  Yes, I enjoy spending time together as a family, and I enjoy spending time with the kids (especially when I get to have one-on-one time with each of them), and I enjoy spending time with just Carey, but equally important to me is just spending time with myself. 

Any mother can tell you how much they appreciate a quiet house, but I was like this even before I had kids (although I've probably come to appreciate it even more since having kids).  I think it started the year after I graduated.  I went to Guatemala for 3 months with a program through Canadian Mennonite University called "School of Discipleship" (it's since been renamed "Outtatown").  Even though we were a group of about 30, we were all individually billeted in local houses for a large portion of the time.  I didn't speak much Spanish, and my host family wasn't overly friendly (or perhaps it just seemed that way), so I spent quite a few nights alone in my room.  It got dark shortly after suppertime and girls weren't encouraged to walk alone through the town, so unless we had a group outing, or I could find a male escort to pick me up and walk me home, then I was pretty much stuck.  I got used to it, and I actually really liked it.  And I still do, to this day.

Now, before you think I'm a total hermit, I have to admit that since becoming a mother, I've actually also come to appreciate getting out (or having people over) and just being with other people more.  As much as I'm looking forward to my evening alone tonight, I'm equally looking forward to tomorrow evening, when the other "fishing widows" and kids will be coming over for a potluck supper.  I think when you're home alone with kids all day, you need these kind of interactions to keep your sanity.  Like my Y Neighbours group - I don't know where I'd be without them.  I never miss a Tuesday morning, if possible.  I even will wake up the kids if they're sleeping in (which I hate doing!) so we can get there on time.  Playdates are another thing I've come to appreciate.  They're not just good for kids - they're good for mommies too.

So this evening I will be eating my supper alone, and enjoying every minute of it.  Every minute of not having to cut up food, coax a few more bites, leave the table to change a diaper, or rush through my supper to make a bottle.  I will enjoy the peace and quiet.  And tomorrow, I will enjoy the sound of laughter and noise, the kids running around, the fellowship around the table, and the general pleasure of being among good friends.