Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Big Transition!

As I mentioned in my last couple pregnancy updates, we've been doing a lot of home renos recently. We just finished our basement (including a rec / toy room and office) which allowed us to clear out and clean the previous office and start turning it into S' "big girl room". We got all the main furniture moved in yesterday, including her new toddler bed, and we decided to see if she'd be interested in sleeping in her new room last night. Was she ever!!! At first she ran around excitedly, grabbing her stuffies and blankets and chattering up a storm. Then when we told her she needed to lie down in her bed, she plopped right down and went almost immediately to sleep! Today she had her afternoon nap in her bed, and willingly went to sleep in it once more tonight at bedtime. Whew!! We've heard some big bed transition horror stories so wasn't sure what to expect, so what a relief that S has embraced her own transition so exuberantly!

The sweetest moment came last night just before bedtime. She'd finished loading all her stuffies and blankets into her bed when she turned to us and said, completely unsolicited, "Thank you for my big girl room!" It just melted our hearts. :) :) Overall, definitely a Top 5 proud (yet wistful) parent event.

So tell me - those of you who've made "the big transition" with one or more of your own children, how'd it go for them?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

CJ's Birth Story!

Turns out my "gonna pop early this time around" prediction in my 37-week update couldn't have been further from the truth! Our little man decided to follow in the footsteps of his procrastinatin' sister and go a full 9 days overdue!

"CJ" finally made his long-awaited arrival on Tuesday, December 11th at 1:13 PM. As expected, he was a chunky monkey (though not as huge as I predicted), weighing in at 8 lb 6 oz.

Here's how it all went down!

I woke at about 6:30 AM that morning and hopped on the computer to tackle the final online Christmas gift on my list (make a custom collage puzzle for S). I submitted the order at about 7:20 and decided to lie back down for a bit. But I felt a little funny - sort of shaky and cold. I got up, paced around and then started feeling some "waves" - uncomfortable but not exactly painful, and different than Braxton Hicks. I jumped in the shower quickly and the waves continued - every 5 minutes or so and lasting 30-40 seconds each. Yup - this had to be go time! Given how quick my labour with S was, we called Katie (our midwife) and Chris' mom (our backup for S) right away. Katie asked me a few questions and agreed that indeed, it was time to head on down to the hospital. When Chris' mom arrived, S was just waking up so we gave her kisses, told her CJ was coming and hit the road!

On the way down to the hospital, the contractions actually slowed down to about 7-8 minutes apart and continued to be mild which had me concerned this was a false alarm after all. I was actually willing them to get stronger and closer together - how crazy is that? ;) All in all, though, it was definitely a different experience than the drive down while in labour with S, as that one was QUITE uncomfortable! Once we'd parked and began walking, they sped up again but continued to be quite manageable.

Checking into triage, the coolest thing happened - we ran into Beth, our wonderful doula from my last pregnancy, on her way out from another birth! Chris commented that this was definitely a positive omen. I had to agree!

We met up with Katie in triage and, upon checking me, she was pretty flabbergasted. 6-7 cm dilated already! And contractions were still quite mild. I was starting to feel this baby was just gonna drop out of me, virtually pain free. How sweet would that be? :)

We got a private room just after 10 AM and Katie started the paperwork and room prep. I walked around and continued to feel mild contractions about 3-5 minutes apart. At 10:30, Katie put a saline lock in my wrist so they could get an IV going quickly if need be. (I bled pretty heavily following S' birth so this was a precautionary measure.) I was pretty hungry so Chris grabbed me some munchies from the snack room.

At 11:30, Katie checked me again and I was still 6-7 cm so she suggested that they break my water (or, more formally, perform an "Artificial Rupture of Membranes (ARM)") to move things along, once our backup midwife (Janessa) arrived. She was pretty confident our little guy would come very quickly following the procedure, so Chris and I agreed to it. Janessa showed up just before noon. Following a li'l procrastination (according to Chris) by yours truly and an amusing story from Janessa about how another midwife used an "amnihook" to repair an article of clothing (comic relief?) they broke my water. Thankfully the fluid was clear this time! (With S there was meconium present which meant the poor gal had to be whisked off to have her lungs suctioned before we could get our cuddle time. :( )

Following the ARM, my contractions increased in intensity almost immediately. I started trying out different positions to get through them more comfortably - leaning on Chris, kneeling on the bed and crouching over. One of the most manageable positions was leaning forward holding onto the bed rail, so I hung out in this position for quite awhile. Chris and I had discussed capturing a video of the birth itself, but I decided this would be a little too visceral (plus I wanted him to be able to experience it fully without the distraction/responsibility of obtaining the footage). As a "compromise", I allowed him to film a contraction. Notice the clock in the background - 12:40. Recall our little guy arrived at 1:14. That's how quickly things went from here!

During the next 20-25 minutes, contractions got even stronger and a few were very intense, prompting me to utter a few choice phrases about never having anymore children & whatnot. But lemme tell ya - the best piece of knowledge we got from our prenatal class two years ago was that when you feel you can no longer handle things, you can - because baby's THISCLOSE to arriving! Just after 1:00 I felt the urge to push (yay!) and my midwives gave the OK. I got in the hands & knees position which worked fell during S' birth, and went with what felt right to my body. After 2-3 pushes, he began to crown and the midwives instructed me to push more slowly. (Later I learned that if baby comes out too fast, it can actually be problematic as the mucous doesn't have the chance to clear from the lungs properly.) They were also trying to get me into a different position, but I tried and felt like there was literallly no way I could move, so I stayed put! But it was all good as another push or two late and out he came! The minutes afterwards were kind of blurry but apparently they just passed him on through my legs, football-styles and I caught him on the other side! :) He was healthy and vigorous right from the start (9/10 and 10/10 on the 1 and 5 minute APGARs), making lots of little cooing and snuffling noises. I was so happy to get to snuggle our precious little guy right away. And snuggle we certainly did! Chris managed to capture the following mini-video immediately following his birth before Katie made him sit down as he was feeling lightheaded from all the blood. (Yes, indeed - you've been warned! But other than said blood things are PG. :)

Mama was in pretty good shape afterwards too - got a couple shots of pitocin (I believe one in the IV and another in my leg?) and had a 2nd degree tear which they fixed up quickly. The placenta & membranes came 10 minutes after the birth (and looked pretty cool - they gave us a "tour" ;)

Best part? CJ took to nursing like a pro! He latched on within about 45 minutes and spent a good 20-30 minutes on there. Such a relief, especially since we had such challenges last time around! We then enjoyed a nice period of alertness during which he gazed at his mom & pops in wonder with his big, warm, curious eyes. Love!

And then he slept for about 7 hours straight. What a journey he'd had!

My mom came to visit us at the hospital, but all other visits happened at home. Why? 'Cause we were outta there early that evening - just 6 hours after our little man arrived! Another big difference between CJ and S' births - with S, we stayed for over 48 hours, mainly to get nursing support but I was also in rougher shape following her delivery.

And one final key difference? Our decision to go with midwife-based care. Although we were certainly satisfied with the OBGYN-based care we received with S, I have to say that the quality and quantity of care provided by the St. Jacobs Midwives was second to none. From the frequent in-depth prenatal appointments to the full 6-7 hours spent with us for CJ's birth, to the multiple postpartum home checkups, we had a phenomenal experience with Katie and the other midwives we had the fortune of meeting, and would highly recommend the SJM practice to others looking for amazing pregnancy, birth and postpartum care.

Here are a few more photos from the big day!

Ten days in, we continue to fall more in love with our little man, and are beginning to adjust to life as a family of four. More on his early life in another entry - this mama needs to get some sleep!

So how about you? Got a birth story of your own you'd like to share? Feel free to comment on how yours went down, or leave a link to a post!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Canadian Diaper Bag Giveaway ($180 value)! (Closed)

Welcome to the Canadian Diaper Bag Giveaway Event!

This Canadian-only giveaway is sponsored by,
a maternity and nursing boutique based in Calgary, Alberta.
You can find everything you need to look and feel your best during and after pregnancy. 

Posh Mommy offers FREE shipping to anywhere in Canada!

WIN: Timi & Leslie HANNAH diaper bag ($179.99 value!)
Bronze bag as pictured


ENDS: December 30th 2012 (11:59pm EST)

 ENTRIES: Via Rafflecopter Below

A skill testing question will be asked of the winner in order to claim the prize.

Hannah bag with included accessories.

Monday, December 10, 2012

$125 Holiday Cash Giveaway! (Closed)

Who couldn't use a li'l extra cash this holiday season, perhaps for a last minute gift shopping spree or some well-deserved personal pampering? Well, this could be YOUR chance to grab some!

Manager to Mom is teaming up with a great group of Canadian bloggers to give away $125 (via Paypal) to one lucky winner! Contest is open worldwide, but only for one week (December 10th to 17th) - so get those entries in ASAP! Please enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

This Holiday Cash Giveaway is hosted by Tales of a Ranting Ginger and This Lil Piglet. Be sure to stop by, say hi and check out some other great holiday giveaways while you're there!

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Teeming with #2: Week 40+ update!

OK c'mon little man - I no longer have accurate stickers for you!

I got the real scoop from my midwife on why the date they're going with is different (5 days earlier, in fact) than my own. Simple. It's not their "wheel thingy" (as I was ever so articulately going with on previous updates) - it's the projected date from my initial dating ultrasound. I'm not sure why I evidently never clued into this. After all, it's called a "dating ultrasound" for a reason. So based on this, I'm now a full week overdue and you can tack an extra 5 days onto all my previous belly pics. :)

So now all the fun post-dates stuff begins! Ultrasound tomorrow, follow-up midwife appt (definitely with a stretch & sweep this time) either tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday, and if baby's still hanging on for dear life, induction scheduled for Friday. (12 days post-dates; normally they'd schedule for 10 but I said I'd prefer the extra 2-day buffer provided there are no concerns.) In the meantime, doing lots of yoga ball bouncin' and otherwise staying pretty active, and had some of this with brunch today. Yum! Still haven't tried evening primrose oil (suggestion from a few people) so perhaps something to pick up and start on tomorrow. Also, Chris' cousin told me about an acupuncture spot on the ankle which can help with dilation, so will have to get hubs on that. :) Oooh on a related note, just googled and found this - more fun stuff to try!

Baby's movement isn't quite as crazy this past week, but he's still going pretty strong. A li'l slowdown is expected at the end anyway. (No more room!) I kinda tortured the kid yesterday as I inhaled a HUGE amount of food at my husband's extended family Christmas - turkey, stuffing, sides and way too much dessert. ('Tis the season to be gluttonous?) I have no idea how I'm still able to do this and where it all goes as everything is super-tight in there. And, amazingly, little to no heart burn at all recently (though, I'm proud to say, the ever-so-sexy pillow drooling continues with gusto!)

Going overdue has actually been awesome for our house progress. Basement's almost finished (just needs a 2nd coat of paint, floorboards and cleanup, then it's ready to furnish), S' big girl room is painted and mostly cleared out, and her new furniture is built and ready to move in. I'm also THISCLOSE to finishing our Christmas shopping and have been Kijiji-ing like a fiend - acquired s'more potty gear for S, a hand-made wool cover and HUGE stash of socks, hats and bibs for the little guy and two nearly-new fitted crib sheets. Everyone tells me I should be napping when I can, but I just can't pass up the opportunity to be productive while I have all this extra time!

So yeah. Ducks are much more in a row than they were 2-3 weeks ago, so little dude is welcome and encouraged to come any day!! Let's DO THIS! :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"S" at 24 months: Bring on the Tremendous Twos!

It's official - we now have a two-year-old on our hands! Such a momentous occasion that it warranted three, count'em, three parties to celebrate! (Has the bar been set a little high or what? :)

As usual, let's start with the monthly pics!

23 months:

(Yup she's got a lovely li'l "bat in the cave" in this one - oops! I could've put my newfound Photoshop learnings to the test, but in the interest of authenticity - she had a cold at the time, after all - I decided to leave things as is!)

24 months:

(All better, and super-excited about Birthday Party #3!)

24 months #2:

(The stinker-face "cheeeeese" version! Cracks me up every time she does this.)

As usual, LOTS of updates in the various developmental areas (in particular social, emotional and verbal), however my post-dates preggo brain isn't in peak form so I'm going to break things down using a simple, point-form categorical approach. (Yup, the project manager in me is still alive and well! ;)

  • S had a mini growth spurt over the last couple months! She's now 32 inches tall and weighs about 24.5 lbs, putting her between 10th and 15th percentile in both categories. Perhaps all that competitive eating is finally catching up a bit? :)
  • She's getting quite adept at putting on and taking off simpler clothing items by herself - shoes, boots, underwear, loose pants, shirts and hats. It would appear this has helped in her training to become a professional boxer!
"Who YOU lookin' at??"
  • Unfortunately, this also means diapers with hook & loop closures are OUT! I learned this the hard way the other week, when (upon hearing the foreboding sound of post-nap detaching aplix) I frantically ran in to her and she ever-so-helpfully handed over an open-faced, SUPER-poopy diaper. Let's just say a buttload of laundry was done that day!!!
  • In dental news, all her canines are fully in now. So just the 2nd molars this year and she'll have all her primary chompers. Yay!
  • She's such an active, squirmy wormy these days! Hiding, tearing around the kitchen with her new shopping cart, climbing up onto EVERYTHING. Lovin' the high energy - though sometimes tough for this huffin' and puffin' preggo to keep up with her! (Especially when she wedges herself into small spaces, like behind the glider in her room. She totally knows Mommy has trouble getting to her there!)
  • She just finished a 10-week kinder music session which she loved - a great way to burn off energy with other kiddos! Here she is enjoying all the actions of "Sleeping Bunnies" - a great slow/fast action song for toddlers!

  • She can also be very focused and patient as well, when in the right mindset. For example, her second haircut took all of 7 minutes! No objections - not even during the bang cutting part!
  • She's continuing to get more confident in the water. During her last couple swimming lessons this round, she began jumping off the edge to Daddy unassisted, and just recently during bath time has become fond of sticking her head directly under the faucet. Silly monkey! :)

  •  Two of her current favourite activities include sorting and puzzles. For a couple weeks, she became obsessed with dumping out all her ChildUp cards and putting them back into the right boxes, with 100% accuracy! If we attempted to put a card into the wrong box, she'd object and take it out. Puzzle-wise, she's moved well past the starter "chunky puzzles" and is on to 12 and 24-piece jigsaws. Here she is making her current favourite, a 24-piece "Cars"-themed puzzle which glows in the dark!
  • She can answer all the HooplaKidz interactive video quizzes almost perfectly, except for the numbers one which is a little more advanced (and, evidently, distressful - more on this in a bit!)
  • She can count up to 20 by herself, and higher up with prompting. We continue to work on associating the counting with actual objects by having her touch each one as she counts.
  • She's beginning to notice patterns and images in unrelated objects/materials. The other day she pointed out an animal shape in her food, and another time she commented that something looked like a ghost. (For the life of me, can't remember what it was!)
  • Her memory is amazing! Several days after her 2nd haircut and dinner at a friend's house, she could recite back all the details - what she watched at the salon, what she ate and all the fun toys they played with! Her visual memory's proving to be equally impressive. We just introduced her to a memory game (matching different types of shoes) and this morning she beat my hubby 4 to 1, fair & square! (Granted this one's "cheating" a bit as she's almost 24 1/2 months now, but thought I'd slip it in there anyway. :)

Social / Emotional / Verbal:
  • She's really beginning to assert her independence. "Mommy do it!" (one of her favourite requests from 18-22 months) has practically vanished from her vocabulary as she wants to do most things by herself! She also wants to help Mommy and Daddy with stuff around the house, like sweeping and dishes. When she hears the kitchen tap turn on, she makes a beeline for a chair to get in on the action!
  • She continues to enjoy make believe and is getting more into dress-up. She loves trying on Mommy's necklaces and shoes, and checking herself out in the mirror all decked out! Here she explores a big box o' dress-up loot she got for her birthday from her aunt, uncle and cousin!

  • She's beginning to play more interactively & cooperatively with peers. I always love hearing the stories from daycare, like how she and her friend C were reading "Where's Waldo?" together. She has a pair of "BFF" pajamas with two monsters holding hands, and she points to one and says his name and the other and says her own name! (Cue the chorus of "awwwwwwwww"s!) Here she is playing an amusing toddler "take turns" game with another of her little friends! (His mama and I were trying to figure out the "rules" to no avail. :)
  • At around 22 months she started becoming keenly aware of her own emotions and began developing true empathy. Remember the numbers quiz I mentioned earlier? Well, about midway through it she became distressed by the sad/scared looking mouse that appears when you pick a wrong answer. We stopped playing it but for days afterwords (and even occasionally now!) she'd mention how she was "Sad about the mouse on the topeter." (I was worried I'd scarred her with that one! :-/) She also likes to give kisses to sad/crying characters in books, and more recently became somewhat preoccupied with the "cold letter C" in a deck of alphabet flash cards she got for her birthday, hugging it and snuggling it into a blanket!
  • Like a good little 2-year-old, she's been honing her bargaining skills. "Which book would you like to read?" we ask her, offering her a few choices. Her answer? "A Promise is a Promise, THEN Pigs!" On a similar note, she gets wishy washy about things such as which shirt colour she wants to wear ("Green. NO! Blue!") though we're not sure if she's truly having trouble deciding or enjoys the power of having us go to accommodate her first choice and then switch to the second. As such, we've started sticking to the first choice she makes, and this appears to be lessening instances of the ol' switch-a-roo!
  • She's definitely showing preferences for certain things over others. For example, a few weeks back she told me she wanted an "elephant backpack". I googled and found this adorable line of animal backpacks from Skip Hop. Since there were sooo many varieties, I decided to show them to her to see if she liked any more than the elephant. She told me she liked the hippo and dinosaur the best, and (surprisingly) didn't like the kitty! (Side note to friends/family - yup, already ordered one for Christmas. Just so y'know. :) She has also started verbally articulating her meal preferences vs. simply not eating something or handing it back to me. "I don't want zucchini, Mommy!" she told me the other day. (That's fine - more for me! ;)
  • Funny little OCD tendencies are coming out too! I already mentioned how she gets distraught when we put one of her ChildUp cards in the wrong box. She also doesn't like when things are dirty (we had some challenges picking out a Hallowe'en pumpkin because of this!) and she'll be sure to correct you if you get a line in a book or a lyric wrong! (Me: "You better not shout I'm telling you why!" S: "No. Pout!")
  • At around 22 1/2 months, she started singing songs along with the original music! I first noticed her singing her ABCs along with her LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Alphabet toy. Now she regularly sings along with CDs, videos and people. She probably knows 30-40+ songs by now, and picks up new ones almost every day! She has also started making up songs of her own, and sometimes sings the lyrics of one song to the tune of a different one. Her emerging creativity and exploration in this area is so fascinating to watch!
  • Her language and memory have progressed to the point that we sometimes have trouble understanding what she's talking about! She'll plunge into a dialogue about a TV character she noticed the other day at daycare, or something specific she wants to do/play with, or a funny memory. She'll pull these things out of thin air and, because she doesn't always enunciate everything perfectly, we'll need to ask her a bunch of clarifying questions to nail down what she's getting at! It's very rewarding when we do, however, as she'll break into an excited smile and nod vigorously. She has so much to say and she loves being understood!
  • The "Mine!" phases continues and has been supplemented with its cousin, "Again!" The other week she coaxed her Nana into reading her the same book four times! 
  • She's taken to telling people "This is MY Mommy!" We're thinking she may be getting a little protective of me because she understands that another little person will be joining our family soon! But overall she's been very sweet and seems excited when we talk about her little brother-to-be!


In my last S update, I mentioned she'd been pretty much 100% with bare bum peeing at home. Well unfortunately, we had a regression and she started having a bunch of accidents! I think maybe the early excitement/pride at going in the potty/toilet simply wore off and she got complacent, or perhaps she was getting confused that we expected potty at home but had her in diapers on the road and at daycare? Others have mentioned potty training with another little one on the way is a lofty goal, so there could be something there too. In any case she's been coming around again in recent weeks so we'll just keep at 'er. I'm also looking at tips, products, etc. for pottying outside the home as we need to bust out of our comfort zone here! All in all, she's still young so we're not being militant about things (and haven't "resorted" to rewards yet); when she has an accident we simply remind her that pee/poo goes in the potty! (And she reiterates this back to us too - "No pee on the floor! No pee on the couch! Pee in the potty!")


She continues to be a champion sleeper at night. She does go down fairly late (usually we have her in bed by 8:30 and she sings/talks to herself until 8:45-9:00) but then she sleeps in until about 8:00. A solid 11+ hours! Unfortunately naps are getting less reliable. Some days she'll still do 2-3 hours but other days she won't nap at all. So she may be phasing herself out already - boooooooooo! On the bright side, when she doesn't nap she's generally still willing to have an hour (plus) of quiet time in her crib with her stuffies and perhaps a book or two, so at least we get a little break!

Thoughts from Mom 

Well, this was the lengthiest "S" update yet! Took forever to write but she's going through such a fascinating, accelerated development period and I wanted to make sure I captured all those amazing details and wonderful memories so we always remember them! I have to say it's disappointing that so many people embrace the "terrible twos" moniker. Yes, children tend to be spirited and challenging at this age (my husband and I often let out a collective sigh of relief once our daughter's down for the night after a particularly trying evening!), but it's not rooted in a desire to be terrible; there's so much blossoming in their little minds, hearts and bodies at this age and they're just trying to explore and make sense of it all! More advanced parenting concepts certainly do come into play at this age. Preventing/contending with power struggles. The line between too gentle and too harsh. Knowing when to assist vs. letting the child figure out something on their own. This all warrants a blog post of its own, if not multiple! All in all, I truly do love being a mommy of a 2-year-old. Every day brings new challenges and discoveries, and every day I can't help but remind myself just how much I love this smart, funny, loving, incredible li'l person my hubby and I brought into the world! Now, to welcome another little person any day now - a whole new adventure!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

(Not Quite) Wordless Wednesday: We Won a Christmas Tree!

A community service group in our town holds a Tree of Light celebration each holiday season. It's a fun event for kids as there's Christmas caroling galore, free apple cider and hot dogs, and Frosty the Snowman makes an appearance too! Most importantly, it's the largest annual fundraiser for the group. During the weeks leading up to the celebration, group members accept donations at various venues and a $5 donation earns a light on the tree and an entry into a raffle for a fully decorated (artificial) Christmas tree donated by a local garden center.

While shopping at Sobey's about a week ago, I made a donation not really thinking about the prize - but then received a call a few days later that we'd won! Apparently there were hundreds of donations made so we got quite lucky indeed. (Though Chris said maybe it was good karma for all the great stuff I give away here at M2M? ;)

Here we are with Frosty and our beautiful tree (currently displayed in a local shop window until the logistics work out for us to bring it home) on Sunday night following the Santa Claus parade!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Old Christmas Card Collage - A Toddler and Kid-Friendly Craft!

While it's always nice to receive festive greetings from loved ones each holiday season, those piles of Christmas cards can certainly build up as the years go by! To keep things manageable, I generally hold on to hand-made cards and store-bought variants with meaningful personal content and recycle the remainder, however this year I came up with an idea for repurposing these. Now that our daughter's 2, she's starting to "get" the concepts behind holidays and her fine motor skills are at a level where she's able to be more  hands-on with crafts, so I thought it would be a fun project for her to convert some of our old cards into a Christmas-themed collage! It worked out fabulously. :) Here are the deets, for those of you who'd like to give this a try as well!

Note - the steps listed assume you're doing the project with a toddler. For an older child (e.g. 4-5+ years), you can adjust the steps so that they're more hands-on - e.g., encouraging a child to cut out their own images, write their own name/message, etc. 

Christmas Card Collage

  • 15-20 old Christmas cards with different images/designs
  • Large piece of paper (we used a 12"x18" sheet of finger paint paper)
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Christmas stickers to decorate smaller areas (optional)
  • Non-toxic, washable markers and/or sticky letters

  1. Lay out materials on a flat surface
  2. Ask your child to choose a card image they'd like to include next. Cut out the image.
  3. Have your child assist in gluing the back of the image, and allow them to paste it wherever they want on the collage.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until all large, blank areas of the paper are filled with images. Ask your child about each image as it's added. (What/who it is, colours, what they like about it, etc.)
  5. If you're using stickers as well, allow your child to add some of these to jazz things up further.
  6. Add a holiday message and your child's name using the markers and/or sticky letters. Allow your child to add some free form details with the markers if they want.
  7. Voila! Encourage your child to show off their work of art to friends and family!

Our completed collage!

Comparing her own candy cane to mouse's candy cane on her picture!

So tell me... what do you do with your old Christmas cards? Can you recommend other fun holiday art projects that are toddler-friendly?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mama Cloth, here I come!

I once read that "cloth diapers are the gateway drug of green parenting" and I have to say, after 2 years of CDing our daughter, this is bang on. Cloth diapering has opened my eyes to the fact that there are a plethora of other reusable alternatives to personal and household items that most commonly come in a disposable form - for example, cloth wipes, (un)paper towels, coffee filters, straws, wrapping "paper" and, yes indeed, feminine hygiene products.

My first foray into a reusable option for contending with Aunt Flo was The DivaCup, which I had the opportunity to review this past winter (in the nick of time - got to use it for a single period and then boom, Li'l Man decided he was ready to start camping out down there!) The DivaCup is a specific brand of menstrual cup, which is one main type of reusable monthly solution. The other type is cloth menstrual pads or, as they are often affectionately referred to as, "Mama Cloth". So basically menstrual cups are the reusable equivalent of tampons (an internal solution) and cloth pads are the reusable equivalent of disposable pads (an external solution). 

I did have a positive experience with the DivaCup in the limited time I got to try it and certainly plan to use it again when my regular cycle returns, however I've been eager to try "Mama Cloth" as well for a few reasons:
  1. A menstrual cup (such as my DivaCup) is not an appropriate solution for postpartum bleeding, which I'll obviously be contending with shortly!
  2. The DivaCup does take some time to insert, remove and clean. As such, I feel like I would likely prefer cloth pads at times when I'm in a hurry, when I'm out and about, on lighter flow days, etc.
  3. Cloth pads come in the coolest variety of styles, patterns and textures! Similar to cloth diapering, I can see it becoming almost addictive trying a bunch of different varieties. :)
  4. Menstrual cups have recommended replacement guidelines (e.g., one year for the DivaCup) whereas cloth pads should last much longer than this, assumimg they're well-made and cared for properly.
During my postpartum period, I'll be getting the opportunity to review various brands and styles of "Mama Cloth" from a few different vendors, and you'll be getting the opportunity to enter and win some of your own! Stay tuned. :)

Curious to hear - how many of you have already tried mama cloth? Love it? Hate it? What about menstrual cups? Feel free to share your preferences and your stories! :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: S Turns Two!

Our sweet daughter S just turned two and was lucky enough to enjoy not one, not two but THREE birthday parties hosted by all her wonderful grandparents! (Which meant that Mom and Dad had to do very little, which was admittedly nice. ;)

Party 1 - Nana and Papa's

Party 2: Granda and Empa's

Party 3: Gramma and Grampa's

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Teeming with #2: Week 38 update!

During my last update, I thought I might be fast-tracking toward an early-ish labour, but here I am a week and a half later, still "with child". According to my midwife - 38 wks 5 days. According to my own calcs, exactly 38 wks.

And, oddly, my belly looks higher as though the baby has moved back up a bit. Is that even possible?

My heartburn's particularly bad tonight, which corroborates the inexplicable "move up" theory.

Weight-wise, just clocked in at 144.4 lbs so basically no change here since the last update.

Given the uterine artery "notching" noticed on my week 35 ultrasound, my midwife ordered a follow-up for earlier this week. As I mentioned on my FB update, everything looked fantastic! Little man scored 8/8, weight estimate was 3200g / 7 lb 1 oz (44th percentile), fluid was 132 (normal b/w 73 and 239), head was "presenting" (i.e. locked & loaded), notching no longer present and cervix approximately 50% effaced. I'm not a fan of excessive ultrasounds, but it *is* nice to have one which results in such a bundle of good news! ... a cute pic of our li'l sleepyhead! :)

Almost forgot to mention the other nice tidbit - Group B Strep came back negative. w00t!

Still feeling pretty good all in all. I'm actually enjoying a bit more energy than I had a couple weeks ago, probably because my iron's back up closer to normal range. Noticing more minor aches and pains when I get out of bed, drive longer distances, etc. but all the usual "getting close now!" stuff I'm sure. And my appetite continues to be more than healthy. For example, today at lunch I scarfed down a 12-inch sub and half a bowl of soup. Where exactly the room exists for this volume of food is certainly perplexing, though (come to think of it) the fact that I now have heartburn isn't so much. :)

During the last few days, Little Man's been following in S' late preggo footsteps, seemingly on a quest to "dig" his way out. Lots of less-than-pleasant (but interesting!) jabbing sensations all over but especially, y'know, in the direction that he's headed. Fun stuff!

In other planning/logistical news, the basement is coming along fabulously. Framing, electrical, drywall, mudding, sanding and primer are all complete; now we just need paint, flooring and a whackload of cleaning to get rid of all that pesky drywall dust and it's DONE! This'll be SUCH a relief as we'll finally get to move the office and a bunch of other stuff downstairs, allowing us to start on S' long overdue big girl room so that li'l man can have the nursery.

Regarding the "necessary basics" for his arrival, we've been in "lazy prep" mode. :) We still need to get the bassinet up beside our bed, however I did at least clear space for it. (An important first step, right?) And I washed a bunch of sleepers and onesies. AND MY HOSPITAL BAG'S NOW PACKED, OK?!?! Y'all kicked me into gear with this one! ;)

Chris is convinced this kid's gonna arrive tomorrow (on S' birthday!!) because all three grandkids in his family were born on the 24th day of some month. I do have that in the back of my mind a bit but am more inclined to believe he's gonna dawdle like his sister. And then be HUGE when it all goes down. Let's keep things under 9 lbs, OK bud? Please and TY! :)

So whaddya think's up next - another Tw#2 update or a birth story? (!!!)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Stonz Youth Mittz: Review & Giveaway! (Closed)

I'm super-excited and honoured to be partnering once more with Stonz, a Vancouver-based company which offers uber-practical and stylish outerwear options for infants and young children. I first worked with Stonz in January, 2012 on a review/giveaway for their flagship Booties footwear (and corresponding Linerz accessory). I encourage you to hop on over to my Booties review to learn more about this amazing product and also get a glimpse of the company's roots and values. You can also view the Stonz story via this short video clip:

I'm back now to review Stonz Youth Mittz, which the company is proud to announce are new & improved this season!

Product Information:

These Youth Mittz are designed to stay securely on, while keeping the cold out. Inspired by the harsh Canadian winters, they are made to the highest standard, ensuring your little one's hands will remain warm in the coldest climates.
  • Improved insulation with Thinsulate (TM), an extra thin layer that keeps the Mittz soft and flexible
  • Durable water and wind resistant coated Nylon, with a weatherproof membrane with a psi of 5,000
  • New & Improved Fit and design
  • Extra-long wrists are designed to go over outerwear, with 2 toggles to ensure they stay on
  • Back of thumb has fleece to relieve wet noses
  • Clips ensure Mittz don't get lost
  • Blank tag to write your name on so you never lose them
  • Suitable for skiing, boarding and other Winter Sports
  • Machine wash and dry, inside out, on delicate

new improved stonz youth mittz

Youth Mittz come in two sizes - Small/Medium (2-4 yrs) and Medium/Large (4-8 yrs) - and are available in a range of gender-specific and neutral colours and styles. Here are just a few:

stonz youth mittz colours styles

My Review:

For review purposes, I selected the small/medium size in the black & white colour. Our daughter is turning 2 shortly and we have a little guy due any day, so the practical part of me decided to go gender-neutral so they can share, figuring that 1) by the time she's done with them, he'll be all set and 2) this is a Stonz product, so they're definitely going to last through 2+ kiddos! 

Our Mittz arrived in a cute little reusable bag with a hand-written note and 2012 product guide - nice touches! Here they are, brand new with tags!

black white mittz

My first impression - wow, a lot bigger than I thought they'd be! I even checked the label to ensure I hadn't received the large size by mistake. Nope - small/medium indeed! For kicks, I tried one on myself. I could get my hand all the way to the bottom, though (as expected) the mitt part itself was much too small/short for my long "piano playing" fingers (as my mom used to say :).

Given these mitts are designed to go over outerwear, the roomy design totally makes sense. Add in the dual toggle closure/tightening system (which is used on their Booties as well) and you've got a mitt that goes on easily, stays on and keeps the snow out. A combination that's inexplicably hard to find in most mitts I've come across!

stonz youth mittz toggled open

stonz youth mittz toggled closed

The features on the front of each mitt are well thought out too. The front face is covered with a grippy material (which should prove helpful for grasping those slippery snowballs!) and I love the fleece lining the thumb. As gross as it may be that kids smear snot all over their mittens, well they do - and I'd imagine it's a heck of a lot nicer for them to rub their li'l noses into soft fleece than a waterproof material that just ends up spreading the ickiness all over their faces!

stonz youth mittz fleece thumb

The clips are also a nice addition to ensure the Mittz stay together when not in use. (I'm sure we've all experienced the frustration of easily finding one half of a pair of mittens, shoes or what have you, and the other's evidently taken a leave of absence!)

stonz youth mittz clips

As for overall quality, the Mittz appear to be very well made. I did notice a few loose threads in various spots, however I tugged/pressed around at them and they all appear to be superficial and not pose a durability risk. In general, the stitching is nice, tight and even across the board. 

Alright, time for "real world" testing!

So the first time I tried to outfit our daughter with her new Mittz, she balked. She did NOT want these new things on her hands!! Uh oh, I thought - this review may prove challenging! When I tried again a few days later, she cooperated, but it became clear pretty quickly they're still too big for her. Her hands pretty much drowned at the bottom and it was challenging getting her little thumbs where they were supposed to go. She had them on for a total of about 12 seconds before proclaiming "Too big! Too big!" and yanking them off, though I did manage to snap a pretty cute "Don't mess with me!" pic!

stonz youth mittz too big

It's not surprising she isn't ready for them yet, as she's still not quite 2 years old (the minimum age listed for the small/medium size) and she's petite (less than 10th percentile weight, 25th height and still wearing Size 5 to 5.5 shoes which fit the average 12 to 18 month old). So in her case, I'm thinking the small/medium will fit best from 3 to 5 yrs.

All this left me with a bit of a conundrum for finishing my review, so I recruited my neighbour's almost 3-year-old son to be a guest tester. He did a great job!

Lookin' good, all bundled up for a chilly November day!

"Mom, I heart these! Can I keep 'em?" :)

stonz youth mittz perfect fit

My neighbour provided the following feedback:
  • They were super easy to put on and take off
  • Thumbs slid in easily
  • Kept his hands nice & toasty!
  • He didn't mind wearing them
  • It was somewhat challenging for him to perform tasks such as picking things up, gripping, etc. but she also said she's yet to find a warm winter mitt that doesn't "cripple" a young kiddo this way.

When I asked if he used the "snot wipers", she said she hadn't actually noticed these, but thought it was a brilliant feature!

All in all, definite thumbs up (no pun intended) from my guests. (Thanks so much C & C! :)

Next up - care & maintenance. To prep, I turned each mitt inside out as advised. (Note - this was actually a bit of a pain, as the thumb in particular didn't want to flip in the other direction. But nothing really to write home about considering they'd probably only need to be washed 3-4x per season.)

stonz youth mittz inside out

As I tend to do, I "stretched" the recommended laundry guidelines and threw them in with a regular (non-delicate) load, though still on cold. I followed up with a machine dry on low. After flipping them back the "right" way (again, had to wrestle a bit) I'm happy to report they'd emerged in perfect shape. Whew - always a bit of a gamble laundering a new product for the first time!

Overall, it would appear that the new & improved Youth Mittz are yet another extremely high-quality, practical and well performing product from Stonz. I do feel the need to preface this with "it would appear" due to the lack of hands-on testing I was able to perform myself, however all available signs point to this conclusion. :) Way to go, Stonz - can't wait to see what you come out with next!!

Buy It:

Youth Mittz can be purchased directly from the Stonz website (shipping is free within Canada and Continental USA on orders over $50) and from select retailers. Now's a great time to stock up on Stonz gear, as the company is offering 25% off select styles until November 26th as part of their Black Friday - Cyber Monday Sale! Hurry over - quantities are limited!

Win It:

Stonz has generously offered to give away a pair of Youth Mittz to one lucky Manager to Mom reader! Winner chooses size and style. Open to CAN/US.

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Please follow all instructions within each entry option to ensure your entries are valid.   

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  The prize is being provided and shipped to the winner by Stonz.  I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive the sample item free of charge.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Introductory Photography Workshop #WW

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I attended an introductory photography workshop through Macro Class consisting of a landscape photo walk (during which we were required to shoot in manual mode) and an Adobe Photoshop basics class. Here are a few tidbits from the sessions!

Stepping down the aperture (from f/5.6 to f/11):

 A "storytelling" composition (low aperture - f/16):

Hubs enjoying the soft evening sunlight (high aperture - f/5):

Natural lighting conditions - too much, too little and just (about) right!

30-second application of a levels adjustment layer in Photoshop - what a difference!

Have you ever attended a photography class/workshop? How would you rate your own photography and/or editing skills?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

10 Ways to Protect Your Food Storage Against Pests {Guest Post}

By: Lee Flynn

There's no time like the present for starting to prepare for tomorrow. Preparing for emergencies or times of need by buying food storage is a worthy pastime. Gathering any amount of food storage is no small task and it costs money. Money that you don't want to see go to waste by having food spoil due to lack of protection. Trust me, there's nothing worse than needing to use your food storage, opening it up, and finding that it's infested with some little bug or rodent. It's happened to me, so here are the best ways to protect your food against invaders.

  1. Freeze What You Can. Freezing foods like flour, rice, and other grains can prevent a bug infestation. It also helps prevent any larvae from hatching which may already be in the food. The problem we run into is that freezer space is limited, and storing everything in a freezer is not practical. So pick out the most coveted grains and freeze them. You don't necessarily need to leave them in the freezer forever; freeze them for a week and then take them out. All the bad bugs should be dead.

  2. High Density Buckets. Professional-grade thick plastic buckets are rodent-proof. That means there's no way those little rats and mice can chew through a bucket containing your food storage. I recommend the 5 gallon premium food storage containers that meet FDA standards.

  3. Mylar Bags. Mylar bags are made of a thin metal material that have been created for lining food storage bins. The great thing about mylar bags is that they can be sealed with heat creating an oxygen barrier to the outside. You need to place low moisture foods, like beans, with oxygen absorbers in your mylar bags. Then put your mylar pouches in rodent-proof containers.

  4. Carbon Dioxide. For those packing their own food storage, making sure your product is free of pests before you seal it up is important. The big companies fumigate food using a series of chemicals which works very well and kills lots of the insect larvae. For the home food storage packer, dry ice is a great way to do the same thing. Dry ice will fumigate products with carbon dioxide gas. It's heavier than air so it stays low in the container. Simply place a sheet of dry ice at the bottom of your food storage container and let the gas cover the food and all the bugs should die.

  5. O2 Absorbers. Oxygen is not your friend when it comes to keeping your food pest-free. Oxygen absorbers or silica packets work great when preparing your food storage. Simply place them at the top of the food before they are sealed and it will soak up all the oxygen. Insects need oxygen to thrive, so by removing oxygen they can't thrive and they will die.

  6. Bay Leaves. Spreading bay leaves throughout the food storage container is a popular way of deterring pests. Bugs don't like the smell of bay leaves. You don't need very many leaves to do the trick. Just add 5 to 10 leaves for a 5 gallon bucket. You can also spread the leaves throughout cupboards containing the food storage. Bay leaves will not affect the taste of your food.

  7. Temperature. Proper temperature is crucial to food storage. The most ideal temperature to keep your food safe for a long time is 75°F or 24°C. This comes into play when people decide to store their food storage in the garage or shed. Sure there's more room out there, but the temperature fluctuates way too drastically for the food to remain safe for a long time. Keeping temperature consistent will not only protect your food against spoilage, it will also protect it against those nasty pests...bacteria.

  8. Diatomaceous Earth. Mixing Diatomaceous Earth into your food storage, like beans or grains, can control insects. When purchasing your Diatomaceous Earth, make sure it's approved by the FDA for human consumption. There are companies which make it for swimming pools and this type can contain lots of harmful chemicals. Using this method is really easy: for every 40 pounds of grains, add 1 cup of Diatomaceous Earth. This should kill the bugs and you can still eat the food mixed with this product.

  9. Use Glass. Glass containers work really well to create an airtight oxygen-free environment when combined with oxygen absorbers. The nice thing about using glass containers is that you can store things in "every day size", as some people hesitate to open a 5 gallon bucket of sealed grains unless it's absolutely necessary.

  10. Vacuum Sealing. Vacuum packaging your food storage is another great way to get the oxygen out. Remember without oxygen all the little critters will die. I put vacuums sealing at the bottom of the list because honestly it's hard to vacuum seal food really well. The food needs to contain less than 1% oxygen, and that's not easily done with vacuum sealing. That said, it is still a good idea to vacuum seal your food but you will want to supplement this approach by using oxygen absorbers.

Lee Flynn is a freelance writer and expert in outdoor survival food storage and freeze-dried meals.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cleava "Snap to Bra Camisole": Review & Giveaway! (Closed)

Women's fashion is an area I haven't dabbled in too much (yet) here at Manager to Mom, however when the opportunity came along to review a brand-new, ultra-practical AND stylish clothing accessory called the Cleava, I knew I had to snap it up - yes, pun intended. :)

The Cleava is "The Original Snap To Bra Camisole" - a mock cami which attaches to your bra and creates a layered effect, allowing you to wear low-cut tops without exposing, well, more than you want to expose (in situations where a li'l modesty is preferable!)

As a mom of a toddler, I'm constantly bending down to reach my little girl's level, pick up toys, etc. so I'm particularly prone to inadvertently showing off my assets, if you will. My go-to solution prior to discovering the Cleava was layering full camisoles/tank tops under such revealing tops, but this was less than ideal for many reasons - too bulky, too hot (in the summer), extra unsightly straps kicking around and additional laundry, to name just a few. The Cleava is designed to solve all of these issues and more.

Another thing the Cleava boasts is that it is applied (and removed) quickly in three easy steps.

The Cleava comes in many different styles and colours, from original classic black to sassy red lace. All have identical function and share the following product details:
  • One Size Fits Most
  • Made from 92% polyester and 8% spandex
  • Machine washer and dryer safe (though hand wash is recommended for rhinestone collection styles)
  • Wrinkle-resistant
The following video further illustrates just how easy it is to attach/detach the Cleava, and shows off several of the available styles & colours.

My Review:

For review purposes, I was sent a combo set containing an original black and original white Cleava. This was perfect for me as I'm a practical gal. :)

Right away I appreciated how soft, stretchy and silky the material is, and the high quality construction. Both Cleavas were exactly the same size and were stitched perfectly.

Each Cleava has three snap settings on each side and four up the middle. Coupled with the stretchiness of the material, this would definitely allow for quite a bit of flexibility in the sizing.

The buttons snap together firmly so there's no concern that they'd come apart during regular wear.

I'm a tall, thin gal (aside from my huge belly, that is ;) so I get a really nice fit with all snaps at the smallest/tightest setting. 

I'm pleased to report that the Cleava is, indeed, as easy to put on as advertised. I can get it snapped and shifted properly into place in less than 20 seconds, and I'm far from the most manually dextrous person out there. It's easiest to apply with just a bra on, but it's certainly doable when you already have your shirt on as well - just takes a few more seconds to get things sorted out.

It's also nice and comfy. Once it's on, you don't notice it.

As for the look, LOVE LOVE LOVE! Here are a couple styles I've tried so far.

I'd estimate that a third of my tops quality as low-cut, so I've been bustin' out my Cleavas regularly since I received them. I totally dig the layered look I can get without all that extra bulk, and of course the classic white and black go with just about everything. The design appears to achieve the perfect balance between sizing flexibility and a seamless look, as even with the snaps on the smallest setting the side tabs stay hidden. They only have a chance of becoming slightly visible when I bend waaaaaay over and the particular top is super low-cut.

I tested my Cleavas with various bras of different shapes and styles (including a nursing bra), and all combinations worked just fine. I was happy to discover that I shouldn't even have to unsnap the Cleava to nurse as the material sits off to the side and thus likely won't get in the way. Sweet!

Finally, over the course of a full day, the Cleava stays perfectly in place. Literally no adjustments needed. Another big, important thumbs up!

As for care & maintenance, I tested a machine wash warm / machine dry low combo on one of my Cleavas and it came out mostly unscathed. It indeed proved to be wrinkle-resistant (as I didn't "rescue" it from the dryer until a few hours after the cycle ended, and it was still totally wrinkle-free) and it maintained its shape perfectly. However when I compared it to the unwashed Cleava, I noticed ever-so-slight shrinkage. Nothing noticeable in practice, I'd say, however to be on the super-safe side it might be best to wash on cold and air dry.

All in all, I truly do love this product - kudos to the inventor, Michelle, for creating such a practical, easy-to-use, stylish and affordable fashion accessory! In my opinion, every woman should own at least a few Cleavas. Seriously. The only downside - your man may not be quite as happy, lol. But he can deal! ;)


To stay up-to-speed on all things Cleava (new colours and styles, news releases, sales announcements and deals) follow Cleava on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Buy It:

You can purchase one or more Cleavas of your own directly from the website or by calling 1-888-692-5328. It's a great time to stock up as Cleavas are on sale now at $10 off, plus you can get free shipping on orders over $50 with the code FSMTM (good until December 13th, 2012). With the holidays approaching, why not grab a few extras as stocking stuffers?

A little more incentive: Michelle De Sousa, the inventor of Cleava, is so confident you're going to love your Cleava that she is offering The 30 Day Guarantee. If, for any reason, you are not happy with your Cleava you can return it within 30 days. 

Win It:

One lucky Manager to Mom reader will win a snazzy Original Classic - Red Cleava of their own! Open to CAN/US.

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Please follow all instructions within each entry option to ensure your entries are valid.   

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure:  The prize is being provided to the winner by Michelle De Sousa, the inventor of Cleava.  I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive the sample items free of charge.  This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.