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Sunday, 28 September 2014

First Birthdays - PARTY or party?

Alright mummies, what do you do for a first birthday? Big PAR-TAY, with all the babies we know invited? Small grandparents/aunts/uncle type party? Casual drop in for friends and family? I don't know what to do! I have less than a month until Little C's first birthday party.

My brain tells me that a casual, low key, family and friends get together would the thing to do. Playtime for the kids and cake. I mean, really, what will he remember? Probably not much. Having more kids to play with and getting to eat cake would probably be a lot of excitement all on it's own.

On the other side, my heart (which is, as always, filled with mummy-guilt) tells me to make it the best party ever! We're talking Pinterest inspired party - thematic treats, decorations, games, favours... the whole nine yards.  Sure, it would really only be for the adults, but he'll be really impressed when he's older and looks at the photo albums, right?

So, I need to know. What did you do for your baby's first birthday - giant bash filled with fancy decorations and food, or chill open hous afternoon with just a few friends and family. Help!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Summer is Over, And So Is My Bucketlist

Summer is officially over, and so is my Summer Bucket List. I'm so happy that I made it, and even though I wasn't able to check everything off, I was able to check off quite a bit.

The Zoo - We didn't make it to an actual zoo, but we did go to a small petting farm, a large petting farm, butterfly house, and an aquarium. I think I can say that this was a success!

Kings Landing - This was a fail. We didn't get to Kings Landing, but there is still hope. We may get there before it closes for the year, or maybe in the spring. I guess it's still on the to do list.

Eat at Ossie's Lunch - Check! It was even better than I remembered it to be!

Make Pickles - Another fail! I'd like to say that there is still time to do this, but if I'm being honest with myself, there is NO TIME! I'm currently fighting my first cold of the season, and I'm swamped with work. On top of that, I have a first birthday to plan and (hopefully) a Halloween costume to make! That takes priority!

Playgrounds - Check! We've been to at least 6 playgrounds - From St. Andrews to Prince Edward Island. I'd say this was a success, and Little C still loves the swings!

Uptown Self-Guided Public Art Tour - Check! Little C and I managed to do this on one of the final days of my maternity leave. We had a good time, wandering around uptown Saint John, looking at art that we may not have stopped and taken a good look at before. It's nice to slow down and see the beauty in your own city. Here are some pictures. I'm sure you can tell that my favourite art pieces in Saint John are the John Hooper displays. I've loved them since I was a kid, and they remain my favourite today. They are so detailed, that every time I see them, I notice something else.

"People Waiting" by John Hooper
St. Andrew's Bicentennial Square (Barbour's General Store)

"Timepiece"
by John Hooper
There is so much to see
in this piece.

"The Moosehead Challenger"
by Forest Hart
This is a life-sized bronze moose.
Fun fact from the brochure?
 There's a can of Moosehead Lager
inside the statue for good luck!
 The following are inside, at Market Square. The Trade and Convention Centre is being renovated, so there were many pieces in storage, but we were able to spot some.
I think this one is called "Ocean Bone"
by Marie-Helene Allain.
As a kid, I thought this was the coolest thing.

Another John Hooper - "People Apart Moving Together"
Everyone seems to stop to pose, pretending they're
on the move with the crowd.


This really shows the detail of the Hooper pieces.
Check out the reflection in the woman's glasses. So detailed.
We stopped at a lot of places on our tour, but the spot I can't wait to return to is the Saint John Arts Centre.  It's in the area of Peel Plaza, which is new. It looks like there's lots of room for more public art to be added.


The picture is missing something.
I think (and hope!) there will be something added here soon.
It's just begging to be the new home of something special.

"Fiddlehead" by James Boyd

"Figurehead" by Carol Taylor
Inspired by the city market and
the figureheads of historic ships.
This is just a small sampling of what you can see in uptown Saint John. If you're interested in taking the Public Art tour, check out the Discover Saint John website.

Farmer's Markets - We've only been to two, but there have been many repeat visits. The Sunday Queen Square Markets in Uptown Saint John are great, because they are so close - very little driving necessary. I'm sure we'll get there a few more times before they end.  We also made it to the Kingston Farmer's Market a couple of times. Hopefully, this fall, we'll make it to Fredericton for the Boyce Market.

Visit St. Andrews - Check!

Buskers Festival - Check! I still can't believe it's taken me all these years to attend the Buskers Festival in Saint John. It was great! Lots to see and do, and I love seeing the uptown busy with locals.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Back To Work

My maternity leave is over, and I'm starting my third week back at work. (Which also explains the lack of updates last week. Oops!) I'm happy to be back to work, but its also hard. Besides being away from my little guy all day, I've learned some things.

1) I miss nap time. Honestly, I rarely participated in nap time, but while Little C napped, I had some quiet time. Now there is no more quiet time. Is just rush, rush, busy, busy time. I've discovered that I am an introvert at heart, and need the solitary time to recharge. I need to learn to take a few minutes here and there for myself, so I can get at time.

2) My vocabulary has changed a lot over the past year. I was always a person who didn't like "fart jokes" and firmly believed that some things should not be discussed publically. Now, I laugh at farts, cheer when Facebook friend's kids use the potty for the first time (even though I still thinks an over-share), and have talked more about dirty diapers in the past year than I'd like to admit. Fart, poop, pee... all spoke many times a day. This is all fine to me, but it also means I have to learn to talk to adults again. Some words are not really considered part of professional dialogue. 

3) My secret dream was always to live in a musical. Well, having child makes that dream come true. I sing everything. Diaper changes? "There's a little bit of poo in there, just a little bit of poooooo!" Leaving the house? "Let's go, let's go, to the truck, to the truck!" The songs go on and on. I sing about lunch, letting the dog out, making supper, and don't even get me started on playtime. Everything becomes a song - a constant musical narrator. So, I guess I'm living the dream. The problem is that I could get some funny looks when I'm singing while setting up my laptop, writing down notes, or scheduling a meeting. I should also mention that singing is definitely not my forte. I have to watch myself. Or, maybe I should just let the songs flow! 

4) I can't stand still. I've heard this happens to parents, but I didn't really believe it... Until now. I was standing today and found myself swaying back to back. I have had to rock my son like hat in quite a while, at least not on a daily basis. Still, I couldn't stop myself. Sway back and forth, back and forth.

So, if you need me, I'll be at work, swaying, singing to myself, yawning and talking about poo. Life is good.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Reflections on a C-Section

I wrote this about two months ago. The end of my maternity leave was in sight, and I was thinking about the past year. It's funny, I always talk to my students about the power of writing. It can help you sort through your thoughts and help you heal. This was written as an attempt to sort through my emotions over having a C-section. I wasn't ready to hit the publish button then, but now I think I am. I also hit publish, because when I was recovering from my C-section, filled with mixed emotions and mummy guilt, I found comfort in some other women's stories of their own emotional recovery from C-sections.

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Having a c-section really threw me for a loop. It was definitely unexpected; it was definitely unwanted, but it's what I got.
 
I had a fairly easy pregnancy.  I wasn't too sick.  I had some summer heat swelling, but overall a nice pregnancy.  I enjoyed being pregnant, knowing this little person was growing inside me, feeling him move around, wondering what he would be like. I was nervous about the actual birth, but was also looking forward to it. I wanted to join the "mommy club" and be able to swap stories of my child's birth with other mums. 
 
I was a week overdue when I finally went into labour.  I had been scheduled for an induction three days later, and I was so excited to go on my own.  I didn't want to force anything.  All day long I timed my contractions, so I would know when it was time to go to the hospital.  After having contractions all night long, my husband stayed home the next day, and we waited... and waited... and waited.  We waited until 1am the next morning.  That was after about 24 hours of contractions.  My husband finally said, "It's time." The timing wasn't quite what they told us at prenatal class, but it was close, and I was tired. 
 
We got to the hospital and everything was looking good. I was being monitored and things were progressing on their own.  I was able to push, and I remember thinking, "This is what it's like!" I was really excited.  Unfortunately, it was slow going. I was so determined, but I could tell that it wasn't going as it should. Eventually, a nurse returned to my room and gently told me that it may be necessary to do a C-section. 
 
My heart immediately sunk.  I didn't want one.  I think I knew that it would be a possibility when things weren't progressing as well as the doctors wanted, and I could hear them checking the monitors and mumbling about how our numbers weren't where they wanted them to be.  The nurse said that it wasn't a "for sure" thing, but she wanted to prepare me for the possibility.   
 
In the end, it was my reality. Once the decision was made, things went very quickly. I didn't really have any concept of time, but before I knew it, we were in an operating room with lots of people in scrubs moving quickly around the room. My little boy was still a bit stubborn and gave us some trouble, flipping and rolling around when he shouldn't, but he arrived safely at 12 noon, on the dot.
 
In the end, I had a very healthy and happy baby boy. Since then, he has grown into this funny, loveable, friendly little boy. I know in my heart that's all that matters. Sadly, on a fairly regular basis, my brain fills me with guilt and sadness over the fact that I had a c-section. Why do I have so much guilt? Why does the thought of it make me so sad, even as I watch my 8 month old walk around my loving room, clinging to furniture and taking breaks to stand on his own? I wish I knew. Thoughts of not being woman enough. Thoughts of not being strong enough. Thoughts of failing. I've never really failed at anything. Why did it have to be the most important thing?

It's been 8 months and I don't think I have mentally recovered from having my baby.  It gets easier all the time, and I hope that someday I will see my C-section as an act of strength and beauty, instead of a weak one. Until then, I'll keep reminding myself that my son is happy and healthy, so I must have done something right.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

My PEI Vacation (part 2)

 
This week, my maternity leave ended, and I returned to work. I'm making it through, but with a return to work, the stress and work has begun, so I'm going to procrastinate and finish sharing my favourite PEI places!

(You can see #1-3 in the first part, here.)

4) Souris:
I've been to the "Points East" end of PEI before, but not for many years. I wanted to have a bit of an adventure, so we hopped in the truck and headed for Souris. Why Souris? The Flavour Shack! Chef Michael Smith has a shack (literally a shack) full of autographed cookbooks, aprons, and all his favourite island items. They also have some of his jackets there for you to wear for photos. The woman working at the Flavour Shack was wonderful! Very friendly, very helpful. You could tell that she enjoyed being there. She even took my picture with Chef Michael's jacket from the Olympics. I couldn't leave empty handed, so I bought two signed copies of his cookbooks, Back to Basics and Family Meals. (It's been so hectic with back-to-work this week, but I'm hoping to try out some recipes this weekend!)

-
The Flavour Shack!
(See the chalkboards
with colourful chalk writings?
Just like on his show!)


I got to wear Chef Michael's
jacket from the Olympics!
 

My new cookbooks - autographed!


The Flavour Shack is part of a small group of shacks along a gorgeous beach. There is a little boardwalk, picnic tables, and a playground. It's a great place to stop for some shopping, food, a swim, play in the playground, or just a sit to enjoy the scenery. For such a little place, it certainly made an impression. I loved it, and it was definitely worth the drive. 

Next to the Flavour Shack was the Lobster Shack.

It was approaching lunch, so of course we had to stop for a lobster roll. So, while Little C munched on cheerios, yogurt, apple sauce, and other goodies, we enjoyed a delicious lobster roll, chips, and pickles!

We decided that we were going to head to the other end of the Points East Coastal Drive, to visit Kings Castle Park, but before we did, I took a walk on the beach, because I had heard someone say that the beach was famous for sea glass. I have always loved collecting sea glass, but in recent years, it has become very difficult to find on our beaches. (I'm not sure if it's because there are fewer glass bottles and jars or if it's because everyone collects it all for crafts.) Well, that person was right, because I only spent a few minutes wandering along the beach and returned to the truck with this! Next time, we'll plan to spend more time there and try to arrive at lower tide, so we can have some beach time. It was a fairly high tide, so there wasn't much beach visible, but it looked like it was nice and sandy with a gradual drop into the water.




5) Kings Castle Provincial Park

I mentioned before that Kings Castle Provincial Park is a bit of a throwback. There is a little beach, canteen, and picnic area. That's all great, but not at all why I wanted to visit. For me, the attraction is the old-school playground and statues.

There is a huge playground area filled with older style swings, slides, wooden climbing structures, a tunnel, and even a merry go round! (You know the kind - it spins around and around and around until you can't take it any longer or fly off.) There are new pieces of equipment too. Between the multiple sets of swings and all the slides, Little C. had a blast! (And we got to add an extra playground to our summer bucket list!)

Older slide... The Old Woman in the Shoe?


Little C is sliding!

Tunnel


 
I couldn't let Little C have all the fun!




 















3 Little Pigs,
a Big Bad Wolf,
and a cute little boy!

After playing at the playground, we headed over to a wooded area. You walk through the woods and there are statues of various fairy tale characters. The three little pigs and the big bad wolf, the three bears, the goose who laid the golden egg, and my personal favourites: Dorothy, Tinman, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, from the Wizard of Oz. They're definitely showing some wear, but still make for some fun pictures.


6) The Great Canadian Soap Co.
I think the only "must stop" while visiting PEI this summer was the Great Canadian Soap Company. We needed to stock up on their soap - a must-have in our household. The best part about visiting the Soap company is that it's two visits in one - the goats and the store! We visited with the goats, chickens, and kittens first. 

You can tell the animals love being here. The goats are friendly, gentle, and seem very happy. I think they like all the attention. After all, who could revisit them? 

Mama cat and her many kittens.
 
Little C and a goat - this one didn't
sneeze on him, so he liked her.
 


Then it was time to go in the store, which smells heavenly. I wish I could post smells here. I love the Soap Company products. Their soap cleans well, but is mild, and the scents are light and not perfumey. They have a natural smell. 






They always have deals. The more you buy,
the more free stuff you get!


Our pile of soap, filled with all of our favourite products. Obviously, their soap is #1. I love the tea tree and licorice scents, but I think my new favourite is pear. It smells just like a fresh pear. That's what Little C got, because pears are his favourite. My husband's favourite scent is the peppermint with poppy seeds. The poppy seeds make good scrubbers.
 
We also picked up a shampoo bar. I had used on in the past, and it wasn't for me, but I don't think I had the right one for my hair. This time, be bought a tea tree and peppermint bar. I've been using it for the past week and I love it! I still use a little conditioner, but my hair is soft and shiny.
 
I also stocked up on tea tree astringent (one of my favorutie products), some body butter (one for sore muscles and the other is vanilla,) and new lip gloss.
 
Seriously, try their products. They are amazing. If you can't get to PEI, visit their website. They have some great monthly deals. I'm sure I'll be placing an order before I get back in person!

7) Village Pottery:
Despite being told by my husband that I couldn't buy any more mugs, I managed to buy another mug! I think I may have a little obsession with pottery mugs, and an even bigger obsession with Village Pottery. I swore I would find a way to get there, and when one of my mugs broke about a week before we went to PEI, I realized that was my "in." I needed a replacement mug, and what better back-to-work present than a new coffee mug! (Honestly, it doesn't take much to get my husband to agree to anything, but I think I felt the need to justify spending more money on our budget-friendly trip.)

When we stopped in, Little C was sleeping in the backseat, so I even went in by myself... that could have been dangerous! How is that for husband-wife trust? I was good though, and only came out with one mug. It's so pretty, isn't it. I swear my morning coffee tastes even better in it.


Their store is eye candy, inside and out. The pottery is displayed proudly inside the shop, organized by glaze colour. Upstairs, they display artwork, but my favourite spot is the back room. There is a little play area for kids, in a hidey hole under the stairs. It's a kid's dream. In the same room, there is always a shelf full of "seconds" - pieces that are a little wonky or are flawed in some way.  I didn't buy anything this time, but I have bought some fun pieces - bowls, candle holders, and mugs. That's my Village Pottery tip - visit the wonky shelf. You never know what you'll find.


 
Those are the highlights of our PEI vacation. We visited some other places, but these are the most memorable ones. We were able to check everything off our original list, except we  weren't able to get to Charlottetown. It's too bad, but there just wasn't enough time.

Little C had such a great time that we're already thinking of booking for next year, so the question is, where should we go? I'm still trying to figure out the whole Irish moss harvesting thing, so maybe we'll visit the other end of the island next year and try to find out more about the harvest.

Comment to let me know what other gems I've been missing while visiting PEI!
 

Friday, 22 August 2014

My PEI Vacation! (Part 1)

I’m home from five days in Prince Edward Island. I never seem to tire of visiting the Island. The fields, coastline, water, winding roads, and (of course) that red dirt... it’s all picture perfect. I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to visit before the end of the summer and my return to work.

I had made a list of possible things to do, and I am happy to say that I was able to check off most of them! It rained a lot, but we still had a lot of fun.

I’m not going to go into crazy detail over my trip, but I thought I’d share some pictures from my trip to show off my favourites. I will probably end up posting in two parts, because I took a lot of pictures, and it will be hard to narrow them down.

In no particular order, because I can’t actually pick favourites, here are some highlights from Little C's first ever vacation!

1) New Glasgow:
As I mentioned before, the Butterfly House is a side project of the people who own the PEI Preserve Company. They built a respite cottage, for people with terminal illnesses, and a walking trail called Gardens of Hope. Admission is $7 for an adult, but it is expensive to run and all profits go to the respite cottage, so I think it's a very fair price.
This place is so cool. It's a small (hot and humid) greenhouse-like building full of butterflies. It doesn't get much better than that. They fly all over, so you have to watch where you step, but if you're lucky (usually if you are wearing red or orange) they will even land on you. You can convince them to hop onto your finger so you can get a closer look. The orange slices can help. The butterflies love them! They stick out their curly tongues to lick the oranges. I find it fascinating. Little C seemed mesmerized by them. Since visiting, I've noticed that he is watching butterflies when we're outside a lot more.
The Butterflies loved Little C's shoes!


These oranges couldn't be picked up, but there were others that could. The butterflies went crazy for the oranges!
 
Close-up! Check out those eyes!


This is what the butterfly above looks like when he (she?) lands.


Can you see that curly tongue?
 
This was my favourite. Beautiful!
 
After we finished at the Butterfly House, we went for a walk in the Gardens of Hope. It's a nice place to stop, smell the flowers, and take in the view. I'm sure that it is a peaceful walk for families of those in their respite cottage.






What a view!



At the end of the pathways, you arrive at the PEI Preserve Company.

As a little side note, at the Preserve Co., I spotted this - a recharging station for electric cars! I'd never seen this before!

You'll also find the Toy Factory in New Glasgow. I love it there! They make their own line of wooden toys, and also carry some nice lines of quality toys made by other companies. If you like castles, knights, or princesses, you'll love this place! I was able to pick up some toys for now and for Christmas presents. (I know, I know, don't talk about Christmas in August!)




2) North Rustico

North Rustico is a small place, but full of my favourite things - a beach, a lighthouse, restaurants, and LOBSTER!! I'm a maritime girl, so those are all close to my heart. It's pretty close to Cavendish, where we always stay, so multiple trips to North Rustico are always made.

In my experience, I think the best place to get PEI seafood is Doiron's. Seriously. I've bought lobster at other places, but I always return to Doiron's. We sometimes go to a lobster supper for the full PEI experience, but if you go to Doiron's, buy some perfectly cooked lobsters and some mussels to cook on your own, you can save some money - or get more lobster!


 
Our first night of lobster! (As a note, always store your lobster on their backs in the fridge, so the juices stay in the lobster!)
Our last night in PEI - we added some clams. Neither my husband or I had ever eaten freshly steamed clams before. They were easy to cook - just like mussels and were SO GOOD!

Blue Mussel CafĂ©: I've always seen this restaurant, but had never eaten there until this year. I'm pretty sure it was a Chef Michael Smith recommendation that led me there. I'm so glad we stopped in! It's got a great atmosphere - a casual/cool/classy mix. Their cute blue tables with matching benches and lighthouse candle holder centerpieces make for a fun dining experience. It's simple, but intimate. I bet it would be a great date spot. There was a mix of families, couples and friends eating while we were there. I don't think they had highchairs, but I didn't ask, because Little C was happy to sit with me. The staff was very friendly too. These all make for a great restaurant.

Then there was the food: it didn't disappoint! They have a small menu, but I got the impression that anything I picked would have been good. I chose the lobster roll. (It was a toss up between that and the seafood chowder or the seafood bubbly bake. I guess I'll need to return!) The lobster roll was served with potato or pasta salad, or you could upgrade to a garden or Caesar salad. The potato salad was delicious - definitely homemade with their own recipe. The lobster roll came on what looked like a crusty bun, but was actually really soft. So good. Actually, I'm wishing I was eating it now! I am just realizing that I've written a lot about this place. You need to go there. Seriously. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Even Little C. enjoyed a little lobster!



 Other North Rustico highlights:
-nice looking lighthouse
-beach with lots of waves on one side and dunes on the other
-breakwater that you can walk along and watch the fishing boats come in (not stroller-friendly or little one friendly, but a nice rocky walk)
-beach you can drive your car on during low tide
-gift shop - pretty touristy, but it's in a lighthouse shaped building
-lots of deep sea fishing excursions leave from North Rustico (I've gone with Aiden's Deep Sea Fishing in the past)


3) Island Hill Farm
This was my favourite family-friendly find of this trip. I had searched for a way for Little C. to see some animals, since he seems to enjoy them. I was lucky to stumble upon Island Hill Farm (Check them out on Facebook and Twitter!) Island Hill Farm is a gem. It's a petting farm, but it also seems like a little education center. They host birthday parties and camps and welcome regular folk like us to their farm. The day after we were there, they had an International Student group visit. Just think of the number of children (and adults) who have learned about farms and animals from them!

They have goats, pigs, kittens, chickens, alpacas, bunnies, ducks, and a donkey! (I'm probably missing something!) It was so much fun! We started in the barn and were led around by a young girl. I'm not sure if she was a daughter of the owners or someone who worked there, but she was fantastic - so knowledgeable and friendly, and you could tell she loved the animals. She was so caring and proud of them. You can tell that these people love what they do. The barn was decorated with art work and twinkle lights. Everything was very clean and you could tell that they animals were very happy. It's a happy farm.


"Allow your passion to become your purpose and  it will become your profession."
These folks have certainly found a way to turn their passion into their profession.


That pile of fuzz is actually a pile of baby bunnies! I think they were 11 days old and just starting to open their eyes.
Inside the barn - I like the little goat "stage." I think they like it too. (See the fun artwork!)
 
Another picture inside the barn. I love the twinkle lights. What animal WOUDN'T want to live here!
Pigs! Little C's favourite. He loves hearing pig noises.

Friendly reminders :)


Alpaca with a funny haircut (with his goat and noisy chicken friends)
Little C checking out the goats. He had just made friends with them after they scared him, by licking his hand. Soon after this picture was taken, one sneezed on him! That was scary, but he got over it pretty fast. :) Not too traumatic, and I think he loves goats again.

That's not it, but it's all I have for right now. In Part 2, I'll show you what I found in Souris, Kings Castle Provincial Park and some other quick stops we made!

Where would you recommend I visit when I return to PEI next year? Please comment and let me know, so I can add it to next year's list! I love finding new places to visit!