Best Laid Plans

I had planned to write yesterday about how great the class Penelope and I went to on Friday was- and it really was great. She had fun, I had fun, and there was none of that competitive nonsense that I found to be present back when I would take Charlotte to these Parent and Tot-type classes (you know, like parents bragging about how their special snowflake was walking when they were six months old and then asking innocently about your baby’s development). Penelope didn’t even cry until right at the end of the two hour class, which is huge for her- normally, she gets easily overwhelmed in unfamiliar environments, but not this time. So, yes, I definitely classified Friday as a success, and I was looking forward to sitting down and writing all about it.

Penelope in the toy boat at our class

Penelope in the toy boat at our class

Penelope, however, had other plans. She had her first home visit from her physiotherapist yesterday morning. I was expecting this to be a meet-and-greet sort of visit, where she would assess what Penelope’s needs are and come up with a plan of action. Apparently Alice, our physiotherapist, is not a meet-and-greet sort of person. She got right down to business, and it was BRUTAL. Among other things, she had poor little Penelope doing squats to encourage her feet to stay flat on the floor when she is weight-bearing. Penelope screamed and cried the whole time. Which is pretty understandable, really- I want to scream and cry whenever I do squats, too. Looking at her desperately unhappy face, knowing that I am going to have to do these exercises with her, thus being the cause of her unhappiness- well, it was like dealing with the bloody NG tube all over again.

Anyway, after Alice left, Penelope continued to scream and cry for close to an hour, eventually crying herself to sleep on my shoulder. Now, believe me when I say that I would have liked nothing more than to sit there with her sleeping on me for as long as she would stay there. However, my family has a pesky need to eat dinner every night and I had already started preparations earlier and did not want my efforts to go to waste. When I tried to seize that opportunity by laying her down in her crib, she of course woke up crying again. She did eventually calm down in time for her session with Kristen, our occupational therapist, but the calm did not last. Normally, she does pretty well with Kristen’s visits, but she was not happy yesterday. And OF COURSE, she refused to nap when all was said and done. When I started writing this at 2:30pm on Monday afternoon, I was typing with one hand and holding her on my lap because she would not sleep.

Sleeping on my shoulder after physio

Sleeping on my shoulder after physio

Trying to do some writing in the afternoon- note the outfit change- you will note that I had to change my outfit after getting covered in baby goo trying to stop her flood of tears

Trying to do some writing in the afternoon- you will note that I had to change my outfit after getting covered in baby goo trying to stop her flood of tears

Normally, I get things done around the house and do some writing when Penelope is having her formula or when she goes down for a nap in the afternoon. Since I had to hold her to keep her calm while she was getting fed and then deal with her not napping, things did not go smoothly around here. I was stealing moments between bouts of tears to get the vegetables chopped up for the chili I made for dinner or to load some dishes in the dishwasher. I was moving from half-finished task to half-finished task to mopping up tears and it was exhausting. For most of the day, the kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off.

Having Charlotte around always makes Penelope so happy

Having Charlotte around always makes Penelope so happy

Thankfully, having Charlotte home seemed to calm Penelope down, enabling me to get things done in a more orderly (and slightly less stressful) fashion. And then, OF COURSE, Charlotte was goofing around and slipped and fell and bit her tongue hard enough to draw blood, so there were more tears to deal with at that point. I did something then that I don’t normally do- I put on an Octonauts DVD and had her sit quietly on the couch while I finished bathing Penelope and got dinner ready. I also decided then and there that it would be an early bedtime for Penelope. And a glass of wine and early bedtime for me.

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Friday

Today Penelope and I are headed to our first Mom and Baby class. It is a class offered through Holland Bloorview, and I am ridiculously excited about it. It will be the first group that she and I have attended together. When I started my maternity leave, I planned on attending many such classes but things didn’t exactly work out that way. The first year of her life was more or less spent putting out one fire after another, and signing up for a baby group fell to the bottom of the list of priorities. Now, hopefully, things have settled down a bit (I shouldn’t even write that, should I? I’m just asking for trouble here) and we can maybe have a little fun together and work on her developmental and social skills at the same time. Certainly with Charlotte being in school full time, something like this is easier to coordinate.

Anyhow, because of this class, I won’t have time to put up a regular narrative post today. Instead, I am going to do what I did last week, and post some pictures recapping the week. As my wise aunt, Anne Marie, commented last week- a picture is worth a thousand words, so it is actually quite a lengthy post! Have a great weekend, everyone! Well, everyone who doesn’t have little kids, that is- parents of little ones, enjoy getting up at the crack of dawn just like every other day of the week!

 

Watermelon snack after school

Watermelon snack after school

Chilling in the high chair

Chilling in the high chair

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Group selfie before school

Group selfie before school

Practicing her dragon "ROAR" for Halloween

Practicing her dragon “ROAR” for Halloween

My sweet, happy girl

My sweet, happy girl

Stuck in Babyland

There is something so sweet and wonderful about babies. Those first gummy smiles, the way they fall asleep on your shoulder, those teeny little feet- there is a lot to love about babies. I remember when Charlotte was born- I immediately fell in love with her, and I was keenly aware of how fast the time would go by. I treasured that newborn baby stage in a lot of ways, because I knew with every passing day, every passing hour, she was growing and changing and she would never be that small again (except for the lack of sleep- I definitely did not treasure that and was over it by the time she was two days old). In the blink of an eye, she grew. By the time she was six weeks old, she had gone from being a tiny little six pound newborn to a hefty thirteen pound infant. Yes, that’s right, she doubled her birth weight by the time she was six weeks old. She would sleep for much longer stretches at night. She outgrew clothes faster than I could wash them. There were many moments when I wished that time would slow down or freeze so that I could enjoy her babyhood awhile longer. But time marched on, and now here she is, a happy, healthy, active four year old.

Charlotte, the day we brought her home from the hospital

Charlotte, the day we brought her home from the hospital

Charlotte, four months old

Charlotte, four months old

One year old

One year old

Two years old

Two years old

Three years old

Three years old

Four years old

Four years old

When Penelope was born, once again I prepared myself for the time to fly by. But things were different this time around. By six weeks old, she was not even close to doubling her birth weight. In fact, she didn’t double her birth weight until she was around eight months old. There were no long stretches of sleep. She was meeting milestones at first, and then just…stopped. It was like time HAD slowed down. At fourteen months old, she wears size 6-12 month clothes. Despite her chronological age, she is very much still an infant.

Penelope, one day old

Penelope, one day old

 

Three months old

Three months old

Fourteen months old

Fourteen months old

Some days I just feel stuck in babyland. I feel like Penelope will be a baby forever. And as much as I adore babies, the reality of time slowing down is nothing like the fantasy. No parent REALLY wants their child to remain a baby forever. You want them to grow and learn and walk and talk and do all the things they are supposed to do. Seeing your child do these things is like the payoff of parenthood.

I am learning to find my payoff in other things with Penelope. I am paying attention to the little things that she learns to do. Her learning to sit was a big moment that I will never forget (I have no idea when Charlotte started sitting up). Penelope has recently become a face-grabber. She loves to reach out and grab my cheeks or fishhook my mouth. She will do this, and she will have the biggest smile on her sweet face, and I don’t even care that she has scratched me or that her hand maybe tastes a little funny. That is my payoff, and I won’t let anything detract from my enjoyment of it.

And so whether or not Penelope stays a baby forever (and I’m sure she won’t but I know that it will continue to feel like that some days), I will love her and enjoy her and care for her. But if you are lucky enough to feel like your child is growing up too fast, well, try to remember that it’s actually a good thing. I still catch myself feeling like Charlotte is growing up too quickly. But I always remind myself, “This is what is supposed to happen.” And then I whip out my phone and take a bunch of pictures and video to capture the moment before it is gone.

Baking Memories

It has been several weeks now since Charlotte began full-day kindergarten. We have settled into a new routine, and I have to admit, I am enjoying it. As I complete the various tasks that have to be done every day (making lunches, preparing dinner, tidying up the house, etc), I am sometimes overcome with the strong sense that I am channeling my mom. A lot of my childhood memories involve watching her or helping her as she went about these household tasks. When Charlotte gets home from school, I clean out her lunch bag right away and begin preparing her lunch for the next day- just like my mom did. Charlotte sits at the kitchen table and has a snack and tells me stories about her day as I do this, and I’m just hit with memories of myself as child with my mom.

 

Mom and I at my First Communion

Mom and I at my First Communion

Our house was always tidy and clean when I was growing up, and I’m making an effort to keep our house tidy, too, especially since I’m at home at the moment. I take time here and there out of the day to do things like clean the bathroom or sweep or gather up laundry. I do it when I have a spare moment, just like Mom did. Now, let’s be clear, here- I don’t do everything the way she did. The laundry does not get promptly folded as it comes out of the dryer. The house does not get vacuumed several times a week. As for ironing- well, I don’t even know where my iron is right now. But I’m trying, and it makes me feel close to her as I do these things.

I also do not cut Charlotte's hair myself, which I suspect she will thank me for one day

I also do not cut Charlotte’s hair myself, which I suspect she will thank me for one day

One of the things that makes me feel closest to her is baking cookies. I will always associate chocolate chip cookies with happy times growing up.  The sound of the beaters being banged against the glass mixing bowl never failed to get my sister and I running toward the kitchen. It was the signal that the batter was mixed and we each got a beater coated with cookie dough to lick. I helped Mom bake her chocolate chip cookies in some of my earliest memories. At first, I would stand on a kitchen chair at the counter so that I could reach the mixing bowl and I would help add the ingredients as she mixed it up. As I got older, I was given more responsibilities- measuring ingredients, cracking eggs, spooning the batter onto the cookie sheet, and eventually, I was given the highest honour of being allowed to mix the batter up myself with the electric mixer. It was like the torch was being passed from her to me.

Everything about making cookies now reminds me of her. The order in which I add the ingredients; the feel of cutting through the shortening with a sharp knife; the way I taste the batter and determine, based on the taste and texture, if it needs more flour; waiting for the first batch to come out of the oven to see how they turned out; and of course, the taste of that first warm cookie with still-melted chocolate chips- it’s all her. Mom used to always say that no two batches ever turned out the same. That may have been true, but they were always delicious.

When I make cookies, I feel her presence so strongly. It is a crippling paradox, though- it feels like she is everywhere, all around me, and yet she is conspicuously NOT here, and I realize that, and it makes me miss her so much, I can’t breathe. But then I taste that cookie, and I see Charlotte’s face when she tastes it, and I am comforted. These cookies are a gift from her to me; just as I hope they will be from me to my girls. We are not just baking cookies, we are baking memories.

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So today I am going to bake some cookies, and I am going to feel my mom with me. Later, I will give Charlotte a bath with Avon’s Soft Pink bubble bath- another scent that evokes strong memories of my mom- and I know she will be with us then, too.

Acts of Kindness

Last week was a busy, and, at times, stressful week. But we all made it through in one piece and things are much calmer around here this week. So far, anyway. One of the things that helped me get through that busy week was being on the receiving end of two acts of kindness. Two packages arrived in the mail last week, containing thoughtful items for the girls.

The first came from Paula. I’m not 100% clear on the family tree, but I believe Paula is my mom’s cousin, and we have kept in touch after Mom died. Last week, out of the blue, she sent this in the mail:

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How sweet is that? Those little letter figurines are adorable, and the books are perfect for Charlotte. I have probably read that Frozen book about twenty times now, at Charlotte’s request. Soon, she won’t need me to read it to her, as she will have it memorized.

The second package came from my cousin, Abby. She saw this at the store, and knew Charlotte would love it, and when it arrived on Friday, it was a huge hit:

 

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Charlotte is WILD about Peppa Pig. Her birthday cake was a Peppa cake, and whenever she watches it, she adopts a British accent, and it’s so cute, I want to die. When Mark blew up the balloon that was in the package, she was hugging it and kissing it and saying, “Oh, Mommy, this is just what I always wanted!”

It was just so comforting to receive these gifts at a time when I felt stressed and anxious. It was a timely reminder that there are so many people who care about me and my family. And the fact that these gifts were sent to us out of the blue- no birthday or other celebratory occasion that calls for gift-giving; it was just because these wonderful people were thinking about us and did something so thoughtful. Paula, whom I haven’t seen in far too long, picked out these special gifts for my girls, at least one of whom she has never met (I believe she briefly met Charlotte at my mom’s funeral). Abby, who is 35 weeks pregnant, on bedrest, with two little kids of her own, took the time out of her busy life to do something so nice. I was so touched by this that it brought me to tears.  These acts of kindness made a tough week easier to deal with. So, thank you, so much, both of you- it meant so much.

 

 

5k by May?

As I have written about before, this current weight-loss journey that I am on is different from ones in the past. I’m not counting calories or weighing myself. And it’s been working pretty well, so far. I have been staying on track with healthy eating and I make time to go the gym at least 3 times per week. The only drawback to this method is that it lacks a specific goal for me to achieve. And then it hit me the other day when I was at the gym- why not aim to run a 5k race in the spring?

When I got home, I looked up spring races in Toronto, and I think I’ve settled on the 5k option of the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon, on Sunday, May 3, 2015. It seems so far away, but I think that’s actually a good thing. It will give me plenty of time to build up my endurance so that I can actually run 5km, and once I’ve established that endurance, I can work on improving my time.

And while running a 5k race provides me with a needed fitness goal, I also want to do it because I CAN. I don’t mean that in an “Oooh, I am so fit and healthy and I can run as far as I want” kind of way; it’s more that I am young(ish) and healthy and there’s no reason I can’t do something like that. I have seen so many loved ones struggle with health issues- life-threatening issues like cancer; or like my mom, whose congenital heart defect resulted in restrictions on her activity, and ultimately led to her early demise. My own daughter faces potential mobility issues- we don’t know when or if she will be able to walk, and she may have serious difficulties with that. I owe it to them to make the most of my health and my life. I owe it to my family to try and live a long and healthy life, because I am not facing those issues at the moment, and I need to do everything I can to prevent that from happening. I want to see my girls grow up and I want to meet my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Gotta do this for them

Gotta do this for them

Once upon a time, back when I was seventeen and the absolute picture of health and youth, I took a phys ed class called “Fun Fit for Women” taught by Mr. Glaad. He was a serious runner, and introduced us to the benefits of exercise like running and weight training. By the end of the semester, I could run 5km in 20 minutes, which was a pretty decent time. I don’t know I will be able to achieve that time again, but I really don’t want to wait another sixteen years to give it a try (Jesus Christ, how has it been sixteen years since my grade eleven gym class? I remember making up excuses to get out of the swimming portion of that class like it was yesterday).

So here I go. I’m going to follow the “Couch to 5K” plan, and see what happens. I’m not exactly at “Couch” fitness level right now, but I abhor running, so I figure that’s a pretty good place to start. And just over seven months from now, hopefully I will cross that finish line without humiliating or injuring myself. It shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Yeah, I know- famous last words.

Friday Recap

Penelope’s appointment today went very well. The cardiologist reassured us that her heart appears to be working well. The echo and ECG showed that she has some structural variations but these should not pose a problem for her. She will go back for another echo in two years. So, it was a long (7+ hours at the hospital) and tiring day, but it was great to get this reassurance about her cardiac function.

This is about all I have in me to write this evening. I am drained, and in need of a good night’s sleep to recharge my batteries. So to make up for the lack of meat to this post, please enjoy these pics:

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I have to go. My pajamas and my bed are summoning me. Good night!