Photo Friday

Happy Halloween, everyone! I have a treat for you today- it’s Photo Friday!

My morose little dragon with my beautiful flower

My morose little dragon with my beautiful flower

Penelope all bundled up to go to the pumpkin patch

Penelope all bundled up to go to the pumpkin patch

Charlotte's just hanging around

Charlotte’s just hanging around

Close-up of my Monsterbash cupcakes

Close-up of my Monsterbash cupcakes

Mark decked out in his knight gear

Mark decked out in his knight gear

073

056

003

020

043

 

I hope everyone has a fa-boo-lous (sorry, I couldn’t resist) day!

Advertisements

The Spirit of Halloween

Mark and I are not Halloween people. I enjoyed it as a kid (I mean, candy and costumes- it’s perfect for kids!) but was never into it as an adult. I didn’t have the self-confidence to wear any “sexy” Halloween costumes in my twenties- prime sexy costume years- and just couldn’t work up any real enthusiasm for the holiday. Mark was even less into it than I was. Frankly, I have a hard time imagining him enjoying it even as a kid. His dislike for Halloween intensified in university, when his roommates were celebrating loudly when he was trying to study. He actually tried to thwart their celebration by cutting off the power to the living room where the party was happening. And so, for us, every year, the candy typically gets bought and the pumpkin carved around October 30th- at the earliest. That’s why on Sunday, a full five days before Halloween, I was shocked to discover him doing this with Charlotte:

 

Decorating the house for Halloween

Decorating the house for Halloween

Halloween is different when you have an enthusiastic four year old with whom to enjoy the holiday. We went out to a pumpkin patch on Sunday and even carved our pumpkin the same day. (Charlotte apparently didn’t think much of our pumpkin-picking skills, though- later in the day she said, “When I’m a grown up, I will pick the biggest pumpkin ever and it won’t have any dirt on it!”). Mark is looking forward to going out trick-or-treating with Charlotte on Friday. He has even acquired a knight costume to go along with Charlotte’s dragon costume, which means that his disdain for Halloween has waned considerably. I am looking forward to handing out candy to all the Elsas and Anas that will come to our door (and setting aside a few pieces of candy for myself). I can’t wait to see how excited Charlotte will be on Halloween- there’s the costume parade at her school, and of course, trick-or-treating with Vera (her human friend, not the spider). And who knows, maybe in a few years, under Charlotte’s influence, we will be THAT house on the street with all the spooky Haunted House decorations. Ok, probably not, but I have to admit to having more fun with Halloween this year than I have in a very long time.

Charlotte is ready to pick a pumpkin

Charlotte is ready to pick a pumpkin

Penelope wasn't exactly thrilled with this photo op

Penelope wasn’t exactly thrilled with this photo op

Hanging out with my girls in the pumpkin patch

Hanging out with my girls in the pumpkin patch

It's carving time!

It’s carving time!

The artists with their masterpiece

The artists with their masterpiece

The Snowball Effect

Some days just don’t go the way you think they will. Sometimes all it takes is one little thing to throw you off your game, and then when other little things also go awry, your day has suddenly snowballed into a tough day. Yesterday was like that for me.

It all started when Charlotte came upstairs crying at 5:30am because her teddy bear had gotten tangled in her sheets and she couldn’t find it. Sigh. Of course, there was no going back to sleep for me after that, so I was definitely feeling a bit rough when I was having my breakfast. It was soon time to get the girls ready for our morning walk to school. I got Penelope all bundled up in her snowsuit as I have been doing, since it’s been so cold in the mornings lately, and we headed out the door…to a nice, warm morning. Penelope was definitely overdressed. Oops.

IMG_5520

After dropping Charlotte off at school, Penelope and I headed over to Home Depot to pick up some more caulking to patch up a spot in the tub that Mark had missed when he was redoing it on Monday evening. Like the good-hearted, helpful person I am, I volunteered to do it for him. I had seen my dad doing it growing up, and I had seen it done on home reno shows, and to be honest, I kind of thought it looked like fun. So I got the caulking and went home and set about my task. I cut off the top of dispenser and pierced the inner foil seal as per the instructions and started squeezing. And it was much, MUCH harder than I had anticipated. I had thought it would be like squeezing icing out of an icing bag. It was not. I was squeezing as hard as I could and nothing was coming out, until the end popped off and I got caulking all over my hands. There was nothing in the instructions about pushing it forward from the movable bottom. Anyhow, once I realized that was how to get the caulking out, I was able to get enough out to cover up the little spot that needed to be done (when I told Mark how hard it was, he said, “You mean you didn’t use the caulking gun in my tool closet?” Um, NO, I didn’t because you never uttered a word to me about a caulking gun! Argh!). (Mark’s note: Since she was so enthusiastic about caulking, I assumed she knew about the gun!). And then I had to figure out how to get all this goopy crap off my hands. And it needed to be done quickly, because of course Penelope chose that moment to have a meltdown. So I was frantically washing my hands, but the soap wouldn’t absorb because the caulking was acting as a barrier, so I had to get a scouring pad and scrub it off my hands. Yeah, not fun.

Anyhow, I got that crisis resolved, and then prepared for a busy afternoon- Penelope had two appointments at Bloorview to attend. The first was at the Feeding Clinic, which went fairly well. Penelope is certainly interested in food- I think we are past the oral aversion stage with her- but she still has a lot of trouble coordinating her swallowing. This wasn’t news to me. She just needs more time to get it figured out.

Next up was the Orthotics Clinic. This did not go as I expected. I truly thought that because she isn’t standing or walking yet, they would say that orthotics were not necessary at this point in time; however, they felt that she would really benefit from a pair of ankle foot orthotics (AFOs). The AFO would give her support and stability as she (hopefully) learns to stand and walk. It will also help to preserve her range of motion- her chromosome deletion puts her at risk for muscle spasticity. I mean, I know it’s just orthotics, it’s not the end of the world, but I was caught off-guard by this. And the reality is, it’s probably not going to stop at orthotics. There is a good chance she will need other supportive devices to help with her mobility, and I hate thinking about the struggles she may face in the not-so-distant future.

So, despite be able to select a cute Peppa Pig pattern for her AFOs, I left Bloorview feeling a bit unsettled. And then, as luck would have it, the Don Valley Parkway (a major highway that commuters and residents use to get in and out of the city) was closed in both directions due to a truck rollover, and so all the overflow traffic was now filling up my route home. It took me an hour and a half to drive us home.

Once we finally arrived at our house, things were a blur of getting Penelope fed and bathed, lunches made for today, dinner ready, etc. But I was keeping my eye on the prize- going out to the gym once Mark got home. Unfortunately, he was home later than usual, but I went anyway. And of course, I got stuck in traffic again, this time due to a stalled streetcar. At this point, I really just wanted to turn around, buy a pound of chocolate and go home and wallow. But I didn’t. I forged on, and I sweated through my cardio workout, and pushed myself with my weight training. I will admit to being distracted by a guy wearing a purple Epilepsy Foundation T-shirt, which triggered my worries about the strong possibility that Penelope will develop epilepsy, but I stayed the course. I can’t say that the workout completely wiped away my bad day, but it lessened the weight of it a bit.

Even after a pretty good night’s sleep, I’m still feeling a bit bogged down with these worries- about her mobility, about the possibility of seizures, and about what her future may hold. Part of that is because Penelope is going for a speech assessment this morning, and since she still doesn’t have any consonants, I don’t think it will be a particularly reassuring visit. I don’t know if these feelings are warranted- as in, was being faced with these issues a reality check for me or is this just a bout of pessimism? The only way to know is to let time pass and see what happens. She could very well surprise us and walk without the aid of an assistive device and she could beat the odds and the epilepsy may never come to fruition. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can deal a lot better with all of this if I just stay focused on the present. And I’m sure that in a couple days, especially with the distraction of Halloween, I will be back to doing just that. But maybe, for today, I just need to give myself permission to worry a little bit, and then put it behind me.

Outrage

The Steel family has a predisposition for eczema. I am fortunate enough not to suffer from it, but Mark, Charlotte, and Penelope are all afflicted. Last winter was especially harsh. Penelope’s eczema was made worse by her unknown-at-the-time cow’s milk protein allergy, and I was constantly applying every anti-eczema cream I could find to try to combat the problem. She had been prescribed a number of different steroid creams for the condition, but I needed a non-steroid cream to use in between the steroid cream applications. I remembered using the Aveeno Baby Eczema cream on Charlotte in years past, and got some for Penelope. I was very happy with how well it worked. Mark even started using it to help with his terrible eczema. Last week, he finished up the bottle we had on hand and asked me to pick up some more. I headed over to Loblaws, and found it in the skin care section. Now, I usually find it in the baby section of the store, so I took this bottle over to the baby section to compare it. I did a side-by-side comparison of the two bottles, and couldn’t find any difference between them, other than one had “Baby” written on it. The ingredients were exactly the same, in the same order, and the bottles were the same size. And then I saw the price.

IMG_5545

The “Baby” cream was $1.50 more expensive. $1.50 more expensive for the exact same product. I asked a store employee about the price difference, and he claimed that Aveeno would have set the prices for this product. And so I went home and posted this photo to the Aveeno Facebook page (I first mistakenly posted it to the American Aveeno page, but they helpfully directed me to the Canadian page, and I reposted it there), and asked them to explain this price difference. It is now almost a week later, and I have had no response from them.

And so now I am taking my outrage here, to my blog. I find this price difference so galling. How can they possibly justify this? It is the exact same product! Why should the “Baby” cream cost 8% more? (Yes, I did the math; no, I won’t tell you how long it took me to get the answer). Honestly, I would be less offended if the “non-baby” cream cost more. I feel like Aveeno is taking advantage of parents who are desperate for something, anything to help with their baby’s eczema. This kind of blatant price-gouging has disappointed and disgusted me, and I never want to buy anything from Aveeno ever again. Which is a shame, because I like a lot of their products, but unless they can provide consumers with a reasonable explanation for this price difference, I want nothing to do with them.

Now, I know one little blog post and one family’s boycott isn’t going to do much to alter Aveeno’s practice here. So I am asking you- if you agree that this price difference for the exact same product is outrageous, then please like and share this post on Facebook or on Twitter and let Aveeno know that you think the way they are taking advantage of consumers is wrong. You can find the Aveeno Canada Facebook page here. Let’s see if we can harness the power of social media to effect some change, or at least to get some answers.

Monsterbash

Every year, Charlotte’s school hosts a Halloween event called Monsterbash. It’s open to everyone in the community. In years past, we have noticed the signs advertising the event but have never gone. This year, however, Charlotte has been talking about Monsterbash for a couple weeks, so I knew we would be attending the party on Saturday. Part of the festivities include a bake sale, so I decided to bake up some cupcakes for the school to sell, since volunteering to help out at the event wasn’t really feasible.

So on Friday evening, after I had got the girls bathed, fed, and in bed (Mark had taken to his sickbed around 6:30pm, so the evening routine was on me. To his credit, though, that was the last I heard about how his Man Cold was making him feel so terrible) and I broke out my baking supplies. I made chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, and accentuated them with a jack-o-lantern marshmallow Peep. I briefly flirted with the idea of making the icing green but it was 8:30pm (close to my usual bedtime) and I still had laundry to fold, so vanilla buttercream it was! I was quite happy with the way they turned out, and apparently they were a hit at the bake sale- the event started at 4pm, and we arrived around 5pm, at which point there were only 3 cupcakes left out of the 24 I had made. So either people liked them, or a bunch fell on the floor and they had to throw them out. I’m choosing to believe that people liked them.

Mmmm, cupcakes!

Mmmm, cupcakes!

Now, all week long, Charlotte had been counting down the days to Monsterbash. All day on Saturday, she kept asking when it would be time to put her costume on. She had been wearing her costume fairly often since a friend gave it to us back in September, practicing how to put it on and refining her dragon “ROAR!” Finally, the time came for her to get ready on Saturday afternoon, and she pulled that costume on- and it was like I had flipped a switch. She went from being excited and happy to quiet and morose. I asked her what was wrong, and all she would say was, in a voice that was barely loud enough to qualify as a whisper, “Oh…well, Mommy…I’m just tired.” Which was total BS, since not thirty seconds ago she had been jumping around and singing. I tried getting her to smile for some photos- no dice. Even seeing Penelope in her costume barely did anything to cheer her up. Finally, I dragged it out of her that the hood of the costume felt too tight, so I unzipped a bit. This helped with her mood, but it wasn’t a perfect solution, because she preferred to have it zipped up all the way.

Quiet dragon

Quiet dragon

This was the happiest face I could coax out of her

This was the happiest face I could coax out of her

A bit happier posing with Penelope

A bit happier posing with Penelope

Cutest flower ever!!

Cutest flower ever!!

Seriously, how adorable does she look?!

Seriously, how adorable does she look?!

Anyhow, with a slightly subdued dragon and adorable little flower, we headed out to the bash. When we got there, they were just about to perform the Monster Mash, which Charlotte has been practicing for weeks. We could not convince her to join in, though, and I couldn’t really blame her for that- the gym was packed with kids, and even some adults, in costumes; it was really hot, and a bit overwhelming. Once the Monster Mash was finished, we wandered around the gym. We had an awesome family Halloween picture taken, we had some food, and then we went over to the Haunted House. Charlotte wanted to go through, so Mark took her in. BIG mistake. She came out sobbing and clutching her dad. “I never want to see those skeletons again!” The Haunted House was definitely meant for older kids.

Traumatized after the Haunted House

Traumatized after the Haunted House

We distracted her with some candy (parents of the year, here, right?) and then we checked out some of the other exhibits, which were more age-appropriate. She made a little craft and played a game, and we decided to call it a night. It is worth noting that we had been at this party for about two hours- Penelope was in the carrier and in her costume the whole time, and didn’t cry once. This was fantastic- at events like this in the past, poor little Penelope usually ends up crying for an extended period of time, and I wind up very stressed, so I was super happy about this.

So we got home and it was time for bed. Charlotte announced that she’d had a great day. And she was right- it was a wonderful day. Though I don’t think we will return to the Haunted House portion of Monsterbash again for a few more years.

A Sinking Feeling

First, the good stuff- today was Crazy Hair Day at Charlotte’s school:

IMG_5570

IMG_5572

She seemed fairly happy with her crazy hair, though she was perhaps a bit disappointed that it wasn’t crazier, somehow. Alas, that was the extent of my hair-styling skills, so it had to suffice.

And now, the not-so-good: Mark came downstairs this morning and uttered the words every woman lives in fear of hearing- “My throat is sore. I think I’m sick.” My friends, I think the dreaded Man Cold is about to descend upon our household. Perhaps it is a false alarm, but I have a sinking feeling that this is not a drill. Send prayers. And wine.

The Kitchen Sink

For about a year, the faucet in our kitchen dripped water. It was courtesy of the hot water tap, so we got in the habit of turning off the hot water at the sink whenever it wasn’t in use. This was a bit of a pain in the ass, but at least we weren’t having to constantly listen to the “drip…drip…drip” that we would otherwise. By the time summer came around, I was getting tired of this temporary fix, so I suggested to Mark that maybe we should call a plumber about it- a suggestion that was met with total silence, which I interpreted to mean, “No, I am not going to pay a plumber to fix this, I will figure out a way to fix it eventually.”

So time went on, the hot water continued to drip relentlessly, and a couple weeks ago, the cold water also started dripping. The situation was coming to a head, and something needed to be done. On Sunday morning, Mark woke up, inspired. He took Charlotte to the hardware store and they picked out a new faucet. They came home and he watched a couple YouTube videos that demonstrated what to do, and he set to work.

Mark and his assistant

Mark and his assistant

Now, I have to admit, I had misgivings about this. A few years ago, the faucet in our bathtub was dripping, and while I was at work one day, he decided to fix it. Since I wasn’t there, I don’t know exactly what happened, but an emergency plumber needed to be called and the shower ended up being replaced.

Mark has come a long way with his home improvement skills since then. He has put together complicated pieces of furniture, hung shelves, designed and built an extension to our deck, and fixed our bed when it broke (get your minds out the gutter, people- it broke because it was a shoddy frame and collapsed when no one was even sitting on it). So I remained supportive of his quest to fix the kitchen sink, even though inside I had my doubts.

The repair job was going very well until Mark discovered that the faucet he bought was too big to fit in the holes that had been cut into the countertop for the original faucet. Now, if it were me, I would have taken the taps back and purchased a smaller set that would fit. But Mark’s assessment of the situation was that it would be easier to make the holes bigger so that the faucet he had bought would fit (an assessment that I found hard to understand at the time). So back he went to the hardware store and he got the boring drill attachment he needed to enlarge the holes. And then it was time for some more YouTube research on how to use the boring bit- research that paid off when he successfully drilled a larger hole and fit the faucet onto the countertop.

It wasn’t too long afterwards that the job was completed, and we both held our breath as we turned on the taps for the first time. Success! The water flowed beautifully, and when we turned it off, there was no dripping. And now we have a lovely new faucet in our kitchen, with an extendable nozzle and built-in soap dispenser.

Charlotte showing off the new taps that Daddy installed

Charlotte showing off the new taps that Daddy installed

I was extremely impressed that Mark did this all on his own. My misgivings were misplaced. And now that he has proven himself more than capable of accomplishing these home repairs, I may have to come up with some more projects for him to do.