Breastfeeding, Loud and Proud

Breastfeeding, Loud and Proud

Before becoming a mother, I thought I would be a bold breastfeeder, nursing my babe on street corners and thumbing my finger at anybody who dared object. Yet when my first child was born a few years back, I found … Continue reading

Open House

It has been a while since I’ve been able to write, because we have had house guests for the better part of two months. Actually, since moving to Vancouver, our house has been the site of various visits from friends and family members. We’ve lived here for six months, and we’ve had house guests here for a tally of seven weeks! Since we dearly miss everybody back home, it’s always comforting to know that another visit is just around the corner. As much as we love seeing beloved faces from back home, however, we also enjoy getting back to our little threesome.

All of these house guests have led me to think about what makes a visit more pleasant for everyone. We’re in fairly cramped quarters here, and between work and baby, Steve and I are both pretty busy, so house guests who are able to help lighten the load are more than welcome! The most important thing house guests can do, in my opinion, is to observe what their hosts do, and to fit themselves into the routine of the household. Some people are able to do this as though by osmosis: they slip into the shower after Steve has gone to work and before I have finished getting Callum ready for the day, offer to make dinner, or to take Callum on his afternoon walk while I get some work done. Others have difficulty not being in their own homes, and so become somewhat of a difficulty in the homes of others: they can’t figure out how to make coffee for themselves in the morning, how to load the dishwasher, how to turn the shower on and off, and so on.

It seems to me that, however helpful a house guest might be, we all have our limits when it come to how long we can live happily with people other than our nuclear families under our roofs. These limits, for me, increase with my level of familiarity with whomever is visiting and shrink with the number of bathrooms in a house. The reason for this is a desire for privacy: the more I know people, the less I need to cultivate privacy from them. I need very little privacy from my sister, say, but a relative of Steve’s that I’ve never met before in my house for too long might make me run to my room, slam the door, and crank some music like a teenager.

To prevent this kind of drastic behaviour, it’s a good idea, I think, for those of us who have a lot of house guests, to establish boundaries. For starters, make it clear how long a visit is long enough for you and your family. Also, let house guests know that certain times are off-limits for visitors, and that back-to-back visits are a bad idea. Instead of expecting guests to miraculously fall in step with your routine, let them know what that routine is and alert them to how they might facilitate it. Accept help when it’s offered and don’t be afraid to ask for more!

Having written this, I pause to think that I must be a terrible hostess to expect so much from my guests. At the same time, though, I know that I can’t take a vacation from my PhD work (which I do at home) to accommodate the needs of so many house guests, and that trying to be the perfect hostess to everyone who stays here only leaves me a frazzled person who is terribly unpleasant by the time said guests make their way back home. Maybe some house rules for house guests would help make having them a more pleasant experience all ‘round.

So… anyone up for a visit?

The Confession

In my last entry, I promised you Steve’s “confession,” so here it is: as I was prepping Callum’s room to paint it, Steve casually mentioned that he used to be a professional painter. Somehow, we managed to get through painting both an apartment and a house in Ottawa without this ever coming up. As soon as he revealed this to me, I began to imagine him painting our current home from top to bottom, from ceilings to baseboards, and everything in between, including the kitchen cabinets (they’re those ubiquitous 80’s jobs with the oak trim at the bottom). I wonder why he had kept his previous life as a painter to himself until now?

I suppose that divulging this information might have worked contrary to his desire to do as little work as possible on our rental home. Oh well. At least he left this on my pillow to make up for it:

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That’s right, folks. Let your imaginations run WILD about what I might have had to do for all that Canadian Tire dough! I’m a lucky lady!

At any rate, we did get Callum’s room painted last week, and with a hectic week of him starting daycare, I’m finally getting around to posting some before and after pics. I’m much happier with the sunny yellow and crisp white trim than the drab mix of browns that was up before. What do you think?

Here’s a photo of the nursery with the old colours, as I was preparing the room to be painted:

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And here’s a photo of the nursery after:

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I painted the walls and Steve did the trim. Can you tell the difference between the professional and the amateur’s work?

In the meantime, transitioning Callum to daycare continues to be a bit of a struggle. I was thrown into a complete tailspin last Friday, when I went to pick him up and found—horror of horrors—processed cheese and 2% milk in the fridge in the infant room! The friend that I spoke to after these discoveries would attest to the fact that I was very upset by this. In retrospect, it may have been an overreaction, but so far, I’ve cooked all of Callum’s food, and as a result, he’s had nothing processed. Also, children under the age of two should only drink whole milk, because it contains fat that is important for their developing brains.

In the end, a quick talk with the lead caregiver in Callum’s room and the daycare centre’s owner seems to have resolved the situation. We went over what kinds of food Callum will be getting as snacks, and processed cheese is not on the list. They explained that they only occasionally give the children milk at all and that, when they do, it’s just a small amount on their cereal, and they let me know that I was free to bring in whole milk for Callum should I so desire. I have since done so.

Although these may seem like small things, everything seems all-important when raising a child, and the choices I’ve made along the way, such as making Callum’s food myself in order to keep processed foods our of his diet, seem all the more important now that I am letting go of having him at home with me twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I imagine the next twenty years or more will be a gradual process of letting go, but these first few steps are difficult!

Daycare: eep!

ImageToday was Callum’s first day of daycare. Although he was there less than two hours, since this week is his “gradual entry” into the program, and I was at the daycare centre the whole time, I was a bundle of nerves. (Last night I woke up at 2 a.m. feeling nauseous…) Leaving my one-year-old child in the care of complete strangers, no matter how lovely they may seem, is the most anxiety-provoking thing I have ever done.

We shopped around for a daycare, and this is a nice place: clean, bright, good caregiver to child ratio, good philosophy… Nonetheless, it feels like a baby farm to me: babies eating in high chairs in a circle, lining up to wash their hands. One little boy cried nearly the whole time we were there: separation anxiety. I felt his pain. I suppose I’ll get used to the idea, and Callum was a trooper, of course. He starting exploring the centre as soon as we got there, excited to see new toys and faces (in that order, apparently). I left the room a couple of times, and when I returned he didn’t seem to have noticed my absence: the first time, he was happily munching away on his lunch, and the second, he and another little person were figuring out a bead maze together. I’m proud of his independence! Maybe he can teach me a little?

Certainly, the song that was playing in the elevator as we made our exit didn’t help much: it was Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” As if I hadn’t already pictured terrible scenarios involving the daycare’s fifth floor balcony. Thanks for that, universe and soft-rock elevator music station.

Coming soon: photos of Callum’s now pale yellow room and Steve’s confession…

The house…

Nearly four months ago, our family moved to Vancouver from Ottawa. My husband, Steve, had been commuting between the two cities since February (flying home for three-day weekends every week, so that he could spend time with us), because I was committed to teaching a course at the University of Ottawa. When the course finally came to an end, I was thrilled to have my husband with us full time once again, excited to finally be moving to the West Coast, and eager to see the house that Steve had rented for us!

Taking care of a baby and teaching a university course meant that I hadn’t had the time to fly out and see it in person before moving in: the first time I would see the house would be the  moving day! Photographs that I had seen online led me to believe it had promise: a Victorian-style home built in the Edwardian era, it had lots of character in the form of mouldings and stained glass, its rooms appeared to be a decent size, and it had a big back yard as well as a large deck.

In person, I could still see the potential of the place, but I felt it needed some work to make it feel like our home. I’m no interior decorator, but I do like to take pride in my home. We would have to do some painting and change some lighting: the baby’s room was a drab beige with brown trim, there were watermarks on the paint near the window in the master bedroom, the matching eighties fixtures in the living/ dining area, one of which was also a ceiling fan, felt dated, but my two main points of contention were the burgundy and pink flowery wallpaper in the entrance and kitchen (complemented with a matching blue house border in the kitchen) and—wait for it—the pink ceiling fan in the master bedroom.

While I was gung-ho to fix everything right away, Steve was understandably apprehensive about wasting too much time and money on a rental. But, bit by bit, we’ve been making this place our home over the past few months: the landlord paid to have the wallpaper in the kitchen removed and a coat of off-white paint put up in its place, so I (unfortunately?) have no photos of the kitchen before. Steve has already replaced the light fixtures in the living and dining area, so I have no photos of those either, but here is a photo of something similar:

I wasn’t too sad to say goodbye to that one, but it was a bit of ordeal for poor Steve. The wiring in this house is O-L-D, and pieces of the ceiling fall out when he tries to change anything! Yipes! To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with, here’s a fuzzy picture of the light switches from our entranceway:

Side by side like these ones, they look like boobies. Quaint, no? But tricky to put new fixtures in without a junction box… The wires in the living/ dining area weren’t hooked up to any switches, so Steve had to convert the fixtures we bought with some pull switches (See the little pull switch on the left of the light? Steve did that!):

Today, Steve went out and bought paint, and tomorrow I’m going to start in Callum’s room! I can’t wait to start decorating in there and to turn that drab room into a fun space for our now one-year old guy! Stay tuned…