Friday, August 30, 2013

My Liebster Award + A Funny

     A huge thank you to Meg at The Patchwork Paisley for nominating me for a Liebster Award. It came as a complete surprise and I'm honored that someone (other than my mom) thinks my blog is worth reading and acknowledging. Make sure you go check out Meg's blog - her artwork is fabulous and I especially love her post about her baby's nursery - she's got some really cute ideas there.

So, what is it?
     Liebster is a German word that means dearest or beloved. The Liebster Award is a peer award given to "up and coming" bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. It's given by fellow bloggers, so it's an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge each other, connect with new bloggers and build community. Yes, it's a little bit chain-letter-ish, but it's a fun way to get to know some new people.

The Rules:
1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
2. Answer the 11 questions asked by your nominator.
3. Choose at least 5 and up to 11 bloggers, each with fewer than 200 followers, and nominate them for the award.
4. Come up with 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Contact your nominees and notify them of your nomination.

So, without further ado, here are Meg's questions and my answers:

1. If there was a movie made based on your life, who would play you and why?
    I had to ask my husband this question because I'm pretty clueless when it comes to anything actor or movie-related. He says Jenna Fisher. Apparently I'm just like her character, Pam, from The Office.

2. What was the last thing you Googled?
    Watermarking images for my blog.

3. What is one of your guilty pleasures? 
    Chocolate chips straight from the bag. I literally eat handfuls of them.

4. What is something you know now that you wish you knew "then?"
     Now that I'm a mom, I wish I had known how hard parenting was (and I'm only at the beginning). I'm pretty sure I gave my parents a rough go at times as a child and teenager (I think I was what you might call a "strong-willed" child - that's probably putting it nicely). I wish I had known then that everything they did parenting-wise came from a place of love and was done with my best interest in mind.

5. What do you consider to be one of your greatest accomplishments? 
    Giving birth to my daughter.

6. What is one thing not many people know about you?
    My Meyers-Briggs personality type is INFP

7. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your life, would you? What would it be?
    Sometimes I wish I had chosen a different profession (I'm a nurse and don't think I love it as much as I should). I also really wish I was multi-lingual.

8. What is your favorite Disney movie? 
    I still love The Lion King and I think I always will. :)

9. What is something you've never done, but would like to try?
    I would love to take a long-term trip through Europe (maybe backpack-style, at least for a little while). I've been to Europe, but only for short visits. I wish I could take a year or so, stop and stay in one place for a while then move on to the next one and see and experience as much of it as possible. That or be on The Amazing Race. Or go on a safari in Africa.

10. Where is your favorite place to be?
      Other than at home with my husband & daughter, I love being out in nature - in the mountains, the forest, under the stars - but I think the absolute best place on earth is the Canadian prairies during a summer thunderstorm.

11. What is your favorite blog post you've written?
      I really like this one.

Now, for my nominees (and I apologize if you have more than 200 followers, it's hard to tell - I used GFC and/or Bloglovin for my numbers):

   Andrea @ Hand and the Heart. Andrea's writing is honest and beautiful. Sometimes I read a post of hers and wish I had written it! :) I always look forward to her posts.
   Jen @ First Comes Love. A fellow nurse and mom of a little girl. I really enjoy Jen's warmth and humor. She’s also a very talented photographer.
   Shannon @ Everyday Mom-ents. I only recently found Shannon's blog, but I truly admire her commitment to her daily workout routine with 2 little ones at home…makes me think I need to stop making excuses and get moving!
   Megan @ One Fifteen Danville. Megan's another recent find and fellow first-time mama (her daughter is 2 days older than mine). Her blog is beautiful to look at, and her writing is honest and real.
   Colleen @ Naturally Crafty Mom. I love Colleen's passion for cloth diapering (just like me!) and she has some great posts on the topic.
   Amanda @ Happily Ever After. Amanda's list of the 10 things she lives for is almost identical to what mine would be.
  Alycia @ Crazily Normal. Alycia's the only person on this list who I actually know in real life. :) We live in the same town, are both nurses, had baby girls weeks apart, and are now both blogging about mom-life.

My questions for my nominees: 
 1. How did you come up with your blog name?
 2. What is your favorite blog post you’ve written? Link to it so we can all read it!
 3. Morning person or night owl? Coffee or tea? Salty or sweet? (yes I know I'm cheating and asking more than one question but they're easy one word answers!)
 4. What is/are your favorite book(s)? (This one’s for me - I'm always looking for new book suggestions!)
 5. What is the one thing (not person) you don't think you could live without?
 6. What is your favorite place you've traveled to?
 7. If you could spend a day with any person – past, present, living, dead – who would it be and why?
 8. Is your life right now what you imagined it would be 5 years ago? Is there anything that surprises you about your life?
 9. If you could go back in time and give your younger self any one piece of advice, what would it be?
 10. What would you do with a free day all to yourself?
 11. If you were to go back to school just for the fun of it, what would you study? What’s one subject you really want to know more about?

         To my nominees, I hope you can take some time to answer these questions and link back with your answers - I'd love to hear what you all have to say. Of course, you don't have to participate if you don't want to, but it's a fun way to connect and get to know each other better. Make sure you leave a comment here and link back when you've finished so I can read all about you! Take care and Happy Friday!

     Oh, and on a funny note, I saw this posted on Facebook this morning and thought it was hilarious. Maybe it's the lack of sleep I had last night, but I was literally laughing out loud. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

{The Real} Vacation Recap

     I posted our vacation highlights the other day. I could leave it at that and let everyone think we had the perfect little holiday with our perfect little family in a beautiful place where we saw lots of nice stuff and took a bunch of pretty pictures, but that wouldn't be completely honest. And if there's anything I want this blog to be, it's honest and real. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all allow us to only share the best little snippets of our lives and let everyone think that everything's great all the time, but I don't want this blog to turn into that. So, having said that, here's "the real" vacation recap.

     Our flight departed at 7:55am. I should have known when I booked it that a flight that early in the day was a recipe for disaster, and while it wasn't actually a disaster, it did get our trip off to a rocky start. By the time we got to the airport, parked, shuttled to the terminal, checked in, got me a coffee, argued a bit, and got through security, we were being paged to our gate because our flight had already boarded. Yep, we were those people...the ones who come huffing and puffing onto the plane last...the ones the flight attendants have apologized to the rest of the passengers for. We sat down, buckled up, got a quick run-through of the instructions for flying with a baby and literally minutes later we were taking off. In a way, this worked out well, because we didn't have to sit through pre-boarding and regular boarding while trying to keep Tessa entertained, but it made for a very stressful start to our trip and set the tone for the next couple of days.

Awkward family photo? I set the timer and didn't quite get into position in time! I thought it suited this post.

     Once we arrived, we weren't able to check in to our hotel right away (which is the only thing we really wanted to do because we all needed naps!) so we were forced to kill some time. We wandered through downtown and a park, and tried to enjoy being in this beautiful place, but there was a thick tension in the air between me and my husband. I was frustrated by what I felt was poor communication during our trip and he wasn't sure what he had done wrong and was feeling like he was walking on eggshells. We finally found a quiet park bench out of the way, sat down and tried to smooth things over. We realized that we were both being overly sensitive, largely due to our exhaustion and the stress of traveling with our daughter for the first time and we were taking that out on each other (or at least I was taking mine out on him).

     The next day wasn't a whole lot better. Tessa had had a rough first night in the hotel (which means everyone had a rough first night) and getting her down for her morning nap was an hour-long struggle with her wailing the whole time and us switching off trying to settle her. I even cried along with her for a bit because I was so tired and frustrated and had no idea what else to do for her. Cam was finally able to get her to sleep and we sat down, looked at each other and asked each other why we had even bothered coming. The whole trip was starting to feel like it had been a bad idea.

Everyone was very tired and grumpy the first few days...
     The worst moment came a day later. We were driving back to the hotel after a morning of sightseeing and were planning to take a bit of a break before meeting up with friends for the afternoon. I made some snarky, unnecessary comment, which led to another argument. We parked the car in the hotel parkade and just sat there in silence. There we were, in a beautiful place, during what should have been a relaxing, fun, memorable first family holiday, and we were miserable and mad at each other. One of us finally said something like "this sucks" or "this isn't working". I looked at Cam and asked "what do we do?" My wise, patient husband said the one word that we I had been forgetting..."We need to have a little grace".
     He was absolutely right. Grace was needed, and badly. Grace for each other during stressful, exhausting, frustrating moments. Grace for our daughter when she struggled to sleep in a new place, a different time zone, and through teething. And grace for ourselves when we mess it all up. We both apologized and committed to being more patient and grace-full with one another, and the rest of the trip was much better. I'm sorry that the first half of our trip was mostly unpleasant, but I'm thankful that we were able to salvage the last few days and that even in the midst of those rough first days, there were still some great moments.

     I came across this wheelbarrow of tools while wandering through Butchart Gardens. I wasn't intending on it turning into a life lesson when I took the picture, I just thought it was interesting. There it sat, right in the middle of a gorgeous place, full of its dirty tools and dead flowers and weeds. And the entire time we were at the gardens, we saw workers weeding, watering and pruning. It reminded me that beautiful things don't just magically happen - they take a lot of work. And even though the gardens look beautiful and complete, they're always a work in progress - the ugliness needs to be removed to make the beauty even more beautiful. Kind of like me.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vacation Recap

     We just returned home from our first family vacation (hence the lack of posting here!) so I thought I would recap our little trip and share some of the highlights.

     We spent 5 days in beautiful Victoria, BC and had a great time. Sometimes it's just nice to get away and have a change of scenery. I always like visiting new places and had never been to Victoria, but had heard good things about it. We had enough Airmiles to pay for both our flights so we didn't have to worry about driving and since we were saving so much on flights and gas we were able to splurge a bit on our hotel. We found one right downtown in a perfect location - within walking distance of a lot of the things we wanted to do so that also saved us gas money. The hotel was amazing - it had a little kitchenette so we bought groceries and cooked most of our meals instead of eating out (a 7 month old in a restaurant 3 times a day didn't seem like a great idea to me). Our room was more like a suite - it had a separate bedroom and a nice spacious living area/dining room and kitchen and a cute little balcony. My favorite part was the super comfy king-sized bed! The hotel also had some great features - swimming pool and hot tub, gym (for Cam), and a movie theater (which we never actually used). We would definitely recommend the Parkside to anyone going to Victoria.

     It was Tessa's first time flying, so we were a little nervous about that, but she was a total pro! I fed her during take-off and she fell asleep almost immediately after and slept almost the entire flight both ways. It was actually kind of nice - she's not the most cuddly baby and never sleeps in my arms anymore, so it was a nice treat for mama! :) I was thankful we just had short flights for her first time and I guess I should have known better than to worry - just like everything else that comes her way, she handled flying really well.

     As for the sightseeing and activities we did in Victoria, I'll just recap with photos rather than describe everything in words - that would take forever!!

     We arrived early on Saturday and couldn't check into our hotel right away, so we wandered through Beacon Hill Park and saw the world's tallest totem pole.

     On Sunday, we had our whale watching tour. This was the best part of the trip for me. We were able to see a large pod of orcas, a pair of humbacks and tons of seals and sea lions. Pretty exciting stuff for a couple of prairie kids!

     On Monday we went to Butchart Gardens. Absolutely beautiful, especially the Sunken Garden (below). To get to it, you walk along a narrow path completely covered over by trees, come around a corner and it opens up looking out over this spectacular view:

My new favorite family photo

We thought this Bill Cosby sweater was awesome!
     And of course, you can't go to Butchart Gardens and not take ridiculous amounts of flower photos (at least I can't, it would seem). Here are a few of my favorites:

     After Butchart Gardens, we stopped at the Butterfly Gardens for a quick look around.

     On Tuesday morning, we visited the Craigdarroch Castle (which sounds a lot cooler than it actually was), and in the afternoon we met up with some friends from home who were also in Victoria at the same time and went to the Bug Zoo together. Tessa was fascinated by a rather large tarantula (behind glass, of course) and her parents both held Nora, the smaller one.

      Wednesday was our last full day, so we tried to pack in as much as we could. The highlight of the day was our drive north of Victoria to Goldstream Provincial Park, where we found this beautiful little waterfall. For lunch, we stopped at Spinnaker's for the best fish & chips I've ever had then made our way back downtown to see Chinatown and do a bit of shopping.

The gorgeous Empress hotel from across the Harbour
Tessa being a goof - love this girl to bits!!
          We lucked out with our rental car and got to drive a Charger around all week - Cam was pretty excited so we had to take a photo of him next to it! :)

     We landed in Calgary on Thursday afternoon, and it was a bit of a shock going from the lush greenery and the cool, fresh, sea air of Vancouver Island to hot, dry, dusty, windy southern Alberta. I love the prairies and they've always been home, and I hate to say it, but for the first time I can remember, coming home was a bit of a let down (I'm sure I'll recover though!).

    We made it home Thursday night, and spent the last day of our holiday deep cleaning our house, including carpets - fun! It needed to be done though, and felt great after.

     And on Sunday, we set up Tessa's little pool in the backyard and enjoyed what might be one of the last hot weekends of the summer.

     We're back to regular life today and it's nice to be back into our normal routine, but we were thankful for the break and the time to get away together. Some of my favorite childhood memories center around family vacations, and I know Tessa is still too young to remember this one, but I look forward to many more family trips in the future where we can give her some of those wonderful memories to cherish for life.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baby Signing

     Way back before I decided that I wanted to be a nurse, I seriously considered a career in sign language interpreting. My first experience with American Sign Language (ASL) goes way back to junior high, when a teacher at my school started a lunch hour ASL club, where she taught us basic sign language. I was hooked right away. I bought myself an ASL dictionary and taught myself more signs, but never really got to use them since I didn't know any Deaf people.

     Fast forward several years - I was out of high school, taking a year off to work and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was still interested in possibly pursuing a career in interpreting, so I found an evening ASL class and joined. This was a much more serious class and was my first time being "immersed" in ASL - the teachers were all Deaf - ASL or writing on the board was their only way to communicate. I learned quickly and my love for the language grew. I took ASL classes for 2 years and got to know several members of the Deaf community outside of class, so had plenty of opportunity to practice. Unfortunately, life circumstances changed and I could no longer continue those classes. Sadly, my connections to the Deaf community also ended when I moved to a new city and it's now been a few years since I've had any real practice.

     However, having a baby has renewed my interest and passion for ASL. This time, I'm the teacher! I know a lot of parents use ASL or some form of signing with their babies, and find it to be a very effective method of communicating with their little ones before they're capable of speech. It was a no-brainer for me to hop on board the baby signing bandwagon. I already knew all the signs I would need to teach Tessa early on and still have my books handy for when she gets a little more advanced. I can't wait until her little hands start talking!!

If you're interested in teaching your baby some basic signs, I recommend the following resources to get you started:

A few tips:

  • Start anytime - I started signing with Tessa almost right away, but a lot of people wait until around 4-6 months to start
  • Don't get discouraged if baby isn't signing back - babies need lots of repetition to learn, and most babies won't start signing back until 9-12 months, although some start earlier.
  • Be consistent - use the signs over and over, and say the word as you sign it.
  • Signing does NOT delay speech - in fact, some research shows the opposite (see here)

Basic signs to start with:

  • Eat
  • Milk
  • Sleep
  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Finished/All done
  • Anything else that will be helpful to you and your baby
     Have you taught your baby sign language? What was your experience like? Any other tips or tricks? Please share in the comments below and happy signing!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Inspiration - Awake My Soul

     I was out doing errands this morning, and the song "Awake My Soul" by Shaun Groves came on. It felt like the perfect inspiration to head into a new week. I want this to be my theme for the day and the week - to be fully awake, ready to take in each moment that comes. And most importantly, to be thankful for it all.

  "Awake my soul and live each moment. 
  Awake my soul give thanks and hold it dear now. 
  God is here now. 
  Awake my soul."
-Shaun Groves

Take a few minutes and listen ("Awake My Soul"). I hope this song encourages and challenges you today and all week.

Many blessings,

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Embracing my Mommy-Shape

     This letter to Kate Middleton was all over my Facebook feed for a couple days last week. It was posted and shared by many of my mom friends who obviously loved it as much as I did. If you haven't seen it yet click the link above and go read it - it's well worth your time.

     It's no secret that women of all sizes and shapes struggle with having a healthy body image. There's always someone who looks better, is thinner, has nicer clothes or hair or whatever. We're constantly comparing ourselves to everyone else and finding that we usually come up short. What's astonishing to me is that this dislike of our bodies continues through pregnancy and beyond. I've had conversations with other new moms about how we need to lose the baby weight and firm up the mommy-tummy. We look at ourselves in the mirror and all we see are stretch marks and saggy, soft bellies.

40 weeks pregnant, 5 days before Tessa arrived
     I can remember those first awkward weeks after giving birth where absolutely nothing in my closet fit - my maternity stuff was too big and my non-maternity stuff was too small or just didn't fit my new shape properly. There was no point going shopping for new clothes because I knew my body was in an adjustment period and I had no idea how long it would take for things to stabilize. I complained about how I looked, forgetting that my body had been stretched and reshaped over 9 months to accomodate a new life and had just performed its most amazing and miraculous feat to date. If ever there was a time to give myself a break, this was it.

     So I did. Slowly, I got used to my new shape, and now, for the first time in a VERY long time, I can honestly say that I'm ok with my body (other than those pesky stretch marks!). I don't love it, but I'm happy with it and so thankful for it when I remind myself that it gave us our beautiful, healthy daughter.

      Some of us may get back to our exact pre-pregnancy shape and size, others will not. Either way our bodies will be different in some way and I think it's time to embrace these new bodies. Bodies that have miraculously carried and nurtured life, endured hours (maybe days) of labor, delivered beautiful babies into the world, and are now nourishing, comforting, protecting, teaching, and loving our children. There is nothing more beautiful than that.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Learning to Relax

     Tessa and I spent the past week at Cypress Hills Camp in beautiful Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan, where I was camp nurse for the week. I was a camper there almost every summer when I was a kid, spent one summer as a counselor there, and this was my second year volunteering as camp nurse. There's just something about summer camp that I love and can't get enough of, so it's great to be able to still be involved in some way. I can't wait until Tessa's old enough to be a camper - hopefully she won't be like her mom and be one of the homesick kids! (Even though I got so homesick at camp, I still loved it and have very fond memories of my many summers at camp!)

     The week was challenging for me, though. Having a 6-month old to care for while being busy bandaging scraped knees and consoling homesick campers makes for a bit of a crazy week! Tessa did so great - we only had one major meltdown the whole week. I was so proud of her, and so extremely thankful that my parents and sister were also there (my mom was a cook, my sister was teaching crafts and my dad was there helping out too) to take Tessa when I needed to be with a camper. I truly could not have done it without them.

     I learned a few things through the week at camp, but I think the most valuable lesson for me was learning to RELAX! Not relax in the sense of taking it easy and putting my feet up (although I did get to do a bit of that too!), but more in learning to let go of every little detail and my perfect ideas of how things will be done with Tessa.

     I've never really thought of myself as a controlling person, but I think since becoming a mom, that side of me has risen to the surface more than ever before. I think almost all new moms (and maybe not just new moms) worry about doing everything "right" or by the book. We're so afraid of making one little mistake that we think is going to ruin our child for life. I know I have many of these moments.

     That's why this week at camp was so good for me. I can't count the number of times a soother or a toy fell on the dusty, dirty floor and someone (myself included) picked it up, brushed it off, and gave it back to Tessa. It's just not practical or possible to run across camp to the nearest sink to rinse it off!

      At the beginning of the week, I inwardly cringed when a camper got too close to her (have you seen how dirty 9-year-olds at camp can get? And who knows what kind of germs they have?!?). By the end of the week, it hardly bothered me, and I even let one little girl hold Tessa (she had been begging me all week!).

     At home, I don't like to feed Tessa to sleep (we try to follow the Eat, Play, Sleep routine as much as we can). At camp, there were several times when I just needed her to go down because I needed to be somewhere else, and I knew that nursing her would be the quickest and easiest way to get there, so guess what? I nursed her to sleep and the world didn't end.

     We've now been home for 3 days and she's pretty much back to her normal routine like nothing ever happened. I don't think I've ruined her at all, in fact, I've seen how adaptable, easygoing, and resilient she really is. I have no trouble picking up her soother from my clean-ish floors and giving it back to her. She didn't come down with any terrible diseases from all the kid germs she was exposed to. And she got right back on track with her regular routine without a problem. I'm not saying that I want to make a habit of putting filthy things in her mouth or that I think we should abandon the routine of our days, but my week at camp showed me that we can be flexible when we need to be, that we can do things a little differently if the situation calls for it and we'll still be fine.

     It's when I'm worrying about little things like dirt and germs and changes to routine that I stop loving motherhood and I feel fear start to creep in. My week at camp will always be a reminder to me to let go of that fear and worry that I'm doing it all wrong and instead to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy this precious time with my daughter, dirt and all.

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