Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year-End Reflection

What an amazing, life-changing, full, and exciting year it has been for us. 2013 will always be a special year for me since it's the year I became a mother. There were so many wonderful moments throughout the year - many of which we were able to capture forever in photos. Here are some of my favorites - it was so hard to choose just one or two for each month!

First family photo

Tessa's been such a happy girl right from the beginning

So glad I allowed myself to enjoy these moments - they never happen anymore with our independent, busy little girl!

Tessa's dedication at church

First Mother's Day

Enjoying the beautiful weather and some disc golf on Father's Day

First solid food

First of many family summer trips - Victoria, BC

Soaking up the sun

My pretty little girl - growing up so fast!

Bedtime stories with Dad

I am so incredibly thankful and blessed that I was able to spend this past year at home with my daughter. As I look back over these photos - and many others - I've realized that most of my favorite moments of this past year happened right here, in our home. Most of them weren't anything grand or extraordinary - they were simple, everyday moments that may have easily slipped by unnoticed. Having a baby and watching her grow and change at warp speed has made me so much more aware of the passing of time and how precious each moment truly is. This year off allowed me to slow down and take the time to notice many of those little moments that are gone way too fast. Other than the birth of our daughter, our year has been made up of a series of simple, quiet, seemingly insignificant moments. We didn't really do anything spectacular. I can't really say that I achieved or accomplished much from the world's point of view (let's be honest - some days I was still in my pajamas at noon). But I wouldn't trade all those small, mundane, everyday moments that made up our lives in 2013 for anything. Those moments mean nothing to the vast majority of the world. But to me, they have become a part of who I am - they have shaped, tugged, stretched, and changed me in so many ways - and they are everything to me.

Yes, I'm a little sad to say goodbye to 2013. But I do feel hopeful and excited for what 2014 will hold for us and I am ready to meet the new year and all that it will bring.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Preparing Baby for Daycare

One week from now, I’ll be dropping my baby off at her dayhome for the first time and heading off to work. Obviously, I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I think it’ll be nice to get out of the house (by myself) two days a week, be around adults all day, and get back to using my skills and training. As much as I love being at home full time with my daughter, I think having a bit of a break from her (and her from me) might not be all bad. At the same time, I love being a stay at home mom and will be sad to leave my daughter with someone else and miss out on all the little moments I’ve been so blessed to have with her this past year.

In my ideal world, I wouldn’t have to think about these things, because I’d be staying home full time and not going back to work at all. However, the reality is that I need to work. Not only for the financial reasons, but simply because I have to work to maintain my standing as a Registered Nurse. Nursing isn’t something that you can take an extended break from and just walk back in 5 or 10 years later and pick up where you left off. You have to keep current and up to date, because things change so quickly and people expect a certain level of skill, ability, and competence from their nurses - and rightly so. My nursing license isn’t something I’m ready to let go of just yet – I’ve worked hard for it and it’s a good career with a lot of options and flexibility – perfect for a young family in many ways. So, for these next several years while we are building our family and raising young children, I’ll most likely just work the minimum number of hours required to maintain my registration and keep up my skills. I’m thankful for the flexibility that my current job offers and that I don’t have to go back to full-time work. I’ll still be able to be at home with Tessa the majority of the time, which is a huge blessing that I do not take for granted.

So that brings me to now, just a week away from returning to work and Tessa starting out in her new dayhome. It’s a pretty big deal (to me, anyway) and while I’m sure it will all work out, I still have my worries and anxieties over the whole thing. Part of the way I deal with that is to do what I can to prepare both Tessa and myself for the transition. Here's what we've been doing to prepare:

1 – Weaning from daytime nursing
This has actually gone much better than I thought it would. Tessa is down to nursing 3 or 4 times a day. She was starting to show very little interest in her late afternoon/post-nap nursing session and usually gets by until supper with a just a small snack after her nap. So we’ve pretty much dropped that one altogether, although I’ll still offer to nurse after her snack if she seems to need it. I’m ok with her still occasionally nursing at this time because I’ll be able to nurse when I get home from work if she needs it.

The bigger challenge was dropping her noon nursing session. We obviously won’t be able to continue that on the days she's at the dayhome, so we decided (for the sake of consistency) to try and get rid of that one altogether. About a month ago, I started trying to give her a bottle of pumped milk at noon, along with her lunch. We hadn’t given her a bottle in months, since we hadn’t really needed to. She initially refused the bottle so, of course, naturally, I panicked! I was so worried that she was going to continue to refuse the bottle and we’d have a huge battle on our hands and she wouldn’t be ready, etc, etc. So we waited until a weekend when my husband would be home during the day, and when he gave her the noon bottle she took it without a problem. Since then she’s taken the bottle from me (and others) without batting an eye. So I think we’ve successfully weaned her from nursing at noon, and she’s now used to getting a bottle instead. Phew!

So for now, we’ll be sending a bottle of pumped milk with her to the dayhome for her to have at noon. The rest of our nursing sessions (morning, late afternoon, and bedtime) can stay as they are for now, since we’ll be able to continue them once I’m back to work.

2 – A more flexible routine
We have a pretty solid routine down in our house. Tessa generally wakes up, eats, plays, naps, and goes to bed at the same times each day. We all like the stability and predictability this gives us. I know that the routine in the dayhome will be fairly similar to what we have going at home, but there may also be times when flexibility will be required. So with that in mind, I’ve tried to be a little more flexible with our routine at home these past few weeks – obviously still sticking to it as closely as possible, but not freaking out if she has a shorter nap (or misses one altogether) or we do something a little earlier or later - in other words, I’m trying to relax a little!

Tessa has shown us over and over that she is adaptable and can usually handle changes to her routine without a huge meltdown, so we have to trust that she will be able to handle this next big change as well.

3 – Playdates at the dayhome
Tessa has already gone for a half day "trial" at the dayhome, and will be going for a full day this week before our actual first day. The half day went very well - Tessa was so busy playing that she hardly noticed when I left, and only had a few tears when I came back to pick her up. We're thankful that we've been able to do these "trial runs" - they've allowed Tessa to get used to the new environment and routine, her caregiver, and the other kids in the dayhome, and have also given me the chance to see how I do handling the separation.

4 – Independent play
This has already been ongoing in our home, but I’m trying to encourage a bit more independent play, since she may have to do more of this at the dayhome. We’re thankful that Tessa will be the only baby in the dayhome (the other kids are age 2 and up), so we know she’ll get a lot of attention and one on one time from the caregiver (she’s assured us of that). But it’s very likely that there will be times when the caregiver is busy with another child and Tessa will need to be able to entertain herself for a bit. She’s already pretty good at this, so I’m not too worried.

On the other hand, it may end up being that she’ll get more actual structured playtime and activities than she is used to at home, so that could be another challenge in itself.

5 – Playpen naps
This is a fairly small thing, but I thought it might help if Tessa takes an occasional nap in her playpen, since she’ll be napping in a playpen at the dayhome. I’ve kept her pre-nap routine the same, but I thought it would help with getting her used to sleeping in different places, and so far it hasn’t been a problem.

6 – Leaving Tessa in the church nursery
We started doing this a few months ago, not necessarily with the intent of preparing her for daycare, but more for a break for us to be able to sit through the service, uninterrupted. I volunteer in the nursery, so of course she does well on the Sundays I’m in there, but we’ve left her there with other workers too and for the most part, she’s handled it well - only a few meltdowns, usually more due to being tired, hungry, or teething than actual separation anxiety. This has also provided an opportunity for her to interact with other babies and toddlers, which she’ll be doing much more of once she goes to the dayhome.

I'm expecting the transition to go fairly well, since we have such an easygoing baby. I'm sure there will be a few bumps in the road and it will take a bit of adjusting for all of us, but hopefully the preparation we've done over the last several weeks will make things go much smoother.

Those who have been through this transition before, what have you done to prepare yourself and your baby? Anything else you would add to this list or any other tips you can offer?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a blessed Christmas as you celebrate the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Favorites: Chocolate Balls

This is, hands down, my all-time favorite Christmas treat. I grew up eating these every Christmas and they're the first thing that goes on my list to make each year. No, they are not the least bit good for you, but they're small and if you only eat one or two at a time, they're not that bad. Besides, it's Christmas - not the time to be counting calories, in my opinion! :)


Combine peanut butter, icing sugar, egg, and vanilla in medium bowl.
Add cherries and coconut, stir to combine.
Form into ~1" balls (you may want to chill dough slightly prior to this otherwise it gets really sticky when you try to roll it in your hands) and place on parchment paper-lined pan. Refrigerate or freeze until firm (make sure they're very cold or frozen before dipping into warm chocolate, otherwise they melt and fall into the chocolate).
Melt 1 c. chocolate (I like semi-sweet) with 1/4 block Parowax* in saucepan. Use a toothpick or skewer to dip balls into warm chocolate and freeze again until set.
Store in freezer until ready to eat.

Pre-chocolate dunk
*Note about Parowax: I've always been kind of grossed out by the idea of eating wax. However, I have tried to make these using straight chocolate, and it doesn't work nearly as well. The wax gives the melted chocolate a much thinner consistency, making it easier to dip. It also makes the chocolate set up quicker and prevents it from melting too quickly if they sit out of the fridge/freezer for a while (or in your hand while eating). Yes, it's a little gross to think about eating wax, and probably not all that good for you, but these only get made once a year in our house, so I let it slide. If anyone has tips or ideas on a suitable alternative, please let me know!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Choosing Joy at Christmas

Christmas has always, always been my favorite time of year. I have so many great memories of Christmases as a child - setting up and decorating the tree with the whole family, "twinkle tours" where our family would pack into the car and drive around looking at light displays, tobogganing and skating with friends over Christmas break, gathering with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on Boxing Day for a feast and the annual cousin gift exchange, and of course, the food.

As a child, I didn't have to worry about preparing for Christmas - it was all just done for me and I got to enjoy it. My mom did all the cooking and baking, my dad hauled up the boxes from the basement and hung the lights outside, someone else bought the gifts and wrapped them.

But as I've gotten older, Christmas has changed. It's become a lot more work, and sometimes, a lot more stress. Everyone is so busy, so rushed, so stressed - even more so than normal at Christmas time, it seems. The stores are packed and I almost dread going to the mall at this time of year. There are gifts to buy, goodies to be made, trees and lights to be set up, and parties to go to. It's hard not to get caught up in it all.

But often the busyness of Christmas leaves us with very little time to slow down and relax, to take a break and enjoy the people we love, and most importantly, to stop and think and reflect on what it all means. It seems like all the work we put into Christmas often ends up robbing us of the joy of Christmas.

I already struggle during the other 11 months of the year with resisting our society's need to be busy all the time. It seems that being busy is necessary in order to be seen as successful, important, and having a meaningful life. This is true year-round, and it only increases at Christmas.

I know that this will become more of a struggle and a balancing act for me as my daughter gets older and starts to understand what's going on. I want to do what I can to make Christmas fun and exciting and magical for her, like it was for me as a kid. But something will have to give. I refuse to allow busyness and the stress of the season to take away the joy and wonder of Christmas for me and my family. We do have a choice. We don't have to attend every party, participate in every tradition, or buy all the latest toys and gifts. We can (and will) intentionally choose only those things that bring the most joy (not only to ourselves, but to others as well), cause us to reflect and wonder about the true meaning of Christmas, and bring us together as a family. I'm not exactly sure what it will look like yet, but I want to make sure that part of our family's Christmas tradition through the years includes creating space for relaxation and rest, enjoying simple pleasures, quiet reflection, and, of course, celebration of the reason for it all.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Choose Joy

Today, my sweet baby girl is 11 months old.

11 months since the morning my water broke and we hurried to the hospital in the falling snow.

11 months since I labored and pushed and gave birth to our daughter.

11 months since she took her first breath of air, cried her first cry, and we held her in our arms for the first time.

11 months since we announced to the world that we finally had our beautiful baby girl, safe and healthy.

This time last year, I was counting down the last few days at work, preparing for a whole year stretching out ahead of me with nothing to do but be a mom. 

Today, I am counting down this last month as a full time stay at home mom, preparing myself to go back to work in just four short weeks. If 11 months have passed by at the speed of light, I know that four weeks will feel like the blink of an eye.

So, for these next 26 days, I will be soaking up all these beautiful moments, cherishing every smile, every giggle, every cuddle, and yes, even every 5am wake up call.

In these coming weeks, we will celebrate our first Christmas as a family of three.

Then, a month from now, we will celebrate Tessa's first birthday and us surviving our first year as parents.

There is so much to be thankful for and to celebrate, and I don't want to spend the last month of my year at home being whiny or miserable.

So, with that in mind, my aim for this next month is to always choose joy. Even when I'm tired, or sick, or grumpy. When my baby is fussy and clingy and teething. When the house is a mess and there are a million things to do and it just.keeps.snowing. 

I will choose to find something to celebrate. 
I will choose to be thankful. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Christmas Favorites: Fudge

I officially started making Christmas goodies this week. One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is, of course, the food. In our family there are recipes that are reserved for Christmas only. It makes those treats extra special, since we only make and eat them once a year. I'll be sharing a few of my favorites this month. First up is a classic: Fudge.

This is a really simple and fairly foolproof fudge recipe. You can make it with or without peanuts, or substitute another kind of nut or any other extras you feel like adding. It also makes a great gift.

Line a small rectangular or square pan with wax paper.
Bring sugar, butter, cocoa, and water to a full boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine cornstarch and flour.
Remove cocoa mixture from heat and pour over cornstarch & flour. Add vanilla and beat until smooth.
Stir in peanuts.
Pour into pan and refrigerate until set.
Once set, pull edges of wax paper out of pan, flip fudge over and peel paper off before cutting.

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