Fed is Best!

Note: I started writing this awhile ago and honestly forgot about it, but in light of the recent story about the new mom who ended her life because of the pressure she felt to breastfeed, I decided I should actually finish and publish this one. Remember, if you are feeling the stress as a new mom to do what society dictates, that at the end of the day, FED IS BEST! Whether breast, formula, pump, however you can nourish your child without causing stress is the best way for you! I’m always here to talk too. Just send me a message if you feel there’s nowhere else to turn! I’ve done it all! 

~K


My take on the ‘normalize breastfeeding’ viral photo trend comes with a bottle. Why, you ask? Read on! 
 I’m sure I’ve already written it somewhere in a previous post, but in case I haven’t, I am an exclusive pumper (‘EP’er). This means that to nourish my child, my handy dandy breast pumps and I set to work to prep bottles for a ravenous little mouth.  Double, triple (quadruple?) the work…remove milk, put into bottles, sterilize pump parts, feed baby, sterilize bottles, repeat. Crazy as it sounds, this is what has decidedly works best in our house.

This crazy notion was certainly never my first choice (for any of the three kiddos). I was able to breastfeed our first for a few months until he refused…so I pumped and supplemented with formula when needed. Baby Bird was the laziest feeder ever so I pumped…up to 60oz a day and we donated unused milk to 9 other babies in need. Sprout started out so well but refused since she constantly choked due to crazy flow, so I pumped…this time maxing out at 120 oz every day. I donated to 5 other littles this time too and our freezer is full! This amounts to a collective 30+ months of being attached to my pump at the….well.


Baby bird  and ‘her pump’. She and her siblings have learned great patience with my pumping. Up to 4 hours a day is devoted to pumping activities.

It is  very real part of motherhood (at least in Canada) to feel the pressure to breastfeed. And rightfully so with all of the research hailing the benefits. I looked into everything before Moose was born, planning to EBF. There are supports in place, workshops, support groups, meetings, books, blogs, websites all hailing the importance of breastfeeding. But all of these groups focus on the au naturale version. I’ve tried to fit in with these groups, often greeted with looks of pity or or confusion.  Why wouldn’t I just naturally breastfeed my child? Wow, I must be crazy to pump for that long! Which formula do you supplement with? Maybe I should just try again, that I did a…b…c…. wrong the first thousand times I tried. No thanks. I don’t need to be greeted with the pity party. I’ll just lock myself away and pump over here, thanks. 

On that note, the HUGE normalize breastfeeding campaign that has taken the world and my social media feeds by storm, while well-intended, is a constant reminder to ‘other’ feeders, that they are considered second-rate. Or, it really comes off that way anyway. Formula feeders are generally accepted in public (aside from the similar pity looks). There are super cool gadgets for formula now and if you are out in public and you have to mix a bottle of formula? No problem. If you have to breastfeed in public? There is some backlash but that becoming less and less. No problem.  Is it considered normal or natural or acceptable for me to whip out my pump at the park? At a restaurant? Not on your life. Guess what? The lonely pumper is still sitting in a bathroom stall with a bag of sterilized gear if stuck out in public for an extended period of time. We are left sitting in vehicles while the rest of the family enjoys their time at the park. We are forced to excuse ourselves from events to take care of business Does anyone make a fuss or create positive memes about pumpers? Nope!  Not that I’m saying I really want to be all strapped in while at a formal event, but still. As well, workplaces are required to provide a place for breastfeeding moms to pump at work. Cool. I’m an elementary school teacher. Extra places to do such activities are pretty darned hard to come by, so I hide in my vehicle at recess. Good times. Glamorous even! 


If you are looking for a great on-the-go, supplemental pump, this little jobbie is fantastic! Wish I’d have found it years ago!

There are support groups, mail-in coupon programs, websites, even programs where special gifts are given for baby age milestones for formula feeders as well. It’s been tempting, especially this time with three littles needing my attention, to jump on the formula bandwagon, but since my body is still working to create ‘liquid gold’, and frankly, I’d rather not add the expense of formula to our budget, I’ve continued on.  Even my husband has asked why I don’t just quit. Anyone who has been down this road knows that cold turkey quitting isn’t really a good option, unless mastitis and blocked ducts sounds fun to you! No? I agree.


Fed is best, folks. Fed. Is. Best. 

I am supportive of every type of feeding. Feed your kids! That’s all! Do whatever is best for your family with no judgement! You don’t need to pity someone else for their feeding situation. Perhaps it was a choice they’ve made primarily without it being a last resort! Perhaps not! We are feeding our kids. Babies are growing and developing. Breastfed and bottle fed kids will grow up to be friends, do the same activities and reach milestones. You are doing what’s best for you! Take care of yourself! If you need support, whether breast, pump, formula feeding, I’m here in this venue! I will not judge, won’t give advice if you don’t want it, but I promise to listen! We all need support! I’m here for you!

~K

A No-Bake, No-Sew Night of Treats!

It has been a crazy week around these parts. With the insanity of Christmas winding up and Moose having a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy earlier in the week, we were up for a) something calm yet fun to do together and b)something that wasn’t going to take Mum hours to set up and take down. The kids have been dying to bake something, since we haven’t done any baking in over a week, but I really didn’t have the energy to completely destroy the kitchen with three bundles of fun. Plus, I put away their aprons accidentally into a box for storage. 

Sooooo, what’s a Mum to do? Check the pantry to see what we can scrounge together is what THIS Mum does! I found various melt able chocolate chips, sprinkles, broken candy canes and mini marshmallows, so naturally, I decided we’d make some delicious bark! 


Bonus points because I made our elf deliver it! Two birds with one stone, folks. If you can, do it!

The kids were pretty jazzed, but I wasn’t too fond of the idea of having no aprons while dealing with stainable chocolate et al. Gah! Why did I pack the aprons away??? 

So I did the only natural thing…I rifled through my DiSaStEr of a sewing area and found a huge piece of stretchy, knit, non-fraying fabric. Perfect for some kind of quick and (soon-to-be) dirty no-sew, one piece aprons! 

Armed with a crayola marker and a fleeting idea, I drew out a quick apron pattern on the wrong side of the fabric and crossed my fingers. (I don’t have an official pattern here because I sort of just fly by the seat of my pants when I get creative. It’s as daring as I get! 

Turned out that the creation I came up with worked beautifully for what I needed. I adjusted the length for each of the kids, tied them on so we could get to work!

Finished product looks ok. Not stunning but gets the job done! I cut out an extra strip of fabric to tie around their middles. 

Cut-out apron for baby bird (taken after she’d worn it…hence the chocolate stains!)


This is the general pattern I used. Not much to it!! Feel free to copy if you are like me and only sew with a limited amount of prep work!

Now, back to the bark. I’ve always been a purist and melted the chocolate on the stove, but this year, for the sake of time, I tried the microwave technique. It worked perfectly! Sooo, we started with melted chocolate chips, spread out into parchment lined dishes. After we had some nice spreading going on, I gave each kiddo a wood skewer and a few lobs of melted white chocolate for them to swirl. 


Even a two year old can make this beautiful!

Then, because we had them, we added blobs of melted blue candy melts! 


They look surprisingly cute!

After this, we went crazy (CRAAAAAAAZY) with sprinkles! 


Sooooo many sprinkles! Soooo many marshmallows! 

They were so proud and couldn’t wait to grab a piece! 

Lookin’ sugary! 

I will say that sometimes you have to get messy to make memories. Heck, our house is testament to that every day of our lives! But, it’s nothing to stress over. Just go with the flow, run with it. Everything will work out fine! If you can get away with ‘no-bake’ baking, do it! Same with no-sew sewing! Makes everything super easy and fun!! 

Enjoy the chaos that are the holidays, whichever one(s) you celebrate!  


Other ideas? Pop ’em up! 

Elf on the Shelf Inspiration!

A couple years ago, our two oldest were gifted an elf on the shelf. For those who are unfamiliar, the elf (aka creepy, dead-eyed, stick-thin plastic and fabric doll) comes to keep tabs on the members on the house by day and travels to the North Pole at night to report to Santa. Nobody can touch the elf or (s)he loses its magic and needs to recuperate in the North Pole for a few days. (Oh, am I hoping for someone to touch him this year!!).  Every day, the elf is watching from a new vantage point…at least this was the initial idea. Cute, right? Well…..

Somewhere along the way, Elf on the Shelf went berserk and started doing crazy things, sometimes naughty, and/or providing things for excited-for-Christmas kids to do. Every. Single. Day. For 24 days. 

I’m sorry to say we fell into the trap of doing fun things with our elf (which Moose named Chunky) the first year. Now we are on year 3, and to be honest, it’s getting a wee bit daunting to come up with things for this stuffed toy to do. Our space is VERY limited so many of the ideas I’ve seen can’t really work with us, so we’ve had to get pretty creative. I thought I’d put some of the shenanigans Chunky has done in the last 3 years here in case someone is looking for yet another exciting idea for their own elf to do. Please, PLEASE add any outside the box ideas in the comments…its only the sixth day and I’m grasping this year. I have a few more things planned (including the Christmas Eve box that Chunky always brings before leaving until next year, and the letter with a map of a route to take to look for Christmas lights in our jammies after bathtime one night), but more ideas are more than welcome! 

Anyway, here are some of the silly things our elf has gotten into! Hope it can inspire any elf owners out there! 

Chunky somehow managed to get new pairs of mittens inside of a balloons! How delightful (this is what they are waking up to. I’m waking up to horrendously sore fingers from messing with these balloons)

He braved the chilly night air to surprise the kiddos with some outdoor decorations! Wow, that elf is selfless!

Felt scraps cut into geometric shapes make for fun creative play! Ahhh, what a fun way to use up scraps.

Chunky has some sick obsession with underpants. Here is an underpants swing/hammock. Moose had a chat with the elf about the fact that there was a shortage of underpants pranks thus far this year.

We don’t typically have sugary cereal so 2 years ago, they were totally convinced that these were ‘elf cheerios’. #momwin

Baking adventures are always a great hit! If you’re going to bake with them anyway, have the elf bring the ingredients. Everyone wins!

Slap some food colouring in the milk for a crazy morning surprise! Frankly, it looks disgusting but they LOVE it. We did green Year 1 and purple Year 2…

This one I have seen before…turning everyone into Rudolph (this was year 1. For year 2, we added moustaches)

Another year 1 online find: candy cane zip line! This one was done in haste when the whole family had a stomach virus and sick-as-a-dog Mum had to do something last minute.

Always include an elf in the bathroom day!

Because clearly I’m not busy enough, I helped Chunky write a book for Moose and tiny Baby Bird during Year 1. We still read it often.

Styrofoam balls in the living room. This was an all-out riot! Nobody was injured, they practiced their hand-eye coordination?? Maybe??

Oh yay. Something for Mum to scrub off the mirror. 😐

Teeny tiny pancakes for breakfast. Cute but time consuming!! They ate every bite though.

This one I’ve seen a hundred times. Year 2 excitement when Moose and Bird were in love with the Minions.

If you feel like wasting lots and lots of wrapping paper…have at ‘er!

Yes, Chunky got all crafty and crocheted them dolls last year. Year 1, he made them hats.

Again with the undies…flying from the ceiling fan.

Decorating with Post-it notes…not just for office pranks anymore! (Although lots fell off the wall)

Snap, Crackle, Chunky? Took them ages to find him!

Cans of stuff they won’t eat make a cool drum set!

Oh Chunky, it’s called ROCK climbing, not SOCK climbing! A good way to replace socks, mitts, etc…let the blasted elf bring them!

Itty bitty doughnuts (aka Cheerios in icing sugar, cinnamon, chocolate and sprinkles)


Store-bought gingerbread house/family/train/whatever kits! Easy, they love it. 
Some other things we’ve done and o can’t find the pics:

-Scavenger hunt for Christmas ornaments that have been hidden

-Various craft kits

– elf colours (or if mum/dad is too lazy or strapped for time, scribbles) in Christmas colouring book and puts completed pages all over the house

-crayons and blow dryer on canvas craft

-string lights in the kids’ bedrooms

-writing letters to Santa: paper, crayons, stickers, etc put into mailbox to use 

-elf takes selfies with sleeping family members and prints off pics (or just sets wallpaper on tablet/phone)

-elf goes onto the ‘elf yourself’ app and makes a video of the whole family dressed as elves. 

There are so many more! As I get time, I’ll add more! Please let me know your awesome ideas! I need more!!

Alright, time to sleep before they come charging out of bed, searching for Chunky!
-K.

I will always read to you.


We are a household of readers. We enjoy books; in fact, we have a pretty impressive collection of many genres that adorn shelves, baskets, magazine holders, totes and boxes around our house. I married a reader whose collection of series of novels would rival some of the local smaller libraries. We read to our kids before they were born. Storytime is a pivotal part of their bedtime routine and has been since our oldest came home from the hospital.

We visit bookstores, book sales, libraries (let’s end our local library strike!!!) as a family, and we always are able to find something new to enjoy. And we ALWAYS make time for reading.


Sharing one of his favourites with his little sister.

We’ve made an outdoor reading nook, Baby Bird has a little castle tent in her room that she’s converted to her ‘reading area’ (she’s 2), we make pillow forts for sharing books inside. And we never say no to reading to our kids. Never.


Outdoor reading nook.

It doesn’t matter what’s happening, (save for mealtimes and the middle of the night) if someone asks to be read to, we will oblige. We make sure that one of us is available at all times from after school until bedtime. Nothing connects us as a family more than sharing in a good book with each other. I’m already dreading the day that they will want to read their own books to themselves, by themselves. 

I’ve been asked so many times how we incorporate reading into everyday life with kids, outside of a formal story/reading time. I initially didn’t have a response since it’s just kind of how we live but once I actually thought about it, we kind of do reading things all the time! Here are but a few!

When we go out, we are reading. We play word games to pass the time at restaurants with menus (who can find the word ‘eggs’ first? Who can see an uppercase J? Et cetera). We spell words using Cheerios, sugar packets, crayons on the backs of kids menus, whatever we can get our hands on.

We compare prices on signs in stores, we read street signs, we have scavenger hunts during walks or shopping trips. We make reading a game, almost always.

While waiting at the dentist or doctor’s office, we write messages to each other on paper or the iPad. We search for sight words in magazines. We do MadLibs. We LOVE MadLibs! 


MadLibs on the iPad. Ridiculous reading fun!

When we go grocery shopping with the kids, the asking for frivolous things is brought to a minimum by only allowing things on the list we make to be purchased. If they want something, they need to put it on the list before we leave the house. 

We read books with silly words, books that use words like ‘fart’ and ‘stupid’. Always a big hit!

 

Little boys love their potty humour! Haha!

Now that our oldest is 5, he’s a pretty great reader. He loves reading to his sisters and will drop everything if they ask for a story. It’s one of those things that make a Momma swoon. I can only hope this continues. He’s already asked if he can be the one to read his sisters their bedtime stories now. Absolutely, buddy! 


Bedtime reading that makes this Mum’s heart skip a beat.

Reading is, quite literally, everywhere. It is engrained in our world. For some, reading is a daunting task but if you turn anything into a game, even struggling readers will be more interested! We have tested out some amazing apps that showcase reading at different levels and they can be an incredible tool also! The Endless Reader app, for example, taught our oldest, then 2, to read all of his basic sight words! We were amazed! You never know what you might find!

Let me know in the comments how you use simple fun activities to incorporate reading into your lives. I love to hear new fun ideas to try with our troupe! 

K.

Something Old…


When you think about it…I mean really think about it, how many times does a child wear a particular outfit? Play with that gotta-have-it toy? If you have kids and your house is anything like our land of chaos, the answer is, undoubtedly, ‘not much’. They may have a favourite shirt or hoodie that sees a bit more skin time but the vast majority of clothes are outgrown before they are really worn to their full potential. Hand-me-downs sometimes work but not always. And to go buy new clothes when they’ve outgrown their new-school-year wardrobe in just over a month, can get pricey! 
No. Thank. You. 
We are a very environmentally conscious family for the most part, so any chance to repurpose perfectly good old stuff is pretty much what we do, including what we wear!  It’s also very safe to say that you could consider me a ‘thrifty’ shopper (read: I’m a big cheapskate). You will rarely find our family in a mainstream store to purchase something new. In fact, thinking about it, every item of clothing that is being worn by a person in our quiet, sleep-dust-filled house right now has either been handed down from friends, thrifted or gifted. The only ‘new’ clothes you could find in our house are those bought by my Mom for the kiddos during special one-on-one shopping days. (Thanks Memaw!)

Moose and Bird with Memaw…99% thrifted outfits for family photos!

If you aren’t a thrifter, I know what you’re thinking (because at one time I thought the same way): ‘there’s NO WAY I’d wear someone else’s old stuff. Gross. Seriously, until I had a teaching job that required me to dress to the 9’s while being paid in the 2’s, I’d never stepped foot into a thrift store but after one trip, and 3 beautiful outfits, I was hooked.


It’s also very very (almost annoyingly) common to be stopped everywhere we go by people commenting on our kids’ choice of clothing. They are typically baffled when I let them know where their put-together looks originated. Some folks are disgusted, some intrigued but all are essentially shocked at the finds we can make when we really try!


Everything but the drink is repurposed here!



She’s by far our most adventurous dresser! 


Combo hand-me-down and second-hand getup!

Plus, I don’t want to be concerned with my kids ‘messing up their clothes’. If I paid full price for any of their getups, I’d be a crazy tyrant about staying clean and not ruining their clothes. This way, I couldn’t care less if they are wearing a sport coat or fancy dress while splashing in puddles or rolling logs over to search for worms in their Sunday best. Ha! It only cost me $0.50…what do I care??


Adventuring in the forest! 
There’s something so exciting about searching in a second-hand store for that perfect item of clothing–and then finding it! Then to look at the price tag–magical! But there are also a few tips and tricks for shopping second hand that we have discovered. 
1) Allot a good chunk of time for searching. There are times when it is necessary to really search for something in the perfect size or colour. I just went through it with finding MATCHING BURGUNDY FREAKING BUTTON-DOWNS WITH CREAM KNIT SWEATERS for family photos. Sounds easy but, ermmmm, nope. Not really! I made sure I wasn’t in a rush and went back a few days after the first trip to finish finding it all . Don’t expect to find that perfect item in the first minute. If it happens, then good on ya, but chances are it’ll be a search! 

2) Know what you are looking for. It’s SO MUCH EASIER for you if you know what you are searching for. If you are looking for a plain red t-shirt rather than just a shirt, you are narrowing down your focus and the time you need to search suddenly plummets. Try to narrow down your focus to as specific as possible and search only for that type of item. If you are looking for size 10 jeans, then ONLY look at size 10 jeans, especially if you are short on time!


3) Be picky! There’s just such a variety that it’s easy to grab the first thing that you see. Remember to check to make sure no buttons/snaps are missing and that any zippers work. Check for stains and snags, with kids stuff, especially baby items, check around the neck areas for subtle staining. Check the knees and other common areas for wear. 

4) If you are going to get shoes, look for obvious signs of wear. We’ve been so lucky to find virtually all of our kids’ shoes at second-hand stores brand new, never worn and in perfect condition. Remember that shoes usually mold to the wearer’s feet so it’s probably not a great idea to grab previously worn footwear that’s obviously been well-loved.

5) Think outside the typical outfit! Sometimes it can be a challenge to put a style together but for the lower (aka CHEAP) prices at these places, you can afford to take a clothing risk! 

I could go on and on and on….but I’ll leave it at that!

Thrifting isn’t for everyone, I totally get that, but I honestly despise shopping at 10 different t places to get what I need. I also am not a fan of the ‘canned’ outfits that are in stores for kids. Sure they are cute, but I’m good with having my kiddos come up with their own unique looks that suit their personalities! With the number of comments they get, clearly something must be working! 

So if you’ve got the time, I’d recommend taking a little trip to a second hand store and checking it out! It can be a lot of fun and you never now what treasures you’ll find! 

K.

Happy Places (or, Get Outta Here)

This morning was one of THOSE mornings. One of those mornings where crawling back into bed Or maybe making a big pillow fort to hide in seem like splendid options. 

Moose has been sick for a few days, and today was his first day back. I put him onto the bus sobbing for his Mum. Poor guy. Baby Bird decided that her hearing would be sporadic and that the living room was her dojo. Oy. Sprout is amidst her first fall cold. Good times. We have been cooped up for 4 days. They are getting obnoxious, whiny and are craving more and more screen time and junk food. So am I. But Moose is at school now, Baby Bird is at the sitter, Sprout is napping and Mum needs a coffee. And her happy place.

We all have a happy place, I’d like to think. When you go there, or think about going there, your inner core just seems to settle and things are instantly a bit better. You’re thinking about your place right now, aren’t you? You’re welcome.

For some, your happy place might be a fictional place used for meditation, for others a favourite vacation or childhood memory place. For me, it’s much more general. As long as I can be outside and find some semblance of nature, I’m golden. My kids seem to be this way too. Want instant calm? Behaviours to turn around in a second? Let’s go outside. 

Being a teacher, I’ve seen this time and again with students. The busiest little bodies in a classroom get so much out of learning outdoors!  It’s surprising and a little sad whenever I do a start-of-year survey and so many kids cannot recall the last time that they spent any time outdoors except for recess at school. I would lose my marbles if cooped up all day, every day. My kids would too! 

I get that going outside can be intimidating, especially if being outside isn’t your ‘happy place’, but there’s something very magical that happens when you set kids free in an area to explore. Our area has been decimated of most things nature, but, being an unabashed nature nerd, I know where a few great places still are. We set a couple key rules (stay on the trail, no touching plants, stay where we can see you) and off we go! It works for us! If you want ideas about how to get your kids outdoors, drop me a message!


We have a tiny yard with two big maple trees in front. We’ve made the best of this are to optimize exploration in a pinch as well! Our schedule is hectic so many nights, this is as far as we get!

Drinking from the hose.

Distracted by passing birds while playing in the ‘mud garden’ 

Sketching things we’d like to put on canvas!


Searching for worms and other critters under rocks!

My happy place isn’t glamorous but it is accessible and its all I need. Plus it’s all my kids need most days too! You can bet that tonight we will indulge in an outdoor picnic and a walk through the neighbourhood to enjoy all the changing leaves before martial arts! It’ll be good for all of us! 

Where is your happy place? If you don’t have one, I’d be happy to share mine! There’s plenty to go around! Have a great day!

K.