Abby – A Glimpse at 20 Months

And just like that, another month has slipped away. During those first sleep-deprived months where each agonizing day seemed to drag for an eternity, these joyfully-hectic months seem to be over before they’ve begun.

Poor Abby hasn’t had much face time on here lately – mostly because I’m that mother; you know, the one who never takes pictures of her child anymore. I’ve always heard that the second child draws the short straw; time is limited with two children around and so the second baby is unlikely to have more than a few mementos between birth and graduation. Typically enough, the first months of Abby’s life were intimately documented (both in print and paper). There are pictures of first baths, second baths, and third baths. Every smile, grimace, and sneeze was captured in some state. But these days, she’s just a blur in front of the lens. Her activity, though, I think is only half of the story; when I was in my last year of university (and in the throes of Facebook and keeping up with the social media Jones’), I felt the need to document every single event. One afternoon, on a beach with a few of my nieces, I had an epiphany. Instead of capturing all these moments on film (well, memory card by this point), why didn’t I just live the moment, with a few photos scattered through the day for good measure. That motto has come full circle again; when Abby was a wee babe in arms, I could interact just as well through a camera lens it seemed…but these days, being present in those special moments just seems to trump my desire to get another blurry picture of her pony tails as she zooms by.

Never fear, grandparents…there are a few new pictures below for your viewing pleasure, and a quick recap of the last month in Abby’s life.

We had our first snow this week and Abby loved playing outside in the white stuff, although boots and mittens do cramp her style!

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Another big first this month – the start of “daycare/preschool.” Abby is going to spend one day every few weeks with a dear lady from our church. She had her first morning of fun this week, and it was quite the effort to tear her away from her “ironing” when it was time to leave. The lunchbox is really what kills me though – she was so proud of her bag, and insisted on carrying it everywhere. Too cute, and she looks so mature!

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A rundown of 20 Months:

Her Mood: We get comments quite frequently about Abby’s happy demeanor, and she is an absolute sweetheart. But girl has serious personality and spunk (inherited from her mother), so I think we can say with certainty that she has entered the “terrible-two” stage. She is easily frustrated and reverts to whining when she doesn’t get her way. Amazingly she has never tried to bite or aggressively strike out at us, which I was warily anticipating. We use time-outs a few times a week, and stern voices; she reacts to both moderately well!

Her Motor Skills: She is at such a fun stage! She runs full tilt; she spins, she jumps, she climbs. She has some pretty talented tiny hands too, colouring up a storm (apricot is her favourite colour, of all things!), reading books, opening and closing box lids and most toys she encounters. She’s getting quite good at stacking blocks and attempting some puzzles as well too. I loved these pictures (blurry, and clearly showing how desperately I need to sweep my floors) of her playing with a keyboard Daddy was discarding. She was so excited to sit down and feel each little key with her tiny digits.

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Her Sleeping: We are still happily reaping the benefits of sleep training. While not everyone’s cup of tea, I don’t regret those few rough days of tears at all. Abby sleeps from 7pm-7am, and naps from 1:00-3:30ish (give or take an hour or so). She has been taking longer to fall asleep at night, which I hear is normal at this age. She sings songs, talks to her stuffed animals, and recites her colours (at the TOP of her lungs) until she lulls herself to sleep, and same thing if she wakes up early in the morning. She has a special blankie (from Aunt Kathy Oliver), a soother (her one vice), and whatever crew of stuffed animals she decides to carry along with her.

Her Eating: This has been all over the board this month. When she’s teething, food consumption plummets (sometimes to a tablespoon of food at a meal). My tact is pretty simple: she eats what we eat, but only as much as she wants. I don’t try to force feed or hide extra food in something more appetizing (though I try to make sure there is something that I know she likes at each meal). When she does eat well, she DEVOURS the offered dessert. She has a huge sweet tooth, but I’m okay with that because she gets it in limited quantities (and never gets juice). Favourite foods include: yogurt, applesauce and cheese (staples for most toddlers I think!), potatoes, beets, peas, pineapple, bananas, blueberries, hummus/chickpeas, corn, eggs, fried rice, ice cream and Oreos (see below).

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Her Vocabulary: Words, words, words. You are always talking, and this month you really started putting some great sentences together. Things like “all done now Mama,” “help please,” “I want a____.” You can recognize various numbers and letters by sight; you know all traditional animals by name, and a few others (like beaver and platypus). You have just started to sing songs (“joy, joy, joy, down heart”) in the last few weeks, and like to recite nursery rhymes that go something like this: “round, mulberry bush, monkey chase weasel, fun, pop da weasel.” She knows abstract things like “scarey,” “cold,” “be careful.”

Miscellaneous: Abby still refuses to sit down for baths, but tolerates them quite well as long as she can stand up. She can follow so many “commands” now like putting away her toys outside (she has to line them up JUST so), and recognizes every room in the house by name and can toddle there if she’s asked. She is great around the Christmas tree – hasn’t tried to touch it once.

Her Likes: She loves giving kisses and colouring. She likes music and will bounce to the beat. She is very affectionate (at least in an abstract way) about other people, calling them by name if we drive by their house, getting excited before church  or a play date. She loves being chased and tickled; she LOVES playing on the guest bed and bouncing on the mattress. Abby loves to watch The Number Train or Thomas the Tank Engine (a special treat once or twice a week);  playing outside, playing with zippers/boxes/blocks/books/dry pasta…you name it, she usually likes to play with it.

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Her Dislikes: Being told no, eating if she’s teething, sitting in her stroller too long. Her biggest dislike – if she sees John and I hugging/kissing or showing any degree of affection; she starts balling and wants to snuggle right away.

Our little snuggle bun, love sweet, bubba, dumpling – dear, sweet Abby. Here’s to another great month!

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I’ll Have a Frugal Christmas

I love everything about the upcoming Christmas holiday and I suspect the majority of my posts from here on out will have some connection to the Christmas theme. I apologize in advance to any real-life Scrooge’s out there. The warm glow of twinkly lights, smell of pine needles and romance of freshly fallen snow is just too much for my weak psyche to resist. And cute babies…yes, incredibly, babies are even cuter at Christmas.

Every year when this time rolls around I succumb to the bittersweet nostalgia (does that make me sound old? I’m not even 30 yet) of Christmas past, and settle into a “nesting” phase not unlike that which attacked before Abby was born. Ornaments must hang just so and special mementos take their familiar place on our shelf. Each year, when certain Christmas traditions re-enter our lives, I’m struck by how quickly time passes. Like the (original) Grinch that Stole Christmas – I only watch it once a year, and every.single.year when I see it, I could swear it was only a matter of a few weeks that had passed. I love that. Being sentimental is just a way of life for me, and I love to reminisce about Christmases growing up which were, in many ways, of the Hallmark variety.

What makes that comment all the more special – our Christmases were virtually “perfect”, yet my parents never had much excess money for presents. So my fond memories of Christmas revolve around traditions and caroling and church pageants, not around toys and fancy gadgets. I read a statistic recently that the average Canadian spends about $750 on Christmas gifts. That’s a whole lotta molah. And while we might have a bit more to spare than my parents did back in the day…we still put considerable effort into keeping the financial burden to a minimum. Here are just a few of our ideas.

1. Limit Gift Giving

Maybe the simplest tactic of all. Take a long, hard look at all those sweet folks on your gift-giving list – do they all belong? Sometimes a Christmas card and small stack of cookies will suffice. For other situations, try suggesting a name exchange. This can drastically limit the number of gifts you have to buy (especially in large families) and it means you can afford to splurge and give that one person a much nicer gift than would be possible if your funds were stretched for gift-giving to endless siblings etc.,

2. Buy Early

This is likely my favourite tip because it’s something I fall back on each and every year. Buying early runs deep in my veins; when my sisters would return to the US after their university Christmas Break, they would shuttle back a carload of Christmas gifts. The border guards would always make a crack about them delivering their gifts late (this would have been a week after Christmas). They got some pretty strange looks when they’d tell them…each and every year…that these were actually gifts for the NEXT Christmas, as in 340-some-odd days away, and my parents didn’t want to have to mail them down.

Try keeping a running list of items you’re looking for (when dear hubby mentions something in passing, add it to the list immediately, or you’ll both forget the request). When an item comes on sale or you manage to snag a great coupon (there are limitless websites dedicated to couponing/deal-finding etc – in Canada my favourites are Mrs January and Save a Loonie), buy it. Not only does it save time and energy during the holidays, it spreads the financial stress over the whole year AND will almost inevitably save you money.

The best example is Christmas-related paraphernalia. Don’t forget about the cost of bags and bows and wrapping and cards – these can add up quickly, especially if you’re looking for high quality merchandise. Get things a week after Christmas at 75% off and you’ll be laughing when others are forking out full price the following year. I always pick up some Christmas platters, pretty ornaments and Christmas books too – all make great gifts for friends and family and I get them at a fraction of the cost.

3. Start a tradition.

I give one friend a Christmas ornament every year (which, true to form, I snag for a few bucks heavily reduced after Christmas – sorry Julia, the cat’s out of the bag). Two of my closest friends receive earrings every year. Instead of being boring, I enjoy the thrill of finding the perfect set (at a good price), but am never stressed because I know what I’m going to end up giving them. Every Christmas Eve John and I (and now Abby) exchange a new ornament; again, we buy them right after Christmas the preceding year at a fraction of the cost.

4. Give necessities/consumables

My parents never had an excess of money when we were growing up, but our Christmas stockings were always overflowing. [Don’t let that fool you; one year the only thing I asked for was an alarm clock (I was like 7), and I got the world’s worst alarm clock that they bought at a pawn shop]. We would get a few splurges, but the majority of gifts were necessities. Toothpaste, deodorant, and socks (I have a whole new appreciation for this now – socks are expensive!). Funnily, we would all sit around with our stash of toothpaste and soap and other bathroom paraphernalia and as soon as the gifts were all unwrapped every one of us would trudge to the bathroom and put every last item back under the sink – into the stockpile from which it came. Mom knew the thrill of opening gifts was just as important to us as what was actually inside.

Food items are a nice compromise – a smidgen less personal than underwear, but something sure to be used: I buy John his favourite chocolate bar (Skor), his favourite mustard, some smoked gouda, and usually some specialty cashew or peanut. Nice chocolate, a specialty olive oil…food is a great option.

When we were married I was blessed with THREE wedding showers – my favourite, by far, was one thrown by my sister. She hosted a “household supplies” party, and I’m STILL using some of the items I received: clothespins, matches, pot holders, bucket and mop, dishtowels…think about gifting a new bride with a nice set of oven mitts stuffed with kitchen supplies or a college student a laundry basket with dryer balls, detergent, and some fabric covered hangers.

5. Give gift cards (but be creative)

I love gift cards (or money in general). In fact the hubby and I decided unanimously to request gift cards and money from our wedding guests. Giving a modest sized gift card, along with a few inexpensive extras can be a great, and simple idea. I buy gift cards in bulk when there is a promotion (ie: get store points if you spend $150 on gift cards – Shoppers does this in Canada). A quick Google search would provide far more insightful ideas I’m sure, but off the top of my head:

a) Movie Pack: get a gift card to a local theatre/rental store (do those even exist now) and place it in a popcorn bowl (DollarStore) with a bag of skittles (or candy of your choice), some popcorn seasoning, and a bottle of pop.

b) Shopping card: get a store card and place it inside a fun wallet (you can find these new or gently used at consignment shops for a few dollars) or coin purse (LOVE these ones by Zesty Notion)

c) Clothing store card: buy some socks or a scarf and tuck the card in along with the clothing item

d) Grocery card: buy a small reusable bag and fill it with a grocery list pad, pen, and any other grocery shopping essentials.

6. Think homemade

The explosion of Pinterest has put more than ample crafty/DIY gifts at our fingertips. This is a great way to spread Christmas cheer to the neighbours and bus driver without breaking the bank. A standard batch of cookies is a good start; my sister used small springform pans to make miniature coffee cakes – these were a big hit with pre-school teachers and the like. A lot of it is in the packaging too; have the kids help make homemade tags out of construction paper (and kill two birds with one stone: entertain child -check; complete gift – check…they can make tags whilst you make the cookies).

I make custom framed sayings sometimes – I use Microsoft Office or Photoshop, and print off using the highest quality printer settings.

A caveat to this: time IS money, so homemade projects can quickly become an obsession that just don’t make much sense economically.

7. Give Your Time:

“Get Out of Bed Free Cards” for late bedtimes for the kiddos; give your husband a certificate to vacuum the car; offer to shovel your neighbour’s driveway every Monday in January…

Just a few more things:

Keep track of purchases: it’s easy to keep seeing more and more presents that are so “X”…if you have a list of ideas, work from that and don’t deviate (think shopping with a full tummy and armed with a grocery list vs. shopping on an empty stomach and whimsy)

Set a limit: decide how much you can/want to afford per person, and stay within the budget

Don’t discount used: my sister bought my nephew a gently-used Foosball table one year for Christmas off Kijiji for less than $40. While used gifts are obviously not always appropriate, you can get some things new-and-in-package or for larger items, gently used could be quite appropriate (a children’s play set) at thrift shops of off Kijiji.

This post is getting longer than my list for Santa this year, so I’ll be back later with some specific suggestions of inexpensive gift ideas (until then, here’s a good start for ideas from Jenna’s Journey).

Denmark Adventures: Day 10

I’m determined to finish these Denmark entries before Christmas. The good news – I’m about half-way done. The bad news – I’m only about half-way done.It has been fun, though, to look back at our pictures periodically over the last few months and reminisce about the trip. As always, the sleepless nights and exhausting days aren’t fully portrayed in pictures; but, thankfully, neither are they in memory. For the most part, I forget about when and where Abby was cranky (well, with one notable exception…see below), and just remember how awesome this trip really was…now on with the recap (and exception).

This was our second full Sunday in Copenhagen. Since Tim’s church service didn’t start until 1:00 AND Sunday just happened to be the day for free entrance at a popular museum – the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – we decided to head down and tour the museum before church. Through some communication errors we arrived at promptly at 10:00 (the supposed opening hour), and saw doors were closed until 11:00 AM. We wandered around the downtown for an hour, and then gladly plopped Abby into one of the museum’s complimentary strollers.

Now at another time I’m sure this museum would have been wonderful…but: a) we were pressed for time (had to coordinate public transit schedules + allow for walk time in order to arrive at church) b) Abby HATES being confined c) this was the one building in Copenhagen that did not cater to parents of small children.

The results: Abby was pretty miserable (A) and since Mommy’s mood (B) is positively correlated with Abby’s mood, B=A… therefore B=miserable. Let’s also assume – since it was the case most nights we were there – that Abby had serenaded us for an hour between 3:30-4:30 AM, so we were all exhausted to boot.

Ah well – it can’t all be roses and daisies; there have to be a few bumblebees amidst the petals. A bit of pessimism amidst the optimism. Right?

The museum’s scale was overwhelming, so it was more of a “grazing” tour, since we didn’t have time to stop, ponder, and process all the information. A few highlights:

There were stairs everywhere; in between levels (obviously), but many side rooms had two or even three sub-stories. It was a nightmare with a stroller (we didn’t have the Ergo handy) and would be nearly impossible with a wheelchair.

The highlight of the visit was a glimpse at this Van Gogh that we could have admired all day (Abby was less than impressed although I surreptitiously passed her Teddy Grahams to alleviate some of her ire, away from the gaze of the nearby security guard). It was fascinating to see a characteristic Van Gogh (we saw a few of his other originals while in Copenhagen) in person and the detail of the stroke pattern was exceptional. Also – it’s just plan incredible to stand that close to REAL art; learning in closely, you could see small patches of the canvas that were bare.

A Monet (one of many we saw):

And a Picasso:

A view from the roof:

We ended the tour with some sculptures (I actually didn’t see them because they were on another level and Abby was so “over” the stroller at this point, that I just sent John along with the camera in my stead – we came back the following week and I did get to see them).

Degas: The Little Fourteen Year Old Dancer

Rodin: The Thinker

We raced to the train, and I managed to get to church on time (ahead of Tim actually) while John and Abby headed back to the apartment so she could nap.

This is where things really went downhill. See, Abby generally likes people. Aside from the expected “warming up” period, she historically has enjoyed showing off and being the center of attention. So, we weren’t too concerned to hear 10 or 15 of Tim’s friends were coming over for an afternoon and evening of food and games. Well…we should have been. I have never seen Abby react so badly; she was overwhelmed and crying and throwing fits. She wouldn’t eat, she wouldn’t sleep. It was bizarre, horrifically embarrassing, and not one of my finer parenting moments.

About two hours too late, I took her to the end of the street to play at the park. Away from the bustle of the apartment, she was good as gold (although at this point I was seething at her behaviour, and my own reaction to said behaviour). Unfortunately, it started to rain almost as soon as we arrived at the park, so we couldn’t stay long. Bedtime could not come soon enough, and thankfully she feel asleep quite easily.
And I drowned my parenting woes in a plate of dessert and game of Cranium.

See Day 1&2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9.