Art with a Baby

I don’t always have my $h!t together. In fact, most days I feel like I’m running a marathon without shoes on (and I only have one kid…how do the mothers with more than one kid do it?!). But sometimes, I impress myself. Therefore, it is worthy of a blog post.

One of my “mom goals” is to do some kind of art activity with DK every month. When I was a kid, my mom sent homemade calendars to my grandparents every Christmas of our artwork and photos of us doing art. It was a nice keepsake, and I actually got my calendars back from my paternal grandparents when they both had passed away.

In January, I started documenting DK’s artistic growth by doing a monthly art project. Obviously, at 6 months…his artistic talent is limited and probably will still be limited at 12 months, so I’m not sure what kind of “growth” we will even see. But hey, at least we will see his footprints and handprints grow over the year. I hope to do a monthly art activity for the calendars over many years, so that one day he can look back and see how he just smeared paint around with his feet at 7 months…but at 3 he was painting with a brush.

Spoiler warning: If you are DK’s grandparent, you may wish to stop reading now…or you won’t be as surprised as you could be Christmas 2017.

Here are my art activities so far:

  1. January

I took an idea from Pinterest and put a sheet of paper in a ziploc bag, added some finger paints, taped the bag to the floor and let DK smoosh it around during tummy time. He mostly liked scratching the bag with his nails, which I’ll admit made me second guess this whole “mess-free finger painting” claim from the Pinterest mommy blog. Would his tiny baby nails pierce the plastic and smear paint  all over his hands? With the stealth of a cheetah would he put his paint-covered fingers in his mouth before I could stop him?

The good news is that Ziploc lived up to its name and kept that paint zipped and locked inside, despite the scratching.

DK also didn’t cry and moan in protest of being on his tummy, so I consider this art project a success.

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2. February

As Valentine’s is fast approaching, I thought we’d do a Valentine’s themed painting with DK’s footprints in bright red paint. Perhaps one of my most genius ideas was to do it with him in his Exersaucer Doorway Jumper. This way, his hands were nowhere near the paint, meaning his mouth was nowhere near the paint.

While his feet were already covered in finger paint from the footprints, I got out a big sheet of paper, taped it to the floor with some masking tape and dipped his feet in some more finger paint. He loved smearing it around on the paper!

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For clean up, I made sure I had a wet cloth nearby to wipe up any paint splatters that got on the floor, and I prepped a mixing bowl of warm water. When he was done painting, I put his feet in the water to splash around a bit, which he also loved. So clean up was mostly just wiping up a few water splashes and drying off his feet.

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Stay tuned for future art projects with DK!

 

 

Sous-Vide Save

I’ll admit, at first the concept of cooking meat in a plastic bag at bathwater temperature grossed me right out. How will I  not get food poisoning? But then my husband asked for a sous-vide cooker for Christmas, and as he is the world’s hardest person to buy for, I bought the Anova Culinary PCB-120US-K1 Bluetooth Precision Cooker from Amazon and hoped for the best.

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But now, after trying sous-vide cooked meat, I am a convert – and not just because my husband now cooks dinner. This thing is amazing for busy families.

Basically, it’s a heating element that attaches to the side of a big pot full of water. It heats the water and keeps it at a consistent temperature. You put your food down in the water in an airtight bag (I use ziploc) and set the temperature (for example, 150F for Chicken breast). It takes about an hour to cook chicken breast at that temperature, but it doesn’t overcook it if say, your kid is having a huge temper tantrum and you’re knee deep in tears. You can even cook it ahead of time and then put it in cold water once it is done to hang out and wait until you’re ready to eat it. Once you’re 3 minutes away from eating, all you have to do is pull it out of the bag and sear it in a frying pan or on the grill on under the broiler to crisp it up a bit and voila – delicious, juicy but not stewy meat. I season/marinade the meat right in the bag. So far I’ve made chicken breast, chicken thighs, steak, and eggs and the results have been flawless every time.

In my home, the hours between 4:30 and 7 are chaos. It’s impossible to cook anything, so we are either starting to cook dinner after DK goes to sleep and eating at 8:30 (too late for me) or I’m eating over the sink before I start bedtime routine before my husband is even home. With the sous-vide, it makes it easy to do the prep earlier in the day during naptime, put it in the sous-vide before we start winding DK down for bed, and then finishing the dish off with a sear and a side salad once DK is asleep.

 

 

Getting Baby to Sleep

*Warning, this post is a bit contentious – and I’m firmly in the attachment parenting camp.*

It seems like I have two choices: sleep train using the cry it out method or co-sleep. Parents who have tried it all claim that those are the only two options that work.

I’m a new mom, so maybe in six more months, I’ll also be trumpeting the “those are the only things that work” mantra – but surely they can’t be the only things that work? Right? (*cue cricket chirp*)

Right now DK is 6 months old and he sleeps in his own crib a few feet from our bed in our room. I like it this way. He’s close enough to see and I think we both feel more secure this way. It’s not exactly co-sleeping (I love my pillow and blankets too much to co-sleep safely), but he’s also not alone in his own room.

We have a bedtime routine, ending most nights with me snuggling him until he’s asleep, at which time I transfer him to his crib. He sleeps from about 6:30 pm to 11:30 pm, gets up to breastfeed and then most nights he goes back to sleep until 5:30 am. It works for me, I can’t complain. And yet I have this nagging feeling that I need to teach him how to put himself to sleep and self-soothe and if I don’t, bad sleep regressions will happen. Maybe it’s because all of my friends sleep train their kids, so I feel like I need to follow the crowd and do it too…but I just want to take a moment to stand up and say NO. I don’t want to let my baby cry it out.  And here’s why:

  • DK is just now discovering the joys of peek-a-boo. He doesn’t understand that when I cover my face with a towel that I am just behind the towel. He doesn’t understand that when I leave the room, I’m just next door and will come back. He sees me gone and thinks I am gone. Letting him cry it out alone in his crib isn’t teaching him to self-soothe. It’s teaching him that no one is coming for him. That he is all alone. What a heartbreaking thing for anyone, not just a baby, to learn.
  • Neuroscience research has taught us that infant brains have very few neural connections but that by age two they have thousands of neural connections (Narvaez, 2011). I love taking Devon out to experience the world, see new things. I want to raise a child who is curious about the world. Even though he won’t remember the trip we took to the aquarium, his brain is growing and making connections and I believe the experience at the aquarium is a formative experience that will impact how he interacts with the  world. Sleep training is the same – sure the sleep training gurus say that he won’t remember being sleep trained, but the experience of being left alone in a room, crying with no one coming to help him or comfort him is a formative experience that impacts how DK will interact and trust others throughout his life. If I said “no, sleep training is fine, it’s not a formative experience”, then I might as well also say that going outside, playing with toys or seeing my smile are also non-formative experiences for DK and that therefore I shouldn’t bother since he won’t remember. The logic just doesn’t follow.
  • There’s a reason that it is so difficult to hear your child cry and not respond…it’s not part of our innate human biology. When you think that for most of human history we lived in the bushes and had to worry about predators, it makes no survival sense to let an infant cry, alerting all the lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) to the location of a delicious meal.
  • Remember when we thought second-hand smoke was just fine? Now we know better but that can’t undo the damage second-hand smoke caused. That’s how I feel about sleep training. The studies that have been done aren’t very scientifically reliable (Narvaez, 2014). We don’t know enough yet about the long term effects of sleep training, but the experience can’t be undone. It may be long-term pain for short-term gain and I’m not willing to take that chance with my son’s mental health. I’m by no means a perfect mom, and I’m sure there are a lot of ways  I will  unintentionally  traumatize my child…but I’m not going to do it intentionally through sleep training.
  • Why do we have kids? I had DK for many reasons but one is to put a responsible, caring, curious human being on this planet. Sometimes the world is so dark, I wonder why bring a perfect little light into it only to have it extinguished by greed, hatred, violence etc. But maybe my little light is going to be the light that solves poverty. Or brings peace. Or finds a cure. I want DK to grow up feeling that he matters. That his actions influence others and that others influence him. I don’t want him to ever feel like he can only count on himself, that he can’t rely on the support of his family, his friends, his community. But I worry that sleep training teaches him that he is alone and he can only rely on himself. That no one out there will comfort him. What a terrible and unnecessary lesson to learn.
  • I look to the example set by the parents of adults I admire. They didn’t sleep train and their kids turned out to be wonderful, kind, caring, generous, ambitious, independent, curious, loving adults. Case closed.

As I mentioned above, a lot of my friends believe in the power of sleep training. And they have been in the trenches a lot longer than me. I do not mean for this blog post to upset them. These women are wonderful mothers and I respect them a lot for all the love they give their kids. Motherhood is not easy and we each know our kids best. I just know that sleep training is not for me and it’s not for Devon. And if any other mothers out there feel similarly, reach out to me. We can encourage one another and together find workable solutions that don’t involve crying it out.

Flea Market Style

In September I joined a moms group. One week we talked about mom fashion and finding our true style. I took a style quiz and it emerged that my style is classic with a little bit of whimsical. Yes, that sounds like me. I’d never in a million years wear a loud patterny bright shirt; I stick to basics in a striped or solid: navy, grey, black, burgundy, plum, cream, white. But look closely at my classic grey tee with navy cardigan and jeans and you will see that I am, in fact, wearing Lion King earrings. 

My home decor style is similar. I like to have a cozy home with classic patterns and colours (navy blue, cream, grey, burgundy) but with a little bit of whimsy in every room. I secretly/not-so-secretly love wandering through flea markets, consignment shops, antique malls and thrift stores for things for my home. I’m a sucker for a kitschy little trinkets to add some whimsy to my decor and I have to be careful not to accumulate too many or it stops being unique and starts being hoarder-style-weird. For examples, here are a few of my favourite pieces:

In our bathroom we have this frosted window that looks into the nursery. I’ve put this picture of these ladies frolicking on the beach, to go with our classic white monogrammed towels.
I love plaid. I love navy blue and beige. I also love this snail throw pillow I got online through Society 6.
My beloved cat, painted by my grandma in ceramics class in the 80s. As a little girl, I loved this cat so much that I asked my grandma to write my name on the bottom of it so I would get it when she dies. My grandma is still very much alive, but she sent me this cat a few years ago and I just love it.
On one side of my mantle, some classic black and white photographs (my husband and I, newly engaged; a candid photo of my other grandparents at their wedding), an owl figurine and two dancing figurines also painted by my grandmother, also given to me.
The other side of my mantle includes some family photos, some more owl figurines and some pear candles.
Imagine my delight when we moved into this house and haphazardly placed in the kitchen backsplash are these beautiful Redwoods tiles.
My favourite object is this little shrivelled pepper, carved out of wood and wearing a green dinner jacket. It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen. It made me laugh so hard, tears were streaming down my face while I stood in the aisle at my local Goodwill. I named him “My only friend” and he’s just the most hilarious trinket I’ve ever seen. I love him so much, I got him a pet whale bottle opener with the same facial expression.


My good friend Sarah likes refinishing furniture as a hobby and is always on the lookout for some new pieces to work on. We’ve been meaning to check out the San Jose flea market for a while now, and since I have my new goal of checking out a new place every week, I thought I’d see if she wanted to head there Sunday morning.

It was not what we were expecting at all. Mostly booths of new items, no antiques or furniture, and only a handful of used-treasure boutiques. I was expecting something like Calgary’s Crossroads flea market or Portobello road, but it reminded me more of the open air bazaars I saw in Guatemala. Definitely cool to visit, but I’m not really in the market for what was being sold. 

But we did check it out and had a great time doing so! Next we are going to head to Antiques Colony in San Jose to see if it’s more like what we had in mind. 

Hopefully we will find a true flea market to wander through in the Bay Area! I’m on the hunt for an interesting soap dispenser for my back bathroom.

Celebrate the Rain

It is so easy for the weather to affect your mood. I know that back in Canada, if you didn’t stay positive and focus on the wonderful aspects of winter, you’d feel blue the minute the clock struck midnight on January 2nd, ending the white Christmas holidays and beginning the bleak slog through January, February and March. 

Here in Silicon Valley, the weather is amazing all year long. It rarely gets below 10 degrees Celsius and with the drought happening the past 4 years, winter means sunny with a chance of showers about 15 days/year. 

This year we are definitely getting more rainfall than anything I’ve seen since moving here 2.5 years ago. A few weeks of grey, rainy days and you’re bound to be moody. 

Over the holidays my wonderful mother-in-law told me how growing up on the farm, rain was something to celebrate. Rainy day blues didn’t exist. When she was raising my husband in town, she was determined to continue to celebrate rain and make sure her kids enjoyed rainy days just as much as sunny days. They would go for walks in the rain, splashing in puddles and looking for worms. 

In thinking about this more, I remember my mom doing something similar – at least once on a rainy day, we went for a picnic – in our living room! It probably was no big deal. My mom probably just pulled some leftovers out of the fridge, threw them in a backpack and sat with us on the floor while we ate cold macaroni one rainy day when she was losing her mind with cooped up toddlers – but it is a special memory of a rainy day. 

It does not rain often in California, so when it does, I want to celebrate it with Devon and take him outside to enjoy it. So in the spirit of adventure, we went for our morning walk and rejoiced in the rain!