Saturday

Favourite Things... the two year old edition


At 2 years old, Zachary clearly knows his likes and dislikes. The boy knows what he wants, which  makes things both easier and more complicated (when he can't have what he wants, or when he wants it!). 

I always like hearing what other people's kiddos of a similar age are interested in. So here are some of our two year old's favourite things these days.... in terms of books, toys, foods, and activities....

Favourite Books:



  • Zac loves interactive books like Tap the Magic TreePress Here, or Playtown
  • Step Gently Out - a beautifully photographed book about bugs & nature
  • You can go to the potty, Everyone Poops... because we're in the midst of potty training, and Zachary LOVES to read all about it (both when sitting on the potty and before bed).
  • Amazing Airplanes - has been a longstanding favourite of Zac's. We take A LOT of plane trips because of our work in the north, and this book has made Zac adore all things plane & airport related. (We actually own 4 books from this series and Zac loves them all)
  • Waiting for Baby... We've been reading this book to Zac since I became pregnant. I think (I hope) it has prepared him a little bit for what's to come. We'll see!
  • Doggies and Go, Dog. Go!

Favourite Bedtime Lullaby:
  • The "stay awake song" aka the lullaby from Mary Poppins. He requests it every night.


  • Otherwise he still requests we sing Jingle Bells before bed.... which feels so wrong this far after Christmas ;)

Favourite Toys:
  • Zachary LOVES his new Play Kitchen. And it's been really fun for us to watch him play so creatively, and to mimic our daily rituals in the most adorable ways... for example, he goes through all the steps to make us pretend cappuccinos and then says "Here, love" as he hands them to us (mimicking what we say to each other when we make each other morning coffees). 
  • Mega Blocks, naturally.
  • Hape Scoot Bike - Zac was given this bike for his 1st birthday but still rides it all over the apartment all day long. We actually bought him this scooter for Christmas, which he loves to be pushed around on but hasn't quite mastered how to ride it independently yet.
  • Brüder garbage/recycling truck. Any Brüder truck/tractor actually - they're incredibly realistic and have so many functioning parts that entertain Zac endlessly. The funniest part about having this truck is that whenever we have our friends over, the men will inevitably gather around it and admire how cool and realistic it is.  And then Zac becomes possessive of his toy because everyone wants to play with it. It's hilarious actually.

Favourite Activities:
  • Playing hide and seek... for hours and hours on end
  • Vacuuming
  • Helping cook/bake in the kitchen. Zachary loves mixing, measuring and anything involving shaping dough into balls or pancakes!
  • Talking to his baby brother inside my belly and "showing him" how he can do things... which  involves lifting my shirt and exposing my belly so that the baby can "watch" him do whatever it is that he's doing ;)
  • Watering the house plants
  • Listening to music... and by music I mean Raffi. (Anyone have any suggestions for other great, and more importantly - tolerable, kids music?)
  • Getting a hold of our iPhones and taking toddler-selfies or looking at photos of himself.
  • Procrastinating bedtime and nap time like his life depends on it. Seriously, this kid tricks me into delaying sleep all the time in the most mischievous (and frankly adorable) ways.

Favourite Foods:
  • If carbs are on the table (bread, pasta, crackers, etc) you can pretty much forget him tasting anything else for the remainder of the meal. We try our best to circumvent this by offering veggies first... sometimes it works ;)
  • Fruit - any fruit, and anything I can blend into a Smoothie.
  • Veggie hot dogs
  • Meat! This boy is such a carnivore! We eat mostly vegetarian but are having to seriously adjust our meal choices because this boy loves meat... and not just any meat, he has expensive taste. His favourites are rack of lamb (which he calls "meat on a stick") and filet mignon. Excusez-moi! At least he still loves tofu.
  • Vegetables are a bit of a struggle... we have intermittent luck with asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cucumber, bell peppers, carrots, peas, mushrooms.... depending on his hunger level (and if I remember to serve it first before other options are available!).
~ * ~


Well there you have it... our boy at two years old,  in a nutshell. Do you have a toddler? If so, please share his or her favourite books/toys/foods if you feel so inclined. I am always looking for inspiration!
oxo
Vanessa.

Friday

New Music: First Aid Kit


Here's some new music from the lovely Swedish folk sisters, First Aid Kit....
First off, a gorgeous animated video for their song Master Pretender, and then a beautiful cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "America".

Enjoy, and happy Friday to you!



Wednesday

Breech No More! My External Cephalic Version...


Ok so a little update after my last post...

First of all, thank you so much for all the comments, emails and text messages I received in response to my last post. You guys are the best!

This morning I was booked in the delivery room for the Ob-Gyn to attempt to manually turn the baby (called an external cephalic version, or an ECV). I was crazy nervous and didn't actually expect it to work.... BUT IT DID!!! It worked!!!

There's still a chance that the baby will turn back to breech position, but here's hoping all stays well!!

I decided to put all the chances for success on my side, so I booked myself a 1 hour prenatal massage last night so that I could be as relaxed as possible before the ECV (thanks, mom, for encouraging me to do that!). The massage therapist was amazing and taught me some great visualization techniques to use during the version.

And last night I lay in bed and talked with the baby....
 I explained to him out loud that we would be trying to help him turn into a head-down position, and that we needed his help in order to succeed. But if for any reason this new position was dangerous or uncomfortable for him he could let us know, refuse to turn, or turn himself back. I really think he was listening.

So this morning I entered the hospital feeling relaxed, still nervous, but confident.

We started with some basic fetal monitoring and then an ultrasound. The Ob-Gyn said I had the minimum (but still normal) amount of amniotic fluid, so that would be working against us. But since it was a small baby, and my second baby, it was still worth a try.

The actually version was definitely uncomfortable... more than I anticipated. They tried twice. The first time was unsuccessful - I was shocked by how painful uncomfortable it felt, and I clenched my abdominal muscles tightly in response, despite my brain's best efforts telling myself to relax and breathe.

On the second attempt, I regrouped, closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. I kept visualizing there being tons of SPACE inside me for my baby to turn, and I took very slow, deep breaths. About 20 seconds later I heard the doctor say, "ok the head is down", and I opened my eyes in disbelief! I had barely felt a change at all! I must have been really focused internally because the nurse told me later that it had been so cool to watch my entire belly changing shape as the baby's body turned 180 degrees.

After the version, they monitor the fetal heart rate tracing for about an hour, to make sure everything is ok with the baby in his new position... it was mostly ok but my little guy wasn't having enough heart beat accelerations to be completely reassuring. I figure he was stunned by the whole procedure and fell into a deep sleep. After about 2 hours they told me to take a break and go get something to eat and then come back for a reassessment. This sounded right to me because I was STARVING by this point. And after a delicious sandwich and a smoothie, my little head-down baby was awake and active again, and I was finally discharged home. Hooray!!

So this is all good news, of course, but me being me, I now have new worries on my mind.... what if there was a reason (like a short cord or a cord around his neck) that was preventing him from turning naturally, and now that I've gone and forced him into the "right" position he's going to suffer. Or what if he turns back and I don't notice? etc etc. I'm neurotic, really!

Neuroses and nervousness aside, I am really happy I decided to try the ECV. I would definitely recommend giving it a go if you have a breech baby yourself (especially if it's your second baby). I guess I'll only be able to fully recommend it if it works in the long run.... if I get my uncomplicated vaginal delivery that I am so hoping for.

But for now, I will revel in my success. I feel like we all really worked as a team, the medical staff, myself, and my little baby, and that's the real reason it worked.

Thanks again for all your support this week. It really meant a lot to me.
oxo
Vanessa.

(Top image via)

Tuesday

Pregnancy #2: Thoughts at 36 weeks... every baby and every pregnancy are different, and I apparently have no say in the matter


I'm starting to believe that my babies are put on this earth with a secret side-mission to teach me a lesson in control. More specifically that, despite my best efforts, I cannot control everything that happens to me.

Once again, I find myself struggling to accept certain things about this pregnancy that are completely beyond my control (I'll explain in a second). And if my first experience with motherhood has taught me anything, I know very well that this is likely to continue after this baby is born.

This second pregnancy has really just flown by, at times completely unnoticed and almost forgotten about. Working 5 days a week, and caring for an all-consuming and deeply-satisfying two-year-old leaves very little room for quiet reflections about this growing life inside me. There have been almost no baby bump photos along the way this time around, no prenatal yoga classes or massages, no luxurious afternoon catnaps on the couch just because.

(a rare moment of calm over the Christmas holidays: 
Zac trying to listen and feel for his baby brother)

But now that I've officially entered my final month of pregnancy #2, things are starting to feel more real. Physically, I can't ignore it anymore. I'm starting to feel really tired again. By the time I get Zac into bed by 8pm, I find myself ready for sleep myself, and usually hit the sac at around 8:30pm!

I officially started my maternity leave today. Though I could certainly continue to work at this point, it's a little too risky to be working and living in the remote regions of northern Canada... far, far, far away from proper obstetric care. So yesterday, Zac and I boarded the plane to Montreal and said goodbye to the north for the next 3 months. I'm not going to lie, I'm not at all sad about missing the next 3 months of bitter cold up there (not that Montreal is "warm" by anyone's standards, but it's a lot warmer than up there!). My husband will join us in one week from now. Pray for me that the baby stays put until then!

The main reason I left the north a month early is that this baby is still in breech position :(
It honestly never occurred to me that this might be an issue for me (Zac was vertex my entire first pregnancy), but alas it is... And it's a big issue for me.

Ever since my first birth experience, I have been pretty excited and motivated to try it again. I feel like I know what to expect now, I have the confidence, I'm not afraid this time, it's likely going to be easier the second time around (especially since baby number 2 is considerably smaller)... I never even considered the possibility that I may not be given the chance to even try!! I feel rather cheated, to be completely honest (again, a lesson in control, apparently).

I had planned to have my natural(ish) delivery with my lovely family doctor, but now I am about to meet an obstetrician to discuss cesarian sections and whether or not we should attempt to try to turn the baby manually. This was not in the plans, people!  I know that women all over the world still deliver breech babies, but none of the doctors at my hospital are that brave (nor am I). Breech vaginal delivery is sadly a lost skill for most modern day doctors.... so if your baby remains breech, you get a c-section. And I know that tons of women deliver by cesarian all the time, and many even prefer it that way.... but it's really not the way I want to go.... If only I had a say in the matter!

I've tried talking to this baby, encouraging him to turn. I've tried "letting go" and trying to trust that nature will take it's course and the baby will turn spontaneously. I've tried various ridiculous looking upside-down yoga postures. I've tried the hot & cold water bottle technique.... but so far every morning I wake up and feel his little head pressed into my stomach and his little feet kicking my cervix & bladder. If you have any other tricks you've heard of for turning a breech baby, please let me know!



This baby/pregnancy feels so different all around compared to my first. For one, this baby feels way calmer (I'm hoping this predicts a calmer baby temperament post-birth as well!). Zac was crazy active  inside me and his violent kicks would trigger rather unnerving bouts of braxton-hicks contractions from 27 weeks on. But while this little guy still moves around a lot, his movements are gentle and more like quiet stretches after a long nap. Again, I am hoping this reflects his future personality!

Another difference is the size... this is a much, much smaller baby. I've actually struggled to gain weight this pregnancy, even despite eating my weight in Christmas cookies over the holidays. Now I know it sounds weird to complain about that (most people complain about the opposite in pregnancy), but poor weight gain in pregnancy is less than ideal as well. My inner worrier can't help but think it's because there's something wrong with the baby. I mean, I'm not doing anything differently this time around (other than constantly chasing a toddler around!). Despite normal ultrasounds, normal screening genetic testing, and constant reassurance from my doctor that everything is fine, I can't seem to shake the feeling that something might be wrong and preventing the baby from growing properly. 

That's also because I'm comparing him to my first baby... who was ENORMOUS in utero! For reference, here's a photo of me at the end of my first pregnancy, with my 40 pound weight gain and jumbo baby bump... that's a lot of extra poundage for this petite 5-foot-3-er! My more rational brain reminds me that both my husband and I are small people, so it actually makes more sense to have a smaller baby. But I'm kind of a natural worrier so somehow this doesn't reassure me completely. If everything ends up being okay in the end, I can see myself looking back on this post and realizing how ridiculous I must have sounded complaining about having a smaller baby, a covetable in-the-front basketball baby bump, and no stretch marks... but until I have a healthy baby in my arms I don't think I can truly celebrate.  Being a medical doctor and knowing all the possible risks and complications of pregnancy, combined with an innate worrying tendency and an incessant need (and failure) to control every aspect of my life, is not a good combination!

Sigh!

This is a big lesson for me, I know. There is nothing I can do to change the course of nature. Whatever will be will be, and whatever happens, happens. On a deeper level I know that I will be able to handle whatever comes my way... C-section or natural birth, healthy baby or complications. We already love this baby so much, and that is truly all that matters.

Sunday

A little recap of the holidays....


The holidays were a bit of a whirlwind..... busy, magical, lazy, and overflowing with wonderful family moments. Everything I wanted them to be! There was even a surprise Christmas morning proposal... followed by a ton of happy tears :)
We split our time off between both families, so there was a fair bit of travelling involved (including a flight on Christmas day). But it was all well-worth it.

Here's a little photographic recap....

^^ we hosted a little pre-Christmas holiday brunch at our Montreal apartment, which was a big success ^^

^^ Christmas Eve at my parent's place in the country is always so magical ^^

^^ Christmas day at my in-law's in Toronto ^^

^^ we usually celebrate Christmas day in New Jersey with my husband's family, but this year the entire American family came up to Toronto instead. My mother-in-law had matching Christmas pyjamas made for everyone that read "xmas in Canada" on them. We all wore them the entire day, and even ate Christmas dinner in them! ^^

^^ An idyllic December 26th... spent outside by the fire, roasting marshmallows, drinking hot chocolate and going on sleigh rides... well, more like "wagon-rides" since all the snow had  unfortunately melted ^^

^^ Random family moments hanging out with cousins, singing Christmas songs, and more lazing around in our jammies ^^

All in all, a jolly good time :)
I hope your holidays were filled with love and laughter.
oxo
Vanessa

Welcome Winter...



Remember....
It just keeps getting brighter and brighter from this day forward.

Happy winter solstice, everyone!

Lately up North: Christmas tree hunting & feeling festive!


Even though it has been SO cold up here in the north lately, I can't deny that it has also been incredibly beautiful. We've had record breaking amounts of snow, and even though it makes for a lot of extra shovelling, it certainly makes everything feel a little more festive.

Below is the view from our bedroom window... what started as some pretty icicles has transformed into this mushrooming mass of snow which completely obstructs our view of the outside world. Even the icicles themselves have been engulfed by the snow!



On Saturday morning (despite the minus 25 degree weather) we bundled Zac up as much as possible and set out into the woods to find our prefect Christmas tree.

The snow was so deep that we had to wear snowshoes to prevent ourselves from sinking into oblivion. Even the charming wooden sleigh that I insisted we bring for Zac turned out to be useless and only sunk deeper and deeper into the snow. So we carried him instead.

Picture me, 31 weeks pregnant, trudging through 4-foot deep snow on snowshoes, carrying a two-year old. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I felt pretty tough ;)


Zac, who hates the cold, was not a happy camper at first. He was so bundled that he could barely move, but he was still cold, and he cried for the first 5 minutes or so, begging to go back.

But then we found a few contenders for our tree. And Zac's mood turned around quickly when we asked him which one we should pick. We both loved watching Adrien cut down our perfect tree in true mountain-man style.



With smiling faces and frozen toes, we trudged our way back to the car with our tree, and ate homemade gingerbread cookies all the way home. It was wonderful.

And when we got home, we cranked up the Christmas tunes. And the boys drank their eggnog, and we decorated the tree...



It was one of those wonderfully delicious December weekends that makes you fall in love with life (and winter) all over again.


And these boys.... how I love these boys! I feel so blessed to call them mine. Can't believe I'll be adding another one to the lot 2 months from now!

~*~

And before I go, here's a cute little Christmas tune to lighten your mood...


(I just love that line "I want to hang your stocking next to mine, when we're ninety-nine". Too cute)

I hope you're finding the time to relax and enjoy your December. Try not to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of holiday stressors... it'll be over before you know it :)
oxo
Vanessa.

Seriously, the best gingerbread cookies EVER!


My friend Michelle finally gave me her treasured gingerbread cookie recipe (which I've been hounding her for for months now).  These are the chewiest, most delicious gingerbread cookies imaginable! She's brought them into work a few times now, and we all go gaga over them. And every time someone tries them for the first time, they inevitably declare how these are the best gingerbread cookies they've ever tasted.

So here it is for you to try. These kinds of recipes need to be shared...

Best Ever Gingerbread Cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses

1 3/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the sugars, oil, egg and molasses until well-combined. Then using a wooden spoon, mix in the remaining ingredients until all the flour is absorbed. The dough will seem dry at first, but will come together. If necessary, add 1-2 tsp of water.

Use your hands to roll the dough into 1.5 inch balls, then roll the balls in coarse sugar. Place balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet (no need to flatten them, they will spread out on their own), and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes   *don't overbake these cookies! Max 1 extra minute... if you must ;)

Allow the cookies to cool on their baking tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!!


Tuesday

Life lately: staying warm in sunny Florida


We have jet-setted off to Naples, Florida for a few days to escape the crazy snowy north. I am spoiled, I know.... but with a new baby arriving in February, and a jam-packed schedule up until then, there will be no time this winter/spring for any kind of an escape or babymoon. So we are squeezing it in now, and it has been wonderful!

My in-laws have a place here in Naples, which makes travelling with kiddies SO easy. We are already set up there with strollers, high chairs and kids beds... not to mention my wonderful mother-in-law who cooks delicious meals for us, and babysits in the evening so that the hubby and I can go out for much needed date nights :)


^^ we visit Naples frequently, so we have our usual stops and traditions. Like taking Zac to the Naples Zoo, and eating lunch on the beach at the Ritz hotel (even if we aren't staying there). The kids meals come in these cute little bento-boxes, and they have delicious fish tacos for the adults. ^^

^^ Zac thought the white sand was snow, and was afraid to touch it. We had to carry him the entire time... and with a 29-week belly, carrying a two year old is getting tricky. He's such a monkey that son of mine! ^^

^^ This was the first time that Zac was actually interested in the pool. He LOVED it! And speaking of love, Zac is completely in love with his baby cousin Lola. He always asks to hold her and tickle her toes, and push her in the stroller. I think he's going to be a great big brother ^^


It's been a lovely little getaway in the sunshine state, but tomorrow we head back to reality. Such is life. We have a few days in Montreal and then we're heading back up north for work until Christmas.

I hope you're doing well out there.
oxo
Vanessa.

Saturday

Weekend Treat: Amazing Almond Kamut Shortbread


I think I've come to the conclusion that shortbread is my all-time favourite kind of cookie. To some, shortbread can be rather boring.... but to me, it is downright heavenly! There's something about the initial "snap" of a shortbread cookie, followed by it's melting into buttery goodness inside your mouth. True perfection!

These shortbread are a teeny bit healthier than the standard version, thanks to the kamut flour and ground almonds. But additional fiber & protein aside, the kamut gives the cookie a beautiful golden colour and deep nutty flour that is simply irresistible!

Read on for the recipe...
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