24.4.15

On Being the Co-Parent

Thanks to Danielle Perelman for this amazing photo.

At this point in Rudy's life, Corey's the primary parent and I'm the co-parent.  One is not better than the other- It's just the way it works for us.  I want to talk about it a little because our family isn't the norm, but I suspect there are a growing number of families who can relate to this post.

As a family, we always knew that it made more financial sense for us for me to continue working and for Corey to take parental leave.  Before Rudy was born, we worried about how the other electricians on his job site would react to his taking parental leave.  We were pleasantly surprised when, aside from the odd "maternity leave" jab, the guys were pretty supportive.  I had no idea I would face my own stigmas as a mom who "rushed" back to work.  We were even more surprised when Corey encountered his own in the world of new parents, where so much is geared towards moms.


Thanks to Michael Budd for this photo. xo

The first time I described Corey as the "primary parent" the words stung me.  The implication that I was parenting on a lower tier really hurt.  Of course, what I meant was that he does the day-to-day stuff and I make an effort to make sure my time with Rudy is quality time.  This means that Corey may know more about her routine or what she likes and dislikes at any given time, but it also means that he and I make an effort to communicate constantly so that I'm always up to speed as well.

My schedule tends to be dynamic so if I'm around, I'll often take over a feed or play time so that I get to experience different parts of Rudy's day.  I feel lucky for this because many parents who work 9-5 jobs don't get this.  There's a downside though and my days are often LONG.  Often, I'm not home for bedtime and occasionally, I'll miss all her waking hours but as she gets older, I'll be able to facetime with her before bed and I know she'll understand that we take the bad with the good in life.  Hopefully, she'll know that I'm working so hard for our family and especially for her.

I think the fact that I'm not always around has made me far more committed to breastfeeding than I ever expected to be.  My supply was never great, and we supplemented with formula from day one, but the first time she refused to breastfeed at all, I cried.  I have now been pumping for weeks to store enough breastmilk that she can have an ounce or two each day this fall, for the first few weeks of daycare.  Knowing I can give her something that nobody else in the world can has felt special and empowering and, despite my disdain for pumping, it has kept me going for months.

Still, I have moments where I feel the pain of not being the primary parent.  I'm usually reminded when I can't find something in her diaper bag, don't know what dose of medicine she takes, can't answer all the questions at her doctor's appointments or when I'm not the one she reaches for when she's upset.

I've bypassed so many of the markers we are conditioned to use to measure our worth as mothers that I have been forced to redefine what being a good mother means to me.  Whenever I hear that little voice in my head, which is fed by our society and tells me I'm not "mom enough" I think of my responses:

I hated pregnancy.  Yes, that's true... but I carried Rudy safely to term and worked throughout so that we could remain financially healthy.  My body may not have loved being pregnant but it grew a very healthy baby.

I had a c-section and never even tried to deliver naturally.  Sure, that's true as well, but I got my baby out safely after a tough pregnancy and I did it on my own terms.

I never breastfed exclusively.  Also true, but I willingly gave her formula without a second thought when she was losing too much weight.  I invited her dad to share the bond of feeding her because I knew that I wouldn't be around for many feeds and it was important for her to establish a routine with the person who would.  I also tried to breastfeed for as long as I could even though I didn't enjoy it but when it was time to stop, I didn't let it take away from my self-worth or my enjoyment of my daughter.

I went back to work within weeks of Rudy's birth.  That's also true but I work to provide for my family and one day, Rudy will learn that her parents worked as a team and played to their own strengths and that she got the more patient and cuddly parent at home for the first eight months of her life.

She doesn't cling to me the way other babies cling to their moms.  But I'm lucky there too.  It would be so hard to leave her if she weren't so independent.  She's my little firecracker already.

When I see Corey with Rudy, I know we made the right choice and I know that each day when I come home from work, my patience has been restored and I can't wait to play and snuggle with Rudy.  In that way, working has made me a better mother because I take so much joy in the time I get with Rudy and Corey gets to bond with her while I'm at work and focus his attention on renovating our house while I'm home!  There are many days where I can list "tummy time" as a highlight.


Or music class!


One day, Rudy may ask about her first year of life and I'll happily explain that I loved spending time with her but I also loved my work and that her dad happily (and unselfishly) postponed his own career for eight months so that one of us would always be around for the important early months.  I'll tell her how good it made me feel to come home to her smiles and babbles and how lucky she was to have such a "hands on" dad who made up silly songs just to make her giggle.

The thing that has made our situation easier is my partnership with Corey.  Despite the fact that he's doing far more of the parenting right now, he keeps me informed and we both get an equal say... even if we disagree.  (Recently, we were in negotiations over when to begin solid foods.)  He never treats me as the lesser teammate, which has made all the difference!  I may not always be home for Rudy, but I certainly chose her the best dad!

I've read so many judgmental articles lately bashing both working moms and stay-at-home moms and I think it's such a shame that we feel the need to boost our own choices by chipping away at the choices others have made.  I have working friends and stay-home friends and, guess what?  We all work damn hard!  While Corey and I may be more relaxed about some aspects of parenting, we have friends who identify as attachment parents and we think their kids are great... just like Rudy!  I think it's important to remember that feminism gives us all the right to chose our own path based on what works for us and our families.

21.4.15

Our Weird Family Room


Remember our disastrous family room from the day we moved in?  The family room addition was one of the things that drew us to our new/old house but it was in rough shape aesthetically.  It was poorly insulated, had cheap laminate flooring, an exposed brick wall (it was an addition to the house) that someone had attempted to paint but had stopped after a few bricks, it was bright pink and it had a sketchy shower in the corner.

One of the previous owners had mobility issues and we think this addition was built as a bedroom.  The shower probably allowed her to avoid the stairs as much as possible.  Initially, I hated the shower but during our bathroom reno, I was grateful for it and so we left it and the room remained untouched and just sort of became a dumping ground for overflow from the kitchen... until recently.

Here are some photos of the room before we started working on it:


Behind the shower is a (formerly) exterior window leading to the kitchen.


It was finally time to fix the ugly pink blemish at the back of our house.  Corey removed the shower and framed and drywalled the window.


We knew the brick was going to be really challenging to paint, so he "Dextered" the room in plastic.


He also removed the laminate and bought a paint sprayer to cover all the old brick.  Yes, we would have left the exposed brick unpainted had it been in prettier condition and not already partially painted.


He used the paint sprayer to prime the walls in white.  We're going to continue our kitchen paint colour into the family room and we also wanted both rooms to have the same flooring. 

We knew the Marmoleum from the kitchen would provide some cushion and insulation but, even after Corey used spray foam around the edges of the walls, the room felt chilly.

Our solution (thanks to a friend's recommendation) was to buy DriCore tiles, which are plastic on the bottom with a raised pattern.  They're great for basements because the plastic side faces down and the air pockets serve to trap heat but also to provide a path for moisture to travel without ruining the floor.  For our purposes, we liked the idea of an additional layer of insulation and we read that it would raise the temperature of the room by about 3 degrees Celcius.


So Corey and my brother laid the DriCore under the Marmoleum and the unfinished room already looks so different!



Here's Corey standing with a rubber duckey in the spot where we were showering last summer!


Soon, we'll be ready to paint.  We have some fun ideas for this room!

8.4.15

One Year Ago


One year ago today I was enjoying a well-deserved day off.  After an exceptionally busy March and early April, I had arrived home from work the night before and polished off several glasses of wine.  It was my day off and I felt a little odd that morning.

I had purchased my first two-pack of pregnancy tests the week before because Corey and I had agreed that a December or August baby would work well with my work schedule.  We didn't expect it to happen and were prepared to try again late in the fall for an August 2015 delivery.  We were just sure we wouldn't be those lucky people who get pregnant really easily and we had prepared ourselves for a long road.

Our upstairs bathroom was currently under renovation and I remember taking the test in the basement bathroom before driving Corey to work.  I didn't wait long enough and tossed the test as soon as I didn't see a second line developing.  I didn't even want to tell him because I felt silly for getting my hopes up.  It wasn't until later that morning that I pulled the test out of the waste basket and saw a faint pink line that changed my life forever.

Corey and I often laugh at the degree of shock he felt when I told him.  I believe the phrase he used was something like "But we only pulled the goalie, we weren't really trying!"

So much has happened in this past year and, as my stretch marks begin to fade, Corey and I still remember how worried and nervous we were in the beginning.  For those of you with kids, you know what I mean: Isn't it sort of surreal and... well... terrifying in the beginning?  I think I must have spent days worrying about how I wouldn't be able to swear... or walk around in my underwear... or sleep in... or make irresponsible decisions anymore.  Then there was budgeting the cost of a baby, which made my head spin.  I kept having these crazy thoughts like OMG, We're going to have to keep the bathroom sooo clean so the baby doesn't think we're slobs.  Luckily, it's one of those things that's going to happen no matter what so you sort of have to jump on the train!

Having Rudy in our family feels like the most natural thing in the world now... Just like another member of our team.  It's funny how that works, right?  I can't believe one year ago she was our abstract and scary future and now we have a bright, babbling and animated little girl who imitates the noises we make, puts everything in her drooly mouth, tries to suck our faces when we kiss her and makes every day so SO special.

7.4.15

Which?


We're at it again!  And by "it" I mean, optimistically choosing paint colours when there's still too much work to do on a room to be thinking about painting.  We have a deadline though for some of the major renos because I'm hosting a client appreciation party at the house in early May.  Will we be ready?  Probably not completely but at least this gives us a tangible goal!

Corey's already working on enclosing the duct that runs up through our dining room but I'll write about that in another post.  Right now, we are narrowing down our paint choice to either Farrow and Ball Oval Room Blue (top) or Farrow and Ball Stone Blue (bottom) but we ran out of steam and only used one coat for our test swatches.

I think we're leaning towards the Stone Blue for the dining room and the Oval Room for the upstairs bathroom.  It's also time for new curtains to go with our colour palette and, I'm skipping this DIY (I don't have time during the spring real estate market) in favour of these budget-friendly velvet curtains from Ikea.  I actually have them in grey in the living room and they're so thick that they act as insulation for our window, which we'll need to replace eventually.

Considering we're thinking of using the bottom paint colour, we just need to determine whether we want curtains in a similar or lighter shade.



I think I prefer the darker curtains because monochromatic rooms can feel so sophisticated.  What do you think?

Also, the wall that we used to test the paint has now been completely replaced since the plaster began to crack and the wooden lathe wasn't secure.  Here are the photos:



I arrived home from work this weekend to a brand new wall and to Rudy's first real laugh.  It sounded like a hearty chuckle!  What a day!

By the way, this is a cool way to look at choosing paint colours.

5.4.15

It Takes A Village...


It really does take a village to raise a child.  Growing up, I remember having adult role models besides my parents who taught me different lessons.  Sure, I learned the most from my own parents who took us camping and taught us all the most important lessons, but it was fun to learn things from other "grown-ups" as well.

I remember there was a friend's mom who taught me to french-braid hair, my grandpa who taught me morse code.  My Nana collected fossils and taught me how to find them and I had an uncle who would prepare and garnish food beautifully.  Then, as I got older, there were important teachers who helped me improve my writing and babysitters who taught me to do my own french manicures.  It's funny how all the little things that you learn really do come from such different facets of your life.

Of course, I want to teach Rudy so much about life: from lessons about science to how to make a friend and how to stand up for herself... But I'm also excited to see what she'll learn from the other grown-ups in her life who aren't me an Corey.  We hope many of our friends and family will share their skills and interests with her as well.

A new mom I know just started a brilliant blog which does just that!  It allows all the important people in her little son's life to share a special skill or lesson.  It's called Sebastian's Village and I think the idea is inspirational.

What skill would you share?  For me, it might be how to start a campfire or maybe I'd pass my Nana's lessons on finding fossils along too.  I'd also like to share how to fly a kite or how to make a really good monkey sound or maybe how to tell a scary ghost story!  Isn't this a great idea?  What would your skill be?

A New Built-In


Do you have a dream home wish list?  I do and it's always included (among other things) a window seat and built-in display shelves with pot lights.

The window seat will have to wait, but I finally have my display shelves in the dining room!

Remember when we had ducts installed in the house for central air?  I blogged about it here and here.  Well, that part of our reno was bittersweet because, as important as central air was to us, we were disappointed to lose the space in our dining room and third bedroom.  At the time, we decided to find the silver lining by turning them both into accent features instead of plain columns.
 

In the dining room, we decided Corey would build shelves to showcase some of the pretty treasures we've collected.  This project was completed this past week after Rudy's bedtime.

Corey began by framing the shelves with wood.


He then added drywall.


He added a pot light to the ceiling of each shelf and a separate switch within the unit






He used plaster to conceal the seams and sanded between coats.


The finished product is beautiful and we can't wait to paint it!


We're going to use the unit to showcase a vase and an art bowl given to us by two of my bridesmaids as shower and wedding gifts.

31.3.15

DIY Stained Glass Planter


Work has kept me so busy that I'm often coming home after Rudy's asleep and I've been working on some crafts to wind down before bed.  This one is really easy and quick (except for the drying time) and this technique would also be great to decorate the outside of teacups or coffee mugs.  In fact, for older kids, it could make a great Mother's Day or Father's Day craft.

I wanted a plant in our bathroom, which is soooo close to being ready to paint.  Those of you who read my blog know that I don't have the best luck with plants, but I figured a bathroom fern would be low-maintenance and safe from Barkley and Cheetah.

I picked up a cheap planter from Value Village (Note: None of my precious milk glass was harmed during this craft) and I bought some tissue paper, dishwasher safe Mod Podge and a sponge applicator.  


I cut the tissue into little squares and "painted" on a small area of Mod Podge before placing each square.  I then gently painted over each one like a glaze.  I decided not to totally cover my planter and I let it dry when I was satisfied that I had covered enough.  When it was fully dry, I did one last coat of Mod Podge before letting it dry overnight.


I think it will be a sweet addition to our bathroom and hopefully, I'll keep this little fern alive for a while.  After all, I take care of a human being... How hard can a fern be?

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