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Party Attire for Her

School is back, which means birthday party season is too. Add to that, we are narrowing in on the best season for holidays. I remember loving to get dressed up for parties as a little girl. It wasn’t always dressy, but it had to be something I had a hand in picking out. It’s fun to dress up and what better time than an adorable little party?

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Finding the work-life comfort zone

Even before I had a kid, I hated the term “work-life balance.” When you don’t have kids, you aren’t even really allowed to comment on the topic, even though you don’t need to have a kid to constantly struggle to figure out how to keep your house clean and meals made when you’re on a business trip every other week, pulling 12 hour days chasing a deadline, caring for aging parents or anything else that requires a lot of time and energy. Add a kid to the mix and it all of course becomes much more complicated, but even before I knew what it was like to be a WOHM mom, I fully believed that there really is no such thing as “work-life balance.” The best you can expect, regardless of whether you work at home, outside the home or are a stay-at-home parent, is finding a comfort zone where some things have to happen all the time, some things can happen some of the time, and others just have to give until there’s free time (hah!); what those things are will depend entirely on your and your family’s priorities.

This week marks exactly a year since I returned to work after 3 and a half months of maternity leave, and I found myself thinking about our work-life comfort zone – how it’s grown, shifted and stabilized over this past year. Different things will work for different people, of course, but here are some things that helped us find this zone.

1) Figuring out what’s important to you is key. For example, I get extremely unsettled and actually lose sleep and get anxious if my house isn’t at a certain state of clean. I’m by no means a neat freak – the dust bunnies in my long untouched corners will attest to that – but there’s a level of clean that I need to maintain in order to stay sane, which means some of my precious little free time needs to be allocated to getting to that level of clean. I straighten up Baby C’s play areas and dishes from her dinner every evening while Mr. Carrot gives her a bath. Every weekend we do all the laundry from the week and Mr. Carrot and I vacuum and do some dusting and neatening up in between entertaining a lively toddler.

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Easy Preschool Lunches

I’m not going to lie — so far I really enjoy packing my son’s lunch for preschool. Granted, he only goes twice a week and it’s only been a month, but still, I look forward to putting it all together! Here are some of the lunches I’ve been packing him since he’s started.

Top left: spinach ravioli with marinara, green beans, edamame, and strawberries (he ate all of the ravioli and strawberries and a bit of the veggies).

Top right: black beans, cheddar cheese stick, roasted corn, tortilla, and grapes (he ate almost everything).

Bottom left: rice with mixed veggies, strawberries, and a hard boiled egg (he ate half of the rice with veggies, all of the strawberries, and two bites of egg).

Bottom right: turkey with avocado rolled in tortilla, strawberries, and cheddar cheese (he ate all but two of the rolls).

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The Benefits of Traveling With Young Children

Every summer, we visit Mr. Bee’s family in the Philippines in the remote beach town where they live.

I used to think that very young children probably wouldn’t remember such a trip. But having visited Mr. Bee’s parents three years in a row, I now see the many benefits of traveling for kids. Olive in particular, who has experienced some developmental delays, always has a huge cognitive and language explosion after each trip.

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Sleep Training: The Second Go-Round

The nine month sleep regression hit us hard in the Oatmeal house. We went from an easy bedtime with one wake up around 4am, to a full-on bedtime war and multiple wake ups nightly. Naps were nearly impossible; I would either have to walk Little Oats around the neighbourhood in the stroller, or drive around in the car to get her to fall asleep. On the rare occasion she would fall asleep in her crib, she would wake up 40 minutes later, screaming and ready to get up. I was exhausted, she was exhausted, and we needed to break the cycle.

Mentally, I went through the checklist of things that could be bothering her. Was she learning a new skill? Was she teething? Did she have gas? A cold? A fever? Was her room too warm? Too cold? When the answers to all of these questions were no, Mr O and I knew it was time to sleep train again. We knew she was capable of putting herself to sleep, and that she was able to sleep for more than 3 hours at a time. So we picked a date, circled it on the calendar, and tackled sleep training once again.

The first thing we decided to do was get rid of Little Oats’ habit of nursing to sleep. I enjoyed the pre-bedtime snuggles, but she always woke up the second I put her down in the crib and screamed. To drop this habit, we switched up her bedtime routine a bit; I would nurse her downstairs, then Mr. O would take her upstairs and do pyjamas-books-prayers-bed. Since we wanted her to put herself to sleep, it seemed like a great idea.

Second, we knew that cry-it-out with checks had worked really well for us the last time. So, combined with the new bedtime routine, our night would look something like this:

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Making the switch to working full-time

Five years ago, I left my full-time job as an editor at a publishing company to go to Korea to pick up our daughter HJ. She was 15 months old. I had waited over a year for her to come home, and I was more than ready to be a full-time stay-at-home. At the time, I thought there was nothing else that I wanted than to be home with my daughter every possible moment.

We had a lot of help from family and friends during that transition home, but for that first year, I was still a very anxious, first-time mom trying to survive from moment to moment.

I still remember how challenging it was to even try to figure out when I could take a shower. I actually called my dad to come over and watch HJ, who was napping, so that I could take a shower without worrying about what would happen if she woke up and started crying. That’s how crazy I was during those first few days.

A few months later, when the dust had settled, I realized that I really wanted to start working again, even if it was just at a freelance level and from home, so that I could keep my skills up and keep my brain occupied with thoughts other than sleeping, pacifiers, attachment, feeding, and whatever various baby/toddler concerns were going on at the time.

I don’t know if it was the combination of post-adoption blues, the shock of becoming an instant parent to a toddler, or simply lack of sleep, but I can honestly say I was not a great stay-at-home mom. Even though I had never thought of myself as an extrovert, suddenly being at home with just HJ made me feel more isolated than ever before. Many other experienced moms had warned me about how difficult it was being home full-time, and yet, maybe I thought I was different? Turns out they were right of course!

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My Breastfeeding Experience: Exclusively Pumping

How you feed your baby is one of the most talked about, most challenging and most guilt-laden topics of new parenthood. Framed often as a choice, “breast vs bottle,” “mother’s milk vs formula,” it seems many of us find it to be far more complicated.

My baby feeding status: full time pumper. When your baby won’t nurse but “breast is best” haunts your every waking moment, this is what I ended up doing. Exclusive pumping doesn’t seem to be a common topic; I struggled to find stories and information from others in similar circumstances, so I think it’s an important part of my motherhood experience to share.

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