I’m not the fun parent and I’m okay with that

When Margs was approximately 6 months old it became really clear that Mer was becoming her “fun parent”. At first, my big green monster reared its ugly head and I got really jealous and resentful that my precious little girl (that I gestated horizontally for so so long) appeared to show a clear preference for her father. I cried, a lot. Seriously, far more times than I’m even comfortable admitting at this point. Selfishly, I believed that she’d somehow know what sacrifice I’d made to get her here safely and prefer me by default (totally minimizing Mer’s suffering- because he suffered too. My grief was so very selfish and I plan to write about that one day). Clearly, she loves me dearly but as she gets older and develops more autonomy it’s pretty clear Mer is still the fun parent.

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And you know what guys, I’m totally okay with that.

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As Mer and I navigate this parenting thing we’re realizing pretty quickly that our roles are very different. Mer is the fun parent while I’m the authority figure setting boundaries and creating consistency and routines in her life.

Why? I’m with her the majority of the time since I’m her primary care giver because we decided that Mer would work full time (makes sense financially) and I’d stay at home with her until she’s at least school aged.

If Mer were the stay at home parent I imagine the roles would be reversed. Her “preference” by consequence has no bearing on whether one of us is genuinely more “fun” than the other but rather by our different “presence” in her life.

Mer’s experiences with Margs are far  far different than mine. He spends 10-12 hours per day outside our home fixing and geeking out over complicated computer problems. During this time I’m parenting a strong willed little one who most recently became extremely mobile, curious and creative so I’m often trying to make sure she doesn’t manage to evade me and walk over to the kitchen, pull out the trash and feed that shit to our dog.

When he arrives home in the evening he’s had the time to “miss” her in ways that I’ve really never experienced since he gets a physical detachment from her every single work day. Naturally, she’s super excited to see her dad who is most likely more excited to see her than she’ll ever know – and you know what, it shows in the way they interact. That excitement builds and the house immediately fills with loud baby giggles and squeals. Squeals and giggles that I have to work really really really hard to achieve during the day since for the most part I’m chasing her around saying things like “no, don’t touch that”, “be careful that’s gonna make you boo boo”, “don’t put –insert disgusting thing here– in your mouth” and “woah, slow down so mommy can catch up”.

Not being the fun parent means that I’ve got a huge responsibility – it’s  my job to create rules and boundaries around here that will hopefully create a sense of independence and self-responsibility in my little girl. By virtue of me being her primary caregiver, I’m responsible for shaping this tiny human into a kind and gentle soul who I hope grows up to do great things and find enormous happiness on her journey into adulthood. This is not to say that Mer is completely removed from this experience – we’re very much on the same page when it comes to our parenting style but, he takes a more passive role because he’s just not here enough to follow through on any of it. Sure, he steps up big time on the weekend where his fun parent role temporarily takes the back burner while I’m out running errands and he’s home alone with her but the majority of the time I’m just not her fun parent.

And, I’m totally okay with it.

I’m honored to have the privilege of not being the fun parent. I’m grateful to be responsible for her physical and emotional growth. I’m indebted to the universe for giving me the chance to parent this amazingly clever, darling and determined little girl who I love beyond words.

Not being the fun parent is actually pretty damn wonderful.

Is there a fun parent in your household?

 

 

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Double rainbow

It’s been a long and anxious week.

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I’ve really been struggling and it’s apparent in basically everything I do. I have far less energy and so everything around me suffers: the house isn’t tidy, Margs watched more t.v than usual because my thoughts have been elsewhere and I’ve been struggling to really live in the moment.

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Can we get personal for a minute?

I’m anxious and completely overwhelmed because despite my history, I think I might want to try and have another baby.

Until very recently, I was adamant that Margs would be an only child because of the hardships we’ve faced, the complexity of my pregnancy and the consuming fear that comes from being pregnant with an incompetent cervix.

Then, suddenly, I got this intense urge to have another baby and experience pregnancy again despite how unconventional and restrictive it was. I started to think that maybe facing all the frustration that comes from trying again, dealing with the hospitalization, the stitch placement, the bed rest and the paralyzing fear of losing another child would be worth it if there was even a tiny chance that we could be blessed with a second living child.

But how?

How would I manage? Who would help me? How would I continue to raise Margs if I couldn’t lift her or walk? Would my mother in law and mother be willing to step in and mind precious Margs while I gestate her sibling? Will we end up facing more losses? Can we handle that? Can our marriage? On and on and on.

We’re in a good place right now. We’re beyond grateful that Margs is here with us and at certain points when I remind myself of that, I decide that I do not under any circumstances want to tempt fate. Then, some maternal desire to have more children overpowers and I start thinking that maybe we should try – we’ve been through so much already, we could handle the worst case scenario even though heartbreaking.

I’m 35, Mer is 40. We’re not exactly in a situation where we can spend the next 5 years sorting this out and make a decision. Mer is on board with having more children but rightly worries about how the next pregnancy would unfold given the circumstances.

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At this point, we’ve discussed it and ultimately he’s leaving the ball in my court – talk about pressure. For the moment, I’m handling this by reminding myself of some very wise advice I was once given by another loss mom with regards to knowing when it would be the right time to try again after miscarriage

“the time is right when your fear of losing another child is outweighed by the desire to bring home a baby”.

I’m not quite there yet – fear, enormous amounts of fear and worse case scenarios continue to unfold in my head.

Mums, when did you know you were ready to try for a second child?

Rainbow mums, how did you know you were ready to face the roller coaster again?

 

 

Our Pipe Dream; savouring the nostalgia

As a child, I spent nearly every weekend in the beautiful tiny city of St-Donat Quebec some 3 hours north east of my home. In the winter I learned to ski and snowmobile while in the summer I spent lazy days with my father on the lake learning to fish and admiring the peaceful beauty of the woods that surrounded us.

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Icy back road heading to the lake

With a population of just over 4 thousand most of which are seasonal residents, St-Donat has that small town feel where you’re guaranteed to see a familiar face when strolling through their small city center.

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St-Donat city Center with views of the mountain.

Early in our relationship Mer and I went up there on a drive date to pick up a pie. St-Donat has this tiny convenience store hidden behind thick brush off the auto-route that sells the most delicious blueberry pie I’ve ever eaten. It’s one of these places that you’d likely never stop to visit let alone believe could bake such decadent pies out of wild blueberries harvested from the surrounding area. As a child, we’d pick one up every Friday evening as we cruised up the winding auto route to our cottage and enjoy our special treat throughout our 2 day stay in the woods – this is probably one of my all time favorite childhood memories.

After my parents divorce, the cottage was sold and I didn’t get the pleasure to visit  again until that day Mer and I made our way up for pie.

I’d spent weeks speaking so highly of the area and was actually quite nervous that Mer would think I was nuts when he laid eyes on this tiny snowy town. Would he also fall in love with the place that was responsible for creating some of my best childhood memories?

We drove with a steaming pie in his backseat to see my childhood cottage. It wasn’t fancy, a wooden Canadiana with red shutters that sat on an awkwardly shaped plot of land and surrounded by thick woods. By that time the home was really starting to show its age but I couldn’t help but be transported back in time;  I saw past the discolored siding and unglued shingles, in my eyes it hadn’t really changed at all. I’m sure he didn’t get it – but the nostalgia I felt filled me with so much happiness.

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A Canadiana with its sloped roof thanks to getty images.

I told him then and there that one day I’d love to return to my beloved St-Donat and let my children experience the same joy I did. Little did I know that that  journey would be far more difficult than I ever imagined and that nearly 15 years later I’d be married to the man who ate pie with me that day on the side of snowy highway with a plastic spoon.

Lately, I’ve been drawn to perusing real estate listing in the area. Mer and I have oohed and awed at the beauty of some of these homes and imagine what it might be like to own one of these beautiful properties ourselves one day.

This is absolutely a pipe dream since we’re in no financial position to take on a second property but through our perusing we’ve fallen in love with a second blue house. This property really pulls at our heart strings and I’ve caught myself checking in on it daily for the last week or so.

Isn’t she a beaut?

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The listing says she was built in 1975. She’s a 5 bedroom, 1 bath lakefront property sitting on just over 15 000 square feet of land. Her interior is quaint – featuring a wood stove, large windows that let in tons of sunlight, sloped ceilings and gorgeous wood detailing. And, the view. Oh my gosh, that view!

If you’re interested in viewing the listing – it’s available here. (There are quite a few photos of the interior if you’re curious)

I can just imagine Margs growing up spending her summers and winters there-playing on the grass and swimming in the lake just like I did some 25 years ago. At a whopping $499 000 this is clearly not something we could realistically afford  but it is nice to dream.

Mer and I both agreed that at some point we’d like to invest in a second property. Most likely a second property would be an investment property with rental units because we feel it’s the wisest investment of our money. I can’t help but wonder though if owning a beautiful property like the one above could one day become a reality if we create a plan to invest in revenue property here and then in 10-15 or even 20 years use our earnings to purchase a lake house. My gears have been turning non stop since we starting playing with the idea, I’ve been calculating and recalcalculating to get an idea of what exactly we’d need to do to get us to this goal and although my estimates are extremely rudimentary I think one day it could be possible. Margs might not be the one able to spend her childhood there but perhaps her children could.

For now though we’ll make it a point to bring our daughter up there yearly. We’ve been heading back for day trips and picnics on the beach in the summer since that snowy day we ate pie. Last year we skipped our yearly trip because we’d just moved and had a tiny Margs who didn’t do well with long drives. This year we’re planning to continue on with our tradition with our toddler in tow – I’m so incredibly grateful I’ll have the opportunity to show Margs a place that holds such a special place in my heart.

We may not be able to purchase that property but it’s so nice to get lost in our dreams sometimes isn’t it?

What are some of your pipe dreams? Do share!

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A few more things we do to save money – toddler edition

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using the links to any of the products mentioned below.

Morning! How was your weekend?

Ours was quiet but we did manage to get outside and enjoy some fresh air despite this terrible cold snap we’re under. Late Friday I ended up running to my dentist because I broke a premolar almost to the gum line . Talk about karma. I’d just posted about having an emergency fund and issues popping up when you least expect it and then bam the tooth broke and I found myself sitting in the big chair getting prepped for a crown. There goes our January budget (FYI, Mer’s insurance covers 80% of preventative dental but anything restorative is at 50%. So, I’m looking at approximately 1000$ out of pocket to fix my tooth). To be fair, I knew this day would come because I’d had a temporary fix done to this tooth last March when it broke the first time. I was told it should only last approximately one month but I was able to stretch it to 8. I’ll be heading back to have a permanent crown placed at the end of January and hopefully apart from my routine cleaning (approximately 36$ after 80% insurance coverage) I wont be spending any more money at the dentist in 2017.

I’d also like to apologize to anyone subscribed to my blog who has been getting spammed by weird zero content posts. I was playing around with the theme last week and it looks like my blog somehow was sending out “temporary posts for theme detection”. I’m so sorry if your reader or inbox got spammed as a result of my indecisiveness. I’m pretty new to all this so I had no idea that you’d get alerted to all the changes I was making. Thank you to a dear reader who alerted me to the problem last Thursday! I think I’ve finally settled on a theme that works (I don’t love it but also refuse to pay money to buy a theme when there are so many perfectly acceptable free options).

So, let’s talk about saving money

If you missed my first post about how we save a couple of bucks in TTBH you can find it right here. In a nutshell, I told you guys that we buy used whenever we can, sell whatever we don’t need/use anymore, stockpile essentials, clip coupons and grow our own produce to lower our monthly and yearly costs. All these things helped us pay off $21000 in credit card debt and build up a sizeable down payment to buy our first home.

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Margs new pre-loved shoes. Shes still wears them daily.

Today, I wanted to share the methods we use to keep tabs on our spending when it comes to providing for Margs. Kids are expensive – more expensive than we ever imagined and so we took to finding frugal ways to provide for her pretty early on. Above and beyond the immediate necessities: diapers, food, clothing and medical/dental care we had to think ahead about how we’d eventually help fund her education so saving money right now is a huge priority for us. The following list is a few things that we’ve come up with that work for us and help us add to her education fund regularly without necessarily compromising her day to day life. We don’t feel that being frugal with regards to baby care is about deprivation – instead, we strongly believe that we can still provide a great lifestyle for our kiddo without spending a fortune.

Making Baby Food

You can save a ton by making your own baby food. In the early days when we were first starting experimenting with solids I’d make large batches of things like squash, sweet potato, carrots, fruit compotes and soups and blend them in a baby bullet. A blender or food processor would probably work just as well though. This Magic Bullet Baby Bullet Baby Care System was on sale last spring and I had a coupon so I couldn’t pass up the deal. Best decision ever because I made all of Margs’ food myself and ended up saving a ton.

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My lovely bullet which I ended up selling for 20$ when we no longer needed it.

My only qualm about the bullet is the lack of freezer storage options that comes with the system. The set I bought included one silicone freezer tray which simply was not enough to freeze the food I’d make. When I’d make baby food I’d make sure to make enough to last me at least a month and unfortunately the tray only accommodates 6 freezer portions at a time. At first I’d freeze, pop them out, freeze another batch and so on and so on until all the food was frozen but this became really annoying and time consuming and some batches ended up taking about 3 days to freeze. I got really lucky in early summer when I managed to stumble across 2 more silicone trays for 50 cents each at a garage sale. A Baby Bullet Storage Completer Kit is available through Amazon if you can’t score them second hand. I was beyond excited because freezing 18 at a time was going to make things far more efficient in my kitchen. Sadly 18 wasn’t even  enough and eventually I stopped using them altogether and turned to muffin tins instead. It made freezing portions far easier and it also allowed me to control each portion size as her appetite grew.

Not all diapers are priced or made equally

.. and we use this to our advantage.

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When Margs’ was first born we experimented with different diaper brands to try and find one that provided enough absorbancy at a fair price.

We figured out pretty quickly that our best bet was to go with a combo of Parent’s Choice (Walmart store brand) and Huggies Little Movers

On average, I change about 10 dirty diapers a day. Of those 10 diapers we use Parents Choice brand during the day (9ish diapers) because although far less absorbent than big brands like Huggies they do the job perfectly well. I change her so often that a day time diaper is rarely soaked and so I can hardly tell the difference that she’s not wearing a designer diaper.

Nighttime is a completely different story. In the early days, Margs would wake once or twice throughout the night for a feed which included a diaper change so using the cheaper diapers worked just fine. As she got older and started sleeping through the night and drinking more throughout the day she started producing more urine and the cheaper diapers started to fail us. We’d have blow outs and pee stained sheets night after night. That’s when we decided to buy more absorbent diapers by Huggies and use one as a night time diaper. So far, it’s working out quite well and we’ve been blow out free since making the switch.

Now for a little frugal math

Daily diaper usage costs – combination method: (0.14 x 9) + (1 x 0.24) = $1.50 per day = 547.50 yearly

Potential diaper usage costs – designer diapers only: 0.24 x 10 = $2.40 = $876 yearly

Potential savings: 876.00 -547.50 = $328.50

So, if my kiddo is in diapers until the age of 3 that’s a savings of $985.50 which is a heck of a lot of money I’d literally be throwing in the garbage.

*Note: cloth diapering is far more inexpensive and it’s by far the cheapest choice. I was just so overwhelmed with motherhood that washing poop stained diapers just wouldn’t have worked for me. Chapeau to those ladies & gents who do it though!

Clipping/Printing coupons

There are coupons available for just about any and all baby products. When we need to buy diapers, wipes, soap and formula I hunt down a coupon to save a little cash. If you’re feeding your baby any Enfamil formula product they have an awesome program where they periodically send you coupons by mail. The coupons include savings for formula in addition to Fisher Price products. I’ve actually used one of Margs’ coupons to buy a birthday gift for a friends son.

These are the websites I use the most. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a coupon for Parent’s Choice Diapers.

Money savings tip: when I use coupons and rebates I pretend that I’ve paid the original amount. I then transfer however much I’ve saved directly into our savings account. It’s never a huge amount because I’m not an extreme couponer but every little bit helps. Some months I’m able to add about 60$ of padding to our savings just by transferring out “coupon” money.

Bartering baby stuff

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My kiddo loved her jumperoo- boing, boing.

After moving, I joined a local play group where I met a wonderful woman who showed me the ins and outs of frugal motherhood. I will be forever grateful to her for suggesting I find barter buddies. Basically, I’ve found a few other moms with children Margs’ age who barter their toys with me. I met these ladies at a baby playgroup and an afternoon kiddo reading hour hosted for free by our local library. Trading toys helps keep Margs entertained because she’s basically playing with new stuff every few months and this keeps our costs next to nothing. I’ve traded a Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo for a Graco Walker and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’ve also traded a few toys that she’s outgrown to a mom for a second convertible car seat (she had older children who had outgrown it.).

In addition to having barter buddies who I keep in touch with via email, I also periodically barter through online garage sales in my area or on Craigslist. Not everyone is open to an exchange but asking kindly wont hurt. I’ve been able to trade a few items this way as well. Namely, Margs’ snowsuit was obtained by trading a bunting bag she used as an infant in her carrier – again I was dealing with a mom who had an older child and an infant so the trade was mutually beneficial.

I’ve also bartered at the consignment shop. Sometimes I’ll have an item that Margs no longer needs and head over looking for something specific and ask if a trade would be accepted that day. More often than not, the owner is more than happy to trade with me assuming the exchange is fair. My latest trade was 5 warm winter footie PJs for a diaper genie that we were given but never used. This way I don’t touch my consignment balance and avoid having to wait for my items to sell to earn store credit.

Cycling her toys

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A recent photo of her toys after I'd purged out half.

Margs is easily distracted and she’s also not always easily amused. I keep her toy collection to a minimum and find that she’ll easily get bored if the rotation of toys is always the same. As a result, I cycle out her toys and keep some stashed in her closet where she doesn’t have access to them. Every couple of weeks I trade them out and they are brand new and super exciting again. This kiddo likes to keep things fresh!

I’ve also started planning ahead and bartering and swapping out toys that she no longer plays with to accumulate toys that she’ll enjoy playing with as she grows. I was on the hunt for wooden puzzles for months after seeing how incredibly pricey they were at both Toys R Us, Walmart and online. Luckily a couple weeks back one of the ladies in my barter group had a set of 5 wooden puzzles up for grabs and we came to a mutual agreement. 5 puzzles for a gift basket of Bed Bath and Beyond products I kindly received as a housewarming present from a relative but cannot use because of my sensitive skin.

So there you have it folks. This is what we’re currently doing to save and stash away a little extra cash for our little girl.

What money saving tips do you use in your house?

Ever bartered with someone to get something you needed? If so, tell me about your swap!

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10 things I’m grateful for on my 35th birthday

I turned 35 yesterday.

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It was a day just like any other spent loving on Margs and enjoying time with my husband. We had a few friends and their children over for dinner and ate good food and shared many laughs – what better way to spend the day.

When I was in therapy after losing  the girls my therapist helped me work through my constant need to go over the should haves and could haves. It was a process and although I’m much better about it, it does creep up on me. Especially on birthdays where my mind wanders to where I am and where I could have been instead.

She’d ask me to live in the moment – she’d ask me to make lists – she’d ask me to jot down reasons I was grateful to help me remember or acknowledge how great the present really is.

So, I figured what better way to celebrate my 35th birthday.

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10 things I’m grateful for on my 35th birthday

1. My precious baby girl. Margs has changed my life in ways I can hardly describe. She’s taught me to love in ways I never thought possible. I would love to elaborate but I can’t possibly do it justice. Words just don’t suffice.

    2. My husband Mer. Our relationship is far from perfect but it works. He’s the most patient, loyal and considerate person I’ve ever met. Above all he’s my absolute best friend. I love him to the moon and back and I am so grateful to have him in my life.

    3. My mum. She’s been my rock through the most difficult and the best of times. We’re super close and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    4. My physical health. I was warned that after prolonged bed rest I’d likely be facing physiotherapy and painful muscles and joints related to muscle wasting. I’m so grateful that although not completely back to my pre-pregnancy self I’ve avoided therapy and can function almost entirely pain free.

    5. My home. It’s small, it’s drafty and it’s far from fancy but I love it. I love that our small family has a place we love to build our memories.

    6. Good friends. We’ve made a handful of new friends since we’ve moved and we’re so grateful to have these wonderful people and their families in our lives.

    7. Living debt free. Mer and I are finally debt free (except for our mortgage and car payment). We’ve managed to pay back over 20 thousand in credit card debt and save a down payment equal to 55% of the purchase of our home in just over 7 years by living frugally and watching our money very closely.

    8. Having an amazing extended family who are as excited about watching Margs grow as we are. It’s really quite amazing to see how invested some of our aunts, uncles and cousins are in her life. I’m so grateful for the daily phone calls, emails and Facebook messages. Margs is so so loved and I am so grateful.

    9. Having access to good food. We grow a ton of our own produce in the summer and freeze it to sustain us through the winter. Eating well is so important and I’m so grateful to have access to good food all winter long.

    10. The now. I’m so grateful that the now is what it is. I love my daughter, my husband and my home. I don’t love some parts of our journey for obvious reasons but am so grateful that after all of that we’ve finally found some peace and given the opportunity to love life again.

    Now tell me, what are you grateful for today?