Yo.

Well, hello, there.

I’m back. I think. I just recently caught up on a friend’s blog, and I love the way she writes and captures her everyday family life. It’s those little stories that we’ll all forget in 20 years (or 20 minutes), which got me thinking about returning to the blog to capture those memories of my own. And to write run-on sentences. And incomplete ones, too.

Since I last logged in, a lot has happened.

1. This Girl. We welcomed Margaret Isabel James (Maggie) into our lives:

Maggie

Oh, she makes me so happy. She was born Nov. 8, exactly 23 months after her brother’s arrival. She started smiling at four weeks, and loves to coo, chat and giggle at anyone who crosses her path. Alex was a very chilled out baby, and Maggie’s proving to follow in her brother’s footsteps. We don’t know how we got so lucky with our babies, but we’re grateful each day for them.

2. No sleep. Though she may smile, she does not sleep. Maggie is a busy girl, which means she’s had her share of sleeping struggles. We’re getting there in our attempts to get her to sleep, but it requires swaddling and NOT missing her tired window of opportunity! She is vocal. Kinda like her dad.ūüėČ

3. Breastfeeding. I had my share of struggles with Alex and breastfeeding. I just couldn’t keep up with him. I had an amazing first three months of breastfeeding with Mags, almost doing it exclusively. But at the 3.5-month mark, she keep asking for more food every hour, and she wasn’t sleeping. I pumped to discover I’m not producing as much milk as she needs, so I’ve switched to supplementing and pumping. Following such a tiring and heartbreaking experience with Alex, I’ve been quick to recognize the same trend in Mags and put my ego to the side. The result? A much happier baby and a much more relaxed mama.

4. Alex’s Adjustment. Alex immediately took to Maggie. “My hold her!” is a constant request in our household, and he’s always bringing us her bottle, soother and blanket. And she feels the same way about him. When Alex walks into her view, she immediately lights up and loves to watch him play. It’s endearing and I’ll have to remember those moments for when they’re fighting over toys later in life!

5. The gallbladder. My gallbladder was removed on Dec. 16, five weeks after Maggie’s birth, and the day after we had to bring her to CHEO due to a fever. The surgery went well, but I’d say it was one of the most stressful/exhausting weeks of our lives. I was unable to help out much, Maggie was sick, and Toby was trying to balance it all out. We survived and were happy to see 2015 arrive. I was also happy when the pizza delivery guy arrived at my doorstep. Hello, pizza. I’ve missed you.

This Sunday, Maggie turns four months old. I can’t imagine our lives without her now, and it feels good to write about our family life again.

Gratitude and Daddy Poo

I got a text from my friend recently¬†who said he is¬†excited for my gallbladder¬†removal so that¬†I’ll be back to my funny self.

When I asked him if I meant I had lost my sense of humour, I could hear the crickets travel through text travel time!

With that, I¬†got to thinking about the struggles of pregnancy, and want to showcase¬†my¬†gratitude for all the things happening in my life. And while I’m in countdown mode for the birth of our second child, I still see a lot of light in the days that pass.

Here are just a few:

This guy:

IMAG0823

Every day, our son makes me laugh. He finds humour in balancing a spoon on his head; on tipping his tractors, just as Mater does in the movie, Cars; and when he spots a boat, car, truck, tractor or any other mode of transportation. His personality is coming out, and it’s so fun to watch his mind grow.

IMAG0860

Here are just some of the things that have come out of his mouth:

“Bum!”

“Daddy poo”

“Why? Why? Why?”‘

“Mine”

“NO!!”

“Baby” (and points to everyone’s belly)

“What ‘dat?”

“Lie down!” (to the dog)

“Silly”

“Wha’ You Doin?”

He gets joy from seeing our reaction to his new words and phrases and we get so much joy from watching his funny antics.

 

#2. This other guy

IMAG0838

This is how Toby dressed Alex for grocery shopping last weekend. Yep. A Basketball jersey mixed with camo shorts. Was I about to make him change the outfit? Not a chance. Toby’s been good to relieve me of household duties as the pregnancy progresses. From dog walks to toddler grocery trips, I’ve been able to rest because he’s helping out. He also rubs my back and reads me twitter posts from the account, “Texts from Last Night”, when we’re in the ER together after a gallbladder attack.

 

3. Infinity Jewelry

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Last week a parcel arrived in the mail for me from a friend. It was an infinity necklace and earrings from Lia Sophia. I had looked at the magazine recently, but didn’t go through with any purchases. My husband surprised me by ordering the two pieces without my knowledge. Now, when I’m annoyed with him, he points to my necklace, smiles, and says, “Forever”.

While I may not entirely be myself these days (you know, as in, Kristen, Tina and Giselle moulded into one person), I try not to lose track of the things that make me smile and grateful.

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What made you smile today?

Pregnancy, a gallbladder diet and how I’d cut off my right arm for a cheese pizza

If you haven’t yet run into me on the street, at the store or via text/Facebook/any avenue in which I can complain, then you may not yet know that for the past eight¬†weeks, I’ve been dealing with gallbladder attacks.

I miss you, Peanut Butter.

I miss you, Peanut Butter.

My first attack happened when I was working at the local college. Suddenly, a wave of pain crossed the top of my tummy and I found myself lying in the fetal position on the bathroom floor when I wasn’t vomiting. Classy. I know. I got myself home and 1.5 hours later, the pain subsided.

I initially thought it was a severe indigestion attack, but I later learned that gallstones attacks are pretty common in pregnancy and it can be passed down from your family members. So when I learned my mom suffered from gallbladder attacks when pregnant with my brother, it all made sense.

Two more attacks came along and I was sent in for an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed I have gallstones, but removing the gallbladder during pregnancy won’t happen unless there’s an emergency situation (e.g., it’s leaking bile into my liver and we’re all going to die).

For me, gallstones attacks always come on following a meal, and my doctors, including Dr. Google (P.S. don’t ever, ever Google image search ‘gallstones’), tell me that diet changes can at least lessen the likelihood of attacks. There’s no cheating, because it’s like playing a game of Fear Factor when I sit down to eat, as¬†I’m terrified another attack may emerge.

So – what do I eat¬†now?¬†As the ER nurse said: “You’ll be eating twigs and berries”.

I have to cut fats from my diet, because that’s what can spur on an attack. I’ve thus cut out dairy, high-fat meats, caffeine, egg yolks, nut butters, nuts, oils, healthy fats and refined sugars from my diet.

So – again – what do I eat now?

I’ve been trying to be creative with my meals and snacks. I’m eating a lot of veggies, fruits, hummus, egg whites, multi-grains and low-fat meats to get through the rest of the pregnancy.

Every morning for breakfast, I eat an oatmeal pancake, which includes half a mashed banana, quick oats, egg whites, baking powder and vanilla extract. It’s delicious and filling and makes me feel half normal.

Ultimately, it’s good for the baby as he/she isn’t snacking on garbage.

Although, usually when I go on a clean-eating kick, I don’t crave bad foods after about a two-week cleanse. But pregnancy cravings don’t work that way. I would actually chew off my right arm for a cheese pizza or a slice of chocolate cake. Even an avocado would be great at this point.

I’ll likely get my gallbladder taken out before Christmas once the baby is born. Following that surgery, I plan to eat my face off.

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If you have some low-fat or no-fat meal ideas, then I’d love to hear from you!¬†

You Google image searched ‘Gallstones’, didn’t you?

Putting together our Basement

Do you remember that TLC show, While You Were Out? Someone left for the weekend and their loved ones completed a surprise room makeover in their house?

Just call me Evan Farmer.

Earlier this year, I posted about how our basement of doom is essentially our dumping ground for our crap.

Exhibit A, B and C:

James on Jessie Basement

 

basement 3

 

basement 2

It’s where dreams go to die.

Yes, that is a hose in the middle of the floor.

The space is already set up for use. There are new laminate floors and a fresh(ish) coat of paint. But we haven’t had the time or energy to do anything with it since we moved in two years ago.

Once we found out Baby James #2 was on his/her way, I got to thinking. And that thinking got to list making. Suddenly, Toby had a huge to-do list of things to get done around the house before the little bee came along (I have actually set up a Need To/Want To Get Done list on our corkboard – I love it. Toby wants to punch it).

We want to get the basement set up so that when the baby does come, we have a huge space for our toddler son to play. If I’m upstairs with the baby on an early Saturday morning, Toby and Alex can go play downstairs. If the baby is awake at night and fussy, we can escape to the basement so we don’t wake anyone up.

This past weekend, Toby was signed up for the¬†Tough Mudder challenge with my brother. Three weeks ago, my nesting brain got to thinking: “What if I put this room together when he’s gone?” And so the planning began.

I confided to my friend who helped with the planning process. I purchased couches from a local lady and stored them at my sister’s house. I lied about playdates to go pick up picture frames in Ottawa via Kijiji. I even faked a gallbladder attack.

Then the weekend arrived. My friend was to come over Friday evening to begin the process, but I got¬†slammed with¬†two¬†gallbladder attacks on Thursday that left me in a bad spot for most of Friday. But following two trips to the ER, I was given the okay, and decided that the project will keep my mind off the fun that’s going on inside my body.

I didn’t really fake the gallbladder attacks.

Friday and Saturday evenings as well as Saturday naptime was used to clean and set up the room. Here’s what we put together in that time:

Basement finish 1

Basement finish 2

Basement finish 3

We divided the room up into three parts: Toby’s office area, a television/sitting area (tv to come) and a play area. The middle of the room will essentially be used for hockey/soccer/running.

We worked on a photo collage, as well as set up an artwork corner of Alex’s crafts and found a way to hang the race medals we’ve collected over the years. I now just need to dig out the rest of them!

When Toby hobbled into the house Sunday morning, Alex and I were playing downstairs. Toby was shocked and loved what was done with the place. But I realized the space is actually more for Alex, as it will give him that place to play, especially in the winter when we’re stuck indoors.

It feels like we have a new house as we begin the use this space more often.

So, that takes one thing off the to-do list. Only 12 more to go…

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Have you ever done a surprise room makeover?

 

 

How Robin Williams has helped me talk about my pregnancy experience

I think it’s safe to say the entire world is saddened by the news of Robin Williams’ death. Not only because of his legacy in show business, but also about how his life ended. There’s a lot of internet chatter today about mental health, eliminating the stigma and how we can bring it more out into the open.

For weeks now, I’ve wanted to write about my actual pregnancy experience here on the blog. But, I haven’t. So I’ve instead stayed silent.

And it’s due¬†to a couple of reasons.

First, I should be so lucky to get pregnant and be blessed to have children. I truly do feel blessed and fortunate to be able to have kids, especially with such a ridiculously supportive husband. Seriously Рthat guy has more maternal instincts than I do.

Secondly, I have also felt that it’s something I’d be able to talk about once the pregnancy is all over and we’ve welcomed our second child into our lives. I thought it’d be better timed so that it didn’t seem like I was whining while in the midst of it all.

But why not talk about it now?

So…here goes. I’ve struggled with prenatal depression.

I don’t feel like myself. It’s hard to get work done. I’ve felt anxious. I just wanted to stay in bed. And for a while, I was sad a lot of the time. There were a lot of tears.

As parents, and especially as women, we’re expected to be thrilled about the pregnancy and there’s a lot of talk about having ‘the glow’. Fortunately, there is an increased awareness and dialogue about postpartum¬†depression. But according to some reports, one in four women deal with some level¬†of prenatal depression.

I ensured I communicated a lot with my husband about it as well as my doctors. I’m guessing the blues had a lot to do with being so sick in the first half of the pregnancy. It’s hard not to feel down about things when you’re spending a lot of the day hugging the toilet. It could have also been related to the medication I’ve been on to help reduce my vomiting and nausea. Since the nausea has reduced, so has my anxiety.

I had some of these same symptoms with my first pregnancy, but not to this degree. As soon as Alex came into the world, I felt like myself again.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s okay not to enjoy it. I don’t feel like myself when I’m pregnant, and that’s okay. Instead, I’ve tried to take it one day at a time, and reflect on what the outcome will be: welcoming yet another love of my life into the world.

Baby Alex

The news about Robin Williams made me think about how silly it was not to talk about my experience, especially if it is relatable for other women. When I learned of a mutual friend having suffered from prenatal depression, I reached out to her and she immediately made me feel ‘normal’ for facing such struggles. That kind of support goes a long way.

I’ve been scared to talk about it on the blog, because I think it sounds selfish¬†when people ‘complain’ about pregnancy. But sometimes there’s a deeper level to it. And we should be able to talk about it.

 

 

Parenting with your partner in the early days

I’m very proud to announce the arrival of a new member of our family: Baby Grace! No, I didn’t go into labour 18 weeks early: my brother and his fiancee had their first child: Grace Ellen.

Seriously cute. The baby, of course.

Seriously cute. The baby, of course.

My mom and I headed down to Toronto to visit Grace and her parents overnight.

Although my son is only 18 months old, it’s amazing how quickly you forget about all the work that’s involved with a newborn. My brother compared it to starting a new job when you have no idea what you’re doing. And that new job is in Germany.

So, so true.

The long nights and little sleep make you mildly crazy all while trying to heal from the birth and learning all about¬†your baby’s needs, cries and poops. So. much. poop.

Meeting Grace reminded me of what I learned about working with my husband to ensure the baby’s – and our! – survival.

Working as a team with your partner is crucial to survival, and here are some things I do remember from those insane newborn days:

1. Spell each other off for naps. There’s no sense in both of you being awake.

2. Keep talking to one another.

3. Don’t play the sleep comparison game. No one wins.

4. Don’t ignore your partner’s suggestions. You’re both the parents, so each opinion is just as important as the other’s.

5. It takes about 6-8 weeks before you finally feel like you’ve gotten into a pattern. Hang in there.

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What are some tips you’d give to new parents?

 

Going to Ikea. For the hell of it.

Based on our Dr. Google research (best parents ever?), we have concluded that our son has foot, hand and mouth disease. He broke out into a rash on his face and he slept like a mofo this past weekend. Even more so than me.

With that, we had to forego daycare and play at home today. By 8:30 a.m., I was going nuts. I can handle lying low over the course of a weekend, but I need to keep busy during the week.

So…we went to Ikea. For the hell of it.

Yep. I drove us an hour to pick up a potty for Alex and mentally spend hundreds of dollars on home decor.

This would look perfect in the living room. Right, husband?

This would look perfect in the living room. Right, husband?

 

Sidenote: I would have never thought that hearing my child say “poo poo” before crapping his pants would make me so proud. But it does.

It was surprising to see just how kid-friendly¬†Ikea is – and they serve beer for parents! If you ever head there on a Tuesday morning, you’ll discover – as I did – that it’s where moms bring their children. Forget the library. Forget the pool. In the nation’s capital, Ikea is where it’s at. The kids think the toys and gadgets are fun and moms get to dream up weekend furniture projects for their husbands. It’s the perfect playdate location.

I was eating macaroni and cheese.

I was eating macaroni and cheese.

I ended up leaving with the potty, a leash hanger and a navy blue candle. So random.

We’re at home again tomorrow and I’m already thinking of ways¬†we can spend our time. There are only so many minutes that¬†Alex and I can play Megablocks before we start throwing them across the room.

 

One run and two naps: how pregnancy has forced me to slow down

Remember that time I ran four kilometres and had to take two naps the following day?

True story.

On Friday evening, I was feeling pretty good and pitched to Toby that I’d like to go for a run following Alex’s bedtime.

He raised his eyebrows at me, but replied, “Sure, go ahead.”

I ran four kilometres. It was beautiful outside. Sure, my breathing was like that of Fatty McGee’s trying to get up the library steps, but  I was smiling.

Exercising sure felt great.

Fast forward to Saturday. By 9 a.m., I was back in bed for a 20-minute rest. I then could barely make it through the afternoon and napped again at 3 p.m. Simply put, the run kicked my ass.

I was supposed to join my sister for four kilometres of her training run on Sunday morning, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Running is my outlet. So when it was taken away from me during my 10 weeks of pregnancy sickness, I felt more like ‘myself’ when I got back into it again. This is especially true since I struggle with my mood levels during pregnancy. If I don’t get that outlet to be rid of my ‘yas yas’, I won’t know how to deal with my energy.

When re-evaluating, maybe I could join the College gym again and take it easy on the elliptical and bicycle. Or there’s always pre-natal yoga, but it’s a half-hour drive away. There’s also the library steps. “But I like the stairs!”

So many (non-running) options.

So – tell me – what did you do for exercise when you were pregnant?

 

The Plate

Since getting pregnant, the James couple has been in major survival mode.

With me being sick, my husband, Toby, has been left to deal with a lot of the household chores. From dinners to clean-up, he has really stepped up his game these past few months.

Like, a lot.

I’d be so tired, I’d leave my empty plates on the couch and¬†crawl up the stairs to bed for the night.

Understandably, he’s worn out. Alex has been getting up at 5:30 a.m. each morning and Toby works from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday. He’s then been taking care of the house duties on weekends.

But our biggest struggle doesn’t have to do with this shift of household responsibilities. It has to do with my guilt over not contributing and being a lump on the couch.¬†It’s my obsessive need to have¬†fair game in all facets of life.

I blame my childhood.

Hear me out.

As one of four children, you immediately had to state your rights to property or at least eat as many cookies as possible before they were all consumed. Everyone had to have their turn while contributing to the house’s operations. ¬†There’s now a rule in our current house that you’re allowed to consume only half the pieces of pizza, even if the other person hasn’t yet touched their half of the pie.

So this need for consistent balance has once again come into play throughout the pregnancy. By not contributing at least half of the time or effort, I feel like I’m failing.

Toby says the only time he’s frustrated is when I’m sulking about how I can’t help out. The sulking, it turns out, doesn’t help!

Now that I’m back in the game (at least physically. The emotional side? We’re not quite there yet), I’ve been able to help out again. I cleaned the house from top to bottom last weekend and even did all the laundry (where’s my gold star? Or my pizza?).

And, when I actually BROUGHT my plate up from the couch and to the kitchen counter last night, I started getting flack about it.

“Oh, wow.”

“What?” I asked.

“I’m just shocked. You brought your plate to the kitchen. Great job.”

“You know what you sound like right now?” I replied to Toby in a defensive state.

“What’s that?”

“A nagging wife. You sound like ¬†a nagging wife!”

We laughed, and started to play the, “oh, you wanna go there, do ya?” game.

The next morning, when Toby had already left for work, I found this from his previous night’s snack:

The Plate James on Jessie

 

I fired him a photo of the evidence and, with his quick wit, replied that he wanted to help even out the score for me.

We’re back to a fair game.

What’s going on in our household

In case you’ve been on standby since my most recent post, a few things have gone down in the James’ Household:

1. I did not get my sh*t organized. In fact, that photo of the basement has turned into a tremendously worse image. I’m pretty sure there are trolls now living among the toddler tower of clothing bins down there.

2. I’m pregnant.

3. Hence, why number 1 never got accomplished.

First thing’s first: we’re so, so ecstatic to be expecting our second child, who is due Nov. 2. We feel fortunate that we can have children and that our family continues to grow. The kiddos will be 23 month apart, which means they’ll be best friends for life and can share the household chores. Ha! I’m so naive.

"Can I get an Alleluia?!"

“Can I get an Alleluia?!”

(This child really has no idea what kind of damage is about to be done to his world).

Second thing’s second: pregnancy and I are not very good friends. I obviously LOVE the outcome of pregnancy, but the process itself has been troubling for me. Since Week 8, I’ve been getting sick 1-3 times a day and that’s when I’m on medication for the nausea.¬†Boo hoo, I know.

The good thing is that I have a full appetite, which means I can at least consume salads and vitamins for the little one before throwing it back up. I’m currently approaching the 17-week mark, and the sickness has eased up, which means the endless¬†consumption of toasted English Muffins and Cheez Whiz (yes, don’t judge me) topping has been reduced to twice daily.

So what’s in store for the next five-six months, as we wait for the arrival of our little Bike (the nickname)?

I can tell you one thing: I’ve thrown up, err, out all my to-do goals for the year.

Instead, I’m really working to chill out and to actually breathe. I can work to get my sh*t together and try new things every month, but I really need to just learn to focus more on the present and to not be overwhelmed with what life’s about to throw our way.

Easier said than done, right?

P.S. If there are grammatical errors, I blame prego brain. And the trolls.

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If you have young children, how do you keep it all together?

What was your “go-to” pregnancy eat?