Saturday, April 6, 2013

What is happening to PRODiGY?

Wow. It's been awhile since I last posted something. This past month has been a whirlwind of illness and stress. Certainly there have been good things, but there's been a lot of stress, sickness and tears - but don't worry - when I say illness I mean really rotten cold and flu viruses, not anything serious.

The point is that the fog is lifting, and with that comes time and space to think about the upcoming summer.

For those of you who know me at all, you know that Ultimate Frisbee is a big part of my life. Not only do I enjoy playing it, but my husband is addicted to it, and I mean ADDICTED. The man eats, breathes, sleeps and lives Ultimate. Not a day goes by that we don't discuss some aspect of the sport in our home. The chatter of Ultimate always grows exponentially around this time of year though, because this when we really start to gear up for the main season.

Two years ago, in 2011, we were becoming better and better, and more interested in Ultimate. We enjoyed playing in the local recreational league, but we wanted to take the next step and start playing in tournaments (some call it club, some call it touring, some call it competitive Ultimate). There had been a team in Hamilton in the past, but their membership had dwindled as the leaders moved away or wanted a break from running the show (and perhaps there were other reasons, but I wasn't all that familiar with the team, so I'm not sure). There was a women's team in Kitchener/Waterloo, and a men's (open) team there, too, where some of the Hamilton players were going to try out so that they could play at the club/touring level. We also knew about a team in Guelph and some in Toronto, but there weren't any local options left.

That's when we got to thinking: why don't we create a new mixed (coed) team in Hamilton? Hamilton has tons of talented Ultimate players, ranging from young university students to more seasoned touring veterans ... why don't we have a touring team anymore? Why is everyone commuting to Toronto, KW, and Guelph to play?

Location was very important for us, as was a coed team. Bean was under a year old, so we didn't want to drive an hour each way to attend practices, and we wanted to play on the same team because it's something we really enjoy doing together. So, with a lot of hard work (especially on my husband's part) and some help from some other keen Ultimate players, PRODiGY Ultimate was born! We chose the name PRODiGY because we liked what the name meant: a person with extraordinary talent or powers. We believed that Hamilton was full of "prodigies," and we wanted to give them (and ourselves) a chance to show this to the rest of Ontario (and hopefully Canada) and play some good, fun, honest Ultimate.

There were certainly some lessons learned that year in regard to team management, etc., but overall it was a pretty successful year. PRODiGY did well at Regionals (basically Provincials) and competed in Nationals. Skills were developed, players grew and improved, and I think a lot of people started to really believe that Hamilton could have a real chance in competitive Ultimate again.

Last year I was pregnant with Pea, so I was unable to play, but I attended every tournament to show my support and to keep track of how much playing time everyone got so that we could keep things as even as possible. PRODiGY started off very strongly and pulled off some incredible wins against some highly competitive teams. Some improvements were made in terms of strategy, and leadership, but with it being only the second year for the team, there were still lessons to be learned. PRODiGY looked pretty solid heading into Nationals last summer, but then things spun out of control when Pea had to be delivered early in order to save both Pea and me. Fortunately, Pea and I ended up being safe, but sadly, my husband, the team captain, had to stay home from Nationals. From what we hear, many problems arose in his absence and the team sort of fell apart at the seams, leaving most of the players involved feeling frustrated and uninspired.

This year I'm excited to be able to play again, especially since I think my game has improved and I KNOW my attitude has. I used to be all about the ambition - wanting to be the very best, competing with everyone, wanting everyone to know how "great" I was. However, now I realize I'm far from being the best and that the attitude I had wasn't helping me any. Now when I step out on the field, I'm there to have FUN and to connect with my teammates and to encourage them and show them my support. When I line up at the end of the game to shake/high five the other team, I do so sincerely because I am truly happy that we have had enough people take time out of there busy lives to get together to play some Ultimate all together.

And this is why I'm so confused and disappointed this year. I have never been so excited to play club/touring Ultimate. I want to share my love of the game and my views and spirit of the game with others. I want to finally toss the disc with all of those talented players I watched last season as I sat with my growing baby belly on the sidelines. I want to be part of that team and be part of what makes it better and what makes it special. But here's the problem: our numbers are dwindling. Many (though definitely not all!!) of our talented players are leaving. They're going to KW to play women's or men's (open), or Toronto to do the same. And I don't know why. (After all, if all of our men and women from Hamilton area stuck together, we could have our very own highly competitive and women's and men's teams and shorten everyone's commute!)

I don't know why people don't believe in Hamilton. It seems to be an ongoing problem, and I just don't get it. I don't know if people think they're better than Hamilton? Or better than mixed (coed)? Or worse - do they think that they're not wanted or valued? What the heck happened last year at Nationals to make everyone flee? And why can't we work through it? Isn't that why we make mistakes? So that we can learn from them and improve?

I am pleased that there are still a number of people that want to play with PRODiGY this year, but will we have enough to form a team? I'm not sure. And what happens with us and the other people who want to stay local if we don't?

(It's the classic problem of the beautiful downtown core in a small town. Once the big box stores pop up on the outskirts of town, all of the shoppers are drawn away except for the loyal few. Unfortunately, quite often those loyal few aren't enough to keep the downtown business open. Despite the downtown business owner's belief and devotion to local business, they are forced to close their doors. Wouldn't it be a shame if this very same thing happened to Hamilton Ultimate?)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pop the Question, Ladies!

The Valentine's hat I made for Bean.
Husband and I have never been big on celebrating Valentine's Day - not even before we were married. We started dating in January 2002, and that first Valentine's Day was probably the only time we've really celebrated the Hallmark holiday. He covered his bases by buying me a necklace and pendant, some chocolate, and a rose. Maybe even a stuffed animal? Haha ... not sure - I don't quite remember. I made him a message in a bottle, which is probably packed away down in our cluttered basement somewhere.

However, since that year, we've sort of boycotted Valentine's Day because it's easier to ignore it than to try to come up with an innovative way to celebrate it each year. (And for those of you who know me personally, you know that I don't like obligatory gifts like the type that often accompany Valentine's Day.)

So what do we celebrate in February if not Valentine's Day? The anniversary of our engagement. Yep, we got engaged on Friday, February 8th, 2008. One of the best decisions we've ever made. Here's the story:

We'd been dating for six years, long distance for five of those years. I was living in Toronto at the time, and he in St. Catharines, each with our best friends. I was sharing a grad student office with a friend of similar age who was married and had been talking a lot about marriage with her. Husband and I were serious and had talked plenty about marriage and children, but I had told him that I wanted to be finished school before we tied the knot.

Suddenly I found myself ready to "make the leap" though, and I couldn't explain what it was that had changed in me. I was just ready. I wanted to take that next step and I wanted to do it soon. The only problem? That stupid time I told him that I wanted to wait till I was done school (all 6 years of it!!!). Here's what I did:

Step One: Tell Husband's best friend that I'm ready to be engaged. Like now.
Poor guy, I still remember this moment - we were standing in the Bulk Barn parking lot across from the Pen Centre. He was like "UMMMMM ... okay ...hahaha."
I quickly followed up by admitting how ridiculous it was for me to give him that message. After all, what was he supposed to do? Tell Husband to get it together because I said the word?

Step Two: Consider taking matters into my own hands. 
After that awkward conversation with Husband's best friend, I started to wonder if I should just "man up" and ask Husband myself. No, not ask him to propose - I mean propose to him myself. I spent a weekend in Guelph with my university roommate discussing the matter with her and looking at rings.

Step Three: Survey the masses.
Ok, well, not the masses, but I did ask my big brother as well as a stranger on the bus home from Guelph. Stranger was a young guy who had just joined the Armed Forces and was quite traditional in his views (read: he thought it was a horrible idea). Brother thought it was intriguing, but worried that I might  be "stealing" Husband's moment. That's fair.

Step Four: Weigh my options.
Become the girl that is bitter every time she hears of someone getting engaged, having a bridal shower or getting married because I wish it were me? Or,  risk embarrassing (future) Husband by proposing to him instead of waiting for him to ask? 

Step Five: Make a plan.
I spent a couple hours with my journal - a journal that Husband had given me for our six-month anniversary, in which I often wrote "to" him during our long distance years. I poured my heart out about how much I loved him and all that we had been through. Then I started to plan the evening of the proposal. He would drive to Toronto and I would meet him downstairs (I lived in an apartment). We would go out for dinner, and when we got back, I'd come up with an excuse for me to run up on my own while he parked the car. Roommate/best friend would be out for the evening, so I would throw rose petals around the apartment, light some candles, and get ready to propose to my man.

Step Six: Freak out.
I barely slept that week. Not because I was scared he would reject me - no. Because I wanted it to be perfect and I wanted him to be happy about it, not disappointed. I still remember going to pottery class that Wednesday night with my sister-in-law. Our teacher offered for me to try to use the wheel that night - HA! I couldn't even center my piece! That week I also went out for lunch with a fellow grad student and told her about my plan. Pretty sure she and my best friend were the only ones I told about the big plan. Thank goodness they were supportive.

Step Seven: Do it.
Wonderful (future) husband that he was, Husband showed up EARLY at my apartment, knocking on my door an hour before he was supposed to arrive! He came bearing gifts, too: a big bouquet of flowers that he picked up to cover his butt in case I reneged on our decision not to celebrate Valentine's Day the next week. (Oh, and he bought them from the same florist where I had purchased a bouquet and bag of rose petals just an hour before...).  The living room was already set with flowers, pictures, candles, journal, etc., so I had to usher him into my bedroom and convince him to stay in my room while I put the bouquet he gave me in water.

It was still light out, so the candles wouldn't look right, so I needed to stall him. But could I get us out the door without him seeing the living room? Or would I have to move up the proposal to before dinner? (This is the only time in my life that I've been dissatisfied with the increased daylight hours in February!)

Now that he was there, there was no way I could wait till after dinner to propose! I'd be so nervous that I wouldn't be able to choke down a single bite. Ok, it's go time then.

So I told him I had set up a bunch of my pottery creations in the living room and that I wanted him to follow me out there with closed eyes. Well, he did. I sat him down on the couch, and he opened his eyes to a scene of flowers, candles, pictures of us, our journal, and me. I was shaking with nerves and had watery eyes as I knelt down and told him how much I loved him and how I couldn't imagine a better way to show him than to ask him to be my husband.

He asked me if it was for real and I told him it was ... unless he didn't want it ... haha! He said yes, and the rest is history, I guess. Five years of history so far.

So, to all of the ladies out there who are waiting for their boyfriends/girlfriends to propose, I say this:

If your desire to get engaged is affecting your relationship negatively because you are growing impatient, consider taking matters into your own hands. It doesn't make you less of a woman and it's not tacky. It's practical and reasonable and it can be beautiful! Just go for it.

For the curious: the next day we went ring shopping. We both got rings and we wore them on our right hands until our wedding day until we switched them to our left hands. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Amazing Neighbours

Last week when I visited my friend/almost neighbour, she gave me a notebook. She told me that during my sleepless nights (I get a lot of those at times), I should pull it out and start writing out my thousand gifts. See, this dear friend of mine is currently reading the novel, A Thousand Gifts. And it's times like this I believe that I can easily think of a thousand things and people I am thankful for.

One of the things I am most thankful for these days is great neighbours. For anyone who has studied population health, you'll know that one of the social determinants of health is a support network. Well, let me tell you - mine is incredible right now.

A few weeks ago when our cat, Bagheera was having seizures, our neighbour with not one, but two infant children looked after Pea while we took Bagheera to the vet. All with just a couple hour's notice. This is the same neighbour that dropped off soup and muffins when I got hit hard with a cold in November, and the one that welcomed the kids and I into her home when I locked myself out in December.

Every time the snow flies, our next door neighbour shovels our sidewalk as he prepares to leave for work in the morning. Sure, we try to return the favour, but he does it every single time.

Nearly every other Sunday while husband and I go play Ultimate (we bring Pea), our other next door neighbour comes over to watch Bean. She's amazing with her and Bean loves this time with her. This is the same neighbour that lent me pattern books so I could crochet little food toys for Bean for Christmas, and the same neighbour that rescued me twice this week.

You see, Bean came home from daycare last Friday with the stomach flu and was sick Friday through Wednesday. Well, by Sunday, husband was feeling run down and I was desperate to keep Pea healthy. So, I started sending Pea out.

On Sunday, Pea spent 7 hours with my wonderful friends/neighbours a few streets over (same friend that walks with me weekly and gives me a good dose of emotional support on those walks). When I dropped him off, she welcomed me in and fueled me with coffee and a freshly baked cinnamon roll!

When Pea arrived home, we sent him out to his aunties' place. His aunties are a pair of the sweetest women you'll ever meet - they care for our children frequently and they're pals of ours. They're our local family, really. He spent some time at their house until they took him to his auntie's sister's place where he spent some time with yet another of our close friends and Pea's honorary aunties. Pea was out of the house for about 12 hours that day.

Well, come Monday, husband was itching to get out of the house and so he went to play Ultimate (with the aforementioned aunties). Bean still wasn't 100% and needed extra attention, so Pea went next door for a couple hours while I put her to bed.

Finally, the next day, husband woke feeling awful, and Bean was still iffy, so Pea went next door again! (That's when I threw in the towel - I packed the car and drove the kids and myself 2 hours north to my parents' place.)

But I couldn't have done it without my next door neighbour. She watched both kids while I put the finishing touches on the car. And she didn't leave til we pulled out the driveway. I swear if I had hugged her that day I would have cried on her shoulder. I was so emotionally raw after watching my baby get so sick that weekend and battling on low sleep and food.

We are so blessed to have so many wonderful, dependable people so close to us in our life! I didn't even tell you about our daycare provider's daughter who bathed Bean when she was sick, or the food that the notebook friend brought for us, or my mother-in-law who watched the kids on Saturday night while we caught a glimpse of the outside world.

So, yes, I have a LOT to be thankful for. For our return to health, but especially for the love and support of so many while we struggled with our little mole hill that felt like an insurmountable mountain. Thank you all.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Be Positive About Your Body

As Eating Disorder Awareness Week draws to a close, I've been inspired to write a post about body image.

As most people do, I sometimes have negative thoughts about my appearance. Maybe I'm frustrated with the thinness of my hair or the way I have limited footwear options because of foot abnormalities I have developed. Or maybe I just don't like the way a shirt hangs on my curvier-than-usual postpartum body. Whatever it is, when I think this way about my body, it's negative self-talk and it's not healthy.

These negative thoughts do nothing but harm to myself and those around me, so my goal is to minimize them. One of the ways I do this is by repeating mantras or phrases in my head. For example:

When I was pregnant and nearing delivery time, I would say to myself, "my body is perfectly designed to grow and DELIVER this baby.".

When I look down at my wrinkly, scarred-up belly where my youthful, attractive (to my husband at least) tummy once was, I tell myself "you are more beautiful and he loves you more now because you're a mother. You are not just a body."

And as my body continues to shed the extra padding I acquired during pregnancy, I tell myself "it's part of the journey and I will be beautiful in whatever shape or form my body takes, as long as I am good to myself."

And when my knee or foot hurts when I run or play sports, or I don't quite "measure up" in my mind, I try to remember to be thankful for what I have and what I AM capable of. After all, it wasn't long ago that it hurt to walk, never mind run!

The point is that the best defense against negative self-talk is positive self-talk. Just as we know it's more valuable to reinforce positive behaviors in our children (and dogs for that matter!), the same is true within our own minds.

You can be healthy at every size (HAES), so long as you are kind and respectful to yourself and the body you've been blessed with.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Food is a Gift

This is true in more ways than one.

Certainly it is a gift from the earth and from those who work hard to bring it to your market, store, table, etc.
However, it also possesses other "gift-like" qualities. Bare with me for a moment and it should all make sense.

Think about gifts at Christmas time - especially during those exchanges where you're given numbers and everyone selects gifts to open and you're able to swap/steal as part of the game. Now this is where food and gifts become similar.

 The Appearance of the Package
When you're choosing a gift to open, often the most appealing gifts are the ones that are wrapped well. The one in pretty paper or the one adorned with a fancy bow. Same goes for food. You're more likely to pick up food that looks appealing. When we're talking about processed foods, this is where the marketing experts get you with their eye-catching packaging (think Golden Grahams versus Corn Flakes). When we're talking about fresh foods, this is where we see brightly coloured, blemish-free fruits and veggies being chosen over duller, less vibrant choices (think fresh red strawberries over a waxed rutabaga).

When it comes to fruit and veggies, fresher, undamaged pieces are certainly preferable. However, much of the time it is valuable to heed the traditional advice: "Don't judge a book by its cover."

Size Matters

Do you choose the biggest gift in the pile? Or the smallest? This is where we're often split on our preferences in terms of selecting gifts. However, when it comes to food, more often than not, people are going to choose the bigger food option. We're always trying to get more bang for our buck because it makes us feel like we're being wise (but are we?).  I think it depends on the type of food we're purchasing. Sure - maybe it's a good choice to purchase a big bag of carrots over a small one if your family enjoys them and you eat them up before they spoil. But do we really need the family-size bag of chips or cookies? There have been many studies to show that when there's an abundance of something, we tend to eat more than we normally would. Same goes for when there is less of something. I'm sure you can think of an example in your own life. The one that comes to my mind is cookies. When I first make a batch, I gobble them up - not even counting how many I've eaten. We rely upon visual cues and if the pile of cookies is big, my mind sees no reason to slow up on the cookie-eating until the pile looks noticeably smaller. Sound familiar? Alternatively, if you receive a small tin of cookies from a friend (say with 6 cookies in it), I'm going to bet you'll make them last a little. Six of 48 cookies disappears a lot quicker than 6 of 6 cookies. Know what I'm saying?

The Tricky Package

There's often one of these in the pile at the gift exchange, and this is the point of this entire post.  The large gift that is just a fooler because the gift inside the large box is either tiny, or it's a dud. Another way to think of this is to think of a gift from your significant other. I'm sure many of us would agree that we might prefer a small box with a high quality, thoughtful, and potentially expensive gift in it (hello diamonds!) to a large, bulky gift containing the opposite (I'm thinking a tin of stale popcorn or a mega package of tube socks).

So what would you prefer? A small box filled to the brim with quality? Or a large box with lots (or a small amount) of low quality stuff?

You can think about food in a similar way. Try to make choices that are full of quality. For example, when you're hungry for a snack before dinner, try having a small handful of almonds and a piece of fruit rather than a couple of handfuls of nachos with salsa. Why? Well, there's a good chance the fruit and nuts will satisfy your hunger better, but beyond that, it's higher quality food. You can get more nutrition - vitamins and minerals - from the fruit and nuts, with less calories compared to the nachos and salsa. See? Vitamins and minerals = quality, calories = gift box size.

Here's an even better example: 2 fried eggs vs. 1 hot dog

The 2 eggs will give you approximately 11 grams of protein in 178 calories, while the hot dog will give you only 10 grams of protein but for 242 calories.

Next time you're forced to make a food decision (and believe me - you make many in just a day's time), think about one or all of these points. How are you being influenced by the appearance of the package? Are you being wise about the size? And how does the quantity compare to quality (in terms of serving size, but also just the nature of the food and the amount of calories it delivers versus the nutrition you get from it)?

And if you want a real kick in the butt on this topic, have a look at the Hungry for Change film. If this post doesn't get you thinking about all the extra calories we're eating to get a small amount of nutrition (nutrients like vitamins and minerals), that film will!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sao Miguel

I have travel fever.

It all started a few weeks ago when I was working on the photobooks that I wrote about. Once I finished the yearbook, I made a book to document our trip to Sao Miguel, one of the Azores Islands of Portugal. That was an amazing trip.

I don't have much to compare to since we haven't done much traveling, but I would definitely go back. Before this time last year I hadn't even heard of Sao Miguel, let alone the Azores Islands.

Lagoa do Fogo
Our daycare provider was going on a Disney cruise the last week of February last year and so we knew that one or both of us would have to take a week's vacation to look after Bean. We started thinking about going away, but didn't know where to go. I was 3 months pregnant with Pea, so I wasn't super keen on wearing a bathing suit (you know that stage when you're getting big for your bikini, but you're not really pregnant enough to embrace a maternity bathing suit?). Also, we didn't want to have to do a vaccination blitz with Bean (and didn't know if we'd have enough time).

At the  Caldeira Velha.
It just so happened that I saw a client who grew up on Sao Miguel and he recommended it as a destination for travel. When I asked about the weather in February, he explained that it's their rainy season there, but  the temperature doesn't drop much below 17 degrees Celsius. He also said it was a good place to take a toddler because it's safe there and everyone seems to love children.

That night, I went home and googled Azores and found this very handy website: . We looked at the packages offered and settled on a week-long package on Sao Miguel. The agent that we worked with through the site was super helpful, even getting us a car seat for our rental car so that we wouldn't have to fly ours over.

The gorgeous view I awoke to after our nap on arrival day.
Our flight was direct from Toronto to Ponta Delgada (the biggest city on Sao Miguel), and took about 5 hours. We flew late at night, so Bean was able to sleep on the flight (and we caught a couple winks here and there). We arrived early in the morning their time. There was an agent waiting for us at the arrival gate and she helped us get our rental car figured out. We drove directly to the hotel and napped for a couple of hours.

Once we awoke from our nap, we carried out a pretty normal day, exploring Ponta Delgada on foot. We stayed in Ponta Delgada that night and the next, then stayed 3 nights in Furnas, one in Nordeste, and then one back in Ponta Delgada before flying home.

Sightseeing highlights of the trip were Sete Cidades, Caldeira Velha, Lagoa do Fogo, Furnas and Parque National da Ribeira dos Caldeiroes at the Achada waterfall.

Trip highlights include the amazing weather, views and vistas, as well as funny stories from hurtling down winding roads that sent poor Bean's carseat tipping to its side, herding cattle with a Fiat Punto, and getting stuck in a farmer's field with said Punto, requiring the husband to go find locals to tow us out!

Bean was 17 months old when we went. Here's a quick rundown of how we made the trip work for our family.

1. Snacks on the plane. We packed dry cereal, raisins, granola bars and she ate it all!

2. Drinks during take-off. Other parents bring juice, but Bean was still breastfeeding occasionally, so I nursed her during take-off. She was asleep when we were landing.

3. We swallowed our pride and left the cloth diapers at home. While we could have made it work with cloth, we chose to go the disposable route for this one week in Bean's life. She lived through it.

4. To pack lightly, we brought no strollers, playpens or carseats. We just brought the Ergo for me to carry her in, and a MEC backpack for the husband to carry her in.

5. We bought her a gift. On the way to the airport, we stopped at MEC and bought Bean her very own Nalgene. It gave her a vessel for water, but also amused her off and on throughout the trip because she had her new water bottle. (Bonus - it didn't leak all over!)

6. Bring a piece of home, but not a big one. We brought one stuffed animal, one bowl, a fork and spoon, and two sippy cups. I don't think we even brought a blanket.

7. Be casual about food. We quickly discovered that sit-down dinners were challenging. We opted more often for eating on a couch in the lounge at the hotel so that Bean could play and wander around and just come take bites as she liked. A grandmother's nightmare I know, but it saved us from dinner table battles. We all got to eat and we were all happy. When we returned home, we went back to eating dinner at the table as a family. No one died.

8. Make time for down time. Although Bean always woke up around 7 am, we rarely left a hotel before 10 am. She would snack on some cereal and locally purchased fruit in the hotel room while we showered, then we would go down for a sit-down  breakfast at the hotel restaurant. After breakfast, I would just relax while Bean could tour around the lobby or lounge. Bit of an over-share here, but that gave her time to have her morning poop before we got on the road. Got that messy bum change out of the way and then we were good for the day!

9. Balconies are your best friend. If you're traveling with children balconies in warm climates are handy! Husband would get Bean to bed while I sat in the lounge reading or writing post cards. When I came back to the room, we would sit out on the balcony so as not to disturb Bean. He would drink wine and we would eat chocolate and play cards.  It was nice.

10. Drive during nap time. We tended to drive a lot in the morning after we left the hotel. That allowed Bean to have a morning nap. Then we would stop for lunch and do some walking for awhile before getting back in the car (where Bean would nap again). There were also times when she would nap in the carrier on husband's back, but most of the time she slept in the car.

Hopefully this will inspire you to travel even if you have a little one at home. I'm sure it's a little trickier with two or more, but I think it's manageable as long as you are laid-back about it all and you set realistic expectations.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Whirlwind Week (+ What's in Your Kids' Medicine?)

You're probably wondering where I've been for the last week.
I've set out to try to post 3 days a week, but already my schedule is floundering a bit. Sure, it's not ideal, but it's for good reason.

When Pea was born in August, we left Bean in daycare Monday through Friday so that I could bond with Pea and also catch up on sleep. This was a great setup for us, especially since our daycare provider is super-affordable. However, over the holidays in December, we had Bean home with us for ~2 straight weeks, and on many of those days, my husband went to work, leaving me home with both kiddos. At first it seemed daunting, especially since we were working (albeit part-time) on potty training with Bean; however, we quickly found ourselves in a groove and I began to REALLY enjoy that time with my wee ones. When it was time for Bean to go back to a full-time schedule at daycare, I was sad, so we decided that we would change things up and I would keep her home with me three days a week. Our daycare provided requested specific days (since some are more convenient for her to have another little body around), and we decided she would go Mondays and Fridays, but be home Tuesday through Thursday. Great decision!

We've had lots of fun on our days together, from going to the library, to going to the Family Literacy Centre, to even going to Toddler Time at Skyzone (room full of trampolines - oh yeah!). Aside from enjoying the time together, there have been two really great benefits to having her home. The first is that Bean has been a positive influence on Pea in terms of routine. While he used to cat nap all day (because I couldn't be bothered to wiggle him into a schedule), with Bean around, he has a small nap in the morning and then a longer one in the afternoon while she has her nap. The second advantage has been HUGE progress in potty training. Yep - last Tuesday she decided she was done with daytime diapers!!

So why the the whirlwind? Well, potty training a 2 year old while looking after a croupy 5 month old makes for busy times. Combine that with back pain for mom, back pain for dad  (plus a second degree burn on his hand), sporadic fever in the 2 year old, and sleepless nights, and you've got yourself a crazy week that leaves little time for cranking out quality blog posts. The good news is that the potty training is good with only ~1 accident per day, the croup is subsiding, my back pain is gone, the husband's is improving, and the fever is gone. Sleep isn't back yet, but we're working on it.

Now the medicine bit. As I'm sure you can imagine, this weekend I found myself scouring the shelves of the local drug store for some miracle that would solve all our problems and deliver us all to sleepytown. Here is what I learned from that adventure: READ THE LABELS CAREFULLY!

When I was picking out analgesics for Bean to help bring down her fever, I was faced with some decisions, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen? Liquid or melting tablets? Grape, orange, fruit, bubble gum or cherry flavour? Dye-free or (full of) dye?

Those seemed like the easy choices. We like ibuprofen in our house usually, and the melting tablets are easy with Bean because it's less mess. We stick to grape because we've always used grape. We like dye-free because it makes us feel like conscientious parents (haha).

All set to go then, right? Wrong.

When I looked at the matches for those decisions, I had a choice between Advil or the store brand. The store brand was cheaper, so I went to grab it, but soon realized that the dose was cut in half but the bottle still contained the same amount of tablets. Tricky! So in this case the store brand was less economical. Point for me - I didn't fall for it.

Ready to go? Nope - I decided to read the non-medicinal ingredients and discovered that the first non-medicinal ingredient listed on the ibuprofen boxes was aspartame. Yes, you read it right - aspartame. An artificial sweetener that has not been tested extensively in children and thus the reason why diet pop is not recommended for children. Huh. Take a look at the acetaminophen - no aspartame, but sucralose is there (though it's the last of the non-medicinal ingredients listed). Sucralose is the same as Splenda, so yet again another artificial sweetener. On top of this, both medications contain sugar alcohols. I knew about the sugar alcohols in analgesics; however, I was not aware of the artificial sweeteners. Now here's the kicker. While I thought I was all wise to purchase the acetaminophen because it had contained a sweetener that I'm more comfortable with, I soon realized that the order in which the sweetener is listed on the label has nothing to do with the content in the medication - the ingredients are listed alphabetically!

So long story short - when you buy pain relief medication for your kid, there's a good chance you'll be giving them a dose of artificial sweetener. Don't think you're smart by picking the one with the sweetener listed last - that just means that you picked one with that starts with a letter that comes later in the alphabet. I'm going to let it slide since Bean rarely takes medication and it's likely a very small amount that's in each tablet. However, it makes me better appreciate food labels which actually list their ingredients in descending order.