Top 10 Dates for Parents of Toddlers

If you’re like me, you’re always on the hunt for new ideas to keep your marriage/partnership strong. A great way to do that is to take some time out of your day just for the two of you. And if you don’t have the money for a babysitter, that’s okay! There’s plenty to do at home.  For some ideas, here are my top 10 dates for parents of toddlers:


1. Cook Together

Nothing is more romantic than mixing up some aphrodisiacs while your children scream “up!” at your feet. Gaze lovingly at one another while setting the table. They bring the cutlery and you bring the ketchup because your kid literally will eat nothing unless its coated in that tomato-vinegar-sugar concoction that you end up smelling in their hair for days.

When the meal is ready, sit down together and taste the love that you put into it as well as the salt because “did you put salt in this?” “yeah” “I put salt in it. I didn’t think you did.” “Well, how am I supposed to know that you did?” “Well, maybe just listen to me for once in your life.”

Mac and cheese has never been so sexy.

2. Watch a Movie Together

Curl up on the couch and escape your lives for a while in another episode of “Paw Patrol” because that high-pitched fake barking is the only thing that will stop your kids from saying “What’s that?” “What’s that?” “What’s that?” “What does $!&# mean?”

Make sure to bring some chocolate you can feed each other and then lose because for someone so loud, your toddler is surprisingly sneaky and he seems to have run off with the rest of the bar and you’re now playing a murder mystery with chocolate finger prints as the clues and the murder that is sure to take place when you find that stinking kid.

Paw Patrol, Paw Patrol, whenever you’re in trouble…

3. Take a Romantic Stroll

Enjoy a beautiful afternoon together while soaking up some sunshine. Not only will you get some much-needed fresh air, you’ll also get a huge amount of exercise pushing those ridiculous strollers or chasing after a kid who has a knack for finding every. Single. Mud puddle.

You’ll love the looks from passersby as you try to wrangle a child who’s screaming bloody murder because you put their hat on the right way or that dog that walked passed wasn’t blue. The mounting adrenaline from the fear someone will call child services will kick start that sex drive.

And nothing is more relaxing than collapsing on the couch when you get home while the bundles of unending energy destroy the living room around you.

4. Get Some Ice Cream

Sweet, cold, and delicious, ice cream is a fun way to remain children at heart. That creamy soft-serve is sure fun to eat and clean up as it drips down your toddler’s fingers, chin, and shoes. Race to keep your own hands clean while your child runs her fingers through her hair and your hair or wipes her hands on the person sitting in the booth behind you.

And don’t forget that hard chocolate shell! That satisfying snap as it cracks beneath your teeth will send shivers down your spine–or is that the cone that has suddenly been placed on the nape of your neck because the kid is “all done!”

The underpaid teenagers will surely welcome you back to their place of work, especially when they find that someone at your table had an accident that didn’t involve the food.

5. Take a Shower Together

As every romantic movie has ever taught us, showers are a great substitute for that romantic kiss in the rain scene. The water will fall on only one of you and the other person will be covered in goosebumps because the apple of your eyes is busy swinging the door open and closed to play peekaboo with the dog.

Don’t forget to hold each other close as the shower curtain is violently pulled open and that small person climbs inside and immediately pees.

6. Stargaze

On the clearest of nights, curl up together in your yard and gaze at the sky. Watch for a shooting star so you can wish that your freaking kid will just go to sleep because it’s like midnight, Buddy, and you were supposed to be asleep five hours ago and I swear to God that if you ask for another glass of milk, I will lose my mind.

Make sure to make the most of that wonderful quiet time by starting to make out before packing it in because you’re going to have such an early morning and it’s already pretty cold.

Laugh together when you realize that your kid might have locked you outside and now you’re going to have to call your parents from across town to come and let you in your stupid front door.

7. Breakfast in Bed

Remind your spouse about how important they are by surprising them with waffles and coffee in bed. They will love being pounced on by a bunch of wild people and spilling syrup on what was once white sheets. Watch as the food that you made is ravenously consumed by the kids who refused waffles in their high chairs, even with ketchup, but somehow learned to love waffles on the way up the stairs.

You’ll even get to leave the house to treat your spouse’s burns from the coffee that was basically thrown at them when the toddler tried to drink it and burned their tongue.

All in all, a great way to start the day.

8. Cuddle in Front of the Fireplace

Gaze into the warm comfort of a fire while you snuggle. The entrancing beauty of the flames will distract you from the iPad playing at full blast as the toddlers watch another episode of “Paw Patrol” or play the loading screen of an app on a never-ending loop.

Watch your spouse heroically stop the kids from touching the hot glass on a gas fireplace or grabbing the red coals from a wood fireplace. You’ll never be hotter for them.

9. Go for a Romantic Drive

Take an excursion out into the countryside to see the local fauna and flora. The beauty of nature will excite and surprise you. You’ll be able to encourage your spouse not to drive into oncoming traffic while your toddlers scream in the back seat because they’re hungry or bored or thirsty or tired or fighting.

Discuss the world at large and hold each others’ hands until a prairie dog runs across the road and bump, bump, bump under your tires. Think about the deeper things while you try to explain death to your children when they see a bleeding mound of roadkill on the side of the road.

And just as you’re about to turn into your driveway, tell your spouse how much you love them and turn to see that your kids just fell asleep even though its only like two hours before bed and this is going to keep them up until midnight again.

10. Sneak in a Quickie

Enjoy the ultimate in marital bliss after you quietly close the doors of your napping children. Be in the moment with your spouse as you take off only what clothing is necessary to get the job done. Nothing connects the two of you more than being caught by the actually not sleeping kid because both of you assumed the other person would lock the door.

Okay, you know what? Just… screw it. Wait until the kids are teenagers.


Abandonment Issues

Well, August went by too fast. Am I the only person that feels this way? Fall weather is already upon the Canadian prairies, bringing sweaters and yellow leaves and pumpkin spice. Where has this summer gone?

Not only is summer gone, but so is my maternity leave. Well, technically my maternity leave expired in November, but my stay-at-home-mommy status is officially over at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Tomorrow I start the second half of the third year of my Bachelor of Communication Studies. Yes, now that all my friends have graduated, I’m going to go back and be super socially awkward around a bunch of 20-year-olds. Ah yes, being a mature student is super fun.

So tomorrow, I (actually, Brian) will be dropping off my two little boys with a friend who is going to be watching 4 kids under three. She is a brave soul. I’m not nervous about how she’s going to handle the kids, which is a relief. I know she’s going to be fabulous.

But I’ve got this sinking feeling in my stomach about the whole thing, you know? The guilt is setting in. I’m leaving my kids somewhere else so that I can go to school. Am I selfish? Am I a bad mother? Would they flourish more with me than with anyone else? Is my first responsibility to them?

Now, I grew up with working parents. From what I’m told, when my sister and I were very young, we went to my grandparent’s house or my aunt and uncle’s when my parents were working, but my earliest memory of babysitting was with an English nanny named Mrs. Wilson. She was very sweet and we had a lot of fun with her. I learned how to knit and she taught my how to make my favorite tomato sandwich. Sometimes I wonder, though, if I’d have been better off if one of my parents stayed home with me instead.

My mother works at a very taxing job. One that takes a lot out of you. She works all hours and deals with more bull crap than most of us ever have to. Then she comes home and works on the house and the chores and everything that needs to be done. I don’t know if she could relax even if she had the time. She always manages to do everything I do on a busy day and then claims that she did nothing all day. My mom is definitely a supermom. The job she worked made it so that she couldn’t spend as much time with us as a stay-at-home mom would, but I don’t think that makes her any less of a mom. Yes, I remember coming home to a babysitter after school often, but I also remember driving an hour with her to a voice lesson every week in high school. And her being there for a majority of awards ceremonies and recitals. She was there for all my big memories.

My mom was a working mom which fostered an independence in me that I’m sure Mom regretted until I moved out. But as a person, I’m glad I have it. It made me not afraid to be out on my own, to take risks, to make mistakes. It made me go to Europe when I probably couldn’t afford it, leaving Canada for the first time. It helped me take the plunge and go back to school. It got me into some trouble, which later made me a much better person. It also planted the first seeds of feminism in me, something I’m eternally grateful for.

And because I don’t believe that stay-at-home parenting is only a woman’s job, I also had a working father. He showed me a lot about work ethics and the value of loyalty. He taught me that a job is positive, but its function is to fund a life with family. While Mom’s job is part of her identity, I always felt like Dad’s was something that he did rather than something that he was.

I don’t know if I would have been a different person had either of my parents stayed home with me. But I don’t feel like I missed out. I know a relationship with parents is important, but I’m really happy with what our relationship is now. If they were home with me, maybe I would have felt like it was my calling to stay home too. But for me, it’s not. I love my boys very much, but I wonder if I’m not the best parent if I’m with them every day. Sinking every minute of every day makes me, I’m ashamed to say, resentful and angry. I need time to feel productive and raising kids doesn’t feel that productive. I know it is, but at the end of the day, it feels like I have nothing to show for how exhausted I am.

So tomorrow the boys go to day home. And I hope that they won’t feel like they’re missing out on time with their mom. I hope they enjoy interacting with other kids and feel the love that I know their caregiver will give them. I hope that they see that both their father and I are taking time outside the home so we are better for the kids when we are home (and, you know, making sure we all eat and have a place to live). And maybe I won’t feel so guilty once the first day is done. All I really have to say, though, is that I’m so very glad Brian is dropping them off tomorrow because I know there would be tears if it were me.


Hello? Is Anyone There?

Monkey loves to pretend to be talking on the phone. He lifts it up to his ear, tilting it back to listen to the screen rather than the ear piece. He grins and looks for approval from the nearest adult. But only if he hears, “Hello? Hello, Monkey! Hello? Is anyone there?”

I have a sound bite on my phone of me saying that. It’s fourteen seconds long. When it plays, he looks at my face because he recognizes my voice. He’s so confused and delighted when my voice comes from in the phone itself.

Yes, he loves talking on the phone, but only when someone talks back.

We are all like that. We love to post on social media, we love to have conversations, we love to interact with the world, as long as we are interacted with in turn. Being a stay-at-home parent is difficult because we don’t get a lot of that meaningful communication without at least double the amount of effort it used to take to get it.

Someone rang my doorbell this morning. I was upstairs in our living room with the two boys. Eggs was screaming because he seems to know when I’m thinking about leaving the room and it seems to be his worst nightmare. Monkey was screaming because we are transitioning to one nap and it is going so poorly. The dog was barking because someone was at the door. And I was angry. Angry that someone was at my door without sending me a message first to let me know they were coming. Angry that Eggs is still up through the night and I’m so tired and he won’t stop crying if any person leaves the room. Angry that Monkey is always miserable and always getting into things and always wanting to explore and I just want to sit. Angry that we never trained my dog to be quiet when people come to the door. Angry that Brian doesn’t have to be here every day.

I ran to put some clothes on because, I’m going to be honest, even getting dressed is hard for me these days. I bolted down the stairs to see if whoever rang my doorbell was still there. Leaving the boys upstairs provoked a new round of high-pitched wails that put my teeth on edge. I snuck out the door so that my dog wouldn’t follow me to find our landscaper had forgotten to charge us for something and here was another $1300 we needed to pay. He looked at me and said, “Rough morning?”

That was the first adult conversation I had today. If I didn’t have coffee planned this afternoon, it would have been the only conversation I had today unless Brian and I force ourselves to take time with each other.

Brian and I are often ships passing in the night. When he’s home, we each take a kid and do whatever it takes to keep them from injuring themselves or breaking things or screaming constantly. Conversations are limited to “Can you grab that for me?” or “Where’s the ____?” until the boys are gone. To be honest, we are mostly guessing what the other person is saying since we can’t hear each other over the jingling toys, the yelling children, or the dog. And, sometimes, the TV. If we get a conversation, it’s usually about the kids. During the week, we are bailing to keep afloat.

Sometimes I think that if 20-year-old me saw a day like today, she’d decide that maybe children weren’t for her. I wouldn’t blame her.

I long for communication, but I dread the amount of work it takes to get it. I have to start getting the kids ready to leave 45 minutes before we actually go anywhere. They need clean diapers, recent feedings, acceptable clothing, shoes on, bottles full and in the bag, sunscreen, bug spray, hats (that will be pulled off their heads and put back on about thirty times), and then I take the boys out to the car one at a time. Eggs screams because he’s been left alone.

When I get to where ever I’m going, I have to figure out how I’m going to get inside. Monkey wanders so there is no way that I can put him on the ground. He’d disappear in a minute. But Eggs can’t walk so I carry one kid in each arm and my bag slung around my shoulder. I’m often out of breath by the time I get to the building. Then we have to unpack where ever we are.

So I satisfy my desire for communication through texting and social media. Now I’m not criticizing those platforms for communication, but they are as satisfying as replacing a meal with candy. It fixes things temporarily, but it isn’t healthy. We all know how easy it is to present only the nice sides of ourselves on social media. Texting is good for small talk or making plans, but not much else. Tone is lost, non-verbal communication is lost, intimacy is lost.

I end up feeling profoundly lonely. It’s a loneliness that isn’t swept away as soon as I’m in the presence of another person. It’s a loneliness that has seeped into my soul because it knows that I may have someone to talk to today, but I know that tomorrow will be different. It knows that I had the energy to meet up with someone today, but I won’t have it tomorrow and there will be no time to rest because children do not leave time for rest. It’s a loneliness that tells you that no one else feels the same way you do because look at their pictures on Facebook. Look at how happy they seem with their lives. Look at them glow. 

Jenny Lawson says that depression lies but I think that loneliness does too. Sometimes you pick up that phone and loneliness is on the other side whispering, “You can’t do this. There is something very wrong with you. And no one can relate to that because everyone else was made factory perfect. The machine malfunctioned while you were on the line. And you just sound like a whiner to everyone else who has it right. Why do you keep trying when you’re missing the piece that makes a someone a good mother?”

I’m helping start a moms’ group at my church because I hope that I can help someone who feels the same. I kind of hope that there is someone who feels the same way, that my loneliness has lied to me about that. But then I feel like a bad person because feeling like this totally sucks. I’m not excited about this group, not because it’s not going to be great, but because the loneliness has called me again. “It’s going to be a lot of work to go. And no one is probably going to like you. You’re not like them. And your kids? The other moms will see your flaws in them from day one and they’ll wonder why you don’t have it together. You don’t discipline them enough. Your mom always told you that you weren’t disciplined. You’ll be that one person that everyone kind of hopes doesn’t show up. It’d be better if you stayed home.”

But if I go, if I spend time with others, if Brian and I spend time with friends, I know that it’s like I’ve hung up the phone. Loneliness doesn’t do face-to-face conversations. Loneliness loses some of its potency when its lies come to light. So if you are feeling the way I do sometimes, if you feel like the only person who has your number is that loneliness, I encourage you to reach out to others. Send me a message. Come to our moms’ group. Call a friend to go for coffee. Find a way to have a communication meal. And remember that it’s all just lies.

Motherhood is Made of:

  • Cheerios always stuck to the bottom of your feet
  • Clothes that never fit your kids because they are too tall or too short or too chubby or too skinny
  • Never enough sleep because you’re working on years worth of sleep debt
  • Unending streams of loud noises like screaming and crying and giggling and farting and more screaming and crying and, if you have a dog, barking
  • Constant grocery trips because we are out of milk or formula or baby food or diapers or wipes, all of which are never out at the same time
  • “Shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up” under your breath
  • Fear when things are too quiet
  • Counting down until the next nap
  • “Did I eat today?”
  • “I ate everything in our house today.”
  • “Don’t touch that!”
  • “NO! NO! NO! NO!”
  • Pushing things farther and farther back on your table and coffee tables and end tables and desks because the kids grew another inch this month
  • Hiding snacks and remotes and cell phones underneath the couch cushions so your kids can’t get them
  • Searching for snacks and remotes and cell phones and soothers when your kids find your couch stash
  • “I don’t think I can do this.”
  • “Nope, definitely can’t do this.”
  • “Why did I even think I could do this?”
  • Looking outside and wondering if it’s worth it to take the forty-five minutes of packing the kids up to leave just to go for a walk that will probably end in either rain, screaming, or a dirty diaper as soon as you’re three blocks away
  • Looking outside and feeling like you’ve been imprisoned
  • Paw Patrol! Paw Patrol! We’ll be there on the double! 
  • Overly-enthusiastic talking toys
  • Hourly butt sniffing
  • “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”
  • Surety that you’re doing this whole thing wrong
  • “WTF IS WRONG WITH MY KIDS?! I’m pretty sure they are defective.”
  • “I swear to God if you put that in your mouth…”
  • Repeating things thirteen times
  • Talking to yourself because nobody is around and you haven’t actually spoken in three days and you’re pretty sure this is why your kid is taking so long to learn how to speak
  • Telling yourself to calm down, immediately forgetting
  • Doctor appointments that always somehow fall in the middle of nap time
  • Hate for every single person who knocks on your door during nap time
  • Well-meaning, unsolicited advice
  • What you thought was a hug, but was actually the kid smearing snot all over your shoulder
  • Chewed food in your hair
  • Baby poop under your fingernails
  • Wondering what would happen if you just didn’t go and get them out of their cribs for another hour
  • “Did I say ‘I love you’ today? No? Well, I’m the worst parent ever.”
  • And all the mushy stuff that the other lists tell you about. You know what I’m talking about. The lists that are usually topped with a glowing picture of a well-rested mom in white smiling at a clean undressed baby that is not tugging at its diaper to get at whatever is inside. The lists that are usually on a pastel background and uses words like “adorable” and “sweet” and “cherish them while this stage lasts” as if we haven’t been told that six thousand times by every single person who is not in this stage and who looks like they have actually slept more than four hours at a time. The ones who would love to hold the baby until he starts fussing and then, surprise, it’s back to you. Those same lists that enchanted you while you were desperate to have a kid of your own and dreamt about the cuddles and kisses and the sweet smell of their little heads. Yeah, that stuff is real. They can be sweet and quiet and kind and sometimes they even smell good (in between the farting, dirty diapers, old food, formula burps, and spit up). They are those things, but they are also unstable nuclear bombs. Just as a head’s up.


Yup, unstable nuclear bombs

It Takes A Village

Last Monday was a hard day in the Topping household. Eggs didn’t let us go to sleep until almost midnight on Sunday night and was up at 4:30 am the next morning. Monkey got up at 5:00 am, exactly as I was putting Eggs back down to bed. We got Monkey to sleep at 5:30 am, but Eggs was up at 6:00. And that’s how my day began.

When you’ve only had a few hours of sleep and you have to be responsible for two other lives, the world looks like an awful place. Even though the sun was out, even though we broke temperature records that day, even though the trees are starting to show a little green when you look at them out of the corners of your eyes, I was miserable.

So I sent a message to a friend of mine that comes and watches the boys once a week so that I can go be an adult for a couple of hours. A few hours later, she was hanging out with the boys while I passed out in bed. When I woke up, we went for lunch and then for a walk in the beautiful sunshine. Before I took her home, she offered to help me get some groceries.

The day would have been a very different one had she not been here.

I’d have been tired all day with zero patience for either child. Monkey would have been antsy to go outside, but because we have no yard (yet), we would stay indoors. I wouldn’t have had the energy to take them anywhere. I’d probably have missed lunch because there wasn’t a lot to eat in the house, which would have made me even grouchier. My bad attitude would soon affect the boys and we would have a pity party before the afternoon was out. By the time Brian would have returned home, the boys would be miserable, I’d be miserable, and no one would have felt love.

But that wasn’t the case.

Before I had kids, I didn’t understand the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child.” I thought it had something to do with kids needing to learn social skills or something to do with public schooling or something parents said before finding babysitters for their little ones. I have learned now that, while those things are important, they are not what it means.

Children are exhausting in every conceivable meaning of the word. After having kids, your sleep suffers, apparently forever. But not only that. You spend your days pouring every ounce of love, patience, and kindness into them. You try to teach them everything you know and protect them, mostly from themselves. And usually, this is the first time where you do this and you don’t get the same in return. Children can’t reciprocate this kind of love for many, many years to come. So it feels like you’re a bucket that is quickly emptied each day.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s rewarding, but you’re investing in the long term. The short term rewards are the small moments, like when Monkey kisses Eggs when Eggs is crying. When you get to see that the effort you put in is making a difference, you finally feel that reward. But then Monkey smacks Eggs in the face and we are back to reality.

But this why you have a community. You get the children at their best and at their worst. They get you for the same. And when your bucket is empty, we surround ourselves with people that help us fill it. These people offer to watch the kids, bring us snacks, or just send a message to see how we’re doing and don’t feel bad if we are too overwhelmed to reply. This community can be made of up unexpected people. Sometimes family, sometimes friends, sometimes coworkers or churchmates or neighbours.

It’s hard to find community sometimes. When we moved here, I realized that I didn’t know as many people as I thought. Once Eggs was born, I thought I was going to be so isolated. But there were SO many people at the baby shower. Then we got so much food and support from church. People were connecting with me so much more than I expected and I found my community.

You know what? People want to help. I’m serious. People see us moms with hair half-straightened, children missing shoes, and a huge barf stain on our fronts and think, “I bet they could use a meal or a break or a word of encouragement.” And if you make sure to repay their kindness with your own, then you’re doing just fine.

So to my community, thank you. Thank you for listening when I’m frustrated, for bringing us food when getting to the grocery store seems just as stressful as flying on a plane, for taking my kids so that I can take a break, for seeing my need for help and deciding to take the time to fill my bucket. Thank you.

An especially big thank you to my dear friend who rescued me that Monday (you know who you are) and have now left to better another community in the USA. Lots of love.

The First Six Weeks Again

Six weeks ago already!

My little Eggs has now been on this planet for six weeks! Hooray! It’s hard to remember how much different my life was before Christmas, but I don’t want to go back. I had forgotten how much I missed the new baby stage. Though I am really glad that the first six weeks are done. I found them very difficult with Monkey and it was the same with Eggs. For those soon-to-be-new moms, here’s a run down of what those first six weeks looked like for me:


Once we took either of our babies home, things got very busy. We had a deluge of visitors, which was both a blessing and a curse. I loved the excuse to see family and friends and to show them the new little person I just made, but I was so so so tired. And sore. With both boys, I was awake late into the night either with labour or with the post-labour check ups so I’d had very little chance to sleep. And when I did sleep, it wasn’t very deep because I still had an IV and I was sleeping in a hospital bed where I could hear the nurses doing their rounds and the other babies on the floor. Plus my brain wouldn’t turn off because I just had a new baby!

So I was now at home and feeling a bit like I had to play hostess. No one forced that role on me, in fact, I was constantly encouraged to sit down, but I’ve watched my mother and grandmother long enough to know that no matter how you feel, you gotta host the party. I know I took it easy in the hostess role (my mom graciously took most of it from me by having visitors to her house), but I tried.

I am very lucky in that all of the people who wanted to see the new baby knew what they were doing. They didn’t come if they were sick, they played with both kids (Monkey loved the attention lavished on him), and they brought FOOD! Serious blessings on people who took the time and effort to cook stuff for me. When I’m living off what is in my freezer (which was soon down to old ice cream sandwiches and cream puffs), a home cooked meal is a life saver. We got bread and muffins and soups and lasagna and cookies…yum!

There are cons to all the visitors, for sure, but the positives definitely outweigh them. I loved showing off my peanut and getting to have all of those adult conversations (when the visitors taper off, you’ll sure miss those). I loved connecting with old friends, sometimes even unexpected people from your past who also have kids and are looking for new parent friends. Meeting with all of these people also helps postpartum depression (more on that later) because these people can talk with you through your feelings or help you see the positives of your new baby.

Your Body

You will feel like crap. There are no two ways about it. You’ll need to feed your baby every 2-3 hours, even though you’ll be sorely tempted to let your sleeping baby lie. You will be whatever is worse than exhaustion. I know there were nights I spent crying with Monkey, but the night that comes to mind easiest for me happened the first night we brought Eggs home. You see, I had gotten up Christmas morning at 5 am (Monkey’s natural wake-up time. Gross, I know), spent the day enjoying the festivities, and had a baby just before midnight. By all rights, I was tired. But you don’t get to sleep after that. I was taken out of the delivery room around 3 am and was checked up on every half hour after that. They took a break to let me sleep between 6 and 7 am so there was the first hour I’d slept in over 24 hours. Then I was up the entire next day. I was excited to go to bed that night, but I couldn’t get Eggs to sleep. He wasn’t crying, but he was wide awake. At 3 am, I finally woke up Brian, sobbed that I hadn’t slept yet and passed the baby off. So in 46 hours, I’d slept 1. Two hours later, Monkey was up for his regular day.

Lack of sleep is bad enough, but your body feels like it’s gone through a war. I can’t speak for people who get c-sections and I bet they feel significantly worse, but I definitely struggled with how sore my body was. If you’re like me, you’re stitched from bow to stern and sitting pulls on those stitches so you’d rather stand or lie down. But you’ve got a newborn to feed! So most of the time, you’re sitting on those painful stitches.

Speaking of feeding, if you’re nursing, you get cramps every time you nurse. Apparently it’s a good thing, but it does not feel that way. Add that to your sore boobs… Ugh. They’re swollen and cracked and blistered due to the intense workout your newborn is giving them. “Oh they’ll callus up,” they say. Yeah, cause that sounds attractive. Sigh.

There are a host of other fun bodily pains that come from giving birth. You’re now going to be on the longest period of your life. It’s making up for all those missed months. You’re going to dread going to the bathroom. If you have any placenta left in your uterus, it’s going to feel like you are back in the end stages of labour before you pass it. Your joints are going to ache as they tighten up.

The positive? It gets better each day. I promise. Every day is easier than the last. And while the baby is drowsy in the first couple weeks, take time in one of his or her naps to take a hot, sea-salted bath. Add bubbles. Bring a book. Take time for yourself and help your body heal a little bit. It will help. Oh, and for the love of God, don’t take a mirror down there to see the damage. Not worth it.

Your Emotions

We don’t talk about this enough. I went into labour with Monkey expecting a beautiful, loving bond with my newborn as soon as he was born. That was not the case.


No, when Monkey was born, all I felt was relief. The 24 hours of pain were over. They took him away and I didn’t get to see him for, let’s say, 20 minutes and all I really wanted was to sleep. And something to eat. They finally brought him over to me and he just screamed and screamed and screamed while I held him. I was terrified. It was nothing like how I’d imagined it would go.

The next few weeks was difficult. Monkey had jaundice because he was ABO incompatible with me so we had to go back to the hospital for a night. I also wasn’t able to nurse him, which made me feel like a complete failure. I had no idea what I was doing with this little breakable alien that had commandeered my life. The bond between mother and baby that I was supposed to have wasn’t showing up. There was clearly something wrong with me.

I cried a lot in those months. But I didn’t do anything about it. I was embarrassed about how I was feeling. Every time I went in for a check up, I was asked how I was feeling, but I couldn’t say. How could I tell them that every time I took the car out for a drive, I hoped someone would hit me? How could I tell them that I was so angry with this helpless newborn because I just wanted sleep? How could I tell them that I had so utterly failed at this motherhood thing and the kid wasn’t even six months old?

With encouragement from Brian, I did finally mention something to the nurse at my next appointment and they set me up with a counselor to talk to. And that was really all I needed. I needed someone to talk to that was unbiased, that I could trust to tell me the truth and that I could talk to without fear that they would tell someone else. Soon, the slump ended. Monkey started sleeping through the night and I started to get an idea of what I was doing. The stresses in my life started to get more manageable. And it was about 3 months before I actually felt that mother-baby bond.

Turns out lots of women feel this way, but no one talks about it because of this notion that we should just be “grateful” that we have healthy, happy kids. We should just be happy, glowing pictures of femininity. It’s unhealthy. So if you do end up feeling really down after your baby is born (and you know when you’re going into a dark place), there is no shame in getting help. Here are some resources to get you started. You haven’t failed.

And if it helps, when Eggs was born, I felt that bond right away. I don’t know if it’s because he was placed on my chest as soon as he was born, even before he was cleaned up, but I’m sure it helped. I knew that I wasn’t going to have to worry about PPD when he was on my chest content to just lie there. I held him for about an hour before they took him away to clean him up and weigh him. I don’t know why the rush of emotions was there for my second baby, but I’m glad it was.

When It’s Over

Once the first six weeks are over, trust me, you feel like a superstar. You’ve done it. You’ve passed the hardest part of having a baby (unless the baby has colic. That’s a whole different ballgame). You should be very proud. I know that I’m unreasonably proud of myself. I know things start to really change at this point, especially since six weeks marks the beginning of the first major growth spurt. It doesn’t matter though. My body is all healed up, Monkey is used to being a big brother, and Eggs has slept through the night twice already. The second time around was definitely easier than the first, so take heart my dear first time moms! It gets easier. I promise. Until then, invite me over to see your new baby and I will bring some sort of delicious food!


Now it’s your turn! Did you find the first six weeks as difficult as I did? What were your experiences? If you haven’t had kids, does this make you want to run for the nearest hospital to ask to be sterilized (oh boy, I hope not)?

My Favorite Board Books

Family literacy day was last week and I made sure to spend at least 15 minutes reading to my boys. I love books and sharing that love with my little ones is such a joy to me. Monkey isn’t really that into reading at the moment. He’d much rather spin around the room until he falls down, but we’ve incorporated time to read a book before he goes to bed anyways. It’s a nice way to wind down and it helps him learn language. I look forward to the days where I can read books like the Narnia series, the Harry Potter books, and Redwall to him before bed, but I know that those times are years in the future. So right now, we read board books.


A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about my favorite gifts to give new mothers. And one of the gifts was books. There are thousands out there to choose from, though, and it can be a bit daunting to find something that you can stand to read over and over and over and over again. So here are my top 5 favorite board books to read to a 1 year old.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Board Book

5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Yeah, this one is pretty obvious. If you haven’t heard of this book, I’d be surprised. Basically, it’s about a caterpillar who eats and eats and eats until he turns into a butterfly. Simple plot, really, but the illustrations and layout make the book enjoyable. Monkey loves playing with the pages with the holes in them when we run a piece of green yarn through them to simulate the caterpillar eating holes in the food. There is a couple of interesting learning opportunities that come with that as well. If you’re feeding baby solids, you can show him that the pear in the book is the same thing as the pear you put in his mouth.

I Love You Through and Through

4. I Love You Through and Through

This is a fun book that doesn’t have any sort of plot, but is just the narrator telling the toddler how much they love him. The single words on each page help your little one learn body parts and some body language (tears and down-turned mouth = sad). It’s short with simple pictures that your toddler will be able to understand, plus it’s pretty cute. Monkey loves to point at the little boy in the pictures and give him kissing, which I think is adorable. And I love to use the book to remind my little guy how much I love him, especially important since he became a big brother and was ousted from the centre of the universe position.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb

3. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb

At first I didn’t really like this book because it’s got a lot of words on each page, which isn’t really ideal for reading to a busy 1 year old, but then I watched a friend’s mother read it to Monkey and saw how much he loved it. She would bang on the pictures of the drums with her fingers until Monkey laughed. Then he would smack the pages too. The actual reading of the book is probably better for a child who is a little older, but playing with the book with my toddler has been lots of fun! I wouldn’t recommend reading it before bed though, because it tends to rile up my boy.

Time for Bed

2. Time for Bed

Yay for bedtime books! There are many books out there that are meant as a quiet read before bedtime, but this one takes the cake. The pictures are soft, dark illustrations of an adult animal and its baby. Each page has a couplet encouraging sleep. Sometimes we do different voices for the different animals (high and squeaky for a mouse, low and braying for a horse), which Monkey seems to think is pretty funny. I like that the animals are all ones that you could find in our area so that we can connect the words of the book to animals we see when we drive or go to visit family.

The Very Cranky Bear

1. The Very Cranky Bear

This is my all-time favorite board book. Monkey just got it for Christmas and if I’m reading his bedtime story that day (sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s his dad), then I read this book. It’s about a group of animal friends that go to play in a cave and encounter a cranky bear. They spend the book trying to cheer him up. It’s an absolute joy to read this book because the words have such a great rhythm. I don’t mind reading it twice or three times if Monkey is in the mood. The illustrations are fun and are interesting enough that your toddler won’t want to flip the page immediately.


So this is my list of favorite books for a 1 year old. As Monkey gets older, I’m sure my book choices will change (I’ve got the Neil Gaiman board book that I can’t wait to read the boys when they’re a little older), but for now, these are wonderful additions to any new library. What do you think? Have you read any of these books or do you have others that you read to your little peanuts?

I Dare You

What a whirlwind month! Thanks to all for sticking with me as I navigated the first thirty days of new motherhood! An especially large thank you goes to my two friends, Lindsay Eckert and Chantelle Behrens, for writing a couple of posts for me while I was away. I hope that you enjoyed the break!

Things in the Topping household have been interesting as we all try to find our place in our new family. We weren’t entirely prepared for Eggs’ birth so things were…a little out of sorts for the first week or so. He was due on January 3 and, since Monkey had come on time, we figured that Eggs would too. We were wrong. He showed up a week and a half early, which ended up being Christmas Day. I’m sure I’m going to hear about that for the rest of my life once Eggs understands what that means. Oh boy.

We had many visitors, little sleep, and a whole lot of work to do. We had a bunch of doctor appointments, gifts to put away, decorations to clean up, and a toddler who had no idea what was going on. I thought 1 year old was too young to feel jealousy. It’s not. Monkey’s personality did a total 180 in the week after Christmas. He forgot how to sleep through the night, he whined constantly, and he wanted to cuddle with me, which is something he’s never been fond of. But I was feeding Eggs so there wasn’t enough room on my lap for the two of them so Monkey starting to punish me.

Constant high-pitched whining gets on your nerves fast. There’s no more effective torture than a whiny toddler. Not just for minutes. Not just for hours. For days. I’m serious. When he wasn’t sleeping, he was whining. Thank God both my husband and my mother were around because I was getting ready to lose my mind. There are many things I can handle, toddler whining being one of them, but not without sleep. And with a new baby, you have to wake them every 2 hours to feed them if there is a chance they could get jaundice. I was desperate for quiet and a nap.

The whining wasn’t the only problem. Monkey was getting into things more than he ever had. Cupboards torn apart, garbage picked through, and constant spills became my life on top of a newborn that was having tummy troubles and spitting up everything he ate. I spent days trying to nurse Eggs and begging Monkey not to touch that or to close the cupboard or to put this down from afar. He knew I couldn’t come and stop him. I was at the end of my wits.


The little troublemaker.

So I did what any exhausted, exasperated mother does: I Googled for help. There were lots of women out there dealing with the same thing I was, but their kids were usually older. I guess few people choose to have their kids spaced 1 year, 10 days apart. There was talk of potty training regression, toddler-on-baby violence, talking back, etc. Things I was thankful not to deal with, but then I found one piece of advice that has seen me through the worst of Monkey’s adjustment period: your child is daring you not to love them.

Monkey was afraid of being replaced, afraid that we no longer loved him and was acting out to get us to prove him right. And therein lied the challenge. Of course nothing had changed about my love for Monkey, if anything I loved him more because I was now reliving all the memories of when Monkey was an infant. But I was torn between wanting to show him love and feeling like I should be disciplining behavior that I didn’t like. I tried following the advice in the Alpha Mom column (seriously, one of my favorite places to turn when I don’t know what to do with my kids) and constantly praised Monkey for the good things he did. Did he close the cupboard when I asked him to? Yay! Such a good listener! Did he give kisses to the new baby instead of slapping him upside the head? Yay! What a good big brother! Did he finish his food without upending the bowl onto the dog’s head? Yay! Big boy gets a treat!

He learned a lot of tricks this month now. He opens cupboard doors just so he can close them when we ask. He gives kisses to the dog and to Eggs and to his teddy bears and to his books and, well, pretty much anything he can put his slobbery little mouth on. The constant whining is gone now and has been replaced by three new teeth (yes, the birth of our second child coincided with two molars and a lateral incisor. Lucky us).

He dared me not to love him and I proved otherwise. Not every day. Some days I couldn’t prove anything because I was exhausted and emotional and weak. But most days I showed him that he was still so very special to me. Most days he went to sleep knowing that his father and I love him very much. Not because of his behavior, whether good or bad, but because he is our son.

So overall, I’d call this month a success. There were ups and downs, highs and lows, but this two kid thing is actually not as difficult as I was led to believe. Do you agree? What were your experiences with older children’s reactions to their siblings? If you have siblings, what was your reaction to a new sibling? Or what was your siblings’ reactions to you? Tell me below!

It’s Just a Phrase

Since Becka posted “Just a Phase” in November, I’ve been itching to write a response. And now I have a platform! Y’all should probably read it first if this post is to make any sense. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

We all caught up? Lovely. Let’s go.

First of all, I need to sincerely apologize to my dear friend, because I’ve certainly told her “oh don’t worry, he’ll grow out of it” more than once! I’d like to think I included helpful encouragement and advice, but I can’t guarantee that. I’m very sorry dear.

Secondly, the entire piece got me thinking about a couple things. One was the way that mothers as a species seem to fail in our continual quest to be helpful and support our fellow moms. The other was that cookies are severely underrated.

Seriously though. I’ve heard every possible version of “it’s just a phase” so many times throughout the past 18 months. It can get pretty grating, and is usually the least helpful thing that person could have said in that moment. However, I do sometimes grasp the sliver of hope it offers. It is comforting to be reminded that the present struggle will only last for a little while. There is an expiry date on every teething session, every mobility challenge, every sleep schedule good or bad: sorry girls, it’s sad but true. Relief can be found in the midst of seemingly endless chaos when I remember that a new and different chaos is just around the corner. (I’m an incurable optimist about 98% of the time. The other 2% is when I’m trying to get spaghetti sauce out of clothing.) And yes, I do appreciate the occasional reminder of just how fleeting these moments are. It makes it easer to deal with the hard times when I am reminded to savour the sweetness in every phase, no matter how tired I am. Easier said than done, I know, but we can always strive for the unattainable regardless of success.

However, in the moment when a fellow mum comes to us with her struggles and fears, perhaps we need to take a second and think “What would I want to hear if I was in her place?” Would I want advice, encouragement or sympathy? Perhaps a listening ear? I have observed, online but also in real life, that we desperately want to tell other moms how to behave and what to think rather than trying to share our experiences or commiserate constructively. “Be happy! You’re a mom! Moms are supposed to be happy!” “Don’t do that, that will have a negative long term effect on your little one.” “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” We spend our time trying to diplomatically tell mothers that they’re doing everything wrong and inform them of what they SHOULD be doing instead. Or just throw out a meaningless phrase and hope it somehow helps. Not nearly helpful.

Words matter. We need to pay attention to how we interact with each other. Are we listening? Are we empathizing? Are we offering practical and constructive help, in the form of baby sitting or cleaning or laundry or food or coffee energizing beverages? Are we encouraging each other? Or are we engaging in constant competition:”Oh you think YOUR kid is bad? just listen to MY story…” Bragging about our own personal wunderkind is also less than productive. I find most attempts at comparison take the emphasis from sympathy and support of our mothers in distress.

I’m not against the giving of advice, and certainly not the asking of it. If a fellow mom comes to me and says “I have this problem – what do you think I should do?” THEN I can step in with advice and anecdotes and my collective wisdom (oh so wise I am, mother of one tiny human.) But to offer a slew of well-meant recommendations before receiving the invitation to do so will probably end in grumpiness.I am a definite offender in this. I love to talk about my daughter and boast of her many accomplishments (a prodigy in everything, she is!) But I need to remember that there is a time to speak, and a time to just be silent and listen.

And maybe bring cookies.

Mummy dreams

Note from R.B. Topping: Please welcome my dear friend, Chantelle Behrens, as guest contributor. She will be writing a couple of posts in the coming weeks as I take time off to adjust to life as a mother of two! Follow her on Twitter: @chantellebehr

12-15-2015 11-07-25 AM

When you first become a mother, you have a whole plethora of dreams about what your life will look like and how you will raise this precious little bundle you’ve been given. Inevitably, those ideas encounter a bit of turbulence along the way, and we have to do the best we can to reshape our dreams to mesh with reality. Sometimes it helps to take a step back outside and reassess what your dreams for your children really mean.

A brief note: when my husband posted the above picture of me with my baby girl, I didn’t make it my profile picture. I didn’t like a few things about it:

  • My daughter is making a not-very-flattering face as she chews on that jelly hair tie. There are so many cute pictures of her with a giant smile, I usually opt for one of those.
  • My hair is kind of weird. I obviously needed my bangs trimmed and had been wearing that hair tie for most of the day.
  • The round shape of my upper arms, which I have a stupid hang-up about, is very obvious in this photo.
  • My head is tilted down. This means I look like I have a double chin.

Those last two points on my appearance are things I always check for in pictures because I am overwhelmingly self-conscious about them. I have so many pictures from our dream trip in Europe this year that I don’t like because of how I look in them.

I know, I know, I’m a cliche. And it’s my least favourite thing about myself, that I care about this stuff. And I’m working on it.

This post is not about that.

This post is about some realizations I’ve been having recently about motherhood and my dreams.

I won’t be able to give you my entire backstory here; suffice it to say our daughter was a bit of a surprise baby and through a series of events I ended up, six months ago and nine months into my maternity leave, the only gainfully employed person in our household. The original plan was that my husband would continue working at the end of my year of leave, and I would either talk to my boss and work some sort of deal so I could work just enough to earn my next maternity leave and we could finish our family, or I would quit working for a while and go back to school for my masters. We would figure out a bit of childcare here and there either way, while I would be trying to spend as much time with her as possible. This plan was now toast.

This picture was taken the day before I went back to work – my daughter’s first birthday party. It was a very blessed and happy day, so in the picture I am smiling.

That smile looks pretty good, when you consider that shortly before I had been weeping (not for the first time) at the thought of getting up the next morning and spending over 8 hours away from my baby. Despite the emotional challenges of motherhood, it was my fervent wish to continue as my daughter’s primary caregiver. For so many reasons, some admittedly selfish, some thankfully less so, it was incredibly important to me. Flashing that smile was a singularly difficult choice I made in that moment, to stay positive and trust that everything would work out even though it felt like my dreams had been thoroughly crushed.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I put that picture up on my profile because I love it. I love the tiny girl on my hip, all birthday’d out from two parties in a row. I love the evening light that highlights the tan we got on that dream vacation in Europe, when my husband and I just said “well, we’ll never both be unemployed for two months straight again, and what is money anyway” and flew off to Germany and Amsterdam and England and all the bits in between. We bought those pants she’s wearing in Berlin. I love that packing our luggage and walking everywhere and riding trains and carrying the stroller (!!!) took off that last bit of pregnancy pudge and my body looks pretty darn good! Those arms are muscular  and strong from hauling the tiny Bear and her gear around Europe. She learned to walk in Hamburg and Berlin, and cut a tooth or two in London. She will have those stories forever.

The picture reminds me that I had just spent the past year as her sole caretaker and what a joy that was. How in that moment, under that smile, all I wanted in the world was to continue to be that and do that for her. I love the feeling I get whenever she does something for the first time. Recently it’s been “oh yeah, she’s been doing that all day” from my husband when I get home. And I’m still proud, but I get a little sad.

It’s not all wistfulness. I do think that today I am a better mother than I was in that picture. Going back to work, establishing the accompanying routine for myself, being forced to look outside of myself and evaluate my life and ask “what do I really want my life to look like” and being able to take some steps to change it to suit has been invaluable and I wouldn’t trade it in a heartbeat.

But I wish I had the chance to be the most mother I can be.

Does that make sense?

I admit it’s a bit selfish of me. I want to spend time with her, I want to see her grow, I want to teach her things, I want to bring her up to be the woman I want her to be.

I think every mother wants that.

But now I know that I can still do a lot with the limited time I do get with her. Even though I’m working full time, I can still do my job as her mother. And that’s been an incredibly helpful realization.

It’s amazing what a little bit of perspective can do.