Bee Do Bee Do! Minion Party!

My middle baby turned three over the summer, and what with Baby J’s arrival, it got a little hard to post about her party.  Here we are in the end of November and I still haven’t told you all about it.  Keep in mind I was 1800 months pregnant when I pulled this off, so it was a feat of strength.  I had been dreaming up and pinning ideas for months, so not going big wasn’t an option.  Did that sentence make sense?

Anyhoo…  Despicable Me is one of the few movies I like and let my kids watch.  I love Steve Carrell (the voice of Mr Gru) and I adore his adopted daughter characters.  They are quirky, smart and fearless and that is something I want my young girls to see.  Also, just knowing that Russell Brand does the voice of Dr Nefario makes me happy.  PS – I want a shark to live in my house.

K is a hardcore Mr Gru fan and loves minions and all their gibberish and hilarity.  I asked her months before this what theme she wanted and it didn’t even take her a second to scream “Minions!”  We may have been watching the movie at the time…

I started a Pinterest Board and looked first at cake and loot bag ideas.  Those are my main ways of tying a theme together.  Food is a huge component of my planning and I like to get food that not only ties in the colours of the movie but little ideas that are part of characters and plot lines.  Here are some pictures to get us started:

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The cake was a feat of nature.  I used four 8 inch rounds and then a half-ball mould to make the rounded top.  I used confetti cake mix, which I have to say is not the most stable cake mix in that it is soft and crumbles easily.  I find that if you refrigerate or freeze the cake it is easier to ice.  I did two crumb coats and froze the cake for five minutes in between icings to help things set up nicely.  I shoved three dowels down the top of the cake (measure beforehand so you can cut the dowel to size and avoid having wooden sticks poking up the top of your cake) for stability.  I iced the cylinder first and then the round head separately with yellow fondant.  There ends up being a seam in the middle of the minion’s head but that is conveniently covered by his goggle band.  I did the goggles with a combo of brown, black, grey and white icing.  If you buy white icing and have good gel food colouring (I use Wilton), you can dye small pieces of fondant however you want.  Pro tip:  Use gloves!  Otherwise you end up with black hands.  His overalls were blue fondant rolled out and cut to size and then I used a rolling tool with teeth on it to make the stitches around the straps and bib etc.  I think he turned out really well.  Did you notice the Minion cupcakes!  So easy and so funny. They were my favourite!

If you are making your cake more than a day in advance, be careful.  Cakes always settle and move so if your stability is at all off you could end up with cracked fondant or dowels sticking out.

As for other food, there were lots of marshmallow bananas (minions love bananas), fruit shaped candy (from the second movie when they make jam and jelly), a fruit tray, Twisted Pasta Salad, Nacho’s Nachos and we served hot dogs for an early dinner.

The loot bags were a hoot and so easy to make.  I just got yellow bags from the dollar store and cut blue card stock into overall shapes and used minion goggles I got at a party supply store for the eyes.  I had to cut out paper and draw in the pupils as well as the pockets on the overalls, but they were easy.  In the loot bag were candy bananas, a minion t-shirt, a minion cup and a bunch of party supply minion things like stickers and bubble wands.  I was lucky in that the second Despicable Me movie had recently come out so there was a lot of stuff to be had in the stores.

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I recently got myself a juice dispenser and have been using it to create characters from my themes.  I made a minion with yellow and blue card stock and those handy dandy goggles from the party supply store.  You’ll see this technique in lots of parties to come, I’m sure!

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I made minion banners, labels, signs and other silly things to put about the house and on the table to make sure the theme was seen everywhere.  Yellow and blue table ware and balloons helped as well.  I also always make labels when I give funny names to foods so people can appreciate the tie-ins of the theme.

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Since K was born in August, her birthday parties usually are blessed with nice weather and we are able to eat outside and play games.  In the past I have done hunts in the backyard but this time I decided to do a water balloon minion game with yellow and purple balloons.  The kids were each on a team divided by colour and had to get the balloon in the minion’s mouth.  I also had yellow bubble wands for the kids to play with and it was so nice to have lots of the action outside.

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Inside, I had pin the pocket on the minion (a pre-bought game).

REAL MOM PARTY PLANNING TIPS

When I am planning the party, I usually start a few months in advance and follow these steps:

1.  Choose a theme. I consult with the kids about this and make sure they choose something they like and that it is something I can actually make happen.

2.  Record ideas as they flow.  I usually keep a list in notes on my phone and I also keep a Pinterest board for each party.  I also usually do a simple Google Images search and that helps me put ideas together.

3.  Make shopping lists.  My main go-to locations for party planning and shopping are Dollarama, Michaels, Bulk Barn, Walmart or Target, Party City and the Dollar Store that isn’t really a dollar store near me because everything is more than a dollar.  Dollarama has the good, basic things like balloons, plates and cutlery, streamers, tissue paper, card stock and sometimes some random loot bag fillers in the book aisle or the craft aisle.  Michaels is great for the more specialty items like fancy paper, craft items like feathers and eyes, wreath forms, cake decorating supplies, fancy decorations, pretty bags and seasonal items.  Bulk Barn has amazing pinatas, cake pans, icing galore, candy for loot bags and pinatas and specialty drinks.  Party City, Target and Walmart round things out with colourful items and loot bag finds.

4.  Shop.  Do this over the course of a few days or even weeks.  Plan it out with a detailed list.  I make a list of crafts I want to make and the supplies I need to make them in order to make sure nothing is missed.  I hate going back for return trips.

5.  Start crafting.  I usually start with the loot bags and then move on to decorative elements and I end with the balloons and streamers and paper-based decorations.  These things are all simple to make but take time.  I have three small kids so I do most things during nap times and at night.

6.  Make the cake.  I do this the day before the party.  Give yourself time in case of mishaps and always have extra mix and icing on-hand in case!

7.  Make the food.  I usually have themed food so this has to be planned and shopped for much like the decor.  Those are separate lists!

7.  Set it all out.  The day of the party is when all the magic comes together and I am usually on a bit of a high watching my vision come together.  I set up my table and put out all the food, make drinks and clean the house.

8.  Enjoy!  I truly love having these parties for my kids because it is a fun and special way to get family and friends together to play and celebrate.  My kids love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here are a few more snaps of the fun day:

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Post Partum Horrors: Things That Should Never Be This Swollen

I am now nine weeks post partum after having my delightful Baby J.  Here is a reminder of the cute:

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Seriously.  The cheeks.  The Mouth.  The little bum!  Oh my…

It’s a good thing I have had him to distract me these last few weeks, especially right after he was born.  There were some terrible things happening to my body that I was happy to try to ignore no matter how painful, embarrassing and inconvenient they were.  All I had to do was gaze into his adorable face and all my uncomfortable woes would disappear.  YEAH RIGHT!!!

As soon as I pushed the little bugger out I knew things were bad.  I could feel that my undercarriage was just… not… right.  You’re probably thinking “Duh! You just pushed out a baby.  Of course your bits and pieces are a bit sore and tender”.  No, this was more than that.  I looked at my doctor and asked if I had just busted out some extra haemorrhoids and she looked everywhere but my eyes and said “No, I don’t think so…”  LIAR!  But, in the moment, I appreciated it.

So, here is my list of terrible after-baby indignities.

1.  Haemorrhoids.  Or as my lovely husband likes to refer to them, ‘dingleberries’.  Horrid, I know.  And yes, we’ve discussed them.  I dare you to google them.  They are a result of pushing out a baby and my best understanding of them is that they are swollen veins coming out of your ass.  I am not going to leave a photo reference here.  You’re welcome.

They are uncomfortable, painful at times and once they are out of your body it is very hard to make them go away.  Did you know you can have internal haemorrhoids too?  Did you know that they bleed?  Did you know that they are also referred to as ‘piles’.  Ok, I’ll stop.  Just so you know, they are normal and permanent – like baggage.  Iced maxi-pads help.  Continue to take some stool softener after the birth for a little while and make sure you are getting enough fibre to make poops easier.  My Dr said that adding some metamucil to your diet can’t hurt and in fact she has colleagues who encourage their own families to do so.  If they are beyond manageable this way, talk to your Dr as there are surgical options as well.

2.  Boobs.  Ridiculously swollen and painful boobs.  After your milk comes in, usually 3-5 days after baby pops out, you will walk in to your bathroom, take off your shirt and scream “Holy Hell” or something similar.  You will immediately start checking for plastic surgery scars and wonder if you were kidnapped by some organ stealing ring of bandits who decided to branch out into breast augmentation crimes as well.  Seriously.  I looked like Dolly Parton on crack but with under eye circles and minus the tiny waist.  They are often larger than the baby’s head and they stick around for upwards of one to three weeks.  There is a lot you can do for boob pain like warm compresses, ibuprofen, expressing milk and cold packs.  Check out my old post for more details on boobs.

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I usually sport a tiny B cup.  These are at least double Ds and I was in agony anytime anyone tried to hug me.  People should know better.  I could also squirt milk across a room.

3.  Feet.  I thought that once my baby was out that the swelling and water weight would miraculously go away.  Not so.  It takes a while for all the excess fluid to leave your body.  I still had swollen feet, legs and hands for over a week.  It does eventually go away but it takes some time.  In the meantime you can still enjoy pushing on your ankles and watching to see how long the dents last.

4.  The Belly.  For most of us, this takes a long time and a lot of hard work to go away.  I refer to my belly as my Kate Gosselin post-sextuplet belly as that is the only thing I have seen that most closely resembles what I tuck into my pants every day.  I am nine weeks out and I still feel most comfortable in my maternity pants just because they suck me in a little bit. When the rest of your body goes back to normal and you are still left with a stretched-out, soft and saggy pooch, give yourself a break.  Most of us have it and most of us are finding a way to deal with it.  Get some spanx, some tummy tamers and some sexy, blowsy shirts and be done with it.  I know it is easier said than done.  Believe me, I struggle with it every day and that is the one thing in this list that I have the hardest time accepting.  The only way to do away with the pooch is diet and exercise and even then, those of us who have stretch marks will always sport a bit of a belly.  In truth, we are the only ones who pay any attention to it.  Try to remember that and try to love it for what it gave you.  I have a hard time with that last line and I don’t blame you for wanting to punch me in the face, even if you know it is true.

So, enjoy ladies!  The hardest part of giving birth isn’t always the labour, is it?  You get kudos for pushing a baby out and often have to suffer all these private pains in silence and without being able to talk or complain about them because they are gross and not usually fodder for dinner time conversation or over coffee with the relatives.  Just know you can always come here and complain about it!  Leave a comment and tell me about your biggest postpartum complaint.  I will lend a sympathetic ear and give you a frozen pad.

Terror In Ottawa: An Attack On My Hometown

I am from Ottawa.  Actually, I am from all over the place.  My dad worked for the Federal Government for 37 years as a diplomat and we moved to various places during his career like New Delhi, Moscow and Washington D.C., but we always returned to Ottawa and call it home.  I now live in Calgary, too far from home for my taste but we are here for now and we love our adopted city.  What happened today, in my hometown, has shocked and disturbed me in too many ways to count.

When I flipped to various news channels and scanned online articles and posts, I kept seeing glimpses of downtown Ottawa, the Parliament Buildings and the War Memorial – places I know very well.  I kept thinking of happier times that I spent in those places.  Summers spent strolling along the Rideau Canal, going to the National Art Gallery, and taking family members on tours of the Peace Tower.  One of my fondest memories of being in Ottawa was when M and I got married and had our photos taken at the Parliament Buildings.  Behold – happy days:

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I wanted my photos done there because it was the summer after our first year living away from home and I was missing Ottawa desperately.  I love the downtown scenery, especially the green tops of the Peace Tower and the East and West Blocks of Parliament.  These majestic buildings are almost an oddity – beautiful and stately – nestled in amongst more modern and sometimes tacky structures that fill the downtown core.  For native Ottawans these buildings are a gathering place for festivals, fireworks for Canada Day and ceremonies for Remembrance Day.

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I remember spending a particularly grim morning there just after the terrorist attacks of September 11th.  There was a ceremony held to show support and solidarity for our brethren to the south after they had suffered so greatly at the hands of terrorists.  I never thought we would have our turn.  No, we didn’t lose thousands of lives today, but we lost one too many.  My heart goes out to the family and friends of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

How did this happen?  How did someone born and raised in our own country grow to hate it so much that he would turn on it and muddy some of the very symbols that represent what we stand for?  To shoot an unarmed honour guard at the memorial that represents freedom, justice and respect for the men and women who have helped to shape Canada into the spectacular place it is today is cowardly, dastardly and contemptible.  As the days stretch out and give us more space between the awful events of today and ourselves, more information will surely come out about the shooter that took a life and scarred the hearts of so many people today.  I won’t name him here.

After the attacks of 9-11, Canada and the US joined forces and turned their attention inwards and put more resources into identifying and mitigating threats from inside our own borders.  We, the general public, will never know how many attacks like this have been thwarted.  In the 13 years since the World Trade Towers fell and the Pentagon was damaged, I never once thought this could happen in our country.  Now I know better.  It can happen.  It has happened and now we enter a new era of awareness.  What I hope we can avoid is succumbing to the fear and terror of today.  As Stephen Harper said in his speech today as he addressed our nation, “we will never be intimidated”.  Heartbroken, yes.  Angry, yes.  But not intimidated.

As a nation, I lift up the stories of Cpl. Cirillo and Sgt. At Arms Kevin Vickers as examples of what our country truly stands for:  Homour, Bravery and Solidarity.  I leave you with one more image that was taken the day I was married, and this is the way I want to remember and represent my beloved Nation’s Capital.  Because although our flag will fly at half mast in honour of the brave man we lost today, I want to remember it flying high, representing our True North Strong and Free.

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All Photos courtesy of Don Weixl Photography.

Girls Must Be Girls: What Modern Day Halloween Is Teaching Our Kids

It’s Halloween time again and I have been busy trying to think of costumes for my two older kids that would adequately cover a snowsuit because, Canada. When I asked the girls on the way to the store what they wanted to be, their first two responses were “Batman!  Spiderman!”

Perfect. Those would hide bulky snowpants, no problem. Off we went in search of the perfect costume. Much to my chagrin, when we walked in to our local Walmart, this is what I saw as I approached the giant costume section.

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“No can do, kiddos! You are girls and therefore must be princesses and fairies. Superheroes are not an option. They are only for boys.” Or so says Walmart.

I was immediately angry. I thought of my friend, Tamara’s, most recent post about onesies in Target that suggested girls only had the options of being the girlfriend to the superhero, and right in front of me was the same message for my own two girls. I was beyond angry. I was almost in despair. Let me contextualize this by telling you that I have always been vehemently anti-gender stereotyping. I am also anti-Disney princess in almost all their forms because of the messages they send little girls. Who is Walmart to decide what my girls, with their blooming and burgeoning imaginations, can aspire to be?

This is not unique to Target and Walmart. This is a situation that is common across most retailers and is quickly becoming more prevalent. When faced with clothing choices, activity choices, movie, character and costume choices, our girls are effectively pigeonholed into the supporting roles. Conversely, boys are being pigeonholed into the superhero and leading man role just as aggressively.

Follow me along the garden path that this situation creates, if you will:  From an early age, young girls are taught by the powers that be that they are to prefer pink, ruffles and princess fare. They catch on to this as toddlers and it carries forward to the next phase of life – Barbies, Bratz and Monster High girls. At their worst, these characters tend to have a meek and passive approach to life and at the best, they are artificial and unattainable in terms of their look and aesthetic as they pretend to be a vet or a doctor. These characters and dolls are teaching our young girls that they should aspire to be pretty, above all, and that being a ‘girl’ is a very specific job. These marketing tactics trap our young children and essentially program them to think in ways that, I believe, are detrimental as they grow into young women.

And after Barbie, what is the next doll our young girls get to dress up? Themselves. Do you see where I am going with this? After being taught that a girl is to dress, walk and talk in a certain way, it would make sense that these youngsters would go out in search of similar fare for themselves. Short shorts, belly tees, makeup at a young age and so on. Why do they want to dress this way? Many girls would be hard-pressed to explain to you why they make such choices. They aren’t even aware that they have been groomed for this from toddlerhood.

Let me be clear – I am not anti-pink/ruffle/tutu etc. I am all for girls making their own choices about what they put on their bodies. If they legitimately choose to wear short shorts because they think they will look cool and they like the way they feel in them, go for it. The problem is, most girls don’t make fashion choices that way. They go for what is trendy, what is cool, and what is prescribed to them by the media and by the marketing machine that runs places like Walmart and Target and the overarching fashion industry that feeds those stores. Why do people wear pleather leggings? Because Kim Kardashain told them to. Why do people wear high-waisted shorts that expose the bottom of their butt-cheeks? I have no freaking clue, but that is what is on display in stores. I will be damned if I am going to let my children fall prey to these marketing machines at work.

So, we eschewed the girl aisle completely and went boldly down the ‘gasp’ boy aisle. We ended up with Spiderman and a dragon.

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My message is the following:  Go boldly, ladies. Do not give in to what people want you to believe – that you are meek, to be judged by your beauty and clothing, and that you are easily definable. There is more to life than being a princess and a fairy. Go and change the world in which you want to live and make choices based on what you want and think is cool. Be a princess one day, and be a damn superhero the next.

Be all the things! Go down all the aisles!

Boys Are Better Than Girls

Isn’t that a horrible title for a post? It is, because no one actually says that, do they? No one would actually come out and say that one gender is superior over another in this day and age, would they? Because, feminism, and equal rights and all that jazz, right?

WRONG!!! When I became pregnant with my third child after giving birth to two glorious and amazing daughters, people immediately started with the questions about whether or not my husband and I were trying/hoping/aiming for that elusive and desirable boy-child.

Do you know what you’re having? Is it a boy? Oh good!  Now you can be done!

Excuse me? You get to tell me that I am done having kids because I have fulfilled some archaic biological imperative that I have a boy? Where are we? 16th Century England?  Am I Anne Boleyn? Am I trying to secure a dynasty or something?  This is horse shit!

I cannot count on all my appendages how many times in my pregnancy that people asked if I was having a boy, only to find out that I was, and these people – complete strangers, I might add – expressed relief and joy on my behalf.  What really pissed me off was that the vast majority of these insightful and astute observers did this in front of my two girls.  Are my two lovelies not good enough?  Is my family incomplete with just them at my side?  What a horrible way to look at the world.  It always left me depressed and angry after an encounter like these.  I always made sure to speak up for my girls and say that I would have been ecstatic to have had another girl.  I love and adore my girls and would have had a blast with a tribe of ladies.

No, my husband didn’t want a son so he could realize his dreams of fathering the next Peyton Manning.  He doesn’t love our girls any less because he isn’t one.  He adores them more than life itself.

Happily enough, we feel the same way about our precious boy.  We just wanted a third kid, people.  No agenda other than that.  We’ve now got him, and couldn’t be more happy and satisfied if we tried.  Well, maybe if we got a bit more sleep.

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The Baby Came Out!! Hallelujah!

Remember that time I was hugely pregnant?  I’ll give you a little reminder:

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I’m actually having a contraction in that photo… Notice the shark?  It acted as a harbinger of the gory mess that was to come.

Something you may already know or have figured out about me is that I am a huge control freak.  Emphasis on the ‘huge’ and ‘freak’… and ‘control’.  For my last two children, I conspired with my body and my doctor to have them born on the day of my choosing.  Not by elective procedures, but by the power of my mind.  I love my doctor and I wanted to make sure that I delivered on days I knew she would be at the hospital on call.  The first time, a combination of raspberry leaf tea and ungainly sexual acts produced contractions and a baby on the day I wanted.  The second time around, I delivered on the day but four hours too early, so I missed my doctor.  It was the most stressful of all my labours and I blame poor timing.

This time, I wanted to make sure this baby didn’t come too close to daughter’s birthday and my anniversary which are the 10th and 11th of August, respectively.  I aimed for the 12th.  I really didn’t think my body could hold on to the baby any longer.  The 12th came and went, no baby.  I tried all my usual methods (I owe my husband an apology for that).  I messaged my doctor – we text each other these days because we are close like that – and she said the next day she could be on-call was the 18th.  THE 18TH?!!!  I could not envisage being pregnant for that much longer.  My belly was huge.  I was in a considerable amount of pain and I had no air conditioning and I didn’t think my family could put up with me for any longer.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I cheered up a bit for everyone’s sake.  Sort of.

The day rolled around and I drank my tea.  I actually went in to see one of my doctor’s colleagues and had my cervix rimmed.  If you have ever separated skin from a chicken breast, it is sort of like that, except with your cervix.  It feels just as good as you would expect it to feel.  I didn’t force any nookie on M this time, because NO.  We walked around the block (read:  waddled).  Contractions began.  This was the first time I had a labour that was slow in starting and I wasn’t sure how to deal.  I played ‘Heads Up’ with my family as we waited for things to progress, put the kids to bed and finally decided to go to the hospital.  I was in a great mood.  I was barely in any pain.

By the time I was checked out, I was 4-5 cm dilated.  My lovely doctor had come in just to deliver my baby!  Success!  I control EVERYTHING!!!  I asked her to break my water to get the party started.  GREAT IDEA, RIGHT?  Contractions went from laughable to SERIOUS and I jumped in the shower for over an hour to deal with the pain.  Don’t you love when the nurses come in every 15 minutes or so to listen to the heartbeat of your baby?  I loved it so much I almost rammed the doppler down my nurses throat.  I was calm and kind, though.  On the outside.  Mike was an awesome labour coach and coaxed and encouraged me quietly and from a safe distance.  Good man.

By the time I had been in the shower for over an hour, I thought I might like to be checked.  They said I was 5-6 cm!  BULLSHIT!! I almost lost it then.  I was already thinking about when I could duck out for a nap.  I was so tired I could barely sit up!  How was I supposed to get to 10 cm and then push for crying out loud?  Well, the answer, it turns out, is:  Painfully.

I turned on my side and laboured in a fetal position until I got the feral urge to push.  I had made the most ungodly, animalistic noises to get to this point.  At one moment, I was bellowing like Tarzan, and the next, I was bleating like a lamb.  It wasn’t pretty.  I was in so much pain, my mom almost passed out in solidarity.

Pushing time.  All I can say about this part is holy hell.  The baby kept leaping to one side of my abdomen every time I had a contraction.  See?  He wanted to run away too!  Since that wasn’t physically possible, I decided to end the torture for the both of us and get him OUT!  I visualized pushing him across the room and out he popped, kicking all the way out.

Here he is!  My 8 lb 1 oz bundle of pure joy and agony.  The sweetest agony possible.

IMG_1692I held him and marvelled at him for a good long time after I cried and laughed at the same time.  I was so exhausted and in awe and disbelief at what my body had just endured.  My body was in disbelief too, and tried to make its’ displeasure known.  I started shaking quite a bit and had about 10 warming blankets and a ginger ale on board before I calmed down.  We decided on to name him Baby J.

The rest is history, or another blog post, at the very least.  Stay tuned for:  What No One Tells You:  The aftermath of labour.  Alternate titles:  Swelling Where No One Should Swell, Measuring My Pee, and Holy Crap! Have You Seen My Boobs?!

A few more pictures to make you go “Awwww!”

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Biggest sister.

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A little and big sister.

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A proud papa.  He almost worked as hard as I did to get us to this moment!IMG_1720

Grandpa D having a snuggle in the hospital.  J might be flipping us all off in this photo.  IMG_1736

Grandma D holding her first grandson.
IMG_1740Grandma S holding her fourth grandson!