Category Archives: Holiday

Sensitive Santa

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A year ago we attempted to visit Santa twice. It was an awful experience, not just for Maddy, but for us as well. It was too much… too much everything. Our first visit ended with a Santa who was quite unhappy with us, and a comment from a stranger who felt that our struggles were because, “That little girl is just begging for some love and that mother is denying it.” This woman at least had the respect to not say this in front of me, unfortunately, she didn’t know she was standing next to Eric.

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I’ll spare you the details of the actual day, but we ended up with a photo of a screaming, terrified Maddy with a grouchy Santa. As a parent, it was a totally shameful experience that left me questioning my behaviour. Why was it that I wanted Maddy to see Santa so badly? Did I really not know it was going to be so difficult, or did I force us to go because it was something that I wanted and I didn’t care what Maddy needed?

I still look at the photo from that day with mixed emotions. On the one hand, what’s a Christmas album without the classic baby/toddler crying with Santa? On the other hand, I know that Maddy’s crying was much beyond the typical crying photo, and was related to a host of factors that don’t impact most kids.

I wanted Maddy to have the same experiences that other kids would have – but, the thing is, I wanted her to have the experience that I imagined, not the actual one we had. The Christmas tradition of visiting Santa is not really a magical experience if it is an anxiety-provoking, traumatizing event with a very grouchy Santa.

We were so fortunate this year to snag a spot with Sensitive Santa. The Kitchener CTV News talks about the event here. It was an overwhelmingly positive day. I can sum it up by saying that they do their very best to reduce sensory input (dimmed lights, no music, Santa doesn’t ring bells, etc.), they mail a social story in advance (Maddy requested we read it at least 15 times before our visit this morning – it helps manage anxiety and provides expectations of what will happen), there are no waiting times, an area with blocks and colouring for the kids to enjoy, and perhaps most importantly – the staff and Santa are skilled and patient.

It is an entirely child-led visit, allowing the child to interact with Santa in their own way. When Maddy was hesitant at first, they encouraged her to explore, she walked around touching all of props. They then introduced her to a stuffed Mickey Mouse, and asked her to help Mickey explore. When Maddy wanted to leave the space, they let her take Mickey and we walked around and watched another child visit with Santa. When Maddy wanted to try again, they patiently waited until she was ready to get close to Santa. Maddy explored her gift and looked up for a picture. Santa watched her cues very closely, and spoke to her in a way that wasn’t overwhelming – pausing to allow her time to process, and prompting when necessary. We had filled out an information card in advance, so Santa knew exactly what to talk to Maddy about! We finished our visit with a high-five, and Maddy said thank you and Merry Christmas to Santa.

What struck me most, was that every child’s visit with Santa was completely different. Instead of every child being forced to fit into a prescription visit, the visit moulds around the needs of each child. We give Sensitive Santa a big thumbs up and encourage anyone who thinks that it is an event that their child can benefit from to give it a try.

It’s a Festivus miracle!

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I was feeling pretty stressed heading into the holidays this year. I planned for the worst, just in case. Our sensory survival kit was put to very good use, particularly the earphones. We had several very chaotic, busy days where we bounced around to various homes (as per our usual routine), but Maddy did amazingly well.

Christmas daySome of my favourite moments of the 2012 holidays include:

  • Seeing how mesmerized Maddy was by the Haines’ family annual Christmas sing-a-long (accompanied by piano and cello). After every song, Maddy repeatedly asked for more until the next song started.
  • Watching Maddy warm up to her second cousins at the Haines’ family Christmas. She sat on one of her cousin’s laps for most of the sing-a-long.
  • Spending a week with her cousins, Logan & Chloé (and of course her Aunt Lindsay and Uncle Jérôme). It was such a joy to watch Maddy run, giggle, dance, scream, and tear around the house with Logan. We’ve never seen her play in our own home the way she has with Logan here (and we’re hoping some of it might stick beyond Logan’s visit).
  • Maddy hugged and kissed me a couple of times!!!! Yahooo!!!!!
  • Enjoying a delicious (and quiet) New Years Eve dinner of duck confit after all three kids were in bed.

sleeping beautyBoth Eric and I took a full week off over the holidays – and it was oh, so wonderful to have a week at home with Maddy. One of the most relaxing parts of the week was not having to drive to therapy. We’ve been at therapy with Maddy 2-4 times a week for the last 10 months and it was really nice to have the break.

One of the reasons the week was so relaxing is that we had no demands on us. It didn’t matter if Maddy didn’t want clothes on – we didn’t have to work through a fit to get them on, because we were home, and she could just be naked. If Maddy didn’t want to eat or napped late it didn’t matter. We didn’t have to worry about her not sleeping at all if she didn’t eat all day, because we didn’t have to wake up and go to work in the morning, and we could alternate naps during the day. One night we watched her run around the house until 10:30pm because we couldn’t get her down for the night, and it didn’t bother us in the slightest. Consequently, our emotional reactions to some of her behaviours was a lot less, and I’m sure that impacted Maddy as well.

When life is on hold, a lot of the daily struggles aren’t a struggle, because they aren’t impacting our work, Maddy’s therapy, our sleep, etc. The reason they become so frustrating, is because of their ripple effects and the constant emotional reactions they create in us.

I’m looking forward to 2013 – we’re starting off with a bang by attending an SOS feeding workshop for problem feeders, offered to us by Thames Valley Children’s Centre, and seeing a specialist to work out if there are any medical reasons for Maddy’s lack of ability to sleep (also recommended by TVCC as Maddy’s sleep patterns are atypical for her age).

Happy New Year to you all. I hope your holidays were as enjoyable as ours were.

Sensory holiday survival kit

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We’re in the midst of preparing for a few days away to celebrate Christmas with our family. As I mentioned before, I’m feeling a bit anxious about the holidays as change in routine is hard on Maddy (cry-until-I-puke-several-times-a-day kind of hard sometimes). Transitions are very tough for her. We’re learning how to support Maddy through transitions, but mama and dada still have a lot to learn, so we’re not quite there yet.

I decided to prepare a sensory holiday survival kit to try to help us through the next week.

Sensory survival kit

Maddy’s survival kit has:

Mama’s survival kit:

mama's survival kit

  • Chocolate
  • Booze

Do you have anything you always pack in your holiday survival kit?

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays! See you in 2013!!

Mothers make the world go ’round

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I feel so happy and blessed to be celebrating my very first Mother’s Day. I know I have expressed the sadness, frustration, and anger I have often felt in these last almost-11-months, but today, I couldn’t be happier.

I recently saw this youtube video, a song a to-be-daddy wrote about his unborn child. It’s just beautiful, and fitting for a day like today:

To Madeleine, thank you for making me a mommy. I love your sweet smile, your soft giggles, and your love for Loki. I love how you sit with your ankles crossed. I love that you have your daddy’s ears, and his long eyelashes. I love that you slyly smile at me and shake your head no as you head straight for Loki’s water bowl, or the recycling bin. I love that when you sign ‘more’ and we give you more, you smile and clap for yourself because you are so proud that we understood. I love how you scrunch your little nose up and sniff loudly, and then giggle when we do it back to you. I love that your new thing is to try to pass things from one hand to the other behind your back…. and how persistent you are even though you’ve never successfully done it. I love that when I walk into a room you smile and giggle and start bouncing up and down with excitement. I love your chubby legs and bright eyes. I love you.

I can’t say your birth was an awe-inspiring moment. Frankly, I was terrified. But, the moment I saw you I started to cry. You were the most perfect little being I had ever laid my eyes on.

Our first family photo

We’ve had our challenges, but being your mommy is the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. Thank you for showing me what I’m made of. Thank you for teaching mommy and daddy the true meanings of unconditional love, patience, and strength. You have taught us so much in your short little life.

7 days old

Now, although this is my first Mother’s Day I am so lucky that I have been able to celebrate this day with my mom for 29 years, and my mum for 5 years.

Mom & Mum

To my mom, thank you for your unconditional love. You have always been there for me, whether it be after a tough day at school as a child, or a tough day as a mom. You have taught me how to love and how to be loved. Most of all, you have taught me how to be a mom. I can only hope that I can do half as good a job as you have done.

To my mum, thank you for welcoming me into your life as if I had always been there. I can feel your love and support in all the ways you have helped me over the past 5 years. I know that I can count on you during the toughest times. You raised who I think is the most perfect man around, and have given Madeleine an amazing daddy. I couldn’t have asked for a better Mum.

To all the other new and experienced mom’s out there – thanks for making the world go ’round.

Finally, to all of the expecting mommy’s, I leave you with this video:

Burrito Pillowcase

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A special someone’s 29th birthday is quickly approaching. Once the initial shock of the fact that we’re turning 29 this year (I swear I thought we were only 27… somehow this last year feels like it never happened) wore off, I started thinking about birthday traditions.

Eric enjoying his 26th birthday cake

Now that Madeleine is part of our family, I was brainstorming ways that we can make her birthday special each year. My favourite tradition as a kid was going to my Grammy Smart’s in Etobicoke to have dinner with her and my Uncle Rob. Dinner was always followed by a cake that had hidden coins in it. The birthday kid always got a loonie in their slice, and everyone else passed over their coins too. We will for sure start doing this when Maddy is old enough to enjoy it.

Shortly after I was thinking about this, I came across the DIY dish burrito pillowcase video tutorial. Ta-da! Perfect idea for all holidays. Although Maddy can’t really participate in this tradition quite yet, I figured Eric and I can.

In making the birthday pillowcase, I also used a tutorial from Twiddletails, because Anina included how to do a french seam. I wasn’t exactly successful at my first french seam attempt. It sounded so easy… but, I’ve warned you before, I’m awesome at making sewing mistakes. I’ll blog about how not to do a french seam another day.

The other error I made was that the length of the balloon material wasn’t long enough to get the pillowcase done with the balloons facing upright. Oops. Next time I’ll think about this when getting my fabric cut.

Birthday pillow!

Despite the glaring french seam mistake, the sideways balloons, and the un-ironed wrinkles, Eric says he likes the pillowcase, and that it will go to good use every year on April 4.

I’m still looking for fun birthday traditions. If you have any fun ways of celebrating birthday’s in your family, I’d love to hear about it.

Now it’s off to bed for me – this has potentially been the busiest and most tiring weekend of my life. We did everything in our power to keep Maddy stimulated all day both days. Looking forward to learning some more efficient techniques this week in our first therapy sessions.

Prepped for St Pat’s!

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I’ve always been partial to St. Patrick’s day.  I grew up Irish Dancing and so I have a lot of fond memories of the day.

With my friend Kellie (please don't kill me)

After I had left my Irish Dancing days and was in University, I had a lot of really fun St Patty’s day adventures with friends.

Michelle, Laura & Ashley, 2007

I obviously had to make Maddykins a onesie to celebrate her first Patty’s day.  The tutorial for this applique project came from here.  It was quick and easy – spent an evening working on it after Maddy was in bed.

I think Maddy-cakes likes it too!

For more tips on applique, click here.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!!!

Learn how to make these shirts here.

We are missing Eric today as he’s in California this week for work.  We surprised him last week with an ‘I Love Daddy’ mug with a picture of Maddykin’s on it (and lucky him, it was filled with chocolate). I was also able to sneak a card into his suitcase before he left.

Eric surprised me with a lovely sewing gift! A book and a container for my growing number of threads!!!

We also got a sweet surprise in the mail from Grammy & Grandpa Baynton!

With Eric gone, Maddy and I are celebrating Valentine’s Day together, decked out in the shirts I made, and eating heart-shaped cupcakes.  Okay, since she’s only just shy of 8 months, she can’t have the cupcakes… but, that just means more for me 😉  Maddy is also so lucky to have a very talented Aunt Lyndsay who made her an adorable heart hat!  You can read more about it here.  I can’t even tell you how obsessed I am with this hat – it’s just way too cute.

Miss you and love you Eric! xo