Damien has been obsessed with music since he was an infant. He loves to play it and he loves to listen to it. Before he was a year, he was already blowing whistles and harmonicas and exploring anything and everything musical. He was also obsessed with Raffi.
As a young child, Aiden wasn’t a huge fan of listening to children’s music. We have dozens of CD’s, downloaded or borrowed from the library, but they always made him upset. Too much going on? Possibly. He loved classical music, though he did enjoy having us sing children’s songs to him (and he was miming several before a year too).
When Damien came along, we were already in the habit of not playing kids music as frequently. When we did, it became clear that both children now had a preference for Raffi. Though Damien will listen to other music (particularly when live), he went through 6 months of being obsessed with Raffi. To our great advantage, it was something that would instantly calm him down. If he was tired or fussy, all I had to do was turn on some Raffi music on my phone and he would relax and suck his thumb.
As a very fussy child, the ability to play Raffi music was a miracle to us! It bought us the half hour we needed of lap time to get to Keats Island on the water taxi and it bought us nearly 3 hours of fuss-free time on the way to Kelowna (see Raffi-induced naps above). If he was fussy before it was nap time? Raffi. If we were grocery shopping and he didn’t want to sit in the cart? Raffi. Such a lifesaver. It was not a permanent solution, but it bought me a good 10 minutes when it was needed!
Damien was so obsessed with Raffi, I think he overdosed. Most times we attempt to play Raffi now, he wants a specific song that he of course cannot yet vocalize, so the experience is frustrating for him, and for us, since we own every Raffi CD. Damien’s first sentence, 2 months ago, was: “I don’t want Baby Beluga,” when he was going through a very anti-Baby Beluga phase (now over). It’s his only sentence to date, too!
I have to say, though, as far as kids music goes, Raffi is the best. It’s mellow, it’s catch, and it’s usually not annoying. Most CDs for kids are overly perky or upbeat, which can get on your nerves after a while!
Our Favourite Raffi CDs:
Baby Beluga and Singable Songs for the Very Young
Whether you are expecting a baby or are purchasing for a new family, there are many (too many) choices when it comes to sleep. According to the Safe Sleep guidelines, the safest way for your baby to sleep is on his/her back in a safe sleep environment that is firm and free of extra items: no pillows, comforters, quilts or bumper pads. Now that we’ve had 2 kids, difficult sleep journeys aside, I wanted to share the items that worked best for our family:
Infant Sleep Necessities
- Bassinet – Although not necessary, we found it easier to have baby in our room from the start, allowing for easy access to breastfeed throughout the night. We found it more comforting to have baby close, and studies have shown it to be beneficial to baby as well. We used the bassinet that came with our Uppababy Vista, making it a great all-around purchase that we still use 4 years later!
- Bassinet Sheet – These were hard to find, but make it easier to keep the bassinet clean – babies spit up a lot!
- Rocking Bassinet Stand - We used the Jolly Jumper stand and had it rigged up to a belt to rock more easily without the parent having to sit up. Our boys were both rough sleepers, but it helped in the very early days.
- White Noise - I’d call this absolutely essential, although we didn’t believe it at first. You can buy white noise machines; we used an iPad playing a waterfall track from iTunes in the early days, or an iPhone if we were on the go. In the first few weeks, the sound alone sent Damien to sleep. Now that he’s older, we still play white noise on an old iPod Speaker Dock to minimize the number of times his older brother disrupts his sleep.
- Miracle Blanket - The recommendations on swaddling vs not swaddling keep changing. For our two boys, it was essential, but not long lasting. We tried regular blankets of many sorts and several specialty items. The longest one to last was the Miracle Blanket, since it was the hardest to “escape” from. Our boys both rolled early and were very mobile at night, so we stopped swaddling each before 6 weeks old.
Baby Sleep and Beyond Necessities
Our kids moved to their own rooms at 4 months, for Aiden, and 2 months, for Damien. I wish we had made the move earlier for Aiden, who struggled a great deal with the distractions of our room. For both of our boys, we have found the ideal set-up to be:
- Convertible Crib / Bedroom Set - We made the unconventional decision to buy convertible cribs for both boys, instead of using a crib for both. Our logic is that we are buying not just baby furniture, but furniture for their whole lives. Ideally, you would buy a whole set: crib (with conversion kit to make it a toddler bed and/or double bed), dresser, bookshelf, side table. By buying all items early, we ensured the items will never go out of stock. Tip: when buying a whole set, envision the style that would be appropriate for a teenager, not just an infant!
- Crib Mattress – Choose a mattress that is firm and ideally water resistant, eliminating the need for a waterproof mattress protector. Who wants to do extra laundry? Not me!
- Sleep Sack – A wearable blanket in the appropriate weight and size for the season. Aiden wore these until he was almost 3, when he switched to a blanket. You never have to worry about tucking in with one of these! Tip: choose one with a hidden zipper at the front or side. Avoid ones with snaps at the top, which come loose easily.
- Crib Sheet – Choose a sheet that fits snug and still has some softness to it. We have foundmany too loose. Our favourite crib sheet is from Skip Hop.
- Breathable Bumper – Although bumpers pose a suffocation / SIDS hazard for young babies, and a climbing hazard for older ones, babies have a habit of getting arms and legs stuck in the bars of their cribs! We solved this with a breathable bumper.
- Crib Rail - If your convertible crib doesn’t come with a safety rail for use in the toddler bed setting, a safety rail is essential. My 4-year-old still needs his (he rolls a lot) and we plan at least one more year in the toddler bed setting.
- Video Monitor - Although not essential, it is so helpful to see your baby to know if they are crying in their sleep (totally unaware) or if they maybe need your help. Plus, for older kids, you can spot when they’re not in bed! We personally use wireless cameras we connect to our phones, but if you’re not tech savvy, any baby video monitor should work.
- Toddler Bedding – For older kids, choosing bedding is not easy. Depending on how much your kid tosses and turns and the temperature of your room, you could choose a quilt or a comforter. Since top sheets cause an unnecessary amount of “can you tuck me in?” requests, we use a blanket only. We learned the hard way to ensure that the blanket is larger than the bed area, so it doesn’t come off too easily. We now use a thick quilt from Pottery Barn Kids that mimics a comforter, but without the need to wash a separate cover.
- Toddler Pillow - Pillows are very personal. The recommendation is to wait until age 2-3 before introducing a pillow, and then introducing one that is toddler-sized. Pillow cases can be hard to find (Pottery Barn Kids has them). Aiden at age 4 still doesn’t want a thicker pillow, as he still sometimes sleeps on his tummy.
- Blackout Curtains – You need to block out the light to get babies to sleep a decent night, and particularly for naps. Aiden has blackout curtains behind his nicer curtains, though Damien has a thicker curtain with blackout sewn into the lining (from Pottery Barn Kids).
Those lists seem exhaustive, but if you’ve been to any baby store, you’ll know that you are pitched far more that you don’t need. You don’t need teddy bears that play heartbeats or fancy night lights or mobiles (distracting) or toys for the crib. Bedrooms are for sleeping – keep it simple!
October is the time of year when I start to plan ahead for the Holiday season for our family: buying gifts, having our photo taken, and planning our holiday cards. One of our first holiday cards featured a family photo we took at the pumpkin patch as the colours and lighting at this time of year make for great photo cards. Last year, we made up our holiday cards with one of the great designs from the Minted Christmas Card Collection with the photos taken by Sarah Jane Photography. We’ll be doing the same thing this year.
I have been making photo cards since Aiden was born, starting with his birth announcement and our first family photo card. I have used several services for photo cards (4 in total) and each year I spend many hours trying to find a design that I think is both tasteful and unique. You really don’t want to know how many hours I spent last year looking at dozens of services before our photographer mentioned Minted!
I loved that the site offers hundreds of designs with an incredible amount of customization options: number of photos, colours, shapes, flat or folded, type of paper, matching envelopes, or postcard format. All of their cards are printed on card stock, which makes them stand out a little more from the standard photo paper. The prices were comparable, but no other company offered the same fresh designs that I was seeing at Minted. Here’s the card we created for 2012, which had a custom holiday message on the back in postcard-format.
We used the Wish Banner design for our holiday card. While I was placing the order, I (finally) got around to making Damien’s birth announcement card (which I sent with the holiday cards) and also made 3 calendars featuring photos of our boys for gifts for the family. The calendars come in a variety of sizes (I used a larger spiral bound one that would hang well on the fridge) and you can customize not only images but dates too! I was able to add in personalized dates such as birthdays and anniversaries!
Whether you’re doing family photo cards or just want to send out something with some flair, Minted offers some great inspiration boards to get you planning! I love the idea of mixing up some holiday accent photos in with the family photos like this card – I may have to try that for this year!
I hope this post inspires you to be creative with your holiday cards and gifts!
Disclosure: I received some Minted credit in exchange for this post, though the opinions are my own. I actually had “Review Minted” up on my Editorial calendar for a long time, but time just got away from me and I missed the window of relevance for last year!
During our stay at the Cove Lakeside Resort in Kelowna, we visited the on-site hotel restaurant, The Bonfire Restaurant, for a family dinner, a family breakfast and a date-night dinner thanks to the concierge babysitting services of the hotel.
The restaurant is well laid out, with both a lounge area and a main restaurant eating area, which expands onto a large patio. The menu at the restaurant is quite large, featuring a mostly high-end eating experience for all the meals with very large portions.
For my first lunch, I had a pizza with a wide variety of toppings including boar bacon, roasted garlic and “goatgonzola” – though I found the blue cheese a little overwhelming, it was nonetheless quite good and served me well for more than one meal! I wasn’t a huge fan of the hummus, but I’m quite picky about that.
The kids both shared a single meal of chicken fingers and fries. Though I would have liked a kids menu, particularly with more healthy options like grilled chicken, this is a common food most restaurants will have for kids.
Our breakfast at the restaurant was quite good – the pancakes were enough to share between myself and Aiden and the hash browns are totally undersold on the menu – slices potatoes all crisp and lovely.
For our date night, we moved beyond the quicker fare to have something more sophisticated. I enjoyed a buttery delicious ahi tuna poke cocktail with mango and macadamia nuts followed by the ravioli. Despite the long wait times for our food, we loved every bite. Due to the long waits during our dinner, we had to have our dessert sent back to our room – not a bad option, in the end!
Given that this is your only dining option without taking a car off the Cove Lakeside property, it’s great to have a diverse and fresh menu like the one here.
See the photos from some of our meals here. You can follow along with my Kelowna posts here.
After many hours sitting in the car for the drive from North Vancouver to Kelowna, we were more than glad to dump our stuff down in our suite at the Cove Lakeside Resort. When we arrived, our room was all ready for us, including our rentals from The Tiny Tourist Baby Equipment Service, which supplies baby and toddler equipment across the Okanagan.
Our hotel was happy to supply a pack & play crib for Damien, but did recommend this service as an option. Knowing we don’t travel a whole lot, and we were going to be there a week, I though Damien would be far more comfortable in a crib. While I was perusing their site, I came across the bed rail option and knew we had to have that for Aiden too! Though he would have a large bed, he still moves a fair bit and he actually fell out of his bed in Victoria last summer!
Aside from their sleep options such as cribs in various sizes and the sleep rails, you can rent a variety of products for your trip including a wide variety of strollers, monitors and gates, high chairs and even toys! The “tub of toys” in particular is customized for the age, gender and interest of your kids, including toys, puzzles, books, bath toys and more! Pretty amazing idea.
As you can see, our kids had no trouble sleeping in the hotel! Damien missed his first nap in the hotel, being thrown off by the experience in the car and being asked to nap so soon after arrival, but after some initial protest at night, he went right to sleep. He woke up once during the night that first night when we made too much noise joining him, but otherwise he was great! Both kids woke about an hour earlier than normal each morning in the hotel, probably as much to do with the sun as with anything!
As you can see, the crib was a big hit with both kids! Aiden loves to play with Damien after his naps.
Disclosure: we received a discount on this service. All opinions in this review are my own.