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LIVING with kids

LIVING with kids

Where to eat well in Gatineau and Ottawa with kids

Last fall, we had a great time with our 4 years old boy visiting the Gatineau/Ottawa region for a weekend. Our only plans for the weekend were meeting some friends on Sunday and visiting the Children’s museum. Whenever I’m in vacation, I rely on Yelp to find restaurants. Once again, I was reminded of how practical Yelp is.

The filtering options make it easy to cut down on the number of reviewed restaurants. As a rule of thumb, I focus on restaurants with 40 reviews or more. I also take the time to read the most recent reviews to get a feel of the place, to see if it fits our criteria, what we’re craving for at that moment. Then, I check the food pictures and visit their web site. Frankly, I rarely made bad choices with this technique. Continue Reading

FAMILY LIVING with kids

What to Do this Fall: Apple Picking

apple picking jerome

Part of my childhood memories is to go apple picking with my parents. I love apples! So for me, that was always a treat to grab it from the tree. I want to continue the tradition with my son. So, yesterday we went with a bunch of friends. We couldn’t had a better weather for an outdoor activity.

zack eats an apple
photo: my son shares my love of apples (and Apple…)

Zack was delighted by his day. He is a typical boy that loves being outside. My son enjoyed the tractor ride to get to the orchards, he was able to run between the trees, he ate apples that he picked himself and he played with the other children.

apple picking zack

We even spent some time at the nice play area for toddlers that is one of the activities for kids at Vergers Petit et Fils, located in Saint-Hilaire. I recommend the place if you have kids because there is a lot of free, fun activities for them to do.

apple tree

I brought home 4 apple varieties. Some to eat fresh, others to cook. Tonight, I plan to bake the apple crumble recipe from Jamie Oliver in ramekins.

I’m looking for more ways to cook with apples. What is you favorite apple recipe?

+ top photo: my husband harvested the apples at the top of the trees

FAMILY LIVING with kids

Parenting Tips: How I Get My Baby to Sleep All Night

How to get my baby to sleep through the night?

My husband and I are the lucky parents of a loving baby that sleeps all night since he is 3-week old. We can’t take all the credits since Zack arrived from his 3-week hospital stay this way.

At four weeks, Zack made us understand that he didn’t want us to wake him anymore for feeding. His doctors said it was OK to let him guide us to what he needs. He drank plenty of milk during the day. He quickly moves to sleeping 6 hours, 7 hours, 8 hours and so on, without a bottle. He sleeps for 10 to 12 hours every night in his nursery since he is 3 or 4 months.

At a time where having a good night sleep is a luxury for most new parents, I felt truly blessed. So, I did some reading to make sure that my baby continues to sleep well. I learned that a few simple rules made it possible. For the ones who doubted that it applies to most babies, you should give a try to know if it works before you make a decision. I read that this method provides a high success rate.

Differencing Night and Day

The first rule for sleeping all night is that your baby must grasp the difference between night and day. Once your baby distingues nighttime, you can teach your baby that night is made for sleeping. It starts by lowering the lights and reducing the noises in the house near bedtime. The light and noise trick comes from the hospital. This is what they do at the NICU.

Short Bedtime Routine

We try to keep our bedtime routine short and simple. Ours used to take up to 45 minutes when he was a few weeks old. Now that he is 17 months old, it takes about 10 minutes. Zack understands it. In fact, he is looking forward to our bedtime ritual. Our babysitter reproduces the same ritual once a week with the same level of success than us. While my husband is prepping his last bootle feed, I change his diaper and put on his pyjama. We feed him in our living room before we move him to his room upstairs.

For about a year, we waited until he was asleep in our arms and then, gently put him in his crib. Sometimes after he reached one year old, we slowly moved away from waiting that he was completely asleep before leaving the room. Later, our son started to tell us that he did not want to be in our arms and that he prefers to go straight to his bed.

We currently feed him a bottle, brush his teeth, mommy quickly gives him a kiss and he goes straight to his crib. After putting my baby in his crib, we turn his pendant light off, we strategically place two OXO nightlights around his room and illuminate his ceiling with stars and a moon. We tell them the story about how the sun went down and the dark sky gets brighter. We only provide him with a dark sleeping environment at nighttime. We have a little play session with a plush toy or we sing him a few songs before we tell him good night. A baby can easily relate to these steps and understand what is coming next.

Everyone, including my baby, is happier since my baby falls asleep by himself, at naptime and at bedtime. I feel that you must do that step when your baby is ready for it.

Give Your Baby Time to Learn How to Sleep

Babies must learn how to stay asleep when they are transitioning from one sleep stage to another stage. This is one of the reasons why they cry. Waking them when they are transitioning from one sleep stage to the next only makes it harder for them to learn that most important skill when it comes to sleep. When this happened, your baby can still be asleep. Give your baby the few minutes he/she needs to make the transition. So wait a few minutes — my limit is 5 minutes —before you rush by the crib. It will be a lot easier to do this if you must get up in the middle of the night and walk to their nursery than if your baby sleeps next to your bed.

Comfort only when Needed

From what I read, the earliest a baby can learn how to sleep on his/her own, the easiest it will be to acquire the skill. I can bring comfort to my baby in my arms if he woke up in tears (arrived a lot when he does his teeth), but he will return to sleep in his crib after that. I often found that he only wants a fresh diaper. Like I said earlier, we quickly reached a point I didn’t need to feed him during the night.

Keep the Noise Down at Night

To further help your baby distingues between night and day, it is best that they sleep with no noises at night and that they can nap hearing your day activities.

What about Naptime?

To not confuse them, rely on a different routine at naptime. Your baby needs to know that we only expect a short sleep.This is why when he was younger, he slept in his room only at night. He napped in the crib of his playard in a corner of my living room during the day.

As he grows older, I tried several napping techniques.  To tell you the truth, I had more problems with establishing a regular naptime than sleeping at night. My boy used to fight me even when he was tired. For the past few months, we found a way that suits him. I tell my son that I will see him soon and that we will play after he sleeps. I often leave him with a book in his crib. He decided when to fall asleep; which is usually a few minutes after I left his room. One important visual cue remains: I partially close his blinds so he sees that their is still light outside.

I know that every parent and baby is different. My technique might not suit your parenting style. My goal is simply to provide food for thoughts. Any comments, any tips to add? How did you teach your infants to sleep at night?

FAMILY LIVING with kids

Happy Baby: Will It Be Day Care or a Babysitter?

babysitter daycare

babysitter daycare

Many questions came to my mind before I took my decision. What would be the best for my baby? What about the development of his social skills? Where can he interact with other kids if he doesn’t go to day care? How much schedule flexibility do I really need? What are the costs associated with each option? Can I find a vacancy at a good day care close to my home?

I experienced the typical guilt and worries of working moms when it’s time to return to work. Ideally, I would like to spend time with my son in the morning and to send him to day care in the afternoon. On the other end, I wonder if kids under 2 years old are not too young to go to day care. I worry that he will not get enough attention from the caregivers if he goes to day care. Many parents that I know sent their kids to daycare around 1 year old. Their kids enjoy it and they are well-adjusted. Maybe that my fear comes from the fact that I never went to day care. I couldn’t decide what to do.

As it turned out, the final decision came from medical reasons. My son’s neonatal pediatrician suggested to delay day care until next spring, if we can. This is a precautionary measure to avoid the flu season. So what would I do? I want to return to work this winter. Babies and toddlers that go at day care benefit from being with other kids and from being outside the house without their parents. And I read that kids who do not attend day care could be more shy around kids. Can he catch up later? To find the answer, I investigated the impact for a baby of not having daily social interactions with kids of his ages.

I wanted a professional opinion. So I asked the occupation therapist who followed my son when he was at the hospital. She reassured me when she told me that developing proper parents-baby relations are what really count up to 1 year old. If he needs to stay away from day care for a little bit longer, say until 2 years old, he should be able to catch up later.

I do not know yet when I will be ready to send him to day care. I just know that he will at some point. In the meantime, I am looking for baby and toddler activities where he can socialize with kids of his age. Who knows, it might be him that tells me when he’ll want to go to day care?

My Conclusion

A part-time babysitter will take care of him for now. After considering all factors, this is what I am the most comfortable with at this point. It’s a smooth transition that addresses his and my needs. The babysitter will allow me to work for a set numbers of hours per week, without baby distractions. I will be able to attend meetings and events, like I used to do.

There are still many unanswered questions. How do I set the boundaries between my work and my family life? Is it feasible to maintain those boundaries while working mostly from home? Time will tell if and how long I can manage being a mom and running my business from home with the help of an in-house childcare provider.

I am curious to know how you did it? Which childcare arrangement worked best for you and your baby/toddler: a babysitter, a nanny or day care?

SOURCING:
+ photo: Zoo Packs by Ship Hop $20 USD

FAMILY LIVING with kids

Pick up a Grade 4 and 5 SnowPass for Your Child from Canadian Ski Council

snowpass

snowpass

Alpine ski has always been my favorite sport. Ski is a big part of my life during winter. I learned how to ski when I was 2 years and half. My husband is an excellent skier. In fact, he earned lots of points when I saw him skiing for the first time. 🙂

Now that we have a son, we can’t wait to teach Zack how to ski. We are counting the number of winters until he is ready. This is why I am happy to share this great initiative by the Canadian Ski Council. Grade 4’s and 5’s can pick a Snowpass to ski and ride for free. You can fill the form online. Just visit www.snowpass.ca, complete the registration form, upload a photo, proof of age/grade and payment to cover administration and delivery fee. Your child’s very own SnowPass will be mailed straight to your door giving you hundreds of ways to save this season.

SOURCING:
+ Snowpass.ca

FAMILY LIVING with kids

Parenting: What I Learned from a Little Heart

just kim little heart

My design philosophy revolves around comfort, function and aesthetics. I enjoy talking about design because I believe that good design can enhance all aspects of our life. But today, I will talk about another kind of inspiration. I will discuss how a decisive life event shaped me and the future of At Home with Kim Vallee.

I am new at writing about my personal life. So bare with me as I share with you the most important aspects of what happened to me over the last 12 months.

What Happened?

Since I am an entrepreneur, it is not surprising that I like to take charge of my destiny. One year ago, life threw at me a difficult situation for which I had, and still have, no control. We discovered that my baby would be born with a congenital heart defect during my 20-week ultrasound. At the time, the doctor thought that he might require a surgery in the first 12 to 24 months of his life. I accepted the situation with a relative peace of mind. The important thing was that my baby could live a normal life. I did not want to stress too much in fear to harm my baby during my pregnancy. I never anticipated that the road to recovery would take so long.

My next deception came when they told me that I would be separated from my baby right after delivery. We found out 6 weeks before my due date that my baby would be transferred right away to another hospital in preparation for an open heart surgery to be scheduled a few days later. I said bye-bye to my birth plan away. I had a C-section and stayed at the hospital for three days. Luckily, I was discharged from the hospital the night before his surgery. I rushed to his bed. I was happy and sad at the same time when I held him in my arms for the first time. Although it broke my heart when they brought him to the surgery room, I felt that it was better to have the surgery at birth since he was still unaware of his surroundings. What I did not know was that we would have to go through another surgery four months later.

I never anticipated that it would take 2 surgeries, several medical exams, a total of 40 days of hospital stays and then a cardiac catheterization to finally find a solution. At last, we received good news last Thursday. Seven months after Zack was born, my husband and I could celebrate, without fear, the birth of our son. For the occasion, we drank a Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne and ate sushi with our smiling baby sitting next to us. That felt good!

Inspired by My Son’s Courage

One thing that brought me comfort over the last 7 months is the easy going nature of my son. While he was recovering from his second surgery at the hospital, the nurses nicknamed him “Smiley baby”. He is adorable and was easy to take care of. If they did not closely monitor his condition, nobody would have guessed that he was sick.

A cardiology nurse that follows us since the beginning said something that made me proud on Friday. She mentioned that she could see that my son lives in a happy home because he is always joyful. I would add that he lives in a stylish and happy home. And it is fun that now I can embrace a new chapter of my/our life.

What I Learned Personally and for Work

Now that my son is fine, I can digest what I learned from this experience. I have even more confidence in my strength of character. Now that I have faced these events, I feel that I am better equipped to be a good mom. I realized that I have more patience that I ever imagined. This will come handy to raise him.

I also learned to let go, at least to let go a little. You totally rely on the judgements and expertise of others when you deal with a life-threatening illness. You can ask questions and seek explanations but, at the end, you have no choices but to accept the recommendations of the medical team because they are the ones with the skills and the know-how. Out of necessity, I started to delegate more than I used to, both at home and at work. This is a big deal since I am a perfectionist.

What’s Next?

I wish to pass time with my son while I carry on a successful career. This calls for a reorganization of my work and to, possibly, redefine my role in the business in light of where I want the brand to go. To help me with this transition, I had meetings with my advisors. After reviewing the core of my business, my talents and where is my passion, we came up with a more focused business plan. Since I am in control of my destiny, my revised business plan fits my new objectives and my lifestyle.

About “Just Me” and the Other New Series

Since I gave birth, I wondered how I could integrate a more conversational and opinionated side to At Home with Kim Vallee. You could blame this desire on the social isolation that all new moms experience.

Frankly, I think that becoming a mom forced me to reevaluate what I want from life. I looked at it from a personal and a professional levels. I had plenty of time to set my goals and to make a plan to achieve them in a timely fashion. Since I believe that I got the right foundation, I built upon the core values of my brand when I devised four new series. They are:

  • Just Me: conversations about finding time and doing things for myself, including how I maintain my own identity, how I deal with the work life balance, …
  • 5 Minute Martha: time-saving tips around the house or for entertaining
  • Happy Baby: parenting tips, experiences, family activities and must-have items
  • My Place: how I make my place work as a family home, a work place, etc…

The “5 Minute Martha” series simply brands my signature topic: stylish solutions that are quick are easy to do. Rest assured that you will continue to enjoy the content that you are used to since I launched my blog. I simply wish to extend the scope of the lifestyle component to complement the design inspirations I already provide you.

Just Kim is part of a new branded “Just Me” series that will explore how I find time for myself, how I fulfill my dreams, how I deal with work life balance issues, and what makes me happy in general. Since no approach fits all, I plan to interview other women to see how they do it. I hope that you will join me and enjoy this additional side of At Home with Kim Vallee.

FAMILY LIVING with kids

A Last Taste of Summer

These two books caught my eye last week at Indigo. I guess that I am sad that summer is coming to an end. But there are still a few nice days left and Halloween to produce the playtime projects of Meg McElwee, where she explores indoor and outdoor activities. She will show you how to sew your own dolls, a cape, a satchel, and a tent. Growing Up Sew Liberated showcases 18 projects in total. Other sections are Homemaking and Cooking, Bedtime and basic Clothing.

Anne Bell demonstrates how you can cook tasty meals outdoor, whether you are at the park or stay at a campground. The Camping Cookbook contains 95 recipes that can be made with one-ring burner, or a Dutch oven on a tripod.

Finally, their S’mores Kit is only available at their stores. It would made a wonderful last-minute gift if you get invited to a picnic or a weekend at the cottage.

SOURCING:
For Canadians:
+ The Camping Cookbook $12.88 CAD online at Indigo
+ Growing Up Sew Liberated $16.46 CAD online at Indigo

For Americans:
+ The Camping Cookbook $11.53 USD at Amazon.com [affiliate link]
+ Growing Up Sew Liberated $16.47 USD at Amazon.com

 

FAMILY LIVING with kids

Three Wall Decals for a Baby Boy or a Toddler Bedroom | Etsy Finds

Custom Baby Boy Subway wall decals

Custom Baby Boy Subway wall decals

Since I am a mom of a baby boy, I am always on the lookout for fun and original boy design ideas. ChickadeeVinyl on Etsy.com provides several options. I share my top 3 picks. First, the Custom Subway Art is a wall decal alternative to the custom baby birth information prints. It allows you to say more.

From the Nursery to the Toddler Bedroom

construction trucks decals

The Construction Truck Alphabet Blocks provide another option than the typical animal alphabet. I only wish that the series would expand to tools and construction concept so that they could have a block for each letter of the alphabet. Right now, they only have 6 letters. Nonetheless, the design is fun. You can buy a pack of 4 or 6 blocks in the color of your choice. If you still prefer the jungle alphabet, they are available in a 4 or 6 block series, or as A to Z circles.

Boy or Girl Time Out Wall Decals

time out wall decals

As parents, you know the value of a time out when your kid doesn’t properly behave. These cute boy or girl silhouettes help designate your time out spot. I wonder if seeing the wall decal will send a stronger message when you tell your young children that if they don’t stop, a time out will happen. If you put it on your living room or an open living space, I suggest that you don’t install the “Time Out” text to achieve a more stylish look. People will probably compliment you on the nice silhouette decal.

SOURCING:
+ Custom Baby Boy Subway Art Font 1 $50 USD at ChickadeeVinyl on Etsy.com
+ Construction Truck Alphabet Blocks $24.99 USD for 4 blocks, $39.99 USD for 6 letter blocks
+ Time Out Wall Decal $30 USD

FAMILY LIVING with kids

Smart Kids Play Zones in Toronto Architect John Tong’s Home

urban family home kids play zones

urban family home kids play zones

You do not need to have kids to appreciate the space planning of this backyard. It’s unexpected, fun and practical! One of the a founding principal of 3rd Uncle Design, the architect John Tong built a stage where his kids can sing, and watch or do clown shows. The stage platform could be repurposed for other uses.

City dwellers who become parents often deal with how to transform their home into a space that works for the entire family. The small footprint of a house in a city adds to the challenge. I know that figuring out where and how the kids will play at home could be overwhelming. This is a little bit how I feel right now. What encourage me is that I realized that you can’t anticipated what your kids will like when they get older. Putting too many constraints, limit your options and block your creativity. My advice is to keep things simple by looking for solutions suitable for a couple of years at a time.

For example, I keep a big empty space in the living room as a play area. I plan to add a play rug to delimitate the play area. It sets a boundary for your toddler, which limits the cutter to a specific zone. Plus, a carpet adds comfort if you have hardwood floor. Opting for a FLOR tile carpet provides a more grown-up look than using a play rug; especially if you plan to leave it in your living room all the time.

urban family home

Yes, living in the city requires to be smarter about how you design and use your home. But the rewards of life in the city (easy access to museums, parks, festivals, restaurants, and more…) far outweigh the amount of hours lost in commuting. Until I found how to design our backyard, I will continue to surf the Web for inspiring urban family houses. A good starting point is to have a look at the pictures and learned the details of this great family house on Dwell magazine. Another well-thought urban family home is the Maison en U by architect Natalie Dionne, that is here in Montreal.

SOURCING:
+ photos: Christopher Wahl for Dwell magazine

FAMILY LIVING with kids

A Refreshing Gift for Teachers

teacher gift lemonade drink flags kids craft

teacher gift lemonade drink flags kids craft

The school year is winding down, and if your kids aren’t already singing “no more pencils, no more books…” they will be any day now.

Though certainly not mandatory, a gift for teacher is a simple way for you and your kids to show your appreciation for their dedication throughout the year. The gift doesn’t have to be expensive – especially since you may also want to gift teacher’s assistants, coaches or other instructors in your child’s life – and a little creativity goes a long way.

This refreshing idea from pro-crafter Lisa Storms is perfect for the summer season. Just stuff a reusable acrylic tumbler with gourmet lemonade packets and a thank you note from your little one. Lisa’s free printable drink flags add a scholarly touch.

With a thoughtful gift like this, kids are guaranteed “no more teacher’s dirty looks”.

SOURCING:
+ Free Printable Straw Flags from Lisa Storms
+ Copco Sierra Cold Tumbler, $5.39 USD, Amazon.com