Take Your Baby To Work Week

by Nadine on July 21, 2016

My kid has long arms. Working from home is hard.

Remember this post about “not figuring it out”? Don’t worry. I haven’t figured anything out. Not really.


A friend recently told me about a new co-working spot not far from my place. While this particular place doesn’t offer that super-cool, treehouse-in-the-sky, working-at-Google vibe that others try to, it does offer something infinitely more valuable: childcare.

Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? My neighbourhood is full of freelancers. We need this.

So for the rest of the summer, I’m planning to take Ursula to “work” with me for two or three mornings a week. She gets three hours of playtime with an ECE, and I get uninterrupted writing time. And coffee. (I think. I need to figure out who’s responsible for actually making the coffee.)

And because she’s only in the room next to me — I can hear the kids singing songs and babbling away through the thin walls — I can rest easy that my little one is okay. If she really needs me, she can have me.

As my writing ramps up — and as she gets older — we can transition to part-time daycare. (There will be space for her at a great one not far from us in the new year.) And on weeks when I need just a little more time, I can always return to our co-working spot for an extra morning or two.

Now that I have dedicated baby-free writing time on the calendar, I just need to determine how best I should spend it. Time to write that Great Canadian Novel Board Book?


For The Birthday Girl: A Geranium Dress

by Nadine on July 13, 2016


Pattern: Geranium Dress by Made by Rae
Fabric: Leftover gingham rayon from making this dress
Buttons: Free! (The fine folks at The Make Den let me rummage through their button jar.)
Size: 18 months

I do this to myself every single time: I decide to make a dress for an upcoming event, and then stress out that I don’t have enough time to finish the dress for said event.

I made a bridesmaid dress. And was stressed out.
I made a skirt for a wedding. And was stressed out.

Last month, I made a dress for Ursula to wear to her birthday party. It had buttons. I had never used a buttonhole maker before. It was the night before her party and her dress was buttonhole-less.

I was stressed out.

Fortunately, all’s well that ends well. (Translation: I read the manual. Matthew helped with troubleshooting. And then he took Ursula on some errands while I sewed on the red buttons.)

The pattern is a relatively straightforward make for an advanced beginner — or almost-intermediate, as I’d rather consider myself — with multiple options for the bodice, sleeves and skirt. I’ve already planned the next one: pleats instead of gathers, flutter sleeves instead of cap sleeves, the skirt a different fabric than the bodice.

So even though I had a few “Why am I doing this to myself again?” moments, I’m totally anticipating doing this to myself again soon.

It felt good to sew again.

Up next: Facing my fear of the serger.


Picture Book Fashion: Mama Bear

by Nadine on July 10, 2016

You can’t knock Mama Bear’s signature style. Polka dots! A collar!

She looks fantastic, even when grumpy. I feel like this is important for long-term life success.

And she continues to looks great while she purges and organizes like a champ. Also important for long-term life success. This book should be in the self-help section. So much wisdom.

(First came Mama Bear, THEN came Marie Kondo. That pegboard! Those boxes! I wish I wrote this: 8 Truths About Home Organization I Learned from the Berenstain Bears.)

Anywho. Mama Bear’s got it going on, wardrobe-wise. Get the look for just $606 (on sale)! 

Or “bear” your shoulders in this little number from Diane von Furstenberg. It’s flirty! It’s on trend! It’s…perfect if you want to be “Sexy Mama Bear” for Halloween or something.

If you dare to go Full Boyle — please tell me you’ve binge-watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine — you’ll have to make your own hat.

(There are surprisingly few turquoise polka dot hats available online. Crafty folks: business idea!)

This pattern’ll do — with this fabric, perhaps?

Fortunately, Mama Bear does not wear shoes. Neither do I. Because MY FEET GREW DURING PREGNANCY AND THEY DID NOT “BOUNCE BACK.” This is what people mean when they say babies are expensive: They make you replace all your footwear.

P.S. Here’s how to dress like Lady Tasha, Madeline, and the mom from Love You Forever.


Three Things: Nostalgia Edition

by Nadine on July 7, 2016

1. Big hair.

I am so happy big curly hair is back. I miss my perm. (And this collaboration is awesome — and hairspirational.)

2. This article.

When we talk about The Baby-Sitters Club now, we don’t talk about which characters we were. We talk about which characters we are.

I’m Mary-Ann. Probably with a hint of Mallory. You?

The Baby-Sitters Club was perhaps the first series for girls with an entrepreneurial spirit. (Maybe it even played a small role in our generation’s tendency to start one’s own business and to take professional risks. Martin said one of the greatest parts for her has been hearing from librarians, editors, and authors who were drawn to their jobs by a love of her books).

As promised (to myself), I bought this shirt. Matthew took a while to figure out the significance of the names on it: “Are they the original supermodels?” So close. And…maybe.

3. Luke’s Diner.

I needed a new keychain, okay?

We’ve been rewatching Gilmore Girls as we anticipate the Netflix revival in the fall. The first time around, I watched it from Rory’s perspective. Now that I’m a mom in my 30s — the exact age Lorelai is in season one — I’m watching it from Lorelai’s. It’s a totally slightly different show.

Related, my coffee addiction and sweet tooth feel validated every time I press play. (I’m drinking coffee as I type this.)

Also, I want a mug-cubby wall. #nexthousegoals


One Year!

by Nadine on June 30, 2016

Dear sweet Ursula,

You are one.

Just days before this milestone, you got an ear infection. And then you got a rash from the antibiotic. And diarrhea. We spent a few days in extra-cuddles mode. It was a sweet reminder to your mama that you’re still my baby, even though you’re quickly becoming an independent little girl, with strong opinions, specific interests, and a very fast crawl with impressive form. (Are there crawl-sprint races? I’m sure you’d win.)

But on your actual birthday, as the meds kicked in, you were ready to play again.

And on the day of your birthday party — an indoor teddy bear picnic — a few days later, you were your usual sweet self, engaging with each of your guests as hosts should do.

Other party themes we considered:

  • recycling — you love playing with paper and cardboard and bottles
  • books — because you read them/stand on them all day long
  • accessories — you try to steal our scarves, watches, belts and wallets

A teddy bear picnic seemed to be the best option as, A, I wanted to make the house look pretty, not like an overflowing blue bin, B, every day is book day here, and, C, we can’t afford to put watches in the loot bags.

Your dad made the cake. I hope you appreciate his culinary gifts, child. Stick with him and your belly will always be a happy one. (He went with an almond-orange cake with buttercream frosting. Julia Child. When you’re older, I’m sure he’ll let you do the cake-choosing.)

We ate finger sandwiches cut into teddy-bear shapes. Little omelets. Mini muffins. Fruits and veggies. Cookies. We drank lots of water — your non-milk drink of choice — and a little wine. (Only 18 years until you can have some!)

I don’t know if you know this, but you gave each of your little guests a handmade teddy bear, made with scraps from Mommy’s stash. One cousin has a teddy bear made from the same fabric as the dress you wore that day.

Did I mention that I made your dress? And mine?

And did you notice that you sat in strawberries at lunch?

You’re a messy eater, Sully Bear. You like to bring your knee up to your chest while you eat, rubbing your hands on your pants between bites. And then you put your hands down, almost sitting on them, stashing food around your bum.

I scrub a lot. A LOT.

You’re still nursing, probably part of the reason why food has yet to be a big deal in your life. Now that you’ve mastered the sign for “milk,” you ask for it multiple times a day.

You like solids, but you’re not a huge eater.

You like carbs. As do we all, child.

You also like roasted veggies and beef brisket. And eggs and avocado. And peas. And all the fruit. And spoons.

When you were sick, I let you nurse whenever you wanted to. Now I’m trying to get back on a schedule. Mama’s gonna have to start working again soon, little one. And you will need to be daytime-weaned, at least. But for now, I love it. I love that quiet time together. The calm time. I love it when you doze off in my arms, a little milk-drunk, with beads of sweat on your nose.

You would risk your life just to reach a book.

You are learning to roll a ball across the floor.

You love banging on the piano. Sometimes even standing on it, Little Richard-style. (Rules don’t stop you.)

You like music. You like listening to it, watching others perform, and you like making it yourself.

(I could probably record an album of songs we’ve/I’ve written for you over this last year, including instant classics like “My Baby Girl Likes Books,” “We Can’t Spell Ursula Without U,” You Gotta Bend Your Elbow If You Want To Wear A Shirt,” and “Sully’s Rap.”)

When I ask you if you can say “Mama,” you promptly reply with “Dada.”

Dada is your favourite. Sometimes you cry when he leaves for work. When he showers, you sit by the bathroom door, waiting for him.

You can stand on your own, but, to you, it’s not that big of a deal. You’ll humour us and walk while holding our hands, but crawling is much more efficient. (I assume that you’ll just start walking on your own one day without much parental intervention. You seem to figure everything out on your own and in your own timing.)

Your laugh is my favourite sound in the whole world. You must know this, as you dole out your guffaws strategically. None of your grandparents have heard you laugh yet. Around other people, you’re generally happy but quiet. Around your parents, you babble and laugh more freely.

What made you laugh last week: I dropped a pea. I crawled under the couch to find a toy. I made my bed. (Essentially, Mommy doing manual labour is hilarious.)

You like watching dogs. You cry when they bark.

When it’s time to go outside, you know where you last saw your shoes and will bring them to me.

You hate the mall. Never change.

I love the way you scrunch up your nose and show off your new teeth. The way you play peekaboo with anything that will cover your eyes. The way you toss fabric over your shoulder as if it’s a scarf. The way you’ve altered the sign language I taught you to make it your own. The way you nap on your face, your bum in the air, without a care in the world.

It’s been a very short, very long, very exhausting and completely wonderful year.

We’re so thankful you’re ours, little one.

We love you forever.

Happy birthday.


Freelancing 101: No Plan? No Problem (Yet)

by Nadine on June 2, 2016

“Getting older has given me more comfort in not knowing the answers. I throw up my hands more often now; I shake my head in wonder at how inscrutable life is. I have finally figured out that “Figure it out” is not a great slogan. My new slogan is “Who knows?”— which leads quite easily to “Who cares? But isn’t it something?” The God of the Old Testament says, “Be still, and know that I am God,” i.e., “Put a sock in it—you are in charge of very little. You could help the dogs at mealtime, as they have no opposable thumbs. But you’re going to have to trust me with the big things.”

- Anne Lamott

I don’t have a plan.

On the up side: God isn’t laughing at me.*

On the down side: I’m feeling a little…lost.

It’s June. Last June, I started “maternity leave,” a self-imposed break from writing during which I received almost-zero dollars.

I kept one writing client and managed to — sometimes tearfully — churn out two articles a week. Would I recommend working in the first month after giving birth? In the eloquent words of Bobby Brown, “Hell to the no!” But we made it work. And eventually I started to really value my weekly grownup time at a nearby coffee shop. But still. Brand-new mamas, just say no to drugs work. (Say yes to whatever drugs your midwife/doctor allows.)

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. The pros of freelancing far outweigh any cons, even the con of no job security or cash flow when a babe shows up.

I assumed I’d be back writing for another client after a few months. A few months passed, and I revised that to mean “in a few more months.” And then…it became June again. And I still don’t have a plan.

I have a baby who is still breastfeeding. Who is showing signs of separation anxiety. Who doesn’t have a bedroom door. (More on that later.)

I have no nanny or day care lined up.
Our apartment is tiny.
I am tired.
Caffeine (and life) is getting expensive.

On days like today, my mind is swimming. There are things I want to do. Things I probably should do. Things I don’t want to do but don’t know how to avoid doing.

Anyone wanna pay me to just be me?…asks everyone everwhere. I know, I know.

I’m typing this in a coffee shop. Today I’m here to simply brainstorm. To dream a little. But not to figure it out.**

I’m giving myself permission to fly blind a little this year. But not to stay in one place.

Forward motion. That is the only plan.



*I don’t actually think God laughs at our plans. But he might shake his head a little at how small our dreams are, or at how determined we are to “go alone,” as if we’ll get more life points for attempting the hard stuff without our euchre partner him.

**Lamott, at a recent UofT lecture — Thanks for the invite, Beth! — dismissed this notion of “figuring it out,” but also emphasized the importance of putting things on the calendar. Doing something > thinking about doing something.

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This was Ursula’s first-ever mystery novel board book!

Let me tell you, it’s VERY refreshing to delve into a story with a plot. There’s only so much “Apple,” “Moo,” “Boom, boom, boom, Mr. Brown makes thunder” a person can take.

Lady Tasha is horrible at keeping track of her precious jewels. Horrible. They’re lying around everywhere.

At least she looks good while she searches for her most precious one.*

Get the look:

1. J.O.A. Pleated Dress

2. Isabel Marant Étoile Relly embroidered cotton dress

3. Sportmax Silk Crepe Dress

I hope Kate Middleton reads this book to her kids. While wearing Alexander McQueen.

*Spoiler alert: It’s in the teapot. Because that makes sense.

P.S. Here’s how to dress like Madeline and the mom from Love You Forever.


A Lovely Dress For Cinderelly!

by Nadine on May 29, 2016

Remember this Zac Posen dress?

I found its prequel:

Dolce and Gabbana Fall 2016 RTW

Eight-year-old me is very pleased with the direction high fashion is currently taking.


Mommy Brain: Condiments Vs. Child Care

by Nadine on May 29, 2016

Onesie by TheOystersPearl

After spending most of yesterday in the sun, I woke up this morning with a throbbing headache and no desire to do anything.

I was lounging on the couch in my pjs, drinking reheated day-old coffee, when I asked my husband a very important question:

ME: How do the Kardashians have the time and energy to spend, like, 5 hours a day on their hair and makeup?

MATTHEW (according to me): Mayonnaise.


MATTHEW (for real): Nannies.

ME: I thought you said mayonnaise.


ME: I wish their secret was mayonnaise. I could do mayonnaise.

I eventually managed to shower and put on mascara. Tylenol fixed the headache. And I survived the day without a nanny OR mayonnaise.* Take that, Kardashians.**

*I ate mayo yesterday. And I’ll eat mayo tomorrow. It’s my favourite food group.

**I didn’t, however, contour my face — although apparently nontouring is the new thing? I’m so behind — or blow-dry my hair. So maybe the Kardashians and their nannies still win.


Dolls Don’t Feel Pain

by Nadine on May 25, 2016

Ever trip over your kid’s doll and panic that you just tripped over the cat and then remember that you’ve never owned a cat?

Um, me neither.

In related news, Ursula stayed up until 11:30 last night. And cried for an hour at bedtime tonight. ‘Cause sleep is for babies.


[Eerily accurate illustration by Gemma Correll]