Friday, January 23, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: Vol. 27

Linking up with Kelly this week. Head on over to discover more blog fun.

ONE:

That's where I was last week. 
My lovely husband took me, sans children to Hawaii. The trip was incredibly restorative. I didn't realize how much I needed it. Having the luxury of uninterrupted time with my husband in beautiful surroundings was like a dream.

TWO:
A bonus picture that has nothing to do with the complainy take that follows, because hibiscus are gorgeous.


The reality of life struck me in the face on Saturday when we got back.  During our week in Hawaii, I missed the kids terribly, even though I was very happy not to fulfill any of their near-constant needs. But the kids had spent a week at their grandparents, to whom I'll be eternally grateful, of course, but even after a weekend at Grandma and Grandpa's when we are there, there's always what we call "a disciplinary hangover." 
It's like a reset button where the kids forget every rule we've ever taught them. Just to be clear, I don't think this has anything to do with the Grandparents themselves, Lord bless them and restore their energies, but I think it's the difference in place, routine and interaction, and possibly the inability to communicate their feelings about us up and leaving them for a week.
So this week has been particularly challenging in that regard.  Patrick said to me Wednesday, "I thought your vacation was supposed to make you a better mom!" 
We've since established that being a better mom still means there's no snacks unless the previous meal has been eaten.

THREE:

This is the construction site I spent part of our last full day in Hawaii outside of while Joseph spent a little under an hour talking to a local builder, handing him things and working on stairs with him, and taking pictures of the steel studs and framing (They frame for hurricanes and termites in Hawaii, while we don't have to worry about either because, cold.) 

I had the foresight to pack a book for the day so don't worry.  I've learned to love that Joseph's enthusiasm for his job doesn't leave - not on weekends, or vacations.  

He's always saying that you have to love what you do, especially since you spend most of your waking hours working.  
A pearl of wisdom perhaps?

FOUR:

We have a climber everyone!

I've been less than thrilled at this development, because a. Babies + high places = nothing is safe, and b. My other boys think it's their duty to get him down, whether they're capable of such endeavours or not. 

But... And here's where you'll question my parenting, I discovered this fabulous thing when my first, Patrick, began climbing. He didnt want down, and wouldn't try to get down if nothing was within reach. He'd stay there and play with whatever, and one time he was happy and content as I worked on the desk near him on an assignment, and he laid down and fell asleep. 

Zachary did much the same once I moved the chairs. 

Now, uh, before you call the authorities, caveats:
I was right there in my teeny kitchen and went over if he stood up. 
I'm not saying this is what you should do.
We also don't have baby gates and have never - not once - had anybody (except ME) fall down those ungated stairs,  so my confidence that kids don't just walk off ledges if they've been taught about them (yes, even at one year) is pretty high.
This was more of a "let's just watch and see what he does" moment than a solution for the climbing, and basically I learned that my child, even at 1, has a little common sense.

FIVE:


I made a turtle on the beach while I contemplated life last week. 

Maybe it's because I hate air travel, or because I was leaving my boys for the longest I'd ever left them, or because I'm a little scarred from my father's unexpected and highly traumatic death in 2011, but I really thought we might die on our way to or return from Hawaii. 

So the prayer/question of whether or not my life has been what it is supposed to be was on my mind the entire trip.

You're like, "Wait, they doesn't sound like a vacation!" But bear with me:

It was really good to be asking that question on the edge of the ocean with my fingers and toes in the sand.

My husband was swimming, and I, not being a strong swimmer, was a little afraid of the crashing waves and tide and current, so I sat on the beach, thinking and praying things over.

That's who we are - a doer and an observer.  

It occurred to me then that God probably isn't finished with us yet.  I looked at our little life and our little selves on the edge of the ocean and realized that God wants us to be better than we are, than we've been, and continue on building our little life for His glory. That was of great comfort, and so I stopped imagining what our funerals would be like. 

Oh cliche! A good cliche. This is the revelation I've had over and over in my spiritual quest, yet something new happens each time.

This is the key reason the trip was so restorative. I came back ready to take on my life and responsibilities and calling with new appreciation for them.

SIX:

I'm still getting my mind around blogging more often. In my roster of new posts are 

Why I Attend A Small Church

Slow Living in the City: How We Beat The Rush

I'm in a writing rut, so here's hoping I can pick myself up and get back to it.



Forgive the unrelated flower. There were too many beautiful ones not to share.

SEVEN: 

Thank you, dear reader, for making it this far with me.  

It's taken me the entire day to do these takes! Kids needs, car troubles, pre-school snack day and other diaper-related realities have left me just done.

So I've poured a glass of wine and will put myself to bed shortly!

Cheers!




Have a fantastic weekend!











Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Year in Photos

Linking up with Dwija at House Unseen, Life Unscripted today with a year in 12 photos.

What a year.  It's hard to believe it's over. Birth and death sit like bookends on this year for us: Lovely, little Zachary Maurice was born in an amazing, short birth 12 days past his due date, and my dear, sweet Grandpa died on Dec. 18. 

It has me reflecting today on living life to the fullest, because it is a precious and wonderful adventure.  I'm so thankful for another year with my family.

The Photos:

1. Our third baby, Zachary Maurice was born. 


2. Little curled up newborness! 

3. We spent the first few months of the year hibernating with our newborn wonder. 


4. I have loved having 3 boys.


5. Football. Our team won the Grey Cup this year! Woo!

6. We got outside to climb and run and adventure with the boys this summer.

7. We sent Patrick to preschool. I love watching him learn and become his own person. 

8. We had a summer snowstorm. We snuggled up and had some tech-free time, then built these the next day.


9. Carter turned 3. He went from toddler to little boy this year. He has the complicated job of both little brother and big brother, but he's taking it all in stride. He's caring and silly and attentive to the little things.


10. Life at home with these dudes is far from dull.  The power of the imagination is out in full force.


11. A house full of boys is a house full of joy.


12. We close the year remembering my wonderful Grandpa. 



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Missing my Grandpa

This morning my heart is heavy.

Early this morning my dear Grandpa passed into the arms of Jesus.

On Sunday, I held his hand and said to him, "have a good rest Grandpa."

I suspected at the time that those might be my last words to him, but I dared to hope not.

I can think of many cliches to comfort myself as I process this. 

We deal so delicately with death. 

We're always afraid to say the wrong thing. 

We always want people to feel better.

But if I may be so bold, I say that we are not meant to feel better, not
yet, and maybe never completely. 

When something is of worth - like human life, like people we love, it is supposed to hurt when we lose them. It wounds us, and reminds us of the fragile state of our own mortality.

The irony of loving is that the better and more loveable a person is to us, and the closer we are to them, the more it hurts when they die.

A person is many things to many people.

For me, my Grandpa was always big. He had an easygoing demeanour, and loved all the simply good things in life: ice cream, music, children and a good laugh.

When I was little, he would read the comics while I sat on his knee. He liked "Peanuts" and "Blondie" and "Hagar the Horrible" and "For Better or For Worse." He did not like "Garfield."

It was sitting on his knee, reading the comics at age 4 or 5 that I thought to myself, "I'd like to write stories."

It was he that always delighted in our talents and skills. He was proud of his children, and his grandchildren.  

Grandpa was born into a farming family. His whole life was spent working alongside, and for, his loved ones. He knew hard work, and how to enjoy life.

He married my Grandma 64 years ago, and together they made a life with seven children, my Dad being the fourth.

We lived in the same town as my grandparents, and in retrospect, that was one of the greatest blessings on my life.  

I got to spend time with him. And he was generous with his time, and his talents.

A rocking horse, a doll crib, a piggy bank and other wooden toys are things I will treasure, thinking that he made these things lovingly for me. 

Grandpa was a carpenter.  His work still sits in homes in my hometown. With his hands, he carved out a living to support a family.  He inspired my Dad to do the very same work, and some of his grandchildren after him.  

He loved my Grandma.  I suppose that in 58 more years, God willing, I will understand the depth of that love. I will understand what it is like to be the most significant person in someone's life, for over half a century. 

People often talk about "their other half", and I can't help but see the two loving souls that are my grandparents' as fused together through time and space.

Through births, and deaths, and laughter and hard times, they belonged to one another.  

To me, that is the beautiful reason it hurts so very much. 

A man who has loved richly and fully. That's who he is. 

Our hearts will ache for some time. We will miss him, and we will comfort one another.

Most of all, I hope we who are left behind can honour him by our own lives.
 




Friday, December 12, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Vol. 26

Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum. Visit to find more amazing blogs.

ONE:
This Advent* season has been so lovely. I'm actually more excited about it than Christmas - is that totally weird?
Maybe because this year, I actually planned some things. In the past, I wouldn't really know it was Advent till I was sitting in church on the first Sunday in front of the wreath! 

 *For my non-Catholic/Christian readers. Advent is the season leading up to Christmas where we prepare ourselves for celebrating Christ's birth through prayer, some fasting and good works. Basically, we wait and make a big thing about the anticipation. Wreaths are used to help us count down and as a reminded of God's eternal love for us.



The kids have been enjoying the Jesse tree and the Old Testament stories that will lead us to Jesus' birth.  
But it's become a time of reflection for me too, as I prepare to tell them the stories. It's great to be living liturgically, and it's fun to make Catholic traditions fun, but for me, it's been a great time for me to begin concrete changes in my life for the better - health wise, spiritually and in organizing my home and life.

TWO: 


What you see here is a puzzle dropped in my stocking on the feast of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6). It reads basically Diapers (husband's affectionate nickname for our offspring) to Grandma and Grandpa Chickens' (because they have chickens), from the 9th to the 16th of January, Joseph and I are going to visit Hawaii!  
I'm so excited. 
Anyone have any must-sees in Hawaii? Specifically Oahu and Molokai?

THREE:

Because we're off to Hawaii in January, I'm trying to get a grip on being separated from the kids. Mostly Zachary. I've never left them for that long, and haven't left Zachary overnight with anybody at all. 
I know he'll be loved and well looked after by his grandparents, it's just, my BAAABYYY!!! 


Look at his face. Could you (easily) leave that face?  So, any tips on actually enjoying yourself when you want desperately to be relaxed but keep thinking about your babies?!

FOUR:

I was just interrupted by an energy salesperson who had quite the reaction to my blatant Catholicism. She stepped in while I got my energy bill, turned around and was like, "Holy mother f- (she cut herself off) that's a crucifix. Like right by your door?"



Yes. 
She then said, "I'm all good with crosses and Jesus and stuff, it just scared me. It's like, right there! My friends' grandma is super religious, I just never met a young person."

Not to mention the one in the kitchen, the picture of the Holy Family on the walk and the stack of Bibles on the table. 

If you come to our house, it's obvious we're "super religious." And young (score!).

FIVE:

So, random thought about T-Swift. Why yes I am hip enough to call her by her celeb nickname.

A couple months ago I caught an interview on ET with her and she was down to earth, articulate and pretty sure of herself. Shake It Off is a pretty great song as far as pop goes, and well, I kind of like Taylor.

I've never been a huge fan-girl or into celebrities on any real level, because I usually have no space in my brain for all of the scandal and hype that comes with it.

But Taylor has me thinking.  I'm really hoping that this high in her career doesn't lead to a crash-and-burn situation as we've seen with well, many other female celebrities. Her decision to star in the Victoria's Secret fashion show has me like, ughhhh, why?!  So I wonder, will we be saying "Taylor Swift" like we say "Britney Spears" a year from now? I hope not. Stay awesome Taylor, keep it real. 

Thus ends my attempt at deep thoughts on celebrities I don't know, who I'm sure totally read my blog. (Ha!)

SIX:

I'm working on not being fat anymore, but in the meantime, I love me. Good attitude? 

Anyway, shameless self-promotion, but I wrote this post about getting past the weight and being happy with myself, and it got a few loves, so maybe if you're not one if my 15 regulars, you might like it too.

SEVEN:

I was thinking about the blogosphere, and my relatively new and minuscule place in it, and decided that being a nano-blog has some benefits.

1. No responsibility: 
Recently a blogger who is quite well-read went offline for a couple days, and there was a small uproar.  People were worried and sending all sorts of, "Are you ok?! What is going on?!" messages.  She's ok by the way. And I don't think she did anything wrong or have any bad feelings about the situation. What I felt was the opposite of jealousy - whatever that is, relief that it wasn't me, I guess.
But my thought is this - the small blogger has a tinier responsibility to their readers. When I went into blogging hiatus for 3 months, 3 people asked me where my blog went and only one was a non-friend in real life. 

I can blog whenever and all 15 readers are like, "Oh good. More kid anecdotes and mom-thoughts."

2. Nobody Gets Mad:
I can say stuff like, "Taylor Swift is selling out" or "Covering-up mothers who breastfeed is an injustice against women" and nobody flames me or writes things that make me cry.  Other bloggers say things and then regret reading the awful comments.  Of course, they are also probably changing the world with their blog a little more than I am, but it's a trade-off.  I just want people to be nice to me.

3. Comments:
I have time to comment on what people say, because there are maybe 4 a month. Not 40 a day. 
I'm a "small intimate group" person in real life, so it fits for online too.

And there you have it. My not-so-quick-rather-rambly takes.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Good grief: Christmas when somebody's gone

This is the fourth Christmas that I'll make peanut-butter marshmallow squares and have a little cry on the first bite.

"Dad's favourite," I'll think, chewing the sweet, melting goodness.

I'll have little moments like these throughout the rest of Advent and into Christmastide. 

I'll remember the time Dad created the perfect Christmas tree by cutting two trees down, taking the branches from one and drilling holes in the sparse parts of the other one to fill it in.  It was beautiful.  Only my Dad would've done something like that.

I'll remember the ice rink he made in our back-yard, and learning to skate on it. The tobogganing and snow-man building. The massive snow forts built with the aid of the snow blower: Our "real" igloo with a roof.  

I'll remember the "Santa" writing that looked oddly familiar on Christmas morning.

I'll remember having to get to the church a half-hour early for Mass, and having to sit closer to him than I ever did normally because of the crowd.

I'll wish for that moment back so hard I think my head will explode.

I'll remember my oldest son's first Christmas - his only Christmas where he got hugs and kisses (and contraband cookies and ice cream) from Grandpa, and ache for my other two babies who will not know his touch, his laugh or his love.

It is a raw, cold, wintery ache.

It has taken me nearly four years to process that Christmas can still be Christmas without him. Though I miss him terribly, and even still, there is an undeniable hole in my family and wound on my heart, I know that Advent and Christmas do what they have always done in mirroring the joy we shall have when we, like our lost loved ones, meet God face to face.

As a faithful Catholic, my Dad believed he'd be meeting Jesus at the end of his life.   

As my family prepares and waits to meet our Lord spiritually at Christmas, I've come to the realization that my father's preparations are over. He's closer to the experience of the Christmas joy of our Saviour right now.

I take comfort in that. I hold that in my heart, believing that in His mercy, God has our lost loved ones in hand, waiting till the hour when our new Advent will end.

That seems really big.
It might be hard to believe. 
It doesn't lessen the pain of loss, that's true.

But for me, it's hope and a teeny bit of joy, which gives me the strength to keep on when the sadness strikes and the tears don't want to stop.

It doesn't devalue the memory of my Dad to go on with joy this Christmas without him in my life, or at my table - it honours him and all that he worked for in this earthly life.

"For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up on the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; so that we will be with the Lord forever."  1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Getting Past The Woman in the Mirror (Loving My Fat Self)

Overweight. 

Nobody really wants to be that. Just saying that word makes me feel a little uncomfortable. 

But that's what I am.

I've got at least 60 lbs on this body that I don't need or want.

I look in the mirror each morning and adjust each outfit so it better hides my muffin top, and tilt my head downward so that my near-double chin is less obvious. Then I apply make-up and wear a bright scarf and hope that drawing attention to my face and neck will take people's eyes off my thighs.

But I also do something else:

Before I leave the mirror and go on with the day, I smile.

"There. That's better." I always think.

Why? Because I don't have to be miserable even though I'm fat:

I used to look in the mirror and think, "You need to eat only salad and work out for a month." 

The thing is, that was 70 lbs ago! 

I used to hate my body.  I used to feel guilty every time I ate fries. I used to obsess, and pinch my little tummy bulge and hurl insults at myself to motivate me to just work it off, tone it up, to be better.

"I'll be happier when I'm skinny," I thought.

Then I got married.  
I got married to Joseph, who told me how beautiful I was to him. I stood there in my wedding dress, feeling fat and unworthy.

Of course, I'd been hurling insults at myself in the mirror since I was 12, so it's no wonder it took me a long time to believe that Joseph actually meant what he said.

Then I got pregnant. I gained 50 lbs. Five,  zero. 

I knew I'd utterly failed in the body department.  My induction of labour and subsequent c-section, then trouble with nursing my oldest child only furthered my hatred of my body.

This fat body that wouldn't even give birth normally or feed a baby like it was supposed to.

I spent the next year losing and regaining the same 15 lbs.  My husband still called me beautiful, and said, "I just want you to be healthy and strong."

Diets were fleeting and exercise irregular. I was a full-time student, a new mother and overwhelmed.

Then my Dad died, and I lost it all. 50 lbs gone in 2 months. It was a combination of grief, stress and being pregnant with Carter, our second boy.

It was during that pregnancy that things changed for me.  I had researched how to have a natural birth after a c-section. I got accepted to a great midwifery practice.  Those women encouraged me to trust my body to do what it needed to, not only to sustain a little life, but to bring him into the world.

I gained 20 lbs that pregnancy, and had a long but wonderful birth.  I fully breastfed my baby. I was satisfied, finally, with my body's ability to mother.

Before the birth of Carter, I started doing a weird thing.

I'd stand in front of the mirror and tell myself I could do this.  I was a mama tiger, I was feirce, and strong.  My body was amazing and wonderful. I could birth this baby.

It was in this process of acceptance and awe at what my body was capable of, that I began to realize that all those pounds gained and lost were not me. Well, they were a part of my body, but they did not define who I was. 

They were just weight. 

They didn't have power, I had power. 

They did not have to mean misery and dissatasfaction.

I think marriage to Joseph and giving birth 3 times has played a huge role in my discovery that I am beautiful, and that happiness is possible even without my ideal body.

I wish though that I'd realized this a long time ago.  

I wish I could go back to my 12-year-old self and say, "Hey there, you're not fat or ugly. You are beautiful and lovely, strong and capable, and all you need to do to be more attractive is just be you and smile more."

I don't have to hate myself because 10 months after our third baby, Zachary, I still look 5 months pregnant. 

No, I don't really like when people ask if I'm expecting again.  I also don't like not fitting clothes, or being everybody's fat friend. 

But I love me. 

I'm a work in progress, trying to find balance with a lot of things, including diet, exercise and wellness.

While I'm on my way to a better physical being, my soul is not dispairing.

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.  
                                     Philippians 4:13








Friday, November 21, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Vol. 25

Linking up with Kelly today. Go on over to find other more interesting bloggers.

ONE:
We are sick. Or, I should say, we are still sick, because we haven't been all well at the same time since September.  Which happens to coincide with the beginning of Patrick's attendance of preschool.

It may be universally acknowledged that a child who enters pre-school must be ready to recieve all the germs... 

But here I must rant, because a full two and a half months of alternating colds and flu despite my hypervigilance about healthy food, exercise, enough rest, getting the flu shot, and pumping the family full of vitamins and probiotics is ridiculous. 

And I fully blame the unenforced rule that sick kids must be symptom free for 24 hours before returning to school. 

"Okay honey, just cover your mouth and don't cough on the other kids! Byyeee!" Says "always-has-a-fresh-manicure" to her snot-nosed four-year-old (aka human Petri dish of virus), then ducks her head and runs out the door. Because clearly her 2.5 hours kid-free is way more important than the health of the other kids and their families. 

Ok so that was judgemental, but I know gel nails when I see 'em.

I just got an email today though that the teachers will be sending home children with symptoms of illness from now on, due to other parent's concerns over seeing sick kids in attendance... 
We'll see how that goes.
End rant.

TWO:

Despite all the illness, Patrick is loving preschool.
Ever the extrovert, he says his favourite thing about it is, "All the kids to talk to."

The benefit for me is that I get to hang out with Carter - which means that I drink coffee, read books and let my introverted child play by himself while the baby naps.
I thought Carter would suffer a bit without Patrick around, but I was wrong, thankfully. Carter likes time without Patrick as "director of the fun" and it's cool to see him grow more independent. And it's blissfully quiet for an hour+!

THREE:

During that quiet morning time I've been reading for an hour or so while I put the baby down and then while Carter is playing and doesn't need me. In September I revisited the Anne of Green Gables series for the first time since high school. 

I think I'll write a whole post about it, but upon rereading, I saw just how much my own growth and maturity as a married, university-educated mom cast a different light on the Anne stories.

In my teens I was preoccupied with the romance of Anne and Gilbert, and all like, "Come onnn! Realize that Gilbert loves you and punch Christine Stuart in the face!"

This time I had a new appreciation for the reality and depth L.M. Montgomery wrote into her characters.

FOUR:

My newfound love for Anne added to my enjoyment to Christy and Haley's podcast Fountains of Carrots. 

If you're doing dishes or laundry and wish you could sit down for coffee with two of your besties and talk about Austen and Anne, go have a listen. 

FIVE:

Carter turned 3 on the 11th of November. So we had an actual party for him. It was in the evening and we had all the kids come for a pyjama party.
We had super simple decorations: what you see below plus some helium balloons in the middle of the table - I'm going to hang this bunting in the baby's room, so it's going to serve another purpose! 
I even cut out little felt pjs and hung them on some yarn with mini clothespins, but that got destroyed before I could get a photo.


So kids arrived in pjs, we ate "breakfast" for dinner; Sausage, pancakes, bacon and eggs, all cooked by Joseph, and a big ol' pile of grapes, at Carter's request. 
We decorated mini vanilla chamomile tea cupcakes (which saved me decorating a cake), read a story (Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site) sang some songs (5 Little Monkeys and Twinkle, Twinkle), then Joseph sang the kids a Carter fave, Cowboy Donkey, and that was that.  Carter really loved it.



SIX:
Advent is fast-approaching, and I'm actually prepared.  I've gotten most of the Christmas shopping done, and have a little plan in my head for some prayer activities each day with the kids, and the very best thing, I was able to order Jesse Tree ornaments from two local moms. I'll be Instagramming our advent adventures at jjcyr, so follow along if you like.

SEVEN:
I have the gift of being able to get all boys to nap at the same time, so since I am under the weather myself, I'm going to indulge in some quality time in my bed with Netflix till I fall asleep. #sickdaywin 

Have a lovely weekend!