Saturday, October 26, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Vol. 8

More from the 7QT crowd at Cari's this week.

ONE:

Bad day? Look at this face:

Soooo happy about his pb & j "mom-guided selfie"
This is now the photo on my phone, my desktop and I got it printed and put it on the fridge.  Kids are so wonderful when they're happy, so I've made this face my goal for each day.  If I can get one of these faces from both boys every day, I'm doing well at having fun with them, because kid's lives should be fun along with all that crazy growing and learning they do.

TWO:

I posted about my spiritual rise and fall through motherhood over at Notes To My Sisters. Below is an excerpt + link.

          Woman.Wife. Mother.Writer. Human Being. God’s Child. 
My profound thoughts following the above were just interrupted by a little voice.  The voice said, “Uh-oh,” and as I turned toward it, a little hand was thrust in my face, and in toddler-speak and a few animated gestures it was indicated that the hang-nail on that chubby little index finger was a problem to be dealt with at once. 
Welcome to my world. (Keep reading...)
Notes to My Sisters is a new platform for Catholics to share with one another what inspires them and keeps them on the path to heaven.  Give it a browse.  I know Margaret, the creator from my youth ministry days in Scotland 8 years ago.

THREE:

I just finished Simcha's book.



I know I'm preaching to the choir, but if you haven't yet, read it. Simcha, as always, is so real. REAL is what is needed in the NFP world! Because it IS actually hard.  Ooops. I said it out loud instead of in hushed whispers to my friend who just doesn't want to get pregnant again till she feels some degree of sanity while being a mom of two. Sorry, feeling ranty. Anyway, read it!

FOUR:

We're in the throes of fall. Love it. I hate being pregnant in summer, because I'm not a fan of being hot. I suppose being born Canadian with real winters has something to do with it. I'm just used to being cold. I'm actually a fan of the first snow, except the driving aspect, because even though this city is still mostly native Canadians, we all seem to forget how to drive every spring, summer and fall and its mayhem out there.

FIVE:

There's just something tranquil about a freshly made bed.  I used to be the girl for whom making the bed consisted of flipping the duvet over rumpled sheets. Then I worked at a B&B and learned about hospital corners and throw pillows. I got addicted to making my bed pretty.  Now my philosophy is that even if the rest of the room looks like a toddler organized it, the nicely made-up bed makes up for everything else.

Joseph, the wonder husband, who actually loves order more than I do and excels at everything housework from dishes to bathroom cleanup, fails in only one area - bed making.  (Despite having parents who own a B&B with beautiful beds).

Here's the difference (and actually, this is Joseph's best attempt EVER)
Joseph: "They're called throw pillows, aren't they? Doesn't that mean anything to you?"

Now this, I want to crawl into with a good book (or Joseph). 

SIX:

3:23 A.M. and I'm up. I took a break from my quick takes to attempt getting some good photos of the kids and fall for my number 4.  But they have colds, so I was constantly having to wipe one of their noses, and then they didn't feel like smiling and having fun.

This 3 a.m. wake-up has been my typical sleep/wake pattern for the last 3 months due to discomfort:

9 or 10 p.m. Fall asleep on the couch, watching T.V. or talking to Joseph. Drag myself up to bed after ingesting a myriad of pregnancy vitamins and a small glass of water.

2 or 3 a.m. Wake up. Lay there trying to get comfortable. Try not to wake Joseph or the baby inside the belly in the process. Usually JUST as I'm about to fall asleep, one of them moves suddenly.  I don't know if it's more impactful when it comes from inside my belly or right beside me.  Sometimes Joseph isn't there at all, because my nightly wakefulness means he'll get a better sleep on the guest bed.

I have mixed feelings about that: 1. I looove having the bed to myself.  2. I simultaneously miss Joseph because hey, when you're used to having someone there, it can be lonely.  Oh, and 3. Should one of the boys cry out there's nobody to ask to go see what's wrong.

4 or 5 a.m. Fall back asleep after using the bathroom, drinking water, and often, checking email and Facebook... or writing a blog post.

I know I'm killing the natural hormonal rythm of my melatonin production by adding screen time into the mix, but laying there in the dark for an hour or two was starting to drive me crazy.  I'd give myself weird dreams about the grocery store, or the latest book I've been reading. Seriously, Bringing Up Bebe = Buying baguette in Superstore and saying to the children, "ah petit garcons, j'aime cette baguette" (ah little boys, I love this baguette) and patting their heads.

SEVEN:

I'm going to attempt this for Patrick for Halloween:


Here's the link to the instructions, in case anybody is that into it.

I might go a little less elaborate, but this is the basic concept. I loved making Halloween costumes growing up, and we had to be creative, because the parents had a caveat that we couldn't buy costumes or be anything evil (or carve it into pumpkins either). Case and point: I was a sandwich when I was 11 or 12, and I think I was 15 when I carved Buddy Holly's face into a pumpkin.  I'll try to unearth pictures.

We also celebrated All Saints Day.  As a nerdy homeschooler, I crafted a St. Joan of Arc costume, with armor.  I just about died of embarrassment though when other, cooler homeschoolers did not come to our all-saints party dressed up, so there's a bittersweet memory for you.  Thankfully, I have since reconciled with St. Joan.

Well, off to attempt sleeping again. Have a lovely weekend!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I cannot sleep, therefore, I write.

I had a bit of a self-discovery two days ago at a mom's group I attend.  We all introduced ourselves to the moderator we'd invited to facilitate and lead reflection and discussion on a video series.

As we went around the room, a familiar pattern began to emerge.  Almost every woman began with her name, her current or former career (teacher, journalist,dietitian, engineer, accountant) and how many children she had.  Sitting in that room, were an array of talents, qualities and ways of life, united by the fact that we are all Catholic moms. 

As my turn came closer, I began to question something in the way I planned to introduce myself. I didn't have a "current or former career".  I was a student until I finished my degree a few months ago, almost simultaneously finding out about my third pregnancy.  I planned on saying that after my name. Then I stopped myself, thinking, "Right now, I'm a stay-at-home mom, that is what I do. It doesn't really matter to me at this moment that I may have been a journalist or that I've completed a degree. But will I say that?"

My turn came up and I nervously said my name, how many kids I have, and then the need to validate what I do aside from family care and housework bubbled up in me. 

I said, "...and I do lots of things. I was a student before and during becoming a mom, and recently finished my degree in communications; now I write from home a little bit, and I also help my husband run his business, doing his admin work and paying bills and such."

Why? It's all true, but ever since, I've questioned my inability to say, "I'm a stay-at-home mom."  That is my primary role. The title encompasses what I spend my days "working at".  Why did I feel ashamed of that amidst all of these lovely Catholic women - all of whom are currently doing the same thing as I am, hence their attendance at a mid-morning mom's group? 

I've mulled this over and have come to a conclusion.  I was afraid of appearing to be stupid, simple, inexperienced, uneducated or lazy.  I compensated by highlighting some aspects of my life that are more important-sounding than mothering and housework. I feared judgement and went on the defensive, wanting my life to sound more meaningful in the face of careers and societal demands that we as women "do something." As if raising a family isn't "something."

It made me a little bit angry and sad to have the need to define myself by the things I do.  It showed me how insecure I am.  When the careers started following the names, something in me burned for a second, saying, "I am not the sum of my accomplishments. I am more than what I 'do', and for that matter, so is everyone else in this room."  

I pictured us all standing before God being asked what we did with the lives He gave us.

"I'm a doctor/lawyer/journalist," we answered. 

And God said, "Yes. But what have you done?"

It doesn't matter what career I have if I am not walking toward God.
lost focus of that when fear and pride entered my little soul.  Like the little girl, wanting all the other girls to like me, I caved to what is ultimately a worldly standard.  

Yet, my life is full and wonderful.  It is filled with ways to experience God's grace. It is filled with ways to become better, and with the freedom to walk the path of holiness.

I have no boss to answer to, no clients, no meetings to attend. 

It is me and God and my husband and kids living a seemingly small existence.

When it comes down to it, I shouldn't need to defend my little life, especially in a circle of Catholic moms. I know in the end that as long as I am all that I can be, what I do will be valued and important, even if nobody but God sees it. 

Next time, I hope I am brave and humble enough to just say it: Stay-at-home-mom. 

Next time I hope I forget about needing a false sense of accomplishment, and keep my eyes on the prize, because even if I am a little person with little ways, I can, as St. Paul says, "do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) 

And that is certainly something. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Vol. 7

Summary: Kids, coffee, books and blogs. Enjoy other quick takes over at Jen's.

ONE:

I love how my kid's minds work.

Patrick said to Joseph this morning, "Dad, I imagine things in the dark, but I don't imagine things in the light, because the imagine-y things just disappear when the light is on, because it burns their eyes."

This, you should know, is after a night of Patrick imagining himself some scary things several times throughout what was already a pretty sleepless night for Joseph and I.  Joseph spent breakfast time talking to Patrick about his room being the same in the dark and the light, and that the dark is actually a great thing that helps you to get a good night's sleep.  A night light might be in order, but we live in the city, and don't have blackout curtains, so I feel like it is never really dark enough for one.

On another day, Patrick looked up at me and said, very earnestly, as if this was the most important thing I'd hear all day, "Mom, big and small are the opposite of red."

I laughed a lot, I'll admit. He then joined me, saying, "Mom, am I hilarious?"
I did eventually remind him what opposites are.

I enjoy so much just hearing his theories on his little reality.  Although I'm really not sure why he persists in thinking that women (yes, women specifically!) should not use tools, because they're dangerous.

TWO:

I'm starting to feel a bit crazed when it comes to this pregnancy.  My "already sleepless night" mentioned above, is becoming a common problem.  I'm waking for 1-2 hours each night to lay there simultaneously trying not to wake Joseph, and to seek out a comfortable position.  I wrenched my hip on Tuesday, rescuing Carter from certain death-by-grocery-cart while carrying 10 kg (22 ish lbs) of flour.  Ridiculous I know. You're all like, "Why on earth were you carrying 10 kg of flour?!"

Well, typically when I'm 7 months pregnant, I'd ask some kind soul to help me, or just slide my cart over and slide the flour on, as best I can.  But as with most of my grocery store trips, this one was fraught with peril, and so of course, there was someone I can only describe as slightly oblivious and inconsiderate parked right in front of the flour.  When I asked if I could squeeze in to grab some flour, she moved her cart over diagonally, giving me 2 feet (incidentally blocking another shopper from getting down the aisle) which allowed me to bend awkwardly beside it to get my flour and carry it back to my cart.  If not for the other shopper, I'd probably have been like, "I'm going to need a little more room," and pointed to my obvious pregnant belly.  This person did not remove her eyes from the label on the pie-filling even once.

It was at this moment, that Carter decided to figure out how to get out of the child-safety belt in the cart, and stand up, leaning out to reach for cupcake sprinkles. I turned awkwardly and grabbed him with one arm before he took a nosedive onto the concrete.  Pie-filling woman still continued to try to decide between pumpkin and cherry.

As much as this woman (whom I saw two more times, blocking aisles and pretending to be the only person in the store) bothered me, the pain in my hip and back pretty well engulfed the train of thought for the rest of the trip.

I keep telling myself this pregnancy pain, caused by quick natural body changes to prepare for the birth, are actually a good thing. It means my ligaments are loosening, and my body is doing what it is supposed to do to facilitate getting the baby from inside me to outside me.  I'm taking care of myself most of the time - light exercise (which I abhor, but do just because I know it will be easier on me in the end), nutritious food, lots of water, and naps.  I am told I look good too, which is either husband and friends being supportive, or there's some mysterious pregnancy pheromone that causes my dark circles and blotchy skin to look like some sort of ethereal beauty - or maybe my lip gloss and mascara are just that good.

THREE:

You should check out this site:  Notes To My Sisters.

 Craig Lodge - Oh my heart.  I had lovely, healing chats with Jesus here.
It contains posts from a variety of people, all seeking to express their faith.  I was honoured when Margaret, the mastermind behind the site asked me if I'd also write something.  My piece about the spiritual life within the vocation of motherhood will be up next week.

I met Margaret almost 8 years ago at a beautiful place called Craig Lodge in Dalmally, Scotland.  We've kept in touch loosely through social media. Apparently she reads and likes my blog, and since I've often thought of her as one of those people whose friendship you hope to have, but it never quite happens due to life circumstances (like not seeing or speaking directly to one another for 7 years), that is really awesome for me.

FOUR:

I'm reading this book at the moment.  A friend recommended it to me, and I'm about 11 pages from being finished.  Reading parenting books is a bit of a masochistic hobby that I'll freely admit to.  I really liked this one, though there are of course, some things I wouldn't take on board.

For example, the "wisdom of French parenting" apparently doesn't include breastfeeding as a priority for infants, despite clear research and recommendations that it really is healthy and good for a year or longer.
I'm not one of those who thinks breastfeeding is the be-all-end-all, defining factor for infant health and mother-child bonding, but if it's possible to breastfeed, it just makes logistical sense.  If I make milk for my babies, why go out and spend a fortune buying something else?

That was my main beef with the book. Otherwise, there are a lot of interesting principles I think our family would benefit from, like teaching patience by making children wait and fostering autonomy in allowing and teaching children to do more on their own.

This book made me feel less crazy for allowing my 3-year-old to cut vegetables with a (gasp) sharp knife, or letting the kids run ahead of me on our walks to the park.

FIVE:

It became apparent yesterday how much money I have been spending in Starbucks since it began to get cold, when Patrick said to me, upon seeing Starbucks across the street, "Lets go to Starbucks and get some caramel apple spice," and Carter chimed in, "Yeah!"  Then later, Patrick told Joseph that Starbucks was "his coffee place, and Tim Horton's was (Joseph's) coffee place."

It seems whenever I have any small change or cash in my wallet, it becomes designated as coffee money, usually Starbucks.  It has become more of a habit than an occasion. And though I'm not in danger of breaking us financially, I am beginning to think we could allocate the $5-$10 weekly to say, baseboard for the kitchen.

In my attempts to save some coin, but still enjoy my fall traditions - I've been experimenting with homemade versions of pumpkin spice latte.  This morning's was a "close, but no cigar," despite the poster of the recipe proclaiming that it was "better than Starbucks."  

It was still good - and a bit of a change-up from Joseph's lovely, strong, french-pressed coffee - which he didn't have time to make today.

Anyone have a good recipe?

SIX:

I mentioned last 7QT thatI made a spiritual breakthrough after going to confession.  Well this week I took on a small faith study with some other women.  Talk about filling a craving! Our first little session was pretty eye-opening.  There are still thoughts rolling around in my head that I have to make sense of, but the point is, I feel like I'm on a great journey back to spiritual health.

SEVEN:

I'm writing a book!  Well, I've been writing it for awhile now.  It's a children's book - and its first draft is about half-finished.  I was inspired by an old truck - who is the main character.  My mom contends that perhaps some of the tenets of the book, having to do with aging, repairing things that are broken, and well, farm trucks are my way of putting how I feel about my Dad, and our life when he was alive, into something tangible and therapeutic. That is honestly part of it - but I'm hoping the channeling of my raw emotion will help make it something beautiful.

I've written books in my head for my entire life - but not a lot on paper.  To have the confidence to actually type this little story took a lot for some reason, so I'm happy to say that it really is happening.

Any other children's authors out there?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Vol. 6

Linking with Jen at Conversion Diary

You might read this and be like "Holy MOM-POST batman..." But you have been warned. Really, if you just read #3, I'll be satisfied.

ONE:

It's my third, third trimester.  Time for comfy everything. Clothes, hair, food.
I attempted to be the somewhat stylish preggo yesterday with jeans (not yet maternity, but I did make use of a hair-tie), my go-to black flats, a bright t-shirt, black, grey and white floral scarf and grey boyfriend sweater, belted... I resorted to the 10-second messy bun, but it left time for make-up, which I desperately need to hide this pregnancy's skin (blotchy with a side of dark circles). Well, I tell ya...Those jeans came off as soon as I was home.  My legs and belly screamed "sweatpants, you fool!" So that's what I wore the rest of the day.  It might be my uniform for the rest of the pregnancy. 
Through the first 2 pregnancies, I had school. I was surrounded by cute, well-dressed, 20-somethings and felt compelled to put in a little effort, mostly to show that pregnancy doesn't have to look as  terrible as it actually is  sounds. Maybe it was also to maintain a little dignity while being asked by other students about my glamorous housewife life.

TWO:

Joseph has been working late a lot lately, trying to get a house done so that people who have been living with a sister and a buddy since July can live in their dream home.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, still no cupboard doors, trim or baseboard in the kitchen.  BUT, the basement where the boys will be banished to once the young one comes along is looking considerably better. Paint, bathroom tile... we just need carpet and plumbing and... ugh. Okay. It's better not to list what is still needed.

During all this working late, I've come to appreciate my husband so much more. I just have to remember that he's working hard for US.  He wants us to you know, eat, and be able to pay for the glorious day when our house is finally finished and beautiful without going into massive debt.

THREE:

I'm loving this book:
 
I began reading it about a year ago (I know, I know, so much for MY brain).  But I'm not much for non-fiction, sadly, so I read about 50 non-fictional novels to 1 non-fictional book. 
This book is encouraging. With scientific research to back it up, it basically says that the whole "mommy brain" thing is a myth, and that women are selling themselves short when they become mothers.  Ellison goes into detail about neural development and studies on rats, but there are plenty of anecdotes in there to keep your eyes from glazing over.

I'm really tired of moms (myself included, sometimes) blaming their lateness, forgetfulness, bad driving and social blunders on "mommy brain."

Yes, we are tired. We are sometimes prone to turning off our cognitive abilities just to cope with the monotony of wiping bums and teaching kids not to pick their noses or yell in your face when they want something.  What I'm talking about is when moms do something genuinely inconsiderate like cut someone off in traffic, arrive an hour late to an event, or say something rude and blame it on their "mommy brain".  Like being a mom gives you licence to be an idiot.

Essentially, it's blaming your kids for your own inability to cope. 

I keep telling my three-year-old when he claims that I have "ruined his day," by giving him a time out and making him sad, that I can not ruin his day, and that if he chooses to be sad all day as a result of time-out (which he fully deserved) that it is his choice.  Well, the same goes for mommy brain. My kids have not ruined my brain. I'm a smart woman.  I can find a way to be an intelligent, considerate, joyful being, without blaming my kids when I fall.

We need to be telling ourselves that we're smart because of motherhood, instead of "having kids made me an imbecile."

If this little pep talk didn't inspire you, read this book.

FOUR:

Potty Training:
Did not happen two weeks ago when I said it would.  I failed at patience.  I failed at laundry.  I failed to get enough sleep the night before in order to deal with the first day of taking Carter to the bathroom every 20 minutes.  I gave up in a puddle of pathetic, exhausted, mommy-tears, and decided that I need to wait for a weekend when my husband is home to help me.

Call me weak, but I figure, I've done two kids in diapers before, and I can do it again if I have to. On the plus side, he "gets" #2, so no more of "those" diapers, in the 2 weeks since I tried to train.

FIVE:

I'm going to be late for a nice gathering of new moms and mom's-to-be if I don't get myself dressed and out the door soon.  It'll be a lovely morning of holding babies, taming toddlers and mom-talk.  OH the mom-talk.  I just realized the other day that I've talked about breastfeeding, babywearing and birthing for 4+ years of my life, and it kind of looks like it'll be that way for the next 6-10... Kind of like a conversational jail sentence.

Don't get me wrong, I love this stuff - but it is getting a little monotonous. 10-year plus moms are saints... I know several who have patiently had the same conversation with new moms (including me), and have sent them away encouraged and inspired every time. Thanks for that, veteran moms.  I only hope that I can make new mamas feel as empowered and encouraged as you have made me feel.

SIX:

Me and God:

I actually sat down to pray a rosary during my kids naps the other day.  I have been struggling so much with daily (any) prayer and spiritual well-being.  I went to confession for the first time in six months last week, and I'll tell you... way to unblock serious spiritual constipation. 

There's just something about getting all that gross stuff out and then saying "Okay God, I'm ready to eat again. Nourish me."

I think this might call for an entire post - so I'll save my other musings on it for later. Maybe minus the constipation analogy... or maybe I'll keep it. It does work rather well.

SEVEN:

I'm going to be late if I don't get dressed NOW - but my day is so packed that this just won't happen (for the third week in a row) if I don't post now. I'm sorry for having no stimulating thought to leave you with.  Perhaps this is an exampled of what not to do if  you don't want to commit that mommy-brain faux-pas I was talking about in #3.