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