Monthly Archives: January 2010

a winter manifesto.

Last winter, I spent most of the time on my living room sofa recovering from a severe ankle sprain while constantly trying to devise creative ways to keep my kids playing together (without the use of a TV or my legs).  While lying on the couch, longing for winter (and my inability to walk) to end, I came up with a winter manifesto to follow this year.  Now keep in mind that when I wrote this, I didn’t know I would be caring for a fifth child in addition to the four crazies during these long winter months…

  1. I will spend at least 5 minutes outside each day. (Sometimes, I just take the kids out on the porch for exactly 5 minutes and other times we walk down the block….although I could see myself out with the kids more if I had a couple pairs of these mittens) :

    Love these mittens.

  2. I will “make stuff” once a week.  (I wasn’t doing so well on this one until last week when I did 5 layouts…I think that should make up for my first month of winter where sleep was more of a priority.)
  3. I will find the beauty of winter through daily gratitude.  (Mostly, I am thankful for the relatively mild winter thus far and the fact that only 2 out of 5 kids have been sick simultaneously.)
  4. I will spend a portion of my day cuddling with the kids under at least 2 heavy duvets.  (Check.  Although some days the kids seem to think that I spend TOO much time cuddling – which to them has felt like I was keeping them hostage.)
  5. I will learn how to knit a scarf.  (#2 has been a very patient teacher with me as she is sharing her knitting knowledge with me…we’re not quite at scarf…it’s more like an extra long necklace…)
  6. I will myself with comfort thoughts rather than comfort food.  (This has been the toughest so far since I LOVE to bake during the winter…my solution: substitute white flour for spelt flour and sugar for maple syrup and plenty of batches of my friend Michelle’s recipe for Spelt Cookies.)
  7. I will keep in touch with 5 friends a week.  (Email has been my method of choice since me having a phone call is close to impossible.)
  8. I will play in the snow twice.  (There hasn’t been a large enough snowfall yet to do this but as soon as it happens, the kids will hop in #3’s new sled that can also hold two more kids and I will for sure join in specifically because i have invested in these.)
  9. I will at least read 10 books (under the covers of course).  (I have been realistic with myself and read about 10 minutes a day…I have been reading this book for the last 2 weeks mindfully.)
  10. I will enjoy a cup of tea every time the gray and cold bring my spirits down.  (I’ve been drinking peppermint mocha lattes instead…liquid joy for me.)

In an effort to participate in some winter fun in our city, we will be partying it up here tomorrow.

Get outside and have a great weekend!

Advertisements

scrapbook layouts (yay!)

A big thanks to some wonderful ladies who scrapbooked with me this past weekend.  I was able to become inspired and rediscovered the desire to just sit down and create.  Loved it!  And thank you to Shanley who took the pictures of my layouts (see below).  not sure how I would have been able to post these without the photos since I haven’t been able to take my own pics…I am in the middle of caring for a sick #4.

Speaking of #4, I realized #4’s scrapbook hadn’t been updated since she turned 1.  All that is missing from these layouts is some more of the story I want to tell:

"otay" - that is how she says "okay"

"our little runt"

"me & mike"

"my little shadow"

Here is #4’s favourite knock knock joke which she tells daily:

#4: “Mama, knock knock!”

Me:  “Who’s there?”

#4:  “Voodoo!”

Me:  “Voodoo who?”

#4:  “Voodoo you think you are! HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

And then she will repeat this knock knock prompt about 57 times.

to my best friend…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

You are still a big kid.

Today I celebrate the birth of my best friend.  He turns 33 today.  I can still remember celebrating his 18th birthday.  For the last 15 and 1/2 years, we have celebrated many occasions – birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries of many sorts, the birth of a few children, thanksgivings.  Each and every year, his birthday rolls around and immediately he says not to make a big deal and to treat it like a normal day.  He tells me and the kids not to stress ourselves over getting him gifts or doing anything special for him.  He says it’s enough that we love him.  This attitude towards his birthday is reflective of his attitude towards life.  He gives and gives and gives – sometimes almost to a fault.  His happiness revolves around taking care of me and the kids and then himself.  I constantly remind him that life will not fall apart if he chooses to be selfish – in fact, I encourage it.  But somehow, he is wired to have this purpose in life: to make sure his family comes first.

He has rearranged his work schedule with the birth of our fifth to ensure he can drop off #1 and #2 in the morning, pick up #3 at lunch to take her to school, and pick up all 3 in the afternoon.  His free time consists of running a volleyball club which in the beginning was for our oldest daughter but now he takes pride in coaching and being a positive athletic influence on the kids.  For example, this past weekend the club attended a tournament in Barrie.  He took two teams – my daughter’s team and another team who is a year older.  In the past two tournaments, he had focused on our daughter’s team for obvious reasons.  But this time he felt that the other team needed him and he devoted all his time and energy to these girls and barely saw our daughter throughout the tournament.  She wanted him with her but he explained to her the value of commitment which he made to the entire club and to the development of all the girls.  It was a difficult decision for him but he knew the impact even one tournament could make on this team.  When he’s not coaching, he’s at home replacing light bulbs, grocery shopping, cooking, blogging, filming, listening to #2 read, helping with homework, carrying #5 in the wrap, giving piggy back rides, changing diapers, giving baths, tucking them in their beds, paying bills, and taking out the trash among other things.  After all that and when the kids are in bed, he’ll look me in the eye and ask me about MY day and how I’M feeling.  Then he’ll take the baby so I can get some sleep before the next feed.

So…Dear Ever-Patient,

Today, I celebrate YOU. Just YOU and the boy I have watched grow into the greatest dad and a truly good man.  I appreciate each and every little thing you do for us – from making sure my gas tank is always full (literally and figuratively) to being our sole source of financial support giving me the opportunity to be home with our kids.  Your work ethic is incomparable and you deserve more credit than you give yourself.  The kids ADORE you – #1 loves her time with you at volleyball, #2 cherishes her early morning routine with you (getting up and hanging out with you before the rest of the house gets up), #3 could just give you “movie kisses” all day, and although #4 is normally attached to me, she lovingly runs to you to change her diaper 😉  And of course, there’s #5:

You and your son.

Thank you for showing me how to see the best in people when I believe in the worst.  I am grateful for that day almost 16 years ago when we met through a high school fashion show.  I am grateful for every day since then.  I am grateful that our girls will see that there are men out there like their father and for our son to see the kind of man that he can be.

I love you…still.

And from the kids:

Mucho take it easy!

(#4 was not in the mood.)

Happy Birthday.

3 months.

Q at 3 months:

To my big boy:

These last couple of months have blown by much like the rest of life these days. You currently weigh almost 15lbs and are wearing 6-12 months sized clothing.  The biggest difference between now and a month ago is that you have definitely lost your novelty around here.  Your sisters don’t run to greet you when they get home from school, they don’t fuss over you when you cry (in fact, they have mastered the art of completely tuning you out), they cringe and hold their noses at diaper changes looking away now instead of being fascinated with how “different” boys are.  In fact, the only time they are interested in playing with you is when you are sleeping and they will squeeze your cheeks, pick your nose, and kiss your head endlessly until you wake up screaming.  But they love you.  How do I know this?  The odd time you are  not strapped to me or are in my arms, they inquire nonchalantly about your whereabouts.  They rock you (though sometimes too violently) in your car seat when you cry.  Most of the time, when you are sleeping, they whisper and try not to play with the toys that make noise.  They proudly say “This is my brother” to strangers on the street.

Of course, the novelty has not worn off for your father or myself.  Although we’ve already experienced this stage of baby 4 times already, we still get excited when you reach all the mini milestones.  You now coo and smile anytime someone talks to you or smiles at you…especially if it’s a woman.  You especially love it when someone claps your hands together (or makes you do the macarena).  You have finally gotten into a routine with sleep at night.  I can read every cry that you make and discern whether it’s hunger, exhaustion, dirty diaper, or if you just need to be held and whispered to.  But, the best part is “the gaze.”  This is what your father calls it when you just stare at me.  More often than not, even if you are in your father’s arms, you will scan the room for me and “gaze.”  When I am feeding you, you will stop intermittently and “gaze” up at me.  This for me is the biggest change I have noticed in the last few months.  You have transitioned from an infant newborn just trying to survive through nursing, sleeping, and pooping to a baby who recognizes his mother – and not just as a person who is there to supply the milk.  When you look up at me and stare, I look into your eyes and melt because there is a sense of recognition in your eyes that I have been waiting to see.  It is something that I failed to appreciate with your sisters.  The moment I became YOUR “mama.”  In my mind, I was always your mama from the moment I knew of your existence.  But now, YOU know it too.

We love you,

Mama

****

A highlight moment of the last 3 months:

Me to #3 and #4 in a stern whisper:  “Your brother is asleep on the couch.  Do not speak and wake him up.  I have to go to the bathroom.  I will be right back!”

Upstairs, just as I am finishing up, I hear the baby screaming.

I run downstairs only to witness in horror #3 and #4 jumping on the very couch where their brother is laying 2 feet away.  Oh, my heart.

Me: “What are you doing?”

#3 whispers: “We haven’t said a word!”

And then she proceeds to make the motion of zipping up her lips and throwing away the key.

Note to self:  Be more specific.

a belated happy new year.

For some reason, we experience some type of chaotic event around this time every year of which I am just too exhausted to recount at the moment.  As we celebrate each new year, we have a little tradition that we started.  Each member of our family writes a letter to themselves a year from now, e.g. “Dear Me on Dec. 31, 2010.”  We write about who we are at the moment, all our likes and dislikes, and what we hope to do this year.  We then read our letter that we wrote last New Year’s Eve, e.g. “Dear Me on Dec 31, 2009.”  This is fun to see how we have changed (or haven’t changed) and the kids also trace their hands on the back and they love to lay their hand down to see how much they’ve grown.  #1 and #3 are basically still the same – sporty and dramatically inclined respectively.  But how #2 and #4 have changed.  Last year #2 was still into sparkly headbands and dresses whereas now her favourite outfit has become jogging pants and a hoodie with Converse shoes.  #4 was a baby last year, barely putting together sentences, and now, she has definite preferences:

Me: “What do you love right now?”

#4: “Mama, Dada, and baby.”

Me: “What about your sisters?”

#4:  “No.  I don’t like them.”

Last year I wrote the letters for #3 and #4 and this year, #3 is perfectly capable of writing her own (with a little help).  These letters are a great way for you to reflect on the past year and are a way to track how your kids are growing into themselves.

On New Year’s Eve, we also came up with our favourite moments of the year as a family, and individually.  There were lots of hellos and goodbyes in 2009.  It was a huge year in our household and last year at this time, we would have never have guessed that our lives would be this different.

Here is my own TOP TEN Moments of 2009:

  1. Hello #5. We welcomed our boy.  Hello family of 7. Goodbye family of 6 with dad heavily outnumbered (now he is just moderately outnumbered).
  2. The ankle incident.
  3. A Summer to Remember.  Swimming lessons at my mom’s house.  Marineland with cousins and uncles and aunts.  Family memories by the pool.  Science week.  Art week.  #4 jumping in the pool with just water wings.  Savouring every moment with the kids before September.
  4. Hello new schools. Goodbye old schools. I have had to watch my eldest daughter start middle school and slowly let go as she maneuvers her way through a social sphere complete with dances, lockers, and cafeteria food.  I have also had to persevere through a tough transition with #2 as she began her journey in grade one at a new school – her fourth new school in four years.  I’ve said goodbye to #3 as she has wholeheartedly and enthusiastically embraced school leaving me each afternoon with a wink and a “See you later, alligator.”
  5. A Guilt-filled trip to Disney WITHOUT the kids. Early in the year, before the ankle incident, Ever-patient and I went to Orlando for our first trip away together since 2001, leaving the girls behind to cope with blizzards and wind chill.  Ever-Patient had a business conference and I enjoyed time alone.  I actually read books, ate meals in solitude, and did everything on a self-imposed schedule.  We even went on a backstage tour of Disney to see how the place ran seamlessly.  I couldn’t even look at Mickey Mouse without feeling like I was cheating on the kids.
  6. Goodbye to my neighbour. My grandfather gave up his apartment which was just around the corner from us.  This was an apartment that he lived in for over 22 years, and many of those years was with my grandmother.  It’s difficult to pass by there still and know that he is not there watching “Jeopardy” in his boxers or sitting at the dining table planning his horse-racing bets for the week.  It was hard saying goodbye to a place where I would frequently stop by for afternoon snack where he would make me tea and toast with butter or where I spent a lot of summers in my childhood.
  7. Goodbye to Urban Scrapyard.
  8. Hello Family Mission Statement. “Live simply. Live healthy. Celebrate relationships. Learn continuously.”  Creating this mission statement has allowed us to make decisions quickly and has helped remind us of what we value and how we want to live our life.  We have set life goals using this mission statement and it has also helped us cope with many challenges we have faced this year.
  9. Hello Blog.  This blog has been many things to me: a place to document, a place to vent, a place to share ideas and thoughts, a place to keep in touch with family and friends, a sanctuary, a love letter to my children and my husband, a source of inspiration for some, and most importantly, a way for me to tell my stories.
  10. Pancrea-what?? We closed out the year with a hospital stay and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.

My word for 2009 was “RELEASE.”   At the beginning of the year, I promised to let go.  Let go of unrealistic expectations, of sweating the small stuff, of accepting what is and letting everything unfold the way it was supposed to unfold.  It has been one of the most eventful and life-changing years I have experienced.  Everything that has happened this year has forced me to focus all my energy on remembering this word release.  Every obstacle or unexpected occurrence was met with surrender.  On many occasions, when I thought I couldn’t handle any more, I simply surrendered and immersed myself in that particular moment – feeling the exhaustion or the pain or the anger or the shock or the frustration with every ounce of my being.  Not fighting it, just letting myself be “in” it.  I look back at this year and am grateful for it all.

2010 has already started off with a bang with more trips to the emergency room and the doctor’s office but we’re all still hanging in there with a smile no less.

My word for this year is “SIMPLIFY.”

Goodbye 2009.  Hello 2010.