Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

It seems impossible to me that I have not posted since November, but alas it is true. My desire to post and desire to read battle it out quite frequently and you can see for yourself who wins. Tidings of Comfort and Joy are what I want so badly at this time of year. It is like I crave to recapture if only for a short time, internal peace and spread that goodwill to others.

I want to wish (albeit a tad late) a wonderful holiday season to all and best wishes for a Happy New Year! Our Christmas was wild and wonderful and a bit sad too. The holidays make me wistful for those not here and everything just seems more emotionally stocked around the holidays. That is not JUST a tea towel it is THE tea towel and that sort of thing. Many great bloggers have posted wonderful Christmas stories and it brought me a lot of comfort knowing that I am not the only one who finds this time of year so loaded with emotional weight. That is to say that not everything people are posting about IS wonderful, just that we are all struggling with something amidst this joyous time of year. I find it reassuring to know that behind closed doors there are other people like me.

We have been so busy! For real life as Rosebud would say. In the last week - give or take a day or two we have:

-Celebrated Christmas Eve in the way we used to when my Dad was alive
-Celebrated Christmas Day with both of our parents in the same day - and found time to visit an Aunt as well!
-Found the time to bake shortbread and spritz cookies - they were so yummy!
-Found the time to make the cool applesauce, cinnamon and glue ornaments and let me tell you it took some time!
-Made two trips to the coolest house ever to look at their Christmas lights (including one on Christmas Day)
-Had Boxing Day dinner with my in-laws followed by ice-skating for everyone
-Took the girls to see Enchanted and out for dinner for Papoosie Girl's birthday -cute movie by the way, actually poke me in the eye cute, but little girls will eat it up (note scary scene at the end though)
-And, because we obviously feel guilty for saddling her with a holiday birthday we went to High School Musial on Ice for Papoosie Girl's birthday (with tickets purchased impulsively by Hubby on Boxing Day) and out to dinner AGAIN
-Went to Niagara Falls to see the holiday lights, this was fun and the Falls are always inspiring but lots of walking across lots of muddy grass.
-Finally, we roasted real chestnuts in a real open fire (well fireplace) and nearly smoked the house out, but they were declared delicious by those who ate them. Ahem, that would not be me eating those scorched little balls.

I am so tired just reading this list and I have probably forgot ten things. I wanted to include some of the dozens of lovely photos we have taken, but the dear camera battery died today so nothing until it gets its juice back.

I hope everyone is enjoying their time off and using it to recharge their batteries.

Peace to all in 2008.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not normally heard at a wedding

My Mom and I were enjoying a rare hot cup of tea last night after dinner, in that bewitching lull between bath and bedtime.

The girls were happily playing on the floor with the 300 or so Princess dolls (they are just like Polly Pockets, only they are the Disney Princesses) and they had an elaborate wedding all set out where two lucky princesses got to marry a prince which there are two of.

All of sudden Rosebud exclaims:

Wait! We have to stop the wedding I need to put on my pants and turn my body around. Everyone remain calm.

She is going to make someone very happy one day.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

And a dolly, and a sled, and a new dress...

I have been hopelessly negligent in posting these is a little Christmas cheer to get everyone in the mood.

I have waxed poetically about my urge and need to reduce and control the clutter in our house, the cathartic experience of freeing yourself from stuff. As we ramp up for the time of year when the most holiest and materialistic marry up in a dual to the finish, I find myself thinking of ways to do things better. Move away from the stuff and move towards helping others, creating memories and opening the girls up to new experiences. Angels singing in the background.

I am still wrestling with our five present rule we (admittedly made up and in fact quite random) a few years ago. That would be five gifts from Santa only on Christmas morning plus their stockings (stockings contain a toothbrush, socks, undies, maybe a small book -just the little things). We have not started any gifts from each other and so far we are happy with the simplicity of Christmas morning this way. The girls have three sets of grandparents, many other relatives and friends so they get many gifts. I put a lot of thought into their gifts and most everyone checks with me so I can make sure the girls they get things they want and will use...not just more plastic crap. She says as she lugs the Dora Let's Get Ready Vanity to the basement in a garbage bag...the ONLY item in Rosebud's letter to Santa...she eventually added a few other random items after much prompting. You can't get any more plastic and crap in one gift and let it be known I wrestled hard over this purchase and got it on sale for nearly half price. Guilt recedes a bit.

I don't exactly announce our five present idea to everyone I meet, but it has leaked it's way out and around in the last few years. It has been met with many a mixed review. Most older people yelp about how five is such a large number of gifts, surely one or two would do? Don't you have sticks and rocks for them already?!

Then on the other hand we get a lot of people who think we are just plain Scrooge-like and we are ruining Christmas and compromising their sweet holiday memories forever. Five was made-up, it had no significance other than it seemed like plenty to oh and ah over and to ensure it didn't look like Santa had forgotten us and few enough gifts that they didn't sit around for hours in an opening frenzy with about as much enthusiasm for each gift as Britney has for underwear.

We are sticking to our plan for this year since it all works out quite well in terms of what they want, what Santa is willing to give, and what I think is enough without being too much. My worst fear (well, one of the top five at least) is raising ungrateful little monsters who are looking for what is coming next. Beck had some great ideas for simple food and craft gifts that are easy to make and much more personal to give and receive. The girls and I are going to try the cocoa in a jar this year along with some shortbread cookies we make, a perfect homemade gift I would say and simple enough that I won't lose my mind in the process.

I am still deciding what charity project we will be doing this year. Our school is not doing the Shoebox campaign this year which is too bad because it is such a great project for young kids to work on. Instead we are doing an adopt-a-family campaign and collecting donations for five families. I want to do something else for just our family, to really send the message to the girls that we are privileged. Not to make them feel bad, they should not be made to feel guilty for being born into our family; but to make them aware that along with this privilege comes a responsibility. A responsibility to share our resources with those less fortunate than us, if I can not only get that message across in a way they understand, but can instill it in my girls; then I will have done well.

Making memories, creating traditions and helping others is the spirit of the season I want my girls to remember long after the gifts are opened.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Note: I took down the photo from this year after 24 hours as there were other kids besides mine in the shot...

Here is a little bit of Halloween past just for fun.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Musings - More Like Random Thoughts

Lately I have been filled with random thoughts. Some of them are scary, some are weird, some are productive and some are just strange.

Like how I realized I clap in one direction. Are you clapping yet? I always clap with my left hand lower than my right and I use my left hand to clap against my right.

I sometimes wonder about my future kids, not the ones that are unborn, the ones here now. I wonder if I will recognize them in their future incarnations. I see glimpses of the people they are becoming and I am both in awe and scared silly to know that these are probably the only two people who will be able to call my bluff. The people who have watched me, silently at first, do all kinds of things I would never do in front of others.

You know what I mean. When it is just you and a baby in the house you can pretty much get away with anything, they can't rat you out and tell your spouse you were blogging all day or spent an hour examining your face in the mirror. Bigger kids though they can and do let your secrets out. My girls think I am working on my laptop, I have never actually said what I was doing mind you- they just assumed this. It is when I forget to turn the sound down that they usually bust me and rush over to find out what I am doing. Typing however, never causes them to rush over.

I have been thinking of trying to get my act together in the kitchen, how I am going to do this however, is another matter. I get the idea that if you prep everything ahead then the actual cooking is a breeze. I just never seem to know just how much prepping is required and when are you supposed to do this, I mean if I spend all morning prepping the food and all evening cooking it how is anything else supposed to get done?

The idea of menu planning and shopping lists is like an aphrodisiac to me, but still I don't do it well. Every now and then I vow to set a menu plan for the week, shop once and make lovely homemade meals every night. In reality I wake up most mornings with no clue of what the girls and I will eat for dinner and I end up at Longo's most days for something. We eat out far too much and I really want to change that. It doesn't help that the girls are picky eaters either. Lately we are making strides to change that and be a bit more forceful in the trying new foods department, but sometimes I just want to eat in peace.

I bought the new book from Jessica Seinfeld, Deceptively Delicious and I am still reading through it. I love the idea of hiding adding in extra vegetables into the girls diets, but I wonder why it has to be that way. Why do I need to shell out money to figure out how to get my kids to eat better? Why are they not better eaters because I want them to be?

After my recent tumble, I have been taking back every random thought I have had about secretly wishing I could break something just so everyone would take care of me for a while. Truth was I could barely keep my swollen ankle on the couch while Hubby attended to the girls all evening. I am a lousy patient, and kept straining my neck to see exactly what he was putting in their lunch bags.

So as promised a post made up of entirely random thoughts. Right now my random thought is that the girls will need their bangs trimmed before their Christmas photos at Sears in two weeks, and yes I booked the appointment at the end of August. Damn type A's getting all the good appointments! I often cut the girls bangs myself and must admit I am getting pretty good, but for photos I differ to the professionals.

Had enough? Me too. What kind of random thoughts are keeping you up?

WAIT! I have one more to share. I got the girls grilled cheese Happy Meals from that evil place on the way home from dance class tonight, please don't judge me too harshly. The whole box, meal thing was all about The Bee Movie which incidentally I really want to take the girls to see - I still love Jerry. Anyhoo, we ordered milk and got with our meals these Sipahh Straws, has anyone heard of these? The one we got was Honeycomb flavour to tie in with the movie I suppose and while Papoosie Girl gamely put it in her milk and used it, Rosebud promptly asked for her regerler straw. It smells really strong and while I get they use these meals mainly as a marketing vehicle for the latest thing we should be watching/buying/renting these straws are taking it to a whole new level. That really stings. What would Jessica say?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fall Down - Go Boom

Yup. That is what happened yesterday as I was leaving the house to pick up Rosebud from school. I locked the front door, turned around, took a step and the next thing I remember is hitting the patio stones of our walkway. I know I turned my left ankle so I think I stepped off with my left foot, it twisted under me and I fell forward and landed with a great thud.

I was so stunned I just sat up and cried on the walkway. In a moment of, I could be seriously hurt and no one would know, kind of way. At first I really could not stand, I am not a slight girl and the weight of falling from a step coupled with my weight knocked the wind out of me.

About a minute later I realized that I need to get up and by now both my shins were throbbing and so is my left ankle and it is now six minutes until I need to pick up Rosebud. A quick mental scramble reveals that all of my close by backup people are not home, so that leaves me to hobble to the van and get Rosebud.

Did I mention that I had promised Papoosie Girl she could come home for lunch? She asked me everyday last year, but because that would mean Rosebud would have to to miss her nap it never worked. Now that Rosebud has her ballet class on Thursday afternoons and doesn't nap anyway, it seemed like a good idea.

As I was driving to get Rosebud I called Hubby in what I would call a controlled panic. I blubbered through my fall and told him he would have to come home on time or please, please, please a bit early. As a certified klutz I am sure he was not too freaked out, though for the record he has stepped off that same step and twisted his ankle twice...this was my first time! Note to self: Is there a problem with the step or just the users? Look into.

Rosebud's teacher took one look at me and gasped. I guess I looked a little messed up. I managed to get both girls home and feed them lunch which thankfully I had prepared before I left the house and I even managed to get Papoosie Girl back to school on time, which basically meant I pulled up in the front of the school, called the secretary and told Papoosie Girl to buzz herself in.

Hubby made it home to take Rosebud to dance class and I lounged on the couch all afternoon alternatively feeling really stupid and really sorry for myself. Falling for me is a big deal because I have the worst legs in the world. I have huge, ugly veins on the surface of my skin so the slightest bump results in a huge lump where the vein bursts. I then need to wrap it in a tensor for a few days and the resulting bruise will last for weeks. I have looked into surgery, but they advise against it unless you are done having children. Since I am not willing to make that call as of yet, I have the crappiest, most sensitive veins ever. My legs will probably be bruised and sore for weeks now. Blech.

The only upside was how sweet and caring the girls were as I tried to wash my legs off and wrap them while they ate. Papoosie Girl got the Polysporin and band aids and kept telling me, "it's OK Mama it is the kids one so it won't sting" all the while I am trying to be brave and not cry in front of them. Rosebud kept telling me to sit down and they both insisted they were going to be the best listeners ever and not give me a, "bit of trouble" all day.

I have the sweetest girls and best husband who took over all house duties, made me the best supper, took care of the girls and made me tea while we watched Survivor and 30 Rock. How do people do this alone? What if I had no one to call? Those thoughts make me realize that while it is easy to say how lucky you are sometimes, I really am lucky.

Since I am not supposed to be on my feet today I have a free pass to blog and read all morning. Maybe it is not that bad after all.

That photo is of Papoosie Girl falling into the hay on our apple picking trip in September. I was not looking nearly as happy after my fall.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life Imitates Art

The weather here in southern Ontario just keeps getting stranger. The temperature Sunday was around 26 degrees and sunny. We visited the McMichael art gallery today mainly to see the Robert Bateman exhibition which closes on - oh according to the website it has been extended an extra week until November 4, 2007. Today on the other hand was a wet and chilly morning.

I have wanted to bring the girls to the gallery for quite awhile, but was weary of the priceless works of art and you know my KIDS in the same room. Papoosie Girl had a science project recently on birds and she choose the Blue Jay. In my excitement of her first project, I love me a project! During our her research I wanted to show her some paintings of Blue Jays and we ended up on the Bateman website. I had forgotten how much I love his work. Then I heard about the Bateman exhibit and decided that we should visit the gallery. For good measure and an extra set of adults Nana and Papa (my Mom and her husband) came along for the visit.

I am fortunate enough that my step mom has several original Bateman prints that were my Dad's. I also bought my Mom a very tiny Bateman print of a chipmunk from an art sale when I was a cool office dweller working downtown. They had an art sale nearby and I could not resist the small framed print and wanted to surprise my Mom with a real grown-up gift. She still has it and it is up in her bedroom.

The Robert Bateman exhibit did not disappoint. The paintings were so amazing, his talent is really like no other in capturing nature. Many of the paintings were accompanied by his own words, why he did what he did or how he did it and that was so fascinating. His attention to detail and his vast knowledge of plants and wildlife is beyond compare. There was a painting titled Pacific that was so real I studied and studied it and declared it wet.

There is a quote on his website and appeared in the gallery literature that is worth sharing:

"I can't conceive of anything being more varied and rich and handsome than the planet Earth. And its crowning beauty is the natural world. I want to soak it up, to understand it as well as I can, and express it in my painting. This is the way I want to dedicate my life."

Despite my hotel tendencies and general lack of enthusiasm towards any kinds of roughing it, I feel a pull towards nature, towards trees and rocks and blue skies. If I am in the city for too long without any nature time I crave it as much as food. Visiting the gallery and seeing all the people marvelling over Bateman's work confirmed that I am not alone. We have advanced so far away from our natural roots as modern, twenty-first century people; yet we pay money and line-up to see paintings of the natural world. It is like we can somehow absorb life through these paintings.

I have not visited the gallery in ages and had forgotten how much I love the Group of Seven artists. I felt like I was taking a walk down memory lane as I meandered the gallery taking in the works of A. Y. Jackson, Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris. Images so familiar to me, I guess in part because my school used to make at least one trip a year to the gallery, but also because I am seeing my country in these images, through my adult eyes.

The gallery was pretty busy and we waited about 5-10 minutes to get down the driveway to pay ($5) for parking. The grounds are actually just as nice as the gallery itself, there are several paths to walk and artwork throughout the grounds, the girls loved the Inukshuk. It was so pretty with the gorgeous views of the Humber Valley and we got some great shots of the girls romping along the paths.

The gallery is mostly stroller friendly for those of you thinking of visiting with the munchkins. Rosebud was tired and insisted we go back to the van for the stroller before we even started which actually was better since having her loose near the paintings was making me sweat. The paintings are not roped off in any way and I saw many toddlers get too close only to be told by the many staff to not go any closer than the lights on the ceiling. Um, yeah like a three year old is going to understand that. I did see many frazzled parents trying to keep curious hands off the artwork which is definitely within reach of little hands.

All the bathrooms had change tables and the lobby sold drinks, snacks and sandwiches. There was a restaurant downstairs (I never saw an elevator so you might have to carry your stroller down) but the buffet was $16 dollars so we opted for a few snacks and water before heading out for a walk. There is a small Discovery Area for the kids at the end of the gallery tour and the girls loved it, but it is pretty small, not more than two families would fit comfortably. I would definitely take Papoosie Girl back and since we got a membership that seems likely, but I might not take Rosebud if I was alone. It is hard for them to understand that there is no touching when we have taken them to so many kid-friendly museums and such.

Papoosie Girl was fascinated with the First Nations and Inuit art and loved the totem poles - just like on Little Einstein's! There were artists on hand and an art sale and one of the artists let her roll clay and spent a lot of time explaining to her what she was doing. I was grateful for an extra set of hands so she could spend some time with the artist. She was definitely in her element.

Even if this wasn't the most leisurely visit, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We got off to a late start and didn't arrive until 12pm, I usually prefer an early start for day trips, but this was a pancake morning - with our new Halloween shapes thanks to our evening visit to Yorkdale last night (quick trip to the Apple store for Hubby) and our visit to Williams & Sonoma. By the way, I don't make pancakes, well hardly ever. Daddy is the master pancake maker and loves his shapes, this is the second set we have bought and have had the first set for over a year now.

Just so you don't think we have piles of money lying around for such important things like pancake molds. For those of you kitchen obsessed, Yorkdale is getting a Crate & Barrel in 2008! Yes American friends we are still missing several of your wonderful stores, including Victoria's Secret (best underwear on the planet), Bath and Body Works, Target, and let's not forget Olive Garden -which we had and lost. Hence, why I need to make my frequent visits to my favourite stores family in New York.

I love when we introduce the girls to something new, it feels like such an accomplishment. Art and nature and history are so important to me and I want to share that and those feelings with my girls. Imagine my pride when Papoosie Girl would surprise us with some little gem of knowledge throughout the day, see I am doing a good job I would think! As I glance at my fridge covered in artwork I understand, how indeed, life imitates art.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I was working on a post this evening and accidentally hit publish. What an idiot you are thinking. I was trying to switch windows to check something and hit publish instead.

I am sure Goggle Reader picked it up even though I immediately took it will be back, in its completed form when it is done I promise.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Circle of Life or something like that

I have had a busy and exhausting week. Someone died and was born a day apart in our family this weekend. My Mom's husband's (stay with me) Aunt passed away Friday after battling lung cancer for about two years. How she hung on this long is in itself some kind of miracle. Then on Saturday my BFF (for real) had her third child, a boy.

While I didn't know this Aunt well my Mom had been spending a lot of time taking care of this woman these past few weeks, in fact I have not seen my Mom in two weeks which is pretty unheard of. This woman never uttered a single complaint, never asked why me and spent much of her time thanking my Mom while she buzzed around her trying to help. This woman was able to stay at home until her dying day when she lost consciousness in her chair never to wake up. She passed away peacefully it seems. She leaves behind a twenty-something son.

The next day another son was born to my friend, her second boy. Her husband and I were in the delivery room and it was everything a birth should be; happy, exciting, and ended with a healthy baby. This is the fifth baby between us to be born at this hospital so we are pros at navigating the Labour & Delivery floor. We practically took over and spent much of her labour laughing, talking and watching movies like The Wedding Singer and Runaway Bride on W Network...well some of us anyway. The baby was healthy and strong and they let him lie on her chest for over 45 minutes before they took him for his vitamin K shot and eye drops. He was 6lbs 5ozs of pure joy beaming at us.

It is hard for my brain to wrap my head around the series of events of that twenty-four hours. A son lost his mother, a young man not quite ready to be alone in the world and a mother I love and care about gave birth to a son.

I am not usually a maudlin person, but this is hard for me to sort out and rationalize and every crappy platitude about the Circle of Life has me bristling.

I will attend the funeral tomorrow of a woman that while I didn't know well, I will go for her son, he deserves that. Then I will go visit my friend and her new baby boy and rock and cradle and kiss his head that is smaller than an orange. I have seen him every day from the day he was born. He is helpless and demanding and cute as a bug, he peed on me and pooped into his fresh diaper and I didn't even mind.

I hope this son grows up to know his mother - that he doesn't have to say goodbye to her before he is ready. It really is the hope of most people I would think to never have to say goodbye before we are ready. This makes no sense I realize as I reread these words, we are never ready for death. When someone who is 99 and has lived a good long life passes we think, they were ready, but you know what? There is always someone left behind that was NOT ready.

The Circle of Life is making me a bit dizzy today.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

One Year Later

My first blog post and the creation of my blog was on October 5, 2006. It is a sad little post that I won't even bother linking to, it is just too pathetic...something like Blog Post #1. I have many times said that I didn't even know what blog was before frantically searching and trying to find a website for Catherine Newman after she left Baby Center. Of course what I did find was her blog and my very first click away from her blog took me to Bub & Pie - do I know how to pick them, and the rest is well, bloggy history. I found some kindred spirits and even though they are halfway across the country they inspired me.

My blog has definitely been a huge part of my life for the past year and if you told me that a year ago I would have scoffed at the idea. My high hopes of posting thought-provoking and riveting pieces filled with literary wit have given way to me spewing out posts sporadically at best. It seems I am greedy or lazy or both and often prefer reading blogs to actually posting on mine. I do love to write posts, to have a great idea, stew on it and write something wonderful. More often than not though it is something I need to get off my chest or some moment I want to preserve, that actually makes it into a post.

I still want to learn how to change my wallpaper. When given twenty minutes though I will always pick reading blogs over figuring out code.

I don't want to sound too naive or anything, but I have learned LEARNED so much from the blogs I read regularly. New books to read, parenting tips, recipes to try, causes to embrace, movies to watch, places to visit, and so many more I can't even type them all. I have friends and family, yet this is the place I go to for answers a lot of the time. This is the place where I feel my shoulders relax and a sigh escaping my body as I travel around my online neighbourhood. I feel joy when something goes well for a friend, anger when something doesn't, sympathy when a friend is hurting and empathy for a friend struggling with something. I say "friend" purposefully because anyone I think about on a daily basis, whether I have met in person or not, is a friend.

When I start to feel bad, like I am not contributing enough to this place, I feel myself retreating. I worry about keeping up. I WANT to keep up and post and comment and comment and post, but sometimes real life gets in the way. I am amazed at how people with busier households than mine find the time, I wonder how they do it.

All that doesn't really matter though because I refuse to stop doing something I love and brings so much into my life.

So one year later I am still blogging. This was a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, we went apple picking, ate lots of turkey, visited Chapters and bought so many great books (with gift cards!) and spent time together as a family.

I have a lot of blog posts percolating so hopefully I will get the words out more often and if I don't that is OK too. I might still be at the kids table of the blogging world, but hey I am at the party and that is what matters.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Monday Musings - Getting the job done

I thank those of you in advance who do read my blog regularly for STILL reading my blog despite the fact that it is far from regular lately.

I think I may have talked about this before, oh look I did! We all complain (well I sure do) that we have too much to do and so little time and I really do! For real, in real life as Rosebud would say. I am a compulsive list maker, without lists I feel very lost and unhappy. No matter how long the list might be, it is better than no list. Keeping lists is my way of freeing up my mind, once transferred to the list the problem seems more manageable.

I have a list on the side of the fridge with our big projects, house projects that we need to complete or start as the case may be. Here is a sample of that list.

House Jobs
-Put down laminate floors on our main floor (the last place we have carpet)
-Organize the basement (more on that later)
-Clean the fridge and freezer in the basement
-Fix the caulking around the tub, I also have always never been crazy about our upstairs bathroom floor, so add that to the list too
-Empty and go through our cupboards, wash them down and put everything back

Then there is MY list the list of stuff I want to do, the jobs that keep our house humming and from drowning in our own crap.

Jen's List
-Finish putting our Florida pictures in the album, put away our travel stuff (brochures, pressed pennies, menus, miscellaneous vacation schlock)
-Print our recent digital photos and put them into albums, I have not printed since May. Since Papoosie Girl has been born I have been vigilant about putting our photos into albums with white paper dividers on the pages for me to record dates, add captions, etc. My girls love to look at these albums and if I have done nothing else this is my crowning achievement of home organization.
-Sort and put away Papoosie Girl's Grade One work into her keepsake tote
-Craft alert: help the girls glue the damn shells on the wooden frames my Mom bought after we got back from Florida (last summer)
-Put all our extra photos, remember what it was like before digital? You got the photos back from developing and used maybe half of them for albums and family and tossed the rest somewhere? I bought some cute photo boxes with dividers so I can get rid of all those envelopes.
-Figure out what to do with all those greeting cards. I love cards and give them freely and in turn we receive cards. I like to keep them, but this creates a lot of cards in our home. I have two hat boxes full and while I did let the girls use some of our old Christmas cards for crafts we still have many, many cards. They are special to me and I hate the idea of getting rid of them. I think I could purge them though and only keep the really special ones.

The basement is another story all together. I have made attempts in the past to organize our basement. Keep the Christmas stuff together, keep our high school and university stuff in one spot, our Royal Doulton dishes we have never used in one spot, you get the idea. The problem is that when you move into a house you have less stuff than you do say ten years later. As time goes on you stuff your newly acquired crap in every nook and cranny you can find. It is random as long as it is put somewhere. Now ten years and two kids later we need to take a step back and give this basement some thought.

Our basement is not finished and we basically use it for storage. There is a small area we have carpeted for the girls and we have some of those funky IKEA toy storage shelves with bins. The girls can come down and play and get their dress-up clothes any time they want. This area is generally organized and I won't include it in my disdain for the rest of basement.

The basement also has about 25 Rubbermaid totes (no joke) with kids clothes. I keep all of Papoosie Girl's clothes for Rosebud and I keep what Rosebud is outgrowing for my goddaughter. It is a non-stop merry-go-round of clothes shuffling, winter in, summer out, too small in, too big out, next summer, boots for next NEVER ends.

So between the wall of totes, our holiday boxes, keepsake stuff, photos, dishes we have no room for upstairs, and a husband who keeps the box from every single thing he buys; our basement is getting kind of stuffed around the edges.

How do you keep everything in order? How often do you clean everything out? It has been several years since we did a big clean out, taking everything off of every shelf, purging and putting it all back nicely. When the basement gets too crowded I feel claustrophobic every time I go down to the basement. The rest of the house is fine, peek in my linen closet, open my medicine chest, the pantry is pretty good; but the basement is annoying.

Why I let it annoy me is another story. With all the day-to-day things on my plate the basement hardly seems important, but looky here is a whole blog post devoted to it! Here is the thing, what I have noticed is that when my mind is cluttered I look to my home and what is around me to see where the problem lies, but this time it is my mind that is cluttered. I am wrestling with some stuff that I shouldn't* really blog about and it is weighing heavily on me. Nothing life threatening or earth shattering, just stuff I am not really ready to talk about here yet. Do I stay on the school Council? Do I put up a fight so my daughter can participate in her First Communion with the rest of her class? Do I have another baby? How do I get myself healthier and carve out a bit of time for myself that doesn't involve sitting on my arse reading blogs? How on earth do you get dinner on the table every single night?*

*So maybe I am ready to talk about them a little. Just a little though.

My mind and my basement need a dusting and airing out. These things on my mind are preventing me from being able to concentrate and I hate that the constant narrative that is normally harmless and even enjoyable is now bothering me. I want to be fun and happy and carefree and my big dumb old brain won't let me. There will always be things on my mind, it is my ability to park stuff in the back of the lot that I need to work on. Everyone worries about their house, work and family; it is human nature. I just hate when it gets too near the front and it starts bubbling over in that frothy way.

Getting the job done in my case may involve a lobotomy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Musings - A Little bit of Everything

Today was Rosebud's very first day of school. Here's the thing, it was a non-event. I feel bad even saying that, but it is true. We got ready, took lots of photos, went to school, waved bye and she was off. I didn't have a lump in my throat or that lurching feeling in my stomach and I was not rapidly blinking back tears. I mean I am still sad and overwhelmed and cannot believe I have two school-age children, but really I am fine. Doesn't she look cute? She wanted to look fancy, but casual (her words) and she wanted her rainbow feet which is what she calls these tights.

What did I do with my two and half hours of new found freedom?

A) Have a leisurely breakfast somewhere alone, reading the paper?
B) Come home and have a nap?
C) Put my feet up and watch TV?
D) Clean the bathrooms?

If you choose "D" you would be correct. I took this chance to use my heavy-duty cleaners and give the bathroom a good scrub. The thing is after drinking my Tim's coffee and having breakfast (after dropping the girls at school) and answering the phone calls from everyone wondering how this morning went, I had about 45 minutes left before I had to go pick her up. My routine has just gotten busier with three daily stops at the school, but I am sure I am going to be enjoying my two and half hours of freedom everyday.

Remember that Friday was my 10th
anniversary? Well, I thought I would post some pictures of my loot. We went out to dinner to The Keg then to the Cirque du Soliel show Kooza and I got two dozen roses, a lovely card and beautiful diamond stud earrings. I don't really wear a lot of jewelery, I wear my wedding and engagement rings and I have ring I wear on the other hand that was a gift when I had Rosebud. It is a lovely ring with three square diamonds to commemorate the three girls in the family.

I wear those and my watch everyday and I wear a chain with a cross that I don't take off. I usually wear one of two or three pairs of earrings all yellow or white gold and all pretty classic, I don't wear a lot of costume jewelery although I do have some nice stuff that I sometimes wear to weddings or fancy occasions. I have one pair of small hoop earrings with diamonds that were a gift from Hubby when I had Papoosie Girl, those are my fancy earrings. In the house though, no jewellery (sans necklace) all rings and watches come off the minute I am in the front door, I cannot work with anything on.

So while everything is pretty classic I am fairly well decked out in diamonds if I have it all on at once. I must admit I have always loved diamond studs for their classic look and clean lines, but I was shocked to get them. I was thinking dinner and a night out were plenty, so I was not only surprised, but touched that he would pick something he knew I always wanted.

Enough about the gifts though, what I wanted to share was the wrapping. Hubby is obsessed with all things paper, boxes, ribbon and bows. He taught me how to make a bow out of ribbon - I used to buy them ready-made of course. Now he needs to know about paper and stock weights and finishes for his job and he can pick up just about any type of paper and tell you all the qualities, but that isn't even it. Even before he worked at this job he would bring me to paper stores, box stores, packaging stores, you name it. He would lovingly touch and admire all the different types of paper.

He bought this box, wrapped it himself, chose the co-ordinating tissue - everything. He really believes that if you take so much care in choosing the gift your efforts in the presentation should be the same. As a woman I must admit I was a bit shocked at his abilities in this area, after all most guys, or I should say most guys I knew would more likely hand you a gift still in the bag from the store. His abilities more importantly made me look bad, I mean I am a good wrapper and all and can choose a good gift bag, but he rises above me. This also can be a sore spot for some of my friends, can I help it if I am spoiled? The way I see it, it is a two-way street and nice begets nice around here.

One last thing about wrapping. He thinks the above gift is one of his best efforts to date and while it is nice it doesn't compare to this one. Christmas 1999 he saved one of my gifts to give me on New Year's Eve. When I opened this book I thought it was cute and funny joke, a romance novel about the year 2000. I actually put the book down until he told me to open it and check it out. As you can see he hollowed it out and hid a necklace inside. I always thought this was the best and most creative wrapping job ever and wished I had thought of it.

So there, a brief glimpse into the strange combination of manly man who watched his team play Sunday in appropriate team t-shirt and the man who took me to Kooza Friday night and gave me such a pretty, pretty box.

We were supposed to watch the CBC show Test the Nation: Watch Your Language for fun last night as well, but we were both too zonked. We taped it and have our score cards ready, did any of you watch it and have a friendly competition? He's going down for sure, I am convinced he can't beat me at this game.

So those are all my random updates for today. Papoosie Girl's dance class starts tonight so we will be on the run this evening. I only allow one evening out a week, beyond that I just don't think I could manage. Swimming is Saturday morning's and Rosebud's dance class is in the afternoon right after school. Am I the only one who thinks this is plenty, one class each and swimming which I don't consider extra-curricular I think of it more of a life skill? I would love to put them both in piano, and brownies, and skating lessons, but I know none of us would enjoy being out five nights a week. I know people who do it though, they have something everyday of the week. Personally, I just could not do it and my kids need their down-time to just unwind and be together.

I feel a little more settled today, like this week is going to unfold a bit better than last week. I love September and can't wait for those crisp mornings, apple picking, and cozy turtlenecks.

Friday, September 07, 2007

09 07 97

It seems remiss to let this day go by without some kind of blogging words. Today is our 10th Anniversary. Hubby has made plans for us to go out tonight to the Cirque du Soleil show Kooza and out for dinner and the kids are going to Yia Yia's for the night. I actually begged out of (yes, I know I am stupid) the overnight hotel stay, but I am just not up to it tonight. An empty house will be enough, I'm sure for any evening festivities.

I can't say I never thought we would make it here, but still it seems like such an accomplishment. We are both incredibly stubborn sometimes and while I generally back away from conflict, I have gotten pretty comfortable these last 10 years speaking up and loud. It is certainly not all a sitcom around here, well maybe a bit like know lots about nothing really; but it is real. This is real life. Kids who are sorta good and sometimes sorta bad and the living breathing incarnation of both of you. They infuriate you and reduce you to tears and you would still jump in front of a bus for them. They are the tangible proof that you, as a couple, really exist. There is no denying the relationship.

It goes without saying that I love my husband. He is my friend and supporter and knows me as well as I know myself. Our time together is approaching fifteen years this fall and at the age of 36 that seems like a lot of years. A lot of memories, a lot of highs and lows and everything in between. I cannot imagine spending my life and sharing my life with anyone else.

It is not all sunshine and rainbows though. It is more like barf and poop and baby wipes most days. I come from a divorced family and no matter how ticked I am it just isn't an option for me to give up, ever. We are in this for the long haul no matter what. We make stupid idle threats sometimes in our most simmering moments, but even those are pretty hollow.

Happy Anniversary Hubby...I know you sneak peeks here! I am a lucky woman and I know it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Hey Hey From PA

We just got back from a whirl wind vacation touring the state of Pennsylvania. I am in the process of unpacking and catching up on real life - bleah. I promise to have a lovely post regaling everyone about my travels soon. For now, a taste of our family's version of fun.

For the record, I am not a huge fan of football. I am however, a huge fan of my husband and this was his moment. His love of the Steelers is something I will never quite understand and it goes back to his childhood, but along with his love of Macintosh and Diet Coke it certainly defines him.

He is the smartest person I know and will always beat me in Jeopardy no matter how hard I try to cheat. He is a techie who provides IT support to everyone we know, he is well-read on so many topics it ruins most games - unless you are on his team and he knows more about fine china than I do. He is a strange mix of manly man, techie geek and culture. Instead of just heading to a resort somewhere he wants to show us things and teach us stuff and have fun. He wants to go to museums and sports stadiums and loves to shop! This week is our tenth anniversary so I guess this was a little tribute...thanks honey for 10 great years! I'm still having fun.

In addition to Pittsburgh our trip also included, a trip to Hershey - yum, the Crayola Crayon factory and a trip to Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. This vacation was like a giant field trip for us and the girls, at one point someone asked me if I home schooled since I was so busy explaining things to the girls.

Did I mention Pennsylvania has no sales tax on shoes and clothes? Yeah, it was a good trip. More details later I promise. I missed you my blogging friends, I really did. I have many posts to catch up on and I can't wait to see what I missed.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Me only better

"Every once in a while I'll have one of those days when I've fed the fish, cleaned 10 poops from the patio, taken the cat to the vet, sewn my son's stupid karate stars on until my fingers bleed and made sure that he has everything, and he wakes up and goes, 'Oh, what's for breakfast?' He doesn't know, and why should he? Right?

But there's absolutely no sort of acknowledgment or reward for this -- except for the intangible of my kids growing up to be wonderful people. I do find myself in the garage listening to the NPR because I want to have a stimulating side to my life...The only thing about having kids that I miss is being alone."

This is a quote from Jodie Foster that I read recently. I am not sure why this caught me off guard, but this struck me as so real and honest and coming from someone who could afford a flock of nannies it was reassuringly real. When you see celebrities like Britney Spears who drag their kids all over at all hours you wonder what kind of childhood are they having, what is their normal? I feel sorry for these children who know no better. What is worse is that we watch these children in the media with such gruesome fascination waiting and watching for the fall.

I wonder sometimes if what I am doing is enough. Am I patient enough? Doubtful. Am I compassionate enough? Sometimes, but usually I am quick to want to move on. Am I understanding enough? Usually, then again there are days I am utterly not. Does that make me a bad parent? I like to think, quite smugly, that by comparison to some I am doing a fabulous job. Yeah me! Then there are the days that I am sure I am the worst parent ever. I am selfish and cold and just want to be left alone.

I know I am a good parent on the whole. My girls are testaments to that. So why then are there days that I feel so hopeless and tired and fed-up? Everyone says it is normal, but I feel so guilty about it. Just knowing that there are other people, lots of people who feel the same way makes me feel less crumby.

We have had a few play dates at our house lately. To be honest I am one of those parents who never call you even after exchanging phone numbers and I am rarely the one to initiate it at all. My life is so full already, I just can't imagine adding more into the pot some days. We have got several calls this summer and you can only dodge for so long. This week we had one of Papoosie Girl's classmates over for a play date, a rather long affair as it was a complicated undertaking of schedules and she stayed from 11am-5pm. What I noticed immediately is I am left alone a lot during these days, it was so quiet from my point of view. Yes, I had to feed them and the sort, but I was left alone for long stretches. My laundry got folded in the daylight hours, dishes were washed and I was able to read blogs.

Having another child (who is not my own) in the house made me a better version of myself. More patient, more accommodating and I think more fun. I listened more and was generally a more relaxed me. Do I need surveillance to be a better Mom? I certainly didn't feel under surveillance, but at the same time acutely aware that I don't want this little girl reporting back that I holler all the time either. Why am I not this version all the time for my own kids I kept wondering.

The play date Mom is who I want to try harder to be, this Mom is kind and listens and is engaged just a bit more. Oh, I am entitled to my days of hiding in the bathroom too. I just want to try a bit harder you know?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

This makes three

Papoosie Girl has lost another tooth, I know riveting blog reading. I have no idea why I find this so distressing, just as much as the first two. You wait and watch for those first teeth for months. Any cranky behaviour or lost sleep is accredited to those incoming teeth, "it must be her teeth" you exclaim over and over.

Then then get bigger and they fall out. Just like that it is all over. Kind of like childhood. Pardon me while I puddle on the floor.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday Musings - Cue the Loons

We recently spent a week at a cottage in lovely Haliburton. Not the cottage we rented mind you, or so the story goes. Our friends have a cottage, well it is one of their parents, but for the purpose of this story it was theirs. We have been to this cottage many times and have always enjoyed our days of sunning and swimming, Kawartha Dairy ice cream (Moose tracks - yum!), trips to Robinson's and playing games in the evening. We have only been to the cottage twice though since the girls have been born, our trips have dwindled in that way that only small children can induce.

This year our friends mentioned that the cottage next door could be rented if we were interested. We talked about it and despite knowing that this was not a vacation in the sense of a break from the daily grind of cooking and cleaning - we just moved it North, it was a holiday with friends and was too good to pass up. I have such wonderful memories of the cottage we rented for years in Bobcaygeon, I wanted to give that to my girls, despite my horrible selfishness that screamed, "hotel you fool!" Don't get me wrong, I am not a pampered city-girl who is afraid of a little hard work and good old fashioned nature fun. It is just that Hubby and I are very protective of our vacation time, it is our time to be together just us and to really spend time together. For us that usually means being away from home just the four of us. Hubby works extremely long hours which makes my job long too, we feel strongly that our reconnection as a family comes from our vacations, no matter how short, and our ability to get away from the daily grind and unplug ourselves as well. (Stepping down from soapbox now.)

My childish memories of those weeks at the cottage are not marred by the drudgery of packing, cooking, cleaning, sun screening, dressing, undressing, fetching snacks, fetching drinks and rinsing sand off of nether parts. I really wanted my girls to experience a week of being dirty, playing in the sand for hours, wearing mismatched clothes, looking for minnows, making s'mores, playing with their friends and being free of their mother's neurotic tendencies for a few days.

So it was a deal. We contacted the owner of the cottage, an eighty year old lady who told me not to worry there were two fridges - one for the beer. Our phone calls were always lively to say the least and we were excited about having our own space and being able to spend a week with our dear friends, a win-win so to speak. It turned out though that another set of friends were interested in coming up, so now we would be a group of twelve, six adults and six children. More the merrier I thought, knowing we could retreat to our cottage at at he end of the day for a little family time.

In the time between us renting the cottage and our actual trip the cottage was put up for sale. This didn't seem like a big deal at the time and I was really not worried. When we arrived though the cottage was a little more homey than I might have liked and worse the people who had the cottage before us had a large dog. Every possible surface was covered in dog hair and after an hour of three of us vacuuming we gave up trying to get the hair off of everything. I must admit it was not one of my shining moments and in a rapid series of events I phoned not only the owner of the cottage and the real estate agent (a relative of the owner), I got my money fully refunded and we got to keep the cottage for the week on the condition that the agent could bring people by to see the property. Yeah there were tears too. In the end the agent felt it was only fair since not only was the property for sale, we were going to have people coming to see the cottage all week. Not my idea of a relaxing family vacation.

The issue was not the mouse traps everywhere - dozens, it was all the mouse poop and dog hair all of which would send Papoosie Girl into an asthma attack. The slanted floors, rustic decor, plastic curtains and musty smells were quite "cottagey" and that was charming, the rest was just plain scary. Since our other friends were arriving the day day after us we heading to our friend's cottage next door and decided to think about the rest later. I knew that there was no way we could stay in this cottage, we would have to decide what to do, stay or go home.

Later that evening over tea my friend and I went over the sleeping arrangements and after getting agreement from both our husband's to each take a sofa for the week, we managed to find sleeping arrangements for all twelve people under one roof. This is not a huge cottage, but we managed in the end to all be quite comfortable for the week and I am not going to lie - there were some moments when it felt a bit too cozy, but otherwise it was actually fun.

It was work too though, we spent a lot of time prepping, cooking and cleaning up after ourselves. Our cottage had no hot water (the water tanks were in the process of being replaced) so we lugged many baskets of dishes to the cottage next door to wash them. We kept hot water on the stove for washing hands etc., but for the most part we did dishes and bathed next door. Except the for the guys they bathed in the lake most nights. For real! They would all head into the lake as the sun was setting and they would stay out and talk for up to an hour. Maybe for those of you who are more rugged and camp or have your own canoe and stuff this may not be all that novel, I realize that. For me though, bathing in a lake is not an everyday occurrence or even something that remotely appeals to me. I have too many Jaws issues to get into any body of water after dark.

My Hubby was put on breakfast duty three times for his chocolate chip pancakes and custom omelette's. We ate some wonderful food and so much junk and treats (once the kids were in bed) our nightly ritual was to break out the treats an make a pot of tea and pick a game once the kids were settled for the evening. Games of Trivial Pursuit, Scattegories, 20 Questions and Pictionary would make us laugh so hard I would nearly pee my pants.

I felt a little lost though too. I am used to the four of us being together on vacations and doing lots together, well everything together really. Here I could be in the cottage washing dishes while Hubby was with the girls at the beach and I never really felt we were together for any length of time. Does that sound ungrateful? I don't mean to sound like that, we did have fun and the girls had the best time, I personally felt like we were always doing something different. I think we managed to get into the lake at the same time twice. Sometimes in large crowds I find it hard to feel connected even if the people I want to feel connected to are near me.

So how was the week? It was fun and crazy and crowded. We ate, laughed and got to know each other better. I discovered a sweet, funny and smart little boy in my friend's son. A little boy who asked me everyday to catch him a minnow. We had a lovely lunch on the water in Huntsville to celebrate a birthday. We made s'mores around the campfire, my first ever, and I wasn't the only one - it was the first s'more for several of us. We were sandy, sticky, and washed clean in the fresh cottage air. Each night the loons would cry out after the blazing sun would set right over our lake. There was a moment one evening when the kids were asleep and the grown-ups were sitting around the table getting ready for our nightly games, a moment that almost seemed too perfect. Cue the sunset in all it's blazing glory of orange rippling on our lake and cue the loons with their haunting song. I try hard to live and be in the moment, something I rarely achieve, but here for a moment I was in the moment, a moment so perfect it seemed years and years in the making.

We are going away again at the end of the month a seven day road trip across Pennsylvania...with visits to Pittsburgh, Hershey, Easton and the Poconos. More details later on this though. It will be just the four of us and we are so excited about our trip.

It was hard to find pictures without all the other kids in them. Rosebud would actually nap herself and grab her pillow, blanket and "plugs" each afternoon and fall asleep herself on the sofa no matter what was going on in the cottage. The other little napper was faking though and the little guy beside the couch would steal her "plugs" right out of her mouth as soon as she fell asleep! The shot with Rosebud in the air is one of my faves' and yes Daddy would catch her. Papoosie Girl ate three s'mores and begged for another. It really was a good week, Mommy is such a frump!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Time Flies

Time really does fly when you are trying get ahead or say pack for a week at a cottage. As real day -to-day life charges ahead I am trying to pack up our entire house so I can enjoy my relaxing week off week of being a wilderness chambermaid. We are in the process, well mostly I am in the process of getting us ready for a week up North in the lovely Haliburton hills of cottage country.

Note: Not to actual scale, or remotely reminiscent of the cottage I will be actually staying in. I can dream right?

Our friends have a cottage (parents do anyway) and we are renting the cottage next door for the first time. We have never stayed for entire week and this seemed like it would give us a bit of breathing space. As it turns out another couple and their two children are coming up and staying with our friends so their cottage will be pretty cozy.

I have such wonderful memories of going to the cottage as a child. We rented at the same place for years and years in Bobcaygeon and while debating this week up North I kept coming back to my own happy cottage memories. Campfires, walking to town, the little tuck shop and the long freezies, catching my first fish by accident after getting tired of waiting for a fish, I stuck my rod in a crack in the dock and walked away. I came back an hour later to find the smallest Sunfish on my hook. We would play all day while our parents drank big pitchers of Caesar's, I remember barbecuing in the rain and the trips to Fenelon Falls when we were all sick of each other.

So as I look at my front hall and my list and shake my head, I know my girls are going to have a fantastic week. We will relax, not look at the clock, spend time doing nothing, make s'mores around the campfire, play games and make wonderful cottage memories for our girls. To be honest I am not much of a wilderness gal and camping is not my style at all. I just prefer the comforts of indoor plumbing and walls between me and the great outdoors. The cottage is a good compromise between my hotel tendencies and my desire to be at one with nature. I love nature, I love hikes, sunsets, mountains, oceans, all of it. At the end of the day though I love a hot shower and soft bed a bit more I guess. I like having both - call me selfish.

I have not been around much this week (no Monday Musing!) and likely won't be back blogging for a few weeks.

The only thing that makes me more anxious than packing up all this stuff is the idea of unpacking it again in a week.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How life unfolds

It occurred to me the other day that my blog represents or perhaps more than represents; it is documenting how my life is unfolding. My voice booms loud and clear here, even on the days it barely whispers in the real world. Here I am strong, opinionated and occasionally bright and insightful. I don't need to take two Advils here as often as in my real life, but isn't this a part of my real life? I think I need that Advil.

In my real life I do not talk much (hardly at all) about my feelings of grief or loss. Once I write about these feelings they float a little higher from my body, they hurt less. My writing and blog are a wonderful tonic for my less than joyous feelings.

So in addition to the many wonderful bloggers I have met through their blogs and wonderful stories, it has been so helpful to my own story. I have been able to write about feelings that had been bottled up for a long time. To talk about my quirks and beliefs in a place I know I am not judged.

I have done the Meme's and answered all the questions about what blogging means to me and how it all started and I guess what interests me more now is where is it going? How is this going to unfold, or keep unfolding? Am I going to tire of this (I doubt it) or am I going to not be able to think of things to write about?

I find folding laundry a very satisfying job, actually laundry in general is something I kind of enjoy. It is tactile, it is so predictable - starts off dirty and ends up clean. It is something I don't really mind doing. I usually save my laundry folding for evening and fold while watching some bad TV, I figure the productivity of one cancels out the brain numbing effect of the other. The unfolding of life is not nearly as satisfying though sometimes. You plan it all out and make it clean and then poof, someone dumps your nicely folded basket on the floor.

I just took the book out of the library, Stumbling on Happiness, and while I have barely cracked it open I am already thinking about it. Am I strange for thinking laundry can make me happy?

Below is a quote from the review by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of The Tipping Point and Blink.

Stumbling on Happiness is a book about a very simple but powerful idea. What distinguishes us as human beings from other animals is our ability to predict the future--or rather, our interest in predicting the future. We spend a great deal of our waking life imagining what it would be like to be this way or that way, or to do this or that, or taste or buy or experience some state or feeling or thing. We do that for good reasons: it is what allows us to shape our life. And it is by trying to exert some control over our futures that we attempt to be happy. But by any objective measure, we are really bad at that predictive function. We're terrible at knowing how we will feel a day or a month or year from now, and even worse at knowing what will and will not bring us that cherished happiness. Gilbert sets out to figure what that's so: why we are so terrible at something that would seem to be so extraordinarily important?

Clearly finding out not only what makes us happy but, why it makes us happy is important business. I must say my curiosity is peaked and I will probably read this book cover to cover. So far my life is unfolding in way that makes me happy. I have a loving, happy, and healthy family. We have a nice home, jobs, cars, security - all the things we seek out to create our happiness. The book opens with a line about what would you do if you had 10 minutes to live, would you do what you are doing right now? Duh, no I wouldn't, but rarely in life are you faced with such a scenario. You hear of people traveling to special places as their last wish or trying something new, or just spending time with family. Posting a blog entry I doubt it, but does that make the happiness I get from doing this any less valid?

I think things are unfolding just fine, but for good measure I will read the book anyway. You can never have too much happiness.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Monday Musings - Beautiful and Sad

Yesterday was my brother's wedding and it was a wonderful day. The bride was radiant and my brother made a dashing groom. They are a well-matched, lively and creative couple who complement each other in every way. We got rained on, but other than that the day was lovely. The day is still in many ways a jumble of emotions for me. My feelings about my Dad, seeing cousins I had not seen in 11 years, seeing family friends who knew me as a child and now are shocked to see me with children, the fact that my brother thanked every member of the wedding party, the bride's family and his family - but forgot me and my family. The girls felt a little left out too and that hurt more. The bride was busy with all her girls and family members rushing about, we were in the house ages before we were acknowledged. This is the frenzy of getting ready for a wedding, but for my little girls all primped and ready to be oohed and aahed over it was a bit sad. We did eventually get to the see the bride and all was well after a few pictures and minutes posing with the bride.

There was however, no mention in any of the speeches of me, Hubby or the girls. Am I smarting? Yup. Many people noticed and have commented, I mean we sat at the prime table with his Mom and grandparents. I am sure it was not intentional, but I felt so left out. We worked so hard to prepare for this day and prepare the girls. This is still a little raw and I am sure a perspective will be gained further along the way, but my heart broke a bit when he reached the end of his speech and thanked or mentioned everyone else but us. The bride and groom both loved the slide show we put together with all their baby pictures and current pictures set to music, they were both in tears and told us so, and I know they loved it, I really do. I thought they might mention that at least, but no luck.

They both hugged us and told us how happy they were to have us there throughout the night, I know that is really all the thanks I need. I guess that shout-out meant more to me than I thought. Why is it that knowing you are loved and special and valued is so much different than being told so, is that why we blog then - why I blog - to be told over and over that I matter?

Maybe I was expecting too much. I did not have a say in how my family evolved. My parents divorced when I was a child, both remarried, my Mom would remarry for a third time. My father had two more children and while I love them fiercely maybe you cannot forge a bond that just isn't there in that deep, complicated way living together your whole life gives you. After my father died I made a promise to myself to keep the ties strong with my brother, sister and Step-mother. They are a link to him that no one else has with me. They belonged to him just as much as I did. Without him though, we are left to forge and flounder and find a way to remain a family.

Was this most likely a completely unintentional over-sight of the bride and groom during stressed out moments of cobbling together a speech the night before (knowing my brother), yes probably. Do I have any right to feel so sad over this? That remains to be seen. I certainly do not want them to know how I feel, since I think that this is one of those things that looms large in the forefront of your mind and eventually settles a bit further back day by day until you cannot remember why you were so upset in the first place.

I have got myself out of bed to write out elaborate responses to situations only to tear them up upon the light of day, I know this is one of those cases. My heart is hurt - my ego maybe more; and it smarts, it really does. I feel better already sharing this out loud, the words before me make it less so somehow.

And on to the beautiful.

The girls looked liked angels and behaved so well it was actually a very easy day despite the hectic pace and long hours. They walked up the aisle right on cue and sat on the alter steps for the entire 45 minute ceremony, they were so, so good. Many people came up to me throughout the day (and night) to tell me what pleasure they were to be around all day. Most of the other children ran wildly about and while no one seemed to mind, and they didn't disrupt anything really, it was just really clear that our girls were not behaving like the other kids.

This was a bit of a dilemma for me. I often wonder if we are too hard on the girls or if our expectations are too high. The girls did not have one meltdown or tantrum all day, the only hitch was that at some point Rosebud just wasn't interested in smiling for anymore photos so I promised we would go somewhere special as a reward for all her hard work as a flower girl. We are going to the chosen indoor play land tomorrow, a deal is a deal. They ate their meals and were generally such good company I could see a glimpse of the future where our time spent together is less about wrangling the girls and more about being with the girls.

Omaha Mama made some good points on the fine lines and slippery slopes of good behaviour, attentive parenting and kids being kids. This topic makes its round around the blogosphere every so often. I certainly did not tell my girls they could not have fun or run around. I prepared them for the day by explaining the church is God's house just as always and even though it is a fun occasion it is a special day and we must behave like special guests.

During the dinner the DJ had to ask the children tearing around the dance floor to take their seats after several near misses with the servers carrying huge trays of food. Several parents took their kids outside to run in the lobby area, rather than fight them into their chairs. Rosebud eventually fell asleep on my lap and was transferred to her stroller for the remainder of the evening. Papoosie Girl stayed up until 11:30pm dancing with her Dad and three grandmothers, until 11:30pm when she suddenly declared she was tired and needed to go to bed. My sister-in-law took the girls home for us so we could stay a bit later.

We approached the day with the attitude that we would try everything accordingly to the schedule and just see how things went. We started our day at the hair dressers at 7:45am, went to the bride's house for photos, the church, the park for photos, the hall for more photos and the reception. I never imagined it could go this smoothly and I wonder if all the stars and moons aligned for this one perfect day? A day so perfect we keep looking at each other to confirm it really went so well.

Weddings can bring out emotions you forgot were lurking about. Beck blogged about this very thing tonight as well. Seeing family you have not seen in a long time. These people are your flesh and blood, look like you and share a common bond, yet are strangers. You make promises to see each other more often under less orchestrated circumstances knowing that it will not happen, even though you really mean it at the time. I discovered that myself and two of my first cousins gave our children the same middle name, our maiden name in fact. Life goes on and the new family you have created becomes the focus, the object blocking the rest of the view finder.

I know my brother loves me. I know this is and it has it been a complicated and delicate dance of being family and siblings, while never having the opportunity to live together. None of us chose this path, not him, not me and not my sister. We are all family though and will continue to love each other, our captain is gone, but we sail along none-the-less. I wished every Christmas for a brother or sister and was lucky to get one of each.

I truly am grateful to be a part of his special day, he has grown into a wonderful man and his bride is a treasure. It was not a day to be all about me or my feelings and I so get that. You cannot prepare your heart for such day however, it is not quite as tidy as dress fittings or searching for the perfect shoes. So enough whining.

In case I have thoroughly depressed and or bored you with the ticker tape of neurosis that resides in my head, I offer another dose of extreme cuteness. Being flower girls was the thrill of a lifetime for the girls, it really was, and I am so thankful that they were asked.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Baby Story - Baby 1 - Part 2

So where were we...right, it was about 3:30am, I was leaking something pinkish, I am a month away from my due date on December 28, 2000.

While Hubby goes to find the phone number for the hospital I pull out a bag. We have not yet had our appointment where we get all this information in a nice neat package. We called the main line and after some garbled ramblings about being pregnant, a month early and leaking we are transferred to Labour and Delivery. I am told I am probably leaking amniotic fluid and thus my water has indeed broken. They are very concerned about the colour which I assure them is not brown only pinky/red. The nurse checks my file and tells me I am about 3-4 days away from being full-term, therefore I am in preterm labour, which sounds very, very, scary when they tell you this over the phone. The nurse tells us to get to the hospital right away, um can I have a shower I ask? The answer is yes, if I don't dawdle, they would like me at the hospital within the hour.

A shower you might think? A girl has plans for her birth you know? Everything taken care of, shaved, prepped, polished and the like. Let's just say it was a hasty preparation. After my quick shower and blow-dry I get dressed. I am leaking still, but a pad seems to do the job fine for now. Now we need to pack the bag, which Hubby starts while I am in the shower - his biggest worry is the stopwatch.

The stopwatch was prominently featured in our childbirth classes, it was important to time the contractions and keep track of everything. He searched and searched and could not find it, much to his dismay. It meant nothing that I wasn't even having contractions, at best I could be described as slightly crampy or perhaps that was cranky. We manage to pack a bag with my must have item - lip balm, I cannot live without lip balm. I love the stuff. We get downstairs and it is about 4am or so and Hubby stops me in the doorway to take a photo, I even look happy.

As we getting in the car, my seat protected with a green garbage bag - I don't know what I thought would happen on the car ride, Hubby informs me we need gas - we are on empty. Huh?! It is 4am I am in labour or something like it and we need to stop for diesel. And so we did. This made me edgy, didn't Hubby pay attention in class, you must have a full tank of gas at all times!

We parked and found our way up to Labour and Delivery with little fuss, with our bags and pillows in tow. I was put into an assessment room with one other woman who was groaning so loudly. I mentioned to the nurse that the baby had been breech about six days at my last appointment when she could not find the heartbeat where it was supposed to be. Right away, I was taking off my nail polish which I don't normally wear, but had put some on at Christmas. Next I was signing all kinds of forms and the words emergency c-section were said somewhere. While I know I was not panicked there was an intensity to this moment that was very palpable.

You might laugh, but the next thing did was check me, you know down there, internally. It was my first internal examination of my entire pregnancy and after declaring I was, "tighter than a steel drum" and not effaced or thinned out at all, I was sent for an ultrasound to confirm where the baby was heading. I remember telling the doctor I was breech just a few days earlier, let's just say he was not in the mood for my assessment. When he told me the baby was indeed head down I was shocked. I had thought I felt the baby turn, but wasn't really sure. It was such a roller coaster of thinking I might have to have a c-section, being terrified, accepting it, and then going through the process all over again when I realized I was going to be pushing this baby out.

One of the most difficult moments of my entire labour happened during this assessment. The nurse told me that since the baby was preterm he/she would have to stay in the hospital while I went home...that the baby might be sick and would have to stay in the nursery while I went home. I am sure she was just trying to prepare me, but it cast a shadow on the labour that never really lifted. I was scared already and even though my assigned nurse was great and reassured me that the baby was going to be fine, those first words stuck with me.

By about 6am we were settled in our large, pink, room (a sign!) equipped with all the necessities like a big TV. I was told I would have to be put on Pitocin since I was not quite in labour despite my water breaking I was not having any real contractions, it was important to get things moving. They started all the IV's and the massive bruise on my arm lingered for weeks where the nurse could not get it in right.

We were settled, I was feeling fine, no pain yet and the TV was on for Hubby to watch a little news. I waited until about 8:30am to call my Mom (she was working that day) and tell her I was at the hospital, despite me assuring her I was fine she left work and came to the hospital around noon. I had never discussed with Hubby who (if anyone) would be present at the birth of our baby, I think it was just unspoken that it would be us only. I am a very private person, I once yelled at a doctor as a child for lifting up my shirt.

We also phoned my in-laws and my best friend. My best friend (we met in Grade 9 and while very different in personality, love each other like sisters) was home and her Hubby was out skiing with his brother and she decided to come by and arrived around 2pm. Her initial reaction to the call from Hubby was "yeah right" she had seen me the night before at the Nutcracker, she thought it was a was the crepes he told her. In fact, all the phone calls we made to tell people we were having or had the baby were met with similar reactions. Several people flat out didn't believe him at all. I would have to take the phone to make them believe it.

The day passed slowly I remember, but when I think of what I might have done for all those hours I cannot think of a single thing. I was not allowed out the bed since I was on the Pictocin, I did not pack cards or games, I was not allowed to eat anything, I just remember my Mom, Hubby and my friend sitting by the edge of my bed in a very reassuring way. I was mad I couldn't use the tub, I had been imagining my labour taking place in the tub and thought of it as a magical place to labour, I never made it to the tub the second time either. Er.

By early afternoon I was still one centimetre despite the increasing Pitocin coursing through me for hours. I was getting uncomfortable, but was still not in enough pain to get the epidural. My lovely nurse, Caroline kept telling me that Pictocin causes a very intense labour and to not be so stubborn to not say when I might need it. By the time I realized I needed it and could not cope, I was having back labour and contractions minutes apart. They made everyone - including Hubby leave to do the epidural which upset me greatly. It hurt like hell of course, but once it was done I felt a bit better knowing that I would feel better soon. That however, never happened, it did not work as it was supposed to, I could still feel everything. We waited and waited, then they "topped me up" directly into the line. Nothing. My option was to stay as it or try it again. Hubby says he heard me scream done the hall while they pulled it out and did it again. Thankfully, the second time it worked and I was numb in no time.

By about 3pm I was still one centimetre or so and had had a few scary moments when the baby's heartbeat dropped suddenly. Out of nowhere, nurses rushed in and put a mask over my face, furiously checking the papers spewing out of the machines. For most of the day up until that point, my nurse would come and go checking on me and the papers with little fanfare. My nurse kept saying over and over how this must be a boy because she would constantly lose the heartbeat with the fetal belt around my belly. Over and over she would readjust the belt and faithfully the baby would wiggle away. It drove her crazy. Something that drove me crazy was the blood pressure cuff that went off automatically every 15 minutes. In the middle of pushing I demanded it be removed, it was bothering me more than pushing.

When the doctor would check me every few hours it would always be the same, I was getting thinner and the baby was moving down, but I was not dilating. When the heartbeat dropped for the second time they consulted about what to do next. They decided to "Pit past it" which I think meant that if it happened again after increasing the Pictocin one more time I would have to consider a c-section. Thankfully that didn't happen again. I was told at some point that there would be several people in the room for the delivery, the baby would have his/her own nurse and doctor and there was a special warming table moved into the end of my room. I was warned the baby would be taken to the Special Care Nursery for assessment and I may not even get to hold the baby depending on how things were...

By 6pm Hubby was starving so he left to grab some food. I think my Mom and friend did come and go and had grabbed coffees and food at some point. Right after he left the doctor came to check me and I was finally dilated, I was 10 centimetres and there was just a tiny edge left and soon I would be able to push! Uh, where is Hubby? Bring him back now!! My Mom goes to find him and he returns (food uneaten) just as I am giving the nurse a practice push, just to see how I can do it, in her words. What happens next is pretty quick. It is about 6:30pm, I am showing the nurse my great pushing skills when she tells me to stop pushing and I hear the doctor being paged to our room. At some point I am put into the stirrups, they are asking me who is staying in the room - they only wanted two people in the room so my friend leaves, which freaks me out. I don't want anyone to leave me, I want them all there. No dice, so she watches from the hall. My Mom and Hubby are by my side, something I never imagined was having my mother in the delivery room, that is just not me, yet somehow it was exactly as it was meant to be.

I remember demanding the cuff be removed (in the photos though it appears to be still on after the birth so perhaps I only imagined they took it off), I remember the oxygen mask put on my face, and mostly I remember Hubby right in my face talking to me and telling me to listen to him and I remember hearing lots of voices, but it was like they were floating in the air far away from my ears. Between 6:30pm and 7:01pm when Papoosie Girl was born was a blur in a way. I was not trying to push, it was like my body took over, and even though they were telling me to, "blow it away" my body just did what it was supposed to do. Her head was out before the doctor arrived and I think I may have pushed about 6 or 7 times. She came out very quickly, which I paid for in the form of many, many stitches.

Since this was somewhat of a high-risk delivery, we did not cut the cord and she was given to me very briefly. They took her to the end of the room in the warmer and told us she seemed fine and wasn't even that small (she was 6lbs, 7oz's), but they had to take her to the Special Care Nursery for a more thorough assessment. I got to hold her for about a minute and while I sometimes wished for those early bonding moments I really was in no shape for much at that moment. Hubby stayed with me initially while my Mom followed the baby, my friend had immediately bee-lined into the room once the baby was born and took our first photos. I sent Hubby to see the baby and my friend remained by my side during the less than delicate after-birth part of labour.

There was lots of blood, that I remember and the stitches took nearly an hour. My friend held my hand during the entire hour and regaled me with stories about her co-workers to distract me. At one point the doctor asks, "is she a vegetarian?" to which she replied no. The doctor never addressed me directly and was complaining about my poor tissue quality and was wondering if I was a vegetarian, I piped up that I did have low iron and I don't think she answered me. Later when the epidural had worn off and I was literally lifting off the bed, they gave me a shot of local anesthesia - ouch! At some point I asked when this was going to be done, a voice came up from the bottom of the bed, "I will be done when I am done." To be fair this doctor came by room the next day to apologize for being so terse, she told me later that I was so bad she was very worried I might need more than what she could do, she had done over 50 stitches. I was thankful she was so concerned if not personable. I do not know what I would have done if my friend had not been with me, she saved me at that moment.

During our hospital tour we stood outside the door to the Special Care Nursery. I remember kind of zoning out as they talked about the various scenarios for which you might require the nursery. There were pregnant women all around walking, being wheeled, on beds going by, some with babies, some still in labour and I was totally distracted by it all. When were initially told our baby would be going to the nursery I remember thinking I was being punished for not paying closer attention on the tour. Stupid I know, but I felt so guilty about that after delivery that I practically memorized the brochure they gave me.

Hubby gave me a present right after Papoosie Girl was born and off in the nursery with Nana. He had the idea to present me with a special gift right after the birth, a keepsake of this momentous occasion. He forgot the present in our haste to leave the house and had his parents bring it to the hospital, which I found out about much later.

It was a tough delivery in so many ways, but of course it ended with a healthy, beautiful baby girl we loved and loved as if she was always a part of us. She was not allowed to room with me since she was quite jaundice and needed to be hooked up the "Bili" blanket all the time. The SCN staff were wonderful and Papoosie Girl was assigned a nurse every 12 hours and we had complete access whenever we wanted. I could call or visit anytime. It took me until the afternoon before I could walk down there the next day, after sitting on a rubber glove full of ice all night.

She was our special little angel and always managed to get out her hand to put it on her face...she still sleeps like this sometimes.

That is the end of this story. the only other important information and maybe those of you who had babies around the same time have picked up on it. I was planning on taking a one year maternity leave as the legislation was changing from six months to one year at midnight December 31, 2000. At some point during labour we realized I was not going to get the one year leave, it didn't matter when you were due, it mattered when the baby was born. Not a high concern when you are in the middle of labour, but let me tell you I cursed that little monkey quite a bit after. I was three days shy of getting an extra six months of maternity leave. I ended up taking off eight months in total, the last two months with no benefits.

We went home on New Year's Eve 2000 and I remember asking the nurse what would happen if someone was pushing right near midnight? I mean one push either way and you are out six months with your baby! She told me it really would not be a factor, the health of everyone, blah, blah, blah. Let me tell you, I bet a lot of babies were born at 12:01 am that night.

I will take a little birthing break before I recount the one or two paragraphs my planned c-section with Rosebud will take. She deserves her moment though no matter how orchestrated it was. It was still special and all that, just not as riveting. Well, there was the problem of no name up until the night before, that was fun.

I love reading about other birth stories, mostly because mine were so different, none of the hewing and hawing, cursing or hours of pacing and pushing. I guess they are all different no matter which way it goes. A birth is a miracle each and every time. I was so lucky to be in the delivery room for both of my godchildren - the friend who held my hand, her kids. I was able to witness it in such a way that I could never have with my own girls. It was so moving and special to witness a baby coming into this world, such a high I could barely sleep both times. She is pregnant with her third child and if I am invited I will try to be there again. I have no idea if I will make it to the delivery room again, I can't even think about it right now. It makes me too sad to think it is all over.

Tell me your story! Now it is your turn.