Tuesday, September 28, 2010

And then God said "Rest"

What a weekend it was.  A 13 hour round trip with a 15 year old and 9 year old to attend the funeral of a loved one and celebrate her life.  It was wonderful and tragic and beautiful and exhausting.  Throw into the mix some extensive teenage angst, news that our first home that we bought 14 years ago in a tiny community with a depressed economy is now worth SIXTY thousand dollars less than what we paid for it, and by the way the roof is leaking and our long time renters are moving out.  And did you know they were hoarders?  No.  Neither did I.  But our Realtor was happy to let us know right before he suggested that we consider just letting the bank take it over because selling it is going to be expensive.  And right, we still owe HOW MUCH?  I am not sure they let you carry a mortgage when you no longer own the home. 

In other words I was fairly stressed. And then I got sick.

Yesterday I ended up in the hospital and was admitted for an overnight stay.  5 doses of morphine later, an embarrassing episode of explosive vomiting on an X-Ray tech and too many IV meds to count, I am feeling better.  And still without diagnosis but lots of specialist appointments in my future.  Fun. Fun.

I hate morphine.  It knocks me flat, runs me over and leaves me for dead for about 24 hours.  I think that was what the doctors had in mind when they gave it to me.  Apparently I need to take a nap.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Cousins I Love

I have talked alot on here about my Maternal relatives mostly because in recent memory, they were my predominate responsibility.  My immediate family on my Maternal side was small and intimate, my immediate family on my Paternal side was large and boisterous.  As death and age struck us, our numbers on the Maternal side grew smaller and my direct responsibilities grew larger and thus more dominate in my ramblings on here. 

Where as on my Maternal side my grandmother modeled a life of minimalism and piety with evening "parties" that consisted of the tiniest glasses of juice and a single chocolate bar cut into pieces to be shared quietly between three of us, my Paternal side brings back memories of a smoke filled kitchen, too many cousins to count and much laughter and shouts across the room in alternating English and French with a whole lot of Labbats thrown into the mix. 

With my parents' separation and divorce, and the raw and misunderstood emotions of a teenager in the middle, and the plentiful excuse of my own young marriage and babies, my attachment to that large side of my family loosened.  Add distance, and many of the cousins doing the same thing as we reached out and branched out creating our own families, and there was a raw and empty space where that side of my family had once been.

What I began to realize though was that the legacy of my Paternal side of my family never left me and I felt it every day.   Whereas my much loved Maternal side epitomized most facets of  the fun in dysfunctional, my Paternal Grandparents celebrate a marriage of near seventy years.  On their 60Th wedding anniversary, my grandmother turned to me and said "Jennifer, you will make 60 years too".  Her blessing rang in my ears constantly when Shel and I faced troubled times in the years following.  They raised 6 children through war, through polio, through many hard times and through it all they clung to each other, their family and their faith.  In so many ways I am who I am because of their example.  All of us cousins are.

And now we cousins who were once relegated to the kids' table on our grandparent' porch are all 30 and 40 years old and parenting our own bunches of children.  Through the miracle that is facebook and email we are now granted glimpses into each other's lives.   This past summer my cousin Carol called us together for an impromptu Cousin Reunion.  Not all came, in fact it was only a small fraction that could, but it was wonderful and affirming and most importantly so obvious that the love and connections that had been nurtured as children had stood the test of time.

This weekend we will come together once more.  My grandparents face the impossible task of burying one of their daughters, my cousins' mother and my Aunty, Viv, who passed away last week.  No doubt, we will mourn this first loss from our immediate circle with tears but also we will celebrate who we are.  We are family.  We are large in numbers and stronger because of each other.  We will laugh together, we will cry together, we will pray together and we will drink together of the lives we have shared. 

I am proud to be one of them and I am proud to enfold my children into this incredible legacy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to Ruin Your Teenagers' Lives in 5 Easy Steps

Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart.  Or the sensitive.  Or the weak.  But apparently I have discovered easy steps into the Sacred Circle of Moms Who Ruin Their Kids Lives.  Just ask my 15 year old.

So, follow these easy steps and you too can join me:

#1)  Be elected to the Parent's Advisory Council of your teenagers' high school.  As a duty of being a PAC Board Member agree to be the chaperon at every school dance this entire year.   Make sure to share this with your children while giggling madly at their good fortune of always having a ride to and from the dance now.

#2) Accept the Facebook friend request from your son's girlfriend.  Then chat with her regularly when he is in the room but not allowed on the computer.    Make sure you share cute anecdotal stories of his early childhood. 

#3) Remind your child that you knew his girlfriend's mother back when he was not their daughter's boyfriend and her phone number is still in your contact list.  Then  (this is KEY!)  dial it and leave the room where your child is situated to have a talk privately with said girlfriend's mother.  Make sure this child can only hear laughter and not conversation content. 

#4)  Key to being an absolute Life Ruiner is ensuring that your child is the only teenager on the planet without a cell phone until they can pay for it themselves.  It helps to prove your indifference to their suffering if you offer your own pink phone for their usage whenever a cell phone is needed. 

#5)  Not only obtain your teens' teachers' email addresses but utilize them regularly.  It is icing on the cake if you personally know their Principal and have socialized with him and his family for several years.  There is nothing more embarrassing than your Mother addressing your Principal by his first name, and your Principal knowing your Mother's name too!  Ensure that your teenagers peers SEE that you are interacting at the school.

It's quite possible I am the worst mother in the world.  I just thought you all should know.

At least I was until I showed up with McDonald's for lunch today.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice

I, like many other little girls, grew of with a fantasy of one day becoming a mommy myself.  That fantasy played out with my dolls who were all, without fail, girls.  I had a sister, and on one side of my family only female cousins.  I envisioned my future of daughters and tea parties and party dresses.

Then along came Son #1 whom I was positive was a girl until he was about 6 minutes old and the doctor told me AGAIN that he was a boy.  A BOY?  How had I ever had a boy?  But I had and he was perfectly amazing. Apparently I would have a son.

A few months later we started the adoption process.  Our homestudy said we were open to any gender, but secretly I believed that if we were adopting two children at once, chances were at least ONE of them would be a girl.  And 18 months later Greg and Eric, two definite boys joined our family.  And they were perfectly amazing.  Apparently I would have 3 sons.

9 months later I discovered I was pregnant.  "God knew how much I always dreamed of a daughter" I thought, "and THIS is how she will arrive".   37 weeks after conception, son #4, our precious Caden arrived. 

I was the mother of 4 sons.  And we were DONE.  Well Shel was D-O-N-E and I figured I couldn't sneak more kids past him. 

I loved being a mother of sons.  I loved how they played together and loved how they all fell in love with their mommy.  I loved the wrestling and the noise and the hockey practices and even the dirt and farts and all the rough and tumble  that goes with a house full of boys.  I loved it more than I had even dreamed possible. 

But that secret part of my heart missed that little girl.  And I begged God to take away my desire for a daughter because it hurt too much.  I knew we were done.  I dared dream when Jazzy was in our family, but in the end losing her hurt even more because I had dared to dream of tea parties and weddings and playing with make up and a future with a little girl, and then one day she was just gone and I was again daughterless.

I did not WANT to want a daughter.  I did not want to feel that ache and that absence.  I prayed, I cried, I tried desperately to "get over it".  We weren't adopting again.  We weren't fostering again.  We most certainly not having another biological baby again.  I was the very proud mother of four sons, and had been the "for a while" mom of a daughter that was gone.  I wanted, desperately, for that to be enough.

And along came the girls who became my daughters.  Unexpected. Unplanned.  And a far greater blessing than I had ever even dared to dream of.  TWO daughters.  Two.

Raising babies is raising babies.  Girls pee and poop and need clean clothes and want breakfast and supper just like boys do.  They play and are noisy and break my things and throw up in the car and spill their milk just like boys do. 

And there are moments that take my breath away that are possibly more precious now than I would have ever known if my heart's desire had been granted back when I thought it should be.  Like putting a ribbon in a pony tail on a Sunday Morning.  Smoothing lip gloss on pursed upturned lips who want to be just like mommy.  Painting toe nails and lacy tights.  The little things that add up to a full heart.

And then there are the big things.  The dreams I never dared speak out loud because to hear them fall on deaf ears would hurt more than having never spoken them.  I was married in a (circa 1994) wedding dress.  Large, fluffy, long and to me, at that moment, the fulfillment of all my little girl, teenage obsessed wedding fantasies. 

After my honeymoon as I wrapped the dress up to put away I knew that one day I would turn my wedding dress into Baptismal dresses for my future soon-to-be daughters.  And it never happened.  The dress was sent away to be locked into a basement closet at my father's house.  Once every few years I would peek at it and touch the tulle and satin and remember that dream.  And then I would pack it away and the dream with it.

In a few weeks we will stand as a family before God,  friends and family and we will acknowledge our responsibility to raise the girls to the best of our ability.  And I will remember the cries of my heart and rejoice. 

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” 1 John 5:14

I do not believe that the girls, or their family of birth, or our family, went through the losses we all did in order to become a family because I had a desire for daughters that God intended to fill, but I do believe that out of the ashes of addiction and loss and pain and suffering, great joy has come.  And I will celebrate that joy without reservation.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seventeen going on Thirty

I have disappeared into a potty training, hockey mom black hole of hell.  The day after my last post, Shel, my beloved (and helpful) husband left town for the weekend.  A weekend that included 9 hockey games, 2 birthday parties, running the church nursery and a potty training two year old. 

He came home to a wife on the brink of a nervous breakdown.  And the next day my 17 month old decided - in fact demanded - to be potty trained.  In case you wondered potty training a toddler and then potty training a SECOND toddler is not nearly as fun as it sounds.  

The next week is a blur of pee and panties, potties and laundry. Blogging for adult readers seemed an impossible mental feat.

And then Jayde started climbing out of her crib. 


So in the course of one week my BABY.  My seventeen month old INFANT potty trained herself, moved to a bed and gave her mother a nervous breakdown.

Oh and did I mention the 3 teenagers and 2 toddlers, and the thankfully easy tween?  I won't even MENTION the 2 Jack Russells in this post and the case of the fence climbing, neighbour annoying,  escape artist mutt who is supposed to be healing up her leg.

These are my days on an endless repeating tape.  I put the pee soaked laundry on, the girls get into three boxes of Jello powder.  Did you know that turns into a sticky mess when combined with baby tongues and a linoleum floor?  So as I gather the Jello covered dishes and load up the sink.  I turn to wipe up the floor, or answer the phone, or you know go pee MYSELF.

This, or some version like this,  is what I come back to.  Fully clothed IN THE SINK. 

And in between all of that the girls started their Strong Start Pre-School program, the boys started Rep Hockey, Caden and the girls both started gymnastics, there was a Grade 8 parent night, a Sunday School meeting, my mother came for a visit, Greg coached a power skating school and I took 2 babies to the potty ninety seven thousand times.

Life is back in full swing.  I promise to be a better blogger this week. 

If I don't strangle myself with toilet paper first.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Twenty Seven Years of First Days

There are many good things about parenting children in groups.  First, I get a second chance to do everything "right" (or at least better) that I messed up on with the first batch of kids.  Second, the older kids learn alot by having younger siblings and having teens hanging around happy to babysit is also a big bonus.  I am a wiser and less nervous parent this time and much more appreciative of the speed in which parenting happens.  So, that's the good stuff. 

There are also some negatives.

Not the least of which is the realization that by the time my youngest child graduates high school I will have had twenty-seven STRAIGHT years of "First Days" of school.   Yes you read that right.  My oldest started kindergarten in 2000 and my youngest will graduate in 2027.   Coincidentally I was also 27 when my oldest started first grade and I will be 41 when my youngest does.  I will be 39 when my oldest graduates high school and I will be simply O-L-D when my youngest does.  As in, I haven't done the math and am really sure I don't want to. 

Without further whining on my part, here are my children on their respective First Days - Year 11.

This is Greg.  15 and heading into Grade 10.  Also quite possibly his last year at home due to hockey.  No, we aren't going to talk about this because I will cry.  And no, apparently I am not allowed to be his roommate.  And yes, I asked.  By the way this IS smiling for the camera when you are 15.  Remember 14?

This is Eric.  14 and heading into Grade 9.  We have found his niche with the school he attends and he is thriving.  Well at least on day 1.  Ask me again in 6 weeks.   He was far more worried about Rep Hockey Team tryouts than he was his first day of school, which is a very good thing! 

This is Tanner.  Almost 13 and in Grade 8.  From a small elementary school to a high school with over 900 kids, letting this one head off has been HARD on me.  As you can see, he is growing like a weed upwards, but still disappears when he turns sideways.  For perspective - go look at the little boy he was on his first day of grade 7.  TRUST ME the growth in this kid is shocking.

My wee one, Caden is 9 and in grade 4.  A new "guy" teacher this year has him nervous and excited.  He is still my cuddler, my son happy to hug me in front of his friends and usually has a smile on his face.

And not to be out done.  Here are the two that will make me feel old and keep me being young. 

Miss Taya is wearing Big Girl Panties now that are mostly dry.  Mostly.  She is not quite two and a half but thinks she is 15.  Make sure someone checks in on me when she is really fifteen because this one knows what she wants and how she is going to get there, and she keeps up hopping!

By the way that is Annie in the background.  Our completely, totally fine Annie. 
We are SO thankful for sedatives that kept her resting!

Miss Chunk Of Love Jayde is 18 months and demanding to be potty trained along with big sis and mom is demanding she stay in diapers. I already have two dogs and one toddler peeing on my carpet THIS one can wait a while.  And yes, this is the best picture I could get of her this morning.  There are far more interesting things to do than stay still and actually look at the camera!  And see?  She has HAIR in PONY TAILS.  My baby is growing up!

Just think, only sixteen more years to go. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Omitted from Our Homestudy: Motherhood Failures 101

We all know I am not the baker my grandmothers were.  In fact, I am not even the baker my mother is, and trust me, that isn't saying much.  What follows here is a true account of my baking adventures yesterday.

It was a cold and rainy Labor Day.  I awoke with the scent of Ethiopian coffee wafting through the house, and my husband up before me to juggle the babies.  All of this combined to apparently intoxicate me or, more likely,  strike me with amnesia.  I apparently forgot that not only do I not enjoy baking, I am really, really terrible at it.   All I could think was that it would a lovely idea for me to send my children off on their first day of school with homemade baked goods.  You know, so all the other kids would know my kids were loved and had a GOOD domesticated mother, unlike the non-baking slightly messy mother I actually am.

I found myself googling "Best-Ever Brownie" recipes and found one with basic ingredients and easy steps. 

This was the beginning of the end. 

First, the recipe called for 2/3 cup of cocoa.  I only had 1/3 of a cup, but I did have 4 squares of bakers chocolate so I figured that I could combine them, right?   That should equal about 2/3 cup of cocoa and heck, MORE chocolaty brownies can't be a BAD thing. 

Then the recipe called for 4 eggs and I only had 3, but at the same time I noticed that, Taya dumped the bottom third of my cup of coffee into the batter, so I figured that was about equal to the liquid of an extra egg, so it should work out fine. 

Jayde was beating on my legs asking for breakfast so when I reached into the fridge to grab her a snack I realized that I had a package of cream cheese that really needed to be used.  Cream cheese kind of goes with brownies, doesn't it?  I mean the recipe didn't even call for milk, and extra creamy brownies SOUND delicious.  So I kind of maybe chopped up half a package of cream cheese and threw it in.  I figured half a package can't make that much of a difference.

After breaking up the dogs having a fight, and quickly checking my email  I couldn't find the half teaspoon measure for the baking powder, or was it baking soda?  I forgot to check.  Honestly, whoever it was that gave them such similar names should really be shot.   I figured that eyeballing it in my hand should be a reasonable approximation. Oh and I did the same for the salt, right after I picked up the juice Jayde had taken out of the fridge. 

Right around here, Taya peed on the floor. 

I didn't have any walnuts, but the kids don't even like nuts, so I could cross that part of the recipe off completely.  Of course, the recipe called for a 9X13 pan.   I am not sure I even own a 9X13 pan anymore.  I faintly remember Tanner dropping something in the sink last year and breaking it so I took the next closest.  12X12 or maybe that is a 10X15 is close enough.  I mean, who keeps a measuring tape in their KITCHEN?  Not me. I got Taya's hair untangled from the blender before I put the brownies in the oven.

The oven was heating nicely at 350.  Well it was until the baby turned it up to broil, but what's another 150 degrees when you are baking?  I turned it down as soon as I noticed. 

They were supposed to be in the oven half an hour, but at half an hour the laundry needed to be changed over and I realized that Eric had left our freezer door open in the laundry room and I had to wipe up some water on the floor.  Shortly after that I remembered I was baking.

And they were eaten. 

Honestly, I consider it nothing short of a Labour Day Miracle.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Summer is over.

And this pretty much sums up how we all feel.