To all the firsts

Well, it’s been a long weekend and a lot has happened.

It was our Sophie’s Birthday as you all know, so as I do for all family stuff I made my way back to my sisters.

It took a lot to get there, and anything that could go wrong did; however, I made it. I got to come back and see most of my sisters.

My first sister-selfie!

My first sister-selfie!

(Jacqui, I missed you more than words can describe).

I also got to witness some firsts in our family. Sophie got her first two-wheeler bike (with training wheels) and Lillian got her first tricycle (!) and both were bittersweet.

The bikes!

The bikes!

Well, it is a double-edged sword, moving away. On one hand I get a clean slate in a new town, but I’m far away from my family.

I get to go on a new adventure, but have to sacrifice those precious moments with my family, especially those firsts.

I get to start something new and start a new life with Joe, and have cultivated a new sort of family, but I am missing out on some of the new experiences that come with being an aunt.

The real thing I want to tell you all is that I don’t regret moving away, and yeah it does suck the big one that I am missing moments, but Julia said something to me a couple years ago that stuck with me. She said, “I love that you are one of my girls’ people, but I worry that you aren’t living your own life.”

And it took me a while to realize that I wasn’t. I didn’t date, barely went out with friends, and I was in a slump. I have definitely changed a lot from that moment to now. It did not, whatsoever, have anything to do with hanging out with Julia. Nothing, and I love and cherish every single moment and memory from that time with them. I regret nothing. I was just hiding.

So I stopped. I started dating, eventually found Joe, found some amazing friends that have stuck by me constantly no matter what, and I am working on happiness every day.

I do miss out on some firsts, but then I am experiencing a lot of my own firsts, and there is yet again a bittersweet edge to all of this – I get to have firsts of my own, but I miss out on others.

I am relearning how to keep the balance of family, friends, and love. I am learning new patience with myself while I experience all of this and while it feels like I am on the edge of brand new experiences, I know I still have that anchor of my love for everyone that’s in my life, past and present.

I love you all! Thank you for being my compass, my anchor, an my driving force. And thank you for letting me be able to experience the firsts with all your love and support.

I can’t wait till I am back for the next new experience, but I also can’t wait to tell you guys all about my own next adventure.

~Andreah

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Five-year anniversary

Five years ago today I was on my second day of contractions, wondering at what point I would have my first baby. I had read all the books and taken all the classes, but somehow my baby wasn’t listening to any of the rules. After you have your first baby, you realize there are no rules and that babies run the show.

Her first love, Daddy.

Her first love, Daddy.

My baby, my first baby, is turning five on Wednesday. Five. A whole hand of fingers, a whole half a decade, a whole bunch of moments and memories and tears and nonsense and happiness and terror and pain and love and light. A whole lot of growing. Five.

It marks my five-year anniversary of being a mother.

She, my Sophie, made me a mother.

Her first bath. She hated water.

Her first at-home bath. She hated water.

It was a rough start. There were days (Literally. Four. Not a whole hand, but FOUR days.) of contractions. There were multiple midwife visits, including one where my midwife at the time slept on my couch overnight. She was impressed that there were freshly-baked cookies in the house. I was wondering when the hell my baby would show up.

Not her first (or last) conversation.

Not her first (or last) conversation.

Then there was the drive to the hospital at four in the morning on the day she would be born, the 30th of April. Ben drove through red lights and I was barely aware of where we were. My mom was in the car too. It was her idea to go to the hospital – she didn’t want me screaming and sleeping in the tub anymore (go figure).

Her first (and still) best friend, Elora.

With her first (and still) best friend, Elora.

There was the couple outside the hospital that congratulated us (it was pretty obvious why we were there) as we went in through the ER door. I wanted to punch them. At that point, I didn’t know what they were congratulating us for – so far this motherhood thing sucked.

Too cute. Always.

Too cute. Always.

When we got upstairs to the obstetrics floor, the nurse asked my mom if I wanted an epidural. My mom said, “Ask her.” Love was in short supply between them. The. Whole. Time.

Her first big-sister gig.

Her first big-sister gig.

When I finally got my epidural, and my break from the days-long contractions, I napped. That nap lives forever in my mind as the most blissful because I was by far the most exhausted when I got relief from the pain and was left alone in a quiet room for what seemed like hours.

Her first hair cut.

Her first hair cut.

At 5:00 p.m. my mother-in-law got to leave work ‘early’ on tax deadline day – the first and only one since she became an accountant. She took over for my mom in the delivery room because my mom wanted to kill the nurses (difference of opinion would have been an improvement on the situation). Thus began the insane intimacy I have with my mother-in-law.

Her first of many crowns.

Her first of many crowns.

At 6:00 p.m. I was finally fully dilated with my rule-breaking baby. And I was ‘allowed’ to push. Woohoo. My mother-in-law held one of my legs in the air while I did so. Yes I pooped. Yes I pushed. Yes she was there the whole time. Yup.

Still her first love.

Still her first love.

At 8:00 p.m. I was told that Sophie’s heart rate was dropping during contractions and that I had a fever. That if those things weren’t true, they’d ‘let’ me push for another hour. How nice. The obstetrician strongly suggested a C-section. All I heard was, You get more drugs! I said yes.

Do you want to build a snowman?

Do you want to build a snowman?

We were then told that some poor man fell from scaffolding twenty-feet high and that the anesthesiologist was busy in an operation with him. I was told we were waiting and that I wasn’t allowed to push anymore through my contractions. *sob*

She's only a little crazy.

She’s only a little crazy.

Finally, blissfully, I got to the operating room, I got my more drugs, and my baby was born at 8:50 p.m. They said what it was, but I couldn’t hear them. I asked my anesthesiologist (the one I took away from dinner, I was told) what it was and he said, What do you think? I think people in the hospital were begging for punches that night. He told me a girl after I refused to answer him.

Her first wheels.

Her first wheels.

A girl.

My girl.

Her first day of school.

Her first day of school.

Ben got to go with her to get cleaned up, go with her to meet the family and tell them we had a Sophie, go be her person first while I was getting sewn up. It’s a privilege I never got with my babies. I was never the first to hold them, or carry them, but that’s okay. I was the first to feel them, the first one to hang out with them, and the first one they heard. I was that first.

Feeding her baby.

Feeding her baby.

And she was mine.

Second-gig as big sister.

Second-gig as big sister.

Happy, happy, happy fifth, my beautiful first. Happy, happy fifth to us.

All grown up.

All grown up.

Love, Mama

~ Julia

Three years and countless battles

Three years ago, I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant with a stubborn, stubborn baby who refused to come out. And if you think for one moment that that 1 day is insignificant, you have never been pregnant.

Her name is Lillian. And three years ago on this day she was born.

She was high up in my rib cage, far away from any exit strategy, and had made zero progress or move to come out. She was happy in there. Coming out was not her idea. And therefore, she would not participate or help in any way. This should have been a sign of things to come.

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Lillian has always forged her own way, doing things in her time on her schedule according to her plan. Always.

The doctor who performed the C-section to get her out of my belly said she had never seen a baby who was so overdue that high up before. She literally had to reach up into me to pull her out. After hanging out with Lillian for three years, I’m not surprised in the least that was the case.

She had a striking white patch in her black, black hair, just like her daddy. We knew this meant she had been born with the same genetic disorder Ben has. It was the talk of the nurses in the delivery room, our family, and anyone who met her. All I knew was all that hair was the cause for all of my heartburn during my pregnancy with her.

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She needed hearing aids and got them when she was just four months old. We were so new at the whole baby-with-hearing-aids thing that we had to be told by the audiologists that we shouldn’t let her have them in while we were driving because she’d probably eat them. They were right. She did.

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She also took them off and threw them, hid them, chewed them, lost them, delivered them to us, and generally gave us countless panic attacks around them (you try putting thousands of dollars of equipment in a baby’s ears and you tell me how calm you are).

She also rocked them. They were pink and she was and still is a rock star at every appointment, sitting still while molds are formed, while tests are run, while tubes are cut and while adjustments are made.

And she used them as an act of defiance when she was mad at us, looking us straight in the eyes while pulling them out and throwing them. Luckily they were attached by a cord and for a while tucked under a cap that made her look like she was a 1920’s bather or an old-school pilot, but still no one could lose her ‘ears’ like Lillian could.

Lillian was a candidate for a cochlear implant, giving her the potential to have near perfect hearing. Since she was completely deaf in her right ear and had a mild loss of hearing in her left ear, this was miraculous. It has since proved to be just that.

During the operation she was amazing, even collecting a Dr. Seuss as her anesthesiologist (at a children’s hospital! Seriously!). But afterwards she was true to form, pulling out three different IVs. And while I would have milked that operation for all it was worth, she was up and bouncing around like her normal self in no time afterwards.

Lillian has always been her own person, quiet and reserved in a new place, loud and rambunctious where she feels safe. Roaring like a tiger or ARGHing like a pirate at the top of her lungs. Lauding every fart or burp that comes out of her little body or anyone else’s for that matter. Reveling in chaos yet thriving in comfortable situations. Refusing to smile for posed pictures but cackling for anyone’s phone camera.

She is the buttliest of butts and I mean that in the nicest, kindest, most loving way possible. She has taught me the art of negotiation, the art of patience, the art of snuggling on the couch until she can’t sit still anymore. She has taught me that bravery often comes in the smallest of packages and that even though she was handed an extraordinary set of circumstances she is a completely normal kid.

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Today is her day and I’m so glad she is mine. Ours. In our family and in our lives.

Happy happy birthday, Lillian!

Love, Mama (a.k.a. Julia)

25 Before 25

When I turned 20, I had plans for myself – that by the age of 25 I would be married with at least one baby! To some this may be absolutely insane, but for me it is all I have ever wanted in life. I did not dream of becoming something more than a mother and a wife; the job portion was back burner. I went to high school and then after I went to college, but during the entire time when people were planning their careers, I was falling in love. I could not tell you why I wanted this for myself, and it’s funny how plans never go as planned.

Instead of babies and a marriage, Cody and I have bought our house, welcomed two of my nieces and my nephew into this world, and said goodbye to a niece/nephew. I have congratulated Toni on her engagement, I said goodbye to Dee when she embarked on her journey. Our family grew in numbers, grew in love and grew closer together, closer than I ever imagined our family would be.

This year I will be turning 25, and I have decided lovely readers, friends, family and blog browsers, to make a list. A list of 25 things to do before 25! Sorry to disappoint, but it is not the bungee-jumping list.

The list

1. Walk more to explore than as a means of transportation. A good friend once told me that walking made him look at our sleepy little town in a different way! So that’s what I plan to do, with my pups by my side.

2. Grow a garden. Please take note I did not add “vegetable” into that line. If you ask Cody, he will roll his eyes at this one because I have attempted this before…and horribly failed. But I think I went too big too soon. This time smaller scale for a bigger impact!

3. PLAN MY WEDDING. I’m a horrible procrastinator.

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4. Try to cook with a new food. I love to cook, but find myself never straying far from my comfort zone.

5. Try not to sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. 

6. (Jeeeeze I have to make 25 of these!) Enjoy this summer!

7. Go canoeing this summer.

8. Hike with my sisters. (They don’t know yet that they are involved HA)

9. Be more involved with my nieces and nephews. I am insanely jealous of the time Toni is spending with them. And although it is for a particular reason, I can not help but have the green monster sneak up on my shoulder when she talks about her time with them.

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10. Sleep more. This one is really simple. And it’s just because I want to!

11. Work harder, but work less.

12. Walk my dogs more… Regardless of the season.

13. Try to get Cody out of the house more.

14. Dance till the morning sun comes up.

15. Drink more wine! I’m Portuguese. This is supposed to be in my blood.

16. Spend more time with Cody ‘s family. His grandma is such an amazing and strong lady! You can see so much of her in Cody’s dad and his siblings.

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17. Try to keep up with the house cleaning/laundry. As I am writing this there is a mountain of laundry to fold…I am a bad housewife.

18. Spend more time with my Dad, apart from the family occasions – more just-because time.

19. Learn more about mine and Cody’s family trees. The way-back years. We started to do this with Ancestory.com, and WOW. The things we have discovered (for a future post to come).

20. Get organized. This originally was written as more organized but let’s be honest…just organized would be great.

21. Welcome the Stuehler Baby into the world. (Love you Ashley.)

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22. Listen. I am a talker, and I find myself wanting to start talking over people during conversations. So I want to listen more and talk less (I am already setting myself up for disaster!).

23. Have more momma and me moments. At this point she is working her a$$ off for her CGA, but there will be times between courses that this can happen.

24. Reach my fitness goal!

25. BE HAPPY! Find the silver lining in every day.

So there is my list – some of them are cheaters, but I am feeling pretty confident that I can get this list done, and if not then there are always New Year’s resolutions!

~ Jacqui

Reflecting: 27’s lessons

Last week, I did something I have been wanting to do and have been anxiously anticipating for a very, very long time.

I turned 28.

Celebrating at Dad's with my nephew

Celebrating at Dad’s with my nephew

The way I look at it, getting older (not old), aging (gracefully, of course), and taking another trip around the sun are the blessings of another year of opportunity for growth and nothing to be worried or stressed out about. I look forward to my birthdays more now than I did when I was younger and as cheesy as it sounds, I am truly finding that life – and myself in a way – keeps getting better with every kilometer in said yearly trip.

There are many things that I have learned, gained and experienced in my preceding years that I am thankful for, struggled through, fought hard for and am blessed to have. Some of the challenges brought by my 27th year in particular could safely categorize it as a hard one and definitely not one of my favourites, but there were SO many amazing highlights, people added, friendships improved, and forgiveness granted that I can’t bring myself to curse 27 for any of the bruises as a result of the hiccups.

I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion that there is a direct correlation between the toughness of the year and the quality of the lessons to be learned when you’re looking for them. That being said, 27 abundantly blessed me with a few, very specific lessons, arming me with some pretty kick-ass knowledge for 28 and the next chapter of my life:

  • Come clean when you mess up. You’ll be surprised how much forgiveness the hearts that love you are capable of granting. Even more amazing, is that when someone overlooks your shortcomings, it teaches you a lesson in humility to apply when other people mess up with you.
  • Stay open. Stay open to new experiences, relationships, people that come into (and depart from) your life, career opportunities (no matter how they turn out…), lessons about God/the type of faith you are capable of, and the continuous exploration, play, and being in the ‘now’. Stay open to it all.
  • Be grateful. No matter what was experienced in this past year, if I took a step back to reflect, in every disappointment there absolutely was always something to be grateful for. Sometimes the gratefulness is harder to maintain if a few heartaches pile on all at once; however gratitude is necessary to keep perspective when it gets overwhelming. If anything has saved my ass and sanity, this lesson would be it.
  • Quality wins over quantity. Every time. This goes for the friendships/relationships you choose to have, to the food you eat and fuel your body with, the encounters and moments you have with the people that matter most to you, right down to your workouts, fitness and health. I have become hyper aware of this quality lately in one friendship in particular – it doesn’t matter if we see each other for 5 minutes, or 5 hours, if we see each other once a week, or once in 105 days – every hang out leaves my heart full and looking forward to the next time our crazy lives allow us time to get together. Regardless of whether we’re just going along for the drive to keep each other company, or laughing and talking about all of life’s adventures over drinks – it’s all about the quality and it leaves me wanting the same in every aspect of my life. This is one of my favourite lessons of 27.

I am so excited for 28 and 2014 as a whole. In our inner circle it has appropriately been coined ‘the year of love’ – totally fitting in so many ways. Babies, weddings, celebrations galore!

My man surprised me with suite tickets to the Toronto Raptors game!

My man surprised me with suite tickets to the Toronto Raptors game!

I had an incredible birthday this year and am looking forward to a killer 28! Cheers to the year of love!

~ Toni