Third annual trimming of ye ol’ Christmas tree

On Saturday we celebrated Julia with some of her close friends. While we were sitting at the table, telling stories of the past, I observed Julia’s right ring finger. Placed there was a ring that our grandmother had passed down to her on her 30th birthday. This is a tradition she had with every grandchild – when they were born, she purchased a ring with their birthstone. It’s these traditions that make me want to make my own, our family’s own, as the years go on.

Since Cody and I have had our own house, the first weekend of December is always our time to get our tree. And for three years, my family has graciously, loudly and boisterously agreed to start a new tradition of trimming my tree, a tradition that will be continued throughout the years!

As my house started to fill with people, babies, and the delicious smell of breakfast, our chosen meal, it started to feel more and more like Christmas.

The first event of the day was the building of gingerbread houses! Two were purchased: one Frozen themed and the other just no-name. Julia and I set in for some intense construction; however,  what we found was a little disheartening.

We began to build Anna and Elsa’s castle and it was…how do I say this delicately…well, you are literally paying for ONLY the tiny cardboard cut out of the Frozen characters. Serves us right. The Our Compliments house was larger, with more candy AND the icing was superior…Julia even had to rebuild some of their Frozen castle with the Our Compliments icing to make sure that Santa’s sleigh didn’t fall apart. Seriously Disney…things have gone down hill since Walt was around!

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Sneaky mister WALKING around ūüôā

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If you ask me, I think they look pretty amazing don’t you? I especially like the red snow on the rooftops, which Lillian¬†put on herself…after getting it all over the table. ¬†As you can see, the larger more traditional looking one is the Our Compliments, where as the two dimensional church is the Frozen one. Either way, the girls LOVED it! A success for Uncle Cody who purchased the houses!

Earlier in the day I had run some errands, as I wanted to add a little country to our tree. What better to do so than BURLAP ribbon? While I was out, I also found this great wrapping paper, so when all the presents are under the tree, our country Christmas will be complete!

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Can you see the mooses… the meeses?

After a quick walk around the pond (literally, we went for a little walk to get some of the sugar worked off that the girls snuck during our the building process), it was time to decorate the tree. Sophie was quick to gravitate to everything sparkly, whereas Lillian simply focused on creating clusters of balls on one side of the tree. Since they are still horizontally challenged, the rest of us had to fill in the top area. My tree is still a little lopsided, but that’s the fun of it!

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After all the lovely decorating, and trimming of the tree, we worked up quite an appetite, thus off to to the kitchen to make a fine feast! Julia made a delicious French toast casserole, I made home fries, Toni brought the bacon, the orange juice and the champagne, and mom brought the sausage!  YUM YUM YUM!

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The third annual trimming of the Christmas Tree was a success! Although we were missing an integral part of our  sisterhood, Andreah, due to a tire mishap the kick-off to the Christmas Season has begun!

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From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

~ Jacqui

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I just don’t understand

With the approaching Friday being celebrated as Halloween, it’s no wonder I find myself shielding my eyes and gasping in horror at an increased rate of gory and demonic movie previews, advertisements for terrifying haunted hayrides and even crazier haunted houses.

I just don’t understand.

Michael often tries to chide me into going to see the latest scary movie in a theater full of people where I cannot nonchalantly remove myself (multiple times) if I can’t handle it, or drag me to Canada’s Wonderland to voluntarily put myself in an uncomfortable state of panic by having strangers chase me around in a dimly – if at all – lit, scary-ass house/structure. It doesn’t fly. Ever.

It’s because I just don’t understand.

And don’t get me wrong, I get the appeal of being a little on edge and have yourself feel a little vulnerable…a LITTLE. I have even attempted to watch my fair share of scary movies. I either end up seeking refuge in a pillow or burrowing my head behind Michael. I have even left the room and refused to come back until the movie was turned off. I have requested multiple lights to be turned back on in the house. I especially cannot handle movies involving possession, demons or spirits. Just no.

Can’t do it. Nu-uh. No way. Because WHY?!

And I won't finish it.

And I won’t finish it.

I have even attempted and COMPLETED a haunted hay ride and maze. At night.

It turned out for me just about the same way it did for Andy and Amy when Ellen sent them through their first haunted house together:

I swore a little bit more. Okay, a lot more. And I may have been slightly impaired, but just a teensy bit. For real, just a teensy bit.

I feel the same way about these activities and this time of year in general, as I do about roller coasters.

I have completed what I feel is a good sample set of them and have determined I do not enjoy the feeling of anxiety and increased level of stress due to holding on, literally, for my life that is accompanied with the ride. Add in the long lines, usually in the sweltering heat, and the adrenaline crash I without fail will endure at the end of said rides – after any high stress altercation, really – and it just doesn’t seem enjoyable or worth it to me. What is the point?

I just don’t understand.

Maybe my feelings about the eerie, chilling things of this season stem back to the sisterhood’s upbringing – where things of this nature were not really present or welcome in our home. A home where Halloween was not celebrated or noted – it was just another day. It could be because we were raised to understand and respect the worlds beyond the physical, to not egg them on, tease or tempt them. These things I do understand.

It could be all of these things and more.

Or it could be that I just don’t understand.

~ Toni

Thankful changes

This year has been insane.

It has been full of changes and new beginnings, scary and exciting.

It has also been a year of finding the things to be thankful in times of darkness, and in times of turmoil.

I am thankful for so much, and sad about so much that it leaves me boggled, but this post going to be about the former.

Love and friendships
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I have found so many new people to love.

We found a new family at the shop, I have grown closer to Joe’s aunts and Grandpa, and made new friends. I have solidified old friendships, and all existing relationships are stronger than ever. I am so thankful for every one, and trust me the list is long.¬†I have had so much support and love from so many different people that it’s hard to actually express how thankful I truly am for them and what have done for us.

Sisters

And I get to have my sisters there at my back! So lucky!

And I get to have my sisters there at my back! So lucky!

We haven’t always been close, but because of the distance, and missing them, I have been able to grow up a lot, and to learn who they are and what it really means to have sisters. I have, in the past, kept them at arms length, and I am so thankful and so blessed that they never once gave up on me, and now our relationships are so strong and so wonderful. They are always at my back, always are so supportive, and are always there for me‚Ķwhether I need them or not. I love you all.

Parents
I have so many parents. SO many I can’t list them all. They all guide me and are there for me, and love me and Joe. We have so many parents spanning from back home, to the one we created 2 and 1/2 hours away that wherever we go, they got our back.

Change
I usually am not the biggest fan of changes, in fact it kinda freaks me out when there is a landslide of new changes in the mix. Moving back home is hard, but it’s a chance for a new adventure, new paths, and new growth. Although I am worried that things may not turn out well, I know that we will be able to make it work, whatever comes our way.

Joe

Joe lets me be weird, and he is just as weird as me!

Joe lets me be weird, and he is just as weird as me!

He is my rock, my love, my best friend, and my light. He makes happy when I am sad, always is there for me, and always loves me, even when I am being ridiculous. He is my partner, and my confidante. He is my smile. I never thought I would find someone, and for them to be just what I need in any given moment and situation? I can say that I am truly blessed.

Elena

Elena's role!

Elena’s role!

She is my kindred spirit and my other-other half. She is best friends with Joe, is always there for me, my road trip buddy, and my awesome more-than-friend friend.¬†I can’t actually explain how much Elena means to me‚Ķand Joe. She is always a support, a shoulder to lean on, and a hand to hold – a true soul mate of mine. I couldn’t have done everything that happened in this past year without her.

I am eternally thankful for everything on this list, and more.

~ Andreah

And a very merry Thanksgiving to you!

Thanksgiving in our household is something of a haze. To be honest, I don’t remember a really good Thanksgiving that sparked the love I have for this season when I was younger. I do remember the delicious food…

Scratch that. There was one where the sisters and I were falling apart in every sense of the phrase – mentally, physically, emotionally – and trying to pick each other back up. Where Toni had more than her share of vino at dinner, and our family let go, laughed, cried, played games and grew into us.

That’s what sparked my love of Thanksgiving.

This sums up the infamous Thanksgiving!

This year there is SO MUCH I have to be thankful for.

It’s been the year of love.¬†Not only did my soul sister Ashely and her handsome hubby welcome the most precious miracle into the world,

Baby

Baby Emma Grace

But my other, long-time, ride-to-die love and bestie since high school, Kim, said “I do” to the most amazing, warm-hearted man, Greg.

Thanksgiving for me has always been a reminder of the little things we take for granted. It is really easy in our everyday hustle and bustle to get lost in the stress, the annoyances, and lose sight of the big picture. For me, Thanksgiving is a time to remember the silver lining. To take those annoyances and find a reason to be thankful for them. For my Thanksgiving post, I tried to see some of my daily stresses as daily blessings, to be thankful for everything.

I am thankful for the bills I pay every month. These bills mean I have a job so that I can pay those bills. These bills also mean I have a roof, at times leaky, but still a roof over my head that shelters me. A home that Cody and I have built and will continue to build. Through harsh winters, stupid springs and much much more.

Paying bills with pizzazz!

The savings account that I have built up over the years is dwindling because of this year’s upcoming nuptials. This means I am going to marry one of the sweetest men I have ever met, a man that has more strength and determination than most. ¬†I’ll save the rest for my speech. ūüėČ

I just had to! HA!

The increase in hourly work weeks, more time sending emails and less time lazing on the couch or spending time with friends and family means I am in a field that is growing and thriving. That I have the ability to put in extra hours and have the opportunity to build up an amazing company. I have a job Рperiod!  I am able to contribute to our household more now than I ever have before. Being able to help Cody with the day-to-day means more to me than anything.

Cody and my busy weekend schedules mean we have some of the most amazing friends that are there to support and pick us up when we are at our worst and celebrate when we are at our best.

If we were sitting around a table, this is the time where I would lift my glass and propose a toast to all the silver linings! Try and look at the tough stuff this Thanksgiving weekend and make it into a positive, find your silver linings exercise.

Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Jacqui

Gratitude

I guess the sisters have all shocked you at one point or another, so I really have nothing to lose…here it goes….

Christmas is NOT my favourite holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore all the family time, delicious food, time off work to unwind, joy in the children’s shrieks and giggles…

But what trumps Christmas for me in terms of ranking holidays, is Thanksgiving – it will always be my very favourite of the days we celebrate.

There is something about the simplicity of this holiday that melts my heart, slows me down, brings me back to my centre.

Thanksgiving day – weekend, in my family, really – filled with family gatherings, where we simply set aside the time spend with the ones we cherish dearly, in gratefulness and reflection for all we are blessed with has always been the one I look most forward to every year.

Last year, for no specific reason I can think of, the day spent at Jacqui’s with most of the family I got to thinking (scary thought, I know) of how full I was that day.

Last year's 30lb bird

Last year’s 30lb bird

And while yes, I have been known to be able to pack back my fair share of food in atrocious amounts, in this instance, I do not mean the physical sense.

I mean spiritually, emotionally, and even mentally. Full.

I was so full. Full of love, full of happy, full of peace, full of hope. Just so full. And I loved just how full and satisfied I felt.

I decided then that the focus for my years ahead on this earth would be to consciously be grateful, thankful, and satisfied with whatever present I was faced with.

SO, so much easier said than done, let me tell you. While I do feel I have been so much fuller throughout this year, I know I have most definitely struggled – some days more than others – to keep a perspective of gratitude for whatever the present moment presented to me.

Yet, I still feel full. Thankfully.

With my most favourite holiday just around the corner, I was happy when our editor-in-chief, Julia, suggested we dedicate this week to mark its approach. In tradition and honor of this wonderful day, I am most grateful for:

Love: the ability to give it, and to recieve it. The people I am proud to say I love and even prouder to say love me. I’m thankful for the handsome man who loves my heart – especially on days when I’m not sure why, even the wild and crazy parts, the babies he’s blessed me with in the non-traditional sense – my beautiful step-children and yes, even my fur-babies, and the home he’s helped me build for us.

So thankful for this love

So thankful for this love

Love in the sisterly sense, my inspiring sisters by blood (I will never tire of saying “I don’t know what I would do without you”), the ones through marriage (Kim), the ones we’ve adopted, and the ones through kindred spirits that I find in my closest girlfriends.

This love <3

This love ‚̧

I’m thankful for the love in the smile of a stranger on the street on the days I so desperately need it. I’m thankful for the people that will never know just how much I truly love them – my ridiculous nieces and nephew. I’m thankful for the love of my parents, the one I was born into and the one I’ve grown to appreciate. So, so thankful for love.

These faces <3

These faces ‚̧

Ability: I’m thankful that I can. That I can run, that I can breathe, that I can sing (even if not well), that I can see, that I can work. I’m thankful that I can drive, that I can walk, that I can vote. I’m thankful that I can say I’m healthy, that I can buy and afford healthy food, that I have – for the most part – the freedom to choose my own path. I’m thankful I can love, laugh, feel and express without fear.

Ability to take this in

Ability to take this in

Growth: I’m so very thankful for the lessons I’ve been faced with that have allowed me to grow. I’m most thankful for the hard ones I’ve already been able to get out of the way – the ones I’ve watched many loved ones older than me struggle to grasp and still haven’t arrived at. I’m thankful for these lessons that have resulted in growth because it pushes me to grow more – it keeps me thirsty to uncover the next adventure that will show me another true part about myself, that will bring me closer to understanding my purpose and my place.

Always.

Always.

Grace: so incredibly humbled in thankfulness for the grace of God and his love. Thankful that I know in my heart, even when my brain fights me on it, that I am not alone, never without purpose, never without his love, shelter and protection. I’m thankful for the path he’s chosen for me, the faith he’s instilled in me and the sacrifice he’s made for me.

Gratitude makes the heart full

Gratitude makes the heart full

I’m thankful for grace in the human sense – the forgiveness that has been extended to me, especially when I didn’t exactly deserve any of it. Grace that’s come in the chances people have taken on me, and the grace that has come from them overlooking my shortcomings. I make it a regular occurrence to make an ass of myself, and I’m always so grateful when grace is granted instead of making me live it down.

I hope this year, as you gather with your loved ones and share in a feast, that you take the time to really reflect – not on the material possessions and earthly accomplishments – but on the parts of your life that touch your heart daily, that you take for granted, the ones you sometimes forget to recognize your gratitude for, the moments with people that matter that we are often so busy we forget to take note. Revel in your lives in whatever the present moment offers you. Breathe, focus your mind on the abundance that we all have and see how full you can make yourself feel.

From our family to yours

From our family to yours

I wish you a happy, incredibly filling Thanksgiving.

~ Toni

Thankful is as thankful does

I’m definitely a Christmas person – the lights, the sounds, the smells, the music, the family, the gifts, the love, the snow – LOVE it all – but Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart.

There are very few moments in our regular day-to-day where we get to stop and really think about all that we have and then express explicit gratitude for it. Really, our days are (at least for me) tackled at a get-up-don’t-stop-keep-going-’til-you-drop pace, where there’s little time for rest, let alone reflection and then the expression of thankfulness.

But this season, this time when the trees turn and the air cools and the layers of clothing start piling up, is anointed with this beautiful gift of making time to be thankful. 

In our home, the home that Ben and I have been building together for over 8 years, thankfulness has sometimes been really hard to grasp. There was our first year of marriage, where Ben was unemployed and I had the worst job ever (went home in tears every night) and we lived in our crappy first apartment and had no money. Instead of wallowing,¬†we forced ourselves to come up with one thing each to be thankful for every day¬†the week leading up to¬†Thanksgiving. Those fourteen things lit up our tiny one-bedroom like nobody’s business.

There was the year that we lost our baby, our Charlie. The year where nothing seemed to lift us. The year that sucked huge hairy balls of crap. The one where counting the blessings we had here, and not in heaven, was damn near impossible.

And then there have been years where blessings have overflowed, where the number of things to be thankful for was sky-high and singing in church choirs about praising God and going to the apple orchard and making pie and getting together as a family seemed like things we could do forever. Those are the times where Thanksgiving feels like it shouldn’t be just a season, but a year-round, daily activity.

This year, like every other, has its own marks of sorrow, its own trials, its own triumphs, its own heaps of blessings. It’s a year where we’re finally settling into our family of five. It’s a year where we are working hard on our marriage, harder than we’ve ever had to work before. It’s a year where we’re making big changes (another blog post for another time!) and hoping like hell (praying like maniacs!) that we’re making the right changes. It’s a year where my list of what to be thankful for feels more thoughtful than it ever has.

So, in my pause of reflection, here’s what I’m thankful for most this year:

1. Ben – Father of our children, lover of my heart, fighter for our family, breadwinner monetarily, strongman in all things, I’m thankful that he’s the one I’m walking this path with.

He's a handsome devil...and sometimes just a devil...

He’s a handsome devil…and sometimes just a devil…

2. The babies РNo one makes me crazier, loves me more, lets me love them more, teaches me more, forces me to grow more, and makes me sit in awe more than the three nutters I call mine.

Crazy in love

Crazy in love

3. My sisters¬†– No, this isn’t a plug for the blog, but seriously? My sisters? Without them, I don’t know what I’d do. And this year, I feel like I’m calling on all of the favours for all of the things. I’m asking for nannying help, I’m leaning for babysitting, I’m demanding workout buddies, I’m talking their ears off, I’m handing over babies for them to hold while I let my arms rest – all of the things.

Maybe we should take another one...where we're not wet...

Maybe we should take another one…where we’re not wet…

 

Who else would push your kids and their kid and all of your kids' baggage up the biggest hill and STILL love you?

Who else would push your kids and their kid and all of your kids’ baggage up the biggest hill and STILL love you?

4. My moms¬†– Who else can say, “Not only do I talk to my mom every day, but I love my mother-in-law like a second mother”? Not many people that I know. Lucky doesn’t even begin to cover the love I get from my mothers.

My mom loving my babies...and ME

My mom loving my babies…and ME

She lets me wake her up at stupid o'clock and STILL loves me!

She lets me wake her up at stupid o’clock and STILL loves me!

5. Soul-friends РThe moms at school pick-up/drop-off, the moms at bible study, the women who listen to me rant and rave and brag and are nothing but supportive, even though I probably come off as a complete nut.

Any time women come together with a collective intention, it's a powerful thing. Whether it's sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens. - Phylicia Rashad

“Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.” – Phylicia Rashad

6.¬†Time –¬†For finding myself, for running, for learning, for thinking, for everything – I feel like I’ve stolen more time for myself than I ever have and the proof is in the distance I can run (12.84 KM!), the fitness I have, the peace that I feel, and the depression I’m actively keeping at bay.

Me, the road, my breath, my thoughts, my meditation, my time

Me, the road, my breath, my thoughts, my meditation, my time

7. God’s love –¬†I know that everything that I’ve listed here, everything that I’m thankful for every day, everything that I am, and where I am and where I’m going is all because of Him. THANK YOU.

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This year has not been our easiest, our most blessed, or our hardest, most awful. But this year, like all the rest, the thankfulness is found in what we have and where we are right now, not in what we don’t have or where we didn’t make it.

To you and yours, a happiest and most grateful of Thanksgiving seasons. I hope it’s filled with love, light, and turkey. (Mmmm, turkey).

~ Julia

The one year feat!

In the world of epilepsy they calendar milestones in years, although to an epileptic a day could feel like a year. For instance, you lose your license when you have uncontrolled seizures of any kind, something about automobiles and seizures not mixing? I am not sure, but the MTO in Ontario states that if a person has been seizure-free for a year then they may reapply for their license.

 To this epileptic this year was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am proud to announce I am one year seizure FREEEEE. 

I thought, what better time to look back on where I was a year ago?  Most people were starting school again and I was facing starting a new medication and talking about whether surgery was in order to further find out WHY I was not responding to any medication. There was a theory that was not very popular with my neurologist РI could be possibly be taking too much medication. It was a scary thought, to be over medicated. How could that even be? Modern medicine teaches doctors to treat symptoms, but what if it is a vicious cycle of treating a symptom that is being caused from a medication with more medication?

So I made a decision. I was going to get healthy on my own, sorry Doc!

I was going cold turkey, people. I was…what the fuck was I doing? I was being bold? I was being brave? I did it for me! For future babies! ¬†For Cody! ¬†For my family. I did it so when I called in sick to work, it would be simple – I was just sick, get better! Rather than “Are you home alone? Do you need me to come over? When will Cody be there? Does your mom know?” Hey, I am not complaining – I put this in place. I told my workplace what I needed medically and they were all in. I guess I am just that darn special! I did it for so many reasons and I kicked this year’s ass.

How? Well, I said no. I said no to a lot of things. I said no to when I knew it was too much to handle, I said no to trivial small things. I stopped sweating the small stuff, and it really is all small stuff. I said yes to me. I said yes to going to bed early if I was tired, I said yes to the cues my body was giving me. I said yes to spending more time with people who supported me instead of tearing me down. Who were looking out for my well-being as well as their own. I have an AMAZING support system all around me.

I started to watch what chemicals I was putting into my body in terms of processed foods. I said yes to more whole foods and tried to get rid of as much processed crap.

Let me tell you this journey was not easy. I am a people pleasing person, I like to do what you want me to do, I like being asked to do things and being leaned on. But when my own health became backseat, I had to kick everyone out of the bus.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND DOING THIS without the support of your neurologist. If you are reading this and think that this may be your case, then talk to your doctor first – do not throw out your medication because NO two epileptics are the same.

I commemorated my one year feat with a permanent reminder that I came out of the darkness – but I am not out of the woods yet. I am still very much an epileptic, and I can’t live life thinking I am invincible. Every decision I make, everywhere I go, everything I do, I am epileptic. I have epilepsy. BUT IT DOES NOT HAVE ME!

~ Jacqui

If you would like more information in regards to my journey, leave us a comment and I will be happy to email you.

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The difference a year makes

A year ago, I thought I had all the time in the world. My bag wasn’t packed. I was focusing on Sophie starting school. I was focusing on getting a not-for-profit for PPD/PPMD awareness off the ground. I was focused on loving my new niece and my broken sister-in-law. I had all the time in the world.

And then you happened.

First photo

First photo

I was sleeping in bed. Dreaming of steak, probably, because that’s all I craved with you. STEAK. And PORK. And anything barbecued. I wanted MEAT. Lots and lots of FIRE-KISSED MEAT. In my BELLY. NOW. (By the way, your dad couldn’t have been happier – I craved chocolate milkshakes and chocolate milk and fudgsicles with Sophie, and strawberry milkshakes with Lillian – but MEAT? Barbecued at all hours of the day and night? SOLD.)

First REAL clothes

First REAL clothes

And then, I started peeing the bed. Or at least, that’s what I¬†thought¬†was happening. Lots and lots of pee.

Father and son

Father and son

I got up, trying not to keep peeing, thinking that there was no way at 3:45 a.m. that I could have this much pee in me. I hadn’t been drinking all night long…I had gone pee before bed…and at 7468543 months pregnant, I had a bladder the size of a peanut. There was NO WAY I could be peeing this much.

First official photo as a couple

First official photo as a couple

When I sat on the toilet (TMI? Too bad.) a huge gush of water came out of me. My¬†water water. It broke. I actually had a normal labour phenomena (I suck at birthing babies. Cooking babies, I’m a pro. Birthing, getting them¬†out,¬†not so much.)! Now to wake up my deaf (Ben takes his hearing aid out at night) husband while not spilling my innards (TMI again? Too bad again.) all over our carpet. I shoved towels in between my legs and waddled over to our bed. I poked the sleeping bear husband and got him to put in his hearing aid. He looked at me grumpily. I said, “My water broke.” He jumped out of bed. Correct response.

Official photoshoot courtesy of Close Your Eyes Photography

Official photoshoot courtesy of Close Your Eyes Photography

We called my incredible, favourite, most awesome midwife Cathy. And by we, I mean Ben, because people, I had to PACK A BAG TO TAKE TO THE HOSPITAL. With towels between my legs. Priorities. And then we had to call the mothers (someone has to take care of the current babies while we birth the next baby!).

First bath (aka his favourite!)

First bath (aka his favourite!)

Nana (Ben’s mom) came over and Cathy met us at the hospital. We had done something similar at 31 weeks. I had had contractions all day that wouldn’t go away no matter how many left-sided lie downs I had. They were able to give me the lung-boosting shots and the contractions eventually stopped on their own with two days of bed rest. But this, at 36 weeks, was leaking AND contractions. CRAP.

I love me some snuggly baby.

I love me some snuggly baby.

When we got to the hospital, Cathy told a nurse that my water had broke. The nurse asked if I was sure – sure that it broke and it wasn’t just pee, which apparently is a regular occurrence. Cathy said, “She’s got three towels in her pants (I DID, and I sat on a bunch in the van), so I think she’s serious.” The nurse was suitably impressed. I was suitably leaking.

Baptism day! Heathen no more.

Baptism day! Heathen no more.

I got hooked up to an IV, a fetal heart monitor, and a clicker for contraction tracking. Ben and I both got bracelets. This was the real deal. We had a C-section booked for 8 a.m. on Friday September 13. It was Tuesday August 27. BAH.

He's a suit man. SO CUTE.

He’s a suit man. SO CUTE.

The on-call OB came in, because although it looked like our baby wanted to come out the all-natural way, he was breech, breech, breech and with my super awesome (read: CRAP) history of getting babies out of my belly, a C-section was by far the best answer. I was in the operating room, getting my spinal and chatting with a new round of nurses, holding my breath and praying that everything would be okay, that Ben would be there in time (he had zero reason not to…I’m just a professional worrier), that our babies would be okay, that if anything happened to me everyone would be okay, that my baby would be okay.

First food. Success?

First food. Success?

At 7:11 a.m. on August 27th you were born. Isaac Earl Kenneth Mills. Our son. A boy.

You can see why I was freaked out by the boy thing, right?

You can see why I was freaked out by the boy thing, right?

You weighed 6 pounds, 7.5 ounces. You were in an incubator on monitors because of your early arrival (just days shy of being considered term) and because you were in withdrawal from the antidepressants I had been taking since my bout with PPMD from Lillian (you were jittery, but okay). You were perfect. And I got a nice little break from life since you weren’t in my room and your crazy sisters with hanging out with Aunt Toni and Grammie. It was kind of heaven.

Such a stud

Such a stud

After a few short days, we both got to go home, to reality and crazy and ramping up to Sophie starting school. The first day didn’t go as I had planned (go figure). Instead of walking to Sophie to school as a family, with a giant pregnant belly, we drove to school because I couldn’t walk that far with a new C-section incision or just after giving birth. I stood, against my midwife’s instructions, for 45 minutes, watching your sister get used to her new classroom and all the parents and children marveling at how small and new you were. Exactly one week old.

The beginning of the end

The beginning of the end

Things have changed a lot since then. I broke again and Aunt Toni and therapists (or super heroes, as Sophie calls them) Colleen and Victoria put me back together. I was in love with you from the start, which was different than the earned love I had with your sisters. I learned a lot about penis care, which is VERY different from vagina care (HOLY SCHAMOLY, who knew morning wood began this early in life?!). And I learned to love a son, which really is no different than loving a daughter at this point, but I’m told it will change, will become something unique to the love I have for your sisters.

Our almost-one-year old boy, eating dirt and taking names

Our almost-one-year old boy, eating dirt and taking names

You will be one on Wednesday. It’s been a year since we met you, a year since your punkish ways disrupted any semblance of plan we had for the transition from summer to fall, from no school to school. A whole year. And we are so blessed that you are ours and that you’re here.

Happy, happy birthday, mister. We love you.

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

Dear Baby Stuehler

I met Ashley at work. At first we were co-workers, then friends. Now I like to think we are soul mates. At work we call her Smashley. She has become another sister to me. I bring her along on hikes, she is known by my nieces, sisters, and my  mom. She truly has become a soul mate of mine, and someone I look up to.  She has shown me how to be more confident in my own skin, she has been there with me through some pretty tough times and I am so honored that she is standing with me on my wedding day.

Ashley and her husband Marty are expecting their first bundle of joy – a baby girl. This week will be the last week of work for her before she goes on her maternity leave. This pregnancy has been anything but easy on Ashley – although she has been healthy, she has also been blessed with “morning” sickness, even though it lasts all day, heartburn, back and butt pain, hip pain…and caffeine withdrawal.

To send her off in true, loving, sisterhood fashion, I have decided to write a letter to the future love of her life – her baby girl. I hope one day she will read this, and know that even before she could love them – they loved her.

I love you Smash, and can’t wait to watch you become an amazing mother.

Every brunette need’s a blonde best friend ‚̧

 

Dear Baby Stuehler,

Welcome to the world!

I hope you realize that you are one of the luckiest babies as you are born into such a loving family. Your Grandparents, Uncles and Aunt all can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait for you to know how loved you are.¬†

Your mom has nurtured you since the beginning, and has has been anxiously awaiting your arrival. She is counting down the days until you arrive, preparing in every way. I wish you could see her face when she talks about you, all the worries for that moment melt away as she rubs her belly. I cannot say it enough Рyou are so loved.

Remember that as the years go on and you start to grow Рyour best interests are what she has in mind when she tells you that the shorts you are about to wear will not be worn out of the house, or that the makeup you have on is beyond too much.

When that first boy breaks your heart, it will be her shoulder you will cry on, as she promises you that the heartbreak won’t last. She will tell you how she met your Daddy, and she will tell you that one day the right one will come along.

She will be your shopping partner, your mentor and the wisest teacher you will ever come across. She will be your cheerleader and your coach. Your mom will be there for you when you call her late at night about anything – even if it is just to hear her voice.

Your Mother will teach you confidence, that I am sure of. She will teach you how to be a strong and compassionate woman, and to stand ever steadfast in who you are. She will teach you self love and self worth. She will teach you how to stand alone, and work as a partner.

Your mother is an amazing woman. She will love you even when you slam the door in her face and challenge her. She will love you when you sneak out or when you try to lie to her (just a suggestion…don’t…she knows everything!).

Baby Stuehler, the world you are being born into is not always kind, it can be quite scary, but that’s why you were given your Daddy. He is working so hard to make sure that you are provided for, and will always keep you safe.

You are his princess, his baby girl. When your dad talks about you, there is a twinkle in his eye. Everything he does is with you in mind. Your daddy will be your knight in shining armor. 

Your daddy will ward off boys who will try to steal your heart, he will be your confidante at times when you feel alone. He will battle you when you are a teenager, and side with your mother more times than he will with you (just let it happen, trust me it’s for the best).

Your daddy will teach you so many things you won’t know are useful at first, be careful to try and remember them all. One day these memories will be all you have.

Your daddy will be your first love, and your favorite dance partner whether in the kitchen or at your wedding. You will be always be his little girl. Your teenage years will be hard on your relationship, and you may break his heart. Don’t worry – he will still love you, and will always remember holding his little girl and kissing her bruises to make them better.

Baby girl, I can not wait to meet you. I can not wait to watch you grow up into a young lady. I can’t wait to listen to your mom brag of your accomplishments and look back with her on this moment when you were still in her belly giving her the worst heartburn.¬†

Your parents are two of the most amazing, compassionate, people I have ever known. They will do anything for their friends, and I can not wait to do the same for them. 

Welcome to the world Baby Stuehler. We have been waiting for you. 

 

Congratulations you two – I can’t meet your little one.

The expectant parents – Love you guys!

~ Jacqui

Great things may come!

Well, a lot has happened in seven days. Sadly, I have no prospects yet on the job front, but I am still looking.

However a lot of good things have come our way. Joe is doing amazing at work and his bosses are really impressed!
He comes home, and instead of just being tired he is so excited to tell me about his day, how it went, and all the things he got to learn. He really loves being in the mechanics field and I am so happy he has such an amazing boss, great work and that he gets to go there and love his job.

Now for the continuation of good news – Joe and I almost missed out on what this week is.

Today we will have been together for two and a half years, and I know that doesn’t sound big, but to me that is an awesome milestone! I love Joe more and more with each passing day and I am so glad that I have found my rock and partner for the rest of my life! This is a small milestone, especially when you look at how long Julia, Toni, and Jacqui have been with their guys, but to me this is big! I never thought I would find someone like Joe to love forever.

Now, the second thing! Joe’s 25th birthday is tomorrow! I am super excited, even if he is not. I have a small celebration in mind for Friday night, but it’s going to be a general weekend of whatever we feel like, which I know Joe will love.

Joe and I don’t really get to spend a lot of time together, which sucks, but the time we do spend together is wonderful. Jacqui once described herself as a Hunter’s Widow, and I have been described by Joe’s Aunt Linda as a Mechanic’s Widow.

“At least you know he’s not with another girl! Just another car!” is one of the frequent statements by Aunt Linda, and there is so much truth in those words. I can go by the shop on my way to handing out resumes and Joe hardly looks up because he’s right elbow deep in the work beside his boss; however I am not complaining – Joe loves his job, his boss, and his boss’s family, who have indeed become like family to us.

And although the time we spend together is sometimes short, it is never in short supply of love and laughter. I am so excited for our many milestone and his birthday, and the future we have together unfurling before us.

Me and Joe being Silly!

Me and Joe being silly!

Joe, here is to many more years, birthdays, and wonderful moments together!

I love you!

~ Andreah