Birthday boy

We’re in a tricky spot, over here at my house. It’s tricky because March is BIRTHDAY-PACKED, but Ben has a huge deadline that’s due date is actually his birthday day. So what is a Laurentino, who LOVES celebrating, supposed to do when the guy you love to celebrate with, love to celebrate, love to love is too busy to be celebrated? WRITE A MUSHY BLOG POST!

He’s turning the big 3-6, so I thought I’d give you 36 reasons why Ben is awesome:

1. He’s the best father to our kids. They squeal when he comes home, they demand his attention, they curl up and snooze with him in the mornings, and he’s working SO damn hard for them right now.

Daddy the wild ride (counterclockwise from top left: Sophie, Lillian and Isaac)

Daddy, the wild ride (counterclockwise from top left: Sophie, Lillian and Isaac)

2. He’s committed. To our marriage, to our family, to his game developer dream, to his footie passion. He’s all in. Always.

3. He’s strong. From opening stubborn, slimy sippy cups, to carrying all the laundry from all the rooms down all the stairs, he’s a tough guy…and I appreciate it with both of my carpal tunneled hands.

4. He’s a softie. No, seriously. Is there a poignant moment in the movie or TV show you’re watching? Get ready…he’ll be teary. It’s adorable.

5. He’s THERE for you. Need something? Anything? Like moving your house for the 845793rd time, or needing some groceries dropped off, or a push out a giant snowbank? He’s your guy. In a heartbeat.

6. He appreciates a good laugh. And when you’re raising ALL the CRAZIES, it’s a good thing…otherwise we’d both be crying (see #4).

7. He’s not afraid of hard work. Manual labour, thinking labour, working until the wee hours of the morning, he’s in. And he’s committed (see #2).

8. He’s the king of goofing off. I’m a little nutty…and a lot Type A personality…and my go-go-go-go can quickly kill me. He’s a perfect balance to my nonsensical need to busy all. the. time. Without him, I’d be in a corner, rocking, with so many more grey hairs.

9. He’s a family man. In every sense of the word. He’s all about keeping family okay, and family includes our five, our one in heaven, his side, my side, and the life friends we’ve picked up along the way.

10. He’s tough. Different than strong, he can take a beating, both on the field and in life, and keep moving, keep fighting. I haven’t seen him give up yet…even when all the signs were yelling at him to quit.

11. He’s handsome. ‘Nuff said.

Right?!

Right?!

12. He can smell good. Note the ‘can’. He doesn’t always. But when he does…mmmm…he smells good. 

13. He gives the best hugs. They’re big and all-encompassing and warm and when I’m in them I feel small and protected and home. And the coolest part? He’s passed this genetic gift onto Lillian, who is an all-body hugger.

14. He’s funny. Sometimes. And sometimes not. He makes me laugh sometimes. But sometimes not. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

15. He’s smart. Smarter than me in so many ways. Smart bookwise and computerwise and lifewise and lovewise. He’s a smartie pants…and our kids will benefit from that greatly when they come home with trigacalculusometry homework.

16. He works hard to find the right gift. Research, listening to what you say out loud and what you say in not so many words, then searching and trying so hard to get it right.

17. He writes the best cards. Birthday, anniversary, Mother’s Day, just because…Ben’s notes are the sweetest, most thought out…and it’s ridiculous because I am a writer and he out-writes me!

18. He wants to hang out with our kids. I’m not sure you’re aware, but they’re crazy. And I would fully understand that after a long day at work he’d want to hide out and not see anyone. But he doesn’t. He’s on the floor, playing with them, laughing with them, then herding them up the stairs, hogtying them into their pyjamas and reading them all the stories even when the stories are nonsense.

19. He wants to hang out with me. I’m not sure you’re aware, but I’m crazy. And I would fully understand that after a long day at work and a long night of hanging out with our crazy loin fruit, he’d want to hide out and not see anyone…but he doesn’t. He wants to watch How I Met Your Mother together and spend time together. He’s a glutton for punishment.

20. He giggles. He says he chuckles, because it’s a more manly word (his words), but I swear it – this burly man giggles.

21. He remembers all the 21s. We started dating on November 21 and we got married on May 21, so 21 is kind of our number. Every month we make sure we say, Happy 21! to each other on the 21st. He remembers more often than me…and usually when we’re rushing around and I’m about ready to lose my mind, he reminds me: we had romantic moments and we have a great life. Happy 21!

22. He’s warm. As someone with zero ability to maintain any sort of normal body temperature, having someone warm sleep beside you, let you snuggle up to on the couch, or wrap you in a warming hug when you’ve just come back from a -20-something run, is GOLD. AND?! His babies are little heaters. 🙂 I WIN.

23. He likes to play. Football, board games, video games, in the sand, in the water, in the bath, in the snow, and in the sun – he likes to play and participate. It’s awesome. And lets me nap…

24. He supports napping. Ben does not believe in taking naps. He hates them. He feels like it’s a waste of time. I thrive on naps. I LOVE naps. If I could have two naps a day, I would. In a heartbeat. So the fact that Ben fully supports my love affair with naps, while himself hating them, is awesome. And so generous. Now, if he would just come home from work so I can have one…or two.

25. He believes and loves God. For non-believers or even agnostics, this might not seem like a big deal. But when you talk to God a lot, when you love God a lot, when you want to raise God-lovers and -believers, this is an incredible gift. We are a family of believers and it’s lovely.

26. He’s actively interested in stuff I’m not. This might seem like a bad thing, but it actually makes for great conversation that doesn’t get boring. I like watching football with Ben, but Ben LOVES football, so he can answer my more detailed questions about contracts, money, culture AND plays and stats. I enjoy the odd video game, but Ben can talk about the development piece, or the possible reasons a developer made the decisions they did. Not dull at all.

27. He believes in me. I want to be a writer, a crocheter, a card-maker, a baker, a runner, a good mom, a good wife, and Ben? He believes I can do all those things well, successfully, and he tells me as much. He’s my number 1 fan and I’m so lucky.

28. He’s my best friend. It wasn’t this way in the beginning. I had lots of best girl-friends. But now? He’s one of my best friends and it’s the best part of our relationship.

29. He’s a good man in a storm. I’m not too bad in a storm myself, but he’s better. And at the moment that I start to lose my shipshapeness, his kicks in to hyper drive. He helps me keep my head, and will do everything in his power to fix, stop, or make the storm palatable.

30. He trusts me. This could be a sign of insanity or poor judgement on his part, but he trusts me with our home and our babies, with their care and keeping. He trusts me to be a good mom. It’s a huge thing and I don’t take it lightly.

31. He’s trustworthy. I don’t worry about Ben. I know he’ll be there, he’ll do his best, that he’ll work hard, that he’ll take the right things seriously, and that together we’re stronger.

32. He takes pride in his athleticism. Which is an asset for me, who, although has found a love for fitness, still has a great affinity for her bed – it’s inspiring. And for our girls – because we both work out and exercise, they talk about exercising and working out. It’s keeping our family healthy.

33. He is system-oriented. He has a method for blowing his nose. A way to brush his teeth. A manner in which he makes bread. A routine for everything that can be regimented. It’s endearing…and sometimes enraging…but mostly nice and predictable. Our babies? Not predictable. He’s a nice change of pace.

34. He’s confidently Ben. He knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. And he’s not afraid to ask for these things, but in a timely and appropriate manner. He doesn’t like semi-sweet chocolate chips, but make him cookies with them and he’ll eat and appreciate them. He wears boxer-briefs and refuses to wear anything else. Buy him the wrong underwear, he will be returning it and exchanging it for the right kind. See? Appropriate responses. 😉

35. He tells me how he feels. I grew up in a family of girls, so talking about our feelings was a daily, almost hourly event. Ben…not so much. The fact that he will actually tell me how he feels is a gift I don’t take lightly. I appreciate that he shares just for me…even if it’s not the oversharing I’m used to.

36. He lets me celebrate him. Ben didn’t grow up with giant birthday displays, so the fact that he lets me gush on him, spoil him, and force him to participate in fantastic organized birthday events is awesome. I love birthday-ing the people that I love…and since he is THE love of my LIFE, it’s incredibly generous that he lets me birthday him the way see fit.

Happy happy happy birthday, Ben!! I love you!

~ Julia

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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 – No 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 – The 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.

DSCF2145

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

How I’m doing

It’s been quite a few months since I came out as suffering from a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD/PPD) and I was thinking it might be a good idea to let you know how I’m doing.

I am doing really, really well.

In terms of the PPMD/PPD, I’m completely recovered. I don’t have a foggy brain anymore, I’m not anxious and overwhelmed anymore, I’m not flying off the handle with blind rage anymore. I’m controlled. I’m confident in my parenting. I’m taking care of myself. And I am actually thriving as a person, instead of drowning.

I am doing really, really well.

Of course, there was no magic pill or instant cure, there was no lightbulb moment that changed everything, but there was hard work and lots of help. And I wanted to share with you what fueled my success this time.

I stayed medicated. This is controversial, in that I was medicated all throughout my pregnancy with Isaac and even bumped my medication up at the end of my pregnancy. It’s controversial because it means Isaac went through withdrawal when he was born and was at a tiny (read: minuscule) risk for birth defects. But the risk of me committing suicide or hurting myself or my babies or landing myself into a mental hospital were all severely high if I had stopped taking my medication. I have been medicated since after Lillian was born and still am to this day. Will I be medicated for the rest of my life? I have no idea, but at this point it’s working and that’s all that matters.

I asked for help. It’s tough admitting you don’t have it all together. It’s even harder when you did have it together at the beginning and now it’s starting to crumble months after your baby is born. Especially because up until my confession in February, I had been the poster girl for what to do when you have a history of mental illness and you want more children. I encapsulated my placenta and took it as prescribed (no, really). I stayed medicated. I put supports in place for the first six weeks after birth to ensure I healed properly from my scheduled C-section. I got rest. I didn’t act like a hero. My house fell into even further disarray and I was okay with it. I did everything RIGHTAnd yet, everything still fell apart. Asking for help was eating humble pie and accepting that even though we do everything the way we’re “supposed to,” things can still fall spectacularly apart. But I did it. I asked for help. I called my therapist and got an appointment that week. I was told by Toni and Jacqui that I would be getting help from Toni, and I accepted it. Let the leaning and the healing begin.

I remembered what I had learned. I joked when I got to therapy that I was going for my PhD in PPD…that I had been here twice before, that this was my third time, and by the time this was done I would be set for life. Full of PPD knowledge. You know, it turned out to be true. I remembered what I needed to do. I remembered the importance of self-care and how vital it was to my past recovery. I remembered that sleep was a key component to getting through the day in one piece. I remembered that I had to take things one excruciating step at a time, not rush through or jump from step 1 to step 74398574. I remembered that it was a journey full of peaks and valleys. I remembered that the Julia that I remembered from before babies, before the first two rounds of PPD, before the miscarriage, before this moment would come back, that she wasn’t lost for good, that she still existed. And I remembered I had to trust the process, not jump ship just because it wasn’t working. My therapist told me that this would be my shortest journey through PPD. The first round was seven months with no help. The second round was five months with medication and therapy. This round was just shy of four months. She was right. My quickest yet. PhD in the BAG!

I exercised my tushy off. No, literally. I’m 30 pounds lighter than when I started this journey. Exercising, whether bootcamp with my sisters, hiking at ridiculous o’clock, or finding my zen in running, became an integral part of my recovery. It’s no wonder – exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy; happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.

Or maybe it’s something more like this (although I will argue that the above is COMPLETELY valid):

Exercise-is-better-than-antidepressants

I feel it when I don’t exercise – the anxiety, the irritability, the brain that won’t shut up, the anger that’s bubbling far too close to the surface. And I feel it when I do – the power that exists in me, the calm that comes from achieving something so simple yet hard, the brain break because all I can do is concentrate on my breathing when I run alone, or the friend/sister-therapy that comes from running with others. It is the thing that is gluing me together. It has replaced chocolate and mindless eating. It has replaced napping and hiding. It is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Period.

I am kind to myself. There are bad days. There are days when I feel like I’m not a great mom…or maybe not even a good mom. There are days when I feel like there’s no way I’ll ever be able to accomplish all the things I need to do…days when Isaac is screaming and Lillian is pooping on the floor and Sophie is late for school and we haven’t even left yet. These are the days I practice being kind to myself, not shaming myself. I don’t berate me for not having it all together (i.e. no poop, no screaming, on time school kid). I don’t sit there and fume and fight with the babies who only dig their heels in more when you rush them. I don’t let it ruin the whole day. I accept my fate in that moment (we are going to be late). I remind myself that no one is dying, that this is by far not the worst situation, that I’m normal and this is nuts and it’s hard because it’s hard, not because I’m failing.

Life is hard. Not because we're doing it wrong, just because it's hard.

Glennon Doyle Melton (Way-back-play-back because I LOVE this quote so much.)

I have a village. There is no supporting cast as important as the village that helps you raise your babies. It is the thing that we turn to when we have a question, want perspective, or need an ear to just listen and then respond with, “I get it. You’re not alone.” In one of my earliest therapy sessions, my counselor said that I needed to create a village for myself, that without it I would be eternally lost. And she’s right. My village is HUGE and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Shout-outs go to The Mothers, both Ben’s and mine, for loving us and our babies, for providing second homes and soft places to land when things get out of hand, for hugging and listening and never judging. Props over to my sisters, my soulmates, the people that God saw fit to put in my permanent family, especially my nanny Toni, my dopelanger-in-spirit Jacqui, and Kim, my sister-in-broken-brainedness. To my dear broken brain friends, both past and present, thank you for never letting me feel crazy…but rather, helping me feel normal. To my kindred spirit Laura, for crafting with me, praying for me, and listening to me – love you! And to the ladies of the drop-off brigade – Heather, Bethany, Andrea, Michele, and Danika – without you holding Lillian’s hands, being second moms to Sophie, sharing in the school experience, this anxiety-ridden gal would have no friends at school. Thank you thank you thank you.

I have Ben. Beyond the village, you also need a good man in a storm. Ben is that good man. He watched me sob on the couch as I worried they would take away our babies and lock me up when I confessed to the third bout of PPD. He held me and told me we’d do whatever it took to get better. He never left me, even when I was being an asshole to him (PPD brings out the worst in people). He never blamed me, even though I felt like every crappy moment was my fault (I own the brain, ergo…). He has never stopped loving me, even when I made it impossible for him to love me. He let me run. He gave me time to regroup. He’s taken 50% of the night feeds since the 7-week mark. He is awesome. And to top it all off – he’s a great dad to our crazy kids. To the moms who are fighting this alone, I don’t know how you’re doing it. You are my heroes, because this is hard and hellish with a partner…without one, you must be made of steel or something. Seriously. I bow to you.

To the moms who are still fighting – don’t lose hope. I got my PhD. I survived my third round. I’m a confident, well-adjusted (most days) mom of three kids. I am still here, better, stronger, more vivid than I was before, and you will be too. Promise.

Babies and Mama

~ Julia

 

Mr. Right

Smart.

First boyfriend to have a licence AND a car. Dreamy

First boyfriend to have a licence AND a car. Dreamy.

Good father.

Dressing our first for the first time.

Dressing our first.

Funny.

145

Power struggle.

296

Hottie even when he’s silly.

120

Nice hat.

Ben Hat

And again…nice hat.

Good father.

Daddy and his girls.

Daddy and his girls.

Strong.

136

Sophie sitting on the ceiling.

267

Jungle-gym Daddy

322

Lillian flying high.

551

Unimpressed Christmas angel.

Ben Strong

Pipes.

Good father.

Father and son.

Father and son.

Handsome.

Smokin'.

Smokin’.

Good father.

Sophie hated water. Brave Daddy made it okay.

Sophie hated water. Brave Daddy made it okay.

 

Snow angels for Sophie.

Snow angels for Sophie.

 

Best snuggler. Ever.

Best snuggler. Ever.

 

Best bed. Ever.

Best bed. Ever.

 

Best heater. Ever.

Best heater. Ever.

 

Best lunch date. Ever.

Best lunch date. Ever.

Mr. Right for all the right reasons.

Seriously. Luckiest gal. Ever.

Seriously. Luckiest gal. Ever.

Happy Father’s Day to the best thing that’s ever happened to our family. You are awesome. Incredible. Amazing. And we’re so blessed you’re ours.

~ Julia

To us!

Eight years ago on this long weekend, something fairly magical happened.

Ben and I got married.

Just babies

Just babies

It was a wedding 30 months in the making.

It was a wedding that almost got cancelled because I was just graduating and Ben had lost his job, leaving us both unemployed and penniless. It didn’t get cancelled.

It was a wedding where we only met one couple that day – we knew everyone else we had invited. Both of us. All of them.

It was a day where we made official what we had already been practicing for our entire dating relationship – the delicate dance that is living each other’s lives with each other for each other.

It was cold and wet and rainy and there was some snow and very little sun.

It was perfect.

In the eight years since, we have held three of our children and said good bye to one.

We have survived our first apartment and bought our first house. We’re still in the first house, and we’re dreaming of the forever house.

We have watched friends get together, fall in love, get married, break up, get divorced, have babies, and go the distance.

We have worked a total of nine different jobs between the two of us. NINE. We have been unemployed a lot. We have worried about money a lot. We have never gone without what we’ve needed. NEVER.

We have worked hard in our church together. We have taken time away from our church apart. We have taken time away from our church together. We are working out what church means to our family right now. We never thought this would be a conversation or a question. Marriage has been surprising.

We have had really good times, where there was little to worry about and a lot to celebrate. We have had dark times, where the hole was deep and the pain was great and the light at the end of the tunnel was incredibly dim. In all the times we have stuck it out together.

We are a team. It’s what makes us strong and makes us work.

We are best friends. Seriously. I love talking to Ben. LOVE IT. It makes it tricky when I’m grumpy with him. That’s why God gave me so many sisters in family and in life. I’m sure of it.

We are in love. Not the shiny, new love of a dating couple, or a freshly engaged couple, or a couple just coming down the aisle, but the in-love of a couple who have endured more than few battles but are standing their ground in the war.

We take time to look up from the chaos around us, from the nuttiness that is having three kids under 6, and really seeing each other to make sure we’re both still okay.

We also forget to take time because of the nuttiness and we pay a price for that. And then we take the time.

We have a lot of stuff figured out. We have nothing figured out.

We are doing our very best with what we have. And it’s not going too horribly so far.

But we know it can all change in a second, an instant, a moment. It will not be the same tomorrow. It might be painfully the same tomorrow.

Eight years ago this weekend, friends and family came to our little town to help us celebrate us. And this weekend we went on a sad, old-married-couple date (dinner, shopping, hanging out with Dianne, Ben’s mom) to celebrate. But the date wasn’t sad. It was lovely. It was quiet, with conversation, hot food, and the best company.

Eight years ago I said yes to the boy beside me, having no idea what the heck I was agreeing to. Eight years later I’d say yes all over again. In a heartbeat. Because it was by far the smartest, best decision I’ve ever made and making it again over and over every day has proven to be the greatest blessing.

Funny faces

Ben – I love you. We’re 8! Here’s to the next 8 and beyond. I’m so glad it’s with you.

~ Julia