An ode to Jacqui

WE’RE BAAAAAAAAAAAACK!

It may not be Tuesday, but Julia and I decided to pull a switch-a-roo so I could have the honour of writing a post to mark this day of our very own Jacqui’s birth.

JQ, my baby duck, happiest of birthdays to you. I hope you have the best day possible today, regardless of responsibility and have to’s required of you today.

I’ve got to say, getting to be your big sister has been pretty kick ass so far, as I am sure it will continue to be. Getting to watch you grow over these past 26 years has been a wild, rewarding ride.

I mean, I got to know you from this point:

Her pants are SO inflated with fart.

Her pants are SO inflated with fart.

And watch you grow into this:

BAM! (she's still 12!)

BAM! (she’s still 12!) [Photo credit: Photography by Heather ]

I can’t believe you’re 26 though. I mean, it really does seem like yesterday that we were much shorter, standing in our country home, getting into whatever shenanigan we could to entertain ourselves…

I love that this picture exists

I love that this picture exists

And now we’re all grown up, trying to navigate all of life’s crazy adventures as they come…I hope it goes without saying, but I’m really grateful I’ve got you by my side through all of them.

I have loved watching you grow into your own person and become even more ‘you’ these past few years. You’ve inspired the hell out of me with your strength in your battle with epilepsy and conquering a shit ton of obstacles to celebrate two years seizure free this week. (Seriously, you KICK ASS)

Last year's one year anniversary tattoo

Last year’s one year anniversary tattoo

I admire your heart, your incredible wit and humor – I seriously still vote ‘stand up comedian’ needs to be added to your resume – and your need for peace making. You’re brave, smart and gorgeous from your heart out.

I hope 26 is incredible for you in every way – with more laughter, love and magic than you can hold. I know you’re already off to the best possible start.

Sisters ♥

Sisters ♥

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, dear Jacqui! We LOVE you!

~ Toni

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What I know

Close on the heels of my post about weaning depression, something I had no idea about, I thought I’d follow up with a post of things I do know for sure. And since it’s my 32nd birthday on Friday, I thought I’d give you 32 things I know for sure. Because I’m crazy that way.

1. Embrace coffee. Or green tea. Or something hot that kick starts you. I spent decades avoiding coffee and now, it’s one of my favourite things ever. Also, it makes me go.

Ryan-Gosling-Meme-Delivering-Coffee

2. Move. Go for a run. A swim. A dance. A walk. A yoga sequence. A gymnastics routine. Some parkour. Anything. Just get up and move. I didn’t understand as an indoor youngster, reading the books and eschewing gym class, but damn, it’s my new drug and I’m all for it.

3. Take care of you. No, seriously. Take a break. A rest. A timeout. A reading session. A napping session. A running session. A session that rejuvenates you. And when you need it, ask for help.

4. Say no. I’m working on this one, I really am. But say no to things. Your time is precious and sometimes no is the right answer and yes will just hurt.

No

5. Say yes. To new things. To happy things. To positivity. To light. To spirituality. To the future. To looking up and standing in the sun.

6. Family is everything. Blood family or life family, family is everything. It is what props you up, reminds you who you are, and helps you grow into who you will be. It’s everything. Don’t poo on it.

7. Make friends. Friends that get you. Friends that are fighting similar battles to you. Friends that will love you and your mess.

8. Be a truth-teller. Your truth. All of it. Every single messy piece of it. Even the parts that scare you. Tell the truth to yourself, to your family, to your friends, to strangers who will benefit from hearing it. Never stop telling it.

Mess

9. Eat your vegetables. And fruit. And whole foods. And things not purchased in a box or a package or are ready-made. I didn’t understand why our parents made us eat ‘real’ food when we were growing up, but I’m so glad they did.

Butter vs margarine

10. Eat a cookie. Or a brownie. Or some chips. Or that cheeseburger. Just don’t do it every day, all day. Your body deserves better. It does. But you also deserve a treat. Or two.

11. Have fun. No, seriously. Life is hard. Really hard. And it just keeps going and going, filling up your time and energy with hard things. So, cut loose a little. Giggle. Stay up too late. Play that game. Read that saucy book. Dance your own jig to your own tune. Enjoy your time here.

Daily Odd Compliment - sweat pants

12. Help. Your family. Your friends. Your neighbours. Strangers. People who are hurting in your town. People who are hurting across the ocean. People you walk in life with. People you will never meet. Where you can, when you can, help.

13. Be kind. In word and deed, be a nice person. You never know when you’ll meet someone again, or when you’ll need something from someone, or what they are battling. Be as kind as you need them to be to you. And then add some more. Because there just isn’t enough kindness in the world.

14. Learn to park. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to deal with a bad parking job. So, figure out your vehicle’s edges and length and depth and learn how to park. Countless people will be grateful.

15. Be polite. Please. Thank you. You’re welcome. I’m sorry. Excuse me. Pardon? Small words, big impact.

16. Babies are hard. Really hard. Like life. They suck everything out of you all the time. They ask for things all the time. They are a 24/7 commitment that you’ll never be ready for. They are really, really hard.

17. Babies are worth it. Every second. Every minute. Every hour. Every hug, squeeze, kiss, ‘I love you.’ All of it. Worth it.

18. Mental illness is as serious as a heart attack. It kills. It hurts. It destroys. It can be beaten. It can be stopped. It must be.

2013-11-21-Helpful%20Advice

19. Stop judging covers. That chubby girl? She can run. That run-over-looking person? Doing their best. That human race, full of people? All them, showing up, doing their best. Even you.

20. Money isn’t everything, but it sure helps. We were broke growing up. And now, I’m living a one-income life with three kids. Money isn’t everything…but damn, it helps.

21. Love is everything. For each other. For yourself. For God. It’s everything. If you walk in love, if you work in love, if you act in love, you’ll never go wrong. Period.

smallthingsgreatlove-768x1024

22. Put your damn cart away. No, really. I watched a woman who had to be in her 80s reorganize an entire cart caddy in a grocery store parking lot. She said, “If everyone would just put their cart away, we wouldn’t have this problem.” Never forgot it. Always put my cart away properly.

23. Listen. Not to respond, but to listen. To let someone else be heard. We all need to be heard. Make sure you’re doing your part.

Heard

24. Believe in the good. The bad will always be there, weighing you down, pulling you under. Believe in the light, in the good, in the hope. And look for it. Actively. Always.

25. Sit in silence. Turn off the news. Turn off the music. Turn off the internet. Turn off the chatter. Sit still. Breathe. Disconnect. Note that you didn’t die. Remember what it was like to be quiet? To not be plugged in? Take time to reacquaint yourself with it.

Silence

26. Sometimes it sucks. You’re asked/required/obligated to do something you don’t want to do. Sometimes you have to suck it up, grow up and do it. I feel like this one gets confused with number 3, Take care of you. Yes, you should take care of you, but you’re still a grown-up and you still have to do stuff you don’t wanna. Too bad. Get cracking.

27. Be creative. I had a boss that told me I wasn’t creative. He was an asshole and wrong. So wrong. I am creative, in the cards I make, the words I write, the mittens I crochet, and the songs I make up on the spot about going pee in the potty and wiping our bums and pulling up our pants because we’re soooo prettttyyyyyy. I’m creative, dammit. And it’s good for the body, mind and soul.

28. Don’t listen to assholes. You’ll notice them, quietly or loudly, obviously or passive aggressively shoving other people down so they feel bigger, better, smarter, faster, more successful. I’m not sure if they’ll ever ‘get theirs’, but I do know their opinion of you and your talent and your brain and your body doesn’t matter. Not one little bit. Don’t give them power. You have the power and you are awesome.

29. Make it better. Pick up litter. Rearrange some carts. Hold the door. Fix the mat so no one else trips. Pay for the person behind you. Don’t wait for a thank you. Don’t demand a thank you. Just leave this world better than when you got it.

30. Love with everything you’ve got. It’s going to hurt sometimes. And it’s going to be hard sometimes. And sometimes you’ll question your sanity. But, loving with everything I have has been one of the most rewarding things ever. I love Ben with everything, even though I want to kill him sometimes. I love my babies with everything I have, even though one of them lives in heaven and the others I want to run away from sometimes (at least once a day). And I get hurt. And bruised. And sometimes I don’t know if I’ll recover. But, I’m all in, baby. All. In.

Broken heart

31. Have dirty little secrets. Like the dirt you swept under the couch with your foot before your guests arrived. Like the smutty book you like to read. Like the so-bad-it’s-awesome television you can’t miss. Like the Oreos you can shove into your mouth without any children noticing. Any little thing that makes your life a little brighter, yet is probably not meant for public consumption? Keep on keepin’ on.

32. Celebrate your birthdays. I don’t get this “I don’t like my birthday” crap. I just don’t. And the whole, “I’m 29 again! Twelfth year in a row! WOO!”? No clue. You made it around the sun again. You are given a day that’s yours. There are people who want to celebrate you. You should celebrate you. Grab your cake and your glass and let’s toast the incredible things you did last year, like write potty songs and survive five-year-old fashion crises, and outlast the weaning engorgement, and all of the time spent loving and helping and creating and resting and just being.

Birthday hat

~ Julia

Brownie-licious

Here’s the thing about a house FULL of girls…chocolate is a must.

Elixir of life...with butter, which is also the elixir of life...so elixir of life SQUARED.

Elixir of life…with butter…which is also the elixir of life…so elixir of life SQUARED.

It’s there for you when you break up.

It's getting hot in here...so take off all your clothes...wait, wrong post.

It’s getting hot in here…so take off all your clothes…wait, wrong post.

It’s there for you when you birthday up.

Smoooooth

Smoooooth

It’s there for you to eat with coffee (or tea…or milk).

Way more than a spoonful, Ms. Poppins...WAY more.

Way more than a spoonful, Ms. Poppins…WAY more.

It’s there for you to spruce up your banana bread.

Chocolate, sugar, butter...what could go wrong?

Chocolate, sugar, butter…what could go wrong?

It can turn the greyest day to pure sunshine.

 

Chicken or egg? Who cares?! BROWNIES!

Chicken or egg? Who cares?! BROWNIES!

And apparently, if you eat the right kind, it’s GOOD for you (HOW AWESOME).

Vanilla and salt...ying and yang...yum and yummier

Vanilla and salt…ying and yang…yum and yummier

Chocolate is never that far out of reach in the Sisterhood and for good reason – it’s delicious and it’s delicious. Not to mention, delicious.

And the glue...flour...to keep everything together.

And the glue…flour…to keep everything together.

Before I got married and had babies, I found this delectable, decadent, fantastic brownie recipe that made the most delicious brownies of all time.

Are you ready, baby?

Are you ready, baby?

They became “The Brownies”, requested almost as much as my famous chocolate chip cookies (another recipe for another day), and reserved for the most special of occasions.

Oh....

Oh….

They are moist, not cakey, fully chocolatey, and absolutely unhealthy (no, seriously). They are also kind of expensive to make (8 eggs! 10 ounces of chocolate! 4 cups of sugar!)

...YEAH.

…YEAH.

They are best saved for that milestone celebration, for that fancy party, or for that much-needed, long-neglected, took-forever-to-schedule-and-now-we’re-here-6-months-later girls night.

Have a good sleep, dear brownie pan. We'll EAT you soon!

Have a good sleep, dear brownie pan. We’ll EAT you soon!

It is not a recipe to be taken lightly…but it is heavenly and worth every chop, stir, and patient waiting while they set in the oven.

Oookay...we're going to need a minute here. *DROOL*

Oookay…we’re going to need a minute here. *DROOL*

These are The Brownies. And they are the ones you’ve been waiting for. Now, excuse me while I have one with my morning coffee (just don’t tell Toni…).

Suggested serving. Trust me.

Suggested serving. Trust me.

~ Julia

The Brownies

  • Servings: 1-9x13 pan of fudgy goodness (however many squares you'd like!)
  • Difficulty: worth the effort
  • Print

Ingredients

10 oz unsweetened Baker’s chocolate
1 1/2 cups butter
8 eggs
4 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour

Directions

Grease 9×13 baking pan. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coarsely chop chocolate. Cut butter into cubes. Place both butter and chocolate in a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until chocolate is almost melted and there are still a few lumps. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until evenly blended. Set aside. Stir sugar into warm chocolate mixture until combined. Add eggs, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in salt and vanilla. Gradually add flour and stir until just mixed. Pour the liquid heaven mixture (i.e. brownie batter) into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs but not with raw batter. Cool before cutting. Cut into as many squares as you’d like, or grab a fork and a friend. YUM.

Adapted from Chatelaine Speedy Fudge Brownie recipe