Holy shoot! He’s TWO!

We’ve been a family of five now for two years. Two years of juggling three babies, two years of figuring out what the heck to do with a penis, two years of breaking all over again and pulling myself back together again.

TWO YEARS.

Things I’ve learned in two years of Isaac:

  • Boys think penises are HILARIOUS and pull-able. I don’t know about you and your penis experience, but from what I knew before Isaac, penises weren’t meant for extreme tugging. Somehow, though, Isaac thinks his can super-stretch. I will leave him to be the expert…it is HIS penis, after all.

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  • Boys LOVE bodily functions. And so do girls. All of our children have a respect (I’m not sure if it’s healthy or not) and certain glee surrounding farting, burping, pooping, boogers, and being disgusting in general. Seriously. Isaac will stop babbling in the mornings to note Ben’s butt trumpeting. If you’re feeling self-conscious or have a low fart self-esteem, hang out with Isaac. He’ll make you proud of every duck that escapes your tush.
  • Boys LOVE construction vehicles. And big trucks. And cars. And tractors. And lawnmowers. In fact, Isaac has a standing date with the landscaping crew that comes to cut our grass every Tuesday morning. They look for him, he stands at our front door and waves and waves, and they smile and wave back. On the walk to and from school, Isaac will yell out the different trucks and vehicles he sees coming up and down the hill.
In heaven.

In heaven.

  • Isaac is a butt. Oh my, he’s super buttly. He loves climbing all the things he shouldn’t, loves getting into the toilet and the bum cream and the pens and the pencils and the groceries you just brought home and the phone you left on the couch while you grabbed him from jumping off the table. Seriously. He’s a jerk. He sees a vulnerability and he will exploit it. Faster than fast. He sucks.
  • Isaac is FREAKING cute. I know all mothers think their children are adorable, but Isaac with his chubby feet and his small bum and his fat thighs, and his irresistible giggle…KILL me. And he knows it. This is why he is still alive. This is why I have not killed him yet for all the buttly things he does.

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  • Loving Nana Jam knows no gender or age. All of our babies have mastered and graduated from the Nana-Jam Suck-Off, whereby they take a piece of toast, smothered in peanut butter and the jam that my mother-in-law, Dianne (a.k.a. Nana), makes, and they suck off all the jam and peanut butter and leave a soggy, sad piece of bread behind.
Nana Jam and chocolate...mmmmm

Nana Jam and chocolate…mmmmm

  • Boys love hard and boisterously. Isaac is the KING of running up to me, smashing his head into my leg, and then going into a full body spasm of excitement, complete with gritted teeth and animal noises. This is how he hugs me. He can give regular, boring hugs, as well, but this one is his trademarked, insane hug that sometimes knocks me off balance if I’m not paying enough attention.
He's coming in!

He’s coming in!

  • Animated films aimed at children can be dissected at a collegiate level. Isaac LOVES Cars. Not just the things that drive around in real life, but the Disney film featuring the voice talents of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, and, the most beloved by Isaac, Larry the Cable Guy who lends his brand of fun to Mater, Isaac’s FAVOURITE character. Ben and I have watched the movie so many times now that we have in-depth discussions about the landscape, racing as a business, the merits of different racing/sponsor styles, etc. It’s ridiculous. We now preface conversations with, “I know you don’t want to hear it, but…” and then launch into a description of a facet of the movie we hadn’t noticed before. It usually ends with me freaking out, demanding we stop wasting time talking about the plot holes or inconsistencies at length.
  • Three kids is hard. So hard. Harder than two. And when one of them is a outright butt (see above), and when one of them can be more stubborn than any being on the earth, it gets even harder. We knew having kids this close together would be dicey…tricky, even. But knowing now just how hard it is…well, I think we’d still make the same decision. But DAMN. It’s hard.
The first day of school...it was kind of like herding cats.

The first day of school…it was kind of like herding cats.

  • Three kids is worth it. So worth it. Having an oldest, middle, and youngest…having the three babies we do…having them close together and crazy-like? All worth it. The other night I was lying on the couch with all three on me. It didn’t last long (fighting for space started, and then Ben sat down on the other couch, opening up a whole expanse of unused lap), but while they were all piled on me, it was heaven. And then it was hot and whiny. BUT. It was heaven for at least a minute or two.
  • Our family is complete. When Lillian was born, in the first few weeks afterwards, the hell weeks, as I fondly refer to them, I felt like it wasn’t enough. I felt like we were still missing someone. I don’t feel that way anymore. People are popping up pregnant all around me, and I’m still happy in the knowledge that I’m done having babies. That the factory is closed and that this family is the one we’ll walk the rest of our lives with. I’m so content here. I’m so thankful there are no regrets. I think if we had stopped at Lillian, I would have been filled with regret over the third baby that never was.
Love this face!

Love this face!

  • Isaac is awesome. He’s the sweetest little dude and I can’t wait to see the big boy and the man he’ll grow into. We were walking towards the school and he was strutting along in his way, and I turned to Ben and said, “One day, he’ll come home and tell us he wants to ask someone to marry him.” It’s a mind-blowing thought that this baby will one day become a man in his own right…but from what I’ve seen so far (penis-yanking aside), I know he’ll be awesome.
Happy birthday, dude!

Happy birthday, dude!

Happy happy 2nd birthday, Isaac! I love you SO much!!

~ Mama (a.k.a. Julia)

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You don’t want kids!? But…

Every time I say, “I don’t think I want to have children”, I tend to brace myself for the response and reaction I’m going to get. The responses are more times than not less than desirable. The statement is usually met with negativity, judgement, or the instinctive reaction of trying to convince me differently.

Over the course of my long-term relationship with Michael, I have compiled a list of the most common responses I hear – we call them ‘but-responses’ – and they generally sound something like this:

1. But, having children makes your life fulfilling!

Firstly, saying something like this makes it seem as though a woman who chooses not to reproduce leads a life that is lacking something…well, really, that’s exactly what you’re saying. Yes, the choice is non-traditional; however, it should be accepted that it is a choice and not a requirement to create life – something I think should be explained to more women. I do not need to give birth to know that I have an incredible life and on top of that, I am going to experience so many different opportunities that some who choose children as their adventure might never get to experience.

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2. But, you’ll change your mind one day, trust me.

Well, trust me then. I’ve felt this way for the better part of my adulthood and for as long as I can remember to be honest. I have never had the burning desire to make mini-me versions of Toni and I feel more strongly about this choice now, with where I am as a person, the life I forsee myself living, than I ever have. It seems to get stronger the more birthdays I see, the more Michael and I grow together as a team, and our blended-family grows more in love. It’s not necessarily my mind that I’ve made up, so much as listening to the silent pull in my heart.

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3. But, what will you do when you’re older?

This one irks me a bit…and then makes me wonder if that is really a reason people have children – as a retirement/old age plan. I have a hard time with this one usually, and I have to really force my filter to stay in place and be kinder than I would like to be. I usually point out that there is no guarantee that your children will be there for you in your old age as it is all in how you get along and treat each other that matters – not just that you’re family.

4. But, you would make such a great mom!

Thank you! And not to toot my own horn, but that’s what makes me such a kick ass step-mama and auntie. I’m a mama bear for anyone I love, and it seems to come pretty naturally. I also love being an influential person to the children in my life, but not having it rest completely on my shoulders. You know, that whole “it takes a village” mentality? I’m one of the villagers that will always be there as a support for my babies from other mamas. I love being that person for my sister’s babies, my step-babies, and my friends’ babies – the person who shows up for them all the time as a teacher, mentor, guide and friend.

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5. But, it’s what’s natural!

So is nudity, but it’s illegal. In all seriousness though, just stop judging what you don’t know. Statistics prove that even if I did want kids, there are still a ton of chances that I might not be able to conceive, carry to term, survive the birth, and have a fully healthy baby, etc. etc. the list can go on and on. Determining what is right for my body and my life is what is natural to me. Let’s all remember too: at the end of the day, I’m the only person who has to live with and answer for my choices.

I know many women who are choosing not to have children of their own, each armed with their own reasoning, each reason as personal as the next. Please try to remember to support each other in our right to choose our own path for this life – what is right for you is not what us right for everyone. So next time you hear a woman express her choice not to have children of her own,  instead of one of the above cringeworthy but-responses, celebrate her choice, thank her for being true to herself and maybe ask “why?” without judgement – the answer just might surprise you.

~ Toni

1997

Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us again as a guest blogger. We are in awe of her strength in surviving her abusive marriage and we are inspired by her bravery in sharing her story out loud. 

Story will inspire

This is a story that has lived within me for several years, actually for almost two decades. This is a story that few have ever told, but if you know it, the story must be told. It’s a true story, one meant to inspire others, not one meant to elicit pity. Pity is not what I needed; strength and inspiration – that’s what I was looking for.

It started a long time ago, when I was a young girl. I met my sweetheart. We were very young, 14 or 15. Circumstances would lead us to marry others, but circumstances would also bring us back together. It’s at that point that the real tale begins.

I believed, like so many young women, that the man I would marry would hold me dear in his heart. He would cherish me, guard me, and protect me. Never would he harm me. I believed that whatever faults I saw, things would be okay because of the underlying truth: he loved me. This was at a time when I believed that people would change for the better, or I could help them change.

My childhood sweetheart was raised in a Christian home, believing in God. His parents were blue-collar hard-workers. I remember his dad in particular. He worked shift work at the tire factory in Kitchener. He landed his job during a time when an education was not necessary to maintain a steady paycheque. At the end of a long day, he would come home to deal with a busy household comprising of five children and a sickly wife. His reward was a cigarette and a beer.

My husband grew up and followed in his dad’s footsteps. He was uneducated. Times had changed and as a result, my husband had difficulty holding down a job. As it turned out, the love of my life was plagued by demons. He believed that he was not worthy of any of life’s treasurers, certainly not love. Because of this, one beer became two, became six. Soon the motto was: “24 beers, 24 hours in a day, not a coincidence.”

I was a master at justifying anything. “He drinks because he worked hard, he drinks because life is so busy, he drinks because…” There were a thousand good reasons to drink, and there were no good reasons to drink. He drank copious amounts, but beer was his drink of choice. I discovered that if he drank spirits, he was more difficult to handle once he was drunk.

Now when I say, “more difficult to handle,” what I really mean is he became violent, physically abusive. As it turned out, he was more violent with spirits, but that didn’t stop his temper when he was drinking just beer. Remember, I was good at justifying anything. I would say things like, “He only drinks on the weekend “(lie), or, “If he drinks beer, he doesn’t get too violent” (another lie). I would console myself by saying, “He doesn’t hit the children,” something that eventually became another lie. I even tried telling myself that others didn’t know. Others knew. They knew and didn’t know what to do.

Friends and family would watch in horror as I sported new bruises. There were so many battles fought over the course of 12 years. So many times I wondered what I had gotten into, how could I change things, could I ever learn the rules of living with him? I knew this was a dangerous situation, ready to go off at any minute. If I said the wrong thing, said something with the wrong tone, served something for supper that wasn’t up to his liking, there would be hell to pay.

After one particularity disastrous birthday and Father’s Day, I went to church with bruises on my face, neck, arms and upper torso. Not cleverly-disguised bruises – these were big, purple, angry bruises. The next day at work, someone asked me what happened. I told them I ran into a door. Looking at me, you knew I would have to run into the door repeatedly to get these bruises. Bravely, I told the lie.

I remember this weekend clearly – it’s the weekend my babies watched as I was choked and beaten. All I could think of was getting away with my babies. I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have money; I just needed to get away. It was also the weekend I made up my mind that things would change.

I started dreaming of schemes, trying to figure out how we could leave the home without bringing on another beating. I didn’t care about the things in the house, they were just things and I could earn money to get more things. I envisioned so many scenarios. Maybe he would go away for the weekend and come home to an empty house. Maybe he would be involved in an accident and I could become a grieving widow…problem solved.

One thing I wanted to keep sacred was my relationships – they were few and far between. I didn’t want other people burdened with the mess I had gotten myself into. I wouldn’t ask for help. I had been virtually cut off from family, so I couldn’t ask them. This is very typical of an abusive relationship, isolate the victim.

It was almost two years to the day before I finally had enough. With no plan in mind, with little cash resources, we left. We left and made a stand…NO MORE! I didn’t care if he kept everything in the house, he would never touch any of us again. Never again would we live in fear. There would be no more angry voices in my home.

It was the scariest day of my life…EVER. But, it was like being born, a new day with new hope. It was refreshing to get up in the morning and know that I was in control of all that was before me. If something went wrong, I would be responsible for making it right. I also knew that I wouldn’t depend on someone else; there would be no more disappointments.

If you are a victim, you will know when you’ve had enough. It takes a lot of courage to leave; it takes a lot of courage to stay. Make plans, but be prepared to move at a moment’s notice.

Your friends are watching you, they want to help but don’t know how. They can’t believe that you would stay where you are, but don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes.

If you know a victim, be their support. Don’t judge someone for remaining, you never know what you would do yourself. Be an ear. Protect the children; give them a reprieve in the chaos. Have a moving truck and plenty of strong, young men on standby.

Remember to protect yourself. Once you are free, never look back. You will second-guess yourself for a long time. Your memory will play tricks on you. You will think, “Was it really all that bad?” I have a crack in my jaw that hurts sometimes; this reminds me that yes, it was that bad.

The bible doesn’t say “reconcile and forget,” it simply says “forgive and forget.” Forgiveness does not mean the renewal of the relationship; it is the power to let go. Reconciliation is forgiveness with the expectation of a continued relationship. Don’t kid yourself – there is no expectation of a continued relationship.

Your ex-partner will be angry. They will plead. They will promise to never hurt you again. They will try to convince you that it never happened. Stay strong. Find your friends again. Cry, laugh and cry again. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Be reborn. Rejoice in the day.

I’ve survived. My children have survived. It was 1997, so long ago, but only yesterday. Scars will heal. We will be okay.

~ Dianne

If you are someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is hope and there is help. You are stronger than your story, braver than you know, and a survivor through and through.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

A Call for Change

Before I get too far into this post, I would like to preface it with this:

I have the utmost respect for the police, the people behind the badge, the sacrifices they make that I simply could not and for keeping us safe. Seriously. I mean no disrespect to the honour they stand for, the lives they give up to serve and the horrors that I can only imagine they have seen as first responders and the mental health weight they carry from their role serving our communities. I especially mean no slight to those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives in the line of duty.

I am not a cop, I have never been in a situation that required my response rate and ability to make life altering decisions within seconds and I have no idea what it is like to be faced with situations like this.

I would also like to preface this with not being or claiming to be God and therefore unable to truly know all of the events leading up to and during the horrific incident that occurred in LA on Skid Row this past Sunday. This is not a post about race. This is not a post against our brave men in blue. This is not a post taking a stand or a side with or against anyone.

That being said, it is a post about this:

What I have a problem with are the four, fair-sized men, armed with multiple weapons and professional training – some of the worlds best and finest as we are told – losing control of one man. One man that while/shortly after being tazed to the ground was apparently able to manage the energy and strength to wrestle an officer’s weapon from them – in some accounts he only reached for it and did not actually have hold of the weapon. What I have a problem with is the man who was fatally shot was known to officers as was his history and struggle with mental illness. What I have a problem with is the way it seems lives are ranked in order of importance in a situation such as this – determining that the homeless man deserved to die for resisting and struggling with FIVE shots being fired at him, into him. That the officers chose to shoot FIVE bullets into an unarmed man. I have a problem with this being the solution. FIVE shots. Over what one witness claims was the repeated request for the removal of his tent. Here’s where I had to ask myself; How do unarmed nurses, orderlies and doctors deal with mentally ill patients that are clearly out of control or physically threatening them or another patient? And how do they stay safe without killing them? They tactically take them down by each grabbing a limb – in ignorance of never being through it, is this not part of basic training for the police?

I do not understand where our society went wrong. When this type of response became acceptable. When this level of violence, of force was a reasonable reaction to this kind of situation. When did this story become more and more familiar as we become numb to it. And while I do understand that the media tailors the main stream news to whatever cause or conflict they would like us to be fearful over at the moment, I also understand that the role of an officer is to ‘serve and protect’ the people of a community – it seems the many kinds and characters it takes to make up said communities is sometimes forgotten, specifically the mentally ill. When a man pleads for his life stating he can’t breathe, or a child raises their hands in surrender, or a homeless man struggles with police in broad daylight, yet their lives are still swiftly taken, I cringe that this is a world where I live. That this is the reality of our society today. That we agree this is how a ‘crime’ should or even can be punished.  The extremeness of our society scares me, as it should you.

Our jobs, regardless of earthly occupation should we ever be so humbly reminded, are to take care of each other. To look after and watch over one another. For the lions to protect the lambs – may they be children, mentally ill, senior, challenged in any way, your sibling who is overwhelmed, a friend that struggles with addiction, the hungry that need to be fed. Our roles as souls, as human beings, are to love one another and help each other thrive, heal and LIVE.

Our roles are to find peace and harmony, not perpetuate and accept fear, life-ending violence and judgement.

What made this life worth less than any other?

What made this life worth less than any other?

My heart hurts because it seems there has been very little conversation about what happened on Sunday. It hurts because on the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s senseless death, this society seemed more interested in starting actual arguments over the colours of a dumb dress then having any real conversation about our obligation to fix what we have accepted and therefore, have broke. My heart hurts that I am even a little worried at how this post is going to be received, because I know the majority of people don’t want to hear the truth or talk about the hard shit, or deal with the reality of where we are headed as a society. We would all rather talk about the colours of a dress and pretend that what is happening is just what they show us on TV and not what is occurring in our own backyards and in the streets of our own communities as it hits closer and closer to home.

As I said earlier, I am not God, nor do I claim to be – all we have is a bit of unclear video. I was not a direct witness to the details of this past Sunday, nor do I think we will ever have all of the information, as we see in cases such as this. I do not claim to have the answers, but I do have the feeling in my soul that this level of violence and response is unacceptable and that if is not addressed, curbed and improved upon, it will only continue to evolve beyond any solution, if it hasn’t already.

~ Toni

The darnedest questions

When a child asks a question, there is no hidden agenda, no secret motive, they simply are just curious and want to know; however, they are very impressionable. Who their parents choose as their immediate circle have a direct impact on who they are – those people are their entire world.  Everyone looks different, dresses differently, has different personalities, body types, etc., which means new things to little minds bring out the best questions EVER!

Question: Why did you write on yourself?

Grown-up answer: I have two tattoos, so far, which are located on my wrists. When I wear anything that does not have sleeves they are there for the world to see, including you, Little One.  One reads “força” which means strength in Portuguese, representing my dad who has taught me in many ways to be strong; and the other one is “beauté” which is French for beauty for my momma, to whom I attribute my dashing good looks! I wrote on myself to always remind me where I came from. And Lillian when you are 18 and want to get tattoos, I am going to tell you to wait, a year, two years, three years even, and think long and hard like I did, and make it meaningful. And regardless of what others may say, it’s your body. Your mom may have a different response to this.

Actual answer: Because I was silly and wanted to write I myself. It’s something you do when you are older, much much older…like 40.

Question: Where are the rest of your panties?

Grown up answer: I have no idea! No, really. When you grow up, suddenly it becomes the norm to pay more for less fabric. It becomes more uncomfortable to wear something that is more “appealing.” Don’t get me wrong, sometimes less fits better with an outfit, and sometimes it’s nice to wear something scandalous.

Actual answer: My bum ate them.

Question: Why do you have owies on your face?

Grow up answer: Well beautiful, they are called zits because I like chocolate and chips and sometimes fall asleep with makeup on. I also touch my face when I am stressed, which happens very often when you become a “grown up.”

Actual answer: I dunno, Baby Girl, I just don’t know.

Question: Why did you kiss Uncle Cody? Are you getting married?

Grow up answer: I kissed Uncle Cody because I wanted to. Unfortunately you don’t always love people when you kiss them and you aren’t always going to marry them. You may think you love them, but you will find out the hard way that you have to kiss frogs to find your prince. And yes, Baby Girl, we are getting married.

Actual answer: Yes, Baby Girl, I love him and that is the only time you should kiss someone – when you love them and only when you are going to marry them.

Sophie’s response: Ew, gross!

~ Jacqui

One day

One day I’ll go to the bathroom without Sophie running to say she has to pee too, or hearing fighting from the other room the moment I sit down, or having someone sit on the floor to ‘wait’ for me, or someone wanting to ‘help’ me with toilet paper and then have a tantrum if I don’t let them help the right way, or even…and this one is RADICAL…with the door CLOSED.

Mom bathroom

One day I’ll walk out the door at the time I absolutely have to leave with just my purse and keys and I’ll drive away without a fifteen minute process to get out the door and into the van.

One day I won’t have to do the mom math on when the last feed was, when the last pee was, when the last meal was, when the last snack was, when we gave Sophie, the puker, Gravol, how long it’s been since they had naps.

One day I won’t be well-versed in the delicate negotiation tactics required for getting shoes on feet (never mind the right feet), pants on bottoms, and appropriate wear on little bodies who will complain if they are too hot or too cold, but will make sure it’s the end of the world to get them to wear the correct number of layers for the current weather.

One day it will be quiet in our house, with no one screaming for food, or crying because they pooped themselves, or singing at the top of their lungs, or growling incessantly for NO DAMN GOOD REASON, or squealing because they can, or squabbling.

One day I’ll wear my hair in a style other than Messy-Mom-Bun.

One day I’ll stay clean for longer than five seconds because people who are eating with me won’t demand to cuddle, be on my lap, ask to go pee five times, or suck on my knee while eating a banana.

One day I won’t be asked to put shoes back on, look behind me, or retrieve various items from the van floor WHILE I’M DRIVING.

One day I’ll be the sole backseat driver in our family and I’ll treat the position with the respect it deserves, unlike the five-year old who asks, “Mom, are you sure this is the place?” every time we go somewhere new.

One day I’ll sleep in.

One day I’ll be able to drink my coffee hot, from first sip to last drop, in one go, no microwaving.

One day I’ll be able to watch whatever I want whenever I want on TV (apparently Orange is the New Black is not suitable for children, go figure).

OITNB

Pornstache is completely G-rated

One day songs from incredibly awful children’s shows won’t be playing on a loop in my head…at 3 a.m.

One day I won’t have to worry about my necklace or my earrings or my bracelets or my watch getting stolen/broken/tugged at/yanked off/eaten.

One day I won’t have to calculate the mess-factor of foods before we take them on a picnic or eat them in the van or eat them in the living room vs. the kitchen table.

One day I won’t get yelled at for stopping someone from running into the street, or for making someone poop in the toilet instead of their pants, or asking them not to rock in their chair, or for stealing their boogers, or for telling someone that we have no plans for the day, or for reminding someone that no, Grammie or Nana or Daddy or any of the Aunts can’t come play because they have to work.

One day my shirt/pants/arms/legs/neck/face won’t be used as a booger catcher.

One day “This is disgusting. I’m not eating this. I hate this family.” won’t be the first reaction to the dinner I made.

One day carrying a baby on my hip while hauling a giant basket of laundry up the stairs won’t be the norm.

One day I won’t get bitten or pinched or head-butted or collar-bone slammed or smacked or have my hair pulled WHILE HOLDING SOMEONE WHO WANTED TO BE HELD.

One day my hands won’t go to sleep because I’ve been carrying a baby around the house.

One day the quietest moment in my day won’t be the time I spend walking around the van to my seat while all the babies are locked inside.

One day I’ll never have to potty train again…EVER.

One day I won’t be asked to push people on the swing only to have them yell at me, THEY CAN DO IT.

stuart

One day I won’t have to be super stealthy at night, dodging creaking floorboards, refusing to flush toilets that share a wall with a bedroom, and not breathing while checking on sleeping babies.

One day I won’t wonder where the day went because nothing has been accomplished and I’ve failed at housekeeping again.

One day I won’t wonder when the day will end because nothing has been accomplished and I’ve failed at housekeeping again.

One day I will miss little hands grabbing my pant legs to pull themselves up while I stand still as a statue and make dinner.

One day I won’t be the first line of defense against the owies or the bad days or the bullies or the crappiness that is life for my babies.

One day I won’t feel the tightest hugs, the biggest love, the most hero-worship of my babies every day.

One day I’ll have to call them or text them or email them or Facebook them to find out how their day was, how they are, if they’re eating vegetables, if they’re sharing nicely, if they’re okay, if they’re happy.

One day the trip to bed won’t include retucking and reblanketing and kissing and listening for breathing of my babies.

One day I won’t be given dandelions on every walk, pictures made just for me after every craft time, and birthday cakes made out of Lego and random toys just because.

One day our morning won’t begin with everyone snuggled in our bed until it becomes too chaotic and we’re forced to get up.

One day I’ll miss all of these days and wonder where the time went.

One day.

~ Julia

Hate is a strong word

But, I’m going to use it.

I HATE CLEANING.

So glad to get that off my chest.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a job well done, I love meeting other people’s expectations (I’m a people-pleaser), I love just being able to cook without having to Jenga my kitchen first, I love walking on my floors and through my hallways and not tripping or dodging or obstacle-coursing around. I do. I really, really love it.

BUT.

I HATE CLEANING.

The only thing I hate more than having a dirty house is cleaning.

It was always this way. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. My mother, my poor cleaning mother, will tell you that my room was ALWAYS the messiest. ALWAYS. That if you could see floor it was a good day. If laundry made it near my closet, I was a success. That she hounded me about my disaster of a room more than anything else. It was my worst trait, my most horrible habit, my cardinal sin. I was a good kid. I was a MESSY kid.

Remember when I asked you to clean your room and you told me, "No!" and slammed your door? Well, I donated all your toys so now you won't have to clean your room anymore.

When Ben and I moved into our first apartment, it was the same. At the beginning, there was a novelty to cleaning up things, doing dishes in our sink, working together on tidying our space…until that second week. And then the shiny, the glimmer, the newness of cleaning up our space went away. And we kept it to the point where we could salvage it if someone came over, but generally it was an untidy mess that didn’t get cleaned. In fact, I had a friend comment after I had vacuumed for the first time since we moved in, that our carpet was kind of nice-looking when I vacuumed. That is how infrequently I clean.

Our house is the same. Before we had kids, we were slobby. Stuff everywhere. Dishes not done until they HAD to be done. Laundry not dealt with until it HAD to be dealt with.

Funny how to do your laundry infographic

Some days I would clean up our bedroom and Ben would be in utter shock and awe that it could be cleaned. Imagine that.

Wow! The house is so clean! Was the Internet down today, or is someone coming over?

Add some children, some mental illness, some more children, some sleep-deprivation, and voila! The cleaning has not only gone on a back burner, it’s not even opened. It’s at the back of the pantry, getting dusty.

At this point, though, I’m starting to understand cleaning. I’m starting to get what my mother was going on and on and on and on and on about when we were growing up. Things like, if you put it away you’d know where it is (Hi, it’s under my bed. Case closed.). And why put the dishes on the counter above the dishwasher, instead of in the dishwasher? And if it’s empty/full/broken/needs refilling, why don’t you do what you need to do instead of waiting for someone else to do it?

I get it. I still don’t LOVE cleaning, but I get that an organized home is so much easier (and nicer!) to navigate when you’re in a hurry and you’re running late and you need to find the elusive toy that will make the day instead of break the day. I get that walking across a floor and not having to brush the crumbs off is a nice perk. I understand now that stepping on and over and around stuff takes up precious energy. Energy I don’t have to waste on making my home a Spartan Race. I get it.

And yet…

My house is still a disaster.

I work at it. I spend hours washing dishes, sorting-washing-drying-folding-putting-away laundry, sweeping, steam mopping, dusting, vacuuming. I do. BUT.

And this folks, is the BIG BUT.

BUT I have these…children. And they’re not helpful. Cute, but not helpful.

My house was clean. Then the kids woke up. The end.

They don’t have a wonder of cleanliness to show them the way, so they don’t have innate cleaning genes.

They do have innate let’s-destroy-the-house-and-watch-mom-lose-it genes. IN SPADES.

There are a couple of scenarios caused by these adorably infuriating children.

The first one is obvious: I clean, they destroy. Sometimes not right away, sometimes they don’t wait, sometimes it’s concurrently – they’re messing it up AS I’M CLEANING IT – but they like to undo every thing that I do.

Organize and put away toys. Feel a sense of accomplishment. Watch as it’s taken apart in 5.6 seconds.

Fold laundry. Painstakingly put it in drawers by type of clothing and size. Watch as it’s tossed around like nobody’s business and BOOM can’t find socks.

Do dishes. Put all Tupperware away. Watch as children take out Tupperware, use it for rocks and dirt and goodness knows what. Watch as they put their sticky hands, mouth, feet all over it. Watch as it falls all over my not-so-swept floor. Cry.

Sweep floor. Feel like a superwoman. Watch as children drop cups of milk and water, pieces of toast with peanut butter, saucy chicken, spaghetti AND sauce all over the floor. Sob.

See? Brushing your teeth and Oreos, I tell you.

Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.

The next one is not so obvious. It’s the one that mothers DON’T TALK ABOUT. They don’t share their secrets, so I’m asking you, dear audience, dear readers who probably excel at cleaning and everything around it, whose houses I could drop by and feel very bad about myself because you’re doing it SO MUCH BETTER THAN ME, tell me: how do you clean without letting your parenting fall all to crap?

I’m talking about trying to do the dishes, but then the baby starts screaming. Do you let him scream until the dishes are done, or stop and take care of him and then go back never? And what do you do with the toddler who would make MORE DISHES while “helping” you with dishes? Do you ignore them? Let the TV parent them? What do you do with them?

Cleaning with a toddler around is like raking leaves during a hurricane.

And when the babies are napping and all you want, all you NEED to do, is sit for a few minutes because you’ve been chasing babies ALL DAY LONG, do you pick cleaning and chores over rest, knowing the chores will make you cranky and unbearable later? Or do you pick the rest, knowing it will make you a mother you’re proud of, one that doesn’t lose her temper or get frustrated or freak out because I JUST CLEANED THAT FLOOR, COME ON!?

Could you tell me? Because I think if I had some ideas, maybe I wouldn’t HATE cleaning so much. Just generally abhor it, but still do it because the benefits would eventually outweigh the moaning and complaining that I’d put up.

~ Julia

An ode to motherhood

When we made this plan to write about motherhood for the week before Mother’s Day, I was stoked. EASY post. I am a mother.  A full-time-nothing-else-all-day-long-but-a-mother. What else would I ever write about?

And then I started to really think about it.

And all I could come up with was the usual stuff that I write about. The crap about motherhood. The hardness of motherhood. The complete unfairness of my motherhood journey. The way that motherhood has exploded my life, identity, world, body, mind, soul and perspective until I’m unrecognizable to myself.

And I thought, how depressing.

I did this. I had babies. On purpose. Heck, I had more than one baby. On purpose. So why am I constantly dwelling on the ugliness of this highly marketed, highly edited, highly misleading role?

Because for me, those parts, the parts that no one talks about, the parts you hide from poor, unsuspecting pregnant women, were the only parts that I could focus on.

So, why did I do this more than once? Why am I such a glutton for punishment? And why am I not alone in my craziness (to be a mom, not just my medicated, therapy-treated craziness)? Why are their billions of moms in the world and more being made and remade every single minute of the day (a quick Google tells me that a baby, and therefore a mom, is born (or reborn) 300 times in a minute)?

Because being a mom is kind of awesome. And not just kind of. It kicks ass.

For my Mother’s Day post, I thought I would give you my top ten list of why motherhood just might be the best job on the planet (you know, so all the pregnant or wanting-to-be pregnant people can breathe a sigh of relief).

1. You get snuggled. A lot. Babies, toddlers, and young children (which is as high as I’ve gotten so far) are great snugglers. They give the best hugs. They lay right on top of you without inhibition. They treat you like a Barcalounger, with limbs everywhere, their heads tucked under your chin, and their heat and yours keeping the world warm. They are the sweetest when they want to snuggle. And some days, the fact that my babies want to still snuggle with me makes me feel like I must be doing something right among all of the things I’m sure I’m messing up.

2. You get to be somebody’s everything. And not in a small way. In a BIG way. You’re the one they want when they need something. You’re the one who wins the opportunity more often than not to do their hair, kiss their ouches, fix their ears, hold their hand when they cross a street, help them with tricky buttons, stairs, colouring pages and sentences, be their protector when they’re scared of the invisible monsters or the very real dog, spider, giant Daddy who is chasing them. You are theirs in a way you’ve never been anyone’s ever before nor will be ever again. It makes you feel needed. Wanted. And powerful. Until they discover teachers and friends and other experts. But there is a window, however small, where you are the world. And that’s pretty cool.

3. You get told, “I love you” without agenda or prompting. This is probably one of the sweetest moments in my day, where one of the talking babies will come up to me, call my name, pull on my hand, grab my face between their hands, and say, “Mommy, I love you.” It makes my breath catch and stops the tasks that are running through my head into my feet just for that minute. There’s nothing like it.

4. You get a free pass to go to bed early. No, seriously. You’re not a wuss, you’re a freaking hardworking warrior who chases after crazy people, while juggling a job or a house or a yacht. It’s hard work, people, so do it. Go to bed early and embrace the fact that it’s still daylight out. You’ve earned it. I swear it.

5. You get a huge appreciation for sleep, hot food, and personal space. Related to points 1 and 4, this is solid proof that absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. I can’t remember the last time I had a decent night’s sleep…or uninterrupted sleep…or sleep that left me feeling refreshed in the morning (Is there such a thing? Or is this again some awful marketing ploy?). Hot food is similar – if I don’t want to eat my meals cold, I’m shoving burning hot lava food into my mouth before the baby/toddler/kindergartner decides to start demanding things. Better to just let it get cold and suck it up. And personal space is a laugh. I don’t go to the bathroom by myself. I don’t eat by myself. At this very moment, I’m typing with Lillian on my lap. My body is theirs, my space is theirs, my very being is theirs. And that’s just the way it is. So if ever I find myself in a hotel room at 6 p.m. with a steaming hot plate of food on my blanketed lap watching television by myself, I’m going to enjoy the CRAP out of it, I promise!

6. You get to witness pure awe and joy regularly. When’s the last time you felt genuinely happy? Laughed with your whole body until your face hurt? Found happiness in something as simple as a pair of shoes or some stickers? Well, I get to watch people experience pure feelings every single day. And the best ones, by far, are the moments when something ridiculous makes them laugh insanely…like ripping paper.

Or when they see you and they light up, or you make them smile for the first time (and capture it on camera, of course):

Sophie

Sophie

Lillian

Lillian

Isaac

Isaac

That kind of awesome honesty? Nothing like it in the world.

7. You get to be part of a family instantly. Whether you’re a step-mom, a single mom, a mom to a blended family, a married mom, moms in a same-sex family, a mom in an alien family or a mom in an extended family, you are part of a family. A family of you and your children and whoever else gets to share in your life. The moment you hold your baby, there is more than just you in your world. It’s a huge transformation to go from being a single person to being someone’s family and have them be your family. Just like that. Sure, it comes with drawbacks (see point 5), but the idea that no man is an island is never more true than when you’re a mother. You’re not an island. You’re queen of a country. Or maybe you are an island and have been invaded by an army of crazy people. All I know is that you are no longer alone. You have a person and they have you. And that’s pretty damn amazing.

8. You get to watch a person be born. I’m not talking about the birth part, because, really, how many mothers actually get to ‘watch’ that? Not many. I mean the person your children will grow up to be.  You are there when they’re figuring out who they are, what they want to become, what they don’t want to have anything to do with. You get to see them fall in love with pieces of their world, learn how to navigate all of the social nonsense we throw at them, and come out the other side as their own human being. You and that child are linked by biology or necessity or choice and then you slowly become separate from them as they figure out how to exist without you all the time. It’s such an honour to bear witness to their coming of age. It’s a privilege that can be easily overlooked amid the potty training and the tantrums and the rebellion and the sickness and the daily grind, but the truth is all of those things lead us to the things that make our children the people they will eventually become.

9. You get to feel extremely accomplished. Not every minute and certainly not every day. Sometimes not every week. But there are moments, crazy-hard moments, where you look around and think, “I’m actually doing this. And I’m doing it well. I’m not screaming or crying. They’re not screaming and crying. I am a rock star.” These moments are when one kid is puking in the toilet while the other is peeing on the floor while the other is screaming because you’ve abandoned him on the floor to deal with everything else and you stop, after admiring the hair on the puking child, and calmly prioritize the tasks ahead of you and how much you’ll deserve the coffee at the end of the rainbow, and you have a moment of pride for the mother you have grown into. These moments are like a runner’s high for me – it was hard, it was a slog, it sucks, not everyone can do it and not everyone does it, but you’re there and you’re doing it. Kick-ass, lady. KICK-ASS.

10. You get to feel voracious, boundless love for other people. There are very few things in this world where the things you offer, do, and feel for someone else are perks. Where you get to put your whole self out there, expose it to all the elements of your world and their world, to worry about every breath and interaction and event and moment, and love them so much you want to wrap them in bubble wrap and throw away the key, and it turns out that panicky, anxiety-ridden, exhausting feeling is the best feeling in the world. My love for my babies is like nothing else I’ve ever felt. It is what gets me out of bed in the mornings. It’s what made me get pregnant four times. It’s what makes me grab whichever head is closest and take a huge inhale of their hair. It’s what keeps me from tossing them all out the window and keeps me from running away from home. The love I have for my babies makes everything else worth it. They are the best thing in my life. Period. Stop. The end. They are and my heart is for them and that is all.

11. BONUS! You get a whole day devoted to you and all the awesome stuff you do. And seriously. It’s awesome. And you’re doing it. So take a bow, a handmade card, a questionably made breakfast in bed, and a bubble bath, because you are doing a great job and it’s your day.

Happy Mother’s Day!

~ Julia

Surprises of a stay-at-home mom

Before I had children, and knew everything (ha!), I had ideas about what stay-at-home parents did, what their houses looked like, and what their lives looked like. I also knew (ha!) that I’d never, ever become one. Ever. Never.

I went to a fancy university. I got a fancy (read: expensive) degree. I was a smart cookie. I had plans. I had ambitions. I had ideas. And I was stupid.

Fast forward through four pregnancies, three children, and years of being a stay-at-home mom to today, and let me tell you: I knew nothing. And I still know nothing.

I had some surprises when I became a stay-at-home parent and I thought I’d share them with you. So here, without further ado, are the 10 things that shocked the crap out of me when I became a stay-at-home mom:

1. My house will always be messy. If you do some quick math, I’m home from 10 until 3 every day. That’s five hours of prime cleaning time, you would think. But in reality, I do not have ‘free’ time from 10 until 3. I might have maybe 30 minutes of free time, maybe, and those minutes may not come all at once. They might come scattered throughout the day. So, while one would suppose (like I did before I took this gig) that I would have a magazine-worthy house, the fact of the matter is that there will always be floors to sweep, dishes to wash, toys to tidy, furniture to dust, windows to clean, toilets to scrub, and mirrors to shine. Always. It’s a horrible, self-perpetuating system that never ends.

2. The laundry will never be done. In therapy this week I was lamenting about the fact that my house is in constant chaos (see number 1) and that my laundry is never, ever ‘caught up’. One of the therapists (I had the pleasure of two at my last session!) said, “Unless you become nudists, that’s just the way it is.” She’s right. Even while I’m washing clothes, four other people besides myself are wearing clothes. Dirtying clothes is happening while I’m cleaning clothes. It’s just not fair. And it’s my reality.

3. I will not have a plan for every day. Somewhere in my ridiculous head I thought stay-at-home parents had some sort of social engagement calendar, filled with play dates, book clubs, leisurely coffees in shops, walks in the park pushing a  pram, library visits for grown-up books, or trips to the zoo, beach, fill-in-the-name-of-a-cool-place-here. So not the case. In fact, when we have a day where there isn’t a doctor’s appointment, a speech therapy appointment, groceries to fetch or errands to run, it’s blissful. It’s relaxing. It’s so much better than transporting all of the children with all of the things to the place that they’ll most likely destroy.

4. My kids will not do elaborate crafts every day. Or be enrolled in every play group or activity available to little people who aren’t in school. In fact, the moments where these things happen will be magic and the exception, and will be incredible and awesome, but will also be exhausting to coordinate, too expensive if they’re not free, and will wipe out any energy for anything else that week, making us yearn for days of nothing again (see number 3).

5. I will miss going to work. Before my last maternity leave from my last job, I couldn’t wait to stop working. To be at home and not have to get up with an alarm, or get dressed in fancy clothes and wear uncomfortable shoes, and eat lunch at a desk, and deal with the office politics that float in every workplace. But the reality of my day, complete with God-knows-what on my clothes, my hair looking like I’ve been run over by a tornado, and screaming children bouncing on me at 5:30 every. morning. there are some days, shockingly, that I dream of showering, brushing my teeth, going into work with clean, respectable clothing on, having structure to my day, performance reviews that don’t involve shrieking or temper tantrums, and a lunch where no one touches me. Some days having an out-of-the-house job sounds downright dreamy.

6. I will feel trapped sometimes. There seems to be such freedom for people who don’t have to work. But that’s just the thing: even though I don’t go anywhere, I still have to work. And my bosses don’t quit at 5 p.m. or stop sending demands outside of work hours. There are no such things as work hours. And so, some days, when my Monday looks like my Wednesday, which looks like my Saturday, it feels like I’m on a continuous loop with no end and no reprieve. Some days, there is nothing but boundary and restriction in my seemingly freedom-filled day.

7. I will wonder if I made the right decision. It’s a big decision to not return to work, to stay at home, and yet, for us, it was such a short conversation and it was made with very little debate or fuss. Ben and I talked about a few things: money that we would otherwise make, money we’d save if one of us stayed home, his career trajectory being able to recover in his industry versus mine after an extended absence, Lillian’s needs in terms of appointments at the children’s hospital an hour away, speech therapy weekly (at that time), and hearing aid/implant upkeep, and it just made sense: we needed someone to stay home and the person that it would work best for was me. Although logical, some days I wonder if everyone wouldn’t be happier, better off, our bank account less stressed out, if I were to just return to work. Some days.

8. I believe stay-at-home parents should be paid. I didn’t before. Because I didn’t recognize the magnitude of what they were doing and the positive effect they were having on their families by staying home. It’s a luxury in this day to stay home with your children. It shouldn’t have to be. It should be an option every family, whether single-parented or blended or couple-parented should have. It should be something that everyone has access too, not just the very rich. And let me say, we are not the very rich. I don’t know if we should get paid what people think we’re worth (like the infographic below argues), but I do think we should get something to make ends meet a little bit easier.

SAHM salary

No one is paying me this, let me tell you.

9. I don’t eat bon-bons and watch my stories. A little bit of me (okay, a lot a-bit-of-me) thought that stay-at-home parents had days like working people have when they call in sick – daytime TV, naps, lounging around in your pyjamas, eating because you’re bored, reading, playing video games, taking hot baths and going to bed early. Just like people who think having children is like having pets, I was mega-wrong. Even on days that Ben is home or someone is here helping me, my day doesn’t look anything like the sick days I had when I was in school or when we were just married.

10. I will work hard every day to stay present. It sounds like a fantasy, especially to a new mom or dad facing having to return to work: you get to stay home and watch your children grow up. You won’t miss the firsts that working parents might. You won’t miss out on milestones and you’ll have all the answers and know everything about your baby at appointments or when people ask. You’ll know you are your baby’s everything. The hard truth for me is that some days I want to be anywhere but here. That not every day is a monumental day that I give thanks for because I got to witness the first crawl, the first step, the first word, the first poop in the potty. That some days are bad or boring. Some days nothing happens at all, the minutes crawl by, and there is no end to the poop in the potty. Some days suck. But I know that this gift, this luxury, is a once-in-a-lifetime. That our babies will never be this age again, that I will never have this much access again. That I have a gift that Ben does not. That being home is a blessing. And I will work every day, even those crappy ones, to remember that. And I will accept that some days it will be impossible to remember. But most days it will be the thing that gets us through.

~ Julia

Guest post – Blessed

To celebrate our 50th post, we asked our mom to write a guest blog. Thank you so much for reading with us this far! We can’t wait for the next 50. And to our Mommita – we LOVE you!

As I anxiously await each new submission to the blog, I realized something: I crave connection with my babies every day. Even as they live their lives, I still want and need to be a part of their lives. After all, I am a mom and will always be. Oh, I have added a few titles to my repertoire, Grammie being my most favorite of new additions next to girlfriend. Before this blog there were days when I had no connection with them either by phone, chat, email, text or Facebook updates. Those days I felt almost empty; something was missing. You see, my greatest accomplishment and joy are my four babies. Just thinking about them makes me cry with joy and pride. When my girls asked me to write for the blog, I responded, “You know I am going to cry,” to which Julia and Toni immediately responded, “I know,” and, true to form, I did.

I love being their mom and always have. I never doubted that I would be proud of each of them, that I would be there for them, that I would do whatever was needed to help them, guide them or rescue them. As I see what lives in their hearts, I see the girls I know, love and adore. I am blessed!

The ladies, back in the day

The ladies, back in the day (L to R: Toni, Mom, Andreah, Jacqui, Julia)

My girls, each in their own way, were my strength as I ventured to take the most challenging of steps in my life to be me again, a woman, a single woman. They were my cheering section, along with their men and the many friends, Dianne and Paula to just name a few, and family. With each step I took, from renovating the house in preparation to sell, to moving to a new town, they were there. It was hard for me to find the courage I needed. I was scared – let’s face it, I had been a part of a couple for 28 years. I had never done this before, be just me. But I am absolutely sure that it was even harder for my girls to see me venture out, dating (we call it shopping for shoes), harder for them to start a new life without the two parents they loved not be in one place.

Oh, what had I done? How have I failed them? What kind of example am I to end my marriage? This was all I could think as I watched each of them struggle to find the balance in all this. It broke my heart to see the impact on each. When I expressed this to Julia so many moons ago, she said something to me that has stuck: you have shown us that it is okay to say enough, it is okay to say this is not good for me and move on. I hear my OH so wise daughter each time I make a change in my life.

Don’t get me wrong – if I had to do it all over again I would not change a thing about our life as a family. I loved my life, loved being his wife, rallied in the title that will be mine forever- Mommy, Mom, Mommita – joyful in what was “our family” no matter how flawed it was, it was ours. Through all the trials and joys, that is where we grew, where the bond as women began. Without all those experiences we would not be who we are today – strong, independent and dependent, loving, giving and, yes, emotional women.

A wise man once said to me that if you put God in your life and seek His favour first, all things are possible. He was right. Through many prayers, I found an amazing man who I loved and lost. I was lead to an amazing job that I did not apply for but got that I love and still have today. The many of the lessons in my life have shown me that it is okay to be just me, that no matter what society says I should have done, I did my very best. I am not perfect, but that is okay too. Over time and putting God first in my morning prayers and pleadings through the tough moments, I have found a new love that makes me joyful and filled with laughter. With that love comes new joy and even more family to love. I wake up every morning in love with my man, in love with our families, so happy to be me. I am blessed as only God can bless me, with a life that is worth living with no regrets!

~ Christine (a.k.a. Mom)

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!