Letting go

I have been holding my breath for about 5 years.

Holding my breath since I peed on a stick, found out we were pregnant with our second, and praying that whatever our baby would show up with, full hearing or no hearing, that we would be prepared for it.

Holding my breath when the nurses exclaimed that our baby had the same ‘birth mark’ as her daddy. Trying desperately to tell Ben with my eyes and my heart while lying stuck and unable to move on the operating table that I loved him, that I loved our new daughter, that I loved everything and everyone and we would get through this.

White forelock, just like Daddy.

White forelock, just like Daddy.

Holding my breath when the first hearing test and every hearing test after told us what we already knew due to the white forelock just like her daddy – Lillian couldn’t hear. Nothing out of the right ear. A small amount out of her left ear.

I kept holding my breath, through her first hearing aid fittings at 4 months old, to her visits to Sick Kids for her cochlear implant, through the surgery and out again, through all the times she pulled off her ‘ears’ and popped them in her mouth.

Baby hearing aids for baby ears

Baby hearing aids for baby ears

I held my breath as we made the decision to keep me home as I couldn’t imagine anyone else having to deal with or wanting to deal with or being able to deal with Lillian’s ears like I could. I remember feeling gratified when I picked Lillian up from a babysitter to find her ears in her diaper bag because the woman just couldn’t do it. I remember holding my breath while we wrote up instruction sheets for every babysitter after, all family, never anyone but, until Lillian was old enough to help the babysitter put her ears back on because she was the expert.

Monkey Gear cap to stop her from eating her ears like candy...or toes

Monkey Gear cap to stop her from eating her ears like candy…or toes

I held my breath as we went through extensive speech therapy, starting at 4 months old with her first of a handful of speech therapists, until we met the one that would bring the words out of Lillian’s mouth, the one that would sit there and watch me cry, the one that would tell me over and over I was doing a good job. I was a good mom. I was working hard and so was Lillian and it would be okay. Dear Heather, the speech therapist who I said I would invite to Lillian’s high school graduation so she could hear Lillian’s valedictorian speech, we love you. And are so grateful.

Just after her cochlear implant surgery...rocking the hair and the bandage

Just after her cochlear implant surgery…rocking the hair and the bandage

I held my breath as this year kept looming closer, knowing this was the goal – getting Lillian ready for school. Working on all the language that naturally comes so easily to so many babies, including my own Sophie and Isaac, struggling with sounds and concepts and shapes, repeating phrases and words and sliding my voice up and down to indicate with sound as well as with language what I was trying to say to my tenacious, stubborn, awesome, beautiful Lillian. Hoping and praying that the delay between Lillian’s and her peer’s development would never rear its ugly head, would be held off as long as possible. Enjoying evaluation after evaluation that showed her either average or above her age in speech development, even though her hearing age was stunted by the 13 months she went without being implanted.

Playing the piano with her implant turned ON for the first time

Playing the piano with her implant turned ON for the first time

I held my breath as I watched my stunning, deep-loving daughter close up, clam up, shut down time after time after time in new situations, around new people, in any scenario remotely unfamiliar. I worried and fretted and talked to our social worker who had been with us since the beginning. I talked my head off to Heather, the woman who was on my team in this crazy, breathless trek to school. I was given oodles of advice. I was given oodles of support. I was given oodles of moments to breathe, yet still, I held that breath.

Lillian LOVING Isaac - after every walk from school, Isaac would flip out on the floor while I brought in the stroller. Lillian would hang out with him until I could pick him up. They'd lie there giggling and I'd fall in love all over again.

Lillian LOVING Isaac – after every walk from school, Isaac would flip out on the floor while I brought in the stroller. Lillian would hang out with him until I could pick him up. They’d lie there giggling and I’d fall in love all over again.

I held my breath as our home deaf teacher graduated us from the program because in a couple of months Lillian would be attending full-time, normal-kid school. I held my breath as she told me, dear Jaclyn, that Lillian was awesome, bright, funny, and would be fine. I didn’t believe her. I wanted to believe her. I held on.

Playing the piano with much longer hair...and more seasoned ears

Playing the piano with much longer hair…and more seasoned ears

I held my breath as I tried to explain school to Lillian, using all the vocabulary sheets we’d been given by Teacher Jaclyn, as Lillian called her, and Heather, My Heather, as she was fondly referred to, focusing on the fun! the excitement! the friends! we’d make. I took her back-to-school shopping with Sophie and tried to make it as fantastic as possible, finding her Spider-Man everything – backpack, shoes, boots, and lunch bag. We picked out a back-to-school outfit, although she has never been to school, and it didn’t have any Spider-Man on it, but damn it the skirt was red…like Spider-Man.

Her first ponytail! Which made her look older and showed off her ears that are normally hidden in her crazy hair.

Her first ponytail! Which made her look older and showed off her ears that are normally hidden in her crazy hair.

I felt like the breath was going to burst out of my eyes and ears and heart and mouth as we went to her personal, special meet-the-teachers and classroom tour a full week before her fellow students would arrive. I watched as she had her first pee accident and prayed, PRAYED, that this wouldn’t set the standard, that she would swing going pee and going poop and wiping her own butt and not melting down every. single. time. like she did with me at home. I felt like I was going to explode as she went from shutdown kid to open, playing kid with one of her teachers, while we explained her ears to her other two teachers. I didn’t cry. But deep down, I wanted to bawl like a baby. Because this was the moment.

Spider-Man cape for a hill-climbing Spider-Man

Spider-Man cape for a hill-climbing Spider-Man

And then, the breath got too big for me, so big for me, as we walked her up the hills to her very first full day without us. As Aunt Toni held her hands, and I watched trying to keep it together, as she wore her too-big-for-her backpack and looked determined in her Lillian way. I tried not to hold her too long or not long enough in our good-bye hug, breathing in her hair and smell and warmth one last time before I started sharing her every day with other people.

Day 1 before the walk to school. Sophie had a full day and Lillian was only going for a half an hour.

Day 1 before the walk to school. Sophie had a full day and Lillian was only going for a half an hour.

And as she walked into the school, the breath held on, dripping out only in a few tears in my eyes, as she waved and smiled and chatted with her dear friend Isaac, who we had asked to be in the class with her so she would have one person she knew.

First full day walk to school, holding onto Aunt Toni's hand and looking so damn small and big and determined and worried.

First full day walk to school, holding onto Aunt Toni’s hand and looking so damn small and big and determined and worried.

The breath didn’t let go or calm down or reduce in pressure until we went to pick her up and noticed her on the monkey bars, swinging like the monkey she is, playing, wearing the same pants that we had sent her in, indicating no accidents, and then the bell rang and she came running, smiling, and hugging us when she was released by her teacher from her line, which she voluntarily got in, waited in, and fell in with. And then I felt lighter than light when she told us her favourite part of the day was the cheese in her lunch, that she loved her lunch, that she wanted the exact same lunch the next day.

In line with her BFF...no looking back, no tears, no more breath.

In line with her BFF…no looking back, no tears, no more breath.

And the breath was gone, just like that, because we had made it. And we’ve been doing it now for almost two weeks. And the breath is still gone. And the successes keep pouring in. And my dear, sweet, Lillian, I couldn’t be prouder.

~ Julia

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Guest Post – Stay-at-home moms, I salute you!

Because she loves us SO much, Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us AGAIN as a guest blogger. WE LOVE YOU TOO! 

As you may know, I am Nana to 7 amazing grandchildren. They range in age from 6 to 2, or almost 2. I gave birth to and raised 4 wonderful children. During that time, I was a working woman.

This kind of working woman…

African American Woman

…not this kind…

Grandma hooker

I recently had the privilege of spending a day in the life of Julia. With Julia comes her accessories, Sophie, Lillian and Isaac. These are numbers 1, 2 and 6 in the line-up of grandbabies, and they are aged 6, 4 and 2 (okay, almost 2).

Unlike Julia, my day started at a leisurely 6:45. We had planned to spend the day together, but hadn’t worked out the finer details. A text from Julia and I was on my way to their house to bring Nana-Jam, have breakfast and coffee, and swap vehicles with Ben. I arrived at 7:30. By this time things are hopping at the Mills’ household. Everyone but Lillian is up having breakfast, Ben is dressed and ready for work while getting toast for Isaac; Julia is trying to manage 13 things at once, including launching that day’s blog post; and Sophie is being the sauciest six-year-old granddaughter anyone could have –  I wouldn’t have her any other way. Lillian emerges from deep sleep before Ben sprints out the house.

I tell Julia “Sit still, have a coffee and just relax.” HA! DOUBLE HA!

We chat about the things we want to accomplish that day: go to St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market to get fresh strawberries to make more Nana-Jam, a visit to the dollar store, make Nana-Jam, a drop-in kindergarten boot camp for Lillian at the library, a quick run to Costco, lunch at some time, nap for Isaac and down-time for both Sophie and Lillian, supper together and bed time before Ben arrives home after footie practice. That is a fully-packed day for adults, never mind dragging along 3 children.

I am so naïve; I think I can handle this day. I forget what it’s like to be kept in line by the terrorists. They have needs and demands. Lunch is not something that can happen whenever, snacking is a necessity and a nap for Isaac is a must. There are the required bathroom breaks; no, Lillian cannot hold it any longer – either stop and pee in the bushes behind the van at market, or you risk having an accident. And that accident, that one is your fault for not recognizing that children have a bladder the size of a walnut.

Undaunted, we start our day. Because not everyone moves at the same pace, we don’t get onto the road until almost 10.  It’s a Thursday – going to market at 10 am should not pose a problem. But, it’s the Thursday after Canada Day, which means it’s a virtual long weekend. Every man and his dog is at market. We had to park in an area I didn’t even know existed!

FlagThere are so many good things about market. Does it get any better than shopping in the sunshine, smelling the produce, sampling local food? Fortunately, the snacks are plentiful. Bananas and mangoes are the snack of choice. Disaster averted.

It was busier when we were there!

It was busier when we were there!

After the market, we should be thinking about the drop-in kindergarten boot camp. Nope, it was off the list before we got to market.

Okay, let’s visit Aunt Toni. Her office is 2 minutes away from the market. Easy. We don’t get lost, we find Aunt Toni. I am grateful that our visit is in the parking lot; my feet are sore, my knees ache and I really need Tylenol. We get to help make Aunt Toni’s day. The visit has elevated everyone’s spirits.

Next stop, let’s visit Grammie at her work and go for lunch!  Before we arrive to pick up Grammie, Isaac has succumbed to sleep.  No worries – some fuel and he will be good to go until we reach my house for a proper nap.

While Isaac is napping, Julia curls up on the couch. The cool of the rec room, the lull of the TV playing in the background, the calm of the afternoon and she is out too! It’s at this point that I realize she has worked for this nap, and she really deserves it. Me, my feet are sore, my ankle hurts and I’m tired, but I can do this! Besides, it’s hard to nap when grandbabies are talking to you and expect an intelligent response.

It is now just after 4 pm. Isaac is scheduled to wake up. We haven’t started supper yet, there has been no afternoon snack, strawberries are not cleaned let alone made into Nana-Jam. There are so many casualties to the list we so industriously made this morning. I suggest to Julia that we get some grapes for snack while I make supper. Nope, there is that Costco run yet. So, snack then Costco. Easy! HA! TRIPLE HA! I AM SO NAÏVE!

Costco without children is a challenge; Costco with 3 children is insane. But, I can do this. In case you missed it, I didn’t mention that we haven’t unloaded any of Julia’s purchases from market yet. We have only been to my house to unload my purchases.  But, let’s go to Costco to buy more! More necessities, more toilet paper in giant packages, more family-sized boxes of cereal, more over-sized bags of chips, more gallons of yogurt, more cases of diapers and all things family-sized.  And, just to add to the mayhem, let’s pick up these things for other members of the family too!

The hunger is starting to overtake the children. Sophie sees sample tables and begs for a taste, Lillian and Isaac are not far behind. By the time we are done at Costco it is close to 6 pm. We have managed to stuff the van with everyone’s purchases in such a manner that we can actually distinguish my groceries. This will be handy since we are off to my place for dinner. I like this idea as I won’t have to unload groceries by myself later that night.

Julia, an expert at squeezing everything she can into a day suggests that we venture to the dollar store. I implore her, we can’t fit another thing into the van. Off to Nana’s house for a quick supper, thank goodness.

If you refuel children, they get their second wind. Dinner is over at 7:15, Sophie and Lillian are looking to sneak downstairs where all the “good” toys are. No can do, bed time is in 15 minutes and we won’t make it home before then. Did I mention that my feet are killing me, my ankle has started to balloon, my knee aches like a son-of-a-gun and there isn’t enough Tylenol to satisfy me? But, I can do this! I have to do this, Ben still has my car.

After dinner is cleared, it’s time to pack up and head for Ben and Julia’s. Julia drives and I am so grateful. I am yawning like crazy. We make it all the way to bed time for the children. I love them so much and I love them even more when they are tucked in.

We unload the van of the day’s purchases. By ‘we’ I mean Julia unloads the van and walks everything to the door of the house, I just need to place things in the kitchen or in an area for pick up by others. I am so tired.

Oh, did I mention that Julia was going to do some freelance writing that evening, after our monotonous day? Just sneak in an hour or two, that’s all. Nothing to it if you haven’t spent every ounce of your energy running after children. I get set up to watch some TV while waiting for Ben, Julia is busy writing. Mercifully, Ben is not late – he arrives shortly before 9 pm.

I’m exhausted. Julia looks relaxed as she easily jokes with Ben. He has a small gift for her. A while ago, Julia ran a half-marathon with three of her best buds. Ben presents her with a commemorative mug – it has a picture of the victorious ladies. Just another day in the life of.

This day has been long and it has shown me that being a stay-at-home mom is not a life filled with bon-bon eating and watching TV. My ordinary day consists of sitting behind a desk to crunch numbers; I’m a whiz with a calculator and a computer. Saturday and Sunday I’m a regular weekend warrior – I cut the grass, clean the floors and do laundry. I don’t try to manage a plethora of duties including child care, household management, first aid, sanitation for the nation, logistics and supplies procurement. I take my hat off to all the stay-at-home-moms. Their job is the hardest anyone will ever do, but it is the most rewarding. It is the job that will determine the direction our nation will take. These domestic engineers mold our future doctors, teachers, politicians, ditch-diggers, farmers and car mechanics. We should never take them for granted.

~ Dianne (a.k.a. Nana)

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!

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