Guest post – To Sophie, my mother’s namesake

Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us again as a guest blogger. Check out her first post here

I miss my mom, some days more than others. It sneaks up on me when I least expect it. In the summer I think of her more than in the winter, her birthday was August 12.

I remember as a child listening to my mom. She was number five of 22. The reason that my grandparents stopped at 21? My Uncle Bernard was just a baby when my grandfather passed away. My mom was part of the first baby boomer generation; she was born in 1918, just after WWI. She was made of stuff you just don’t see these days. Her childhood was harsh, her life as an adult was no easier. She was beyond tenacious; she was stubborn. Sophie may have inherited this gene.

Mom talked about when my grandma gave birth to her twin boys. Born in the field, they were premature and too young to survive past a few days. They were kept warm in baking pans on the door of the wood stove. My mom talked about my Uncle Romeo and how he and my Aunt Yvonne had tied up all their siblings one Saturday morning while my grandparents went to market. Life in northern Ontario was an adventure, to say the least.

These were the easy stories to tell. She didn’t speak often about her relationship with her parents. My mom was outspoken; my sister inherited that gene. I guess Mom voiced her opinion one too many times for the liking of my grandmother and they parted ways. I didn’t see much of my aunts, uncles, cousins or grandmother growing up.

Following Malvina`s funeral, the Labine daughters

My mother and aunts after my grandmother’s funeral. Mom is third from the right. 1967

 

My uncles after my grandmother’s funeral. 1967

My uncles after my grandmother’s funeral. 1967

When my grandmother passed away I was 10 years old, the last of nine children for my mother. Through a series of circumstances, Mom was not allowed to raise her first five children. She was a divorced woman at a time when that was not popular. There was no Social Services safety net at the time. Mom had a Grade 6 education, not quite enough to financially support her brood. The bias of the time dictated that she was unfit. This judgement caused her to lose custody of her children.

After Mom married Dad, they had us four. I like to think Mom kept having children until she achieved perfection. Both my parents were married twice, but I couldn’t tell you much about my father and his first family as my parents separated when I was two.

What I do know for certain is that WWII was over, I was a baby boomer like my mom, the family birth rate had dropped by over 50% and we had become urban dwellers. We were sophisticated! Milk came in glass bottles and Aunt May’s Bakery delivered bread in a plastic bag right to your door.

Christmas 1961. I’m the cute one with the baby.

Christmas 1961. I’m the cute one with the baby.

My mom was the sergeant major in our army. She taught my sister and I that we didn’t really need to work hard in school, some day we would fall in love with a man and he would take care of us for the rest of our lives. RIGHT, because that worked so well for her.

She also taught us girls how to sew, cook and put away preserves. Today, I am thankful to know how to do these things. It has helped me leave my mark here. Everyone I know appreciates NanaJam.

Mom had old, outdated standards, as far as I was concerned. My brothers didn’t need to help in the garden, or to learn how to vacuum; that was women’s work. They joined air cadets, went to summer camp and skipped painting the house.

She fought hard for us and taught us a work ethic that carried us through our adult years. I remember my oldest brother was followed home by some rough kids. Mom met them in the back yard and hopped the fence to where they were. Angry words were exchanged, the police were called and the other kids left. We were a tight family.

Through time, we grew up and moved away. We found our careers, married and raised children. We have watched each other grow older. Mom passed away in 2005. She was 86 years old. If you look closely, you will find parts of my mother in each one of us.

Each of us is given a set of tools, things that will help us through life. We gather these tools when we are young, hone the blades as adults and use them throughout our lives. I look at the toolbox I have and compare it to my mom’s. Ben once said that my mom only had a flat screwdriver and a hammer in her toolbox, and that someone had broken the handle on her screwdriver.

I look at all she accomplished in her life and tried to imagine the battles she had fought. It’s true she was not educated, never owned property and died as poor as a church mouse. She used to say “It’s not a sin to be poor, just inconvenient all the time.” When asked what kind of car she drove she used to say she was the Lone Ranger without a horse. She never expected anyone to carry her, she only asked for fair treatment from a system that was learning compassion. She led by example and never expected anyone to do something she wasn’t willing to do herself.

One of the greatest things mom taught me was that family was first. Work is a means to an end. It is the way we support ourselves. Mom would say things like “You can love money all you want, but it will never love you back.” Friends are great, but in the end it is family that will see you through.

As I preside over my mini-dynasty, I hope that I have learned enough from my mom to be worthy of this position. It is with great joy when I look at my grandchildren and know that they will grow up with weird uncles, crazy aunts, goofy cousins and a Nana.

Mom was a storyteller. My sister says I have inherited that gene. When we gather as family for a BBQ or a birthday, to celebrate each other or just because, let’s remember to tell the stories that keep the past alive and help us remember where we came from.

~ Dianne

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!

What motherhood means to me

I have been blessed throughout my entire life with a wide range of mothers coming in and out of my life, but for the most part they all stay. They come into my life when I need them the most, even if I don’t think I do. They help me through the hard things, and hold my hand when I need them. They adopt me and keep me in their lives, and are never surprised when I show up to their houses unannounced. They are the women who raised me (and continue to do so), and it seems like it really did take a village to raise me, and because of them I always find the strength to move on to greater and better things in my life.

Motherhood to me is acceptance.

Acceptance is something I have always wanted for most of my life. I have always wanted to be welcomed in and cared for, it is something even to this day I crave. As the youngest of four girls I felt alone quite often in my life. Not always left behind, but more just brushed aside at times, especially when I wasn’t too lovable. My mom had her hands full raising all of us, and I came around when the rules seemed a little bit more relaxed, and when they weren’t quite expecting another one.

“She was your little accident,” my grandmother had said.

“I didn’t accidentally have sex; she is my miracle,” my mother replied sassily.

My mother, from that first moment, accepted that I was coming into the world, and she has never stopped accepting who I am and who I am becoming. The next mothers I have known are the women at our various congregations of our church, all of them loving to watch me and guiding me in small, but meaningful ways. They are the women in my life who I still call my ‘Aunts’ even though there is no actual relation. These are also the women that my mother coins as her life-long friends. Helping her raise me with a shoulder to cry on when needed, complain to when I was being impossible, and being another ear for me to voice my opinion and give me some insight into what my mother must be feeling.

Motherhood means listening.

I have a wonderful friend named Elena, and when I felt like I had nowhere to turn and was feeling overwhelmed in college, she and her mother were there to lend a third party unbiased listening ear to me. Whenever I see Birute, Elena’s mom, I still run towards her yelling, “MOMMY!” And whenever I am over and can actually get my butt out of bed, I still spend some wee hours of the morning sharing a cup of coffee and a little bit of catch up with her.

Motherhood to me means hugs.

I know that is a young thought, but think about it. Still to this day, whenever I am upset, have problems, or just feeling overwhelmed, all I want is a mommy-hug. There is nothing like a hug from a mother. It is warm, comforting, and just allows everything to lift from your shoulders. The only thing stopping me from saying that magic doesn’t exist is the mom-hug. It feels magical and is the one thing that feels like an instantaneous problem solver. Call me crazy all you want, but mom hugs are magic.

All of my various moms have had all of these qualities, they all accept me wholeheartedly, they all have listened to my various (sometimes overly dramatic, yeah, I admit it), problems, and all of them are always willing to give me that hug that I need so much on a constant basis.

However, motherhood, to me, is a beautiful, unconditional, all-encompassing love and the beautiful part? You don’t even have to be related to show this motherly love to people. I should know.

Thank you all my wonderful mothers, you know who you are, and I hope you know that you all are definitely counted as my blessings.

~ Andreah

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

Guest post – The importance of moms

Ben, Julia’s husband and knight-in-shining armor, is our guest blogger today! He’s kicking off our Mother’s Day Week by writing about the mothers in his life. Watch for more posts about motherhood all next week in honour of mothers and their day, Sunday May 11, 2014. 

~~~

Mom: What day is it?

Me: Second Sunday in May.

This is a conversation I had frequently with my Mom. It usually followed my asking her for something. Can I go out to my friend’s house? Can you proofread my essay? Can I borrow the van (there’s no way I drove it as much as you did, right?)?

It was her unique way of saying “Yes, but make sure you appreciate this.”

This is to say nothing of the things that she provided even when I didn’t directly ask for them: a home, food (I ate A LOT), clothes. Things that are easy to overlook, until you have to provide them yourself.

Moms give.

Moms teach.

She had other, less subtle ways of reminding me of the importance of Mom (though I don’t recall her referring to herself in the 3rd person). I remember her driving to and from Confirmation classes, during which she would ask us to recite the Commandments and Articles of Our Faith, our memory homework. She would call out one of them and “volunteer” one of us to recite it. Of course her favourite has always been the fourth commandment (I’m sure she asked for this one more than any of the others). She could still ask for it today, and I would be able to tell her (here it is as I remember it):

Source: The Ten Commandments

Source: The Ten Commandments

“Hounor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

What does this mean?

We shall fear and love God that we do not despise nor vex our parents or superiors. But rather love, honour, obey, serve and esteem them.”

Moms drive.

Moms teach (because we have so much to learn).

I have no difficulty saying that my Mom has been one of the greatest influences in my life. But as I grew and experienced more, other Moms came into the picture of my life, with a similarly profound impact.

When I was dating my future wife (you may know her as Julia), I was warned by a mutual friend, not to upset the “Mama Bear.” She was fiercely protective of her girls. I’m happy to say, I made it through the courtship without being mauled. Our relationship started off slowly, tentatively, but it grew until she became my Other Mom. It is a title she has earned. I refuse to call her mother-in-law, or any of the other less savoury names.

Moms protect.

Moms accept.

One of the great parts of becoming a parent was watching Julia grow into a Mom. Even before we were married, she was a mother and champion to those around her. Throughout her journey with and battle against PPD, she has become a champion of the cause and made a number of new friends. She used her own experience to empathize with and inspire others.

When we were deciding how to handle Lillian’s unique situation, with the doctor appointments in Toronto, weekly speech therapy and complicated hearing equipment, Julia stepped up – instinctively – and became the stay-at-home mom. In the end, it was a decision that we made considering all the facts, although her initial reaction speaks to the Mom she is.

Moms help.

Moms nurture.

Moms work relentlessly work at a job that no one in their right mind would willingly accept.

 

What day is it? The second Sunday in May. Now what are you going to do about it?

~ Ben

 

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!

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!