She’s a zia!

Toni is away in Montreal on a spur-of-the-moment trip to visit her new nephew, Lucas. While we wait for her return, take a peek at this video that is both infuriating and crazy at the same time. Like I said, Learn how to park!

~ Julia

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25 before 25 – A look back

Well ladies and gentlemen readers – I turned 25 on September 21st…. and man was it fantastic! Not only did I celebrate one of my soul sister’s nuptials to one of the most amazing and kind-hearted man I know, but I also spent the day with my family – with tacos! Yes…tacos and Dr. Pepper…I love Dr. Pepper.

So 25 means that it is time to reflect on the resolutions or tasks that I gave myself before I hit the big 2-5. To be completely frank, I had forgot about the list I made – oops! So let’s go through this…

Walk more to explore than as a means of transportation was the first on the list and surprisingly I did this! Bacon, Hendrix and myself have a morning routine, which 3 out of 5 days in a week I keep!

I noted that  I should grow a gardenAHAHAHAHAH! As I am reading this, I can’t help but look at the date this was written – March – and I think that it was right after this that I signed on to a major project at work and said goodbye to any spring or summer I had. I turned in my “green thumb,” which I never had in the first place, for a laptop and overtime. That “garden” never had a chance. I didn’t even weed my garden. This year, I went with the “natural” look…or the “don’t visit this house because crazy people live here” look, you can take your pick.  Yes, I live in that house! The one where mothers shield their children and rush them along the sidewalk as they whisper to quicken their step. Seriously, it’s that bad!

Well, this one was clearly obvious that I would have to do it, and I did – I planned our wedding (note how I said ‘our,’ Ken!). Let me check off the list what we have accomplished, because I am pretty proud. We have our  *insert drum roll*:

  • caterer
  • venue
  • photographer
  • florist
  • DJ
  • invitations are being put together
  • guest list is made

Yeah, that’s right! WOOOOOO! Go me!

I wanted to cook outside of my comfort zone. I bought a new cookbook a couple of weeks ago while I was still in my 24th year (therefore it still counts), and I have made some amazing meals. Cody can attest to that – just ask him!

The next resolution was to not sweat the small stuff. I failed at this one. I am not being hard on myself, I am being truthful. There is no way that in a couple of short months I curbed my impatience. I am still trying and I did try. I am going to put this in the “win” category, though, because I am feeling spicy and because it is a daily battle for me not to bottle someone due to general stupidity which is proven by my not being arrested!

Enjoy the summer was number six and, well, in true Canadian fashion we didn’t really have a hot summer weather-wise, but it was a fantastic summer. Cody and I got away for a weekend, I spent days outside sun bathing, I went to the beach, I drank, and I ate. It was fantastic!

Number seven was to go canoeing this summer. Well, I didn’t go canoeing but I did go kayaking while away with Cody’s family  and it was absolutely fantastic! This also is a big check mark for number sixteen which stated to spend more time with Cody’s family – so once again WIN category!  I also listed To hike with my sisters.  I went hiking quite often, and early in the morning with not only my sisters but our extended sisterhood ladies and then some!

Be more involved with my nieces and nephew was number 8 and better late then never I spent the whole day with them yesterday…or more like the morning with all three monsters, the afternoon with the drool man and the evening with Princess Sophie (who is now refusing to be called a princess because she is no longer one…when did that happen?!?!?!) and then bedtime with all three terrorists again!

 

Drool monster extrodinare!

Drool monster extraordinaire!

 

Timbit monster!

Timbit monster! Definitely not a princess any more!  

 

Sassy slug sister!

Sassy slug sister!

Number ten and eleven were to sleep more and work less. I am happy to report I am still putting in lots of overtime, however I am sleeping properly.

As I read on, I realize that I copped out on this list of resolutions! Sorry guys! Number 12 was to walk the dogs more, which was kind of a repeat of number 1 where I vowed to walk more to explore Ayr.

Cody has been out of the house more, like I listed in number 13, but not in my doing. He has taken this whole “Hunter’s Life” to heart and I find myself more and more lonesome at the house. I am not complaining – I love that he is active and out and about. In fact, it gives me more time to gather myself after work so I can be 100% for him. However, now that I say that, babies are on the horizon (no I am not pregnant yet) which means this may be the last hunting season that I will get to do that.

Number fourteen and fifteen go hand in hand – to dance until the morning sun comes up and to drink more wine! Happy to report that this summer was full of wine and dancing (it’s the best form of exercise if you ask me!).

For those of you keeping track number 16, Cody and I spend more time with his family, was brought up in number 7; however, while were are on the topic of all things family, my mom is still working her ass off, so the extra amount of me and her time has not been as successful as I would have liked, as stated in number 23. This is not just her fault, I am just as guilty as well. Life gets busy, but that will hopefully change once she has that CGA In her hand. As well, my Dad has a crazy schedule of driving all over Ontario and Canada, so I have not been able to see him as much as I had liked to as per number 18. I did see him on a past weekend for my birthday lunch and it was absolutely fantastic!

Cody and I have not had the chance to expand on his family tree like I listed in number 19.

Back to going in order – have I confused you yet?

My house is still a mess, so number 20 to do more laundry and cleaning has not been taken care of as well as it should have, unless we have family coming over. This also means that number 20 to get organized has soooo not even been tackled. Seriously, my desk at home is a mess, my desk at work is a mess, my house is a mess…I need a life nanny! Anyone willing to be my life nanny for free?

I am proud to announce the birth of my best friend’s baby, which as number 21 on my list. Emma Grace was born on September 18th. She is so beautiful with a full head of hair and gorgeous eyes! Ashley and Marty are over the moon, and I am so jealous of their beautiful family! Makes me want one of my own even more!!!

My heart was instantly won over - Emma Grace <3

My heart was instantly won over – Emma Grace ❤

Number 23 was a disaster as soon as I wrote it out on this list – there was no way I could stop talking as much as I do, but I think I am still a good listener?…Sorry co-workers and desk mates!

I did not reach my fitness goal, but, in a way, I did reach it. I am more comfortable in my skin because of working out, however I am no where near my goal. I like food way too much…and TV…and being lazy…my own fault.

The final goal I set was to find a silver lining in every day. This is never ending. I will always look for the positive to avoid becoming a pessimistic person.

Well, as confusing that may have been for some of our readers I hope you followed along and are still following along. I have a feeling that 25 will be an amazing year, maybe even the best one yet!

~ Jacqui

What no one told me about going back to work

So…

I landed a job. A great job. A job that I am really enjoying.

I started a few weeks ago and let me tell you, there are a few things that no one told me about going back to work after being off from traditional work and nannying for my sister.

1. It doesn’t get easier, you get better: Let me explain. I once wrote about being the new girl and I’d like to change my opinion on the matter – it’s not that it gets easier, it’s that I get better at it. Whether it be school, a group of friends,  Michael’s co-workers or a new company and team, it’s still a bit nerve wracking for me, I have just learned the ropes so I know how it goes and how I can add to or subtract from the outcome of each situation.

2. You don’t forget “how”: I truly had myself gripped in fear that I didn’t know if I would be as good as I had been after being off from work while Nannying for Julia. While I am confident in my experience and skill set, I was sure I was going to have to research or relearn certain things that I had not done routinely in several months. Thankfully, I was totally wrong and it was like riding a bicycle, only easier. I got into my comfort zone fairly quickly and in step with my kick-ass team that I am already loving.

Look ma, no hands!

Look ma, no hands!

3. The heartache: Missing the babies – my beautiful nieces and nephew – and how much I got to experience, witness and impact makes my heart ache. It aches so much that the first time we really got to see each other after I went back to work, I cried. Sorry – I bawled like a baby. I chalk it up to Lillian’s exclamation of “Auntie Tomi!” while running toward me, leaping into my arms and wrapping my neck into a huge hug that she just wouldn’t let go from – I was a goner. Even seeing that Isaac’s teeth had cut through tugged at my heart strings for missing the day they were discovered. Add into this the return to normalcy in how often I see my big sis, and it would be an understatement to say that I miss all of the time I was granted to be there with them.

Missed them so, so, so much!

4. How much I had really missed it: When I interviewed with the company I immediately had a good feeling about the fit of the role, the mission and purpose of the company, and my skill set being what they were looking for. This feeling only got stronger the further in the interview stage I got, and with each team member I met throughout the process. Now that I’m in my role, learning the ropes and putting together my first set of events, I can’t tell you how much I had missed being on a team, contributing to a common goal – one that I can truly get behind – and feeling of value within an organization.

I have my first big internal event coming up this week. I am nervous for it to go off without too many hiccups – there are always a few with every event that involves more than two people – but wish me luck that it plays out better than even I could hope for.

~ Toni

My inner child

Lately, I have been spending my days playing ‘nanny’ to my incredible nieces and nephew for my wonderful and BRAVE older sister, Julia.

Nanny Toni

Nanny Toni

A series of unfortunate events led me to being unemployed this past December and for the first time in my fairly young career-life, I really started questioning my happiness in my most recent roles. Whether it was the type of organization/role or the field of marketing itself has yet to be determined – whatever the root cause, I am a firm believer that happiness is one of the most important aspects of life, in all areas, and it was a bit of a wake-up call.

For the first few weeks or so of my ‘vacation from life’, I thoroughly enjoyed the leisure of my new found freedom and lack of responsibility – soaking in the early morning light as I woke with no alarm, working out whenever I wanted, spending days with friends that held opposite schedules of my previous 9-5 office life, going days without having to put on pants (seriously, best thing about not having a job), dropping in to see my sisters, nieces and nephew during THE DAY, properly preparing the house for Christmas and all the events of Christmas coming, getting sick with the flu – twice – and having the proper time to take care of myself and sleep as much as I could.

And then reality kicked in. Hard.

Reality of my blaring lack of income, lack of purpose, lack employment, lack of contribution to society, lack of ‘insert negative attribution of not having a job here’ and my natural reaction of pure panic set in. I had never been unemployed for longer than a few weeks and while I was applying and interviewing, I still had not found the role for me and it was FREAKING me out.

And then I got the call.

An innocent request to retrieve my oldest niece Sophie from school triggered my sister’s brave admittance to struggling with PPD and her even braver request for help.

I was needed.

Call it fate, kismet, God’s intervention (my personal belief) or the like, there was a divine reasoning behind my lack of gainful employment and I was needed.

While I would like to say I have been selflessly aiding my sister with her beautiful babies – trekking to and from school while negotiating with Sophie regarding outfit/hair accessory/schedule of the day, handling Lillian’s toilet-training-tantrums and mishaps, changing Isaac’s poop-exploded diapers – with grace and determination, I would be lying.

Being with my sister and her babies every day has been one of the most selfish things I have ever done. I am not sure of many other aunties who are nearly as lucky as I am to get to spend so much quality time with their nieces/nephews. In fact, among our sisterhood, there has been explicit expression of the jealousy they have of me – with one working insane-o hours and the other so very far away.

Don’t get me wrong, the aforementioned struggles do in fact take place daily. There are stressful and overwhelming moments, moments filled with wonder at how Julia does it/what was Julia thinking having SO many kids and moments that make me question my abilities to handle and guide such young and precious minds.

But none of these moments will ever compare to the other moments that fill the days.

The influence these little people have had on me has been nothing short of profound, enlightening and priceless. They have gifted me something that I thought was long lost and unrecoverable: they have found my inner child.

No-pants-wearing inner-child

No-pants-wearing inner-child

I have noticed a shift in my behaviour, even my attitude and I attribute it fully to the impact of these little people on me. Based on the following changes I can say I know the child-like Toni has returned to breathe new life into what was once a blindly living adult:

1. Announcing and celebrating burps: while my sisters can attest to my ability to burp like nobody’s business and reveling in it when I was younger, when boys and dating started to become of interest to me, this habit quickly stopped in order to appear more eligible. I refuse to this day to fart in front of my fiancé, so you can imagine his surprise when I let out a large, rather gratuitous burp last week while watching TV. Instead of my usual “Excuse me” and apology for how gross that was, I turned to him and announced, “I burped!” He looked at me, quite confused and said, “Good for you?”. While I was slightly horrified at my initial reaction, a smile formed on my face as I realized I had picked up this adorable behaviour from my youngest niece, Lillian. Now the lesson here is not in the burp itself, but in the ability to embrace your inner silly-side and give yourself a bit of freedom to relax. Not only had I broken one of my own impossible-to-live-up-to standards for living with another being, but I had reacted with pure joy at the surprise of how freeing it was. Yay me!

2. Waving your freak flag: up until quite literally yesterday, you could not pay Sophie to spend a day without her purple, plastic crown. This crown was a gift from me to her, something I never imagined would ever become so important to her, so quickly. A freebie in a Happy Meal, the crown came along when I gave into an insatiable craving for a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Sophie has believed of her royal status long before the purchase of this Happy Meal, so I felt it only fitting to gift it to her, instead of returning it to the counter. I could have never prepared myself for the reaction and love she would have for this crown. She never took it off. Ever. Becoming her signature accessory, Sophie has not been seen at any moment without her crown – even when she played a sheep in her Sunday School Christmas Program.

Princess Sheep Sophie

Princess Sheep Sophie

Not only does she wear her crown, but she proudly shows it off to anyone who may glance in her direction and introduces herself as Princess Sophie. She does not care what people may think, as her childish joy in this item outweighs her awareness of the judgey world we live in. What a lesson to be taught by someone so little. While I do not revolve my life around the opinions of others, I do let insecurities creep up and wonder how people will receive and perceive me. However, being exposed to the surety in which Sophie carries herself, made my heart ache with a bit of sadness for myself – at what age did I start caring what people thought? How many things have I backed out of, changed my mind about, didn’t wear, wore too much of, based on other people’s opinions? And how many of these ‘people’ really mattered? Not many. From now on I am going to wave my freak flag, whatever it may, proudly, with less concern for other’s opinions and more concern for my own child-like joy in life.

3. Shrills, shrieks and laughter: pure, unadulterated joy – for no freaking reason. As silly as it sounds, Isaac’s ability to both entertain and thrill himself just by blowing a few spit-filled raspberries with his mouth amazes me. It is one of his new-found talents and the smile that comes to his face after he’s created that sound with his mouth is infectious and lesson-filled. He has joy for no reason. Lillian will often look at me and shriek with excitement that bursts through her piercing blue eyes and causes her face to run red with life – for no reason at all, other than to show her happy and get a laugh out of me. Seriously, at what point in our inevitable growing up do we lose focus of our ‘happy for no reason’ joy? It may be the long hours worked at a sometimes-thankless job, or the wear of financial burden when the outcome is more than the income, or the schedule to keep with the children to get in all of the committed activities, or the increased awareness of ‘things’ to do, have and desire, or our inability to unplug from our cell phones, social media and work that sometimes sneaks home with us. But when did any of that mean we should lose our happy? Huge life lesson here for me: be happy like a child for no reason and be worried when your happy is attached to something – nothing in the life is permanent and that reason can easily be taken from you.

While I am excitedly looking forward to the next chapter of my career-life, I am revelling in theses moments filled with lessons being freely taught to me by such young influences. Lessons that I will happily apply to all aspects of my life. I pray daily that I am making a difference for my sister, brother-in-law and their precious babies, but more so, I am sending prayers of thanks for these lessons taught to me by these incredible souls and to God for giving me the time to learn.

~ Toni

Team Lillian

For those of you who know me personally, it will come as no surprise that I am head-over-heels, completely in love with my nieces and nephew and adore (pardon my French) the shit out of them.  Each one – yes, even our sweet little, bubble-blowing, Isaac – holds a special place in my heart for something that is unique to them. I love watching as they grow into their own little people, with their own distinct personalities, every day.

The babies

The babies

Lillian, or as we lovingly refer to her, Dilly, and I share a special bond.

It could be because she is also the 2nd oldest or middle child as I am, or it could be that her sense of humor/being a butt resonates with my inner toddler, it could be her sweet disposition (when she’s in the mood of course), or our ‘moments’ (which is when she runs up to me, says “Auntie Tomee, you found me!”, lays her tiny little head gently on my shoulder, and stays contently in my embrace for a few moments as I rock her back and forth) or it could be that she was born at a time in my life when I was struggling and holding her in my arms for the first time set my heart and mind straight with positivity in a way that no other being in my life had been able to. Whatever the reason, I feel incredibly blessed to have this little light in my life.

Dilly Toni

Dilly and I at the 2013 KidsAbility Fun Run

Shortly after her birth, we learned of Dilly’s hearing impairment caused by the genetic disorder Waardenburg Syndrome. Initially, human nature caused me to think of all of the challenges she may face – I worried about how children at school might treat her (kids can be SO mean!), or the people that would discount her abilities as she grew (because adults can be assholes), finished school, entered the working world, or even started dating (for the record, totally not my idea, Ben!).

However, as Dilly settled into her life at home, these worries quickly faded and soon seemed so silly. Between the familiarity/normalcy of the syndrome within our family, the wonderful healthcare providers at Toronto Sick Kids Hospital and the blessing of her cochlear implant and hearing aid, as she grew I knew she would be just fine.

Then we were introduced to KidsAbility.

Before Lillian, I had never heard of this AMAZING organization.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with KidsAbility, it is a local non-profit organization that provides rehabilitation services for children from birth to the age of 18, with developmental delays and disabilities, coordination disorders, physical disabilities, and communication difficulties. Specific to Lillian’s hearing impairment, KidsAbility works with her to ensure her speech is developing properly and on track. Not only does KidsAbility work with children to make sure they are developing to their own potential, but they also provide parents and caregivers the tools and understanding to help their children at home in their day-to-day routine that they might not otherwise have access to – and they do it all for FREE.

This past Friday I had the pleasure of tagging along to Dilly’s speech therapy appointment and I instantly understood why she gets so excited about these appointments. The environment and staff are welcoming, warm and kind. Between the giant play/waiting area, the staff and volunteers that are ready to strike up a conversation with the children and easily relate to them and the form of speech therapy which allows Lillian to showcase what she’s learning and where she needs help, it is evident KidsAbility’s focus is to help children realize their potential. 

KA Waiting Area

The KidsAbility play/waiting area

Throughout the appointment Lillian showed me just how much she gets out of these visits. While Julia is always sure to share with us how we can help Lillian and what new tools she is learning, seeing her interact with Heather was a great first-hand experience. They work through a variety of exercises which help Heather to determine where Lillian is excelling,where she needs a little more help and what next steps she should include for her to work on at home.

Heather working on sounds with Dilly at KidsAbility

Heather working on sounds with Dilly at KidsAbility

While KidsAbility has held a special place in my heart for some time now, after seeing first hand how much Lillian – as well as a few other children I was able to witness in therapy – receives from this unbelievable organization, I am even more determined to help this foundation in any way I can.

Last May, I was lucky enough to participate in the Cambridge Times Rotary Classic KidsAbility Fun Run, which is usually held on the last Sunday in May. Our kick-ass team – suitably named Team Lillian – was able to raise well over $2300 thanks to a ton of personal donations, as well as one large corporate donation from Kitchener-based LEDgendary Lighting (seriously cool Philips lighting and Color Kinetics products – check them out!).

2013's "Team Lillian"

2013’s “Team Lillian”

While gathering donations for this event, it made my heart happy to hear of the personal stories that people volunteered to share with me of how KidsAbility had helped their own children, nieces and nephews, or the children of friends. These stories reinforced the love I have for KidsAbility and instilled a desire in me to continue to participate in the KidsAbility Fun Run for as many years as I am able.

That being said, we are once again assembling a team for this year’s run! We will have our usual Facebook page, and link to our donation site up and running soon – if you would like to join our team, just let us know!

While the official site links and information have not been released (we will let you know when they are!), the sisters of Weather Vane Sisterhood are accepting donations as of today! We can arrange to meet with you in person to collect your donations, or you can email money transfer us your contribution to weathervanesisterhood@gmail.com.  

Remember: every little bit counts – to us, to you, to KidsAbility and most importantly, to the children. 

~ Toni