That time we were almost cast for TLC

Have you ever experienced one of those moments where time seems suspended in midair and you observe the situation you’re in from a slightly removed perspective and know somewhere deep in your bones that this is a pivotal moment? A moment with a fork in the road and it could change your life completely if you go one way, or it could stay the exact same if you go the other?

Well did that EVER happen to the Sisterhood last week!

Roughly a month ago, we were contacted by a development company called Crybaby Media out of NEW YORK CITY (yeah, New York, New York!) regarding a mandate that had been sent down from the TLC and Lifetime networks to find and cast families with four or more sisters for a new docu-series they were looking to develop.

You can imagine our surprise when our wee-baby, fairly personal blog put us on the map and got us noticed. Reading and re-reading the initial email we were all pretty convinced we were probably being duped and that it had to be a scam of some sort. Our mama was just worried we would John & Kate Plus 8 the crap out of our lives if we participated.

....I can see why she would be concerned.

….I can see why she would be concerned.

As with all big, scary, exciting news, we met immediately to discuss our stance and if we wanted to proceed with the Skype interviews they had requested and aired our concerns. We decided to see what the show was about and what we would be giving up to participate.

To say the initial process left us feeling like we were in good hands would be a stretch – scheduling conflicts and poor communication led us to really question the legitimacy of the opportunity. After expressing our concerns after being stood up and emailed after the fact to reschedule us – again – things seemed to take a turn for the better and we were finally able to Skype with McKenna from Crybaby Media.

The initial interview was for McKenna to get to know us more and see if there was enough about us as a Sisterhood that people could relate to and was the rawest of the process. We nervously accepted her call as we heard Skype ring through our set up laptop at the bottom of Julia’s basement stairs where quiet, decent lighting and stacked seating were available.

McKenna was friendly and warm which put as ease fairly quickly. She got right into it and asked us to round-robin introduce ourselves and give a snapshot of who each of is, our lifestyle, age and position within the Sisterhood. We were asked to describe each other, our childhood, our parents, what we do together for fun, what we do apart that makes us unique – the typical kinds of questions you would expect for a reality-based series participant to divulge about themselves. After about 20 minutes of us cautiously answering the required questions, McKenna let us know she would like to pass us through to the second stage and interview, which would be taped and then cut down to make our 2-4 minute ‘pitch’ video to the network.

We logged off the call with instructions for follow-up and instantly burst into a common commotion of chatter throwing around concerns, questions, statements and ideas for how to get all of this to process through our overloaded brains.

What just happened?

Did our little blog just set off a series of events for us that we could have never imagined? Did we even want to participate now that we knew what we’d be sharing with the world? How would this affect our lives and relationships? There were so many questions and unknowns it was hard not to get too ahead of ourselves. We were still reeling from even being found on this wide world of the internet and to be honest, our concerns for our little lives were beginning to surpass our interest in being cast.

Maybe a little too real for reality TV?

Maybe a little too real for reality TV?

After confirming our follow-up taped interview, we were provided a general guideline for the questions and style of answering in order to get a good cut for our final video. When the day of the taping came we met early to discuss what had come to the surface for each of us over the two days between interviews. We were sure to be honest with one another about what we were comfortable discussing and what we would rather not shed light on just yet – surprisingly there are still things about us that we are just not ready to let our readers learn just yet. We determined a good rule of thumb to be if we were comfortable writing about it here, we should be comfortable being honest and open about it on camera.

Our taping went really well and I think I speak for all of the sisters when I say that we might have benefited from the structure and style of the conversation more than anyone. In the 45 minutes of taping we were able to learn a little more about each other, what we want out of this blog, how we view the world, our childhood and each other uniquely from one another.

Most importantly, we uncovered that we wanted to raise our blog to be a community for people to come and experience what it is to be a part of such a tight sisterhood, to feel not so alone with the battles they wage daily, and to know that there are a bunch weirdos out there stumbling through this insanity that we call life just as awkwardly as any one.

We all didn’t express it then, but we were all filled with anxiety of the changes that may come into our lives if we were picked up by the network and it wasn’t an eager anxiety. Personally, I made sure to pray on it that if this was not meant for us or would not bring only light and love into our lives it would be removed from our hands to choose.

Please? Or, no thank you?

Please? Or, no thank you?

A day later we received an email stating we had been passed on and ironically enough were told we were not nearly “outrageous” enough for the casting – which if you’ve ever been to one of our family events you know this is not entirely true – however, we did take that as a compliment when we considered the network that had put out the mandate.

Can you IMAGINE if we had made it through!?

When we all found out about not making it to the next round there were shared expressions of relief – we weren’t exactly sure we were ready for TLC… or if TLC was ready for the likes of us.

So for now, we are your humble community blog, focused on sharing our lives with whoever happens upon us. Who knows what the future brings though – stranger things have happened!

~ Toni

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I was LIED to!

I have a bone to pick with Walt Disney – he has set me up for failure! Ever since I was a young girl he has spewed lies and set unrealistic goals for my life. Well, Walt, I have had it up to the top of the tower in my non-existent castle!

First there was Cinderella, who taught me that when I get older and am too busy to plan my outfit for a night out, there’s not a fret! The mice and birds who live in my attic and sub-basement will be happy to whip something up. I can spend more time at work and cleaning my house now because of all the free time I will have not having to make my own clothes!

My reality? I live in an older house, and am no stranger to mice. I do not live in a land far far away. I live in the real world where mice eat through your electrical wires, shit everywhere and are a general nuisance. There are entire sections in hardware stores dedicated to the riddance of these creatures. Cinderella would be mortified! Not once have I come home to a mouse-made couture dress delicately created with the knick knacks and rags around my house. Instead I come home from work after a long day and where are my clothes? On the ground where I left them. Now I have to struggle to figure out the perfect outfit for the ball.

Then, there is Snow White, who lived with 7 men and made it look like heaven, a party with music and dancing every night, and yes she cleaned the house, but before she came along they were getting by just fine. Now I know not all men are grody, but in my experience I would never want to live with 7 of them, dwarfs or not!  Could you imagine the smell? The grocery bill? THE ARGUMENT OVER THE TV REMOTE?  I am shuddering just thinking about it!  Snow White, either you are a goddess who has managed to tame 7 men, or you are one sweep away from a nervous breakdown! Either way, you did not prepare me properly to live with ONE boy by myself let alone 7. (I love you Cody.)

Rapunzel and Ariel may have told me the biggest lie…about MY HAIR! Let’s start with Rapunzel who let her hair grow out to unimaginable lengths, with no product, no trims, just au natural! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!? Apparently, in this land far far away, there is no such thing as humidity or split ends or GREY HAIR! I get up an hour earlier than I technically have to just to make sure my hair is tamed enough that when I walk into work I am not asked to put a bag over my head. Straighteners, products, curling irons, hair spray – nothing? Really Rapunzel? You are really going to tell me that you sat up in that tower of yours and just let it grow and grow?  Her poor neck is all I can keep thinking! Every time I watch that movie with my nieces and nephew, my mind races: She had to have at least a chiropractor on call? How is she not a hunchback?

AND then there is Ariel! With her graceful rise from the water during her big musical number. For years girls around the world have been immersing their heads in water and trying to find the perfect flip technique. If you are sitting here reading this, pretending like you have never done this before you are LYING to yourself. This past summer I spent a good 20 minutes attempting to get the perfect flip, each time suffocating myself with my soaking strands of hair. Finally, after one flip too many, my neck advised me quickly that I am not suited for the hair-flipping life. I have since then removed Beyoncé from dream jobs. I have learned my lesson…the hard way.

Yeah, right.

I live my life every day knowing that I met Cody the good old fashion way. That he didn’t come into my tower and kiss me as fate brought our lives together. I have to work to get my hair the way I want it. Small critters will not make me a new wardrobe, and frankly my singing voice does not entice birds to join in with me; instead, I am sure, it scares them as it scares my two dogs.

I may have been fooled, but you have a chance to spread the word so that other little girls don’t grow up with high expectations like I did. It’s been a tough road, but I am doing just fine taking it one day at a time.

~ Jacqui

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

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