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

Oh, thank GOD she’s FOUR

Lillian and I have been in a war for the past year. A war of the THREES. Any parent that I’ve talked to has agreed with me on this one point: Terrible Twos don’t exist. TERROR-FILLED THREES are what you have to worry about.

The calm before the storm...don't let the sleeping fool you. Look at the FORM. She's NUTS.

The calm before the storm…don’t let the sleeping fool you. Look at the FORM. She’s NUTS.

Lillian has been three for WAY. TOO. LONG. She’s saucy. She’s opinionated. She’s obstinate. She’s stubborn. She’s given me more grey/falling out hair than anyone. And she’s CRAZY.

All cute.  And innocent(-looking). She's a sneaky, sneaky terrorist.

All cute. And innocent(-looking). She’s a sneaky, sneaky terrorist.

She’s three was my mantra for the whole year. She’s three. She’s three. Don’t kill her. She’s three. Don’t toss her into a snow bank. She’s three. Don’t throw a temper tantrum back. She’s three.

She’s three.

Determination is her middle name. But her first name??? Spider-Man. And don't you forget it.

Determination is her middle name. But her first name??? Spider-Man. And don’t you forget it.

But today? TODAY?!

Today she is FOUR. And I can tell you that I’ve been looking forward to this day like children look forward to Christmas, like Ben looks forward to the first game of the NFL season, like Isaac looks forward to breakfast – with EVERYTHING I’VE GOT.

Because three? Three almost KILLED me. (No, I’m not being melodramatic.) (Seriously.)

Surprise! She's a loon!

Surprise! She’s a loon!

Three was when we started potty training with earnest. Three is when I cried about potty training practically daily. Three was the time where if I had a million dollars, I would have HIRED someone simply to potty train Lillian. Three made me wince when the pediatrician asked me if Isaac was ready to be potty trained (I’m not even THINKING about it at this point. I need a vacation, first. And a stiff drink. Followed by hibernation. Then, and only then, will I consider potty training a BOY.). Three and poopy underwear and puddles and bringing 7 changes of clothing only to have all 7 soiled halfway through our outing brought this mama to her knees.

Who me? YES YOU.

Who me? YES YOU.

Three was when Lillian started her stand-off life view. Where she decided she wasn’t handing over any control over anything to anyone, DAMMIT. Three was the time where Lillian said, “I’m not peeing anymore!” And she didn’t. For the whole day. Three is when Lillian would refuse to eat anything that she didn’t like the look of. “I don’t like it.” And that, folks, was the end of the meal. Three was when Lillian would say, “I don’t want to.” to going to the bathroom, to picking up Sophie from school, to getting dressed in the morning (she’s now the reigning queen of pyjama days because I refused to pick this battle), to cleaning up, to sitting down to eat, to wearing underwear, to wearing a pull-up diaper, to ANYTHING at ALL at ANY moment.

"I don't like breakfast, ANYMORE."

“I don’t like breakfast, ANYMORE.”

Three was when Lillian came into her own with her vocabulary. Which simply means, it’s the time where she could clearly articulate exactly what she didn’t like about what I was doing. Or not doing.

Strong. And shy. Until she knows you. Then watch out.

Strong. And shy. Until she knows you. Then watch out.

Three was when she fell in LOVE with Scooby-Doo on Netflix and Spider-Man in daily life (“No! My name is NOT Lillian! My name is SPIDER-MAN!”).

Her super hero identity

Her super hero identity

Three is when conversations like this happened EVERY morning:

Me: What would you like for breakfast?
Lillian: —
Me: Lillian. What would you like for breakfast?
Lillian: Toast.
Me: With what on it?
Lillian: Banana and peanut butter.
Me: Perfect!
Lillian: NO! I don’t want anything on my toast. I just want peanut butter. And banana.
Me: So nothing, but peanut butter and banana?
Lillian: NO! I don’t want anything on my toast! I just want peanut butter and banana. And honey. And apricot jam.
Me: Okay.
Lillian (after receiving said toast): I don’t WANT toast. I want CHEERIOS! (Cue sobbing because I’ve ruined her life).
Me: Kill me now.

Dirty. Happy. Nutty. Buttly.

Dirty. Happy. Nutty. Buttly.

Three was a war zone of wills, a battle to the death of the most basic of things, like socks and a coat and snow pants and mittens in -30 degrees Celsius weather. It was a knife fight, where I brought a soft plastic baby spoon and Lillian brought the weapons of mass destruction that Bush dreamed up in his sleep.

This is how she watches TV. No, really.

This is how she watches TV. No, really.

It was a painful, brutal, exhausting year, because my ferocious, energetic, stunningly smart, heart-breakingly strong baby, the one who ripped IV’s out of her arm and bounced back from implant surgery, the one who went from no hearing and no words to NEVER FINDING AN END TO THE CHATTER, the one who has been dealt a tough hand and has cleaned out the pot and all of the players, found her inner THREENAGER and OWNED it, like she’s OWNED everything ever in her life. She refused to be born. She refused to be knocked down by a hearing loss. She refused to use the BLEEPING potty. She refused to give in. EVER. She refused.

Sauce-pot to the max.

Sauce-pot to the max.

And yet?

She’s still the best hugger I know. She’s still the sweetest when I’m hurt or sick. She’s still the one that covers me with her special, Lillian-only blanket when I nap in the afternoons. She’s still the kid that wants to help all the time in the kitchen. She’s still the fiercest lover, fiercest runner, fiercest fighter ever. She’s still awesome and incredible and smart and tough and strong and crazy.

Chatting the ears off Grandpa...he never has any clue what she's saying or why she's saying it and she will never let up.

Chatting the ears off Grandpa…he never has any clue what she’s saying or why she’s saying it and she will never let up.

But ONLY when it’s her idea.

And today? Today, she is FOUR.

Isaac used to hate waiting for me to get the stroller inside after the walk home from school. Every time, Lillian would lie there with him, making him giggle, making me less likely to toss her out a window.

Isaac used to hate waiting for me to get the stroller inside after the walk home from school. Every time, Lillian would lie there with him, making him giggle, making me less likely to toss her out a window.

So, my dear second baby, my dear troubled middle child, my dear girl who puts the butt in buttliness, the girl who demands to be treated with the respect that Spider-Man deserves, happy happy day. Here’s to another year, where we will go to school, and tackle the world, and win all the battles all over again.

Being herself. Her awesome crazy brilliant tough self.

Being herself. Her awesome crazy brilliant tough self.

Because heaven help your teachers and your classmates if they get in your way. And Godspeed to them. They have no idea what’s coming for them, and there is simply no way to prepare them…except to hug them and thank them for taking you off my hands.

Oh, my heart.

Oh, my heart.

I love you, Lillian. With everything and through everything. Always.

My monkey-butt

My monkey-butt

Love, Mama

~ Julia

For today, tomorrow and yesterday – thank you!

Yesterday, just as every day, was a day to remember: to look at our past and think of those who died and fought for our future. And although yesterday was officially marked as Remembrance Day, we should still hold all those men and women who have died for our freedom in our hearts and thoughts.

To forget them would mean that we have forgotten how free we are in Canada. It is because of them that we are privileged to live in the beautiful country we call Canada.

Poppy's

In elementary school, it was never properly explained what Remembrance Day was. There was a moment of silence – a staple on November 11th – and a possible movie or video shown in the gym, but the magnitude of what the soldiers have done for us never fully hit me.

Every year, the week leading up to Remembrance Day the History channel screens small documentaries on WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War. Suddenly I get a second chance to learn my country’s history, and learn of the men and women who served for Canada.

There is no old and out dated book in front of me to write an essay out of, there is no teacher grading my knowledge of the occurrences, but just simply me and those veterans who are brave enough to tell their story for anyone who will listen, so we can remember and never forget.

On the left is Cody's Grandfather, he fought in the second World War - and never spoke of what he saw, or experienced. We remember for all the veterans.  This is the only picture we have of him.

On the left is Cody’s Grandfather. He fought in WWII and never spoke of what he saw, or experienced. We remember for all the veterans.
This is the only picture we have of him.

Remembering is all they ask for – remembering, and never forgetting. It seems so simple, and yet there are many soldiers’ stories who will never be heard, there are those whose names have been forgotten, whose faces are distant.

For all those who have lost parents, grandparents, cousins, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends – thank you.

For those currently serving – thank you.

For those who will serve – thank you.

You have fought for and will fight for Canada, for our freedom!

Lest we forget.

~ Jacqui

A day in the life: Julia edition

I was the mastermind behind the “A day in the life” posts that you’ll see here this week. Mostly so I could spy on my sisters. And so I could see how childless and working and non-working people spend their time. I know how spend my time…and it always seems like a lot of running around for a lot of nothing. At least, nothing you can actually see. So, what does a day in the life of Julia, stay-at-home mom to three kids, ages 5, 3, and 1, look like? Here we go!

My day starts EARLY. Mostly because I need some Julia time in the day and by the end of the day I just don’t have the energy for it. By the time every little’s head hits the pillow, I SO want to join them. So my alarm is set for 4:45 a.m. and I’m usually out of bed by 5.

Then it’s get dressed to get sweaty, have some water and something small for pre-breakfast. The morning in question it was a peach!

Pre-breakfast of champions!

Pre-breakfast of champions

I’m out of my house by 5:15 a.m. and listening to a little CBC radio. This early in the morning it’s BBC programming, but it’s adult and talking and gloriously quiet and CHILD-FREE.

Proof!

Proof!

Then it’s off to one of two places: either running with honourary sister and my sister-in-law, Kim, or walking with my other mom, my mother-in-law Dianne (and Kim…she slept in that day…LAZY BUM).

Hello gorgeous!

Hello gorgeous!

Every weekday morning starts with something active…and I LOVE IT. Then it’s back home for just before 7, where I usually walk into the kitchen to find this:

What the...?

What the…?

My handsome husband Ben gets up with the babies, gets them dressed and breakfasted so that I can have a little me-time right off the hop. LOVE YOU, Sir. From here, I grab a quick shower (no pictures!), if I’m lucky, or get changed out of sweaty clothes into more respectable clothes (you know, hanging out in public with showered people clothes). Then, it’s the sprint for the door.

Multi-tasking babies - making block castles and putting on socks.

Multi-tasking babies – making block castles and putting on socks.

I make sure everyone has what they need for their day: Sophie for senior kindergarten, Lillian for potty training nightmares, and Isaac for eating, pooping, napping, and playing.

Oh, hai Mom! I'm just making a giant mess in the kitchen while you run around. No big deal.

Oh, hai Mom! I’m just making a giant mess in the kitchen while you run around. No big deal.

And I attempt to insert a little food and caffeine into me so I’m not a nightmare myself.

Coffee numero uno (aka most important coffee of the day)

Coffee numero uno (aka most important coffee of the day)

Usually by this point, everyone doesn’t want to leave and we are LATE. So, the fight out the door begins.

Fight number 1 - what shoes to wear. Answer: ANY SHOES PUT THEM ON NOW.

Fight number 1 – I WANT TO WEAR ALL THE SHOES THAT DON’T HAVE MATES. Answer: PUT ANY PAIR OF SHOES ON NOW.

On the day that we’re following me around for, Lillian had speech therapy, so we were driving to school instead of walking. You’d think this would make it easier, faster, etc. etc., but NO. Do not be fooled. Driving can sometimes take INFINITELY longer because of all the added packing into the van and packing out of the van and packing back into the van. Seriously. Walking out the door to go to school is so much easier. A double-stroller, three babies, one neighbourhood kid (who I walk and watch before and after school), the phone, some keys, and we’re off. Easy-peasy. The van? Appointments? SO MUCH MORE COMPLICATED.

Fight number 2: I WANT TO OPEN AND CLOSE THE DOORS AND CARRY MY BACKPACK AND I DON'T CARE THAT I'M CRAZY OR THAT WE'RE LATE. Answer: GET IN THE VAN NOW NOW NOW.

Fight number 2 – I WANT TO OPEN AND CLOSE THE DOORS AND CARRY MY BACKPACK AND I DON’T CARE THAT I’M CRAZY OR THAT WE’RE LATE. Answer: GET IN THE VAN NOW NOW NOW.

We live just over 1 km from the school, which takes us, complete with stick-picking-up, worm-examining, and various temper tantrums, 25 minutes to walk. To drive, 2 minutes. Maybe. With kids? 15 minutes, easy. We leave for the school around 9 to get there for the bell at 9:20. Kids are AWESOME.

Oh, hai, pack mule.

Oh, hai, pack mule.

Parking around the school is INSANE and people are INSANE, so we park on a side street and walk a little. The moment all the children explode out of the van, I become the carrier of all back-packs…which I don’t mind. The kids are so small and the bags are so big. AND they’ll run (not meander) if they’re not weighed down. Win-win.

Notice that the only kid wearing a backpack is Lillian...the kid who doesn't NEED a back-pack but demands to bring one.

Notice that the only kid wearing a backpack is Lillian…the kid who doesn’t NEED a back-pack but demands to bring one.

We drop off the neighbourhood friend first and then we wait with Sophie in her school line for the bell. At this point, Lillian goes to the fire hydrant and tries to scale it. Every. Day. Even though I tell her not to. Every. Day. My life is so glamourous.

After Sophie goes inside, with waving and hugs and ‘Have a good days!’, it’s the short, yet TAKES FOREVER walk back to the van.

Lillian is in that tree. No, seriously.

Lillian is in that pine tree. No, seriously.

On this walk back to the van, I had to flag down another mom to make sure Isaac didn’t roll away in the stroller while I got Lillian out of the tree (no, really), and then we could get in the van. Lillian was a butt. And crying. Because I made her get out of the tree. I’m such a mean mom. No, seriously.

We made it. Alive. Barely. But we're here.

We made it. Alive. Barely. But we’re here.

Once we get to the fabulous organization that provides Lillian with necessary auditory verbal therapy (AVT or speech therapy), the first task at hand is to get Lillian to go pee. AKA let’s pull out all of our sweet and nice and not frazzled voices to calmly coax the shy, ridiculous bomb of a kid who could go off at any moment to put her pee in the toilet instead of all over everything. Super fun times. I swayed her with the promise of pushing the handicap button to open the door. She took the bait and peed. Success. Off to hang out with Heather, our speech therapist extraordinaire.

Lillian and Heather chatting at the beginning of the session. I love that Lillian CHATS. <3

Lillian and Heather chatting at the beginning of the session. I love that Lillian CHATS. ❤

Lillian rocked, Heather was amazing, Isaac was a bum who tried to get into everything, and I cried. No, seriously. I think it’s because I was tired. And I had only one cup of coffee. And my period is coming. And the morning had been stressful getting four kids to school in the van and make it on time for our appointment. And I’m really worried about Lillian and her going to school. But I was talking about the various things I’m planning on doing to help Lillian get ready for school (another post for another day) and voila! Tears. Heather, a mom herself, was lovely and didn’t get scared. She talked me out of my tree and all was well. Whew.

After therapy, we went to the grocery store to pick up some supplies for lunch at Aunt Kim’s house. It was her birthday and we pinned her down for a lunch date so we could love on her. (Note: It’s also Uncle Todd’s birthday (they’re twins) but he had to work because he’s a grown-up and he lives farther away, so no date with him. Love you, Todd!) We got Caesar salad ingredients, a rotisserie chicken, and a giant loaf of French bread. Easy, yummy, and baby-friendly. I got another round of all of that for dinner that night so I wouldn’t have to cook/come up with anything at 5 p.m. Not just a pretty face, my friends.

On a mission for some birthday fun!

On a mission for some birthday fun!

We got to Aunt Kim’s (and Emma’s!) house at around 12:30 (traffic was nuts because of an accident and every route was a nightmare) and quickly set up lunch.

Hungry, hungry babies eating spatulas.

Hungry, hungry babies eating spatulas.

After we devoured the food, we got to eat delicious cupcakes baked by Kim for her birthday (she’s so super fabulous…and ridiculous).

So pretty!

So pretty!

Lillian loved them…

What do you mean icing isn't the same as hand cream?

What do you mean icing isn’t the same as hand cream?

…and so did Emma.

Do I have something on my face?

Do I have something on my face?

Next up, Emma went down for a nap and Lillian and Isaac decided to play with all of Emma’s toys, like the good cousins they are.

Ball pit, anyone?

Ball pit, anyone?

While all of that ‘fun’ was happening, I got to do this:

Hello, coffee number 2. I've been waiting ALL DAY for you.

Hello, coffee number 2. I’ve been waiting ALL DAY for you.

But, did I get a picture of the birthday girl? Nope. No I did not. Super photographer/blogger here.

Soon it was back in the van to go get the Sophie and friend from school. More packing just so we can unpack so we can pack again. Yay.

So sleepy. I feel exactly how they look.

So sleepy. I feel exactly how they look.

We got back to the school with 10 minutes to spare before the bell. You’d think that would be enough time…but some days, you’d be wrong. It all depends on Lillian’s mood. Are we running? Are we crying? Are we exploring? All very different speeds there.

Isaac didn't make it. Lillian had cupcake to burn off. Run to the school it is!

Isaac didn’t make it. Lillian had cupcake to burn off. Run to the school it is!

We made it in time and I got a text saying that our friend had a doctor’s appointment, so we wouldn’t be picking her up. One less kid to pack and unpack on a Friday afternoon. DEAL.

Since we didn’t have the friend and I already had dinner in the bag (literally) and we had the van (which means no walking home), we hit up our good friends the Bakers for a play date. Our other friends, Andrea, Baby Ben and Natalie were also there. It was lovely to catch-up since we hadn’t really had a chance since the beginning of the school year. (Schedules are hard, y’all.)

Isaac exploring the not-so-baby-proofed house

Isaac exploring the not-so-baby-proofed house.

After we played for a bit, it was after 5 and time to get home. Leaving a play date is always dicey. No one wants to leave and everyone is cranky (including me). So, it’s round up children, firmly, and over a period of TOO MANY MINUTES and leave with as few of them in tears as possible (including me). This time only one kid was crying:

I'm the worst mother for making her leave and then for taking this picture.

I’m the worst mother for making her leave and then for taking this picture.

School has been rough on her. The return to the schedule and no quiet time in the afternoons and no sleeping in has kind of run her over. She earns her bedtime every night. I’m hoping in a couple of weeks she’ll be back to normal and the freaking out will stop. Please.

We get home, unpack everyone, and go inside. I attempt to clean up the kitchen in lieu of cooking dinner, but someone wasn’t having any of it:

Dammit, Mom, pay attention to ME!

Dammit, Mom, pay attention to ME!

So instead, I sat down on the couch and chilled out with the babies until our saviour made it home.

Underneath babies, chilling out

Underneath babies, chilling out

Finally, finally, Ben came home just before 6. On days he bikes or takes the bus (because I need the van), he gets home just before 6. On days he takes the van, he can get home as early as 5:25. Those 35 minutes make all the difference in the entire world. SERIOUSLY.

He's here! He's here! PRAISE THE LORD!

He’s here! He’s here! PRAISE THE LORD!

Ben goes upstairs to shower and I return to the couch to wait for him. There’s no way I’m making dinner with Isaac losing his mind. Some days I can. And most days I do. But I’m just as tired as him and it won’t be pretty. Best to wait the 10 minutes and get Ben to help with dinner prep. He comes downstairs, he takes over dinner, and it’s like magic.

Children playing quietly and nicely around his feet. Tricky to walk around, heaven to listen to.

Children playing quietly and nicely around his feet. Tricky to walk around, heaven to listen to.

Then supper, where we talk about our days, the plans for later that night or, in this case, the weekend. A time for knock-knock jokes and I-spy and singing and reminding to sit on our chairs, eat over our plates, stop throwing our cups/food on the floor, get our toes off the table and for the love of god, finish eating! There’s nothing like a family meal.

It looks fairly organized...but don't be fooled.

It looks fairly organized…but don’t be fooled.

After dinner, Ben hangs out with the babies and I tidy up. It might seem like the 1950s have settled in our home after dinner, but the truth is I never get to clean up without ‘help’ during the day and I love the zen of it after a crazy, loud, constantly moving day. So Ben plays, which I do all day, and I clean, which I love because it’s without children hanging off of me or undoing what I’ve just done right behind me.

Just one day of crumbs and dirt and debris...jeepers.

Just one day of crumbs and dirt and debris…jeepers.

And now, the most wonderful time of the day: bedtime.

Isaac usually goes down with the girls. I nurse him while they’re getting pyjamas on, he might make it through one story, and then he’s whisked off to bed when things get too cranky to handle. But on this night, we had no schedule and no long naps, so Isaac was mad and tired nice and early. I left Ben to hang out with the girls…

Snuggle time with some TV

Snuggle time with some TV

…and I snuck upstairs to watch The Queen and nurse my tired fella.

I used to read while I nursed, but then he started grabbing the books...so now he eats and I watch a movie with captions on and no sound.

I used to read while I nursed, but then he started grabbing the books…so now he eats and I watch a movie with captions on and no sound.

After Isaac is down, it’s the girls’ turn. Pyjamas are put on, stories are read, babies are wrapped, blankets are layered in a very specific order, and children are tucked in. I LOVE what bedtime accomplishes. Getting there? Fighting to get them INTO bed? I hate it. But when they actually make it? Heaven.

We MADE it.

We MADE it.

Now, what do two parents whose children are all sleeping do with themselves on a Friday night? Ben always asks me what I want to do. And I never know. Or if I know, I don’t want to tell him because I want him to be able to do what he wants to do before I sway him with my opinion. So, this face happens:

"What do you want to do?"

“What do you want to do?”

And I tell him, I want to vegetate. I want to stop moving. I want to stay still. I want to zone out and watch TV. And that is all.

Out come the treats…

Don't tell Toni...

Don’t tell Toni…

…out come the pillows…

I'm laying down on a couch by myself. HOLLA!

I’m laying down on a couch by myself. HOLLA!

…and we decide on watching Modern Family episodes (they’re quick and not as long as a movie…because let’s be clear…I’m not going to make it through a whole movie).

Look at my date!

Look at my date!

After snacks are consumed and I’ve had enough time to enjoy being by myself, the (G-rated) snuggling happens, which is one of my favourite parts of the day…after bedtime and actually sleeping.

So happy together!

So happy together!

At 10ish, I decide I am all done. We turn off lights, make sure everything is set up for night feeds for Ben (we alternate night feeding so we’re both equally sleep-deprived. Romantic, right?), and head upstairs…which Isaac senses every. single. night. Without fail, he wakes up to eat right before I want to go to bed. BAH.

More nursing, more The Queen, only this time, in pyjamas

More nursing, more The Queen, only this time, in pyjamas

Once Isaac is back in his bed, Ben gets under the covers and falls asleep INSTANTLY. Which is crap, because that usually means he starts to snore INSTANTLY. I, on the other hand, need to read before bed or my brain won’t turn off. It will run every worry, to-do list, every missed opportunity, every forgotten item or task ever, and I’ll never get to sleep. I’ve been reading Annabel by Kathleen Winter, which is beautifully written. I love the language and the way the story is being told. It doesn’t hurt that it’s written by a Canadian woman, either.

Her writing is described as luminous, and I can't disagree

My sleeping pill

And finally, finally, it’s time for bed. I’m whooped. The day has been loooong and full. And tomorrow? Well, tomorrow I’ll get to do it all over again. Yay!

Waaaaay past my (ideal/desired/never hit it but wish and dream about it) bedtime

Waaaaay past my (ideal/desired/never hit it but wish and dream about it) bedtime

~ Julia

Jitters no more

This week is Sophie’s last week of her first year of school. It’s ‘only’ junior kindergarten, but it’s so momentous…especially because she’s our first baby. Our first baby went to her first school. And she not only survived, she THRIVED. Thank goodness.

At the beginning of the school year I had a bunch of worries for a bunch of reasons. 1. I’m a worrier. Period. The end. It’s something that has always been part of my psyche and something I’m working on stamping out…or at least, getting under control. 2. My first day of school was filled with tears. Horrible, awful, ugly-cry tears. My mom put me on the bus to go to kindergarten and I was bawling. The old, curmudgeonly bus driver rasped, “Leave her. She’ll be fine.” The bus doors closed, my mom disappeared and I ended up sitting in the wrong seat (there was a boy side and a girl side and it was organized by grade – I sat on the boy side in an older grade’s row) crying all the way to school. 3. I’m a worrier. So yeah.

On this last Monday of this school year, I thought I’d recount some of the worries I’d had at the beginning of the year…and they all turned out okay in the end.

I was due with Isaac three weeks after Sophie started school. There was a lot of worry around how I would do it all. How I would make Sophie feel special and loved and supported with a newborn in the house. How I would waddle around post-C-section and be Mom of the Year without losing my mind. How I would keep track of three kids AND a school schedule. How I would have a newborn without the dreamy, sleepy, slow days that newborns had kick started for our family in the past. My C-section was scheduled Friday September 13. Sophie started school the week before. It was tight. It was dicey. I felt like I could totally do it. HA. Isaac showed up four weeks early on his own IGNORING ALL SCHEDULES. So I had a giant, new incision on the first days of school. And a newborn. And Sophie felt loved and cared for. And our dear friends, Heather and Adam, folded Sophie into their morning routine with their children and walked her to school for us for 6 weeks. And it was okay.

Sophie and her BFF Elora

Sophie and her BFF Elora

Would her teacher be nice? It’s a TERRIFYING thing, sending your child into a building you’ve never been in, to do things you have no control over, with adults you’ve never met before, for large expanses of time over and over and over again. TERRIFYING. They don’t tell you this. I didn’t realize this. Sophie wasn’t terrified, but I was SO WORRIED and SCARED for her. What if her teacher was mean? What if her teacher was awful? What if they didn’t understand her? What if they didn’t let her go pee? What if they made her take off her crown? What if what if what if? There was a horrible, no-good, yelling teacher, Mrs. Miller, at my elementary school that my sisters had…and she was HORRENDOUS. What if Sophie got her Mrs. Miller? Nerves, nerves, nerves. But in truth, Sophie didn’t get that teacher. She got AMAZING teachers. Ones that loved her. Ones that she loved. Ones that called her Princess Sophie. Ones that were excited with her. Ones that put all fears about teachers aside. I’m not naive enough to think that she’ll never have a teacher that she doesn’t get along with, or one that isn’t the best, but this year, she had three teachers that were awesome. And to Mrs. Service, Ms. G, and Miss Bunghardt – THANK YOU. Thank you thank you thank you for making her love school. And for making it okay.

What do you mean we have to walk to school EVERY day? That’s nuts. That’s crazy. That’s not possible. Have you seen how short her legs are? Do you know how many children I have? Do you have any idea how hard it is to have any sort of schedule or organization with a newborn and a two-now-three-year old and a non-stop chatting junior kindergartener? Do you know what it’s like in the winter in our town? What happens when there’s so much snow on the ground we can barely walk? What happens when it’s so cold we’d normally not go outside if you paid us? What THEN?? I was ALWAYS a sheltered bus student growing up. The bus came to my driveway. The bus picked me up. The bus kept me safe. The bus dropped me off at school. The bus picked me up at school. The bus kept me safe. The bus dropped me off at my driveway. No walking. No unknown. No weather that I had to deal with directly. But you know? Walking to school every day wasn’t so bad. And when it got SO BAD, my amazing friends Adam and Heather and my incredibly generous sister Toni stepped in to help. And when it got SO MUCH BETTER walking to school every day was awesome – it was fresh air, it was outside, it was time for Lillian to run and Isaac to see the sun and me to get fresh air and for us to meet other walking families with kids our kids’ ages and…it was okay.

What if she gets bullied? It’s all you hear about. Kids getting bullied. Bullies running wild with no repercussions. Children not telling teachers. Teachers not responding. All of the horror stories of school becoming a torturous place. But after healing and walking to and from school with Sophie and meeting her friends (she made FRIENDS!!) and asking her about her day and listening to what problems she was having (“I don’t like it when no one listens to me.”), I calmed down. She wasn’t being bullied. And again, I’m not naive enough to think she’ll never meet a bully (I met my fair share) or get bullied, but this year wasn’t the year. It was okay.

She can’t write any letters. She doesn’t know how to read. She’s going to fail. Again, calm yourself, Julia. CHILL OUT. You know – they teach kids at school. And if, while a hundred years pregnant with a toddler AND a preschooler at home you didn’t get around to teaching your kid everything they’re going to learn at school, it will be okay. You know what else is okay? Getting to school late sometimes. And missing school because of a bad night’s sleep. Or dealing with head lice. Or dealing with croup. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it’s hard. But overall…it’ll be okay. Seriously. Calm. Down.

Saucy...and too smart for me

Saucy…and too smart for me

After dealing with all of these worries…I only have one left. How on earth am I going to be as exciting as school this summer? I don’t have a curriculum. She’s going to be SO BORED. !!!! 

Julia

Be mine, first Valentine

My oldest baby, Sophie, will have her very first school Valentine’s Day this Friday. I can not tell you the stress I am having about making sure it’s just right. 

The concept of Valentine’s Day is new for her. Since we weren’t in school for it last year, there was no pressure to make valentines, get a class list, make sure everyone feels loved, talk about the lovefest, stumble on the why we’re having a lovefest… It was so much simpler: get through the day so that Ben and I could cuddle on the couch and go to bed early like the hot married parents we are.

I asked Sophie whether she wanted to buy valentines with Disney Princesses or My Little Pony or Hello Kitty, or whether she wanted to make valentines (which really means me making valentines). She decided we (me) should make them. I asked her what colour hearts she wanted. She’s requested red hearts with a pink inside (oh good). And then I asked if she wanted me to address them or dot out the names of her 26 classmates and 14 extra people she thought of…she said she wanted me to dot them so she can trace the names.

I’m IN LOVE with the idea of all of this. Seriously. I live for crafting and glitter and love and hearts and my baby printing names like nobody’s business.

But the reality is I have to turn all of this

Valentine

into this

40 times by Friday.

We’re going to do 10 a night to spread it out. I think that’s wise. I hope it’s wise. OH MY GOSH WHAT HAVE I GOT MYSELF INTO???

I’ll let you know next week how it went.

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? I bet it’s way less stressful than what I have planned.

~Julia