Help wanted

Dear readers, fellow parents, and strong-willed-children-turned-upstanding-citizens,

I need HELP. I need massive amounts of advice and ideas and guidance. And I need some reassurances.

Lillian has turned FOUR and I thought that meant her reign of TERROR and INSANITY and TORTURE TACTICS were over. But, I was wrong.

I love that she LOVES Spider-Man...I don't love how she tries to shoot me with webs when I ask her to put on pants.

I love that she LOVES Spider-Man…I don’t love how she tries to shoot me with webs when I ask her to put on pants.

She’s still a force to be reckoned with. She’s still a whirlwind of demand and stubbornness. She still won’t do whatever it is you want her to unless SHE wants to, and even then, she probably won’t because it wasn’t her idea.

It’s enough to make me weep with impatience and exhaustion and I-wanna-quit.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE HER FIERCELY. I DO.

I especially love her like this...

I especially love her like this…

But, I feel like all of our interactions of late have been a battle of wits and a war of wills, that every time I open my mouth to ask her to put her shoes on so we can go to her school, or go pee so we can go play, or get her coat on so we can go fetch her sister, I’m met with this horrible noise and a temper tantrum for the ages and a lava-filled “I don’t want to!”

I’m getting close to breaking. And I’m afraid I will break her spirit and her happiness and some days, SOME DAYS, I feel like I might physically lose it and break her and me and our family.

It’s awful. And scary.

So, I’m posing this question to you, dear readers, what would you suggest? How would you handle a ball of fury that will be awesome in the future, that will lead to a crazy incredible adult human being, but right now is slowly killing my will to be a stay-at-home-parent? How would you discipline? How would you negotiate without actually losing ground? How do you compromise without giving in?

She is one of Isaac's favourite people...mostly because she's INSANE and he thinks it's AWESOME.

She is one of Isaac’s favourite people…mostly because she’s INSANE and he thinks it’s AWESOME.

If you have any ideas at all, I’m all ears.

Because I love my baby, my troubled middle child, the one who tests me and pushes me and ultimately wows me every single day.

But I’m afraid for us, for our future, for our path. I want her to grow up as strong as she is, but kind and able to navigate this tricky world of ours. I want her to thrive and succeed and become the best she can become without being hindered by a childhood laced with anger and yelling and being in constant trouble. And I want us to still love each other when we both grow up…and not the obligatory love you hand out to the relatives you have to see and hug and chat with on the big holidays.

I adore that Sophie and Lillian are sisters...and I pray that they can have that sister bond the Sisterhood is blessed with.

I adore that Sophie and Lillian are sisters…and I pray that they can have that sister bond the Sisterhood is blessed with.

When (if) she has babies, I want to love on her and them. I want to be part of their lives. When she wins all the awards, I want to be in the front row or at the front table, leading the standing ovation, embarrassing her with my display of love, not making her resentful because it’s for show. And when she falls, as every person in the world does, I want to at least be considered on her list of people to call to help her stand back up again and make sure she knows she’s worth standing back up for.

She's growing up so fast...I don't want to ruin any of it.

She’s growing up so fast…I don’t want to ruin any of it.

I want all the things. How do I get them?

~ Julia

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Birthday boy

We’re in a tricky spot, over here at my house. It’s tricky because March is BIRTHDAY-PACKED, but Ben has a huge deadline that’s due date is actually his birthday day. So what is a Laurentino, who LOVES celebrating, supposed to do when the guy you love to celebrate with, love to celebrate, love to love is too busy to be celebrated? WRITE A MUSHY BLOG POST!

He’s turning the big 3-6, so I thought I’d give you 36 reasons why Ben is awesome:

1. He’s the best father to our kids. They squeal when he comes home, they demand his attention, they curl up and snooze with him in the mornings, and he’s working SO damn hard for them right now.

Daddy the wild ride (counterclockwise from top left: Sophie, Lillian and Isaac)

Daddy, the wild ride (counterclockwise from top left: Sophie, Lillian and Isaac)

2. He’s committed. To our marriage, to our family, to his game developer dream, to his footie passion. He’s all in. Always.

3. He’s strong. From opening stubborn, slimy sippy cups, to carrying all the laundry from all the rooms down all the stairs, he’s a tough guy…and I appreciate it with both of my carpal tunneled hands.

4. He’s a softie. No, seriously. Is there a poignant moment in the movie or TV show you’re watching? Get ready…he’ll be teary. It’s adorable.

5. He’s THERE for you. Need something? Anything? Like moving your house for the 845793rd time, or needing some groceries dropped off, or a push out a giant snowbank? He’s your guy. In a heartbeat.

6. He appreciates a good laugh. And when you’re raising ALL the CRAZIES, it’s a good thing…otherwise we’d both be crying (see #4).

7. He’s not afraid of hard work. Manual labour, thinking labour, working until the wee hours of the morning, he’s in. And he’s committed (see #2).

8. He’s the king of goofing off. I’m a little nutty…and a lot Type A personality…and my go-go-go-go can quickly kill me. He’s a perfect balance to my nonsensical need to busy all. the. time. Without him, I’d be in a corner, rocking, with so many more grey hairs.

9. He’s a family man. In every sense of the word. He’s all about keeping family okay, and family includes our five, our one in heaven, his side, my side, and the life friends we’ve picked up along the way.

10. He’s tough. Different than strong, he can take a beating, both on the field and in life, and keep moving, keep fighting. I haven’t seen him give up yet…even when all the signs were yelling at him to quit.

11. He’s handsome. ‘Nuff said.

Right?!

Right?!

12. He can smell good. Note the ‘can’. He doesn’t always. But when he does…mmmm…he smells good. 

13. He gives the best hugs. They’re big and all-encompassing and warm and when I’m in them I feel small and protected and home. And the coolest part? He’s passed this genetic gift onto Lillian, who is an all-body hugger.

14. He’s funny. Sometimes. And sometimes not. He makes me laugh sometimes. But sometimes not. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

15. He’s smart. Smarter than me in so many ways. Smart bookwise and computerwise and lifewise and lovewise. He’s a smartie pants…and our kids will benefit from that greatly when they come home with trigacalculusometry homework.

16. He works hard to find the right gift. Research, listening to what you say out loud and what you say in not so many words, then searching and trying so hard to get it right.

17. He writes the best cards. Birthday, anniversary, Mother’s Day, just because…Ben’s notes are the sweetest, most thought out…and it’s ridiculous because I am a writer and he out-writes me!

18. He wants to hang out with our kids. I’m not sure you’re aware, but they’re crazy. And I would fully understand that after a long day at work he’d want to hide out and not see anyone. But he doesn’t. He’s on the floor, playing with them, laughing with them, then herding them up the stairs, hogtying them into their pyjamas and reading them all the stories even when the stories are nonsense.

19. He wants to hang out with me. I’m not sure you’re aware, but I’m crazy. And I would fully understand that after a long day at work and a long night of hanging out with our crazy loin fruit, he’d want to hide out and not see anyone…but he doesn’t. He wants to watch How I Met Your Mother together and spend time together. He’s a glutton for punishment.

20. He giggles. He says he chuckles, because it’s a more manly word (his words), but I swear it – this burly man giggles.

21. He remembers all the 21s. We started dating on November 21 and we got married on May 21, so 21 is kind of our number. Every month we make sure we say, Happy 21! to each other on the 21st. He remembers more often than me…and usually when we’re rushing around and I’m about ready to lose my mind, he reminds me: we had romantic moments and we have a great life. Happy 21!

22. He’s warm. As someone with zero ability to maintain any sort of normal body temperature, having someone warm sleep beside you, let you snuggle up to on the couch, or wrap you in a warming hug when you’ve just come back from a -20-something run, is GOLD. AND?! His babies are little heaters. 🙂 I WIN.

23. He likes to play. Football, board games, video games, in the sand, in the water, in the bath, in the snow, and in the sun – he likes to play and participate. It’s awesome. And lets me nap…

24. He supports napping. Ben does not believe in taking naps. He hates them. He feels like it’s a waste of time. I thrive on naps. I LOVE naps. If I could have two naps a day, I would. In a heartbeat. So the fact that Ben fully supports my love affair with naps, while himself hating them, is awesome. And so generous. Now, if he would just come home from work so I can have one…or two.

25. He believes and loves God. For non-believers or even agnostics, this might not seem like a big deal. But when you talk to God a lot, when you love God a lot, when you want to raise God-lovers and -believers, this is an incredible gift. We are a family of believers and it’s lovely.

26. He’s actively interested in stuff I’m not. This might seem like a bad thing, but it actually makes for great conversation that doesn’t get boring. I like watching football with Ben, but Ben LOVES football, so he can answer my more detailed questions about contracts, money, culture AND plays and stats. I enjoy the odd video game, but Ben can talk about the development piece, or the possible reasons a developer made the decisions they did. Not dull at all.

27. He believes in me. I want to be a writer, a crocheter, a card-maker, a baker, a runner, a good mom, a good wife, and Ben? He believes I can do all those things well, successfully, and he tells me as much. He’s my number 1 fan and I’m so lucky.

28. He’s my best friend. It wasn’t this way in the beginning. I had lots of best girl-friends. But now? He’s one of my best friends and it’s the best part of our relationship.

29. He’s a good man in a storm. I’m not too bad in a storm myself, but he’s better. And at the moment that I start to lose my shipshapeness, his kicks in to hyper drive. He helps me keep my head, and will do everything in his power to fix, stop, or make the storm palatable.

30. He trusts me. This could be a sign of insanity or poor judgement on his part, but he trusts me with our home and our babies, with their care and keeping. He trusts me to be a good mom. It’s a huge thing and I don’t take it lightly.

31. He’s trustworthy. I don’t worry about Ben. I know he’ll be there, he’ll do his best, that he’ll work hard, that he’ll take the right things seriously, and that together we’re stronger.

32. He takes pride in his athleticism. Which is an asset for me, who, although has found a love for fitness, still has a great affinity for her bed – it’s inspiring. And for our girls – because we both work out and exercise, they talk about exercising and working out. It’s keeping our family healthy.

33. He is system-oriented. He has a method for blowing his nose. A way to brush his teeth. A manner in which he makes bread. A routine for everything that can be regimented. It’s endearing…and sometimes enraging…but mostly nice and predictable. Our babies? Not predictable. He’s a nice change of pace.

34. He’s confidently Ben. He knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. And he’s not afraid to ask for these things, but in a timely and appropriate manner. He doesn’t like semi-sweet chocolate chips, but make him cookies with them and he’ll eat and appreciate them. He wears boxer-briefs and refuses to wear anything else. Buy him the wrong underwear, he will be returning it and exchanging it for the right kind. See? Appropriate responses. 😉

35. He tells me how he feels. I grew up in a family of girls, so talking about our feelings was a daily, almost hourly event. Ben…not so much. The fact that he will actually tell me how he feels is a gift I don’t take lightly. I appreciate that he shares just for me…even if it’s not the oversharing I’m used to.

36. He lets me celebrate him. Ben didn’t grow up with giant birthday displays, so the fact that he lets me gush on him, spoil him, and force him to participate in fantastic organized birthday events is awesome. I love birthday-ing the people that I love…and since he is THE love of my LIFE, it’s incredibly generous that he lets me birthday him the way see fit.

Happy happy happy birthday, Ben!! I love you!

~ Julia

Happy Birthday, Julia!

If you’ve been following along, you should know by now that the sisterhood is a big ball of mush when it comes to the people in our lives that mean the most to us, so it should come as no surprise as you read on.

My dear, Julia.

My innocent, kind, sweet, brave, overachieving, magic making, Julia.

Happy, happy birthday!

I am not sure there will ever be just the right word in the English language to describe the immense amount of gratitude I have for being granted the privilege to bear witness to the beautiful, crazy, meaningful and wonderfully messy life that you are creating.

Gratitude for the amount of helping to – let’s be honest – rear me, as livestock terms are much more suited for my younger years. Gratitude for the friendship we have been so blessed with the opportunity for, and the brains to know it’s worth it. Gratitude for you.

Between birthing three of my life’s greatest blessings, to being a beacon for all those who are struggling by bravely telling your story of triumph so others will feel a little less alone in their own heads, to reminding me that we have fought to grow into women that have the strength to do so – and as you do, once again providing the most incredible example a girl could ask for in a big sis.

As Lillian would say, “you’re a rockstar” and I hope you truly feel that way today as we continue to celebrate another year of you on this your day of birth.

<3

This love.

We love you an incredible amount!

~ Toni

 

Mr. Right

Smart.

First boyfriend to have a licence AND a car. Dreamy

First boyfriend to have a licence AND a car. Dreamy.

Good father.

Dressing our first for the first time.

Dressing our first.

Funny.

145

Power struggle.

296

Hottie even when he’s silly.

120

Nice hat.

Ben Hat

And again…nice hat.

Good father.

Daddy and his girls.

Daddy and his girls.

Strong.

136

Sophie sitting on the ceiling.

267

Jungle-gym Daddy

322

Lillian flying high.

551

Unimpressed Christmas angel.

Ben Strong

Pipes.

Good father.

Father and son.

Father and son.

Handsome.

Smokin'.

Smokin’.

Good father.

Sophie hated water. Brave Daddy made it okay.

Sophie hated water. Brave Daddy made it okay.

 

Snow angels for Sophie.

Snow angels for Sophie.

 

Best snuggler. Ever.

Best snuggler. Ever.

 

Best bed. Ever.

Best bed. Ever.

 

Best heater. Ever.

Best heater. Ever.

 

Best lunch date. Ever.

Best lunch date. Ever.

Mr. Right for all the right reasons.

Seriously. Luckiest gal. Ever.

Seriously. Luckiest gal. Ever.

Happy Father’s Day to the best thing that’s ever happened to our family. You are awesome. Incredible. Amazing. And we’re so blessed you’re ours.

~ Julia

Three years and countless battles

Three years ago, I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant with a stubborn, stubborn baby who refused to come out. And if you think for one moment that that 1 day is insignificant, you have never been pregnant.

Her name is Lillian. And three years ago on this day she was born.

She was high up in my rib cage, far away from any exit strategy, and had made zero progress or move to come out. She was happy in there. Coming out was not her idea. And therefore, she would not participate or help in any way. This should have been a sign of things to come.

445

Lillian has always forged her own way, doing things in her time on her schedule according to her plan. Always.

The doctor who performed the C-section to get her out of my belly said she had never seen a baby who was so overdue that high up before. She literally had to reach up into me to pull her out. After hanging out with Lillian for three years, I’m not surprised in the least that was the case.

She had a striking white patch in her black, black hair, just like her daddy. We knew this meant she had been born with the same genetic disorder Ben has. It was the talk of the nurses in the delivery room, our family, and anyone who met her. All I knew was all that hair was the cause for all of my heartburn during my pregnancy with her.

DSCF0111

She needed hearing aids and got them when she was just four months old. We were so new at the whole baby-with-hearing-aids thing that we had to be told by the audiologists that we shouldn’t let her have them in while we were driving because she’d probably eat them. They were right. She did.

409

She also took them off and threw them, hid them, chewed them, lost them, delivered them to us, and generally gave us countless panic attacks around them (you try putting thousands of dollars of equipment in a baby’s ears and you tell me how calm you are).

She also rocked them. They were pink and she was and still is a rock star at every appointment, sitting still while molds are formed, while tests are run, while tubes are cut and while adjustments are made.

And she used them as an act of defiance when she was mad at us, looking us straight in the eyes while pulling them out and throwing them. Luckily they were attached by a cord and for a while tucked under a cap that made her look like she was a 1920’s bather or an old-school pilot, but still no one could lose her ‘ears’ like Lillian could.

Lillian was a candidate for a cochlear implant, giving her the potential to have near perfect hearing. Since she was completely deaf in her right ear and had a mild loss of hearing in her left ear, this was miraculous. It has since proved to be just that.

During the operation she was amazing, even collecting a Dr. Seuss as her anesthesiologist (at a children’s hospital! Seriously!). But afterwards she was true to form, pulling out three different IVs. And while I would have milked that operation for all it was worth, she was up and bouncing around like her normal self in no time afterwards.

Lillian has always been her own person, quiet and reserved in a new place, loud and rambunctious where she feels safe. Roaring like a tiger or ARGHing like a pirate at the top of her lungs. Lauding every fart or burp that comes out of her little body or anyone else’s for that matter. Reveling in chaos yet thriving in comfortable situations. Refusing to smile for posed pictures but cackling for anyone’s phone camera.

She is the buttliest of butts and I mean that in the nicest, kindest, most loving way possible. She has taught me the art of negotiation, the art of patience, the art of snuggling on the couch until she can’t sit still anymore. She has taught me that bravery often comes in the smallest of packages and that even though she was handed an extraordinary set of circumstances she is a completely normal kid.

DSCF1492

Today is her day and I’m so glad she is mine. Ours. In our family and in our lives.

Happy happy birthday, Lillian!

Love, Mama (a.k.a. Julia)