Monday, 31 December 2012

Baby 5: Week 20

After a break for Christmas, we're back with baby updates!

How Far Along: 20 Weeks and 1 day (19 weeks and 6 days to go!)

How I'm Feeling: Huge. And not just because of Christmas eating, which was actually pretty moderate. I've gained a mere 3 pounds in the past month, but all of a sudden my belly is poking out. My nausea is pretty much gone, and after 2 weeks the cold I was battling is back down to a sniffle.  I've been having a few dips in blood pressure too, which has made long, hot showers impossible. A small sacrifice to know that I'm growing a baby. It means that my doctor has recommended that, for the 5th pregnancy in a row, I increase my sodium intake. I feel like every time I get that recommendation I'm winning the pregnancy lottery. Since I crave salty foods anyway, I'm more than happy to indulge.

What I'm Thinking: Today we had our 20 week ultrasound. Our baby seems pretty sensitive to caffeine. I say that because I had only one cup of coffee this morning, and baby was moving around like crazy. A little frustrating for the ultrasound tech I'm sure, but joyful for me to see such a strong, wilful baby. The actual ultrasound took over an hour (what what!), and I loved it. I now get to sit on my hands for the next few days, hoping and praying the phone doesn't ring with any news from the doctor's office. No call means everything is totally normal. So of course until the week is out, I will be going through all the images I saw in my mind, trying to see perfection in each of them, and trying to keep down any unnecessary worries and fears.

What I've Done This Week:  It was Christmas, folks, so pretty much all I did was float the waves of joy emanating off the kids. We visited with family a  little, but because we were all overwhelmed by a cold, we mostly stayed close to home and enjoyed some mellow together time. My husband has 11 days vacation, so we get to enjoy one more full day with him before he goes back to work. This has been his first real, non baby-related vacation since we got married, and I have been trying to treasure every sweet moment of it. I don't know how I'll deal once he's back to work. haha

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I'm going to work on getting back into the swing of our regular schedule. Our oldest girl will be happy as a clam to be back to regular school work. I'm also going to try and tackle our mountain of unfolded laundry so I can have extra room to really clear out the nursery. I need to start bugging the midwives clinic again in hopes that I make the list. I love my family doctor, and it would really be lovely to still be seeing her, but I love the idea of trying out the midwives! Also, I hope we'll be welcoming baby girl's Godparents' baby, who is due any moment now! Go Baby A Go! Time to come out!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Birthdays

This post isn't exactly timely in the sense that it has nothing to do with Advent, Christmas or the Mayan Un-Apocalypse. This post is about something that's been brewing since October. You see, friends, I had a birthday. The number isn't even remotely important, but rather that it was my birthday. As I recall I had more than one person upset that I didn't make a big deal out of the fact that it was my birthday. Not because I'm ashamed of my age (wooo! 30!), but because, for me, birthdays are not that big of a deal. Don't get me wrong, I will celebrate the crap out of your birthday. I will work excessively hard picking out THE perfect gift to make you smile. If I have occasion to I will make you a cake, possibly from scratch, and I will get loads of candles and sing "Happy Birthday" to you so loud and ridiculously that you'll be embarrassed. Because that's how I roll. On your birthday, anyway.

On my birthday, however, I prefer a more incognito approach. I will stay home if I can. I won't give you any good gift ideas (because I really don't need anything I don't already have, except for clothes for some reason). I won't want you to take me out to a restaurant and have waiters and waitresses sing enthusiastically while I wear a silly hat. If possible, I would simply have most people in the world not even notice my birthday at all. That's easier said than done in the age of Facebook, of course. If you simply wish me a happy birthday, I will be delighted of course, but I won't want a fuss beyond that. It gave me great joy this year that I managed to have my birthday pass by unnoticed by my Moms group, much to the chagrin of one of my closest friends (mwahah!). On a select few occasions, such a very cool concert, I have gone out for my birthday, but my preference is to stay in. I kid you not when I say that I honestly do not even want presents. I get that it makes everyone else feel great to give (as I said, I myself LOVE to pick out that perfect present when I know it'll make YOU smile), but for me, I'd rather see you take that money and spend some quality time with a loved one.

Growing up, I recall feeling much the same way. I didn't have a lot of birthday parties, though evidence shows my parents had several for me before I was old enough to say yes or no. I preferred sleepovers when I was little. As I got older, I just wanted to stay in with my folks and have a meal. My family has one birthday tradition that I loved, which was that whoever's birthday it was could pick what we had for supper. Just so you know, and I know you're dying to know, I almost always chose tortellini. I loves me my carbs. We'd almost always finish it off with an ice-cream cake Mom would pick out that day, or a few days before. I remember the year she special ordered a turkey-shaped ice-cream cake for my oldest brother. (That, by the way, was one of many moments that proved my family was a little weird.) Gift wise, unless I had something really particular in mind, my folks would pick out something on the more or less random side of things. When I was still young enough to live at home, I recall my Mom proudly presenting me with a cast iron stand-alone coat rack, so I could "hang up you coat upstairs instead of leaving it on the floor". Thanks, Mom. Haha. It became something of a gag over the years and eventually I re-gifted it to my Mom when I moved out, so she could, y'know, "hang up your towels instead of just leaving them on the floor". Yeah. We're a fun family.

Some people might think I'm bitter or whatever and that's why I don't want to make a big deal, but it couldn't be further from the truth. I can hardly be bitter when by and large the reason my family celebrated my birthday the way they did was because I asked them to. Even as a kid I didn't get the big deal. Yeah, of course, wish me a happy birthday (and I will be deadly hurt if my family forgets THAT), but beyond that I don't want or need anything. Except for maybe some tortellini and my hands on the remote control for the night. I've got everything I need in my life, my husband and our kids, a loving extended family, and all the necessities to get through the day. Everything else pales in comparison. So next year when my birthday rolls around, don't worry about it. Unless you are married to me or are the woman who gave birth to me (or are married to her), I don't need or expect a "Happy Birthday" from you (though that's nice, of course). If you insist that you can't pass the date without giving me something, please consider taking that money and giving it to a charity to help those who aren't as lucky as I am year round. I may have a big personality sometimes, but what I'm really about is celebrating the gifts I get to have all year. So give me your warm wishes, give me your prayers, but most of all, give me the time to celebrating who you are to me, not just that I had the good fortune to be born.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Light in the Darkness

I've been struggling with whether or not I wanted to write this post. I really don't want to, but of course I feel like I have to. I almost let my feelings slide into unspoken thoughts, then I read this beautiful post over at Mommy Miracles, and felt again the words bubbling to the top, demanding a voice. So here are my few words, the result of the desperate cry of my heart, imperfectly cobbled together in hopes of finding a little peace outside my own head.

On Friday, I did not lose a child, or a sister, or a parent. On Friday, my children did not lose their sense of safety. On Friday, my family did not become the center of media attention, or become the center of a debate on security, gun control, or support for mental health. My little world stayed very much the same. My children continued on in blissful ignorance. And yet here I am, my heart broken, tears rolling down my cheeks without warning, aching for the way the world felt on Thursday. I have been struggling to tear my eyes away from news media and have been escaping into silly movies, cuddles with my children, and fervent prayer. As a parent I keep finding myself drawn into the vacuum of grief so visible on the faces of the parents enduring a tragedy no parent should ever endure. Children the same age as my daughter should not know the terror these children endured.

What can I do when death knocks on the door, and leaves its cold streaks across my heart? I did the only thing I could for my own heart, and for the hearts of the families who are spending the end of Advent not preparing for the birth of Christ, but for the funeral of a loved one. I prayed. I prayed alone. I prayed with friends. I took my kids to the Church and we prayed.

At my parish, we have a Pro-Life Holy Hour the third Saturday of every month. As I tried to lead our prayers over the clatter and chatter of 5 little kids (4 of them mine of course), I could feel the veil lifting. Our chapel holds the Tabernacle, which is on a pedestal on a platform step higher than the rest of the room. The platform is big enough for an adult to have access to the ciborium holding Jesus in safety inside. This also means the platform is more than big enough for 5 kids aged 5 and under to crawl up and sit together. The kids were drawn to the Tabernacle, even the little 1 year olds. They didn't know what we were there for, or why some of the grown ups were crying. They just knew we were there to be with Jesus. So they went and hung out with Jesus, saying their little prayers and laughing together in perfect communion. At one point, I couldn't help but remark that this was what Heaven looked like on Saturday. A crowd of little kids, their cares washed away, looking down from the heights at their parents with happy smiles, in peace in the presence of God. We adults watched with a sense of joy and sadness, turning out prayers to those left behind, but comforted by the knowledge that their children and ours are welcome with God, that they are His beloved children too. Our kids only belong to us for their lifetime, but they are God's first and always.

Since Saturday morning, whenever I feel the darkness stealing its way back into my heart, I think back on that moment. A sweet taste of bliss and a comfort. My prayer today is that the families experience the real, unfathomable, heartbreaking loss of their children, sisters, and parents, can feel this grace that God gave me today. I pray He finds some way into their hearts to heal them.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Baby 5: Week 18

How Far Along: 18 Weeks (22 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: I thought for sure I was having a HUGE resurgence of nausea... Turns out it was the lead in to a wicked cold. I thought for sure it was just pregnancy congestion, but by the looks of the kids it was at least mildly contagious. None of them have runny noses, but everyone seems very tired, and have red eyes. Poor darlings. I'm struggling to stay up enough to be Mommy while Daddy is at work. I'd blame the general lack of cleanliness of my house on the cold, but let's face it, that's just normal for me.

What I'm Thinking: Today, I'm holding my babies a lot closer. I'm grateful that my life hasn't been touched by personal tragedy, and that my kids don't understand what little pieces of the news they've accidentally overhead. I've had two sleepless nights, up praying and crying and shocked over the lives lost in Connecticut this week. Pregnancy hormones are not helpful at times like this, so all I can do is pray pray pray for the hurting families involved and hold mine a little tighter.

What I've Done This Week:  I did my 2nd cookie exchange this past Monday at the party for our Young Parents Alpha class. What a fun time! I also stayed out until about 1am so I could see the Hobbit opening night. Every since then I've been sick, but I managed to squeeze in a meeting with a new parishioner to welcome them to our parish, and lead a Pro-Life Holy Hour on Saturday which was much needed and remarkably well attended. I woke up barely able to move form the sick, and so congested I can barely breathe, so I'm keeping my sick to myself and staying in as long as it takes to get better.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: We have a busy week ahead. My friends and I will be collecting the gifts for the family we adopted together with hopes to deliver it very soon. I also have to get a bit of Christmas cooking done right away as I give Tourtiere to family members for their Christmas Eve dinner (a family tradition from my childhood I'm happy to spread!). I also hope to recover from this awful cold.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Baby 5: Week 17

How Far Along: 17 Weeks (23 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: I've been having some mild resurgence of my nausea. I'm not sure if I should be chalking this up to pregnancy Advent related baking. Or maybe the fact that most of my cooking lately has been greasier than normal. Oh well! I'm also feeling particularly large in the uterus, if you know what I mean. I am now %100 in maternity clothes, which is a relief, especially since a dear friend gave me two big bags of her old maternity clothes. I'm feeling glamorous!

What I'm Thinking: We're really in the Advent spirit here in the house. The tree is up and our few decorations are out. We decided to not put up so many random decorations this year. We have our Advent Wreaths (yes, wreaths. One we made at Church and one we already owned), a few kitchy theme decorations (snow men and Santa), our gorgeous and somewhat large Nativity Scene (without baby Jesus), and today as I said we put up and decorated our tree. I feel like these modest decorations have put me in the spirit, and helped me bring my heart closer to Mary's this week. I've been praying a lot about how she must have felt, so young, unmarried and travelling far while ponderously pregnant. My concerns about enough of the luxuries for this baby are nothing compared to the poverty of her life, but the abiding richness of her faith. Her faith took her to a stable to give birth to the King of Kings. Her littleness bringing forth the greatness of God is the most unexpected surroundings. I'm praying I can find a way to come closer to that kind of faith Mary had.

What I've Done This Week:  This week I've done a lot of baking! I managed to make 14 dozen cookies for my two cookie exchanges, as well as have guests over twice, including this baby's Godparents and a friend of ours, who is a priest in a nearby parish. It's so wonderful to have the kinds of friends who hold you accountable, and lift your spirits at the same time. Thank God for the blessings of our friends, new and long standing!

What I Hope To Do Next Week: My Mom had carpal tunnel surgery last week, so I've been trying to help out as much as I can. This week I'll be over there as many days as I can manage it! I doubt much will be happening around or house, but I don't mind. I suspect this week is going to fly by!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Taste of Heaven

I don't mean to brag (well, maybe a little), but I'm pretty sure I'm a member of the best Catholic parish in the world. That's a pretty hefty claim, I realise, but I think I can back it up! For one, we have an amazing, engaging, and brave parish priest. He's willing to do things that he know may not be popular, because he knows it's right. His homilies are engaging, and he has no problem speaking difficult truths from the pulpit. He also has no problem letting us know that he's not the reason our parish is incredible. You can have an actual Saint at your parish, and you still might not be a happening parish filling the pews and drawing new people in. Having a great pastor is only one piece of the puzzle. Our priest recognises his primary job is to bring us the Sacraments, teach us about our Faith from the pulpit, and, very importantly, to nurture parish leaders who can raise up an incredible community outside of our Sunday Mass. Which leads to my real point. Yes, we have an incredible parish priest. He's got a vision for what our parish can become and is working so so so hard to help us make that happen, but in the end he's putting it in the hands of the laity to get the job done.

When we moved to this area and started attending this parish, I was a little nervous. We'd been going to a very lovely parish downtown with a pastor who we consider a very close friend and were liking the parish in principle. We didn't participate in any parish activities because we were already commuting to get there and didn't see anything that really jumped out at us. I was also struggling with the idea of going to the Church that was actually in our area because my Dad is a public figure there, and it's an amalgamation including my childhood parish. Not that I don't love my Dad, but he casts quite a shadow, and is there anything worse than having no one know your name except for as "So and So's daughter"? Despite my misgivings, we thought we'd come for one or two weekends to feel the new place out. If nothing else, it would  be nice to check out the swanky new building! The first impression, which has turned into a lasting one, was that this is a vibrant, welcoming parish. Strangers smiled and welcomed us on the way in. Folks introduced themselves out of nowhere when we sat down. And no, they didn't have that lean and hungry look some people get when they see a young family at Church (quickly! Young people! Start signing them up for stuff!). They didn't recognise us, so they wanted to make us feel at home. Some folks who recognised me from my particular childhood parish (the new parish is an amalgamation of 3 smaller parishes) came over and welcomed us back with no judgements (sometimes when you've moved to a different parish, people kind of assume that they you left the Church altogether... haha). Simply just happy to see us! And boy are they welcoming of kids! Your kids screaming his or her head off? That's okay! That's what kids do. Can I help you at all? What a joy to see your family here!

After a few masses, we were hooked on this new parish. We found the particular mass that worked for us, and actually managed to get ourselves a regular spot. It took another couple of months before we really go involved, but after a while people gently invited us (and in the case of my Dad, much less gently) to join a few activities. I took Alpha last year, and this year I'm helping to run it for Young Families in our parish. (Don't know what Alpha is? You're missing out friend! Run to your local parish and if they're not carrying it, they should be!). Our Alpha class turns into a faith based playgroup when we're not running the course, which means we have year-round fun, support, and growth in our faith. Based on the inspiration of my experience during my 4th pregnancy, I started a little ministry called Food for Families that brings ready to cook meals to young families who are greeting a new baby. I've also joined the Baptism Formation Committee, the Pro-Life Committee, and just this past week the Welcoming Committee (a new committee to help people who are new to the parish feel welcome and comfortable). All stuff that's right up my alley, and none of it so taxing that I'm pulling my hair out. And no one MADE me do any of it. I just feel so energised by our parish that I WANT to do it! And it isn't just me! My husband joined the Knights of Columbus, which has him out and about quite and bit, joined the Pro-Life Committee with me, and started doing a retreat series called Moment by Moment, which is a 30 Day retreat stretched out to be once a week for 30 weeks. I think it's fair to say he's loving it to.

The most incredible thing about this parish is that there's really something for everyone! We've got Youth groups, bible studies, faith formation, grief support, playgroups, movie nights, fun activities like knitting or Ukrainian Easter eggs, and just about anything else you can think of! It's so much that we have a person who specifically coordinates all our volunteers! Our parish bulletin is so packed with real activities each month that we're trying to upgrade to a bigger format so we can actually tell folks about everything going on! Our parish is living proof that if you raise up good leaders, they'll go out and raise up more good leaders, and so on! We're all working together, growing together, praying together, and spending a lot of our time laughing. With the strength of God and our desire to come closer to Him individually and as a community, we drawing new people in and helping people find faith, re-learn their faith, and grow in their faith. When you look back across the Church during Mass, it's hard not to notice a lot of shining faces with their eyes fixed on the Cross. Our parish, its staff, parishioners and pastor, are working hard to become a little foretaste of Heaven so compelling that we ignite a fire of Faith so strong we could catch the whole world on fire. Every time I feel the flame of my Baptism growing dim, I can depend that there's someone in the parish who will share their light with me, and help me grow back into a raging inferno of love for Christ.

And that's the kind of parish we could all use.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Cookie Exchange

Now that we've hit Advent, all of sudden a bunch of cookie exchanges are gearing up. For those who don't know what a cookie exchange is, let me first say that they are awesome. Not enough info? Fair enough. So basically what happens is a bunch of folks sign up to participate, each offering to make a different kind of cookie. You make a dozen cookies for each other person who will be participating (and a dozen for yourself to if like me, you could never have enough cookies). You get together, and then exchange your dozens of cookies for however many dozen different kinds of cookies from all your exchange buddies. So, if I'm in an exchange with 7 other people, I get to come home with 7 dozen completely unique batches of cookies when I only had to get the ingredients to make 7 dozen of one kind. If you're like me and you've really only perfected one or two kinds of cookies, you come out of this a total winner. It's also really cheap too because you're not buying 7 or 8 different cookies worth of ingredients.

My first exchange is this week, so I'll be sharing the spoils of my labour once they're all in. Suffice is to say I'm over the top with glee. My family is going to have loads of variety snack wise this year, because I'm going to have no less than 10 dozen different cookies in my freezer waiting for their turn to shine. Cookies exchanges can be make even more awesome if you get your friends to include recipes for the cookies too!

Since I can't actually give all my readers a dozen cookies this Advent, let me offer you the recipe for my favourite cookie exchange treat! Straight from my Grammie's cookbook, the ever famous Molasses Crinkles!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter/margarine
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Cream your butter, then add the sugar and mix that in. Add the rest of the ingredients in the order given and mix them in. Your batter will be a little stiff. Roll pieces of the batter into balls and then flatten them with a fork or cool potato masher that has been dipped in flour (otherwise the fork/masher will stick to your cookie, no fun). Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Don't eat them right away, as they will burn your mouth. True story. Resist, my friends. Resist.

Baby 5: Week 16

How Far Along: 16 Weeks (24 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: It's blistering cold here, so that's taking some of my energy. Otherwise, I'm feeling really great. All these cookies and pre-Christmas sweets seem rather timely!

What I'm Thinking: I feel like the Church calendar is perfectly expressing my mood these days! Today is the first day of Advent, which kicks off four weeks of joyful anticipation as we await the celebration of Christmas. I'm joining in with greater vigour (as I do every advent when I'm pregnant), trying to re-learn the patient waiting that is the character of both pregnancy and Advent. I'm feeling extra close to Mother Mary, who lived the first Advent in a way so deep and incredible! The whole world waits in Advent again for Christ to enter our lives more deeply here and now, and again when he returns in glory!

What I've Done This Week: We've spent this week trying to get ready for Christmas ahead of Advent. We wanted all our shopping done before we started our real spiritual preparations. Nothing steals the joy of Advent like being stuck in the mall with thousands of desperate shoppers fighting over last minute deals. I wrapped the better part of the gifts we bought. Only a few more to go before we can forget about temporary gifts and get back to focusing on the gift of our family.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I still haven't got my baking done! I have 8 dozen due this week, and another maybe 5 dozen for next Monday for cookie exchanges. Smartly, I've chosen to do the same recipe for both so that I can really work through them quickly. Between that, wrapping, and making some traditional tourtiere (French meat pies. Yum!), I'm going to have a busy week in the kitchen!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Baby 5: Week 15

How Far Along: 15 Weeks 3 Days (24 weeks and 4 days to go!)

How I'm Feeling: A little tired today anyway. We ALL had our flu shots yesterday and now we're all tired, a little cranky, and counting down the minutes to nap time. Or maybe that's just me? Overall I've been feeling good though. My uterus is just the right height for how many weeks I am, which means it's infringing on my bladder. With 2 potty trained (and one more who is daytime trained) kids at my heels, it's the big battle for the bathroom these days!

What I'm Thinking: We heard our baby's heartbeat yesterday for the first time. We'd seen it flickering on the screen during our dating ultrasound, but to really hear our baby's heart beat, was so incredibly beautiful. The biggest kids who are used to this sort of thing were very excited, while our two smaller kids listened with as much interest as confusion I'm sure. I love the way our family is growing. We're getting so close to the half way point!

What I've Done This Week: We had our first regular prenatal appointment (oh the joys of the 5th pregnancy) so I got all weighed (don't ask), measured and like I said we heard the baby's heartbeat. And because no prenatal appointment should end without someone crying, we all got our flu shots. In all seriousness, no one cried, no even the 15 month old. There was a little lip quiver, but she got to smiling when the doc put a smiley face on her bandaid (what a pro!). We also got the date for our next prenatal appointment and our 20 week ultrasound, New Years Eve!

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I'm part of 2 cookie exchanges, so I've got to get to baking. I'm also hoping to clean out all the unwanted toys out of the baby's room so we can start working on the flooring. I'd also like a better place than my closet to hide the Christmas presents. haha

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Church of Entitlement

I've been reading a lot about the Church lately that has me a little irked. The general reaction reminds me of the old saying "What have you done for ME lately?". The feeling of entitlement is just sickening. The issues spawn from what we think is our right, our due. Changes to the priesthood, change in worship styles, changes in sexual ethics, demanding sacraments on our own terms, viewing the Church as a pretty building for hire at the right price, wanting to have your pastor's personal line on speed dial, etc.

Every one of these issues find their root in our feeling of entitlement. We want the Church to serve our will, our desire, and our vision. The Church is there to serve us yes, but not because we deserve anything. Christ called us to serve the weak, the unworthy, and the sinners (of which most if not all of us fall into all three categories). The Church's service to us, however, does not mean that She is meant to bow down to our human knowledge, will, and societal demands. The Church is not a teenager bowing down to peer pressure. She is the Bride of Christ, and must, like her Heavenly Spouse, bear witness to the truths God has taught us through Holy Scripture and through our long Tradition. To change Her ways to appeal to current societal appeals is to deny Her dignity. Her duty is now and has always been to present Christ to us, through God's word, through the Sacraments He instituted in Her, especially through the Most Sacred Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Nothing else the world tells us we need can compare to the mystery and glory of the Eucharist.

The fact that I can even dare to approach the altar of God, for which I am eminently unworthy, is a miracle of unending mercy and grace. My worthiness comes not from my good deeds, my own time in devoted prayer, or even by nature of my humanity, even though I was made in God's image. I am fallen, spoiled, and broken. I am a distorted image of God. I can never rise on my own to a level of dignity high enough to deserve to even sit at the foot of the Altar to bask in the wonder of His Presence. The only reason I can even begin to approach the Lord, and even then with soul-rending humility, is because Christ has taken on my sin and allowed me to take upon myself His worthiness. I am alive in God on borrowed grace that I fight to continue to accept every day I live. My baptism has saved me and the Eucharist brings me into the body of Christ and sustains me. Despite my brokenness, Christ has given me mercy.

In that light, the Church owes me nothing. The Church has already given me more than I can ever deserve as She shares with me through Her anointed ministers the Sacraments of Christ. To come to Her with a sense of entitlement and demand She bend to my will is to throw back in Her face and that of Her Spouse the gift of the Cross. How can I say what She offers is too little when She is Christ to me as I await Heaven?

All I can ask of my Church is that Her ministers remain accountable, truthful, and that they do everything they can to maintain Her in the same dignity Christ gave to Her on Calvary. At times we may choose to adorn Her in different ways and delve more deeply into the truths She protects, but we must always strive to protect Her true beauty, which is the Sacraments. We must request them with great discernment and humility and accept them with a bowed heart and not a grasping hand. At times we must step back and realise we still cannot ask for the Sacraments because of our state of sinfulness or even the realisation that not all Sacraments are meant for us individually. Our Church is not a fast food chain. The altar is not a table. The Eucharist is not bread, but the Very Body and Blood of our Saviour, broken and poured out for us as a ransom from death. Let us treat the Church as holy ground, not as a place where we can place our order and expect it to be filled to the letter. Approach the Altar of Christ with sorrow and weeping as you would the Cross, and give thanks for what you have been given in the depths of your sinfulness and leave your self-entitled requests at the door. In doing that and accepting Christ in the Sacraments as God has ordained them for you, you will find great joy, peace, and fulfilment than any plan you could conceive for yourself.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Baby 5: Week 14

How Far Along: 14 Weeks (26 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: I am feeling energetic! The nausea is gone now. I've been busy getting ready for Christmas, cleaning up the house (a bit...), and doing some baking!

What I'm Thinking: I'm starting show. More than just muffin top here, actual uterus pop in my belly zone. I've obviously hit the 2nd trimester, because I'm starting to think less about surviving, more about getting ready. I'm starting to dream about prepping the nursery and meeting this little one!

What I've Done This Week: Now that we know it's only one baby, we were able to ask the couple we had in mind to be Baby 5's Godparents. They're friends from our Church who we find really inspiring but also very real. I know that this is a couple we can grow in faith with, and who will delight in helping us bring up our new baby in Faith!

What I Hope To Do Next Week: This week I'm going to concentrate on some Christmas baking, and making meals for some Mama friends who are about to have their babies!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

They're Watching

For anyone who's ever tried to sneak a snack or take a bathroom break, this will come as no surprise: Your kids, both big, small, and tiny, they're watching you. All the time. And listening too. Heaven help us. Don't believe me, watch their pretend games. How often have I seen my sons pretend to be cabinetmakers, or my daughters pretend to be cooking, and vice versa. Or less pleasant mimicking like... sitting on their behinds watching TV eating popcorn, repeating less than pleasant phrases, or whatnot.

It's not news that our kids are little sponges. We rely on that when we're trying to teach them new words, how to walk, and how to act. The tricky thing is that they're sponges even when we're not in teaching mode. That time you road raged. Yeah, they saw that. That time you only brushed your teeth for 2 seconds before walking out the door. Their eyes were glued to you. When you wore the same outfit for an entire week because you didn't want to do laundry. They noticed. They may have been grossed out. That book you were reading. They're going to check it out when you're not looking. When you turned on Dr. Phil and stared with rapt attention regardless of what was going on. They watched you. Then they watched him. When you complained about your friend/parent/spouse/in-law/stranger to a friend over coffee while you had that playdate. They stored up those words, that facial expression, and your feelings.

If you're like me, the very thought of this makes you want to run in terror, and go buy your kids some industrial quality earmuffs and blinders. Just a tip, that would be weird looking, and probably still wouldn't work. So, while I'm busy sheltering my kids from all the evils of the world, I'm sitting here pounding my head on the desk remembering that I can't shelter them from me. The truth is that I shouldn't have to shelter them from who I am. They're going to see the cracks in my Momhood if there's a different me for when I'm talking just to them and this other, strange woman I show the rest of the world. Or maybe like me you're nicer out in public than you are behind closed doors. You know what I mean. We all have that super sweet way of dealing with the usual insanity of toddlers when we're out. When we're home, they're right in time out, no nice voice, not much patience, and more than a few heavy sighs.

So what can I do with these thinking, feeling, loving little sponges? I can use them as inspiration to be a better person, when I think no one's looking and when everyone's looking. Because if you have kids, they're always watching, listening and learning. They're the same wherever they are, so maybe I can be too. Maybe I can learn to be a woman I'd be proud to call my friend all the time. I want to give my kids the best model I can so that they don't have to ever hear me say "do as I say, not as I do". Some day they're going to leave my house, and I don't have to just pray they'll be good, responsible people, I can teach them through my daily example.

The Global Village

While I was up late (for me) last night after a nightmare from the big boy, I turned to twitter to relax my mind. I would've turned to a book I've been dying to read, but after 10.5 hour days hubby was fast asleep. I didn't dare turn on my light lest I wake him up from what looked to be peaceful slumber. I know he wouldn't have minded, but I would have felt terrible. So there I was, reading  by the dull glow of my old iPhone, refreshing my feed. I came to two realisations last night about twitter, and in turn the global village that I've become a part of via social media.

One, I really don't care for Twilight. There was a twitter party going on for the red carpet premiere of what I believe is the final movie (Thank God). I have high standards for books. I get that. As my friend over at Wiccan to Catholic pointed out quite astutely, Vampires are meant to be a cautionary tale about the emptiness and darkness of a life where we choose to seek out eternal life without God. That is a terrible, broken, half-life in the early tales of Dracula. So when I read about sparkly vampires falling in love and making babies, my eye starts twitching.

Anyway, for the few of you still reading after my not so mini Twilight rant, I learned something else WAY better about twitter, and social media in general last night. Twitter is my village. When our Great-Grandmothers were having babies, they use to gather around their tables for tea, or knitting circles, or kitchen parties (can you tell I'm a Nova Scotian that these are the three things I picked?) and talk about everything going on in their families. They're share tips, advice, or simply nod sagely when they were in the same boat. That's not so different from what we're doing through social media. Be it through our FB group or on our Twitter feeds, many of us are seeking out the companionship our modern cities and lifestyles deny us. The great bonus of it all is that in the whole world of social media, there's at least one other Mom who is experiencing the exact same problem as you. I've found homeschooling Mamas, Moms kept up all night by newborns (#zombiemoms), Moms who love to cloth diaper, Moms with lots of kids, Moms of Faith, Moms who challenge me, Moms who entertain me, Moms who inspire me. I can't find that in any one Mom in my own town (though I have a few that meet all those qualifications together), but the fact is that when the lights go out and they're all in bed, sometimes I still need community so I'm not battling through parenthood alone.

If it takes a village to raise a child, my village is here in my own city, but also all across the world, as part of the global village. If you take a few days to speak to Moms across the world, you'll see that motherhood is as universal as it is unique, and that there's always something to be learned from the friend waiting on the other side of 140 characters.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Husband, Kids and Pregnancy

A busy week here in our house. For one, my husband has started adding, at the request of his boss, an extra hour or hour and a half to every work day for the foreseeable future. That's about ten and a half hours a day, averaging 52.5 hours a week. I know this won't last forever, and that since the whole shop is taking a week and a half off around Christmas, it's a financial boon. With how busy things have been at the shop lately, I'm not entirely surprised everyone at the shop is adding hours to their week. It's part of how they work together to be one of if not the best cabinetmaking shop in our city. They want the extra time to install their kitchens right, so the customer is pleased with the results. It's obviously working well, because they have about as any kitchens scheduled for the next two months as they have all summer, and they're finishing them with the same flawless skill and efficiency. I'm really proud of my husband for working so hard for our family so we can have a little extra. Extra for the kids and extra to share with others as we can.

And then there's the kids. They've been a mix between lovely and mind-boggling. I got my hair cut short last month, so it's a little harder to pull all my hair out, thank God. I love each and every one of my precious little blessings, but there are days, people, there are days. I won't regale you with all the details, but it has involved crayons on wall, potty training mishaps (every night for several weeks), diapers being removed and used for "art" projects, nasty coughs and runny noses, vicious angry (poor baby!), fighting between big and small and just general chaos. The funny thing is that most of the bad stuff only lasts a few minutes, and then we're back to hugging, cuddling, laughing, and general silliness. I have to remind myself that I can't let a few minutes ruin my whole day, but it can be tough when I'm scrubbing the walls and changing sheets while trying to break up fights. Because we had the kids so close together, we get the upside of them being the best of friends, but with that comes the complication of them being toddlers and preschoolers all at the same time. Looking back, I really wouldn't change anything, because I think the benefits outweigh the pee-soaked sheets. That's what I have to remind myself when I'm down in the trenches. The fact is that with one or two kids, I'd probably be just as stressed out by teething, potty training or whatnot, but I wouldn't have each of these beautiful little people to love and to inspire me to keep getting up every day to be everything to them.

With another pregnancy I'm looking forward to adding this new baby to the mix. Yes, it'll be another baby's worth of diapers and sleepless nights, but this baby will be one more reason to fight through my own selfishness and laziness to become a better person for the kids and my husband. Each of them love me so much, I can't help but want to love them right back and then some. I've often joked that life with toddlers must be some kind of purgatory, but every day I get big ole slices of heaven tucked in there to keep me going. I'm trying every day to embrace what I've been given, and to always have gratitude on my heart, no matter what the kids throw at me, or the walls.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

What They Saved

I'm sure this is obvious to many people, but as I was up in the middle of the night thanks to baby drama (wet bed, nightmares caused by his own coughing, and a teething cranky baby girl), I was left reflecting on today, Remembrance Day. Today is the day we remember the end of WWI, the Great War, the War to End all wars. Well, it sadly wasn't the war to end all wars, but to the men fighting on the front line, and the women working hard as staff and nurses as well as on the home front, this was meant to be the last stand before peace. Peace for all future generations. It was a war filled with stories of heroic sacrifice, tragic loss, and men coming home missing both parts of their bodies and their souls. They saw things that could not be unseen. They gave parts of themselves they could never find again. They came home to a grateful nation, but lost a nation's worth of friends on the bloodied fields on Europe.

We also remember the brave men and women who served on our behalf during WWII. As we all learned growing up, they went to fight without knowing the depth of evil being perpetrated in eastern Europe. (Evils of which we as Canadians and Americans were not entirely innocent. Think of the musical Allegiance, which features the story of those in internment camps for Japanese citizens on American soil, a story too familiar to Canada. Anti-semitism and race based hate wasn't unheard of here either to say the least.) As the war came to a close, our soldiers and medical staff discovered the unthinkable as they freed the few survivors from the death camps. They had fought, not knowing what they were really fighting for until they came face to face with the walking death and horrific stories shared by survivors.

In the middle of the night, my mind wandered over these horrors and the what ifs. What if the military efforts of our Allies hadn't succeeded? What if the war had found our shores, and the attempt to white wash the world's population had reached my own neighbourhood? My best friend in elementary school was a very kind Jewish boy. I have several very dear friends as an adult both in person and through social media, who are of the Jewish faith. Then there are the African Canadian, Middle Eastern, Asian and East Indian friends I have. Would they be here? Seems doubtful. The amusing gypsy children (let's ignore that a few of them tried to pick my pocket) I met in Italy, would they be given a chance to live? All my friends and acquaintances with disabilities, all my friends who value their right to protest, all those who simply do not fit "aryan" qualifications... And my own maternal family line, whose lineage traces quite easily back to a town in Germany, are very few generations removed from our once proud Jewish heritage, lost when they converted to make life easier in Canada. What of them? Would my maternal family have survived the cruel cull of genocide? The population of my country and my circle of friends would be different. Chances are I wouldn't be a part of it to notice a difference.

As with any war, we can't just thank our veterans and those lost on the battlefields for the momentary battle that they won. We thank them for the future they secured for us. Sometimes I feel like it would be so easy to lose sight of how close we came to a world too dark to be imagined. We can't just thank them for the past, we must thank them for the present, and the future. We thank them for inspiring us to continue to fight for our freedom as they did, with their very lives.

Baby 5: Week 13

How Far Along: 13 Weeks (27 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: The nausea is still there, but is very mild. It has been replaced for the most part by excessive hunger. When I don't eat small meals throughout the day (plus snacks), I get so weak I can barely stand. So yeah, I've been eating all day. Poor me. haha!

What I'm Thinking: The ultrasound has come and gone. As my regular readers read on my blog on Thursday, we are blessed with (only) one beautiful, active, and perfect baby. You may have noticed our due date skipped 2 weeks ahead. We figured our dates must have been off because our hormone test came back with very high results for our original date. Since we had the ultrasound my mind has started focusing on the reality of this one, precious little wonder growing inside of me. We could already see so much of this new baby's personality at a mere 12 weeks. What a lively child so full of interest and so feisty! I'm so excited to meet him or her in another 27 or so weeks.

What I've Done This Week: The ultrasound was the big thing. Since then we've been refining the names we've picked, and praying hard about who the Godparents should be. It's a tough choice when we have around us so many beautiful people who we know would be a perfect fit. We're really trusting this one to God! The great things is that we hope to have more babies, so eventually we'll probably get to invite our other precious friends into our family as Godparents for those babies.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I'm going to start knitting little things like hats and sookie blankets for the baby, as well as some Christmas gifts for the big kids. Time is flying!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Baby 5: First Ultrasound

We had our first ultrasound this morning. We got there quite early and by chance they were able to take us in right away. It pays to be punctual, folks. We were out of the ultrasounds before our appointment time. For those of you who have been following the weekly instalments relating to this pregnancy, we had estimated (based on sparse facts) that we would be 10 weeks and 4 days today. I'd not had an obvious return of my cycle, so we weren't able to use the LMP for our estimations (like that works anyway) but guessed based on other details we had. Based on the very high levels (for the EDD we had) of hormones from my blood pregnancy test, we were left wondering if we'd botched the dates or if we were having twins. We discovered recently that twins run in the family quite a bit on my Dad's side (he's adopted), and with the fact that we were on our 5th pregnancy, we knew statistics were starting to tip towards a twin pregnancy this time around. We were very excited (and of course nervous) for the prospect. We had started looking for a bigger van, were talking about all the little details we needed to square away to make sure we transitioned smoothly to two more babies. I think part of my mind had totally accepted that it was twins. I even wanted twins. Yes, it would be a challenge, but having witness a dear friend not only survive but thrive with two beautiful twin girls I felt like, with her advice and wisdom, we could do the same thing (or our own version of it anyway).

So as I parked my very tired, very bloated body on the ultrasound table, I squinted my eyes, expecting to see two little sacs, two little babies. I think it would be wrong to say I was disappointed that there was only one little baby in there. I was SO excited to see our perfect, beautiful little baby. There was a part of me, the part that had built up the expectation that there might be two, that was surprised to see only one. I actually said out loud: "Maybe next time!" and then got down to the business of memorising every delightful detail of the little baby on the screen.

Not to brag or anything, but my husband and I make gorgeous babies. Even in the womb, they are to die for! As the ultrasound wand swept back and forth, we saw a perfectly formed little body, a sweet pounding heart, and a profile that looked so much like baby's big sisters already. Baby was also bouncing around, changing sides constantly, and waving tiny little hands at us. We couldn't help but smile and laugh at how active this tiny person was! The ultrasound tech told us our Baby is already 6cm on the button.

Size leads me to our next point. I guess we were a little tiny bit off. Two weeks to be exact. So, as of this morning we are 12 weeks and 4 days along, with a update due date of May 19th, 2013. Knowing that I often go late, we'll probably still be closer to June before we meet the newest baby. It's nice to know we're hitting the end of the first trimester. My nausea is already down significantly, which is great. It's time to start enjoying the 27-29 weeks left before we meet our little one!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Post-Election Hangover

I'm not an American, but like many other Canadians, I found myself glued to the screen until late in the night watching CNN call state after state (don't get me started on calling a state before any ballots have been counted) for one candidate or another. As an informed citizen of the world, I had my own little opinions as to who the best candidate would be, and how the next 4 years would look in the ole US of A. At the end of the day it doesn't matter whether I was with Obama or Romney. First of all, I couldn't vote, and secondly, the election is over and the results are in.

I'm left this evening reflecting on the honest truth that if I had been in the US, I'm not sure who would have gotten my vote. As in Canada, we always seem to be voting for the lesser of two (or in our case several) evils. When we pin our hopes on human beings and proclaim their policy to be divine, we're bound to run into troubles. The fact is that after all these years, I've given up on the idea of a Philosopher King (sorry Plato. What a tease). There is no human being who can act in all ways perfectly according to how I believe God would act. There are elements that we cling to, and find enough of an anchor of faithfulness to morality that we'll wear a pin, put a sign up on our lawn, and even debate vigorously for our candidate in the streets. I find it tough to get so engaged in any one politician. I see positive and negative policies on all sides. Social justice, right to life, healthcare, education, all of it. No one candidate has it %100 right. So we wake up on election day to a close split and a promise to work together and go back to campaigning when the dawn breaks. There is no Philosopher King, just a collection of people as broken as we are struggling to figure out what's right, what's important, and what will get them or their party elected in another 4 years (or often less if you're Canadian).

I guess I'm a little disillusioned with the obsession with politics. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in civic involvement, and have never missed an opportunity to cast my ballot after careful consideration. I do not, however, act like the Apocalypse is upon us when my candidate isn't elected, nor do I thank Sweet Jesus like it's some kind of deus ex machina when I pick the winning team. Rather, I think what we could all consider doing is saying a prayer for whomever finds themselves holding the balance of power, that they would use it carefully, rightly, and with deep charity for the people who entrusted them with the guidance of their nation, state or province, town, or municipality.

At the end of the day, politicians will create their policies, fund their projects, cut this that or the other thing, and do their best to do what they promised to do in election speeches. So what are we left with? How do we change the world, like so many politicians promised us over the years? My thought is that all we can do is start with ourselves. If we want the world to be more Christian, we need to look inside our hearts and figure out what that really means, and then be Christian. Not halfway Christian when it's convenient, but Christian with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. That kind of Christianity doesn't offend people, because real, authentic Christianity is by its very nature a daily expression of love and charity, but done in humility. It is the act of being unafraid to speak the truth, but being able to do so with kindness, love, and gentleness. That kind of love attracts people. It doesn't lead people to call us extremists. That kind of love sets others ablaze with love. It inspires other people to look deeper into themselves, to re-evaluate who they are in the world.

Don't believe me? Look at Mother Theresa. Every time you see a video of her tending to the poor, sick, and helpless, don't you feel a little accusation in your own heart, and a call to be more than who you are today? Now, I know that you and I are no Mother Theresa, but that doesn't mean we can't inspire someone today, and change our world a little bit at a time. Imagine if we all embraced the true call of our faith, how simply being who Christ called us to be could really change the world. Politics can only take us so far, and often not that far at all. If we want to see the poor fed, the naked clothed, widows and orphans taken care of, and people in crisis supported, we are the ones who need to step up, organise, fundraise and finally share our own wealth as we can to make sure no one is left feeling forgotten. There are no Philosopher Kings. My only King is the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. He's the model I want to follow, He's the one who will work with me and through me to bring about real change.

The vote is cast. The election is over. Time for the rest of us to get to work.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Baby 5: Week 10

How Far Along: 10 weeks (30 weeks)

How I'm Feeling: I'm still nauseous folks. Surprise surprise! I'm also having a little problem with motion sickness that can be inspired just by watching someone or something else move in just the right way. Odd stuff! This week I've also noticed some minor changes in my eyesight. Not enough to make me think I was blind, but enough to make me call my optometrist. She told me that changes in eyesight are a side affect of being pregnant. I'm guessing that because my blood volume has doubled, the fluid in my eye has shifted a bit causes a slight disturbance. Luckily, these changes go away on their own. I can still read most things, so I'm not going to complain. I'm also experiencing wild salt cravings! My blood pressure runs low so of course I need plenty of sodium to pump it back up. Good times!

What I'm Thinking: I'm having a bit of tunnel vision in that all I can really think of is the ultrasound this coming Thursday. We went to visit to a dear friend of ours who is a priest. I saw him by chance a month or so back, and he told me I was pregnant before I even knew I was. I told him I was still just chubby after Baby 4, but he shook his head, smiled and walked away. He's one smart Italian. When we saw him this week (we try to visit often as he's oldest boy's Godfather) he let me know we're having a girl. Too bad our ultrasound won't be able to tell us gender as this point because it would be interesting to see if he's right. haha! I've been dreaming about twins again, and with all this nausea I'm curious to see if we'll see one little sac on the screen on Thursday or two. The suspense is killing me!!!

What I've Done This Week: This week I was really focused on other folks' babies. With the help of my husband and two other friend we ran a Baby Shower for a local charity called BirthRight which provides help and counselling to people with unexpected pregnancies. It's been nice to focus on someone else's baby other than ours! We also had a visit a few friends this week, including that of a beautifully pregnant Mama who let me touch her belly. I could feel her baby's entire back curled up against the front of her belly. So beautiful! So I guess what I've done this week is embrace the joy that comes to us from our beloved friends!

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I have nothing to think of but our ultrasound this Thursday. I am so focused it's crazy. Must try to get out of my own head space.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Santo Subito!

For those of you who remember and loved Pope John Paul II, the words "Santo Subito!" are as much a part of your psyche as "JP II, we love you!". Both phrases come from very different points of his life. The latter I first heard when I attending World Youth Day in Rome in the year 2000. Hundreds of thousands of English speaking pilgrims shouted out our love for our friend, Pope John Paul II. Yes, he was our Pope. The only Pope in my life time at that point.

What was it about him that we loved, that I loved? I can give a million reasons, all of them good. I read his books, and could feel the hope and love that he infused into every moment of his life wash over me. I saw how human he was. When I was old enough to care about who the Pope was, he was an old man, falling apart before my eyes. He was dying every day on the world stage, but somehow managed to effortlessly hold on to his dignity. He showed all of us that dignity doesn't come from human esteem, but from the God who created each of us and continues to give us life each day. I loved him for who he was in history. For the bravery of his faith during the second world war, his faith in the face of a darkness so deep it swallowed up the lives of countless people, including some of his dearest friends. He came out of that evil time with great conviction, compassion and most of all love. He took the character his experiences built up in himself and used it on the world stage to stand up to evil, and stood up to communism in his beloved Poland. When he was elected Pope, he became a symbol of hope for his polish countrymen and women who were struggling again under the weight of oppression at the hand of communism. These are good reasons. But they only scratch the surface of why I loved him.

When I look at videos of John Paul II on YouTube, I feel it right away. I love this man like a member of my own family. Like a friend I've know my whole life. And why is that? Because I can feel when I see him that he loved me too. As a young girl I was lucky enough to go to World Youth Day twice before he passed away. World Youth Day is a youth festival instituted by the Pope to bring young Catholics together to encourage each other, grow in faith, and sit at the foot of Peter to hear in a way that made sense to us the Gospel of Christ. We came together, many of us there just there for a trip, and left on fire with love for Christ. So how does this man in his 80s connect to my youthful experience of faith? By far, the most exciting part of WYD, in both Rome and Toronto, was hearing the Pope speak. He loved young people, and understood how to talk to us. He didn't baby us, or dumb down the message of Christ. He challenged us, he told us we were called, he reminded us that God loved us. He said that he loved us and felt young when he was with us. This was no pandering of an ancient Church desperately grasping at the young in hopes of staying just viable enough to make it through another decade. This was a man who loved God so much, that he wanted to share his faith with us so we could find the joy he had. He knew that with that faith and joy, we could go back into the world and stay strong while being inundated with messages of immorality, consumerism, and death. He could see the challenges our generation faced, and prayed for us and loved us in it all. If you caught eyes with him as he drove by you, you felt like he was looking into your soul. People I know that actually got to meet him and chat with him each tell stories of how he would take great interest in details of their lives, and would share with them kindness and humour. He wasn't an unapproachable man in love with his own title. He was your friend, your confidant, and your greatest supporter. For me, he was an image of how I imagine Jesus was when he walked on the earth two millenia ago. He was what every true Vicar of Christ should be, someone who will love you unconditionally, tell you "Be not afraid", and then show you how to come closer to God.

So when he passed away, young people from around the world who had been drawn to him joined together with an aching cry of loss. Our friend was no longer here. But we also know that our beloved friend was with God, surely welcomed him with open arms into the Kingdom he has shared with so much passion. We took our tears and turned them into joyful shouts of "Santo Subito!", "A Saint Soon!" (sounds better in Italian). We wanted to Church to recognise formally what we already knew, that in our lifetime we had known a Saint. Already our beloved Pope is Blessed, so now we're waiting patiently for the requirements to be fulfilled so that the whole Church will join us in rejoicing in God's grace as witness in the life of a mere human who became a earthly image of Christ.

So my prayers rise up with the cry of my soul of "JP II, we love you!" and my voice shouts out "Santo Subito!" in gratitude for the man who became my friend without even knowing my name. His witness of holiness left a stamp on my heart that inspires me every day to be who God is calling me some day, so that I can open my heart up enough to make my very life an act of praise.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Life's Storms

As my readers in North America have surely heard, there is a big crazy storm slowly making its way here. My social media feeds are filling up with plans, preparations, and comments of either apprehension or cool disbelief of how bad things could be. Back in 2003 we had a pretty bad storm here that knocked power out to the whole city, and my neighbourhood in particular for over a week. We ate a lot of BBQ'd food and canned food. I was still living at home and had mono, so I got to lay on the couch, sick as a dog, watching my mother turn from BBQ novice to BBQ gourmet.

So here I am, 9 years later, with 4 kids of my own and one on the way, curious as to what the future will bring when this storm finally hits. We've stocked up on non-perishable food. If our BBQ doesn't carry us through, my folks live close by so I can trust that in case of emergency we can head over there to get meals if the roads are clear. I've stocked up on water. Probably more than we'll need. But never too much when you have 4 kids.

I couldn't help but think as I sorted through everything in my house to get ready for the storm that it's actually pretty easy to prepare for the big storms mother nature throws our way. With some certainty, we can have emergency kits ready. Our 24 hour weather channels give us plenty of warning so we can stock up, tie down things outside, and have lots of warm blankets ready to go. In the grander scheme of things, these kinds of storms are so easy to deal with.

All of this preparedness had me reflecting on spiritual storms that come our way. We rarely have any warning when they're coming. Often it's one day to the next. We go from spiritual sunshine to complete spiritual despair because of a sudden event, or a loss of hope, or a betrayal. We have no warning, no chance to quickly stock up on our spiritual goods to carry us through the storm. So how do we prepare for something that we have no warning for? For myself, I always try to do my best to build up the safety of my spirit. I try to build up a life of prayer so that I have a deep relationship with God. I don't necessarily sit and stock up on my Hail Mary's (not that I don't pray the rosary, because for real I love the rosary). I try my best to have God on my heart throughout the day. If I keep a constant dialogue with God, it's easier to remember He's there, so when I come into a time of storm, I already have that relationship with God to turn to. I also try to go to Mass. Obviously on Sunday, but when I can, I take the kids to a weekday Mass. That helps me build up my spiritual stores because physical communion with Christ through the Eucharist gives me strength I never imagined, and a peace that passes all understanding (if only for a moment through the drama of taking 4 kids to Church! haha). I'm also reminded that in any storm, the community of my Church is there for me. Christ will always reach out to me through His body, the Church. I feel so much security in my faith, even in the darkest of storms.

For me, real faith that will hold me up in my despair and struggles is not just the practice of the weekend, it is the daily act of diving deep into the love of God. Just like my kids can depend on my husband and I to take care of them regardless of what storms rage outside our door, I know that I can fall into the arms of my Heavenly Father and find Him always there when a storm is raging in my heart.

Baby 5: Week 9

How Far Along: 9 weeks  & 1 Day (30 weeks and 6 days until I'm due!)

How I'm Feeling: Have you guessed yet? Nauseous! And kind of exhausted. And a little cranky. And sometimes very hungry. But most of all: JOYFUL! All the nausea in the world can't take down the deep feeling of joy that's spreading through me.

What I'm Thinking: Already my nesting instinct is kicking in, and I'm doing my best to keep it at bay. We have plenty of time to get most of this stuff done, and right now I've got Christmas to focus on. Still, in the back of my mind I'm always running through a list of things we need to be %100 ready for Baby 5. Even further back in my mind is the nervous creation of the "What If It's Twins" list. Silly brain needs to take a break! On November 8th we'll have our first ultrasound, and I'm resisting giving in to these thoughts until we see what's going on in my belly.

What I've Done This Week: I've been working hard to get myself back in a normal eating routine. I'm doing my best to use the crockpot more so that I can use less energy to cook but still have delicious meals. I made some amazing indian food this week and am now thoroughly pleased with myself. haha. I've also tried to get ready for the big hurricane that's coming our way. Lots of canned foods (usually I hate them, but what can you do with storms?) and I'm filling jugs up with water.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I'm really hoping I can get more sleep this week. Sounds silly, I know, but I'm finding myself running on empty during the day with the kids. I find myself sitting wide awake in bed at night mulling over the future. Not that that's bad or anything, but not exactly conducive to a good night's sleep and a happy Mommy!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Patience is a Virtue

How many times have we heard the phrase "Patience is a Virtue"? When my first daughter was born, patience was certainly not a virtue I had. Not even remotely. This led to some pretty massive failures in my attempts to breastfeed. She was having trouble latching so she was hungry all the time and spent a lot of her first few weeks working on the most pitiful, heart-breaking mewl of a cry that would drive me to tears. I recall one night in those early weeks when I just couldn't get her to latch (yes, I know I should have called a lactation consultant!), that I sat in my rocking chair and lost it. She was crying, I was crying, it was chaos. The only person not crying was my husband. He gently picked her up out of my arms and rocked her until she was calm, burped her, and handed her back. After that desperate night, my husband went out and bought me a little hand pump so we could try to bottle feed her. To this day I've never figured out how to use it quickly and effectively, which led to more frustrated tears, and then finally a trip to the store for some formula. I recall when we finally got her on solids, how easily I would lose my cool when she'd throw her dishes and her food on the floor. Another case of tears over what is really not that big of a deal. Babies throwing stuff is just what babies do. It's kind of their gig. I just couldn't handle the waste, the mess, and the fact that she wasn't eating when I thought she would DIE of malnutrition if she didn't eat EVERY bite of her oatmeal. When I look back I can laugh at myself for being so dramatic.

The more kids we had, the less I had these problems. Breastfeeding stayed hard. It was only with our 4th child that I managed to make it past the 4 month mark. As for the feeding, we switched out to Baby Led Weaning, which made life way easier anyway. I found tricks to avoid the stress that would send me over the edge. It also helps that I don't have 4 tiny babies. Just one baby at a time makes it all easier. My big kids still try my patience. A LOT. But I give in way less than I did with one, or even two. I still find my eye twitching every once in a while when I come in and see the little big brother has drawn ALL OVER the walls of his ENTIRE room with crayon that WILL NOT wash off (How did he even get those crayons??? The sneaky little monkey brought them up while I wasn't looking!). I mean really. When his older sister did that I lost my mind, and she only coloured on one little corner with a crayon that washed off easily. There was yelling, tears, drama, and then a ban on crayons for at least a month. Maybe more. With little big brother I sat him down and talked it through with him. Showed him how hard it was to clean. Told him that the walls were not for colouring on. Gave him a colouring book to exercise his artistic desires. Inside, my brain was screaming, but I managed to keep my cool with him.

So I guess patience really is a virtue. Like every other virtue you don't just wake up one day feeling patient. It's something you learn with great effort, by building up a habit of self-control and gentleness. Some days I still lose my cool. My boys are amazing, loving this wonders, but there are times when the two of them are going nuts in their room at night, waking up their baby sister in the next room that I want to come in their room and let loose the dogs of war on them. If I can't resist, I do my best to send in my husband instead. If he's too overwhelmed then I go in. We need to be firm, set rules and boundaries, and dole out punishments when necessary. That doesn't mean I want to spend my life yelling myself hoarse and crying. With 4 kids filling the day with their individual wildness, that's a real possibility. I have to make a daily choice to be the Mom they need. I may use the crazy eyes once in a while to calm the scene, but I'd rather that than the crazy voice or crying.

I think most importantly for any parents with only one baby, or even a few, is that no one is a perfect parent straight out of the gate. We parents with lots of kids may seem more patient, but that's because we've had time and LOTS of practice. I get to test my patience in fire every morning when the kids wake up screaming for everything. It's a conscious choice we make in every moment to be the Mom they need, even when what we really want is to hide in the bathroom until they quiet themselves down. When you have one kid or even two, you're still learning how to be a parent, so let that be your focus. Don't worry about comparing yourself to other parents, even though it may be tempting. Even with 4 kids (and one on the way) there's always another Mom whose doing it all with more kids. I have a particular Mom I look up to, who has a few more kids than I do, is homeschooling them, making delicious healthy meals, helping out at her Church, and all of that with a smile on her face. There are days that I look at her and think how much better she's doing with all of this than I am and with more kids. Then I remember that I can make her a model of virtue without putting her on too high of a pedestal, especially when that pedestal is built at the cost of my own confidence. So, instead I try to use her example as an inspiration rather than an accusation. When I don't let myself bogged down with raising other people above myself, it's a lot easier to find the joy in all the small things in my own life.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Drama

We all have some of this in our lives. Drama. Sometimes it's ours. Sometimes we get swept up in someone else's drama. Somebody's fighting with someone else. Someone's sick. Someone's nauseated and can barely function (ahem). All flavours and varieties of drama swirl all around us. It's up to us how deeply we engage in the drama, and how we deal with it.

My folks and in particular my Mom's family are experiencing a very special brand of drama. Last year my grandfather passed away. A year later, they're still working hard to settle his estate. We've each had a tough time trying to let go of the material things left behind. Every few weeks I get a call from my Mom telling me about some new she's found tucked away amongst decades of possessions. A box full of letters between my grandparents, baby clothes from when I was little, tools from his shop, and the list goes on. As she clears out the house basically alone (her sister lives a province away), she's facing the daily battle of pleasing everyone and giving away what is left over. After a year, they've finally found a buyer for his house, so now she's been forced to clear things out more rapidly than I think she's ready. I find myself fielding more calls than I have in a while, and I'm happy I can be there for her. My job in all of this is to be a sympathetic ear while reminding her she's doing an amazing job. I don't look forward to the day when I find myself in the same position 100 years from now.

I wasn't terribly close to my grandfather. I loved him. I still love him. But I found him incredibly frustrating. There are days when I see my Mom struggling so hard to make things work that I get so angry. He couldn't even make his passing easy on the family. I have to take a step back and remind myself that he wasn't really prepared to die. His will wasn't up to date. When he passed, his new wife lived in his house for a few weeks before she moved out. When I came with my mother to help in the initial clean-up, the house looked like he had walked out to go to the store and simply never come back. I'm not sure what I expected, but when I saw one of his coats hanging in the closet my heart sank into my stomach.

While I'm home with the kids I have no problem extricating myself from all the drama, even when my Mom calls me in need of some sort of anchor in what feels like an out of control place. I have moments where I find myself lost in it. I give in to those moments deeply because they are necessary. For example, I got a pair of beautiful end tables from his house this past week, and my Mom hadn't had the chance to clear out the contents. In the drawer that would have been facing the wall, I found a stack of anniversary cards from my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. The stack was so huge it had to be crammed in the little drawer. Underneath all the cards was a handful of pictures of the two of them, by the look of them probably from their 25th anniversary (Grampie still had hair, that says a lot). I was overwhelmed by the surprise. He had gone to such lengths to erase most traces of my grandmother from his house when he remarried. But there, tucked away safely, was a communal memory from the year 2000. The year before my grandmother's Alzheimer's started completely taking over. The last year she was herself. He saved one last personal memory of her when she still was making memories, and tucked them away safely. I couldn't keep my emotions separate in that moment.

I can take the drama. I live with toddler drama. Nothing compares to that. But sometimes, when the kids are in bed, I need to take a moment to embrace the drama and emotion so that I can then let it go. Once I'm a little stronger after coming through the anger, tears, joy, and acceptance, I can be a better support to those who don't have the liberty to just walk away when things get too tough. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Baby 5: Week 8

How Far Along: 8 weeks (32 weeks until I'm due!)

How I'm Feeling: While my nausea is still there, and picks up dramatically for hours at a time, I'm mostly feeling much better. I'm starving a lot of the time and have to remind myself not to stuff my face because I end up feeling sick from eating too quickly. I'm starting to get some stretchy feelings down in my stomach and am noticing a bit of a bump that isn't just my leftover belly fat.

What I'm Thinking: I've been thinking a lot this week about how blessed I am. I have been given a heart moved to always say YES to what God is giving me. After each baby I've had the feeling that I'm satisfied with how our family looks, but in my heart I've always left  it up to God. Every new pregnancy has been a source of joy and excitement. I know how truly blessed we are to have such abundant fertility, but also that we have hearts open to the gifts that God gives us through our fertility.

What I've Done This Week: I've been working on making heartier foods to help grow this baby while keeping up my blood pressure. I've always had low blood pressure, but it gets much lower while I'm pregnant, causing fun fainting spells and getting sick when I need to give blood. Fun, right? So, once again, my Doc has advised a high sodium diet. Good times. I also got the call with the date for our dating ultrasound. On November 8th at 8am we'll get a sense of how far along we are, and also confirm the number of little ones swimming in my womb. I suspect only one, but you never know, it could be two!

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I have no big plans for myself. I'm trying to keep active in the middle of my nausea so I have a few playdates planned with some close friends who won't take it personally if I toss my cookies in their bathroom. Other than that, we'll chalk this week up to surviving the first trimester.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Baby 5: Week 7

How Far Along: 7 weeks (33 weeks until I'm due!)

How I'm Feeling: Still nauseous. Pretty much all day. I got about 2 hours of a break from the nausea today and stuffed my face with a feeling of urgency since I've felt too sick to eat. I'm starting to feel some stretching down in my lower ligaments, which is making me a little sore. I've also found myself hyper-sensitive this week. I've been jumping to conclusions and crying at the drop of a hat. I keep catching myself crying at commercials and then start laughing at myself! All in all, I'm just trying to survive the first trimester, and I'm finding that easy when I feel the joy of new life brewing in me!

What I'm Thinking: I'm spending a lot of the day trying to figure out what it is I can eat that'll fill me up with nutrients without making me sick. Luckily, my mind is more pre-occupied with baby names and nurseries to get too upset about the nausea. Sure, I'm finding myself whining (internally and vocally, sorry!!!), but underneath it all I'm so grateful that God has blessed my motherhood with more abundance.

What I've Done This Week: I called my doctor by chance this week and managed to get an appointment. There is a benefit to having a Doc who specialises in pre-natal work because we can often get the dropped appointments from women who have already delivered their babies. We managed to get a referral in for a dating ultrasound, and a prescription for diclectin (which has done an awesome job fighting my nausea, but sadly knocked me out with exhaustion and gave me a racing heart, so I can't use it anymore. Boo!).

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I'm going to work on finding the perfect mix of ginger and other ingredients to keep the nausea at bay. I'm also going to work at upping my prayer life to give me more focus and balance so that I can let go of my little complaints and focus on what my 4 beautiful children who are already born need from me. Lots more hugging and silliness is in store!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Baby Girl / Big Girl

I guess it's kind of official. We have 4 big kids. I'll withhold my sobs for a more private time. In the past few weeks, baby girl has graduated from, well, my baby, to one of the big kids. While this has been influenced somewhat by our new pregnancy, I think she's made the move mostly on her own.

It started not long after her first birthday. She weaned from breastfeeding. Almost entirely cold turkey. Brutal. Her independence was written all over her face when she refused to breastfeed and reached for her cup instead. She also started picking up her fork and actually uses it to eat (sometimes). Who is this kid? She's a tiny toddler.

She also graduated into clothes that, for the most part, weren't defined by her age in months, but by the year. 1T clothes break my heart. I'm never ready for the idea that she's not tiny, but grown big enough that she'll be the same size for the bulk of the year.

The next thing that happened pleasantly surprised me: She started to walk. A few steps here and there. A shuffle from one piece of furniture to the next. Then, finally, full on walking. She still crawls once in a while, but she prefers to walk everywhere with her cute robot zombie swagger. Her older brother started walking the day she was born, so the fact that she's months ahead of when each of her siblings started walking kind of blows my mind. She has also started to dance, which is pretty adorable.

On top of all of this, she's actually started talking. Not just words, but sentences. She's been working on "I love you" for a while, partially because her siblings shout "I LOVE YOU DADDY" at the top of their lungs while we watch him go off to work everyone morning. Beyond that, she's started making simple sentences like "want up" or want down" or my favourite, "want that" which can mean anything.

The fact of the matter is that around this time in each of the other kids' lives we were mere months away from meeting the next baby. In baby/big girl's case, she's got more than half a year to keep on growing. She won't be potty trained or anything, but it'll be a world of difference for me to see how big she really is next to the new baby over 30 weeks from now. I'm so glad I'm not watching all of her milestones under the haze of late pregnancy. My belly is still very small, so I'm still able to pick her up, enjoy her, cuddle with her. So while she's not a baby anymore, she can still be my baby for a little while longer.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Baby 5: Week 6

How Far Along: 6 weeks 1 day (33 weeks and 6 days until I'm due!)

How I'm Feeling: My cold is all gone, but I'm finding myself constantly nauseous and I've been really tired. I have spells where going up and down the stairs a few times leaves me winded. No matter what I eat, my nausea isn't going down. It definitely could be worse and I feel like a bit of a whiner knowing how easy I have it. I've never had really bad nausea with any one of the kids, particularly with the 3rd and 4th pregnancies.

What I'm Thinking: We got the results of the blood work a few days back. My hcg (pregnancy hormone) was really high for where I thought I should be in pregnancy. This explains why I'm feeling so much nausea. The higher level could mean a couple of things. Sometimes carrying a boy causes an early spike in hcg. Another option is that I'm further along than I had thought, by up to 4 weeks (oops). Yet another option is that we have double the baby going on in here. That's the least likely, though not impossible as my paternal grandmother was a twin and had at least one set of twins (my Dad was adopted, so it's hard to interpret too much information from what little we have learned about his family). I wouldn't mind being further along, this being a boy, or even if this is twins.

What I've Done This Week: Besides harass my doctor's office for the results of my blood work, I spent most of this week getting over my cold and trying to master my nausea. I made an appointment with my doctor to request a dating ultrasound, but we can't get in for another week to even request the referral for the ultrasound. The suspense!!!

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I'm hoping to keep plugging away at getting baby's room ready. We have so many months to do it, but once his or her room is ready, we can work on the other rooms. I'm also going to go through all the baby clothes and re-sort them into gender and gender neutral.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Baby 5: Week 5

How Far Along: 5 weeks 1 day (34 weeks and 6 days until I'm due!)

How I'm Feeling: Less nauseous, but definitely more hormonal and cranky. My abdomen has a little swelling down where baby is carving out his or her home. I've also been craving pickles and now, surprise surprise, bacon, and french fries with cheese and gravy (aka POUTINEEE). I also got sick pretty much all this past week with a vicious cold. I've been taking care of it with ginger/lemon tea with thyme in it (an idea I got from my bro) and taking spoonfuls of honey which immediately cured my sore throat!

What I'm Thinking: I'm starting to come out of the initial shock, and I'm settling in nicely into thoughts of tiny toes, cute little cheeks, and a button nose. I'm kind of convinced this baby is a girl, although I've been surprised before.

What I've Done This Week: I got my bloodwork done this week. That was totally fun until I almost passed out and then got sick. Those little dishes they give you to upset yourself into are so tiny! Too graphic, sorry! Moving on... we also picked up some second hand cloth diapers for the medium size in the brand we love, Bummis, that will fit from 8-15lbs. We noticed with Baby Girl that we never seemed to have enough in that size.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: We ALL got sick after I got my cold, so we're still hoping to do the flooring in the baby's room. After we're done that, we'll be doing the flooring room by room in the rest of the upstairs so that there is NO carpet left in our house by the time he or she makes his or her big arrival.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Baby 5: Week 4

Since I had so much fun live tweeting our fourth baby's labour and delivery, I thought it would be fun to track this pregnancy week by week with short little blog posts about how I'm feeling, what we're doing, and what I'm thinking!

How Far Along: 4 weeks 1 day (35 weeks and 6 days until I'm due!)

How I'm Feeling: A little nauseous, but not too bad. I have found the general smells of my house excessively repugnant and have spent the past 48 hours cleaning the house like crazy. The house smells a little better, but still looks like a bomb hit it. I'm also pretty tired, and find myself dozing off while sitting up. The 4 already born kids are keeping me on my toes!

What I'm Thinking: I'm so excited about our new baby! We're already working hard picking out names (we already are pretty much settled, but I'll leave that mystery for a while in). We're also praying hard trying to pick the right Godparents for our new baby.

What I've Done This Week: I went to get my blood requisition form for early pregnancy! The Doc seemed pretty excited too. I also called the local Midwives to get myself on the waiting list. We also picked up another pack of newborn Bummis diapers and an Ergo baby carrier for when baby arrives (which is useful now for baby 4!).

What I Hope To Do Next Week: We bought all the flooring to replace our nasty stinky upstairs carpet. I plan to work with my hubby over the next week to start ripping up the old carpet and prepping it for the new laminate flooring, starting with our new baby's room!

Pregnancy (Take 5)

I'm pregnant with our 5th baby! My heart is overflowing with joy and expectation! My husband is incredibly excited too, as usual, and joined me in informing anyone who would listen about our latest little miracle! We called, Facebooked, tweeted, and told everyone else we could in person, even whipping out my freshly peed on pregnancy test to show baby girl's Godmother when we found out as we were going out that evening.

I know at one point I thought to myself that maybe 4 was enough kids, but at some point my heart began to grow, to make room for another little soul to join our family. Once the post-natal fog lifted and life was getting back into order, it was so obvious to me that our family had room to grow. For the first time in the 6 years of our marriage, it took us about a year to conceive. Usually I was finding myself in possession of a positive pregnancy test between 6 and 9 months post-partum. That my youngest is 13 months might seem close to many people, but that is a huge gap in my mind! She's already walking (although crawls sometimes too), eats everything and anything, is incredibly social, sleeps like a champ, and has self-weaned. Her extended breastfeeding is the reason we didn't conceive sooner, and it was an incredible gift to both she and I. I had more recovery time for one. I also had more time to settle into a routine in our new house. I even managed to start getting more involved at our Church, which has meant a lot to me! I also found the energy to get myself started on homeschooling our eldest. With a June due date, we'll have the whole summer to recover before hitting the books again! For her, it meant longer bonding, better nutrition when she was under the weather, and lots of cuddles with Mommy.

So here we are, 5th positive pregnancy test in hand, excited beyond all belief and dedicated to enjoying every minute of it. One of the first things we did was upgrade our baby carrier to an Ergo because our Snugli had really worn out over the past three babies. We also picked up another pack of newborns Bummis diapers so we can exclusively cloth diaper from birth. I hit the grocery store and picked up 300 pre-natal vitamins (as I had run out and wanted closer to a year's supply) and have started to take them daily. With only very mild nausea I'm finding life is going on as normal, though I've been exhausted once naptime hits! The upside of my energy level staying basically the same is that my incredibly strong sense of smell which only happens when I'm pregnant is forcing me to start working on house work to keep the stinkies at bay.

The other big news pregnancy wise is that I got in touch with the Midwives at our local hospital. For most people who might read this outside of my province this may seem like not a big deal, but here in my province we've had to work hard to get Midwives with privileges at our hospital. They weren't available for my first three pregnancies, and they were on hiatus due to political issues during my fourth pregnancies. Today, with two full time midwives and one part-time midwife, I was able to make myself only second on their waiting list for June! Unless I risk out this basically guarantees me a spot! I have wanted to try for midwife care since I first heard of how midwives work, but this is the first time I've been able to sign up. I'll be sad that our regular baby-catching family doctor won't be our regular care provider as we have a beautiful relationship, but I'd do just about anything to have more personalised, natural birth focused care that won't have me alone with a nurse for hours on end. I find the nurses at our hospital range from incredible to absolutely awful. The nurse from my last birth would wait until my husband was out of the room and say all sorts of crazy things, like how I should stop being so noisy as it wasn't helping me labour. The upside about all of this is that's there actually a pretty good chance my family Doc will be in the hospital when I deliver as she is works in the Peri-Natal clinic and does regular rotations on the birth unit. I'll be praying that I get both a Midwife and my own well loved Doctor.

That's all so far. Get ready for belly pics, folks. I'm going to start taking them weekly so you can see how ridiculously fast my belly POPS!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Homeschooling Victory

So, I know it's WAY too early to call our homeschooling year a victory. But I'm going to make the leap and call our first two days a success. We started off our day with a trip to the local wildlife park with the whole family, then had a nice lunch together. While the little ones napped (I must confess our 3 year old was devastated he wasn't doing school during nap time like his sister), the big girl and I sat down and reviewed Math concepts. I discovered, to my surprise and delight, that she has an early love to simple math, and was devouring page after page of her workbooks with very little explanation needed. Per her request, we practised cutting in a straight line with her fancy scissors. After that we made salt dough molds of all their hands, which I painted once they were cooled. Today, we got to work on sight words (I found a fabulous app to support us in this, which her younger brother is loving too!) and did more math, geometry, and practised writing during the little ones' naps (this time with no 3 year old drama). This afternoon we planted a small indoor garden with tomato plants that we will be watching all year. She asked at bed time if we could do more school tonight and then tomorrow. I'm so happy she has a thirst for our school time!
 
Here are a few pictures to make you smile!




Big girl practising cutting in a straight line
 

 
Starting the school year off with a field trip was a big hit


The kids were all in love with the very friendly deer we met
 


 
It was the big girl's first day of school, but I'm glad we had a memory of each of them to treasure!
 
 
I hope we can keep up this level of joy and enthusiasm for the rest of the year!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Zucchini Chocolate Cake

I have for your delight and delectation an incredibly delicious recipe for cake that includes a vegetable. Don't believe me that vegetables belong in cakes? Try this recipe and have your heart changed! This recipe comes from my friend Sara, which is a modified version of the recipe her Mom taught her. Her family has been adding veggies to food since before it was cool, folks. They have perfected the art of the dessert that makes you feel less guilty, more full, and not overloaded! This cake is a kind of coffee cake, but is fluffy enough to be used for birthday cake in my opinion. Sara doesn't ice it, and I agree with her completely that it doesn't need it. It's perfectly sweet without making your teeth hurt. Alright, enough rambling, time to get baking!

1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce (or a little more if you want a moister cake)
1/2 cup of packed in brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup of buttermilk or sour milk
2 cups of flour (you can do 1 of white and 1 of whole wheat, I did both of white and it was nice!)
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups zucchini, peeled and shredded (I put mine in the food processor, the drained some of the water, Sara shreds hers on a cheese grater)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (resist the temptation to add more as the melted chips will make the cake messy if you add much more, trust me)

Cream your butter, apple sauce and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla and set aside. In a second bowl, mix all your dry ingredients (less your chocolate chips) and add to creamed mixture. Your mix will be thick, don't worry!  Stir in shredded zucchini and chocolate chips. The zucchini will make your batter much less thick, but it will still have some thickness. Pour batter into either a 9X9 or 9X12 non-stick or glass pan. I sprayed a little cooking spray on the inside of my pan before pouring in my batter, but I'm not entirely sure it needs it. Bake at 325F for 40-45 minutes. At around 40 minutes, maybe earlier if your oven runs hot, take a sharp knife or wooden stick to test that the middle of the is cooked. If you tester comes out clean it's done. Let cool for 30 minutes and then dig in. This cake is good hot, cold, night, day, in pjs or fancy dress clothes. You really can't go wrong. The directions look complicated the first time, but it takes me no more than 20 minutes plus cooking time, and it is worth every second of that!