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.