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


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!


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!