Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pumped Up Creamy Tomato Sauce

Yesterday I found myself staring aimlessly at our cupboards trying to plan a meal for my crew. After a few days of soup I was craving pasta but we didn't have any sauce left. I whipped this up in about 10 minutes then set it in the crockpot.

1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chickpeas (rinsed)
2 zucchinis (peeled and sliced)
1 portabello mushroom (sliced)
4T quinoa
1T basil
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream

I dumped everything but the cheese and milk into the crockpot on high for 3 hours. Once the zucchini and mushroom were fork tender I took out my trust hand blender and creamed it. For my picky kids, this is essential.  To be fair it spreads over pasta better too. Once it's creamy (watch out for those stray chickpeas!), blend in the cream and then the cheese. Taste it and spice accordingly. The chickpeas made the sauce creamy but also dulled the flavour, so the cheese and some pepper make a big difference.

We served this with tortellini last night. An easy, nutrient dense meal that the kids didn't balk at. Today at lunch I used it as the sauce for personal pita pizzas and it was a big hit again. I love no repeat repeats!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Brace Yourselves....

Christmas is coming.  I realize it's pretty far off, but since Thanksgiving has passed we're in the depths of preparations for the big X. (Just as a note X-Mas isn't secular because the Greek for Christ starts with an X). In one short trip to Target (which I love after two shopping experiences because they have amazing kid friendly carts) we've squared aware all three boys as well as most of what we wanted for the girls. Last night I wrapped almost everything we've purchased so far so we wouldn't have any spoiled surprises. If I could share any hard-earned tips for Christmas shopping, it would be these:

1. Make a list and check online to confirm what you want. Stick to that list.
2. Unpackage before you wrap. I appreciate how easy it is to just wrap a box, but Christmas morning you'll look back and appreciate your foresight. Most of these toys are packaged more carefully and securely than the royal jewels. No one wants 5 impatient kids begging for everything to be opened.
3. Wrap as soon as you can.  Like I said above, if they're wrapped there's less chance of surprises being ruined.
4. (Courtesy of my excellent father in law) Store the wrapped gifts in a garbage bag. That keeps them all in one place and keeps savvy eyes from guessing their gifts!
5. This is just personal taste, but don't give Santa the credit for toys. Santa gives one group gift: art supplies. It reinforces the giving and sharing side of our favourite holiday Saint while touching on the artistic side added in popular culture.
6. Shop early and then you can beat the rush. We waited until mid December and ended up weaving through huge crowds at several stores to try and find an out of stock toy. Holiday sales are great,  but we discovered we were dropping as much money on gas and fast food to make the rushed and often fruitless experience work.
7. Make a budget and stick to it. I don't mean make room on your credit card either. Set your budget before you set your list. That will make your holiday less stressful. On years when money has been tight we've made most of their gifts instead. The kids were happy and so was our bank account.

Do you have any Christmas tips?

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Acts of Love

Am I the only one who finds cooking for others therapeutic? I cooked up a big batch of butternut squash soup for my Mom today. It was ready at lunch so I gave my 4 favourite taste testers a bowl (and saved some for my lovely husband because,  well, I love him and he loves soup). It was a big hit. Baby girl gobbled every bite down without a complaint.  A nice lift for me considering how fussy she can be. Adding shredded cheese makes everything amazing I guess. I was able to bring a few days worth of the soup for my Mom when we visited today so Dad could go to some appointments.

We stayed with her for 4 hours today. Mostly she slept, but the kids and I hung out in her bedroom and watched random Netflix while she faded in and out. She has hospital bed in their bedroom, plus a nice love seat for visitors and their big king sized bed facing her hospital bed. Even though she was too tired to chat like old times, she watched joyfully as the big kids bounced on the big bed across from her and baby boy played in his exersaucer. Once she fell asleep we just stayed with her. The kids didn't want to leave her room. I caught their eyes watching her rest, and they were happy.  They have been asking to visit her, just to be around her. As we got ready to leave they all got their cuddles. I cooked, they cuddled.

Dad sent me home with the ingredients for beef barley soup my Mom never got around to making. I can't do much,  but I can do this for them. Cancer can work its quiet evil, but the kids will give their love and I'll give my time and love, a little thank you for 30 years of motherhood. This time in the form of food and company.  It's funny this feeling of wanting to do something.  We all get it. We can't control the situation or take away the pain, so we do what we can. We do small tasks to take a little pressure off for others. We move our pebbles, praying for the strength to move mountains. We hope our little acts will be seen for what they are, love and gratitude.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Family Ties

I come from a crazy sort of family. Don't we all? We have our inside stories, our tall tales (that everyone remembers differently), our larger than life characters, and a healthy dose of food and fighting. Over the years we've grown together and apart in many ways, both geographically and emotionally. The 5 of us have been through thick and thin, and while there have been times each of us has been tempted to hang up the phone and never call back, we keep coming back because, in the end, family is family. No one else has such an important part in our story as our family, be it the one we're given as a child or the one we build in a lifetime of vows, knotting us together. I say knot instead of weave because you can easily cut something woven so it frays and falls apart, but with a knot you can cut all around it and still the knot will remain, fighting attempts to untie it.
In that way, I'm a knot tied into my parents' lives, like a Hail Mary on one of my Mom's favourite rope rosaries, part of a circle of knots, leading up to the Cross. They chose to make the knot that is my life, against the better judgements of doctors. They chose to keep the knot of my life, holding it fast as it nearly untied several times. They did the same with both of my brothers. As the world pulled against us, each knot got tighter, stronger, and harder to untie. Our parents fought for us, protected us, and rejoice to let us stand alone when we were ready.
Now here I am with my own husband, tying our own chain of knots, each a little Hail Mary, their own decade in a litany of answered prayers. As our whole family takes our turn coming to the Cross, we are united and clinging fast to each other.  We are not coming unravelled, but each growing stronger as the tension tries and fails to untie our chain of knots. We hold fast to our family ties. Our lives become a prayer of trust and devotion, so ordinary and extraordinary that we get lost in rhythm. One knot after another. One day after another. Each life, each moment precious.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Life in the Dog House

I know we're only a few days in,  but I am honestly surprised at how well things are going with our new pup. We've been waking up earlier as a family to make sure she has a good routine for walks. It's been tough crawling out of bed for me, but the kids love it. We're using those extra hours in the morning to do more school work on full tummies. When big girl gets frustrated or tired, we can stop and know she can start up again later. I'm already seeing improvements in her spelling and sentence structure from her early morning composition practice.

We've always built in some special bonding time with the kids because of our pooch. My husband is doing all her walks, and he's taking a different kid for her pre supper walk each day. The kids are over the moon about their turn to walk with Sadie and Daddy. They're completely in love with her, but are also giving her the space she needs. When she comes to them, they beam with pride that Sadie loves them. She is truly adored by them and, because she's such a sweet lazy bum, she's not adding to my work load at all. Hubby is the boss of walks and feeding.  The kids and I are the ones who get to enjoy watching her nap and give her treats.

When we adopted our gal, we were warned there would be an adjustment period. She might not eat, she might have (to be polite) digestive problems, she might be jittery with the kids, etc. I can say in all honesty the only problem we have had was a little whimpering in her crate at night because she was lonely. Even that was cleared up with some firm words from upstairs. Just enough to know we were there and she was safe.

I know things won't always be this easy, but I am convinced our Sadie is a perfect fit for our family.  This morning when she playfully nuzzled up to me, tail wagging and ears flopping, I got the sense she feels the same way too.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Grade 1: First Day of School

As is our tradition we spent our first day of school on a field trip. My husband took the day off and we headed to the zoo. It was also Big Girl's 6th birthday so it was nice to celebrate as a family. Because there had been a storm the day before the animals were anxious to dry out and stretch their legs, so we got to see all of them. The highlights included seeing a lion very close up (for my husband and I), petting the llamas (baby girl), the koi pond (middle boy), the white monkeys and tigers (big girl) and the meerkats (biggest boy). Big girl made her first school project journaling about her trip. She drew some great pictures (I shared two of them below) and wrote about her experience.  It was a nice way to see what she really thought of the day. All in all it was a great start to the year.

Puppy Love

The pictures essentially speak for themselves. We finally took the plunge and adopted a dog. This 2 year old gal is Sadie and she's a retired racing greyhound from Florida. We were fortunate to be placed with her by the good folks at the Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada. They have a extensive adoption process to make sure the right dog is placed with the right family. I am pleased to say our Sadie is a perfect fit. She's very calm and is very sweet with the kids. It's not every dog that can handle the noise and activity of five small children.

So, welcome home Sadie!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Good News in Bad Times

This month my family received some bad news. After months of watching my mother's health deteriorate without a clear reason, she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer. We don't have a prognosis for her yet, and we won't until after she sees a haematologist. In the mean time, we're all doing our best to stay positive, and stay away from google. There are lots of new and innovative treatments that can give patients who respond well many years of symptom-free living. With that in mind there's still a lot of hope in these dark days.

One of the things I've realized in all of this is how lucky we are to have our faith. I have found myself turning to God for strength and as always He outdoes me in generosity. I haven't felt moved to the anger I would have expected considering the circumstances. I know I could easily get angry, shout at God, or get dragged down in thoughts of "why my family???". When I first heard the diagnosis I had one moment of sadness, a taste of the abiding grief that comes with losing a loved one. And then I took a deep breath and layed my sorrows in God's hands with complete trust. I realize that God didn't make my Mom sick. That's not how these things work. I know that if it is God's will my Mom will be healed. I also know that if He allows her to follow the more painful road of suffering, it won't be because He doesn't love her. I know God loves my mother immensely. I have witnessed first hand how precious she is to Him. Over the years, God has carried her through so many struggles (not the least of which was raising us three crazy kids). She has always found a way to put her suffering aside to find room for love, charity, and joy. If you knew my mother's whole story, you wouldn't believe that she should be as cheerful as she is. By the world's standards, she should be bitter, especially now as yet another struggle comes to her. But she's not. If my mother has taught me nothing else, she has taught me that nothing is too big (or too small) to lay in God's hands. I have watched her time and again choose love and forgiveness instead of anger and bitterness. When we say the prayer "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us", she is one of the few people I know who can stand in good measure as always forgiving as much as she can and then some. How many of us hold on to grudges over the silliest things? I have seen her forgive those little things, but also hurts of such incredible magnitude. She has been wounded, but she is not wounded. She trusts in God. This is her greatest lesson. Although I wish more of her craftiness and creativity had rubbed off on me, I can't deny how blessed I have been by her example of child-like faith. Just like my kids trust that my kisses can fix their boo-boos, she trusts that there is not hurt God's love can't take the sting out of.

Regardless of what happens, I want to be that example of faith to my children. If my Mom is healed, we'll all throw the biggest part this world has seen since Pentecost. If that's not in God's plan, we'll stand together and lean on Him, and make the most of however much time she is given with us. Whether it be a year or twenty years, whenever she makes her journey to Heaven, I hope we can find a little more of her faith and joy to bide us through our days. God willing that won't be for a good long time.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Vocations

It is my firm belief that God has a plan for every person, and that His plan for each of us includes a vocation. For each of us, that vocation is as unique as we are. Discovering what are vocation is, and therefore our place in God's plan, is the key to our happiness in this life. Life is never perfect, and we are all faced with challenges and struggles, but within the context of our vocation we can still thrive and find peace. In my own life, my journey to discover my particular vocation has led me all the way to Rome and back, through years of discernment and prayer. So long as I followed the call of God in my life, I have found deep reward and consolation, even in my trials. Those times when I let my eyes turn from God, I have come so close to losing myself all I could see was darkness.

God has led me along a path that has felt so winding and long, but in the end, was always aiming me towards my final goal of Heaven. He led me to World Youth Day, where I went for essentially a cool trip, and I found Jesus for the first time. While there I met the man (then not even a priest) who would one day become the Superior of the Franciscans in my city. I also met a young priest who first planted the seed that a vocation to the religious would be an incredible way to give my heart to this Jesus I had just met. Later on when a new order of Franciscans started in my city, I was still discerning religious life, so that same young priest recommend me to the Superior, who invited me to join the community. I gave myself wholeheartedly to the task of learning the Franciscan life, and, against my own will and plan, fell in love with a man as I fell even more in love with Jesus. I had been so convinced of my vocation as a sister, I had a hard time seeing the truth in front of me. I was so afraid that this was my great temptation and I was being led away from my true vocation. The more I prayed the more clear it became. I had seen the hand of the devil at work in my life over the years, and this wasn't it. This was pure and from God. The timing wasn't exactly perfect in the eyes of the world (Why couldn't we have met at World Youth Day? We had both been there together with the same group. I even met his brother!), but God knew what he was doing. He knew we had things we needed to learn. He knew that for the life He had planned for us, we would need years of spiritual training, and a taste for the spiritual beauty of trusting in Providence. Our time with the Franciscans has also given us a spiritual support network we have needed so dearly over our years together. While we may not be a Brother and Sister anymore, in our hearts that community will always be our spiritual home and they will always be our family. (And don't tell the good Father, but I find myself hard pressed to forget my promise of obedience to him, haha)

I know our children are still so young, but when I look back and see what a long road it took to find my vocation, it reminds me to teach them to follow God's voice in their heart. I want to teach them that He knows the best, and to always give of themselves without fear. Just like the Gospel from a few weeks ago, He won't give them a scorpion, but bread, the Bread of Life. I would be incredibly proud if one, two or even all of our children find their vocations in religious life and the priesthood. I would be equally proud if they all get married and find Jesus in the heart of another person. I try not to press them, but to encourage them in whatever their heart is leading them to right now. There is nothing sweeter than my biggest boy playing Mass (with his actual chalice and ciborium gifted to him by his Godfather), telling me about how he's going to be a priest when he's "a man". He may not end up a priest, but I hope he always wants to give his heart and life to Jesus. I will never promise him life will be easy, but that Christ will always be with him, and that there is a plan for him.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Godparents

 Godparents truly are a wonderful thing. In my own life I had kind of a sore run with Godparents. My original set from my Baptism lived far enough away that I don't remember them (before they sadly became divorced). I received a new Godfather for my Confirmation. He was a sweet man, but I barely got to know him before he passed away. As for my Husband, his Godparents are family members, so he's been lucky to keep in touch with them. When it was time to pick Godparents for our kids, I wondered if the people we picked would stay in their lives, act as a model and guide for many years to come, or fade quietly into the background.

For our oldest child, we picked my brother-in-law and a school friend of my Husband's who I really liked. It has been beautiful watching their love for her over the years. While she doesn't see her Godmother often enough by far, she knows about her and prayers for her all the time. She knows she is loved in a special way by them.

For our oldest son, we picked the Superior of the religious order where we met and an old friend of mine who I met a hundred years ago at an all city choir. I still remember the day our boy was born. His Godfather came, bursting with as much pride as my Husband and I were, held his tiny Godson and stood there with a look of complete adoration. The fact that our little boy shared his name (less the Italian O ending) was a matter of great joy as well. His Godmother, who has two little boys (and another baby coming!) close in age with him, has been a source of great spiritual support and joy for me. Our boy adores her, asking often to see her. Even though she and her family have followed the call to move to another province, they still feel spiritually very close.

Our middle boy, our darling clown of a child, has for his Godparents my eldest brother and his significant other for Godparents. They live in a different province but visit often enough to be a special part of his life. His Uncle is something of a clown himself, so it's funny to see the two of them together. I know as he gets older he'll appreciate the choice we made for him even more.

Baby girl is lucky to have two dear friends for her Godparents. Both my husband and I knew her Godmother from before he and I had met. He met her at school and I met her through various Church activities. She introduced us to her then fiancé not long before they were married. As fate would have it, we were married in the same parish but a few months apart. Our kids are within a year to six months apart. We were just reconnecting with them as a couple when we found out we were pregnant with baby girl. They were a completely natural choice for Godparents, as they are devoted and faithful Catholics. They have been good friends through hard times and I know as baby girl gets older they will be a special part of how she learns to live the Gospel.

When we found out we were pregnant with baby boy, the first thing we started puzzling about is Godparents. You'd think by the fifth baby the well would have run dry on who to choose. We actually had a short list of no less than three couples that we prayed about. It became clear very quickly that God was pushing both of our hearts towards a particular couple. I found this very interesting as I didn't really know the couple in question very well, but God kept putting them in my heart. I'm glad we let God take the lead on this one as they have become an essential part of our family. I feel like I've gained a brother and sister. The kids all love them with an ease we're not used to (especially from middle boy and baby girl, who are shy pants even with family). Having them in our lives made this pregnancy all the more special. If you read back through the months of the pregnancy you'll see that they were a fixture in many of the updates, from ultrasounds, to date nights, to the night baby boy was born. Their faith is rock solid and they have been a great comfort to us.

As I look back through all these Godparents, I can only hope that our kids will feel comfortable enough to turn to their Godparents for spiritual support and guidance. We have been blessed by the guidance of God who has gifted our family with people who went from friends to family. I thank God for each of them and pray for them every day, as do their sweet Godbabies. May God bless them with firmness of faith to take on the heavy and the life long task of spiritual leadership entrusted to them through the Sacrament of Baptism.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A Few Months Older

Baby boy is almost 2 months old, so it feels like time for an update. I've started this post a million times but each time I have been predictably distracted. The baby has cried, big sister has tripped, or the three oldest have wanted stories or snacks or just attention. I can honestly say I'm happy for all the distractions. I was only able to blog so much near the end of pregnancy because I felt too big to move, or too exhausted to do anything of substance. We had the TV on almost constantly to entertain the kids, but I wasn't engaging with them as much as I would have liked to.

So where are we almost two months later? The first thing to note is that we didn't just turn off the TV. We took it out of the room completely. We disassembled the TV stand and put the whole mess of stuff in the basement. It has not been put together yet. We never go in the basement but our plan is to fix it up and make it more kid friendly as a cool retreat on this hot summers days. Along with the business of taking the TV out of our living room we took the leap to finally redecorate the living room. We painted over the dark orange (that I truly hated, beyond words) with an inviting blue that made the whole room feel bigger and brighter. We bought some new photo frames and put them up on the wall and hung on the opposite wall beautiful frames with all five kids' names, birth weight and length, birthdays and times. The room really feels like it's ours. We also got an ottoman and need toy bins for storage. We no longer have piles of toys all over the floor (well, when they're put away anyway!). Since we're spending a lot of time in the living room while I feed the baby it feels good to have it feel like our own. It has inspired us to get to work on the other rooms. We can't wait to tear up the wretched reeking carpet upstairs.

As for baby boy, he is doing beautifully. He's still growing well from what I can tell. He's feeding like a champ, sleeping at night, and just generally being a joy. He started to smile a week or so ago and I can confirm that no matter how many babies we have, there's something about those toothless grins that make my heart grow another size or two. I could spend my whole day staring at the little man trying to make him laugh and smile. The big kids are completely in love with him too, and when he's asleep in his playpen I often find a little collection of kids craning to watch his sweet, slow breaths. This, of course, tends to have the affect of waking him up, but I don't have the heart to be upset (most days) as I know they are all SO in love with him. Seeing how much they treasure him makes me love all of them even more. I adore seeing my kids together.

Speaking of the big kids, we've had a rough couple of weeks. One after another the kids have gotten sick. First the biggest girl. We discovered she was sick when she suddenly had a fever at Church, followed by her getting sick on the beach the same day. After that came biggest boy a few days later, who only got sick the one time (of course in his bed). Next was middle boy who never actually upset his stomach, but has looked pale and slightly green for the better part of a week. Lastly was baby girl, who had the good sense to wait for a visit with her grandparents to projectile vomit several times in the course of a half hour. So glad we had blueberry smoothies for dessert. It all seemed more festive and colourful. Today we're having what I hope is a recovery day. Middle child still seems out of sorts, but overall they're all feeling much better. I can't wait to get out of the house to smell some fresh air. I have a little bit of catch-up to do with the housework, but I don't mind as I'd do all the housework in the world to have my babes all better. Sweet Hubby is battling the flu now, but like the trooper I know him to be he's toughing it out at work. Saintliness in all things.

As for myself, I'm finally feeling much more myself. I have my energy back and I love that I can spend the better part of the day reading, playing, and generally experiencing my kids' day without the cloud of exhaustion. I've lost more weight than I thought possible in such a short time, which is giving me back my old stamina. I feel blessed, joyful, energetic and, most of all, grateful. If I had known how easy and beautiful 5 kids would be, I would have run full tilt towards it.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Recipe: Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti is such a kid-friendly meal (even if it's not so clothing friendly) and while I am often tempted to buy a jar of the store-made stuff, nothing has ever come close to my mother's recipe for spaghetti sauce. This sauce found it's way onto our table as a child pretty much every week. Boil up some pasta and top it with parmesan cheese and the whole family is happy. I like to cook this is big batches and freeze it in family meal portions so I can defrost it when I have no better plans. If you have a picky kid (like I was!) the onions can be blended in with a can of tomatoes so you can avoid the texture but keep the taste. You can add other vegetables like peppers and carrots the same way. I also like cooking in some shredded spinach for a boost of nutrients!

Ingredients:

1lb lean ground beef
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic minced (you can substitute with garlic powder)
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp pepper
1 T dried parsley (use less if you're using fresh as fresh spices are more potent)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushes chilies (feel free to add more if you like some heat in your sauce)
1 large onion chopped (or pureed in your blender)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup of wine (optional)
1 6oz can tomato paste

Brown your meat in a little olive oil. Add the mushrooms and onions (unless pureed) and cook them. Add the can of diced tomatoes (and onions if pureed) and spices. Let simmer for about an hour, stirring every so often. The sauce will reduce and the tomatoes will break down. At the very end at the tomato paste which will thicken the sauce. If you like it even thicker add a second can of the paste. It's important to save the paste for the end as the sauce will more than likely burn if you add it too soon. Serve it up with some freshly cooked pasta, some parmesan cheese and enjoy!

And Baby Makes 7

We're slowly adjusting to our life with a new baby. Really it hasn't been all that difficult as the little man has been nothing less than calm and composed. Unless he's hungry, then make sure you have a good set of earplugs. In the past three and a half weeks, each of us as a family has had to find a new rhythm for our daily life. While the first week was pretty hectic, I must say I was surprised with how seamlessly we slipped into our new routine, tucking our baby into our life without too much disruption. I can easily credit this to a few very fortunate circumstances.

First of all, meals. We were given so many meals by loving an well-meaning friends. I had tucked a few meals away for these days, but most of them had been eaten in the last week of pregnancy. From day one with the new baby we had friends dropping by every couple of days with meals that I only had to reheat and serve. We had stews, soups, chilis, pasta dishes, egg bakes, not to mention the array of sweets that found their way almost directly into the mouths of our happy children. I still can't get over the tremendous blessing these meals have been for us. My gratitude is so incredibly deep, and if you're one of the beautiful souls who dropped off a meal, know that you helped this Mama survive those early days and helped usher our family with joy into our new life.

Besides the meals, there's the kids. I realize that for the older three this is nothing new. Babies come. They need a lot of my time. They are tiny, noisy, squishy, slightly smelly, and overall not just loads of fun. For the first time in our many years of overlapping babies, I saw a change in their interest level. When I'm feeding the baby they are curious, helpful, and gentle. There is no jealousy, unless you count a few fights over whose turn it is to kiss the baby. When I lay him on the floor for tummy time, I can rely on the fact that the brand new big sister will immediately lay down with him and smile, chat, and laugh with him. As overwhelming as I'm sure it is for the baby, he seems to be taking it all in stride. He's peaceful and equally curious about this brood of noisy, loving people who consume his waking hours.

And there's himself, our cute baby boy. Not unlike his older siblings, he is the ideal baby. He only cries when he's dirty or hungry. He nurses almost all day (he does sleep sometimes!) and sleeps at night, with only one or two wakings. Because we choose to co-sleep, when he wakes up through the night to sleep, I wake up when he stirs, before he even cries. I turn over to feed him and then we all doze back to sleep peacefully. It sounds silly, but anyone who has followed our struggles with nursing over the years will know this is a big deal, but he's growing. He's actually growing. And at a fairly good pace too. Last we checked he was already above his birth weight and then some. While he is not the chunkster his eldest brother was, he is himself, perfectly. With all this growing and exactly himself perfection, I couldn't be more pleased. He is a bright-eyed little boy who is already fascinated by the world and so entirely in love with his family. There really is nothing more beautiful than recognizing the look of love and devotion that crosses your child's face when he stares up at his Daddy and big siblings.

I see the proof again and again that every child is unique and beautiful and that adding another child doesn't divide my capacity for love and patience, it multiplies it exponentially. I am so blessed and rich beyond compare. That's why when people ask me if we're "done" having kids or if we want more, I can't help but say that more would be wonderful. My children are my greatest blessing and who am I to say no to those blessings as I stare into the eyes of my fifth child?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Baby 5: Delivered

I was getting a little worried I was going to end up writing another pregnancy update, but after some hard work, we're on the other side of pregnancy. Baby boy is a mere 4 days old, but we're already falling into a nice routine. I'm still a little worn around the edges from his delivery, but overall I feel really great. He was worth all the work and stress. For those of you who had asked, I figured I should share a little glimpse into his birth as best as I could. We weren't as prolific about tweeting this birth (primarily because I couldn't get onto the hospital wifi until after he was born), so while there are a few tweets from my husband and I, most of this will be from my memory. I figured I should write it out now before it got too hazy!

To do this right, I'll have to take us back to Friday, May 24th. A just shy of a week overdue I started feeling some cramping. At first they were all over the map, but by the time the evening hit, they were starting to be quite regular, at around 10 minutes apart. I lost my mucous plug, and while they stayed at 10 minutes apart, they gradually picked up in intensity. After a full weekend of contractions holding steady at 10 minutes apart, we decided to check in at the hospital on Monday to make sure baby was okay and that my water wasn't leaking. By chance our family doctor (aka Baby Catcher Supreme!) was on rotation that day and talked us through everything. I was clearly in early labour, but my water was intact and I wasn't dilating quickly at all. Because baby was sending some pretty clear signals that he was done cooking, we decided we should book an appointment with the post-dates clinic to see how favourable things looked for an induction. On Wednesday we went in for that appointment and were told that my cervix was favourable for having my water broken, but that it still wasn't much more dilated. We also discovered that what I by this point had figured was Braxton-Hicks (aka practice contractions) were indeed real contractions. They just weren't intense enough to do more than just efface my cervix. I had maxed out at around 3cm and %70 effaced on those contractions, which was great, but not enough. So they put us on the list for inductions, and told us we were on the list for the next day, Thursday. We were told to wait by the phone for our call to come in. Stressful! On the way home we stocked up on a few extra groceries and made the best of our afternoon with the kids, getting in all the extra cuddles we could. I then somewhat frantically went about setting our house in slightly better order, finishing up the last of the lingering chores.

Thursday came. The day of our induction. We got up ridiculously early (who can sleep with dreams of labour and newborns dancing in their heads?) and waited for the call. And waited. And waited. After a while I decided to call ahead and see what the state of the Birth Unit was. Inductions are always bumped by how many emergencies and deliveries come through. As it turns out, I was third on the inductions list, and by lunch time the first Mama hadn't even been taken in. It turns out that there were no less than 4 emergency C-sections (a rarity at our hospital) and that they'd had to call in extra nurses to fill all the gaps as what was apparently a higher than normal number of women went into labour at the same time. As we called to check in (which we were advised to do) our hopes of a Thursday induction or even a May baby dwindled. Finally at around 10pm we were told they might call us through the night, but not to count on it.

Friday morning came. Another sleepless night. We were woken suddenly by the phone's insistent ringing at around 5:15am. We were being called in. A spot had finally opened! After calling our kind and awesome babysitters we rushed to the hospital. They quickly broke my water and after some discussion we decided to hold off on hooking me up to an IV drip of Pitocin to get some productive contractions going. Once my water was broken which was done in what I figure must have been the most painful way possible because baby was so low the on call Doc had to shuffle him away so she wouldn't scratch him with the little plastic hook they use to break the bag. At first the water was clear, but then as it kept spilling there was a tinge of very pale yellow. Meconium staining. Not exactly ideal.

Not too long in there was a shift change and you can't imagine my joy when the same nurse we'd had for our third child walked through the door all full of smiles and happiness. She is for sure the best nurse at our hospital (a hospital blessed with lost of incredible nurses). We knew as soon as she walked in the door that no matter what happened, our delivery experience was going to be a positive one. She's Catholic and comes from the same part of town as my husband, and shares a lot of our parenting views. The whole first part of our delivery felt like catching up with an old friend, even if it was punctuated by contractions. Speaking of contractions, after my water broke I kind of expect things to go gangbusters, but, well... they didn't. They got a little stronger, and definitely painful, but never enough that I couldn't talk through them. I didn't show any progress at all, even after 2 hours of walking, rocking, lunging and standing. Nothing. So after talking it through with our lovely nurse and doctor, we decided together that it was time to start the Pitocin drip. As I alluded to before, I'm not a big fan of Pitocin. It's synthetic chemical that causes contractions. But not regular old contractions, but big, intense, incredibly painful contractions. At first the contractions weren't too bad. They were intense for sure, but with a little calm thinking and breathing it was no big deal. For the first two hours of the Pitocin I was convinced that maybe I had imagined how bad the contractions could get. Then, it really started ramping up. Almost before I knew what was happening I suddenly felt I couldn't take the pain. I had been relaxing on the bed and then I jumped out of the bed and had my husband putting counter-pressure on my back. That lasted for about 10 contractions before even that wasn't helping. After talking options, the nurse hooked up the gas (laughing gas like at the dentist) and using that and still more counter-pressure on my back I worked through quite a few more contractions. I was even laughing and joking between the contractions. Although in retrospect most of the jokes I was making weren't particularly funny, and surely hilarious only to me as I was really digging that laughing gas. The contractions were coming in pairs, and then only with about a minute of break between the pairs. In my head I could practically see the ticking time clock set in motion by the meconium staining in my water. Around then my Doc showed up (rejoice!) and she could see I was working through the contractions with great effort and lots of prayers from my husband (who doesn't love a man who will chant the Hail Mary in your ear as many times as it takes to last a contraction while rubbing your back and holding your hand?). She figured we had some time before I was fully dilated since I had been at 4cm about an hour and a half before, so after a short chat she went about some business she had around the hospital.

While my nurse was on a short break I felt things starting to escalate beyond my control again, even with the gas. I remember asking the relief nurse to check my dilation and what I remember so strongly was that I heard her say I was at 4cm or maybe 5cm in the midst of my pain. My husband and I both cried in somewhat hilarious unison: "You've got to be kidding me!!!". The nurse smiled like an angel and then clarified that she said I definitely WASN'T 4 or 5cm, but had in fact hit closer to 7 or 8cm. Even though I was in agony I couldn't help but laugh at our reaction. I was so excited we were on our way as I usually hit transition at 7cm and knew we were in the home stretch. Within a few moments of that little ray of hope, the pain went off the charts. Even the gas couldn't distract me from the pain. I started clutching in desperation onto the side rails of the bed and moaning and crying out. Somewhere in my mind I knew that the pain was good, but I was fighting with all my will to see the good in it in those moments. I kept trying to direct my thoughts towards the prayer intentions I had brought with me. One particular intention for a family in deep mourning kept coming to mind and giving me glimpses of purpose and peace. While I was still sitting at around 8cm I could feel myself losing control of my body and I started to push. My Doc was still on another floor and they started calling for her to come quickly. My nurse had just come back from her break (just in time!) and asked me to hold off on pushing so I didn't bruise my cervix. I held off for one more contraction and then just gave in to the undeniable need to push. While I was already pushing my Doc came in and got her gown on in haste and got there just in time to see baby getting ready to crown. While she was still getting her gown on I cried out to my husband I thought for sure I was tearing and stopped pushing for a few seconds before the urge to push overcame my instinct to protect my own body. With my Doc, nurse, and beloved husband all with me, I pushed through a few more contractions and almost before I knew it he was out. I can't even begin to express the level of relief that washed over me when I felt his little shoulders pass as baby girl had had shoulder dystocia. The Doc told us after he had come out face up, which explains why I thought I was tearing. Once I pushed out the placenta the Doc announced with a note of surprise I didn't have any tearing at all and everything was in good order.

As for baby, there was a tense second for us, as we were scared about the results of the meconium staining. Against their best efforts he'd let out a gorgeous and hearty cry before they had the chance to suction him, which mean any meconium in his mouth would have been sucked into his lungs. He was whisked away to the other end of the room and the neo-natal team got to work on him. As it turns out, he hadn't breathed in any meconium! Considering he had been in the meconium stained water for about 12 hours, I'm convinced this was nothing short of a miracle. He did had a little bruising on his forehead from the brief moment I had held back from pushing when I thought I was tearing, but that's already resolved at a mere four days later.

That's the long version of how our 5th baby and our 3rd son came into the world. On Friday, May 31st, 2013, at 5:56pm our beautiful boy came to meet us. At 8lbs3oz he was medium size for our family, and has already filled a gap in our lives. He is the source and recipient of so much love, and the answer to many prayers. We have thanked God for him every day since the pregnancy test let us know of our joy, and for the past four days, we have tasted the deepening of joy in holding him, seeing him, and sharing him.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Baby 5: Week 41

How Far Along: 41 Weeks (One week overdue)

How I'm Feeling: We've had a really wonderful week as a family. Now that we've gotten the nursery ready and the house is in a perpetual state of preparedness, we've been doing our best to just enjoy each other. Emotionally I've been so appreciative of all the time to treasure my family. Physically, things are great too. The baby has gotten so low I've lost my belly table (tragic, I know). The upside of this is of course that my lungs are free to do their job, which is to breathe. This of course makes running up and down stairs in hope of inducing labour a much easier feat. Positives abound.

What I'm Thinking: I'm feeling very patient to meet this little person, but at the same time I'm also very excited. Like my husband was saying the other day, it's like being a toddler waiting for Christmas. You don't know exactly when it's coming, but you know it's going to be amazing. It's been really fun seeing everyone's interest and excitement as well. I know every weekend that we show up at Church with no babe in arms we get lots of jokes and smiles. When we finally show up with the baby, there's going to be a lot of joy all around, from us, from our friends, and from our Church family.

What I've Done This Week: I finally conquered the pile of laundry in the basement. I even put it all away. I wish I had taken a before picture so you could see the mammoth pile I was waging war on. On top of all of that I've run all our regular laundry and diapers. As I type the last load is going through the wash and our diapers are hanging to dry. I also did my best to clear up some of the extra stuff that had taken up permanent residence in our kitchen. It's not perfect, but it's a big improvement. Other than that I have (with the constant help of my wonderful husband!) been keeping everything running at a beautiful pace in our house.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: Okay, totally serious this time: Have a baby! On Wednesday when we see the Doctor we're going to have to discuss the possibility of an induction. As they are the WORST I'm hoping Baby will decide to come on his own any time now. Like tonight. Tonight would be fine with me.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Baby 5: Week 40

How Far Along: 40 Weeks (Yay! Due date is here!)

How I'm Feeling: This week was much better than last week. Excluding some mild greenness on Monday (which produced no more vomiting) we've been in fabulous form, particularly since Wednesday. I have sudden reserves of energy that makes me want to tear the house apart and put it back together (which I'm not! I'm not CRAZY). Baby is sitting approximately between my kneecaps, which is giving my lungs a little more room, thus I have about 2 seconds more stamina than I had even a week ago. For those of you who love the details, when we saw the Doctor on Wednesday I was a stretchy 1cm dilated and %30 effaced (for those who are not savvy I need to get to 10cm and %100 effaced for baby to come out). I'm also starting to get some signs that my mucous plug is slowly starting to come out. I know, fascinating details that you all desperately wanted to know. haha!

What I'm Thinking: We've reached that inevitable point at which baby is definitely coming. I am a delightful mix of totally panicked (over stuff that I know intellectually just doesn't matter) and ridiculously excited. I want baby to stay in so we can clear away those last few details, but honestly am ready to meet our little man. Like yesterday. I'm really grateful we made it through the stomach flu of doom so we can hang our kids off joyfully to their friends while we're in the hospital without worrying if we have enough clean sheets and outfits in case of vomit.

What I've Done This Week: On Friday we went on the big grocery shop-a-thon and got what should hopefully be around two weeks worth of groceries. I usually shop once per week, but in the off chance I go into labour the day before grocery day I don't want our friends left scrounging in our cupboards for food. We also picked up a cool tool that looks like a paper cutter at the hardware store that cuts laminate floorboards manually. We immediately put it to good use and got to work laying the flooring for our baby's room. This wasn't easy as there is some furniture we're having a tough time finding a place for while we're working, but it was totally worth it. I tried my hand with the flooring and did about half of it myself why Hubby moved things around and worked on the baseboards. He did all the hard corners, vents, etc, but I did the square section all on my own. And didn't destroy it! And if I do say so myself it looks fabulous. Today we finished up by assembling the crib and setting up the room. It look so sweet even with the little bit of clutter left in it. In less dramatic work, I managed to keep on top of the dishes and laundry all week. No worries that the kids will end up without socks or underpants! Oh, and I re-packed my hospital bag for the millionth time. Neurotic, I know.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: Have a baby? Haha! That's really the only big thing left. The room is ready. The Godparents are prepared to come sit with the kids. And best of all, we've reached our due date. It's time, little man. Come meet your family!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Baby 5: Week 39

How Far Along: 39 Weeks (1 week to go! Deep breaths...!)

How I'm Feeling: Excluding a little hip pain and my pregnant waddle, I'd say I probably feel the best I've felt all pregnancy most of this week. However, even the most hopefully beginnings can turn quickly. The last few days have been punctuated with spouts of vomiting from all the kids and now their Dad. Late night projectile vomiting from oldest boy, unexpected piles of puke in younger boy's bed, and baby girl throwing up repeatedly while sitting on my lap. I joined the team by getting sick Friday night so violently I thought for sure it would induce labour. Luckily it didn't! The only one in the family who didn't lose her lunch was our big girl. She's been very worn out and has insisted on not taking risks with her food intake. We've had lots of toast, bananas and apples for our meals. Poor darlings. Excluding the whole vomit out of already vomit coloured shag, I've been a little spoiled through all of this because the kids have been really quiet and sleepy.

What I'm Thinking: I'm more than a little bit in denial about the fact that we only have one week before our due date (and three before baby will be out for sure). I keep putting things off, thinking I have more time, but the time really is almost here. I'm starting to gear up for labour too. Not just physically, although that is clearly happening since I am having more and more frequent Braxton-Hicks. I'm really working on getting my mind in the right head space for labour. Strong, confident, focused.

What I've Done This Week: I finally folded the piles of clean laundry and put them away. This may not sound like a big deal, but with 5 kids and my not having done laundry properly in ages it really is a huge deal for us. I've also managed to keep on top of all the new laundry the late-night vomiting has produced and got even more done with the piles still lingering in the basement. Between bouts of vomiting we've been working hard clearing out the nursery. My husband pulled up the last of the old underlay and has been clearly out all the heavy stuff, vacuuming and pulling up spare nails and staples. We just need some sunshine so he can cut the flooring outside. I also had the great joy of going out for dinner with two of my favourite Mom friends on Monday. We hit an awesome local restaurant and shut that place down! What a great time. I'm really grateful for that time especially as it hit just before the flu took over our house.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: I've already started to, but this week my big task (y'know, besides actually cleaning my house....) will be to get ready little packs for each of the kids so that Baby 5's faithful Godparents will have no problem taking over here while we're at the hospital. I'm setting them up with outfits for the kids, easy diaper related instructions (because we use cloth), and some tips for meals and naptimes. They're totally awesome and capable people. I feel so confident leaving the kids with them! Other than that, I know my husband will be taking an evening or two this week to quickly slap down the flooring. I love seeing the pride on his face knowing he'll be doing it by himself. It's truly his gift for our baby. I have the joy of carrying this wee one for over 9 months. This nursery really is his own private labour of love.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Baby 5: Week 38

How Far Along: 38 Weeks (2 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: If it's even possible the baby is even lower. I don't know if I've ever had a baby ride this low before, but as my friend S pointed out I'm the most physically active this pregnancy as I've ever been, what with all the walking I've been doing. With that in mind I've probably made it easier for baby to get lodged lower every day. It's causing a somewhat amusing waddle. And by amusing, I mean slightly ridiculous to on-lookers. Other than that I'm feeling great all around. I've had a few sleepless nights because it's difficult to be comfortable with my big ol' belly in the way. I'm starting to have a feeling this baby will come closer to on time or even early. Now that I've said it aloud baby will obviously stay in until 42 weeks.

What I'm Thinking: As we reach what is undeniably the end of pregnancy, I'm noticing how suddenly big the other four kids truly are. My baby boy turned 3 yesterday (what?!?), the oldest two are taking on the role of my big helpers even more, and even baby girl is working hard to shock me with how grown up she is. It feels like they're trying to hit a few more milestones before baby is born so I can notice and appreciate them before I'm in new baby land. I'm so appreciative of who each of them are and how lucky I am to be their Mama.

What I've Done This Week: I spent the bulk of the week working through the laundry. Our laundry room is still piled up with blankets, towels, and out of season coats, hats and gloves. With that in mind, I made it through a lot of the clothes, even with new clothes coming in. The level of satisfaction at seeing the piles go down is indescribable. I also got a few more big items out in our bi-weekly garbage collection. I moved the couch that was taking up way too much room in the nursery and put it in the boys' room. They were really excited to have it and it fits in their room beautifully.  All the big stuff left in the nursery is the furniture we want to keep in there, so all we have to do is find a temporary place to put everything while we lay some flooring.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: Now that our boy has had his birthday, my primary goal is to stop trying to avoid labour. I don't want to exhaust myself, but my plan is to be up and about as much as possible. The other side of this is that I'm going to try and keep the house in relatively good order so that when we do go into labour, everything will be easy to find for our beautifully accommodating babysitters (ie baby's godparents!). This means I have to really keep on top of washing diapers, regular laundry, dishes, and have everything accessible in clean(ish) areas. I also have to write up a sort of loose schedule for the kids' day. Seems silly since our friends are great with kids, but I know it's comforting for the kids to have their routine and it'll make it easier for our friends to avoid certain meltdown for what I hope are the few hours we need to be at the hospital.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Love Letter: Baby Boy

Baby boy, I want you to be able to look back after you're born and all grown up and know how loved you were before we'd ever seen your face. You haven't had the chance to make us love you with your sweet face, beautiful eyes, and new baby smells. But we already love you. We've loved you since the second we knew you were going to join our family. When we told your brothers and sisters they were really excited too. Ever since they've been asking how much longer until you will be born. They want so badly to meet you, baby boy. Don't let their impatience (or mine) sway you, precious child. I know that whether you come tomorrow or two weeks after you're due, you will have been worth the wait.

I want you to know how wanted you are. Before you took up residence in my ever expanding belly, your Daddy and I weren't sure we'd ever have another baby. We wanted another baby. We prayed hard that God would bless us more if that was His will. We already have your amazing brothers and sisters, but still felt there was something missing. That something was obviously you. We weren't sure last summer if we'd ever be lucky enough to hold another baby in our arms, but God surprised us again. You see, Daddy had to have a special surgery to help his stomach work better (the jury's out on if it actually worked) and the Doctor told us there was a chance that it would mean we wouldn't be able to have more babies. When we decided to check if we were pregnant (on a whim) and saw those two pink lines on the test, we were absolutely overjoyed. We told your brothers and sisters and they started to clap and jump around because they were so happy that you were coming. Mere seconds after the test was positive we called everyone we could think of to tell them the good news that you were coming. I remember that night after I got home (I had a date with some of my Mommy friends) I cried because I was so happy that God was giving you to us. I had wanted you so badly, with my whole heart. You were a wish I was almost too afraid to make out loud. Who was I to ask for more blessings when God had already given me 4 beautiful babies? But I knew and trusted that you belonged in my heart.

I still remember the first time I saw your beautiful face. Daddy and I watched together as you jumped around, showing off how vivacious and truly alive you already were at a mere twelve and a half weeks old. When you slowed down for a few seconds and we finally saw your little face I wanted to kiss the screen on the ultrasound, because you were so perfect and beautiful. You were jumping and waving and mugging for the ultrasound wand. Just what I'd expect from one of my little ones.

Here we are about 25 weeks later. You've been so busy growing this last little while. You went from barely making a bump on me to feeling crammed tightly in my belly. I love feeling your little knees and feet rolling across my belly. You're so big now even Daddy and your brothers and sisters can feel you pushing and kicking. Every day your big brothers and sisters run up to me to hug and kiss my belly, sing you songs, and cuddle with you. I find myself singing little songs to you all day too, because I can tell you like to dance in what little room you have left. When we have a quiet moment together it's almost like I can feel your heart beating, your own special rhythm that makes you so unique while being so much still a part of me right now. I dream of the little drummer beat of your heart moving closer and closer to me as we get closer to seeing each other face to face. I also keep trying to imagine your face, to flesh out the cute little black and white picture from your ultrasound. You've had a lot of time to grow since we saw you at 20 weeks. I wonder if you're a chunky monkey like your oldest brother, or long and lean like your biggest sister. I wonder too about your personality. Each of your siblings is so unique, and were since birth. I wonder what new twist you'll bring to our family.

Whoever you are, whatever you look like, I know that you've already changed our family forever. You are a precious gift, the answer to a whispered prayer and many tears. I know when you come you're going to make our hearts a little bigger and show us a little more about what true love looks like. You're going to pour your own special brand of love and wildness into our overflowing house and we'll all know that you belong because you'll fit in from the moment we bring you through the door. You'll share our name and our arms and our hearts. And we'll keep loving you and growing with you and rejoicing in you. And we'll spend every day adding your name to our prayers because we feel like the luckiest family in the world for each moment we've had to spend with you.

I love you, baby boy. I can't wait to meet you and introduce you to your family in person. For now, I'm so happy I get to enjoy just a little bit long holding you close, cuddling with you all day, and feeling your heart beat so strong and wild.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Love Letter: Baby Girl

You're not going to be my baby for much longer, but because the newest baby is a boy, can you stay my baby girl for just a little while longer? I don't know how much long you'll let me call you my baby. For a while now you've been calling all dolls Mimi (as in Me! Me!), but this month you started calling them baby instead. You're already creating space between yourself and the idea of babyhood. Your walk (or dare I say strut) is already turning into a run. Your few words have suddenly turned into full sentences, filled with emotion, affection, and passion. You have always been my clingy baby. Not in a bad way, you must know. You, unlike your darling siblings, are a Mama's girl. You co-slept the longest, breastfed the longest, and you almost stayed in my womb the longest. Until recently, you have only wanted me to hold you and comfort you. Even this afternoon you demanded to have your spot on my ever decreasing lap so we could cuddle while you chatted away at me.

But change is a-brewing. I'm not sure when it started, but quietly, gently, you're putting away your baby habits in favour of being a big girl. First it was your bed. We weren't sure if we wanted to try it, but when we set it up in your room, you took right too it, and were utterly done with your crib. No begging to go back. No tears. You got your big girl bed and then slept in it like it was the most natural thing. Then it was potty training. I want you to know that I personally don't believe in making little kids potty train until they're much older than you were when you started. But you asked for it. You held your pees all morning and watched jealously while your siblings took their turns in the bathroom. So we took you up on your insistence and you embraced the experience. You're down to diapers at nap and bedtime (and the naptime one is really for my peace of mind, as it's nearly always dry). You're petite, and still look to me like such a wee baby, but in your own mind, you're already one of the big kids. You're demanding your place at the big table. Playing with the big kids. Leading the pack whenever you can. You don't mind that I call you my baby, because that's just a word. You're a big girl in your own mind.

The biggest change I noticed was the day you became a Daddy's girl. Not that I mind. I honestly love this part of you. You've always loved your Daddy in a way so precious, but he has always come second to me. Before you knew what it meant, you would mimic your siblings and slur your own version of "I love you, Daddy!!!" as he left for work. Now you want to chat with him on the phone, snuggle with him in his chair, and wait for him by the door all day. Just the other day you wept and begged for him to "Take me! Daddy, take me too!". When Daddy's here, I'm still special, but I'm no Daddy. Part of me wants to be so happy and appreciate how timely your sudden switch to Daddy's girl was. I don't want you to be so jealous of your baby brother because he's going to steal your Mommy. Still, there's a part of me that misses being your number one. I get to be a little bit of that for you still when Daddy goes to work, but it's just another part of your grown up girl independence.

You're still growing, changing, and finding your own way to express the personality I've seen in you since birth. You're still my sweet, shy little girl, but I can see when we're out your humour and affection are starting to shine through to others. Those lucky enough to really get to know are already blessed by you. You've already managed to make a best friend (and got Mommy one too, thanks girlie) despite your shyness. I'm so glad to see other people falling in love with you too. I feel so blessed to be walking with you through these years, even though I find myself grasping at the last remnants of your fleeting babyhood. Just like you were clinging to me as a baby, I want to spend a lifetime clinging to you. You came into our lives in a moment full of prayer and grace, and have spent every second of your life pouring more of that grace into our hearts. I am so grateful that God gave you to me, and for almost two years I've been able to watch you grow into this incredible little person. From the second I knew you were in my womb, I knew I couldn't live without you. You are my sweetheart. You are my baby girl. You are in your own way the love of my life. I pray that I can be more like you, more loving, more gentle and yet more boisterous. I pray I can sing my heart out even if I don't know the words. I pray that I can give my heart fearlessly to those who love me most. I pray that you will always feel as loved as you truly are as our beloved child and as a daughter of God. I love you for who you were, who you are, and who you will be. Always and forever.

Love Letter: Monkey Boy

It seems silly to call you my Monkey Boy, but that's really what you are in my head. And you'd like that, knowing that I think of you as my Monkey Boy. Much better than calling you my baby boy. You hate being called a baby (well, most of the time). That's your sister's job. You're a big boy now, and in my own mind, so suddenly I can barely catch my breath. You've always been small for your age. You were even the smallest of all our babies at birth. I remember when you were born you came out so tiny (although you were just about the same size as your oldest sister, but after your big brother who had 7oz on you, you seemed tiny) and crying. You cried so hard for such a little baby. Those tears didn't last long though. You became quickly a very calm, serene baby. You were so calm I rarely knew when you needed anything. I had to guess a lot of the time and over time became in touch with your subtle cues. I remember so vividly how you were the delight of your brother and sister. They weren't jealous of you because, just like your Daddy and I, they were completely taken in by your charm. Your eyes were so big and such a deep blue. All of us were drawn into your sweet silence. Unlike your big brother, who was all rolls and chunkiness, you were a slim baby. When I held you I could barely feel the weight. I hated putting you down as I was so drawn to be near you in your calm silence and littleness.

Now that you're about to turn 3, I'm not sure that the word calm can be applied. Except for when you're asleep I suppose. You grew from a tiny little baby into a little man what feels like overnight. You waited so long to walk, clearly not feeling any necessity to get up and run with the big kids, as they were more than likely to stop and sit with you instead. You changed so fast I missed it. I went in to the hospital to have your baby sister and you were crawling, and I came home two days later to my little man, walking and owning the room. When I expressed my surprise and joy, you gave me a look that said "Well of course I can walk. I just didn't feel like it!". My baby disappeared and I came home to a big kid. You've done that to me a few times, my wild child. You managed to keep your code of silence for so long (with a few breaks for the usual Dadas and Mamas) and then one day, out of the blue, you started speaking in full sentences like it was the most natural thing in the world. There's no room for awe as you skipped past milestones at whatever pace you liked. In another flash I lost a little more of my baby, and found him replaced by this walking, talking, little man. I never had time to kiss my baby goodbye. He was replaced by a sticky, funny, noisy, running toddler.

So here were are now, and you're a toddler. Practically a preschooler really. You refused to be held back by anyone and have such a mind of your own. Inside your still small frame is all the force of a dragon. You'd like that too, me calling you a dragon. Don't worry, I know you're a friendly dragon. Some moments I see you and you're so quiet, the picture of the little baby who would lay in my arms all day and just smile. Then, all of a sudden, you're running, roaring, fighting, yelling and making sure everyone knows you're there. I say yelling, but I'm not quite sure you've mastered that yet. You have a voice and know how to use it when you're standing up to your big brother (who you can and do take in a living room brawl any day of the week), but when you want to talk to us, your voice is an earnest whisper, so quiet it's almost not a sound. The sweet, almost shy side of you comes out as you open your mouth wide enough to scream but then only squeak out a whisper. It's worth all the frustration trying to figure out what you're almost saying out loud when we do get it right and you dazzle us with your toothy grin before running off.

When you look back, I suspect you'll wonder why I think of you as my little monkey boy. Perhaps as you get older you'll forget what a hilariously sneaky toddler you were. We're getting ready to welcome our 5th child, and I've never met a child quite so hilarious and mischievous as you are. Besides your earlier (and thankfully now ended) penchant for wall art featuring the contents of your diaper, you have found a way to use your natural stealth to get in all sorts of messes. Just the other day I found you "baking" in the kitchen, which is to say I found you with a ridiculous amount of packages from the pantry broken open and poured haphazardly in a bowl on the floor. I'm still finding chili flakes around the kitchen. Besides your actual acts of mischief (and I could go on), you have quite a way of making the most serious conversation positively hilarious. You seem to have figured out that dramatic hand gestures as well as a few goofy facial expressions can get you out of most of the trouble in the world. For a boy with a talent for trouble, this is an important skill. You can pull faces that can make me laugh even when what I really wanted to do two seconds before was scream my head off. It really is a gift to me to have you there to clown around with me. You make me a better Mama by embracing your irresistible silly side whenever possible.

None of your goofiness gets in the way of how cuddly you still manage to be (even dragons and monkeys need their Mama sometimes). There's nothing you like better than when I sing you "your dragon song" (which for those who haven't watched the Robert Munsch Christmas special on Netflix is the song from "Love you Forever"). When you have a bad dream and you ask me to sing it to you, it reminds me that even though I feel like I've lost my baby, he's still in there somewhere, needing to know that his Mama hasn't forgotten him. Part of me hopes that that never goes away. Part of me hopes you never forget that being in the middle doesn't mean you only get a medium amount of love. I know that there are times when big sister needs help with school and baby sister (and soon baby brother) needs extra attention, but that doesn't mean that you are any less special than you were the moment I first held you in my womb. I'll never stop wanting to scoop you up when you're hurt, sing you your favourite song when you're sad, and hold you close for one more second before you run off on the fast road to being a big boy and then a man. Even if we have 100 babies, not one of them can take your place in my heart and in my arms. You will always be my baby, my little boy, my big man. And I will always be your Mama. I am so grateful that God gave you to me. He must have known how much I needed you, and how little my heart still was before I had you in my life. Since the moment I've had you, you've made me a better person because you taught me a lot more about what true love is. I'm so thankful that I get to spend the rest of my life knowing you, and learning from you. I love you more each day than I knew was possible. Thank you for being my boy.

I'll love you forever. I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be.
~ Robert Munsch

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Love Letter: Biggest Boy

I've decided that with a new baby coming, it would be a good idea to write a little letter to my older kids so that they can look back and know that regardless how many kids we have, each of them is precious and beloved. This is the second in my four part series, focusing on my second born child.

I often wonder how I should think about you. You're my big boy. My little man. My first born son. My easy baby. Finally a preschooler. We escaped your terrible twos (and dare I say more terrible threes) relatively unscathed. In my head you're still that chubby baby with a grown-up name, even though you're sprouting up in size and wisdom. I can still remember the first time I held you, and your eyes were exactly the same last night when you begged again to cuddle in bed with your Dad and I to watch a special about hockey. As much as you're like your siblings, you're also unique. Your eyes are blue, just like everyone else's, but they aren't an almond shape like theirs. Yours are a little bigger, a little more expressive, and they turn down at the corners, lending you a thoughtful expression. When you smile, your eyes turn into sweet little crescent moons, guaranteed to lift me out of any fog.

I love that you always have such a sparkle in your eyes, I find it hard to keep a straight face. You lift your eyebrows so high in surprise, joy, and laughter. I know it seems silly to talk so much about you physically, but you are so much your body. You own every part of your physical being. You have such incredible command of your body. You are like a force of nature. When you get up in the middle of the night, we can hear you coming from a mile away. Your presence is palpable, even when you think you're sneaking. And your sweet abandon with your body is so engaging and disarming, I find it hard to be firm with you as much as I should.

As much as you are physically in command of yourself, you're also very in touch with your spirituality and emotions. Your emotions come over you at lightning speed. As quickly as tears come to you, you can be soothed into a smile or even a laugh. You feel everything so deeply and love so intensely. You have an ability to love and show your love that is beyond my comprehension. You are quick to forgive, which is helpful since so often I am not the Mama you deserve. Because of your abiding capacity for love, you are rarely taken in by jealous thoughts. You would happily treat your sisters like princesses even if it means you're their servant and squire. Your brother is your friend, not a baby. He is your partner in crime, not your sidekick. You have never made either your brother or your baby sister feel too little or too slow to play with you. You'd happily play an easier game so that they can be included. Your personality is so strong and forceful, but you'd gladly push down your own needs for those around you. I have seen you gladly take the back seat so your siblings can have their moment. That being said, when it's your turn, you shine so brightly. You always have a story to tell, a dance to show us, or a song to sing. You wait patiently, but once it's your turn you demand the spotlight.

You, my son, are an incredible little man. You are curious, bold, fearless, and loving. You have taught me that no child is too young to dream big, love big, and live up to their potential as a child of God. You know as well as you know your own name that you love God and He loves you right back. Faith is a matter of fact for you. When you pray, you are chatting with your friend. When you sing, it's for the praise of God. No alleluia was ever so joyful as yours because you truly think being loved by God is something worth celebrating. You remind me daily how important it is to give my heart to God, because the rewards of peace and joy are greater than I could image.

Even though you are only four years old, I can see so much of the man you will become once you grow up. I can see a lot of your Daddy in you, and I don't think that will change as you get older. You already want to be just like him (you tell me every day) and you are his little mimic. You trail behind him, watching him and following his example of spirituality, generosity, and strength. As much as you drive me crazy some days with your wildness, energy and passion, it's those exact same qualities that make it impossible not to love you. You teach me so much in your openness and innocence. You have taught me the value of simple acts of love done quietly. That a smile or funny face can change the entire course of someone's day. Even in the womb you had a way of making people smile. I still remember when we took a recording of your heartbeat to share with your Godfather as a Christmas present to him. He couldn't tell what it was at first, but when we explained that the sound of the drum he was hearing was your strong little heart, he was as overwhelmed with love for you as we were. He was moved to tears and so were we. Even in the womb, you were breaking our hearts and making them new again. And I love you for every moment of glorious heart-breaking love you have shown me and those around you.

I love you for who you were the moment I knew I was pregnant. Even in the womb you were wild and joyful. The day you were born you already were looking to your Daddy more than anyone in the world. I love you for what you made of my heart the moment I was privileged to hold you and feel your love radiating towards me like an unquenchable flame. You made a place for yourself in my womb and my heart. You've known since birth how to push my buttons. I love you for who you are today, in this moment. The world hasn't touched your heart yet. You are entirely yourself, without care for what the world would like to make of you. You are unbroken and fearless passion. You are a walking emotion. I love you for the man I know you will become. You are too boldly yourself to ever fit into someone else's mold. You will become the type of man who will defy attempts to change your spirit, while still being the type of man that others will try to model themselves after.

I pray that as you grow, you continue to grow in the loving kindness so natural to you as you leave behind your child-like ways. I pray that you keep your joys, your faith, and your boldness. I pray too that no matter how big you get, you never get too big to love me with reckless abandon, in spite of my failings. I promise I will try to be an even better Mommy for you every day. No matter what, I will love you. Always and forever.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Baby 5: Week 37

How Far Along: 37 Weeks (3 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: I'm still fighting off the sudden spring cold I caught this past week, but I'm on the mend. My hips have also stopped feeling out of joint all the time, which I will take a good thing. I'm finding I'm carrying this baby different than Baby Girl. For one, I'm relatively sure that I had a much bigger placenta with her, and also I think she was lying with her butt sticking out. I feel like this baby has his bum at my back. I can tell things are getting crowded in there because he's spending less time rolling around, and more time with elbows and knees pushing against my tummy. My oldest was in this position even into birth, and only turned face down during labour. I suspect this one will be the same way. It's funny because even though I am getting bigger every week, I'm not experiencing the same level of torpedo belly I did with the last belly. When I compared pictures, I look about the same now as I did at 6 months pregnant with Baby Girl.

What I'm Thinking: My thoughts are really focused on enjoying every second with the 4 older kids. I'm trying to store lots of memories of them in my heart. What got me through my first natural labour last time was the thought of them, so I'm being more conscious about treasuring them. I know once the new baby arrives he'll be my world for at least a few weeks, so I'm trying to spend time with each of them talking to them about their special place in my heart.

What I've Done This Week: I've finally washed and folded (a miracle in and of itself) all of the newborn, 0-3 months and even 3-6 month clothes for the baby. I've been spending a lot of time fiddling with my hospital bag. Taking stuff out, putting different stuff in. I feel like I have diaper bag OCD sometimes. I've also been trying to dig into some of the chores that I've fallen behind on, particularly the laundry. The kids have so much in the way of clothes that it's not a big deal that I haven't been on top of things, but it's starting to look ridiculous in the laundry room.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: Speaking of the laundry, my big goal is to conquer the massive pile of overflow laundry that has been stewing in the basement for months. A lot of it is clothes that are now out of season or that the kids are growing out of (including old coats, extra blankets, etc) that I put downstairs for one last wash. With 4 kids that's made for an overwhelming pile that I can never seem to get through. Here's hoping I'll make at least a sizeable dent in it and maybe even see the end of it!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Love Letter: Big Girl

I've decided that with a new baby coming, it would be a good idea to write a little letter to my older kids so that they can look back and know that regardless how many kids we have, each of them is precious and beloved.

Dear Big Girl,

You and I, we have a long history. It all started around 8 years ago. I know you're only 5 right now, but I promise this will make sense. Before your Daddy and I were married or even dating, you were already a part of my heart. You see, one day in an uncommonly warm October, I was praying in a little chapel in a convent. I was sitting in front of Jesus, doing my best to give my heart to Him. For the first time in my life, God put a perfect picture in my head. I could see this vision with such abundant clarity and I still remember it today. What I saw was you, little girl. You were about 9 or 10 months old, sitting up on my lap. Your hair had that beautiful orangey-red tint it had when you were very little (I still see it in the summer light). I was sitting in our brown wooden rocking chair Nana and Granddad loaned to us and your Daddy was standing behind me smiling. We weren't sitting still, we were reacting to things around us. At the time, your Daddy didn't know, but ever since I told him I know it's given him lots of joy to know that God planned you before He had brought Daddy and I together. It took God another few years before that moment came to be, but I remember the day we were sitting together just like my vision, and I was so grateful. That's how, when I found out you were growing in my tummy, I knew you were a girl without any doctor having to tell me. Daddy and I even picked out your name before you were in my tummy because we both trusted God was going to bring you, our little dream girl, to us once we were married.

Since you've been born, you've given me so much joy. You have been the source of so many firsts for me. You made me a Mommy and through you I've learned so much more about love, caring, and compassion that I could ever have dreamed of knowing. You have always been a joyful, thoughtful and loving little lady. When I feel like I'm failing you as your Mum, you find a new way to show me that even though I'm not perfect, you keep turning out beautifully despite me. I love everything about you, from head to toe and all the in-betweens. If I had to pick one thing about you to say was my favourite part, I'd probably say how loving you are. You love your little brothers and your sister, your Daddy and I with a love I can only hope to emulate. You love yourself in a way that is completely unselfish and not at all vain. You demand of others the same unselfish love and respect. I also love how fierce you are in the face of injustice. When something doesn't make sense to you, or when someone is trying to hurt you, your gentle exterior melts away and you are so brave. You don't scream or hit, you use your words and stand your ground. Sometimes you even do this with your Daddy and I if you feel so strongly that we're being too hard on you. In the moment that may be difficult to deal with, but in the end I love so much how much you respect yourself that you won't face what you see as an injustice with quietude. As you get older, please don't lose this part of yourself. I promise I will nurture it as best as I can. I also love your faith. Jesus isn't just an idea to you, He's your comfort and friend. When you're sad or afraid, I often hear you alone in your room, turning to God to give you strength. Your faith is so natural, so unassuming. It's part of who you are at your core.

I could spend the rest of my life telling you everything about you that I love, but for today just let me say that I love you. I love you for everything you are to me and our family and our friends. I love you for the way you love others. I love you for the way you love yourself. As you get older, I can only hope that these beautiful parts of you that shine through even at the age of 5 keep getting brighter and stronger. I can already tell you're going to be an incredible woman. The kind of woman who takes the whole world on and challenges everyone around you to be a little better than just good enough.

Thank you for making me a Mummy. Thank you for teaching me what motherhood really means. Thank you for being my precious daughter, my collaborator, my co-conspirator, and my friend. Thank you for loving me, even through my worst days.

I love you, little lady. Always and forever.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Baby 5: Week 36

How Far Along: 36 Weeks (4 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: I suddenly developed a chest cough this week, but I think that's due to the pregnancy congestion dripping down my throat. I don't feel especially miserable about it. Whenever I cough and I hear the rasp from my chest I'm surprised. Other than that, I'm feeling well. I have lost my ability to keep my balance as it turns out. I tripped and fell twice the other day. Both times I landed on my legs so no worries about the baby (who by the way is rolling and kicking and being wild). I clearly need to spend less time trying to move. Sorry housework. haha

What I'm Thinking: Honestly my thoughts have been dominated with just surviving the next 4 to 6 weeks. I have a little laundry list (quite literally) in my mind of tasks I want to accomplish. I'm also spending a lot of my time thinking about how best to enjoy this last little bit of calm before the beautiful storm of a new baby hits the house. I'm working hard to take special time with each of the kids so that they feel as treasured and important as they truly are.

What I've Done This Week: More cleaning! I found another stash of baby clothes which I'm working on getting in the baby's dresser. I also brought down all the extra broken furniture and things of that nature that were taking up space in the nursery to put them out in the trash. My husband and his Dad also installed our new main floor toilet (no more preggo Mama running upstairs to pee or dragging on the two potty training kids hoping they don't pee on the floor first). We put the broken one out with the trash. What a satisfying feeling that was seeing the garbage collectors take what had only been taking up unwanted space in our house! I also spent some time while the kids were napping and sorted through their living room toys. I got another full blue bag of toys they either don't play with or ones they have double of. A few kids out there are going to be very pleased with some big yellow Tonka trucks their parents will find at our local good will! In other news I finally cleaned off the memory card for our camera (which also has batteries!) because it was pretty much full. We also made time on Friday to run by the hospital to pre-register. Happy to have accomplished so much!

What I Hope To Do Next Week: Because of the general mess in the laundry room, I haven't called yet for someone to pick up our unwanted appliances yet. Hopefully I can get that done this week. I also want to go through the kids upstairs toys one more time as I suspect there's at least another blue bag or two worth of stuff that would be better appreciated at good will. We're going to rearrange some furniture in the bedrooms upstairs so that we can start doing the flooring in the baby's room. I feel like we're finally getting a vision for how the whole upstairs will look. I'm very excited!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Baby 5: Week 35

How Far Along: 35 Weeks (5 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: I'm feeling ungainly large and am having some Braxton-hicks, but otherwise I'm feeling very good! This week I've been finding myself wanting to just get everything done! In a way it seems like my body is making up for the fact that my entire 2nd trimester was eaten up by colds and flus. I've been taking as much advantage of my new found energy as possible, getting things done around the house and cooking real food for my family.

What I'm Thinking: I realize in my mind that there's always a remote chance that I'll go around my due date, but I have really been coasting on the feeling I probably have at least an extra week of pregnancy coming my way. That being said, in the off chance I don't go overdue (like always) I've been thinking a lot about how quickly our lives are going to change. Baby girl is getting very close to her 2nd birthday and she's been the baby for the longest of any of our kids, so I've been trying to treasure my extra time with her while also getting her ready to be a big sister. I can tell she's going to be an amazing big sister. This week I've spent a lot of time thinking about how suddenly she's going to go from my baby to my big girl (which clearly a toddler bed, potty training and her sudden language skills didn't do for me! haha).

What I've Done This Week: I took all the bags and boxes of toys, clothes, and general household gear that we didn't need and put them out for a local charity to pick up. I had forgotten we had our third bathroom in our essentially unused basement full of stuff we boxed away before baby girl was born (yeah, we REALLY don't use the basement) so I took the chance to clear all of that out. Of course now that I have a taste for cleaning this up I want to do even more! I also got to cleaning a bit. My kitchen hadn't been properly cleaned (nor the dishes) since Easter, so I took a day and got busy doing that! Since then I've been cooking more real food for the family, including the pea soup I posted about yesterday, some of which I stored away in the freezer for after the baby is born.

What I Hope To Do Next Week: We got the number for our local used appliance pick up so we'll be saying goodbye to our unused (but perfectly functional) second fridge and freezer. If we're lucky they'll take the dishwasher too! We have two renovations to get done urgently, so this week we have to pick up the underlay for the flooring in the baby's room as well as a new toilet for the main level bathroom. We've been doing without for a few weeks and now that baby girl has decided she wants to potty train I know I'll need access to a toilet close by! We hope to install the toilet right away, and then move the last of the heavy furniture out of the baby's room so we can lay the flooring. Each project should take a day or two, so maybe by this time next week it'll be all about setting up! Once the baby's room is all together, I'll make sure to post some picture!