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!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Homemade Pea Soup

For some reason I can't entirely explain, we had a spare toupie ham siting in our fridge's freezer. Because it's such an odd shape it takes up more room than it deserves, so I decided to cook it the other day as a treat for my family. They've been smiling their way through more than their fair share of frozen food and Kraft dinner. After a marathon dish washing session I was feeling energetic, so I got to work. I learned from my mother in law that the best way to cook a ham (of any size) is to boil it in a pot of water with a teaspoon of sugar. After I've boiled my ham for at least an hour and a half I put it in a roasting pan with some of the water covering the bottom of the dish and finish it in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes. This produces a juicy, tender ham that's full of flavour. It also helps mellow out the natural saltiness of the pre-cooked hams you can buy at the store. I also save the water that I cooked my ham in to use as a sort of stock!

So, there I was with a reasonable quantity of leftover ham. I am not one of those who enjoys eating the same food for two days in a row. I am also not one of those who can be trusted to remember I have perfectly good food sitting in my fridge before it has spoiled. Quite the dilemma. I wasn't in the mood for a ham casserole (pregnancy belly and brain screamed no!) so I got to planning. We hadn't had my homemade pea soup since our oldest was a baby, and I suddenly had a hankering for it, so it was settled. I needed to have a meal for a family who'd just had a baby and I wanted to have some for my own freezer, so when I was doing my regular grocery shopping yesterday evening I added the few essential ingredients to my list! This is based on my Mom's recipe but I perhaps quintupled it. Feel free to reduce it to a more human amount. Or don't.


Leftover ham (cut into small cubes)
Ham water (sounds funny, but it's what's going to amp up the ham taste even if you don't have a lot of ham in the actual soup)
Celery (an entire bunch, diced)
8 medium carrots (diced)
2-3 onions (diced. I didn't actually put any in mine as I hate them)
3 450g bags of split green peas (rinsed)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Pepper to taste

You will notice that there's no salt in the recipe, but that's because the ham itself and ham water are salty enough! Prepare all the ingredients as noted and dump them in a large pot. The biggest you have considering how big the recipe is. Once everything is in there, turn it up to medium high and keep an eye on it. Once it's boiling steadily, turn the heat down to low and simmer until the carrots, celery and onion are very soft and the peas have turned into mush. Make sure to stir every so often as the peas will stick to the bottom. That's it! Easy recipe right? I made enough to fill 3 medium size containers plus I have enough for supper tonight. I can't wait to have a big bowl with the family (I may have already had a taste...).

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Spiritual Toddler

Yesterday I was lucky enough to have the chance to share about the hows and whys of Twitter with a dear friend of mine at our parish. She and I worked hard putting together a presentation and a nice hand out. We were going to deliver it as a team, passing back and forth and enriching what each other had to say. I was, needless to say, excited for the chance to help out. Our little Twitter tutorial was scheduled to happen after the Tuesday Coffee Social after morning Mass. The perfect time to bring the kids because there would be snacks to keep them happy and it was early enough in the day that they wouldn't be exhausted. We had even arranged for someone to entertain the kids, a friend of whom they are extremely fond. Unfortunately (well, really fortunately when I think of it!) he got called in to the work so I was flying solo. But that's okay! I am a pro Mom. I know how to prepare. I packed the kids up in time to get to Church a little before Mass and I brought up a kids table to set up my laptop so the kids could watch Netflix while we gave our short presentation (yay free wireless at the Church!).

We settled down in our regular weekday pew for Mass (yes, we have a regular spot). Our friend showed up and the three oldest kids stayed with her the whole time, happily cuddling and trying to kid with her. She and her husband are just like family. They're actually going to be baby boy's Godparents. We're so lucky to have them joining our family officially. But I digress. The kids were generally speaking awesome during Mass, excluding one outburst from the oldest boy who seems to believe that he can't pass through the line for Communion without getting a blessing from our parish priest, even if we're in another line. Huge drama if he doesn't get his blessing, regardless of how much I explain it's not appropriate to scream over a blessing and that he can get one AFTER Mass. Ugh. Anyway.... So Mass went very well all things considered.

After Mass was over we made our way to the room where we were giving the presentation. I set up a movie on Netflix, one I knew the kids would LOVE. I then snuck out to the reception and got a plate full of sweet and treats. Enough to make a lunch for my brood. Feeling like one of those Moms who can have it all, I get ready to help give the presentation about Twitter. A good number of people come in and take a seat and we get ready to start. And then the action really starts. Out of nowhere, my 4 year old boy loses it. Completely. For reasons that are completely obvious to him but ridiculous to me. He hasn't thrown a tantrum of that magnitude in half a year. It was epic. There was tears, screeching, screaming and begging. I had no place to put him in time out to cool off and his voice was so loud in the relatively small room. After lots of struggles I finally got him to quiet down. How, you ask? I ended up having to hold him, with his toy and book he brought, as well as a few crayons and a never ending supply of fresh paper for him to drawn on. I'm sure you know this, but I am over 8 months pregnant. Not exactly comfortable. But at that point I was willing to do just about anything to get him to calm down so my friend could be heard over the din and I could help in some small way. Crazy times.

Last night, as I sat steaming over my day, I  couldn't help but laugh. My boy is usually such a gentleman, especially in public. I'm sure he's either over-tired or coming down with something. In the moment I was swept up in the thought that he should know better than to act that way. In my late night reflection, I wondered if this is how I look to God? Are there times when I should know better, that I cry out to God in frustration and anger for things I don't really need? Am I a spiritual toddler, screaming in anger, telling God I don't love Him anymore because I can't have MY way, even if MY way isn't good for me? The difference is that while my patience was wearing mighty thin with my boy yesterday, God is endlessly patient with me. He sees me ignoring my blessings and crying out in my anger, but He still smiles at my littleness. He wants me to be better, to act my age (or spiritual age in this case) and make the time to listen to His voice rather than my own for a minute. He carries me through my weakness and then teaches me how to be strong. All I can hope to do as a Mama is to try and imitate God's fatherly love for me when my kids push my buttons, and hope that when I'm the one throwing a tantrum, that I learn to quiet my heart so I can hear Him whispering comfort and truth in my ear.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Baby 5: Week 34

How Far Along: 34 Weeks (6 weeks to go!)

How I'm Feeling: Despite how full I'm feeling right now, I'm feeling a little bit of energy. I'm waking up sooner and staying up a bit later. Okay, I'm also taking at least an hour to nap each day, but whatever. When I'm up I'm doing my best to play with kids even though I'm finding baby's feet are oppressing my lungs pretty consistently. I have a feeling I have another long baby nestled in here. He's busy kicking at all hours, particularly late at night and first thing in the morning. My back and hips are getting sore very easily too, but that's not terribly surprising considering the fact that I can practically feel my joints loosening and my ligaments stretching. Stretch and loosen all you want body. All the better to get this baby out quickly!

What I'm Thinking: I've started dreaming about delivery, which is exciting. I'm really dedicated to the idea of having another unmedicated labour, and as I've had, excluding all the colds, a remarkably easy pregnancy, I'm optimistic. So much of this pregnancy reminds me of my 4th one and that was the first time I managed to avoid an epidural. I feel strong enough to do it again. I want that faster recovery time, control while pushing, and lack of side affects. Plus, I want to get home to my other beautiful children faster. Having experienced it once, I know my wonderful husband has a better sense of exactly what I need to make sure I have another natural labour.

What I've Done This Week: This week I took full advantage of garbage day! I managed to clear out lots of broken and unusable stuff from the nursery (and other key locations in the house). I also made an appointment with a local charity that does pick-ups for donations. They're coming this Wednesday. I've got a pretty huge pile of bagged and boxed items for the big pick-up. It should only take one more day of hauling stuff out (with help from my dear hard working husband because what's left it by and large too heavy!) and we'll be ready to lay the flooring. I can't believe how much I accomplished in just a few days! What was keeping me???

What I Hope To Do Next Week: Because the charity doing a pick-up doesn't take big furniture, we'll have to get some help to drag out the bigger furniture we no longer need. We are finally taking our plan into action! All we'll have to do is get down the underlay and lay the flooring, then we can assemble the room. We have a crib waiting to be built, and all the other furniture is in there, so we're on the cusp of being ready. And not a moment too soon!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Pregnancy: Hobbit Edition

Now, before we get too far into this, I don't mean that being pregnant makes me the moral equal of a Hobbit. No Frodo am I. No Samwise. Yet I cannot ignore some similarities these days as I approach my 35th week of this 5th pregnancy. I was having a laugh about it on Twitter, but the more I think about it, the more true it seemed! For my own amusement and hopefully your own, here's a list of ways I am currently becoming like a Hobbit:

- My feet are getting bigger and flatter
- I seem to be getting shorter (okay, that's a stoop from heavy belly)
- I am hairier than I ought to be
- I am plump and have flowing hair that is getting curlier by the day
- I have desire to remain amongst other Hobbits
- I feel the need to have a fully stocked pantry at all times
- Many meals, in particular 2nd breakfast and elevensies (although mine are all small)
- Desire to lead a restful life (although that is foiled daily)
- Desire to avoid adventure (and by that I mean I literally don't want to leave the Shire, err... my house)
- My ring has become too great of a burden for my finger. For safety I have transferred it to a chain on my neck.
- A small, sparsely-haired and frequently grimy person is constantly trying to steal my ring for reasons I cannot understand, while squealing "miiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeee"
- Although I don't really crave adventure, I am on a long one with a decidedly difficult end in sight. I set out knowing the reward would be great.
- The longer I am on my journey, the less appetite I have and the more tired I become, and yet I forge on.
- On my journey, I have a faithful companion who would gladly pick me up and carry me on the last stretch, although the final act must be done by me

Alright Tolkien fans! Am I missing anything?

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Easter Without the Bunny

Every year since we've had kids we've tried to find a way to balance Easter with it's fictional side kick, the Easter Bunny. We're not so big on loading the kids up on candy, and aren't entirely keen on having to have what is essentially another opportunity to drain our pocketbook for toys our kids will forget about in a matter of minutes. We have a hard enough time with the seemingly unavoidable consumerism that has taken over Christmas, to willingly participate in the same misguided excess at Easter seems too much. So when push came to shove this year, we simply opted out of the Bunny of it all, and dove more deeply into the real reason for celebration, the death and resurrection of Jesus. And you know what? The kids didn't notice. They didn't complain. They didn't ask where their baskets were. We had lots of special family gatherings, ate more than our fair share of desserts and enjoyed each other. A little bit of chocolate found its way into their hands, which I had no problem with at all, as it came as the loving gift of family and not at the hand of a bunny on steroids.

So if we didn't have the Bunny, what did we do instead? After a long, TV free Lent (excluding joyful breaks for Papal election fun, a few very special feast days and Sundays), we watched a movie or two. The kids were overjoyed with the idea, although often they would just wander away from the TV to play. Go figure. We read lots of books. We enjoyed their Daddy's first 4 day weekend since they were born (excepting of course the birth of children). We ate home made hot cross buns (not exactly the best buns ever made, but the kids LOVED them. There's no accounting for taste). We went out for a big lunch at both our parents' places (ham and turkey!) and had our own quiet ham dinner. We talked a lot, played even more, and delighted in wearing our new Easter clothes. Each of the kids got to feel their baby brother kicking them through my belly! And that's just what happened at home.

The big thing that we did this weekend was celebrate Jesus and His gift to us! On Friday, we went to the Solemn Good Friday Liturgy, which was a few hours long. The two young ones fell asleep (baby girl on me, and little boy on our new baby boy's Godmother), but woke up in time to venerate the Cross. Little boy knelt and lovingly kissed the Cross with such complete faith I could barely hold back my tears. Big brother and sister also venerated the Cross with the same child-like faith. They've each heard of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, so they drank in the liturgy. We were blessed to have a sign language interpreter for our hearing impaired parishioners, and big girl was enraptured with her facial expressions and hand gestures. During the Psalm, which has a repeated refrain for the congregation, she attempted to imitate with some little success the complex sign language.

On Saturday night, I attended the Vigil Mass while the kids stayed home with their Dad. If I didn't have the pee every few minutes, I doubt I would have noticed that it lasted a marathon 3.5 hours! As I sat and listened to the history of salvation through the 9 readings and 7 psalms, I felt my heart drawn up in gratitude. I felt myself at each reading echoing the beautiful Hebrew phrase "Dayenu", it would have been enough, and with each new reading and then the sacrifice of the Mass I was reminded that God always goes beyond enough with His children. It made me want to be a better Mom, who doesn't allow "enough" to be my measure for how I show my love to my children.

On Sunday, we woke up bright and early. I had a dessert to get ready for our family lunch at the in-laws, which I managed in no time. Once the kids got up, I quickly got the kids dressed in their finery. The girls each had new dresses, and the boys got one more use out of their adorable dress suits (sadly biggest boy has outgrown his now). My husband and I did our best to look even half as nice as they did. He succeeded handily in his handsome grey pinstripe suit (he wore the dress pants, a nice shirt and the vest and he looked like a million bucks). As I'm getting to the point where I'm too pregnant for most of my fancier clothes, I opted for some dress pants and a nice shirt. Ideal for kid wrangling. Mass was wonderful! We had three infant baptisms, amazing praise music, and our usual high quality homily from our Pastor. The kids were filled with joy, and even baby girl got in on shouting ALLELUIA! All their talk revolved around gratitude, joy, and Jesus.

It was exactly what Easter should have been about. And no talk of bunnies. Or chickens. Or chocolate eggs. Or what present they were getting. We sat back and let the Church lead us through Easter, with faith, tradition, and gratitude. Without have to force them, our kids gladly kept their eyes on the Cross and joined with Mary in her awe over the empty tomb. The Easter Bunny is fine, and mostly harmless, but I'm glad we didn't put the effort into what would only have been a distraction for our kids.