Is the Plane Moving Mommy?

“Is it Mom? IS IT?  Are we going yet?  Is. The. Plane. GOING???”

This is an all too familiar version of the same relentless “Are we there yet” banter which accompanies every trip with kids, without fail.  This time we were all going to Maui.

Translation:  we were going to be on this very crammed aircraft for a really long time.

“Look out the window,”  I say.  “Can you see everything moving past?”

Noo,” my five-year old son says, “I caaannn’t”.  (Insert pained and impatient overtone).  “It is just clouds out there.  And they are not moving at all.”

“It’s ok buddy, we are moving.  I promise.” I tell him.

Trust  me.”

Five minutes later and at constant five-minute intervals for the duration of that flight, my little guy would ask,

“Are we almost there Mommy?  Are we there yet? WHEN will we be there Mom, WHEN?  This is taking so so long!”

“Be patient Oli.  I know being patient is hard.” I would say.

I should have just put that response on voice recorder and played it to him on repeat.  That way I might have been able to read a page of my book or shut my eyes for a while.  Retrospective genius is so unhelpful.

This conversation is familiar to me, and not just because I have it with all of my kids every time we take a trip.  It is the talking track which has looped endlessly in my own head everyday for the last few months.  I am having the conversation with the Big Guy Upstairs.  It goes something like this:

“Hey!  Excuse me? Sorry to interrupt but, am I getting anywhere close?  I mean am I getting anywhere closer to where it is I want to be?  Is this even the direction I am supposed to go?  Can you please give me some clue as to what that ‘right place’ looks like anyway?  At this point, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t recognize it if I saw it.”

I have these uncertainties because this plane or train or bus that I am a passenger on, seems like it is at a virtual standstill……kind of like the train my then soon-to-be-husband and I once rode from Jaipur to Varanasi, India.  This train moved, but there was as much sideways momentum as there was movement forward.

Lately I feel like this.  I have experienced tons of change.  Much of it has not been predictable and most of it seems meant just to shake me up, not move me in the general direction toward “Better.”  You are just journeying down this road of life, naively believing that everything is mostly always, pretty great. Then WHAMMO!  You get crosschecked, hard, right into the boards, and nothing is ever the same again.

Ever.  Even when it all looks the same, it is not.

So many things that I thought were’ done deals’, have fallen apart well after the point falling apart should have been possible. Samuel dying at 40 weeks and 3 days inside my womb was the first event in this series of the unexpected.  Clearly none of these other changes have had the devastating impact that did.

Compared to losing my baby, frankly, all other challenges pale.  My work situation, plans for graduate school, childcare; all of these facets of my life have abruptly changed over these past few months.  And each of these things have affected the others like an ironic game of dominos, jarring me into a sort of stunned standstill, and rendering me incapable of making decisions or trusting any I have already made.

These events are truly just bumps on the road of life.  But none-the-less, even a series of small bumps over time can create a sort of mental-emotional whiplash.  The cumulative effects are noticeable.  One begins to wonder what the hell is going on when every plan seems to get turned on its side over and over again.

It is not at all devastating, but all of this change of plans stuff is certainly surprising, annoying and somewhat confusing.  Will any path will lead anywhere you expect it to?  The over-uttered adage, “Everything happens for a reason,” becomes terribly trite and annoying at a point.

Maybe the message is this;

“Just sit back and let Me move this train you are on.  Know that even though it doesn’t feel like the train is going anywhere at all, it is actually going so fast that you can’t feel it move.  Look out the window….do you see Me?  I am the clouds you are watching go by.  I am right here with you.  I promise.  Trust Me.”

I guess all of this change, this sideways momentum, is just there to remind me that movement is happening.  There is no doubt about that.  The plane is really moving after all.

Now I will just have to learn to sit back and be patient.  Maybe Oliver and I can learn together.

Dads Deal With a Lot of Crap

You can tell a seasoned Dad by how he deals with crap.  All crap.  I mean literal crap.  Some people handle certain crap before becoming a Dad without issue.  Dog poop, cat crap, these sorts of fecal experiences are just doing your pet ownerly duty and the job gets done as matter-of-factly as mowing the lawn.  But when baby boy blue comes along and something that resembles hot dog mustard is up this kid’s back, down his legs, and has you wondering why you ever put the diaper on in the first place, y0u my friend, have just launched into Dealing with Crap for Dads Boot camp – DAY 1.

From this point on, your life is ruled by sh*#t.  It completely revolves around it.  One day you look up from your sweet little bundle of joy, and realize you are out of food.  This means one thing.  You must leave the house!  How do you do this with a 12 pound crap machine in tow?  Do you have a panic attack and then decide to skip getting food because you needed to lose weight anyway?  Is the thought of public diapering is so unpleasant that you drive yourself to distraction trying to time these events around your baby’s uh-hem, schedule.

Oh no Brave One!  No!  You diaper on the go;  in the backseat of the van, in the disgusting grocery store washroom, wherever you need to.  Baby bum changing on a change-table in the comfort of your own home is one thing, but now in order to keep living your life with this baby on board, you have to locate appropriate change venues wherever you venture.  It’s just part of it.  There should be an app for that.

On Baby #1 journey you think that diapering baby will be your most intimate experience with your offspring’s crap in your life.  And you rationalize that it’s ok because this phase doesn’t last forever.  Or at least that is what your laughing parents tell you.  But then you realize as that baby becomes a pooping toddler, that in fact yes, the crap phase really does last forever.  Now the crap not only stinks, but there is more of it.  And you find yourself battling your own gag reflex with a clothes pin squeezing your nostrils shut 3 times a day.  (What can I say, he is a prolific kid.)  “When will this end?” you shout.  BTW, you are also still cleaning up the dog crap and the cat crap because that job didn’t ever got re-delegated.  You just got a bigger dog.  With bigger crap.

So now you and your wife, who appreciates, so she says, that she is not the only one changing the stinky diapers, are so used to crap all day long that you begin to make a game out of it.  What the hell else are you going to do?  She even delights so much in sharing this experience with someone who is at least half as obligated as she is to change it, that she makes a rock, paper scissors competition out of the event every time the kid poops his pants.  So now each time junior does a big ugly in his Diego Pamper’s Cruiser, you guys are doing best out of three to determine who gets THIS one.  Luckily for the winner, there is now another baby in the mix quite happy to even out the tally as he is filling his newborn size 1 with that same foul looking mess you became acquainted with only 18 short months ago.

Deciding this is clearly insane, you embark on potty training your number 1.  Your mom assures you it will only take 5 minutes to do this.  Her kids were trained almost with no effort at all at 15 months.  So, in a moment of rare optimism and confidence, you buy a potty, some tighty-whities, and show them to your totally unphased son.  You put them on, show him the potty, and then change his tiny little briefs 30 minutes later.  Because he doesn’t care where he poops.  Only that you change him.  So you do.  And then you begin the bleaching 18 month old underpants as well as running around trying to convince him that all the cool kids go on the potty, not in the diaper, nor the underwear.  No one ever told you that crapping toddlers are way harder than the perpetual pooping babies.  How did that rather significant tidbit of info get left out of the ‘Baby and Me’ class you went to?

Fast forward for a second and a few more kids later, you are now the proud parent of a couple of young school aged boys who almost eat as much as you do at the young ages of 6 and 7.  They have the to power to clog a toilet like a man as well.  Guess who gets that excellent job?

You betcha.  ‘Cause you Da Man.  The Crap Man.  Now you have earned the title of expert.  Your wife doesn’t even touch that task.  She just turns her back, shaking her head and scrinching her nose.  And then she asks you to deal with the toilet.

“Why not me?” you ask no one in particular.  “Why the hell not?”  As you furiously plunge the disgusting downstairs toilet, your four year old starts yelling from the upstairs bathroom “DAAADDDD!  I pooooped!  Can you come and wipe my bum?  And check out how huuuuuge it is Dad!  It is EPIC!”

That weekend your house gets new heavy-duty high-efficiency toilets which could flush a basketball.  And you feel like the crap battle might almost be won.  You are getting smarter at this.  And by god you have earned the fancy new toilet.

Life is looking easier.  Increasingly now your kids’ toilet habits are usually not your problem.  Oliver mostly can reliably wipe his own backside, and your wife manages the exceptions most days.  So you get your kids some ferrets.  Because you think the kids need more exposure to little creatures and they will be fun.  And they are litter trained when you buy them.  This should be a crap-neutral experience.  “What is another litter box?” you think to yourself.

And then the morning after you get them, your boys run upstairs out of breath to your side of the bed.  “Dad”, they pant.  “Dad!  The ferrets…….the ferrets have pooped all over the wall!!”

That’s right.  They call YOU.  Why?  Because no one deals with crap the way a Dad does.  That honour is fully yours to enjoy.

Happy Father’s Day guys.  Thanks for taking so much, well, crap.

We love you for it.

In Our House, Barbie Plays with Batman

In our house toys are toys.  We have consciously attempted to avoid labelling things as boys’ or girls’ toys and have encouraged exploration outside of what conventional marketing would dictate.

My nine year old son just finished playing Calico Critters animal doll set with his 3 year old sister and 4 year old brother.

Earlier today my daughter came in from outside, upset that her brother didn’t want her to play the make believe soldier game.

When my big boys were younger, I bought them a toy kitchen. (Gasp!) They loved it.  They also had a grocery cart, toy food, a cash register.

There are all sorts of costumes in the kids’ tickle trunk; superhero costumes, wigs, funny glasses, animal costumes, old skirts of mine and funky hats.  The skirts were in the tickle trunk long before my daughter was even a glimmer.  My boys use it for capes and wear it as a skirt when their creative play requires a femme fatale.

These same boys have watched the Little Mermaid movie over and over.  Currently, my daughter’s favourite move is “Zoro”.  Clearly, our children do not realize that they are breaking all of the gender limitations on toys and play.  What rebels!

We have embraced the idea that all toys are for all kids,   no matter their colour or target market audience. Imaginative play should be just that, imaginative.  The whole point is that kids can be any character and wear any costume, no matter the gender.

A few years ago my mom brought over my old worn out Barbie dolls from my childhood.  The boys played superheroes and civilians with them.  One afternoon my oldest sons had two of their friends over.  The Barbies were in a pile with the “guys” a.k.a the superhero figures.  These two boys laughed.  They asked my big kids why they played with ‘girls’ toys.”  The question was asked with a distinctive mocking tone of voice.  Not one that was lost on my sons either.   My children were surprised.  It hadn’t occurred to them that these were girls’ toys.  They had always just been…….toys.  Sadly, then my boys felt embarrassed.  I could see it on their faces.

My boys came to me confused and upset that their friends were making fun of their toys.  I approached the kids and explained that in our house, toys are toys and colours are colours.  There is no such thing as toys only boys or girls can play with and enjoy, or colours that only boys or girls can wear or call their favourite.  These boys looked shocked.  This idea was completely out of their frame of reference. They had never heard of such an insane idea!

“Now,” I said to them, “imagine the possibilities.  There is a world of toys out there that you didn’t even know you were allowed to enjoy!  Have fun!”  Then I left the room.

Upon returning, worn out Barbie was battling Batman in an epic save the world battle.  And all of the boys were playing.

 

Top Three Things Which are Impossible to Teach Kids

A few things must be noted before I go on.

1)  I confess that this list is biased based upon some of my own recent frustrations.

2)  This is not a complete list by any stretch.  These are just a few little things which make the day to day round exponentially harder or easier depending on;

     a) How many of the things on the list you are attempting to accomplish and,

     b)  How many small ones you have currently battling to learn any of the items listed.

The Top Three Things Which are Impossible to Teach Kids:

1.  Putting on mittens.  (This could also be on Top Three Most Frustrating Things to Teach Kids list)

Gloves are even worse.  I have collapsed, close to tears on many a walking path in winter trying to get a glove on my baby/toddler/preschooler for the umpteenth time.    You just get each tiny little finger lined up with each finger in the glove, and push…….the thumb never seems to make it! You’d think I’d have figured out a foolproof system for this, given the number of kids I have.  But nope!  No system here.  I have no advice for new parents on this front.  But I have become a master at cursing imperceptibly through pursed lips while putting on said gloves/mittens.  I could offer excellent lessons in the art of that!

My big boys were five before this task became somewhat less painful.  My youngest could do it when she was two years old.  Yet, I did nothing different. They get it when they get it.

2.  Blowing their nose.

This one is impossible to teach I have decided.  I have tried demonstrating the in vs. out technique, prompted them to “blow out like an elephant,” which has obvious associated risks for the young observer, and even cued them to “Sniff like you are smelling a flower, and oops you sniffed up a bee!  Now snort it out.”  Nothing. They sniff it up or blow out with their mouths. (Although, how cute is that?) The snot battle wages on.

They just get it when they get it.  One day, suddenly instead of wiping endless snot all over their faces and the backs of their hands, they are blowing it into a tissue.

Hallelujah!!

3.  Toilet training

Currently, I am sitting in my bathroom, barricading my little one in here with me and giving her the perceived “choice” of potty or toilet.  I have told her we are not leaving until she makes a decent effort to be productive on either one.  We have been here for 15 minutes and counting.

My second child was fully capable of toileting at 16 months.  I’m serious.  I did nothing special to achieve this.  He was ready and so he did it.  With this little monkey, I have bribed – no, ‘provided incentives’, from Dairy Milk Chocolate Buttons and Smarties, to coveted comfort items, etc. etc., but she is my most resistant yet.  She has switched between the potty and toilet now 5 times, and nothing.  Arrrgggh.  So much for the whole “girls are easier than boys to toilet train” theory.

And yes, yes I have read THAT book with the title which promises your child will be trained in a weekend.  Oh yes, and the other one which promises five days until certain victory.  Got them all right here.

If there is anything that having kids teaches you, is that there is not one formula that works for every child, and that is isn’t always about you being an ineffective parent or not having availed yourself of the ample resources about any number of pressing parenting concerns which come with the turf.  The more kids we have, the more I know this is an absolute truth.

Certain milestones are just difficult until suddenly, they aren’t.  That is just the nature of these little beasts.  And just when you think you have figured that one key thing out, and assume with oh-so-much confidence, that you will be ever-so-prepared for the next child you take through that particular stage of development, they play with your mind.  That next child has no trouble with that particular skill, the same one you went to painstaking efforts to teach the previous kid.  It will be a different task that they just won’t be able to do as easily as the other child.

Case in point:  I am still with my daughter in the bathroom.  We are now on minute twenty………

It’s a good thing I love chocolate buttons.

In Search of Lightness and Belonging

I see Moms at the preschool my little boy attends, standing at the entrance, laughing and chatting, their toddlers jostling around at their feet.  There is an easiness  to their interactions and lightness in their demeanor.

I used to join them.  Now, I do not.

Now, I stand just outside the group, busily checking my phone or studying the notice board.  I avoid the opportunity to engage at all costs, avoiding eye contact, and purposefully excluding myself from conversations.

I used to be at the centre of the group chat, rallying back and forth with the other parents, encouraging and humouring.  Our momentary interactions seemed to spur us on to make it through one more menial challenge, and collectively celebrating the small victories of parenting young children.  It was as if this camaraderie carried us forward to the next part of our daily round.  I loved these shared moments with other mothers.  Our animated discussions were for me, an outward celebration of doing this “Mom thing” in a community of people I respect just because they show up everyday and put their best foot forward.  I felt inherently connected to these women simply because we were all doing the same thing; being Moms.   I am fierecly proud of being a member of this club. But now I just don’t  feel like I completely belong.

Why is it different now?  I am still a Mom.  I am a mother to my four children here, and to my angel Samuel.  Losing my fifth child should not change how I connect to other mothers.  I have been a mother for 9 years, and still am.  So why has losing my baby changed how I identify with this group?  

Somehow it has, and I hate it.  I don’t understand this change.  I suppose I resist connecting with these women because these mothers, whom I now watch from a distance, all seem to have their bubble of innocence still well in tact.  They haven’t touched this part of motherhood; the part where you have to let go of your baby with no say in the matter.  The part where you did everything right, and still things went completely wrong.  I envy the innocence of this perspective, because I used to have it.  God how I miss it!  I miss the optimism.  I miss the “everything generally works out just fine” viewpoint.  I even miss thinking that small problems were bigger that they actually were.  Part of me yearns to find that again, to let myself be tricked into believing that everything is ok, and that it is ok to let go and let the light in.  I crave to be able to chat with other parents about the menial aspects of life and parenting without wanting to shout, “This doesn’t matter!  It doesn’t matter that you are tired because you are up all night with your baby, or that the hardest part of your day is trying to manage a playdate with school pickups and going to Costco!”  Because of course it matters!  The day to day round is what being a mom and a parent is all about.  I just can’t seem to let go so that I can converse with others about the smaller aspects of the everyday.

Will I ever see things without this filter of fragility and powerlessness?  I wonder if I will ever feel it is worth my energy to connect with my community of Moms unless I know them well.  I really want to feel inclined to try.  But  I just can’t summon the courage to engage with others the way I used to.  I guess I want them, those “other mothers,”  to know this thing about me.  The thing that happened to me that explains the cautiousness that veils my eyes and the wariness in my smile.  If I could just announce the news first, maybe it would feel easier to be amongst them.  If I were to stand up initially and say, “Hi, I am so and so, and I lost my baby boy 10  months ago.”  In other words,   “Treat me tenderly. I don’t know how to relate to you without you knowing this about me.  Help me find my way back to belonging.  And yes, please, please ask about him.  Please don’t avoid the topic.  That feels false and even more painful.  I want to share him and my experience just as you want to share your stories about your 10 month old.  Samuel would have been 10 months too.”  

I guess maybe that would feel just a tad awkward in a large group.

This experience I have been through though is not mine alone.  Sadly there are so many who have walked this road.  Perhaps even in this community of mothers I belong to, there is a Mom who knows this same truth about life and loss. Maybe she will recognize this pained look right behind my strained smile.  Maybe she will reach through the invisible barrier, and help me re enter this world I know so well and miss so much.

I hope she sees me.  I hope she recognizes my discomfort, and gently helps me find my way back to belonging.

The “Why Have More Babies” Debate

This was the debate my hubby and I were having last night over a glass of wine.  Perhaps you can guess which side of the debate each of us were on?  I do, he doesn’t.  It is that simple.  And therefore it is so complicated.  It seems we cannot effectively have the conversation about another child without seriously reflecting on what it all means that our son died, what we have taken from this experience so far, and where we go from here.  We were “done” having children at four, and felt very pushed at the idea of five. Given our last pregnancy was a surprise and was a serious miracle at that, it seemed out of our hands and meant to be.  We were thrilled!  Our worlds both changed first because he lived, and then entirely because he died.  These changes have been uniquely profound for me, as the mother in the equation. Not that I believe my husband has not been changed.  He has, but our experience of this event has impacted us differently.

The physical and emotional connection I had with my baby was so immediate and tangible.  Nothing about Samuel was theoretical.  He was real time for me.  Every kick and turn and twitch I felt in my own body and heart all at the same time, and his health and safety was mine alone to ensure.  Or so I thought.  The loss of him did not protect me from all of the post partum experiences a mother of a new baby has.  I just didn’t get to have him to share them with.  My body had no outlet for the hormonal changes I was enduring.  It has been the single most painful thing I have ever gone through in my life.  And because of that, the lessons I am learning from this experience have been life altering.

When I reflect back on the loss of our little one, I can tell you that I had a sneaking suspicion, a funny sense, something that didn’t feel right, throughout my pregnancy.  Only in retrospect does it all fit together and I now recognize that this unsettled feeling foreshadowed that Samuel was not going to be with us in the end.  None of my gut feelings really served to change the outcome or prevent what happened to our baby, because his death wasn’t predictable or preventable.  This is the medically validated truth.  I am at peace with this fact now most of the time. Yet I am told by an experienced obstetrician that 99% of the mothers in his practice who have had still born babies subsequent to other live births, say that they too just didn’t feel right. They had a funny feeling, but they just didn’t know what it was.  Something felt distinctly different. Only later can we know what to attribute that feeling to.  

Because of this experience, I have resolved to reconnect with my gut feeling in a very intimate way.  I am purposely tuning into this intuition every day and giving it more airtime when I am trying to make decisions, big or small.  It is like Samuel is telling me “Mommy, listen to your heart.  Trust your instincts about every single thing.  Know that your mind cannot make sense of all of what you feel in a place that is deeper than your thoughts can reach.  Be in synch with your intuition and faith and follow it where it takes you.  Even if it doesn’t make sense.”  I imagine this is his voice speaking, because this is the most life changing and profound lesson my baby boy gave to me.  This was his gift.

So now my gut feeling is strongly telling me to go forth and make a baby!  The trouble is, my husband has to agree with my gut feeling’s advice.  That’s the tough part.  For him another child doesn’t “make sense.”  My gut feeling doesn’t care.  But as a responsible adult, I know that I must put a gag order on Mr Gut Feeling for a moment, and try to assess the idea of another baby from a pragmatic standpoint.  Husband is worried that I want a baby to replace the one we lost.  This seems a reasonable and even necessary thing to suggest, I am sure.  It must even seem like  a responsible question to ask.  But it makes me want to shout, “If it were only that simple, it would be done already!”  I swear with my right hand on the Bible, I am fully aware that replacing Samuel is not possible.  We are not talking about say, the dead cactus in the living room.  You pop it out of a pot, toss it, and in goes the new cactus.

Nope, this is not the same thing.  

However, losing a baby for whom you have prepared and made space, does leave a void in your life.  That space is his alone and it will always be there.  Protecting that space is your job as your child’s parent.  You say his name, show his picture, honour his memory and talk about him freely.  In doing so, the space continues to exist and remains only his forever.  But losing your baby also opens up the idea that there is room.  Maybe even room you didn’t think you had before, and now you know you do.  You hold the space in your life for a while and try to imagine different things that might fit there.  For me, the space is there for a new baby.  Nothing else fits like that does.  And nothing about that is pragmatic.  That is my loud mouthed gut feeling weighing in. I try to ignore it for a moment, so that I can think logically.  I ask myself, “If Samuel was here today, would we try to have another child?”  The answer is no.  “Did we ever plan for five?”  No.  “Would having another baby facilitate more life balance?”  Unequivocally no.  “Would having five be financially beneficial?”  Duh?  HELL no.  You don’t have kids because they make sense financially, ever.  “Can we afford one more?”  Probably, unless something went totally wrong, but the tally sheet is still in favour of the status quo. So why in the world are we even having this discussion?

Because it is a deep and unrelenting desire.    I feel it past the tips of my toes down to the depth of my soul.   And from there I feel peaceful and things feel right.  It is that simple.  There are practical disadvantages to having another baby in the short term for sure. But I also feel more willing and able to problem solve some inconveniences.  In our case these concerns are not remotely insurmountable.

So that is it.  I want another baby.  He is not convinced.  Now what? It is now just hubby and me and the bottle of wine.  We still aren’t on the same page.  Let’s hope we can both find some way to come together in a way that respects both of our hearts’ desires.

Wish us luck.

 

Kudos to you, fellow Moms in Action!

It is the beginning of October.  This means September has come and gone in a flash, and I think I am not alone when I say I am now just stopping to catch my breath.  It is almost a miracle that I am able to keep track of where everyone needs to be and at what time, never mind juggling dinner, laundry, tidying up and groceries to boot.  Throw in working outside the home, and you have, ladies and gentleman, a modern day miracle.  I know I am not the only one to stand back, breathless, and wonder how it is that all the moving parts in our lives managed to coordinate and not collide!  My dear friend recently emailed me with some kudos.  She hailed me as a “warrior woman” whom she admires for doing this juggle everyday.  It felt so delightful to have received this intentional shout-out from my friend and fellow Mom in Action.  Moms everywhere do these very things daily.  I am not singing a new song when I recount my daily round.  But to stop for a minute and say to another who is slogging it out in the trenches of motherhood, “Hey there!  I see you!  You are doing a great job!  You GO!”, is a gift to the one we acknowledge and to ourselves all at the same time.  We are all women warriors doing our very best everyday.  Being proud of this role and supporting each other in it, is paramount to our success as mothers and as a community.

The trouble is, that I don’t think we often view our roles as moms as requiring skills and expertise.  We take them for granted.  I think we just go out the business of momming without realizing or remembering the learning and evolution it took to get here.  What if we stopped for a minute to consider the value we bring to our role as mothers in the same way we might examine the value we bring to our workplace or business? Have you ever stopped to ponder the skills you have learned and honed from your role as a mom? Have you ever stopped to really consider what value you bring to your little enterprise of Joe S. Family?  I wonder, what if moms everywhere, and by that I mean ALL moms; full-time stay at home moms, part-time working moms and full-time working-outside-of-the-home-career moms, were to examine for a moment our roles in the home?  Would we fully appreciate what we learn from this role and what we contribute to it? Would we pat ourselves on the back more often than criticizing our lack of perfection?  Would doing so change the satisfaction we might derive from our role as mothers and keepers of the home front?

The truth is, the “job” of being a mom is a series of more or less mundane tasks which we do over and over AND OVER again in an effort to care for and nurture children, run an efficient home, and hopefully facilitate the development of happy, healthy, productive adults.  That is our goal.  We of course willingly (mostly) take on the extras as well, the enrichment aspects of this chosen position;  the epic party/ play-date/ event planner, the team manager, the chef and chauffeur, nurse and first responder, the expert Lego engineer.  Often times we experience many of these roles all within mere seconds of each other, changing hats and personas like a Mrs Potato Head extravaganza.  These are skills, each and every one of them. So why is it then, that if you ask a mom who is at home with her kids for a period of time, or has chosen not to work outside the home at all, “What she DOES?”,  this mother will say, somewhat sheepishly or dismissively, “Oh I’m just at home with my kids.”  Why is it that there is an element of apology behind this admission? I wonder how warrior women, aka mothers, everywhere would perceive ourselves, if we were to look at our role and life at home as a career? What if we were to list our skills and deliverables as we would in a resume?  I think we would be incredibly impressed at what we could actually write, if we gave ourselves the chance.

Kudos Moms!  Keep up the great work.

Death and pancakes

“So is your blog going to be mostly about death and grief stuff now or other things too?” my husband asks me over Saturday morning cappuccino on our patio.  It was a good question, and one I have pondered at length as well.  “Because, you know,” he says, “that would be kind of a heavy topic all of the time.  Maybe a bit of a downer?”  I’m not sure if he meant a downer for him have to read or a downer for me.  Either way, probably true.  “No……not just death and grief stuff.” I replied.   “It’s about my life as a Mom, and our adventures with our crazy kids.  Now death and grieving is just a part of my story too, of our story.  I really can’t write one without the other. ”

Here is a perfect example.  Two short weeks after Samuel’s death, we decided we needed to return to some “normal” routine for our sanity and for the kids’ sake as well.  In our home, on at least one morning on the weekend, it is a tradition and expectation, that for  breakfast my hubby and I will produce nothing less than a mountainous stack of buttermilk pancakes, served with maple syrup and either thick cut bacon or locally famous Spolumbos sausages.  We agreed that the time had come to return to pancake Saturday.  Trying my best to muscle my way back into the happy weekend spirit, I whip up the cakes while my husband mans the meat.  I call the big boys up from their video game and ask my  three year old son to put the cutlery on the table.  Our little girl busies herself pulling her high chair over to the table, and attempts to climb into it.  She had just turned two and had been so excited to have her “new real one baby” arrive.  It broke my heart to tell her the news.  We had explained why Mommy had gone to the hospital and not returned with the new baby, and why my tummy wasn’t so big anymore.  We had cried in front of our children and with them, and had all attended Samuel’s memorial service, but the truth is, it was hard to know how much about the death of the baby that the little ones really understood.  But pancake Saturday was our attempt to be lighthearted for a little while and not mention the topic of death and the baby for a few minutes.

Everybody digs into the morning feast with enthusiasm.  We enjoy a few uncommon and ceremonious moments of silence while all mouths are full.  And then our innocent daughter stops eating, looks at me and says, “Mommy?  Baby Samuel not in your tummy, right?”

“No angel,” I reply quietly, “new baby Samuel has died. ”

 “And Mommy?” she continues, “baby Samuel not coming.”  

“That’s right darling” I say, the tears now starting to surface.  ” New baby Samuel is not coming.”  So much for avoiding the topic.

“Mommy?”  She says once again, but more slowly this time.  “New baby Samuel not eat pancakes…….. Ever.”

Her big blue eyes are looking straight into mine.  There is no doubt now,  in anyone’s mind that she really does understand what has happened.  I shake my head and reply,

“That’s right sweetheart.  Samuel will not eat pancakes.  Not ever.”

And that is how it is now in our family.  We eat pancakes and discuss Samuel’s death and then tell our three year old to chew with his mouth closed, because real life keeps happening while we encounter death.  It is all a part of the same journey.  And who says two year olds are too young to “get it” anyway?  To a two year old, death simply means no pancakes.  Ever.  

What a gift to know such simple truth.

The BIG birthday

As I sit and contemplate the last couple of hours of my thirty-ninth year, I can’t help but feel combination of mild amusement, and an indulgent dose of self pity.  I am 38 weeks pregnant, have conjunctivitis, an ear infection,  and a sore throat.  Translation; I can’t put on shoes without getting dizzy, have hearing loss in one ear, am wearing sunglasses in the house, and am craving jello and clear fluids. Apparently 40 is the new 80.  To add insult to injury, I have been cleaning up puke and other unpleasant bodily fluids from my two youngest children since 4 this morning.

It is now 10 pm, and thankfully, the children are sleeping soundly.  I finally have a moment to sit on my couch and put my feet up.   I look over at my gorgeous husband, who has just done a late night run to the shops for diapers and Dolce de Leche Haggen Daaz, and who, despite my septic appearance, still somehow thinks I am worth hanging out with. I lament that spending the eve of my 40th birthday up to my elbows in vomit and so pregnant I can barely catch my breath, is a far cry from the romantic storm watching excursion on the West Coast I had envisioned for this epic milestone.  Isn’t it ironic that although I couldn’t have planned a less optimal birthday situation if I had tried, I still feel a kind of contentment that no amount of perfect event planning could ever provide?

I think of my little Oliver’s big earnest eyes begging me to stop the throw ups from coming; my sweet little firecracker Zoe stroking my cheek saying “My lub you Mommy”; my brown eyed, soft-hearted Jacob affectionately saying good night to his little sick siblings;  and my sweet Liam, all legs and front teeth, wrapping his arms around my round belly for a goodnight hug.  I know that this is my bliss.

I see my big, patient brindle dog who though he knows is not getting a walk tonight, still loves me anyway;  my tireless husband, just back from a hockey bingo so exhausted that he falls asleep on the couch literally 5 minutes after he collapses into it; and my comfy home which envelopes me  in its warmth.  I know without a doubt, that I am living my happily ever after.

There is no better way to spend a birthday than that.

Our happy circus

As I sit down to start this blog, I am interrupted 6 times before I have even completed this sentence.  No joke.  I am pretty sure any future entry will be no different for a very, very long time.  I am the mother of four awesome kids aged 8, 6, 3 and 2, and am about to give birth to our fifth bundle of joy any time now; hence the name of my blog, Five under 8.  At this point, my husband has known me longer pregnant than not, and I have more “transitional” pieces in my wardrobe than any garment I could identify with for longer than a month or two.  Admittedly, I am one of THOSE annoying women who actually enjoys being pregnant and even manages to feel beautiful through most of it, although I have finally reached the point where I can say that I am absolutely and unequivocally DONE.  I am tired of being pregnant, out of breath, and uncomfortable. I am excited to be beyond the stage of producing these little humans, and be entirely devoted to raising these little humans.

We had always planned on a largish family, and wanted them close in age.  The plan however, was for a family of between 3 and 4 children, so this little one took us all quite by surprise.  I had donated all baby clothes no less than 2 weeks after our youngest had outgrown them and had gleefully tossed the gaudy plastic exersaucer the moment she had reached the weight/ height maximum.  Upon realizing that our well laid plans to reclaim some semblance of balance and personal time had been usurped by an unexpected twist of fate, I faced a set of emotions that I had not experienced with any other pregnancy.  I was panicked, terrified, and angry that the so-called birth control we used had failed to deliver on its promise to do just that.  Thankfully, I got over that relatively quickly, and am proud and delighted to have a larger-than-most family.  Contrary to popular assumption, I don’t actually have a huge tolerance for disorganization or noise, but am learning to embrace the chaos of my happy circus.  I do fully appreciate the gift that each of our children brings to us and each other, and in an effort to remember and honour each crazy moment, I have created this blog to record and share my musings on it all.

I hope you enjoy it.

Sincerely,

Shannon