Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Summer!!!

Today was the last day of school. We had meetings for the morning, which is NOT my favourite way of spending time. I'm the primary lead teacher for 2011/2012 and I got a glimpse of what I will be facing next school year - to be honest, at times, working in a sea of women isn't so much fun. They can be downright nasty and today I dealt with a situation in which a group of who I might refer to as the "in" crowd were quite nasty to someone who is "out" due to no fault of her own. It really frustrated me. By the time the day was over, I was LIVID and frustrated. What a good time to go off for two months out of that environment!

So, I plan to have a summer of fun - music class with Baby Bean, swim lessons with Pk, weekly trips to the local farm that has a playground and to which we have a season pass, several trips to the city and up to visit the in-laws up north. I can't wait!

I thought I would just share a couple of cute photos. Last night we had "teddy bear" stories at the library. As you can see from the bottom photo, Baby Bean loved the big teddy his friend R brought.

(And, by the way, I got permission from everyone to post the pic of the kids)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Baby Bean Turns 1!

I had meant to write this post over a week ago but life has been so busy, it just didn't happen. As I prepared for Baby Bean's party last weekend, I kept being struck by how strange it was to think that just a year ago, I had never met him and he hadn't transformed our family into a family of four. That's so hard to imagine. I must admit, I also had many sad moments, pondering the baby routines and activities that would never come my way again (we are basically agreed that he is our last baby :-(.

I decided to make the theme for his party "The Teddy Bear's Picnic". I had so much fun planning. I handmade invitations (which aren't posted here because they had his name prominently), I spent a ridiculous amount of time on gift bags (these were hand decorated, too) and the food was all teddy themed as well. To top it off, when I called a friend who has been collecting teddies for years and had mentioned that she was doing a cull of the collection, not only did she offer teddies for the kids to take home, she also offered us her farm which has "bear" in its name for the location. It was marvelous. I scoured for gift bag items, given that we had quite an age range of guests (our little guests ranged from 8 months to 8 years old since we included several kids from the home daycare Pk and Baby Bean attend and local friends with children of similar ages to ours) and several of our guests are gluten free/dairy free. I couldn't believe my luck in shopping. I went with honey as a major theme (connected both to bears and to Baby Bean being able to eat honey now since he is a year old) and I even found, for a ridiculously low price, toddler cutlery with honeybees on the handles for the guests too little for the gummy bears, teddy graham crackers and teddy bear stickers that were part of the gift bags. I scoured for honey recipes (I did a honey dip, teddy bear shaped honey sandwiches, honey/peanut butter treats and honey cornflake treats) and found a cute cupcake recipe with teddies (that I managed to make dairy free - gluten free cupcakes came from a bakery).

It ended up being an almost perfect day despite our missteps - dh forgetting the cooler with all the fruit, veg and sandwiches at home, the table leg breaking off, I realised when I went to take the first photos that my camera battery was almost dead, etc. The weather was hot and humid but we were in the shade and the views at the farm were stunning. It ended up being a day that I will always remember fondly (if with a bit of exhaustion).

Now, it's on to planning our next birthday party in September for Pk who insists she wants a "fairy princess tea party" (and most the guests she wants to invite are male!) In the meantime, I am just so grateful to have my little birthday boy and the wonderful friends who celebrated with us. I feel so blessed.

Summer is Here

We've had rhubarb custard pie, the church picnic, our peonies have been battered by rain and school is out on Thursday. All of the harbingers of summer have arrived. I am so excited! I'm not a huge sun worshipper but I adore the relaxed atmosphere that comes with summer and the leisurely pace.

Every year, summer comes and goes and I realise that I haven't done most of the things that I wanted to do. This year, I am making a summer list and I plan to try and cross everything off my list before we go back to school in September. Maybe posting it here will make me accountable. Here's this year's list:

-pick strawberries and make jam
-eat dinner outside at least once a week
-read outside at least once
-make zuchini relish
-take the kids to the farm once a week
-do something special for Canada Day
-do a BIG clear-out of junk at home so that I can go back to work with the house in better shape
-memorize Psalm 91 (one of my favourite pieces of scripture)
-have music on all the time
-plan Pk's birthday party with enough time before that I am not CRAZED the week it happens
-take Pk at least once to the wading pool at the end of my parents' street in the big city
-have at least one picnic using my picnic basket and eaten on a blanket
-swim in fresh water at least once (probably while visit my parents or the in-laws)
-spend as little money as possible as we launch into our "Total Money Makeover"
-sit with the lights off to watch a thunderstorm
-run three times a week and finish the 5k to 8k series I am doing

I may add to the list but there are the biggies right now. What are your plans for summer?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Happiness Project - Month One, Wk 2 Check-in

This has been a total failure of a week in terms of my goals. I think Gretchen Rubin was right to make up checklists to review each day. I'm not sure, at the moment, that I can even remember what my goals were (and what a failure, as I sit and work on the computer as I prepare to go to bed). I suspect that this coming week won't be much better in terms of my goals unless I really make a concerted effort - it's the last week of school and the week will be full, busy and totally overwhelming. It helps to highlight the reason I am having trouble, though. I need to find a way to slow things down and keep my priorities at the forefront.
Here's hoping I manage to be better next week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

On Nationalism

This morning, I went to buy Canada Day t-shirts for the kids on the way to work. I was also thinking about going to buy some Canada stuff to decorate... you know me, there isn't a holiday that I don't enjoy and having the kids gives me the perfect reason to celebrate. We are going to go to the city to celebrate with my parents - we will go to the hokey community parade, the festival in the park and I hope to be back home in time to watch our town's fireworks. What a great way to celebrate summer!

On the other hand, I feel a teeny bit funny about it. I have taught several Jehovah's Witness students in the last few years and they are very uncomfortable with the idea of loyalty to nation (as, according to my understanding of their beliefs, something that can interfere with pure loyalty to God). That actually makes some sense to me. There have been so many actrocities committed in the name of "nation" (which can also represent religion, ethnicity, and, to a lesser degree, race). As Canadians, we love to feel superior about the fact that we don't allow nationalism to cloud our judgement the way that we feel that happens in the U.S. (and, I might add, which is not true - Canadian arrogance has cause us problems many times in our history). There is a side of me that loves the idea of a July 4th-type celebration, an unabashed worship of one's nation. What a great way to begin summer and I love the idea of all the red and white bunting!

So, yet again in my life, I feel like I really need to be aware of balance. Yes, we will celebrate and yes, we will wear our gear and have our fun. On the other hand, I will try to encourage my children to realise that being Canadian isn't something that defines us all that firmly and that, while it is something that defines us as being incredibly lucky compared to much of the world's population, it isn't what forms the essence of who we are.

God keep our land...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Love Languages

I bought "Mom...and Loving It: Finding Contentment in Real Life" by the Autry sisters ages ago and started it, liked it but somehow lost track of it. I got it out the other day and have been reading it. This morning's reading totally spoke to me.

The chapter was on accepting out children as they are. I love my children but I have to admit, at times, Pk can get on my last nerve (as do all children, I know). There are days when I feel like I am trying so hard to reach for her but somehow, I keep missing and we end the day with me feeling frustrated and guilty and feeling like I have let her down somehow. She, on the other hand, seems frustrated and annoyed at the end of those days.

The insight in the chapter this morning hit me between the eyes and really, after the horrible night we had with Baby Bean (who has a virus with a fever that has left him beyond grouchy), for me to notice anything is amazing. The authors were discussing love languages and how that translates to parenting. I read Gary Smalley's book for couples and LOVED it and got some good insights into our marriage. I never thought to translate that to parenting.

I realised today that Pk's love language is quality time (she is constantly asking me to play a game, to read a book or to take her out on the deck and the busier I am, the more she asks and the more annoying I find it). I don't know how I didn't see that before. No wonder she has found my going back to work so much harder than Baby Bean... she wants my time and it's the one thing I don't have these days. As soon as it came to me, all the pieces came together. While I can't fix it all instantly, at least I can understand a. what she is needing and b. why her behaviour gets so difficult at my busiest and most stressful times.
This is a book that I must read and finding that quality time for Pk is a must this summer so that it is just routine by the time I go back to work.

I love it when I get clear sight out of the blue like that.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happiness Project - Month One, Wk 1 Check-in

So far, so good. I can't say that I have been anywhere near as disciplined as I should be. Last Sunday was my first computer free Sunday and despite feeling a bit lost, it was really nice. I felt as if I had gained a huge amount of time. I also realised, though, just how dependent I am on the computer, as I had to send Dh a couple of times to check things for me (recipes, directions, Sunday School lesson plans). I am going to have to be more on top of things if I am going to continue computer free on Sundays.

Drinking more water has definitely been a good thing. I have had fewer afternoon headaches, which is huge for me. I have always just put it down to my body's natural rhythm but with all the water, I haven't been as sluggish after two. I do need to make sure I have fresh ice in the freezer, though - I don't like my water warm.

The going to bed earlier thing has been a complete flop. I was good for the first few nights and really felt better for it. As the week went on, though, and I got busy, I started to stay up later and I have definitely been paying for it. I have also become less good about no computer within 45 minutes of bedtime and that is making a difference, too. I found that when I avoided the computer during that period, I had a much easier time getting to sleep.

I plan on being more diligent this week. With report cards due at the end of the week and Baby Bean's birthday on Saturday, that is going to take some real discipline but I expect it will probably make a huge different to my outlook this next week.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fertility Roulette

I'm not generally one who spends a lot of time asking "Why?" I can handle the fact that life is unfair and that God has not promised us an easy road. I've had my share of struggles but I can usually see that in the end, things work out for the best and that what I wanted so badly wasn't what was best for me in the long run. There's one area of life, though, in which I do find myself perplexed and sad at the unfairness faced by some people and that's fertility.

As I have said here before, I so often feel like my life runs through mini themes - all of a sudden, an issue emerges that I can't seem to escape to disappear just as quickly as it appeared. In the last three weeks, that issue has been fertility/infertility. It's a bit strange timing since I have come to terms with the fact that our family will be a family of two children and that while I am sad that Pk won't ever have a sister and that the name I have been cherishing for another girl won't be used, two is where we are meant to be. Fertility isn't a concern in our house.

It started several weeks ago. Two good friends who have been trying to become pregnant managed to achieve pregnancy. The first had easily conceived her first and was now pregnant with number two. They had been trying a few months but weren't concerned. She has a few health problems that make it more complicated so she was grateful that things were going so well. The second friend and her husband have had a terrible time. They had been trying for ages and then discovered that there were some significant hurdles for them in terms of having children. They watched as friend after friend became pregnant with one and then another and they were stuck waiting. The pain was so profound. They tried several procedures unsuccessfully and then, several weeks ago, underwent IVF. What a scary procedure. After all the drugs and tests, they only retrieved four eggs, only three were usable and only two fertilized and implanted. Then began the horrible wait. Friend one really struggled - she was excited about being pregnant but didn't want to make too big a deal of it in case things didn't turn out for friend two.

On the other hand, I also heard two horrible stories of pregnancy loss. A friend who I have gotten to know (really more of a good acquaintance) revealed that a few years ago, she lost a baby to stillbirth. They had a totally uneventful pregnancy and had just had a weekly check-up and all was well. Labour started and eventually, they went to the hospital only to discover that the baby's heart had stopped. She had to continue through a full labour and deliver and go home without a baby. While they have since had two healthy children, the scars are just below the surface. Yet another friend came to me distraught. Her brother and sister-in-law were wildly excited about the baby they were expecting. They got excited and told everyone, despite it being early in the pregnancy. They had bought the crib and begun to decorate. She went for her 12 week ultrasound (actually, it was supposed to be 13 weeks) and they couldn't find the fetal heartbeat. The baby had stopped developing at 9 weeks. They couple are absolutely devastated and have to face the imminent miscarriage. My friend was completely distraught as she wanted to be there for them but had no idea what to say.

The complication continues. Friend one had a miscarriage about a week ago. She is handling it really well (other than that her doctor really didn't do any kind of follow up and she is swimming through the mud of trying to figure out what is normal now when her hormones are in turmoil). Friend two is pregnant and just found out that there is one baby (meaning that if she and her husband want more, they have to undergo the entire IVF process again and take on the cost). She is also on edge waiting to do the IPS screening for neural tube defects, down's sydrome and trisomy and also the anatomical ultrasound at 20 weeks, knowing that with IVF, the risks are much higher of complications.

I feel so helpless. I want to say something to calm everyone and to be supportive. I don't want to be the friend who says that insensitive thing that wounds to the quick when I am trying to help. It ISN'T fair. Why should some people be able to have two or three or ten healthy children while others who would be wonderful parents be denied? Why are children born into horrible situations when there are parents dying to give everything to a child? I don't get it.

I have been so lucky and one thing I have come to appreciate in all of this is just how lucky I actually am. I have two beautiful children, and, as people say, the millionaire's family. While I would be thrilled with two boys or two girls, I won't lie - it's great getting to experience both sides. I love the differences between my children. Our age gap is good and my children are healthy (and I pray will remain so). I had uneventful pregnancies other than very big babies who caused a bit of worry near the end because they were so big. My deliveries were vaginal and reasonably smooth. I didn't have a little one in the NICU, my children were born right on 40 weeks and they came home with me from the hospital right away. Why me? Why not others?

I also think that part of our problem is that we don't talk about these things more. When things happen, we don't have a frame of reference and we don't know what to say because we try and hide our pain and struggles. Sure, these aren't issues that we would talk about with strangers but it might actually help if we could talk about them more openly. I have talked here about the fact that Dh and I had trouble with conceiving Baby Bean after such an easy time with Pk and while we only had 11 months of trying, I can't tell you the pain when we thought that there might not be a number two without help. I felt so alone at the time and then, when it did happen, I felt so terrible talking to friend two, who I knew was in a tough situation. Becoming a mother is something so central to our perceptions of ourselves as women, I think that these struggles wound us in ways that are absolutely central to our identities, the pain can be blinding and can overshadow our entire lives. Yet we try and hide it. To me, that just compounds the tragedy.

I don't have any answers or any good conclusion for this post. I just needed to vent. It makes me so sad.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My First 5k Run!

About three months ago, I started running. I had been thinking about doing something to try and up the ante on my working out to get the baby weight off. People had been talking about training to run. I went on a few runs, doing the "run three poles, walk one pole" routine but I was pretty aimless. My friend mentioned that she was doing a "couch to 5k" programme and that you could download podcasts and during the music, you would be told when to run and walk in intervals, ultimately working up to a 5k run. That sounded good to me since I had no interest in running and having to time myself.

To be honest, much as the idea interested me, I didn't think much would come of it. I have a long history of working out in some form or other but I am not exactly athletic. I have always thought of myself as being an inferior athlete and I tend to shy away from anything fitness-related that has to be done with other people. Truly, I didn't believe that I would finish but I thought it wouldn't hurt to give it a try.

The programme was surprisingly painless. I found this programme - referred to on itunes as the "Christian Indie Couch to 5k". Some of the music is surprisingly good while other tracks will always be indie because nobody in their right mind would buy them. I was so proud of myself as I went, week after week, and never had trouble meeting the expectations of that week of the programme. I remember when I got to the point of a 25 minute run with no walk break, I was so worried I wouldn't be able to do it and I ended up crying when I completed it, I was so surprised and proud of myself.

The goal of all of this was to be able to run the 5k run at our town's spring fair. There's a midway and fair but the athletics are really the focus of the fair. On Saturday morning, there's a 5k run/walk and I wanted to do the run. Again, I didn't think I would actually accomplish it but by last week, I had run the route without a break and knew I could do it. I went online and registered.

This morning was the run. I was terrified. I have come to realise that in the last few years, I have become very risk adverse - I don't like to do things that challenge me too much, I have too little confidence in myself. It's strange - motherhood has enriched my life in so many ways but it seems to have eroded my confidence outside of home. When we lined up in that big crowd to start the run, I was actually shaking a bit. I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to do it, that I would be last, that I would stick out as the non-athlete amongst the athletes. It ended up being such a high. I finished in the middle of the pack with a decent, if not great, time of 32:08. I can't tell you the high I felt as I came into the last 100 metres with people cheering and seeing Pk, Dh and Baby Bean, with Pk yelling, "Yay, Mummy!" To know that I did it, I never stopped to walk (I didn't even slow down for water, I wanted so badly to be able to say that I RAN the entire race) was so powerful for my confidence. I walked on air the rest of the day and I think the feeling will stay with me for a while. I did it, I WAS good enough.

I also hate having photos of me, so it says a lot that I am putting up several, and several where I look awful (a thunderstorm hit about half way through the race and by the time I hit the finish line, I was drenched and a tiny bit afraid that I was going to be hit by lightning!)

Coming up to the finish line:
My cheering section, who made me feel so proud:
As I said, a drowned rat!
(When I looked at this photo up close, I realised that if one is going to be photographed in tight clothing, always stand beside someone who is much shorter and much heavier, it really is flattering - oops, did I just admit that??)
Coming up to the 3k mark

The next question is where to go from here. I have loved the forward momentum of training and the knowledge of the fact that I was accomplishing something. I am debating trying for a 10k, I am just not sure how long I should allot for training before I attempt it. Whatever I decide, today is a day I will cherish and I plan on keeping going!

The Annual Tradition - Fair Week

Pk loves to go to a fair of any kind so this week is a BIG week in her life. My school has its annual Fun Fair with pony rides and bouncy castles and our town has its annual fair with a midway, carnival food, tacky games, pony rides, hot air balloon rides, etc. It's Pippa's favourite time of the year. We went to the school fair on Wednesday (and, of course, she needed to wear her tiara!) and then on Thursday, it was the "buck at ride" at the town fair. We met up with one of Pk's best friends and his parents to go and a great time was had by all.

The week of fairs is always a harbinger of summer to me. I can't wait!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happiness Project, Month 1

Saturday is my 39th birthday and it seemed like the perfect time to start my own year-long happiness project. I love the idea of trying to get my life in order before I turn 40. I don't know whether it will work or how I will manage to maintain momentum but I am hoping that the monthly focus will help me to feel like each month is something new.

This month, my focus is going to be energy. As a mother of 2, one of whom is a very sensitive three and a half and the other being 11 1/2 months old and not even beginning to approach sleeping through the night (although that I plan to tackle in July), having gone back to work full-time and trying to manage being a type-A, energy is something in short supply. While I have been good about embracing exercise (I just finished my "Couch to 5K" programme and will run my first race on Saturday!!!), most of the other aspects of being healthy and energetic are being sadly neglected. I am tired of feeling so tired and I find being so weary all the time makes me grouchy, anxious and prone to despair. This is not working for me. I can't remember things, I suffer from headaches and I actually worry about driving as I don't think I should really be on the road with so little focus. Over the last few weeks, I have been brainstorming how to improve this and I have come up with the following goals:

1. take Sunday as a true day of rest
2. no computer time within half an hour of bed (I have been having a really hard time getting to sleep)
3. drink large amounts of water daily (I have been terrible about this)
4. really encourage Pk to be in her own bed

1. Sunday as a day of rest - I heard this fantastic podcast the other day from Northpoint Church in Atlanta in their series "Life Apps". It was on rest and it really helped me to see the impact of the pace of my life right now. As the preacher said (sorry, I don't remember his name), if you get 6.9 hours of sleep per night (I generally get less than that), you are missing 7 hours a week, 365 hours a year, which is the equivalent of 15 days. I can't handle that. I can't entirely solve that right now since Baby bean isn't great at night but I can certainly try and make Sunday a day to recharge. I will try to nap with Baby Bean on Sunday afternoon unless there is a reason not to and I will try to keep everything on Sunday as calm, easy and restorative as possible. I want to keep the computer off (a huge time-waster for me) and try to keep commitments to a minimum.

2. No computer time within half hour of bed - I know that the light from a computer screen can stimulate the brain and often leads to thinking instead of drifting off. I have a terrible habit of just checking everything one more time before bed, which often ends up being 40 minutes on the computer. That is 40 minutes I can't afford to lose.

3. Drinking water - I know that my dragging/slightly headachy feeling I get mid-way through the afternoon is often due to dehydration. I don't drink enough water and especially since I am still nursing, that is just stupid. It's such an easy thing to fix!

4. Get Pippa in her own bed - for a long time, she had settled in her "big girl" bed and all was well. Then, I went back to work and she became really needy. When she is with Baby Bean and I, none of us get a decent sleep and it means that I have even less range of motion during the night (and I very often wake up feeling stiff and sore from trying to squeeze between the kids). If I can get her back into her own bed, we will all sleep better and, I hope, get up more refreshed.

Let's hope this works. To be honest, I don't know how I will keep going at this pace much longer. I don't want to be tired and grouchy all the time and I think that I will find it easier to feel happier if I can improve on my energy level.

What are you doing to feel more energetic?