Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent, Week One

Wow -- Sting singing my favourite Advent song. Amazing.

During Advent, I often think of Mary: very young, very pregnant, travelling, perhaps frightened and missing her mother and wondering what she got herself into when she said yes to the blindingly bright angel who appeared to her.

My oldest son, A., was due on Christmas Day 2001, although he chose to wait around until the New Year. That Advent, as I dealt with trying to put on my -40C boots and to find a parka that would fit over my mountainous belly, I often thought of Mary, riding a donkey for days on end, swollen and sore and uncomfortable. I was "young" too -- at 24, I was most likely a decade older than Mary had been when she carired our Lord, but 24 is a pretty young mother now. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Imagine what she must have been thinking.

When she said yes, did she have any idea that she gave the rest of us the Gift of Eternal Life? As she carried her unborn son to Bethlemhem, did she wonder if God, the One who had given her this child, had abandoned her? I don't know, but I think Mary at 14 was a lot wiser than me at 24. There's a reason she was chosen to be the "most highly favoured lady" when she was really still a child.

Happy Week One of Advent -- and thank you for saying yes, Mother.

Friday, November 27, 2009

From a grateful heart

Prayer of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
Jesus, I promise You to submit myself to all that You permit to befall me,
make me only know Your will.

My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls,
and in a particular way of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm
which You carry with special tenderness between Your divine arms,
I come to You to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart,
the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy will,
the grace to confide in You,
the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving divine arms.


Hubby is home, playing Pokemon with the brood, and I am one grateful wife.

The woman pictured above, and the author of the prayer, is Saint Gianna Molla. Saint Gianna was a working mother, an obstetrician/pediatrician, with three children, a full-time medical practice serving poor mothers and children, and a husband who often travelled for work. Her pregnancies were not easy, because she suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (, the same pregnancy condition I suffered with N. Gianna loved fashion and opera and skiing. This is a woman I can fully relate to, a saint for the working moms. I often ask for her prayers, and she has never, ever let me down. She is truly my friend and comfort.

During her fourth pregnancy, doctors found a tumour growing in her uturus, and suggested she have the entire uterus removed. She refused, allowing them to only remove enough of the tumour so her baby could continue growing. She chose to risk her life in order to save the life of her daughter. She died of sepsis several days after Gianna Emmanuela was born, crying aloud, "Oh my Jesus, I love you!"

I prayed to St. Gianna a lot during this last sail. When her husband was away for work, she wrote him letters, and I've read them. She often talks of love in marriage, and Jesus and her deep, abiding faith -- but she also discusses household matters, her own exhaustion, and  how much the children miss him. This woman understands my life.

So, to all the other working moms, Navy wives and those who deal with the challenges of modern work and modern marriage -- may I introduce you to my friend? I guarantee she will be a help and comfort to you, too.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My little choister

A. was in the Chritmas parade this weekend. Yes, I know he's impossible to see in the video, but just listen to the singing! And then listen to N. wonder why her brother isn't joining us on the sidewalk. Too funny.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

He's still not sleeping at night

Poor Big I. I think he just misses Daddy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One thing they don't tell you about children...

... is how inherently selfish and self-absorbed they are.

We try very hard to teach our kids to be empathetic and polite little people who think of others. Sometimes it works, but a lot of the time it doesn't.

An example: Big I. has been refusing to go to sleep at night. He makes noise, talks, jumps in his brother's bed, gets up and demands hugs, etc. It is driving me insane, keeping his siblings awake and is stealing what I have of down time in a day, when I neither parent nor work. When dealing with these antics, I can't make lunches or sign permisison slips or any of the other things I do for them after they sleep and before I sit at the computer.

I've explained to him, over and over, that this is not OK and makes mommy very, very cranky (and lands him in time out and with Xs -- three Xs and he loses his allowance for the week.) Nothing works, and he continues to act out this way rather than telling me what's making him act like this. I can't ignore him, because it wakes the others.

Tonight, an hour and a half of this nonsense led to two Xs, the curtains in the boys' room being pulled down, and waking Toddler N, who promptly started to scream in that "I've woken up sick as a dog" way.

As I tried desperately to give N. Tylenol and take her temperature while checking her for serious symptoms, he kept acting up, yelling and bouncing and squirming on his bed.

Finally, I put N. down, went into his room, turned on the light and chewed him out. Wow, sucky pareting moment right here.

After I finally calmed N. back to sleep, I went back into the room and apologized for losing my temper, and had a good talk with I. I told him I loved him very much and he was a good boy, but these nighttime behaviours were not OK and not good and were hurting everyone in the house. We talked about our agreement this week (he will try to listen the first time and I will try hard not to raise my voice.)

Look, I have no idea if this agreement will work out. All I know is he has to start going to bed. He's five. Bedtime was, for a long time now, the good end to a long day. For the past two months, it's once again become the most stressful time of the day for me. It hasn't been like that since I used to have to sit in their room for hours at night to get them to sleep. I refuse to go back to that.

The hardest part of being alone is dealing with these sorts of things and having no one to take over when you feel you are losing your cool. When C. is here, we spell each other off. When alone, it's just me. Although I'm a good mom, my children are adept at finding something that irritates me and notching it up to torture level. It's exhausting, especially since I can't use healthy guilt (pointing out how his behaviour affects others) with Big I. He has none.

This stuff is hard. Most days I do well, but today was just one of those days.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Memories of Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day has always been an important occasion for me. As a little girl, I donned my Girl Guide uniform and marched in parade after parade, and laid a wreath for my mother's father, who served as a gunner with the Newfoundlanders in the Second World War. Grandfather Spawn served in many places, including Africa, and was reportedly the tallest man in the British Army.

In university, I was fortunate enough to hang around with friends who were also grateful for the sacrifices of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers. I attended at least two ceremonies at the National War Memorial with Kathryn and John; each year, we skipped classes (shame on Carleton for being open on Remembrance Day) and headed down to the War Memorial to do our duty as proud and grateful young people.

John was a former reservist by then, and made a point of introducing us to any soldiers and veterans he knew. I remember making signs one year, saying "Thank you for our freedom, from students of Carleton University."

One year, the War Memorial was under construction; the government held the ceremony right on the lawn of Parliament Hill. We felt strange, walking onto the Hill; it just didn't feel right. Many people looked uneasy.

But then, music swelled from the Peace Tower. It wasn't the tolling of the hour. It was a song played on the clock's carillon.

"What is that?" I said to John and Kathryn. In reply, John began to sing along.

"They'll be blue birds over/ the white cliffs of Dover/ tomorrow, just you wait and see...."

They were playing war-time music and hymns. "The White Cliffs of Dover" faded, followed by "For Those in Peril on the Sea" and then by "To Thee My Country" and many others. And suddenly, holding the ceremony there on the Hill felt right, and the crowd was united in singing.

The best part of the national ceremony, every year, was the veteran's parade. They marched by, some of them using canes, others being pushed in wheelchairs, as thousand of people lined the route. We would clap, and wave and cheer, and yell "Thank you! Thank you!" until our throats were hoarse and our voices gone.

Back then, I remember feeling as if these were the very last veterans of a "true" war for Canada, the last ones to carry that burden. Little did I know that 12 years later, I would be living in a military house on a military base, with one neighbour and friend just returned from Afghanistan last year, haunted by what he's witnessed; another neighbour  who just left for Afghanistan earlier this month; and more friends than I can count who have sent their husbands and wives over to that country. We worry ourselves sick about these friends, and yet we are so proud of their willingness to risk their lives for women and children in another country, women and children who have been brutally oppressed and abused and scarred.

The Hubby is sailing today, and therefore is attending the ship's Remembrance Day ceremony, rather than helping me drag our kids to the local cenotaph. The children and I are watching the national Remembrance Day ceremoney in Ottawa this year, and as always, it's making me cry from a mixture of homesickness and pride and gratitude. But this year, I'm also thinking of D. and C. and the others I know who are modern vets; I'm thinking of my grandfathers and Hubby's grandfather, who served in the First and Second World Wars; and I'm thinking of Hubby, ready and willing to fulfill the same duty these men have.

Of course, like everyone else, I hope that wherever he serves, he stays safe. But I won't prevent him doing what he thinks is right. And I hope the next generation of university students lines the streets of Ottawa to clap and shout thank you to the veterans of this generation, many years from now.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The silvery moonbeams so bright, down through the window give light

The other day, Super A. looked out the front window at dusk, and leaned his golden head against the glass, slick with rain on the other side.

"What a beautiful night," he said, "even though it's raining. It's beautiful. And soon it will be time to get in my bed!"

"You like to sleep, don't you, buddy?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," he said. "Sleeping is nice!"

As I turned away, I shook my head in amazement. Seven years ago, I never would have believed A. would enthuse about the wonders of going to sleep.

A. was the baby who never slept. EVER. He did not nap for more than 20 minutes at a time. He ate every hour, all night long. If Hubby was working the evening shift, he would insist on staying up and waiting for him until midnight, when I had to work at 5 a.m. His first four years of life, he never slept the night. Ever.

Now, he sleeps from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., like clockwork every night. He loves to go to bed, and only ever stays up because I. is keeping him awake.

My friend Gail often told me "this too shall pass" during those sleepless nights. I hardly believed her. All I could imagine was endless years of sleep deprivation. And now, A. is a dream to put to bed. He snuggles into his covers after book and kiss, and drifts off to dreamland.