Thursday, November 11, 2010

Repost: Memories of Remembrance Day

Still up to my ears in laundry, nursing and a bout of mastitis. Please enjoy last year's post, and may you thank a vet today!

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, October 30, 2010

I have no words...

...maybe they're being sucked out with all this milk I make! Will try to update after Hallowe'en.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The cuteness!

I know I'm biased, but isn't E. just the most adorable baby currently on the planet?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We interrupt this spell of writer's block for the following...


Hubby is on a short sail for the next three weeks. I can so relate to Momma Kitteh.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Five weeks into a family of six


Hoo-boy, I'm tired.

Baby E. is a colic monster. Poor little baby cries and cries in obvious pain.He's also got reflux (that's 4 out of 4 babies) and is on meds for it.

He has a good day about twice a week -- and those days are wonderful.We enjoy him so much when he's not in pain!

Overall, he's a very cute baby, and healthy. And this too shall pass.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Introducing....


... the newest addition to the M. family!

Edward Joseph M. was born via C-section on May 22, 2010. He was born at 38 weeks, after my water broke Saturday afternoon. So much for planning the section date!

Proud siblings are (from left) Big I., Super A. and Princess N. Hubby and E. are, of course, in the centre.

Friday, May 21, 2010

But the one little duck, with the feather on his back...

... man, that duck can bake.

Tomorrow is my last day of work before this wee one arrives. My co-workers said an early farewell today; a smart move, since it's day to day lately on whether I'll be there at all. My feet have been swelling up every afternoon, and I've been contracting like crazy.

To say goodbye, Shae volunteered to bake a cake. Shae is the resident foodie at the office, a very funny guy, the general bane of my existence (it's like having my brother in the next cublicle sometimes), and a good work friend.

Now, a normal layer cake with "We'll miss you!" or "Congratulations!" on it would be beneath the dignity of our intrepid baker. Banal pastry would not do. Instead, Shae went to his favourite cake store (that phrase says everything, doesn't it?) and rented a 3-D ducky cake pan.

The results were amazing and adorable.



I feel loved.

Friday, May 07, 2010

24 days



Tentative C-section date: May 31. Marching my way to that date.

It's all about Little Man now.

Each time is a separate and beautiful miracle, unable to be compared to the others. This time I'm nervous.

Now the joy of my world is in Zion.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy Feast Day, Saint Gianna!


Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, mother of four, obstetrician and pediatrician when most women did not go to university or hold professional careers (especially mothers!), loving wife, fellow HGer, brave and tenacious woman willing to risk her life for her child, faithful follower of our Lord Jesus, pray for us!

Friday, April 16, 2010

See, Mom, you are not alone!

Hey Mom, meet the mothers of some other mommy bloggers. I think you'll be able to relate to a lot of what they say.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

I will stumble, I will fall down, but I will not be moved



This song was my theme during the earliest part of my pregnancy, when I was fighting with all my heart and will and prayers to avoid hyperemesis gravidarum. I posted it on the blog in November, when I was alone with the kids, pretty sick and not ready to tell my family and extended friends about the pregnancy. It was the only way I was comfortable expressing the battle in my life.

I used to sing it in my head while throwing up. "I will not be moved. I will NOT be moved... upon the rock of Christ I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."

Today, it has been more than a month since the last time I vomited. I worry more about iron and heartburn than nausea now. I no longer take anti-vomiting medication.

This is a miracle. A miracle! Great medical care certainly helped make it happen, but I have no doubt that my health also comes from the intervention of God and the prayers of my patron saint and fellow HGer, Saint Gianna Molla.

In less than two months I will meet my smallest son. After N., I never throught I would have the courage to welcome another baby, but here I am.

Do not give in to fear. Do not allow the Prince of Lies to confuse you with it. Feelings change, but the truth does not. I've learned we need to make our decisions based on truth, logic, planning, calm thought, prayer... and the rock of hope.

If anything, I've learned to always and forever hope.

Monday, April 05, 2010

New Easter Monday tradition: Schmeeps

I heard about Schmeeps somewhere on the Internet last Easter.

"Oh, man," I thought. "I don't even like Peeps, but I am so doing that next year."

Are you new to Schmeeps? Here's an illustrated guide!

First, assemble your ingredients. You will need Peeps (chick or bunny variety), chocolate bunny chocolate, and graham crackers.


Next, place chocolate on a graham cracker....


...and then place a Peep on top.


Place in the oven under the broiler on a cookie sheet; keep a watchful eye on your creations to avoid burning.

Goodbye, cruel world!




Remove from oven when Peep puffs slightly and chocolate gets a little melty. Squish a second graham cracker on top.

Eat and enjoy!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter!


Happy Easter from the M. kids -- N., A. and I. (Baby Bean to make his appearance in late May or early June.)

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Good Friday



Warning: The above video is graphic. Imagine Mary having to watch them do this to her Son! Imagine watching them do this to your child.

This is the heart of Christianity. Make no mistake, being Christian is not something safe and comfortable. It is accepting that the Creator of the universe loves you personally so much that he would become human for the express purpose of allowing evil men to do this to him, to save me and you from our hate, evil thoughts, actions and words, from our greed and selishness and self-centredness. He took our punishment, for our sake. As Christians, we're asked to sacrifice our comfortable hatreds and sins for him in return.

It's graphic. It's scary. It HAPPENED.

Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Holy Thursday



Not completely Biblical or cannonically correct, (as if the Lord worried about rewards!) but still captures the intense human-ess and fear our Lord must have experienced that night. And also shows how God can take our anger and fear.

Thank you, Jesus, for Gethsemane -- and thank you for walking me and so many others out of that garden of fear. I was afraid, and I thought I might be dying; you showed me there are far worse things than risking death for the one I loved.

Blessed Triduum, readers!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Adventures in Stuff Mart

I went to Costco this past Sunday with all the kids, against all inclination and better judgment. I like many things about  Costco: the grocery prices, the amazing yet cheap produce, the quality inexpensive meat, and the big boxes of staples such as cereal that are the perfect size for my lage-ish family. I don't like the "other side" of the store, but I just avoid it.

However, I dislike shopping there, especially on a weekend. I find the place crowded with shoppers, all trying to find the four things they regularly buy in bulk, with that "oh my goodness, WHERE are they hiding that product???" look in the eye. You know it, because it's been on all of our faces in a big box store. You're stuck in between sneering at the other shoppers and frantically staring in four direcitons at once.

I get frazzled in a crowded Costco. I fully admit it.

However, whenever I manage to make it through a shopping trip there, I start to see the funny side of everything on the ride home.

The thing that struck me as absolutely hilarious this week was this: my family got the certified look of death from at least six seniors this Sunday. There they were, with three items in their carts, giving me the stink-eye for shopping at Costco with my brood and a giant cart packed with food and two kids sitting in the top seats, happily pretending to be race car drivers.

Now, I get this look a lot when out with all the children in Victoria, no matter how well behaved they are. Some people seem to take offense to seeing and hearing kids in public. I find this sentiment highest among seniors in this retirement town, with yuppies a close second. As long as no one says something rude in front of my kids, my attitude is essentially "whatever." We all have the right to be out in public, and they have the right to be crotchety. It doesn't hurt us. We're too busy having fun!

But encountering this in a Costco had me laughing so hard in the van home I was hiccupping. Seriously, where else would you expect to see a pregnant woman and three children shopping for groceries? The local boutique organic mini-market? Even I think there should probably be a law requiring me to do at least half my shopping in a wholesale store, simply to avoid wasting packaging and hogging all the strawberries down at the local small grocery store.

Costco was created for women like me. I might not approve of the side of the store that sells all the nonsense, but cheap, high-quality bulk groceries? Sign me up! I'm glad other people go and buy bulk too, but if you go into Costco expecting people like me to be elsewhere, I have to wonder what your medication is (and if I can have some too.)

I will be glad when Hubby is home again from this short sail. When he's here, we tend to take turns and go with only one child in tow, and avoid shopping there during peak hours. It keeps me from being overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place, and the funny things that can happen.

I need to go there soon and shop for a new car seat, anyway.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

To the perfect pregnant ladies

Dear pregnant lady with the model limbs and basketball belly,

I am so pleased you are enjoying your first pregnancy, still wearing your favourite jeans cinched under your perfect belly with a Bella Band while eating salad and taking Pilates class. Good for you! How wonderful you can still work 50 hour weeks and have all that energy for jogging. How great you are gaining 20 perfect pounds. I am sincerely glad you enjoy being pregnant.

But sister, can we talk? You see, there's one little problem, one I don't even know if you can help solve, but in light of The Sisterhood of Pregnant Ladies, I hope you'll try.

You see, your glowing happiness is great -- but for some reason, people seem to take it not as the wonderful ideal, but as the pregnancy standard. They see you running five miles and they expect all of us to do it. They see you working overtime without being the least bit fatigued, and suppose that is normal. Heck, they see you keeping your old, pre-pregnancy routines even, and consider those of us who can't as somehow failing.

Some pregnant ladies experiencing these wonderful pregnancies also seem to fall into this trap. They are often the ones I overhear talking about how pregnancy isn't a medical condition, but a stage in life, and rolling thier eyes when discussing friends who needed medicine for morning sickness.

I know you're not like that, of course. That's why I'm calling for your assistance.

Many of us pregnant ladies are not like you. Some of us are unfortunate and are really sick -- that was me in my last pregnancy. But the rest of us, myself now included, are not seriously ill. What we are is exhausted, sore, overwhelmed and cranky. We used to handle stress wonderfully, but can't cope as well now that we're cooking a baby. We worry about what everyone is saying about our reduced superwoman abilities.
But most of all, we live in terror of being compared to you. Because there is no way we can survive that comparison without damage.

So, my fortunate friend, please continue to glow and jog and work and ride your bike and have an amazing pregnancy. You should sincerely enjoy and cherish this wonderful blessing.

But the next time someone points out the exhausted, bedraggled pregnant woman in the office or the restaurant and says, "You're pregnant, and you're not like that," please stand up for her. Point out every woman and every pregnancy is different, and while you wish every pregnant woman was as fortunate as you, that's not always the case.

Thanks. I can promise you, as the woman with the wonderful postpartum experiences, I will viciously stand up for you when your baby has colic, you have PPD, and someone points out you haven't washed your hair in a week. In fact, I'll even come over and lend you a hand.

Sincerely,

The Tired Out Pregnant Lady

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rinse and repeat

In journalism, reporters are encouraged, even required, to write about new things almost every single day. A reporter may cover a beat, as I did, and they may come back to certain topics or themes; I covered women's health, pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding more than most health reporters do. In the end, though, each story must follow the rules of significant, important and new.

Writing a personal blog, one based on my life rather than on a certain set of topics, is a different experience. In our lives, very little is new; even less when you are raising a young family. New things happen as the children grow and learn new things, and as I grow and learn, but this phase of life is like a wheel that turns. It eventually gets somewhere, but it sometimes feels like the same day, over and over.

That sameness, even as life changes, even as I grow a beachball for a belly and the baby kicks and turns, sometimes makes writing here difficult. Sure, pregnancy can be interesting writing fodder, but seriously, not the fourth time. To me, this is pretty routine.

So each time I write about parental exhaustion, cute things the kids do, or raising the kids while Hubby is away, I feel like I'm repeating myself. There are many other topics I itch to write about, but they involve family members; I'm not comfortable exposing them the way I expose my own inner life.

So I'm struggling to find a way to make the wheel of my life fresh, trying to tease out the new ideas and deeper meanings. It's not easy.

The great fiction writers I read and reread, the ones whose prose is so moving or profound or beautiful  they sometimes make me weep, tend to write in wheels, tend to tell similar stories for a period in time, or even for their entire writing careers.

L.M. Montgomery wrote almost exclusively about orphans and abandoned children. This was her life experience. She was dumped at her grandparents' home by her father as a toddler after her mother died and he remarried, and that sense of loss and abandonment, of being discarded, haunted her entire life. It echoed in her writing until she died, most likely from a drug overdose, after a difficult life with a mentally ill spouse, a dead best friend, a baby who died at birth, and a son who was a massive disappointment. (Her other son, Stuart, was the light of her life.)

That never-ending wheel of a challenging and sometimes miserable life produced some of the most memorable girls and women to ever grace the page of a novel. Everyone knows about Anne Shirley, of course, the red-headed spitfire, abused and mistreated, who finds a loving home and turns into a sweet-lipped, smart young woman. But the one who sticks with me the most is Emily Starr, the young girl who becomes a great writer, not through writing about things that are new and different to her, but through writing about her simple life in Prince Edward Island and the people there -- the same thing Montgomery did, but Emily's story ends so much sweeter.

When I think about it, most truly great novelists cover a basic theme, a wheel -- Dickens, Lewis, Tolkien, Austen.

How do I do this in non-fiction in a way that is still interesting to readers, but without betraying the privacy of those I love? How do I describe my wheel?

I think this might be a good start.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Having one of those weeks

somebody do something
anything soon
i know i can't be the only
whatever i am in the room
so why am i so lonely?
why am i so tired?
i need backup
i need company
i need to be inspired
-- "Face up and Sing", Ani De Franco

Sometimes I wish I knew just one other woman my age, in my town, who is doing what I'm doing and believes what I believe -- all of it, from the Catholic to the feminist.

I'm just having a tiring week, I think. I'm into week two of a seven-week separation from Hubby (he's on a course in Halifax). Baby gave me a scare last night -- turned out to be nothing, but it meant a trip to the hospital. And I have a pounding headache tonight.

OK, time to stop complaining and feeling homesick for Yellowknife, and just put the kids to bed.

By the way, some good news. The baby is a boy. :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Joy conquers fear

When The Hubby and I decided the time was right to be open to a new baby joining our family, I had a few worries and concerns. The first was medical, of course: after my last pregnancy, expecting a baby became a medical condition more than a natural state of being, courtesy of hyperemesis gravidarum. We did a lot of planning and preparing. I wrote a treatment protocol, gained some safety pounds, and searched out a doctor who knew HG, knew it well and was up on the latest treatments and research. Through God, I had conquered my fear. I was ready to try again.

With all that in place, I was both elated and a little overwhelmed when we conceived the very first month we stopped avoiding conception (for information on the scientific form of natural family planning we use, go check out http://www.woomb.org/ . You do not have to take chemicals or use artificial barriers or devices to control the timing or size of your family. Stepping off soapbox now.) "Wow, that was fast!" was my first reaction when I started getting sick in the mornings, followed by a pink plus sign on the test a week later.

My biggest worry was the reaction of well-meaning family and friends when we told them about the new arrival.

There were a few negative reactions when we announced Toddler N.'s conception. Most were very well-meaning, of course, and were simply the mouth moving faster than the brain's editing button. A lot of people think two children are more than enough, and do not understand why Hubby and I would want more. Even so, pregnant women are not the most rational creatures on the planet, and I was a little hurt by some of it.

Little did I know that was just the beginning. You see, people started to really worry when I got so very sick carrying N. Worry breeds fear, and fear can make well-meaning and loving people say some pretty stupid things. And some of the things people said crushed me.

I had good, dear and loyal friends who were worried sick about me and sometimes said things that stung -- but looking back on that, I understand why. They thought I was going to die. They were terrified, and fear is always a bad motivator. I know these people love me so very much, and it was easy to forgive them.
 
Funny thing was, the people who loved me most and helped me the most during that experience -- who took on the greatest burdens, whether helping me at home or being available to listen to me complain (thanks, Mom) or just worrying themselves into a frenzy -- were the people least likely to say the really, really stupid things. In fact, it was acquantances rather than good friends, and extended family rather than immediate family, who said the real doozies. The worst, the very worst, was when people ordered me to not have any more kids, as if these people who did not love me and did nothing to help me were somehow burdened by my ill health. They acted as if it was their decision to make.
So, going into this pregnancy, I was reluctant to share the news. I didn't want to worry those I love and who love me, and I didn't want to listen to everyone else.

Then two miracles happened.

The first is that I did not develop HG, but managed to avoid it through early, aggressive treatment with anti-vomiting drugs at high doses, and a dash of pure luck (read Providence). I prayed so very hard for this to happen, but I don't think I truly believed it would. I knew the Lord could spare me, certainly; I also knew the tremendous good work He did for my soul by allowing me to suffer HG last time, so after preparing as best I could, I just left the illness to His will. (Praise Jesus, and thank you St. Gianna Molla for favours received.)

The second is no one has said a single stupid thing about this baby to me. No one! Instead, there has been such an amazing outpouring of good will, congratulations, prayers and love. It seems almost everyone has reacted to the news with real joy.

What a stupendous gift to my family! I had prayed about this too, but also had decided that, besides my own parents, I didn't give a hoot what other people thought.

So, to all my wonderful friends and family, my co-workers and former colleagues -- thank you. Thank you for respecting my family's faith and our decisions. Thank you for loving me through hard times and good ones. And thank you, from the bottom of the two beating hearts in my body right now, for biting your tongue out of love even when you think I am insane.

I love you all. Come on over and snuggle the baby anytime (once he or she has arrived, of course!) And while you're here, do you mind washing some dishes and throwing the burp rags in the washer? Thanks.