Saturday, 31 December 2011


As I lay in bed this morning, it occurred to me that the New Year begins tomorrow.

First of all, let me just put it out there that New Years shouldn't be in the middle of winter. The temperatures are just too darn cold and I think they hinder rather than help any new commitments. I wonder if New Years Resolutions are broken just as quickly in California as they are in Canada? For me, there is something inspiring and renewing about warm sunny weather. I'm thinking of petitioning for New Years in June.

At any rate, I nevertheless gave some consideration to what I might want my own resolutions to look like this year. My first thought was "well, the first six months are a write-off. All I want to do is survive." With the outlook not looking good for much improvement in this pregnancy, I'll count myself lucky just to get through the next six months.

Then I realized that the six months after that will be about survival also. Those first six months with a newborn can be a killer. Sleep is about the only goal you can have with a new baby around.

And then, just like that, 2012 is over! Whoa. That went by fast. It's a little disheartening.

And so I have revised my goal of the second half of the year to be this: slow down and enjoy the moments. Put baby in a sling or a stroller and wander through the beautiful summer weather we enjoy. Do only one activity a day, and don't rush through it. Take a walk, take a picnic, lounge in the backyard swing. Look at the stars. Sit at the park. Gather with friends in the backyard underneath the darkening sky and laugh. Eat good food, lovingly prepared. Cuddle, cuddle, and cuddle some more. Read. Strum the guitar on a blanket in the grass. Don't rush. Don't rush. Don't rush.

That made me smile. That gave me a little hope to endure the next six months. 2011 was a fairly peaceful and uneventful year. 2012 will definitely bring change, in the form of our newest and last addition to our little family. What else do you have in store for me?

Friday, 30 December 2011

Excerpt from "The Poisonwood Bible"

"When I go with them [family visiting America from Africa] to the grocery, they are boggled and frightened and secretly scornful, I think. Of course they are. I remember how it was at first: dazzling warehouses, buzzing with light, where entire shelves boast nothing but hair spray, tooth-whitening cream, and foot powders...
"What is that, Aunt Adah? And that?" their [son] Pascal asks in his wide-eyed way, pointing through the aisles: pink jar of cream for removing hair, a can of fragrance to spray on the carpet, stacks of lidded containers the same size as the jars we throw away each day.
"They're things a person doesn't really need."
"But, Aunt Adah, how can there be so many kinds of things a person doesn't really need?"
I can think of no honorable answer. Why must some of us deliberate between brands of toothpaste, while others deliberate between damp dirt and bone dust to quiet the fire of an empty stomach lining?

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The search for self

Does anyone else feel like by the time you're my age (30s) you're supposed to have settled down in your search for self? Like the questions and uncertainties of teenagedom and university life should all be answered? That the insecurities of who you are should be settled?

I always thought that was the way things are. And maybe they really are for most people (I might have to wait to hear from you readers out there on this one.) But lately I feel like all those firm decisions I made about myself aren't so solid after all.

I've always struggled with some real dichotomies in who I am, what I love, what I believe. There are times when I look at what I oscillate between and wonder how on earth I can reconcile such opposition within me. How can those diametrically opposed ideas co-exist within me?

In the past, these varying differences have always led me to share parts of myself with people, but never finding anyone to relate to me as a whole. When I'm bonding over showtunes, I rarely find I can discuss at length the latest hockey trade. When I'm pouring over construction plans for my fence or deck with someone, I usually don't bring up the schooling versus education debate. If I was planning a canoe portage camping trip, I probably wouldn't be also sharing my experience as a hair model. And most people might not understand when I was really torn between learning to play the flute in band or joining a competitive volleyball team. In high school, I was on the Mathletics team the same year I made the senior Field Hockey team in grade 10. I have a deep desire to be a homeschooling mom living in the country and to work in the film business in LA. How on earth do all these things mesh?

These are all interest-based, and I suppose fairly superficial. I've managed through the years by floating between many groups, having to be satisfied with finding something in common with who I was with at the moment, rather than developing a deeper relationship with a couple people with whom I shared much more in common.

What I'm finding difficult now to reconcile are the belief-based ideas that I find competing with each other. Perhaps some of this comes from my debating team background, an ability to see all sides of the conversation, and a desire to understand where the other person is coming from. Sometimes I wonder if it comes from the very strong and equally divided personality I have, where I am equally faith/emotional based as I am scientific/reason based. Generally people fall on one side or the other. But for me, I've always fallen smack dab straddling the fence. And I often find it so very hard to reconcile within me.

All this thinking is what led me to my opening paragraph - am I supposed to have figured this all out by now, or is it okay to still be shifting? Is it that I never really answered these questions before, or that my life experience is opening my eyes in new ways? All of this is swimming around in my head; they are not conversations I have yet felt comfortable to have with any person yet. The questions seem a little scary because mostly I don't think there really are answers for me, despite the confidence many others out there seem to display. Maybe some people really do have their life, beliefs, and ideas all boxed up with a pretty red ribbon and feel completely comfortable and assured in what's inside. But something tells me that that kind of stability is not in me to find. I crave ideas, I crave conversation, I crave debate too much.

So I wonder if you feel like your search for self has levelled out at some point in your life? Do you feel like you came through the turbulent years of youth and now stand on solid ground? This doesn't mean that there isn't growth in the future. What I'm referring to here is really the outward display of confidence I see in a lot of people who stand firm and declare themselves to others. I admire that stability, but does it actually exist? Or are they, too, having questioning conversations in their minds?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

"Life is what happens to you...

...when you're busy making other plans."

- John Lennon

Planning is good. Life goals get you places. And yet sometimes you can never in your wildest dreams or nightmares imagine what life is going to throw you.

Two things I've been thinking about in this area. The first was an interview I read by a current TV star. He said that he wished he could go back and tell his 16 year old self (he's 21 now) where he'd be in five years. You see, he was bullied through his school years so badly that he was homeschooled during middle school, and hated almost every day of high school. A friend of a friend submitted his name for a new TV show that didn't even have a role that would fit him. The producers saw it and created a new role just for him. He didn't have the slightest inkling during those dreaded days of high school that things could ever be this good.

The other thing is the situation of friends of ours. Last year they were a young happy family, with one smart little boy and another baby on the way. The husband was working hard full time and putting himself through college to be an engineer. Then one day their son was diagnosed with cancer. Try as he might, this husband could not juggle work and school and family and cancer, and so he had to drop out of school. He is still committed to returning to school to graduate, but doesn't know when that might happen.

So here I've been, these past two months, lying in bed and waiting for the illness to pass. I spend about 16 hours a day awake and by myself, which is a lot of time to spend in your own head. I've started at least two dozen different writing projects (mostly books) but can't get very far. (A side effect of the medication I'm on is lack of concentration.) And I've been lying here wondering what my future has in store for me. Right now I am a mother, and I love that. But what possibilities lie down the road? I love writing, acting, music, filmmaking, teaching, public speaking. I'm an artist through and through, but I've never felt the desire to make that my one and only pursuit. I know some artists will say that they would work like mad 40 years to become an overnight success, but I don't see that in myself. It's not a lack of dedication, but rather a love of so many different things.

And still it makes me wonder, if, one day down the road, I might be a part of something almost accidentally that thrusts me in a new and unexpected direction. I don't lust after fame (although no artist could honestly say they wouldn't love to be recognized for their art), but I do love the creative process.

I feel a new sudden sense of freedom, even while tied to my bed in illness. I feel like I don't want to set out a life plan, because maybe I'll be the one that gets in the way of life.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Christmas has come and gone. We are starting to get a feel for what it's like with kids. We are hidden under another huge mound of toys. I hit Zellers for clear storage bins, a boxing day tradition for me. I purge from our house year round, and still there is too much stuff here. Over the next week we'll gradually start to clean and organize and get the house under some sort of control!

I am not "turkeyed" out. I love turkey. I love Christmas dinner. We've had two this year, without much leftovers. I am looking sadly at the few remaining pieces and trying to ration it out for my turkey and cranberry buns.

We have one celebration left this coming weekend. We will celebrate a host of winter birthdays for my family - all three boys, both nephews and my niece, my sister and my dad. And yes, there will be more gifts. Come to think of it, we still haven't had the boys' birthday parties with their friends. We really didn't think this through when we had all three of our kids at Christmastime!

While I seem to be doing marginally better healthwise, I'm still tied to the IV medication. I was able to change it over so that I only need a half hour instead of seven, and I can do it at the hospital so that it's at the same time every day (first thing in the morning). I've migrated down to the couch so that I can observe all the holiday festivities and watch the boys play to their hearts content while they are home from school. I'm still laid up all day, but at least I can feel a part of things again.

It's been a whirlwind of a month, which I hoped would be the case. With so many events going on, the weeks flew by, bringing me to the end of my first trimester faster than expected. I tried going off the medication last week but regressed within two days. I'm hoping to see some more improvements in the next couple of weeks, but it seems more than likely I will be on the hospital IV for a long time, if not the entire pregnancy.

And so the winter months begin. A light snow has been falling all day. The air is crisp. I'll enjoy the season now, before we all get wrangy from being cooped up inside every day.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


“We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are.”

Marjorie Hinckley

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Happy Birthday Benjamin

Benjamin is two years old today. Wow. I think 18 months to about 2 1/2 is such a precious age. Okay, I really love all the ages and stages, but I really love the wonder that is being two.

Benjamin is soaking up everything in the world around him. He wants to be a part of it all. He wants to experience it all. He is not a sit back and observe the world type; he wants to jump right in and be there.

Benjamin loves to help out, which is his way of learning the world. Right now, he really loves to brings things to people (like bringing me my meals in bed every day) and also to load and unload the dishwasher. And he is persistent - he will stick with a job he's doing until it is done to the very last. His little face just lights up if you give him a task.

He is also discovering language at a "melodic" rate. That's the best adjective I could think of. He's not like the other boys, who just opened their mouths one day with full sentences and adult vocabularies, and not like the typical toddler who learns a word at a time, in relation to the things he knows and wants. Rather, Benjamin is learning words as though they were notes in a song, one following the other in a logical, lyrical and musical manner.

Benjamin loves to cuddle. All my boys are cuddlers, but at age two, there are certainly a lot more cuddles. He is slow to wake up in the morning or from nap, and always wants to just sit or lie with me for 20 or 30 minutes when he does wake. And at random times during the day (especially these days, when we don't see each other much), he'll come find my in bed, climb up, and snuggle right into the crook of my arm.

He also loves to play with the boys, but especially Caleb. I've noticed a special bond between those two. I'm not sure if it's because they are close in age, or because Colin is years more mature than his years, or if it's because Caleb and Benjamin are so similar in personality. But the two of them seem to get each other. If one is crying, the other will come running to offer a hug and wipe away the tears. They love to share everything together. They play games together, sometimes sitting with toys, more often running around the house.

We certainly love our little Boo-Bear-Boy. What a beautiful blessing his sparkling eyes and laughing smile are to our family.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Coming up out of the haze

I think, I think, I just might be coming up out of the haze of the last 6 weeks.

Very often, with hyperemesis, there is a sudden recovery of symptoms. After about 12 weeks of pregnancy, the HCG hormone levels suddenly nose dive and within a couple of days there is a good levelling off. I think I might have hit that, at last.

Yesterday and today I'm suddenly feeling the urge to get back into life. Up until now, while I have managed to side-step the common side-effect of Zofran (depression) I have woken up every morning and felt that I could handle nothing more than simply trying to breathe and nibble before evening came again. Today, I actually made a very short venture out into the world on my own.

Granted, I was exhausted from the effort when I returned. It will still be another two or three weeks at least before I can regain all my strength. I gasp for breath from descending the stairs or speaking for more than ten minutes. My muscles have all seized from lying in bed for so long. And taking a bath (forget a shower) still means I have to lie down for a couple of hours afterward. But bit by bit things will improve.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Web published

Another essay I wrote on the moments of motherhood was published on the "Power of Moms" website today. If you get a chance, check it out.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


Figuring out pronouns is something that always takes toddlers a while. Usually you hear a lot of "me" in the place of "I, and a great confusion in the difference between "you" and "me". Often young kids will even talk about themselves in the third person.

Benjamin has a new one, at least one I've never heard used. He uses "my" for everything. "My do it." "My go with you." Of course he also uses it in the possessive sense "my mommy" and "my truck", but I guess he just figured it was easier to use that pronoun instead of trying to stumble through the rest of the English language.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Colinism and Calebite

Last year James and I made a big decision about moving Colin to a new school for senior kindergarten. It was a decision that wasn't made lightly or easily, with many pros and cons on both sides of the debate. One of the biggest risks we were taking is that if the new school didn't work out, I didn't want to move Colin again for grade one. I really felt that whatever decision we made, it was going to have to stick for a few years at least.

Boy, am I ever glad this new school worked out - and I am happy with the decision in so many ways. I love the small school feeling, the fact that we know all the teachers and all the teachers know our kids. I love how the school can work together on projects and ideas, instead of being segregated by year. I love that between my good friend and I, we will have 8 kids between us, in 7 different grades at the school (talk about being in the know!)

Most of all, I love how my kids are thriving in the French language. Despite both James and I have taken French immersion, I am very apprehensive every time I send off one of my little ones to junior kindergarten. I worry that the language will hold them back, that they won't pick it up, that other kids with more fluent parents will leave my kids behind. I worry that it will not let them reach their full potential in the long run. I know that statistically all these fears are unfounded, and even if one of my kids struggled with the language and had to be pulled from the program, losing the first couple years of school will not negatively affect their entire lives.

Both my boys are doing amazingly. I am in awe of how quickly our young ones can pick up a new language. Yesterday, Colin was trying to relate an experience to me, and he seemed to be struggling a little, as evidenced by the far-away gaze in his eyes and the furrowed forehead. When I asked him what was wrong, he replied "Mom, I just can't think of all the English words!" I smiled, and told him that he can go ahead and just tell me in French, because I understand that too.

Caleb has blossomed all of a sudden in the language. He wasn't participating much through the first two months, but his teacher and I realized that it was more a desire thing than an ability thing, since Caleb was inconsistent in what he "knew" and "didn't know." Since December hit, the teacher has instituted her "no English in class" rule. The teacher never spoke any English to the kids, but up until now has tolerated the occasional English phrase from the kids, especially since most of them were not yet fluent in French. But now, no more. And you know what? Caleb is doing just fine. He's already starting to slip up at home, mixing in French with English all the time, which is one of the milestones on the way to fluency.

Don't you love when things work out so well?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Baby #4

Today I had another ultrasound for little baby Gawthroupe #4. What an amazing experience.

The nurse came by early so I could get my Zofran before trying to head out into the world for the first time in 5 weeks. A dear friend offered to take me, since I don't think I could possibly drive. So I was all set.

Because the last ultrasound was so early, it was also a little inconclusive, for me. So it's been a rough 5 weeks, wondering if my little baby was alright. Well, if the last ultrasound was nerve-wracking and inconclusive, then yesterday's made up for that in spades. The OB said that because I was so tiny (having lost all that weight, I'm still in pre-pregnancy clothes, which is unusual for a 4th baby!) she was able to get a perfectly clear picture. So clear, in fact, that the OB herself was amazed. She kept gushing "I can't believe how clear it is! It looks just like a full grown baby! And look at it waving at us! And the little foot in the air...and the toes!" This doctor has done thousands of early ultrasounds, so for her to be as amazed as she was, I knew it was special.

Every sentence that came out of her mouth was hugely positive. She found the heartbeat right away, and I heard it loud and strong. All the measurements were perfect, nothing indicating any problems. The baby was waving around all its limbs, as if to show that everything is just fine. I really needed to know that, and it's not something you would normally get from an ultrasound at the end of the first trimester.

The doctor has told me that I'm a week ahead of where she put me last time. 12 weeks today! Yay! Most importantly, that means I should start to feel much better. Week 9-12 are usually the worst for hyperemesis, and after that normally things improve quickly. I've been ordered another week of my IV treatment, but I'm hoping after that not to need it.

So June 26 is the official due date, so we'll plan for something around mid-June, since my babies generally come early. It seems to very far away.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Yesterday Colin came into my room to find me playing old fashioned solitaire, on the computer. (It's less messy than real cards when you're playing it in bed.) With genuine interest, he asked what I was playing.

Mommy: It's a card game, called Solitaire.
Colin: How do you play?
Mommy: Well, you have to get all the cards in order, but there are some other rules and things, too.
Colin: Like what?
Mommy: (giving in, even though she is very tired and not feeling well) Up here you have to get them all in the same group by their symbol, starting at one and going up to king. And down here they have to count down, but you also have to alternate colours, red and black. And up here is where you get your new cards from, but you can only choose the card on top.
Colin: Oh. (pause.) Shouldn't you put that block five on that red six, then?
Mommy: (to herself) Oh shoot, how long has that been sitting there?
Mommy: (aloud): Yes, that's exactly right.
Colin: And if you do that, then you can put the 3 and 4 and 5 of the hearts up at the top.
Mommy: I guess it wasn't that complicated of a game after all.
Colin: Can I tell you where all the cards go?
Mommy: Sure love.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Early morning

Colin (not Caleb, but Colin, my "sleeper") woke up at 4am this morning. He told me he couldn't sleep because he was too excited for pyjama day at school today. I told him to crawl in bed with me, but then he just lay awake beside me, fidgeting and talking. He actually was that excited. For pyjama day.

This does not bode well for Christmas morning.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


After yesterday's blog entry about making home like Santa's workshop, I saw a couple more people posting about the same thing - how they were really enjoying little activities at home with their young children. One woman wrote about the different supplies she has gathered so that when her children come home from school, they have some neat to work on together (like toothpick/mini marshmallow shapes, and baking cookies, and making up their own board games)

That got me thinking to the after school madness. And madness it is, indeed. We walk in our front door around 4:15pm after the bus drop the two older boys off. Once all the snow gear is off and put away, and the bags are riffled through for notes, it's 4:30pm and I have exactly two hours before the bedtime routine starts. In that two hours, I still have to prep and make dinner, eat, clean up, and do the little bit of homework the boys have. While I clean up after dinner, the boys usually have a little time to play with Daddy, if he's home. Somehow, that usually all takes about two hours.

I remember at the last parent teacher interview with Colin's teacher, I told her we were working on trying to do the homework each night, but that I was finding there just wasn't enough time. When I explained we only had two hours between school and bed (less on a bath night) she was genuinely surprised. She praised me for the early bedtime hour (which is appropriate for their age) and said that most kids are not tucked in so early. I was grateful for her understanding, but it still doesn't solve our lack of after school time.

We could add an extra hour every day if I drove the kids instead of them taking the bus, or if I could get them on another bus which would drop them off 45 minutes earlier. I'm hoping for the bus, but that won't happen until at least next September. If I can't get that changed, however, then the Mom Taxi it is. I just want my kids to have a little time to be kids.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


My sister Jennifer had her baby last week! I know, I know - a whole week has gone by (see previous entry on blog blahs). But here is a picture of my beautiful little niece, Sienna Elizabeth Germano, with her whole head of dark brown hair, just like Mommy!

She was born November 29th, 2011, at 9:59pm. She weighed in at 9 pounds, 1 ounce. Her birth story was very long and involved, and suffice it to say that my sister is a rock star for having survived it all! Now comes the transition to motherhood for her. It's funny - you have nine months to prepare for it, but the actual transition happens in a split second. It's a startling change. All of a sudden you go from not really having to worry about anyone but you, to having a whole little life depend on you for everything. But I'm not worried - she's got a great support system, including her fantastic husband, fabulous older sister, plus my parents who arrive next week, our younger sister, and her husband's family, for whom this is the first grandchild/niece, and so are overjoyed at the prospect of helping with the baby.

Welcome, little Sienna!

A time to grow and change?

The last couple of days I've come onto the computer to write a blog entry and stared at the blinking cursor for a while, then closed it down. I've been in bed a month now, 3 weeks hooked up to the IV, and I feel like there's just not that much to write about. Every day is the same. Every day I can choose between watching a movie, reading a book, or doing crosswords on the computer. Could I really write for two months about that?

This morning I was reading a friend's blog entry about how the past couple of days her house has felt like "Santa's workshop." We had the most beautiful snow yesterday, the kind that sticks to the branches of the tree and just makes everything look like a winter wonderland, and so thinking about my friend's house being Santa's workshop was just the most beautiful image. Then I thought about how we usually pass our time when I'm well, and I thought, you know what? Even if I was well, I don't know that I would have spent my mornings doing Christmas crafts and baking and the like. The past 6 years of sleepless nights have meant that I spend most mornings getting the housework done so that I can grab a nap when the boys sleep in the afternoon. Other mornings I like to take the boys out to play, to fill the time.

Fill the time. That's the expression that I'm not liking here. And that's the one that I really want to change once I'm out of bed again. Winter is here, which means my yearly hibernation from the cold, and even when I can get out of bed, it's still a long recovery of strength before I can get out of the house on outings again. But I hope I can become a little more deliberate in my mornings with the boys/Benjamin. While I may not spend time playing transformers (such a boy thing!) I want to come up with some neat ideas of things we can do together.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Happy birthday Colin

Colin turned 6 years old today, and how time flies. James made the comment that he is one-third of the way to being an adult, and it really took me aback. He's little boy face has started to change ever so slightly, but enough that he's leaving behind the baby face he's had since birth.

He's such a serious little soul. He really watches and listens to everything, and with his perfect memory recall, you can't get anything by him. He amazes me every day how he learns and applies things, and integrates them into his play.

I was sad to miss the celebrations downstairs, but I think having to listen from bed made me even more attentive to all the little comments and nuances of the day. My favourite moment: after Colin made his wish and blew out the candles, he was eager to tell everyone what he'd wished for: that his family would be together forever. Talk about making my heart melt!

I'm starting to see the influence of friends and school more and more. I hate that so much effort must be put into undoing what he learns there, rather than simply teaching at home. We do our best to instil the positive qualities we hope he will foster, but it's mostly bad behaviours he picks up from school. Luckily I find he is still a little naive and innocent, which means he doesn't push back when we gently correct him.

He is still head over heels for Lego. I imagine this is a phase that lasts a long time for boys, since it's not a toy you really grow out of. Today he brought me a Lego present - a Christmas ornament for my little Christmas tree, wrapped up in a lego box with a lego bow on top.

I can see that each year of growth brings at least two in maturity, and he's starting to have some trouble with Caleb. Caleb is so full of life and exuberance and doesn't understand Colin's need to privacy and time alone. But Colin is starting to understand his introverted ways, and we're helping him to identify when he needs time alone and how to excuse himself from the bustle.

We love our big little boy so much, and what a strong example he is now, and will be as he grows, for his younger brothers.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Out my window

This is the view out my bedroom window, by my head. I just love the scene that sets itself. Something about the towering maple trees, and unique design of the snug little homes, and fresh blanket of snow and the clear blue sky makes my heart soar. It is just so picturesque. This is why I love my neighbourhood. While in new subdivisions I know you get more house for your money, and everything in brand new, I love the charm of an old neighbourhood.

This snow dusting makes me yearn for a walk out in the crisp winter air. Once January comes the temperature will dip below my body's tolerance level, forcing me inside for a season of hibernation. But these first few days of winter are always so beautiful, with a little bit of snow but enough warmth in the air to enjoy it outside.