31 December 2009

Well, the kids are in bed, I've got some red wine love going on, and there's just over two hours left in this year. Seems like a good a time as any to get retrospective.

When I think back on this past year, family is the big thing that stands out. I know this seems kind of obvious in that my life is centered around Liam and the kids, but I'm thinking of family in a bigger more long-term way.

Early last year, we said goodbye to Liam's mom Peggy after watching her struggle through health issues related to her Multiple Sclerosis. It was a period where worry for Peggy weighed on our hearts every day and then the raw pain of loss slowly dulled over as her absence became a part of our lives. I learned a lot from the experience, including how everything else seems to fade into nothingness when someone you love is hurting. I also learned that life in the world goes on, even if it seems to limp and hobble for a while, and that children are such a blessing and a frustration in their inability to wallow in sorrow for any real period of time. It's been about 10 months now since Peggy left us and we all miss her so much, especially during this first holiday season without her.

The other side of the family coin is the small and delicious Olivia. Growing through my pregnancy with her was such a strange juxtaposition sometimes with Peggy's withering away. I entered 2009 already pregnant with Olivia and much of the year seemed to be swallowed up by growing and birthing and nurturing her in her early months. By the time she made her grand entrance into the world I felt like I'd been gestating an elephant instead of a human. I was overjoyed to finally hold her in my arms after her beautiful and intimate birth. Adding a baby into our family has shifted everyone's roles a little bit and it's been so deeply rewarding to see how our family has grown and evolved.

The rest of the year seems to have been filled with the many other small moments that make up daily living.

There were the ups and downs of Liam's contract work as he entered and left different work. It's been a growing experience for sure, getting used to the different stresses of non-permanent employment, but it's also been heartwarming to see Liam developing and working towards goals for his corporation. He's currently at a contract where he's happy and it will hopefully see him through almost all of 2010.

Nick and Lily have grown in leaps in bounds in all senses of the word since last year.

Nick is stepping away from the world of the younger child and since shortly before his ninth birthday I've been catching glimpses of the teenager and man he'll be in only a few short years. His deep interest in reading has opened up so many doors to the world around him and his brain is like a giant sponge just mopping up and storing every little scrap of information he sees, hears, or experiences. He constantly amazes me with his understanding and patience of things that I barely even notice. I think the older this boy gets, the deeper he gets. I'm so incredibly grateful that we are homeschooling him as I watch him mull things over and work things out inside of his head over such long periods of time. He works on his own schedule, whether he's eating a sandwich for an hour or contemplating the concept of inflation for an afternoon, and I'm happy that his lifestyle allows him to operate in the way that works best for him.

And then Lily. Oh Lily. My little firecracker with glittering diamonds for eyes. I keep finding myself looking at her and wondering when she got so old. I feel like she was two years old and then I took a few breaths to pay attention to my pregnancy and then all of a sudden I have this big kid four year old living in my home. She's a walking clash of stereotypes, wearing pink dresses and makeup but then being too stubborn to cry when she's hurt and beating the crap out of her big brother. Watching Lily blossom into the role of being a big sister has been one of the most rewarding experiences of the year for sure. She loves Olivia. So so much. During the night, if Olivia starts to cry Lily will half wake to make sure her little sister is ok. Lily wants to make her laugh, keep her safe, hold her, play with her, squeeze her, and even lick her if she can get away with it. Watching the two of them together makes me wonder what the years ahead will hold for them. Never having had a sister of my own, it's a world of mystery to me that leaves me feeling a little bit jealous.

And then of course we have me. After having taken so much time for myself in 2008 to train for and run my second half marathon, 2009 was the kind of year that kicked me in the shins on a personal level. I knew it was coming, that's what you get when you get pregnant and bring a new baby into the family. Now that Olivia is five months old, I'm feeling the need to start carving out some me time in my life again. Instead of holding her while she sleeps in the evenings, I've been stashing her up in bed with Lily and reveling in having my arms and my breasts free for a few hours. The postpartum haze is lifting a bit and I'm feeling the need to exercise my brain more with reading a writing. (Actually, I have this big piece of writing that's been chewing away on my brain for a while but I'm too intimidated to actually start working on it. I need to get it out before it makes me crazy!) I've also started making more time for my physical self during my everyday life with a focus on my health through tracking calories and exercising more. I'm trying to find that magical balance where I have enough time for everything, or at least find peace with the amount of balance I've achieved so far. I'll let you know how that goes.

And there, I guess, you have it. What a year of extremes. We lost a family member, we gained a family member. Some really big moments too place this year, but so many days and weeks were filled with the low-key moments that get lost in the shuffle of years. It's been a year that has pushed me and changed me a lot, which I guess is a good thing seeing as it's spitting me out right in time for my 30th birthday. I feel like turning 30 should signify that I've got some life experience and some wisdom under my belt. Some days I feel like I'm there. Other days I feel like I really don't know what the heck I'm doing.

So anyhow, the year was what it was. Loved it, hated it, glad to know that I'm not going to be slogging through it once more. I hope that everyone who pops by here to read this has had a rewarding year to date and that 2010 is filled with the love and joy of the people most dear to them.

29 December 2009

Annie over at PhD In Parenting wrote about getting her body back and losing weight, and in the comments section a reader linked to the Body After Baby Challenge 2010 over on Mama Notes. I went, I read, and I had two thoughts: "Hey, I have an after-baby body going on right now!" and "Oooh, weight-loss challenge! I need a kick in the pants to keep me on track!".

And so...I'm jumping in.

My friend Raelynn and I have recently decided that we will put BlackBerry Chat to good use and we've become weight-loss buddies, so I've already got my first sort-term goal in place. My 30th birthday is in 22 days and I wanted to have lost 10 lbs by that point. I'm 5 lbs away right now (I was 4 lbs away but some Christmas indulgences nixed that last pound), so I've got 22 days to lose 5 lbs. Easy peasy.

My next goal is at the next 25 lb mark. With some quick mental calculations, reality and big plans come together to give me a goal date of June 1, 2010. When I've hit that goal, I'll set a goal date for the last 30ish lbs.

Next up: The Why Question! Why am I doing this? Well, the joining the challenge part is to help with motivation and staying focused. The road to losing 60 lbs isn't going to be a short stroll through the park. It'll be more like running a half marathon in 33 degree weather and getting heat stroke. Been there, done that. Hated the process, loved the ending! Having some folks along for the ride will make it easier to keep trudging along.

There are many reasons why I'm getting back on the road to weight loss. I want to wear something other than yoga pants and wrap skirts. I want to have more energy. I want to enjoy shopping for clothes. I want to improve my health. I want to stop wondering why it looks like I'm still pregnant when I can clearly see that the fetus has long since exited my uterus.

Oh yeah, and I want to not die when I get back into running in the spring. Have I mentioned how much I miss running? It's been 13 months since I ran my last 10K run, with Olivia dancing a happy little dance on my uterus with such vigor that I'll be eternally grateful to that dirty little bathroom at the 7-eleven. I. Miss. Running. I miss the quiet alone time. I miss the after-run buzz. I miss how good those walk breaks felt. I miss the elation of dropping minutes off my time and pounds off my hips. Le sigh.

And on to the next section: The How! The simple answer is move more and eat less. But that's too simple, too vague for me when faced with chocolates and the opportunity to sit my rear on the couch.

I recently downloaded a calorie tracking app for my BlackBerry which is linked to My Daily Plate, and on the days I actually enter in all my foods all day it serves me really well (as in I dropped 3 lbs in the first 2 days!). But I've been slacking since Christmas Eve. Bad Kim. Just because you don't enter the chocolates and pie into the calorie tracker doesn't mean your thighs don't notice them. Hence that last pound coming back to visit.

On the other side of the coin, the moving more part, I'm going to make good use of my Walking Away The Pounds DVD since it eliminates the excuse of not wanting to go out in the cold. It's also an exercise video I've been doing with Olivia on my back and the big kids joining in, so no excuses of the kids getting in the way either! I'm also going to create more opportunities to move more such as going for walks when it's nice out, creating a set of strength exercises I can do daily at home, and the all-important kitchen dancing with the small folks. As the weather improves and my pelvis remembers that it's not woobly and pregnant anymore, I'll pick running back up again with the goal of doing a 5K race early in the summer. I would secretly love to get a 10K trail race in by the time fall hits, but we'll see how training for that works alongside parenting the three hooligans.

And so...there we have it. The plan. The commitment. The hopes. I'll hit publish now before I think about it too much.

12 November 2009

Today our family met with Mark, our new homeschool facilitator. We reviewed my education plan for the coming school year, completed a parent evaluation, and snacked on banana bread and tea (which Lily was happy to serve out of her little tea party set).

Writing up Nicholas' education plan and discussing it with Mark today has got me examining our homeschooling life. We're in the midst of our third year of homeschooling and in many ways it feels like we're just getting into our groove.

In the first year, I struggled with finding our style. At first I took the approach of relaxed eclectic but within a few months I realized that, at heart, we were really unschoolers. I just had to get over my fear of trusting Nicholas and his ability to pursue learning. The rest of that year I felt the aches and pains over learning and trusting in the process, but we never lost sight of the fact that homeschooling was the right choice for our family.

The second year was a flurry of activity. Nick and Lily were getting a feel for the things they liked and we spent days upon days prowling about the science center and libraries. So much of my energy went towards my pregnancy that there were times I felt I was barely keeping up with the kids.

This, our third year, is different in so many ways. With Olivia's arrival, dynamics and relationships within the family have changed. Nick and Lily are now the both the big kids, and as Lily becomes old enough to join in on some programs and start doing workbooks she feels more than ever like she's homeschooling as well. Nick is more immersed than ever in his books and projects, and it's not uncommon for the girls and I to be doing activities together while Nick tucks himself off somewhere in the house to learn and create on his own.

I took a different approach to creating Nick's education plan this year. Normally, I listed out all the various subjects and created goals and strategies pertaining to each subject. When I sat down to work on it this year, though, it seemed more than ever that this layout didn't reflect our approach to learning our my views on Nick's development as a well-rounded individual. Instead, I created the headings of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual and included under this broad areas what we are and will be doing this year. I'm really happy with the outcome and the way that it allows much more room for the life learning that is part of our homeschooling life.

In discussing with Mark our journey from public schooling to homeschooling, I had the chance to really appreciate just how much this approach to life and learning has meant to our family. I love the way that Nick has positively flourished in these past few years and the way that our family relationships have grown and strengthened through our family-focused lifestyle. In the midst of the myriad of mommy worries, at least I can know without a doubt that in this area we've made the best choice for our family.

08 November 2009

So in my efforts to return to my pre-pregnancy weight, I've been learning more about calorie consumption and expenditure. There are lots of fancy calculators online where you enter in your weight and how long you did an activity and then it tells you how many calories you burned.

Some of the activities are ridiculously exact ("laying crushed rock") and some are just outright bizarre ("caulking, except a log cabin") but I've noticed that they all seem to have one thing in common: they don't take into consideration the extreme multi-tasking that a mom of 3 deals with on a daily basis.

To help out any of you fellow moms who might find yourselves in need of a more realistic list of daily activities in your calorie burn calculator, I offer you the following.

Sweeping floors, 30 minutes - 157 calories
Sweeping floors while jiggling a fussy baby on your hip, 30 minutes - 183 calories
Sweeping floors while jiggling a fussy baby on your hip and dodging two children and a dog playing tag, 30 minutes - 204 calories

Putting away laundry, 30 minutes - 110 calories
Putting away laundry with the help of children who need to be reminded every 30 seconds about the job at hand and how it has nothing to do with punching anyone or playing with Lego, 30 minutes - 159 calories (just call it 318, though, since you know it's going to take twice as long)

Cooking, 30 minutes - 95 calories
Cooking while wearing baby in a sling, 30 minutes - 117 calories (add 20 calories if baby is nursing)
Cooking while wearing baby in a sling with the "help" of two children, 30 minutes - 155 calories

Food shopping, 30 minutes - 110 calories
Food shopping in the bulk foods section with a curious 4 year old, 30 minutes (if you can last that long) - 259 calories

Sexual activities, 30 minutes - 62 calories
Sexual activities requiring climbing two flights of stairs and locking the door to hide from the children, 30 minutes - 89 calories (add 10 calories if you had to make an extra effort to be quiet)

Before you ask, no I don't have any scientific backings on any of these numbers, only many hours of practical study. Far too many (well, except maybe for that last one).

Looking at my ultra-reliable chart here might lead one to believe that pregnancy weight should just come flying off in a house of our activity level, but there's an intricate equation which relates the level of daytime stress to the level of evening chocolate consumption. But that's the makings of a whole other blog entry...

24 September 2009

I remember this crazy, hormonally-induced mini panic attack I had during my pregnancy with Lily when I tried to figure out how I was going to take care of my big kid (Nick) while dealing with the constant and intense demands of my newborn (Lily!). I remembered how all-encompassing meeting Nick's needs during the first few months was. When I did the math of 23.5 hours a day of newborn care added to the 11.5 hours a day that my then 4-year-old needed I came to the realization that there were simply not enough hours in the day. And it was too late to turn back.

Things continued on (obviously), and eventually our baby girl arrived and things sorted themselves out. I learned to juggle children's needs. I learned to prioritize. Most importantly, though, I learned to multitask like I'd never multitasked before. I remember playing Mario Kart with Nick one afternoon while nursing two week old Lily Lou (hands-free nursing is the best skill ever, by the way).

Four years later, here I am again learning all over again how to squeeze more of me out of my days. Babywearing is a huge part in this as I'm able to carry, nurse, and comfort Olivia on the go or while using both my hands for taking care of other family members. We're also able to be much more mobile than we would be if she had to be in a crib to nap. If I've got a wrap, a drink, and some diapers I can head out with the big kids to explore and enjoy the world around us.

The other thing I'm learning is to use the small moments. The other day the kids and I were listening to their new Music Together cd (I'll dedicate a post sometime to rave about how much we love Music Together) while they were playing with Play Dough and I was washing dishes, and Olivia was snoozing on my back in the Mei Tai (lazy little slacker!).

I stuck the oatmeal pot in the sink to let it soak for a bit and I scooped up Lily to dance around the kitchen for a bit. When the song ended, she went back to her sculpting and I went back to my dishes, and I couldn't help but think of how when Nick was her age I'd have had time to dance to the entire cd with him. Not that I really felt Lily was lacking for attention since she was chattering away with Nick and I, but it's just different.

I had more of this post in my head at some point, but I'll wrap it up here since I foresee the rest of this just turning into the totally disjointed thought process that my sleep-deprived brain is coming up with now. G'night! *yawn*

10 September 2009

What happens when you let an almost-4-year-old play with your camera? First, you get lots of pictures. Lots of blurry close-ups, many of which are hard to identify. Secondly, you get self-portraits. Many, many self-portraits. And if that kid happens to be Lily-Lou, you get some that look like this:

59 minutes til your birthday, you little nutter. Happy (early) birthday!!!

30 August 2009

Kelly and Lorry came by today for a visit and to drop off a camera. Lorry saw my Facebook status about my still-missing camera and generously offered us an extra one they had at home. As a scrapbooker and a sappy mom, not being able to take pictures for around 3 weeks of Olivia's 6 weeks out in the real world was making me sad and Kelly and Lorry's thoughtfulness was very touching.

We all took turns snapping some photos this afternoon (seeing Lily's gave me a better idea of how our house looks to 3-year-olds!) and when I was taking a whole bunch of Olivia, Lily asked me why I was taking so many. I told her that sometimes you have to take three hundred pictures to get a good one.

Out of over a hundred I downloaded from the memory card, our entire life can be summed up in just 3 photos.

First off, a picture that Liam took of Nick, Olivia, and I. Nick's there in body but not in mind. That's the kid I have so frequently these days. Physically, he's home with me, but his thoughts are elsewhere, whether wedged between the pages of his current book or somewhere just beyond himself where he's re-living this morning's video game or plotting out his next project to build with treasures from the recycling bin.

Then there's me, not a trace of the makeup I used to wear every day, hair kind of pulled back into a falling out ponytail, and wearing stretchy clothes that mostly cover the bulges and bumps that my postpartum body is made of. While I do miss the way I used to have time to straighten my hair, carefully put on makeup, and pick out nice outfits that compliment my body, I'm far too enthralled with the little squishy person in my hands to really mind that I totally lack the time and energy to do these things anymore.

And then there is, of course, Olivia. She's cute. And squishy. And you can almost smell her milky goodness from the photo. And that is currently the entirety of her existence.

And then we have a picture I took. It was supposed to be of Olivia but Lily felt the need to get in there too. My dear, amazing, beautiful Lily. I can't get a normal picture of her. Or maybe all the crazy faces are normal since she makes them all the time. And the jumping in on whatever Olivia's doing? That's almost the entirety of her existence these days. She seems to alternate between loving up the baby and trying to be one of the big kids with Nick. If there's action somewhere, she wants in on it. If my attention is on something, she wants to make sure I'm still aware of her too. What she lacks in patience, she more than makes up for in enthusiasm and pure spirit.

And finally, we have Liam in a photo all by himself looking slightly pained. It often feels like there's a three-ring circus going on at home and Liam's off at work, stressing and making his brain smoke a little. I sometimes have these moments when he leaves the house when I envy his bus ride to work where he gets to listen to his own music or read a book uninterrupted, but the reality of the situation is that I don't envy the load he bears in being our breadwinner. I know that the worries and problems he confides in me are only the tip of the iceberg, and that his efforts and responsibilities are enormous.

So there you have it, a package of Johnstones all wrapped up in a package of three snapshots. I look forward to the days when I'll look back on these pictures and swoon over the memory of Olivia's babyness, wonder how I ever thought that Nick was old at almost 9, laugh at the young woman that nutty little Lily grew into, appreciate the time and energy I have for myself again, and feel ever more grateful for my incredible partner in life.

05 August 2009

This post was originally going to be all about babywearing, its benefits, and my history with slings, wraps, and my Ergo, but somehow between the business of life and the giant gaping hole where my brain used to be, the writing in my head is not materializing into writing on the screen.

Here, instead, is a brief glimpse into the love affair I'm enjoying with my wrap. It's a Merry Carry that I purchased from my dear friends at Tadpoles and Butterflies.

First some pictures. Right off the bat, we have a shot love the lovely Olivia enjoying a wrap-induced snuggle a few hours after her birth:

A naked afternoon nap on day 2:

Her first outing on day 3, a walk to the playground.

My activities while wearing Olivia in the wrap these past couple of weeks include:
  • eating
  • sleeping
  • blogging
  • sweeping the kitchen
  • cleaning the toilet
  • riding the bus
  • buying groceries
  • going for a walk while Lily rides her bike
  • chilling at Folk Fest
  • preparing meals (I was going to say cooking, but that's a bit of a strong term for the food prep I've been doing lately)
  • doing laundry
The only thing I've yet to manage that's really important to me is nursing her in the wrap. Once she's a bit bigger it'll be easier and I'll be more mobile. Woo!

For anyone who's interested in reading more about the benefits of babywearing, here's a list of informative links from The BabyWearer.

03 August 2009

Life these days seems like an endless series of bodily functions. Someone needs to eat. Someone needs to sleep. Someone needs to pee or poo. Part of it has to do with adding another person into our family and part of it has to do with how much that small person's bodily functions require my personal attention.

Every day is a bit better, but we're still miles from what was normal life a few weeks ago. Today, the sum total of my productivity was keeping most of my family taken care of and purchasing $300 worth of groceries. A year ago, that would have been a small part of my day and I could have gone on another outing or two and still had time and energy to spare. Today, though, by the time I shipped the older kids off to Grandma's house, fed the baby, washed the puke off the baby, dressed the baby, fed the baby, changed the baby's diaper, and got the baby to sleep so I could drive the five minutes to the grocery store, it was 4:30 in the afternoon. That's an entire day gone. Woosh!

Times like these help me determine my true priorities. Sleep, food, clean(ish) clothing. Those are the bare minimums. From there I can add in things like getting some cleaning done, playing with the big kids, poking around on the computer or talking to someone on the phone (or not, right Chad?!). A big leap above that is actually leaving the house. I'm only finding that I'm up to that feat every couple of days, which should make the upcoming 5 day stint of Folk Fest very interesting.

And now my priority is shifting from this rambly blog post to the frustrated baby who won't settle for her Dad...

31 July 2009

I've been pondering today. I started out by reflecting on Olivia's birth and people's reactions to the fact that we chose to birth unassisted. I was struck by how much people fear childbirth, from the pain to possible complications and beyond. And the more I pondered, the more I saw that the fear surrounding childbirth is part of a bigger picture of the fear that surrounds women's bodies.

We're scared of so many things when it comes to our bodies. We fear the untimely arrival of our menstrual cycles and the practically deadly shame if anyone should discover that we're bleeding. We buy feminine hygiene products (are we unhygienic without them?) that promise to save us from embarrassment, some of which even contain perfumes to further mask the frightful event.

We're scared of becoming pregnant. We put hormones and devices into our bodies so that they don't betray us and host a new life that we're not prepared for. So many women don't trust that they can learn to understand their bodies and avoid pregnancy without chemicals.

We fear pregnancy. Oh do we ever fear pregnancy. We've turned what is, in most cases, a time of health and growth into one long frightening event. We're scared we'll gain too much weight or too little. We're scared we'll eat the wrong foods or exercise the wrong way. We're worried that our bodies won't sustain the little life in us and we rely on tests and close monitoring to ensure that we're miraculously not messing things up in there.

And birth is just a continuation of it all. We fear we'll go into labour too early, too late, or not at all. We're scared our bodies will fail us, whether it's a labour that stalls out, a pelvis that's too small, or a cervix that won't dilate according to the proper schedule. We're afraid that we won't be able to handle the intensity of labour and we seek drugs to save us.

Once baby's here, we worry that our breasts aren't competent to nourish him. Our milk is too watery, too sparse. We watch clocks, count diapers, and supplement with formula at the drop of a hat.

Was there a time when women trusted their bodies to grow and live and just be normal? There must have been. And if so, when did it all change? When did we lose our confidence in ourselves and our abilites? And what would it take to get it back?

29 July 2009

I'd like to preface this entry by saying I hope I'm not jinxing myself. I'm knocking on wood as I type.

As some of you probably remember, when Lily was a newborn she spent some time at the hospital due to having seizures. The shortish version of the story is that on her fifth day of life she had her first seizure, though it wasn't diagnosed until day seven, and she spent 4 (5?) days in the hospital, hooked up to a multitude of monitors to ensure that the Phenobarbitol she received every 12 hours prevented any more seizures from occurring. It was determined through a process of elimination that the seizures were due to a genetic foible from Liam's side of the gene pool. A number of his family members had the same problem as newborns and Liam's children will all face a 50% chance of falling into the affected category. The working theory on the cause of the seizures is that a phosphorus pump in the brain that is used during the first weeks of life is faulty, and so administering a sedative such as Phenobarb for the first six weeks gets the baby through the problem time.

It was, to put it mildly, a very crappy experience. I was a super-hormonal postpartum mom who one day had a normal, healthy newborn at home and the next day was camped out in the Neonatal Intermediate Care Nursery watching her daughter hooked up to a mass of machinery and looking so helplessly tiny. The stress of not really knowing what was going on with my daughter combined with the fatigue of coaxing a sedated baby to nurse every 4 hours round the clock and the worry about Nicholas who had been foisted off upon my parents was overwhelming.

Coming out of that heartwrenching week, Liam and I wondered if we would end up making the decision of the size of our family based on not wanting to go through that experience again. We eventually, obviously, decided to go ahead and give the Johnstone-MacPherson genetic combo another go. We do make cute kids after all.

The worry over the possibility of reliving the seizure scenario hovered over me during my pregnancy with Olivia. How would we cope this time? Would it be easier? What would happen if I needed to stay overnight at the hospital away from Lily, who has yet to spend a night apart from me? What if our choice to pursue an unassited birth led to problems with the way things were handled with our newborn? I worried. I prayed. I tried to visualize what the best case scenario could look like, and then the worst.

And so here we are, on Olivia's ninth day of life and there has been no sign of any abnormalities. The seizures, if they were going to happen, would have shown up on or around the fifth day (hence the nickname Fifth Day Fits). I've watched her closely, tensed up at odd breathing patterns, and kept her either with me or with Liam at all times.

Slowly, slowly I'm feeling like we're ok. I didn't realize until this morning when I felt happy just how tense I'd been feeling. I'm not going to have to watch my baby stiffen and turn purple as she stops breathing for the world's longest minute. I'm not going to have to check her into the hospital where she'll be jabbed and have a spinal tap like her big sister did. I'm not going to have to spent countless hours sitting in the nursery watching her vitals flash across a screen.

I'm not. I get to just stay home and breathe in the intoxicating milky scent that surrounds Olivia like a cloud. I get to sleep in my own bed, play with my other children, and enjoy the blessings in my life.

28 July 2009

Feed the baby.
On, off. On, off. Pull her fist out of her mouth again.
Soggy diaper. Again.
Feed her starving mouth once more.
She's almost asleep...ugh, poopy diaper now.
Feed her again. Please go to sleep child.
Finally, she's asleep!
Shove some food down, chug water, make coffee, play with the big kids.
Scramble scramble scramble.
Baby's grunting, stretching, yelling.
Feed the baby again.
And on, and on...

24 July 2009

Life has, unsurprisingly, turned into a giant blur of newborn care: nursing, changing diapers, cleaning up spit-up, trying to scarf down half a sandwich before baby starts howling for yet more milk. I've been here twice before, but it's been 4 years since the last time and 5 years since the time before that and memories have a way of getting smoother around the edges as time marches on.

At the same time as I'm trudging through the trenches of bodily fluids, I'm watching a massive change take place in Nick. This winter, I started to see small bits of the pre-teen boy pushing their way through the little kid in him and all of a sudden over the past few weeks he's hit a new stride in his independence.

He's spent years (yes, years) trying to learn how to ride his two-wheeler. Actually, trying is not the right word. It was more avoiding and fighting and ranting about not being able to do it at the drop of a hat. And then suddenly last month something clicked and he got it. And he's been out there biking at all times of the day. In the yard, down the road, up and down bumps, around in circles while he stands on the frame. Yeah, he's my all or nothing kid.

And then the Green Shack programs started up for the summer. The city sets up small sheds in some of the local parks and fills them with craft supplies and sports equipment and a paid employee hangs out at the playground for something like 30 hours each week.

Green Shack program + Nick biking = a kid who is gone from the house every single hour that he can manage

He grabs a bag, puts in a water bottle and a hat and my phone, and he's gone. And he's loving it. There's a different glow about him, a different kind of inner peace and satisfaction that comes with taking on a new level of independence and thriving.

It's such a strange spot to be in, for me. I watch one child make a mighty leap forward while I start anew with another. I have moments of overwhelm with the tiny body that needs such constant care, and then I look at Nick and wonder how it is that the past almost 9 years have flown past.

23 July 2009

Squeaky sleep sighs
Shoulder peach fuzz
Teenie tiny wrinkled toes
Wide-mouthed smooches where she tries to latch on to my mouth
Milk breath
Tiny bum sticking up while she sleeps
The smell that drifts up from her hair
Mid-nap stretches, complete with the Superman arm thrust

I may, in fact, be just a tiny bit in love.

22 July 2009

The anticipation is over! Tiny little Miss Long-Awaited is here at last.

The quickie details first: Olivia Margaret arrived at 2:50 am on July 21, weighing in at 8 lbs 6 oz. She was born into her Daddy's hands, bum first and ready to make her opinions known!

The more interesting, detailed version:

After weeks of random daily contractions, things started to get underway on Sunday the 19th. During the day, I had more contractions than were usual for me and when we went out for supper that night with Meghan and Preston the contractions became more frequent and consistent. Since I was convinced that things would go quickly with this birth I assumed that I'd have a baby that nigh. Things petered outaround midnight, though, and I went to bed frustrated and disappointed yet again.

I had some contractions during the night that were painful enough to wake me up and when I got up on Monday morning I was tired and annoyed. Still no baby, still no real labour going on. I told Liam that I needed him to stay home that day because if things picked up again I didn't know that him being a 30 minute bike commute away would be close enough.

As the morning went on, the contractions started up again but they were all over the place in their frequency. Sometimes they were 15 minutes apart, sometimes 45. I didn't know if I was really in labour or if I was just in another state of pre-labour limbo. I used some black and blue cohosh tincture to see if they'd help things to get settled and underway, but I didn't really notice any changes as a result. Liam and the kids and I went for a walk around the block at one point and although I had a few decent contractions while we walked, I didn't really feel like I was making any progress.

Around lunch, I called my friend Arie for some advice on getting things to pick up. She gave me some pointers on things to try, but the biggest thing I got from the phone call was an emotional pick-me-up. I laughed for the first time that day and felt much better after having a chance to vent my fears and frustrations.

When I got off the phone I got Liam to give me a neck massage with some peppermint massage oil (thanks Lee-Ann!) and then I put on some more upbeat music. I also did the stairway lunges that Nancy had suggested and I laughed at how dumb I felt trying to hard to pull myself up the stairs two steps at a time. I felt my energy level pick up as my mood shifted. I also did a few doses of the cohoshes again and things seemed to start moving forward.

By suppertime, I was hungry enough to eat some of my food but couldn't deal with eating an entire meal. I spent my time between contractions walking around the house or sitting, and eventually they became strong enough that I would stand up and sway whenever one came on.

Liam alternated between hanging out with the kids and supporting me. He and Lily did a bunch of puzzles in the kithchen and Nick mostly sat around reading until it was time for bed. I'd given Lily lots of warning that I wasn't going to be able to snuggle with her at bedtime since things were getting too intense for me, but when the time came for the lights to go out she was really upset and sobbed instead of going to sleep. Liam ended up setting her up with a movie upstairs so that I could get some peace and focus on myself.

I was getting really uncomfortable around 10:30 and decided to get into the birthing pool. I'd been putting it off for a while because I was worried about getting in too early and causing labour to stall out yet again, but I figured I could get in to relax a bit and then get out if things stopped progressing. It turned out that my contractions chugged along at a good rate and I was really enjoying being in the water as it was so much more confortable. Around 11:30, Lily's movie ended and she was still wide awake so I got out of the water and went to bed with her. She fell asleep quickly and I ended up dozing off for a few minutes with her which made for a really nice break.

After midnight things continued to get more intense. I started hanging off of Liam during my contractions, which made them much easier to work through. My lower back was getting really achy, so I would sit between contractions and then stand up when I felt them coming on. At one point I went outside for a bit and stared up at the night sky which made for a nice break from pacing around the house. I got to the point where I couldn't get comfortable whether I was walking, sitting, standing or swaying and I decided to get back into the water around 1:30.

The next hour was filled with increasingly strong contractions and my lovely Liam doing the never-ending job of keeping the water warm for me. The pool was filled right up to the fill line, so every time I started to get chilled he had to empty some of the cool water and then add some hot water, all of which he did with many trips to and from the sink with pots! When he wasn't busy with that he held by hands or rubbed my head while encouraging me by telling me what a fantastic job I was doing. This really helped me when I was feeling discouraged or overwhelmed.

I'd been switching back and forth between sitting in the pool and kneeling while draping my upper body over the edge of the pool. Eventually I started dozing off between the contractions which really helped in being able to cope with them. Vocalizing was a huge relief, just as it had been during Lily's birth, and Liam kept encouraging me to let everything out. Near the end, "letting it out" also included some crying and outright yelling!

During one contraction when I was up on my knees, I suddenly found myself pushing. I hadn't thought that I was that close yet but all of a sudden there I was pushing and feeling my baby shooting straight down. I pushed a few times during that contraction and felt the baby beginning to come out. After the contraction ended, Liam asked if I'd been pushing and I confirmed that I had indeed so he got ready to catch our little baby.

On the next contraction I pushed like crazy trying to get the baby's head to come out and eventually I felt her emerge. I heard Liam say "The baby's head is out!" and then a few moments later "That's not a head!". I continued to push and the rest of our little breech baby slid out into Liam's hands.

I got myself sitting down while Liam held our baby and confirmed that we'd given birth to a little girl. He handed her to me and I held her, staring at her in total amazement. I must have said to her "I didn't think you were ever going to come out!" about a dozen times before I fully came to the realization that she was born and labour was over. It was truly amazing!

We hung out in the pool for a while waiting for the placenta to come out and Liam took some pictures as I held her and nursed her. I started getting impatient because the water was getting cold, but about 15 minutes after baby's arrival I delivered the placenta and we tied and cut the cord.

Liam wrapped the baby in some blankets and snuggled with her while I took a quick shower to warm up since I was pretty chilled at that point. I got dressed in some nice cozy pj's and the three of us sat on the couch to stare at each other.

Not too long after, Nick came stumbling up the stairs, upset almost to the point of tears because the baby's crying had woken him up. He knew that he wasn't supposed to be up at 3:30 in the morning but he couldn't get back to sleep. Liam and I assured him that it really was ok since it was a special day and that we'd make sure that he got the chance to rest later on in the day.

Nick cheered up and woke up the rest of the way and met his little sister. He laughed at all the noises she was making and he helped Liam and I to confirm that this little baby did indeed look like an Olivia Margaret. He also helped us to weigh her and I was shocked to see that she was 8 lbs 6 oz, much bigger than my other babies who came in just on either side of 7 lbs!

Once things settled down a bit around 5:30, Liam went downstiars to get some sleep and I went upstairs with Olivia to see if we could get some sleep too. Nick watched some TV while waiting for the rest of us lazy bums to wake up.

An hour or so later, I woke up and needed food and water more than I needed more sleep. Olivia and I came back downstairs and I ate and drank then sat on the couch with Nick. Not too long after, Lily woke up and met her little sister. She was so excited to finally meet the baby and insisted on holding her and snuggling her a whole bunch.

And so...that's that. This is how our lovely and dear Olivia made her entrance into the world! She's fantasticly squishy and fuzzy with blonde shoulder hair and a full head of dark brown hair. She's a very enthusiastic nursling, and not even 36 hours after her birth my milk has come in. We're all really enjoying getting to know her and I'm greatly looking forward to the weeks and months ahead.

18 July 2009

We are currently looking for a few pieces of new furniture. And when I say "new" I actually mean "used but seems like new" because I'm too much my parents' daughter to go out and spend the money to buy new furniture, especially when we've got young kids in the house.

I spend time perusing the ads on Kijiji and though we've had success so far with buying a nice, large, cheap dresser that was supposed to be for the baby but was claimed first by Lily, I have yet to secure a nice kitchen table and downstairs couch.

While I'm more than ready to admit that I'm incredibly picky and unwilling to part with a large sum of money, some of the reason why I haven't found anything yet is because of bad ads. What are bad ads you ask? Here are my examples:

1) Pictures of your kitchen table with a table cloth on it. You'd think this one would be obvious but I've seen it more than once. I'm not interested in seeing how your table looks like with a piece of cloth over it since it's the table I'm actually buying. That's like posting photos of your house on MLS with all the lights turned out. Sure it looks like that sometimes, but that's not the view that's going to help me out. Really.

2) Ads telling me in the description line just how awesome of a deal you're giving me. If your header contains phrases such as "an amazing bargain", "this week only I'm sacrificing at this price"or "such an incredible deal", I won't read your ad. Yes, I'm possibly shooting myself in the foot with this choice, but if I wanted to be salesmanned at I'd go to The Brick.

3) Pictures taken with your cruddy cruddy phone. I'm not going to drive to St. Albert to pick up a couch that may or may not in fact just be some large animal.

4) Ads for items in Calgary. Go away. I'm pretty sure you have your own section of Kijiji.

One of these days I'll come across the perfect ad with the perfect furniture with the perfect price. Until then, I'll continue to oggle and occasionally accidentally look at ads for scrapbooking items over in the hobbies and crafts section.

17 July 2009

Holy Hell, is writing a post about me every difficult. I was going for a theme of touching on each of our family members and tonight's post was supposed to round things out by being about me.

I typed, then I deleted. Then I typed a bunch more and deleted even more than I just wrote.

It's far too late and I'm far too hot and sticky to be bothered with trying so hard. Plus, the never-ending growling of my belly and the air conditioner in the living room are pulling my brain away from here.

Instead, I'll write briefly about my day. Today was a great rarity, a total Kim day.

The kids headed out the door with my parents at 10 for a day of country fun and Capital Ex insanity. I was completely on my own, with Liam working from the office and no plans for the day. Normally when I have a chunk of time to myself like this I get my butt in gear and accomplish something major like overhauling the homeschool room or deep cleaning the upstairs, but somehow this baby belly and I just weren't up to anything quite so grand.

I largely spent the day relaxing and eating and reading and watching TV. To have done this and be able to admit it and be ok with it is a big thing for me. Just ask Liam.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on my baby and his/her upcoming arrival. I pulled out my singing bowl and my basket of stones. I reconnected with the rock that I found by the river shortly before Lily's birth. It's the most incredible rock. It sort of looks like a child's foot and it fits perfectly in my hand. It makes life better.

Around suppertime I headed off to my second acupuncture appointment. It was lovely and I felt myself feeling even more at peace. My acupuncturist is a really great lady and it was nice to spend some time with her.

By the time I headed home I felt myself letting go of my frustrations about how long this pregnancy is lingering. It's ok that I'm pregnant. Baby's still growing and kicking and doing well and I'm physically feeling better than I have in weeks. I'm where I should be and baby and I are doing what we should be doing. And that's enough.

Except for the food part of life. I need more of that right now.

16 July 2009

And then there's Nick. My firey, sensitive, deep boy of extremes. If Nick is happy, the world has never been better. If he's upset, it's the worst day of the worst possible life and nothing will ever make it better. His anger is quick and violent and he contorts his face into the ugliest looks of horror. And then he is calm moments later, his surface as still as water and his mind churning all the time underneath.

When he's joyful, his laughter spills out of him and his eyes twinkle. He's got a keen sense of humor and he's witty beyond his years.

Nick is a boy of projects. He's either building or scheming or reading or planning. He's rarely physically still and even more rarely mentally quiet. Ideas and memories pop out of his mouth that have nothing to do with the moment, but everything to do with the deep currents in his mind. Our home is filled with evidence of his latest fascination, whether it's origami, Lego, books, or paper airplanes. He latches on to an idea and he works it over, re-creating the project over and over until he's examined it and recreated it in his own way.

Nick is truly something else to live with. He delights and exhausts me. He entertains and amazes me. He's like nobody I've ever met before and I'm fascinated by the person I get to watch unfold. He is truly a most precious gift in my life.

15 July 2009

This is my Lily dear AKA Pinky, Lulu, Doll Doll, LuBelle, and For God's Sake Lily.

I love Lily. She's a bright light in our home and she's quirky like nobody else I've ever met. I get some hilarious photos of her since she's a general goof who loves to ham it up for the camera. She's feisty and spirited and spends extraordinary amounts of energy making sure she's getting exactly what she wants, when she wants it, and how she wants it.

Parenting Lily is amazing and exhausting. She has a tenderness and a depth of empathy which sometimes bring me to tears. She can test my patience to a degree that I didn't know was possible. Her giggles fill me with joy and her "wolf howls" make my brain ache.

After a few years of parenting Nick, I thought any other child I had would seem mild by comparison. Lily, as she's wont to do, proved me oh so very wrong. Where Nick was a physically intense toddler, she's got an inner strength and a drive to just be herself that pushes at anyone in her way.

14 July 2009

I just came across this comic in my search for inspiration tonight. I seem to be much in the same boat as Kyle in his lack of an interesting daily life. My day has consisted of observing signs of pending labour (out of respect for my squeamish guy friends I won't go into details) and trying to make myself comfortable. Ho hum. Baby tonight? Baby tomorrow? Baby in a few more days? Unknown!

Anyone else getting tired of listening to me wait? I sure am. I wish I had the brain capacity to discuss something else but I'm fricking tired.

I'm calling that 150 words. If anyone wants to dispute it I've got some choice cranky words.

13 July 2009

A smidge over six years ago, Liam gave me my engagement ring. The telling of that story is a blog entry in itself but suffice to say that we each tried to out-trick each other and when all was said and done I had threatened to hit him and then I agreed to marry him.

In just over a month, Liam and I will be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary and it's got me reflecting on our relationship. In some ways it feels like the wedding was just last year and yet in other ways it seems like we've shared far too many moments for it to have been a mere five years ago.

Way back on August 21 2004, I made a promise in front of God, my friends, and my family. I knew that I really couldn't fully grasp the depth of what I was getting into but I knew it was something I wanted to experience. I'd grown up under the umbrella of my parents' marriage and I'd watched a few friends enter into new marriages, but in order to really understand the magnitude of it I would need to experience it for myself.

Looking back, my relationship with Liam is and isn't quite what I expected. It's more about partnership and less about romance, more about giving and less about taking. There are more dirty socks on the floor than I'd expected, but far fewer fights that I'd feared. On our wedding day my mind was filled with bright images of our home, our children, and sitting together in our rockers in 50 years. The reality, though, is that marriage is a lot more about sharing the multitude of small daily moments and knowing that no matter what, there's one person who will be at my side.

We've been through some highs and lows I never could have predicted but I have never once in these years wondered if I made the right choice. Liam has become a part of my life and central to who I am as a person in a way I never could have imagined. I have a deep sense of fulfillment at the pleasure of sharing my life and deepening my relationship with such an incredible person.

As a total side note, Liam, next month when my brain is full of new mom mush I'm fully retaining the right to print off this blog entry. Otherwise you just might be met with "Uh, hey guy. Liam, right? Yeah! Happy anniversary. I seem to remember liking you.".

12 July 2009

Waiting sucks. I'm not a particularly patient person at the best of times. When I get my mind set on something, I do it now.

So often in my daily life I have to tell myself to be more patient. Whether it's literally biting my tongue while Nick sputters and stalls his way through reading me yet another ridiculous story from his Ripley's Believe It Or Not book or standing beside the van while Lily scampers off to investigate the 3 million interesting things that must be seen before we can leave, I spend a lot of time trying to be more patient.

At least with the normal everyday waiting for things I can usually either foresee the end or at least actively do something to help things along. I can prompt Nick to pick up the story after he's muttered "Uhm, uh" or I can remind Lily that the sooner she gets in the van the sooner we can get to the park.

This waiting for baby thing though? Whole other ball of wax. There is no definite end date. There is no nudging or prompting baby to make the big leap. There is waiting. And waiting. And then waiting some more.

If I could go on about my daily life as usual I would likely feel much less impatient. As it is, I'm reminded every moment of the ginormous belly in front of me. My pelvis is doing something wonky the past few days and standing or walking hurt. As in getting up and walking across the house makes me cringe, hold my breath, and wish that I could pick up a bottle of spiced rum and numb myself to it all.

The kids want me to keep up to them with normal daily activities (which is totally valid considering that it's summer and they're kids after all) and I feel like I'm constantly disappointing them. No, I can't actually walk to the playground anymore. I can't help you to climb the monkeybars. I can possibly sit on the floor to play with you but I can't guarantee that I'll be able to get up again.

Baby, dear baby, come out. Your Dad wants to meet you. Your big brother and sister want to play with you. Your Mom wants to snuggle you and breathe in that intoxicating newborn scent. Your clothes are washed and in your dresser. Your cozy cloth diapers are all sorted and stacked. The new wrap sits quiet and folded, waiting to carry you around. The pool is filled. I'm trying to be patient and wait quietly, but you're more than welcome to come out any time now.

11 July 2009

As anyone who knows me will confirm, I can be a little bit strong-willed. And when I say strong-willed I mean stubborn. And when I say a little bit I mean very.

I think I could fill a book with my childhood memories that involve me digging in my heels and causing my parents grief, from the time I peed my pants because I refused to admit that I had to use the toilet to the time I pulled my dresser over on myself trying to reach my pants in the top drawer.

These days, I don't throw my attitude in my parents' faces. Well, not as much anyhow. No, these days I have a bigger influence in my life: Liam. Liam, my dear and loving husband who not only puts up with the fact that I will indeed cut off my nose to spite his face but seems to love me all the more for it.

Conversations such as:

"You should read this book. It's really good."

"F%#* that."


"You should bring some water with you on your run"

"You should mind your own damn business"

come to mind.

So when Liam tells me I'm a good writer and I should write more, I dig in my heels and ditch my blog for a year. And when he comes up with a really nifty idea like a challenge of blogging every day for 31 days, I refuse to sign up even though I think it sounds like fun.

Don't ask me to explain. It's just the way it is, and if Liam can put up with me then life is good.

(Yes, my dear Liam, this is me signing up for your challenge.)

09 July 2009

I'm in a limbo, that vague unpredictable world of waiting for our baby to arrive. I'm now two days past my "official" due date, a number on the calendar I don't put a whole lot of stock in but which still served as a sort of compass point these past months. And so I sit and I wait. And my heart beats faster each time a contraction seizes me. And a not-so-small sense of disappointment settles upon me each time a subsequent contraction fails to materialize.

Emotionally, I have one foot in the "I can't wait to get this kid out and meet him/her" camp and the other in the "Birthing is huge. And kinda very intimidating" camp. Each day as I lumber around with all the various aching and stretched-out parts of my body hoping for relief, but then my mind tries to figure out how I'm going to cope with caring for a newborn on top of my full days. Baby come out. Baby stay in!

There's something very divisional about pregnancy in general. Throughout the 40 (or so) weeks, there's a part of my attention that's always focused inward at the growing person inside me. The awareness of the early flutterings and the later lurching rolls and kicks pulls on my mind while I'm driving, parenting, reading, eating. Always there's this split between the outward world and the private connection between baby and me.

Also, there is the further division of me as a mother. Four years ago I learned how to make the transition from being the mom of one to the mom of two. I'd never imagined that so much conscious effort would go into the daily balance of my energy between parenting both children. Now, already, the two older ones are sharing me with the baby as my energy drops, my patience shortens, and my ability to focus on nurturing them is cut back. Soon I'll be figuring out how to juggle caring for a baby while homeschooling, a process which I'm sure will be ongoing.

When Liam's mom passed away this winter I found myself in the midst of another type of divided awareness. Within me there was a new life, a growing spark. Around me was the suffering and an ending of a life. It was an intense situation and the loss of one so loved made the potential life expanding inside me even more precious.

I sit here in the doorway, looking back and looking forward and wondering when I'll get to pass through. I'm used to making plans and decisions, and this inability to say to baby "OK, today is the day you're born and this is how its going to go," is hard to accept. But maybe that's the point and maybe that's the lesson I need to learn before I get to proceed...

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