Thursday, 22 February 2018

A Year In Photos

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This picture was taken at nighttime several months ago, right before Sophia was introduced to her big girl bed. Right before our sweet little girl took the plunge and entered the great big world of being BIG. Because being big, to a little person, means everything.

So as I scanned through some of the old photos still sadly sitting on my camera card, it brought back memories that I had already forgotten about. And the reality is that it made me realize that my never-ending goal of creating photo books representing each year since our first baby was born needs to be a big priority, that I just need to get done.

I want our pictures to be frozen in time, in real paper-back books. Books that our kids can hold in their hands, not just look at from a screen. Books that will be loved and cherished, and looked at over and over again until the pages are worn and the pictures are familiar.

So as I scanned through the mounds of pictures that are still sitting there waiting for me, it made me smile--because as I looked back at all of the things that we have done as a family, all of the cute adorable moments that our kids have had, and all of the simple moments that we've had together as a family, it stopped me in my tracks for a moment. It made me put everything else aside for a moment and I just sat in that moment for a minute. That moment of appreciation, of thankfulness, of knowing that (for me) my role as mom really is the most critical, and most important role that I'll ever have in my life.

I have a little card on my fridge that says "You will always harvest what you plant", which can be interpreted in a variety of ways to whoever reads it.

But to me, I read it as what I do right NOW with my children--what experiences we give them, how we respond to them, what words we choose to use when speaking to them and how we treat them now will ultimately turn them into who they are going to be when they are older. What we plant RIGHT NOW will affect who they are in their future (the harvest). It will impact how they feel about themselves, what kind of people they are going to be, whether they're kind, compassionate, loving...what kind of life they will choose to lead. So as I scanned through all of these photos of our babies, our kids--it made me so grateful, so ridiculously grateful for this role of mother that I get to play.

So when I do finally just sit down and take the time to figure out these photo books, I'll tuck away memories now of times like this...

when my kids were the guinea pigs for so many of my kindergarten activities, where they worked in complete silence for the longest time, stringing Cheerios one by one onto spaghetti, working on their fine motor skills, hand/eye coordination and patience.

Or when Sophia refused to wear anything but this Tinker Bell costume for months on end.

or when we grew huge zucchinis in our vegetable garden that the kids loved to pick and turn into delicious zucchini bread.

Or that time when we watched a live show and Carter spent the whole time snuggling his little sister

or that time that the kids came to the hospital to meet Chloe and they wrapped up a bunch of their own toys from home to give her as her first baby gifts...

or after-school hot chocolate at our kitchen table with friends on cold afternoons.

So when life becomes distracting and busy and my mind forgets about this little memory-storing photo goal of mine...when I'm swamped with cupcake orders...

and when I'm boxing mounds of cupcakes and treats during nap time, I'm reminded of those darn photo books that I still haven't gotten done yet.

Or when holidays like Valentine's Day sneak up, and all of a sudden I find myself scrambling late at night to get things ready for the next day--I push the photo books aside again. Because it's like the world has given us these moments as excuses to celebrate with each other--so I'll take it. I swear I get just as much joy out of holidays and traditions and all the fun stuff that comes along with them as the kids do. 

So the night before Valentine's Day, when all the kids were asleep, I pulled out my Valentine's Day decorations and hung cheap dollar store hearts, set the table for breakfast with heart paper plates and napkins, and wrote out little Valentine cards for each of the kids to find at their chair when they woke up. A surprise was my intention, but my kids now know me and my antics too well. 

Before even going downstairs that Valentine's Day morning, Mya starting collecting her brother and sister together at the top of the stairs, wanting to step into the kitchen together since she knew that something fun was waiting for them all.

Yes, cheap tablecloths, mini red and white Smarties and decorations that I store away each year for this very moment is what thrills them--because all of a sudden our morning became a celebration, right before school.

And at the end of the day, the celebrations continued as everyone dumped out and showed off their Valentine's Day treat bags from school to everyone and we all got excited and thrilled at each little sucker or card that each of them pulled out and presented to everyone.

And literally 2 minutes before heading to bed, I turned to Terry, "Shoot! I forgot about their heart hunt!" I told them to close their eyes as I ran around the house and hid hearts with clues on them that led them all over the house until they finally found their little cheap Valentine's treat at the end.

Because these are the little moments that I want them to remember. These are the moments that are just plain fun--for them and their parents alike!

But here's the know what the honest truth is? If I just gave them a great big hug and called out Happy Valentine's Day to them as they walked into the kitchen with nothing set out but their mother standing there with a baby on her hip, they'd remember that too with fondness and their faces would light up with smiles just the same. Because it doesn't take much to bring happiness to children.

Now excuse me while I go try to figure out how on earth to make one of these photo books. Because I figured if I told the world I'd do it, I'd be much more obliged to actually get them done. No more distractions. 

Anyone have any good photo book suggestions??

Night everyone,
Erica xo

Thursday, 1 February 2018

When motherhood feels like you're drowning

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There was once this hilarious comedian (and father of 4) who described having four children with a little visual to let everyone know exactly how it felt. 

In all of his hilarity, he said to his audience..."You wanna know what it's like to have a fourth [child]? Just imagine you're drowning---then someone hands you a baby".  

Which makes me laugh, now that I'm in his same shoes. 

Because, yes, of course some days it feels like you're not only drowning, but the waves are actually crashing up and over you, and someone has actually passed you eight babies--because once you have 4, really there may as well be a million in your arms. 

Those mornings when I've been up all night nursing babies, changing bedsheets, calming kids from bad dreams or falls out of bed, and then the clock hits 6am and I wonder how I'm actually going to physically get my body out of this bed. I wonder if my legs will actually hold me and if my brain can actually make the appropriate thought processes in order to move my body from bed to floor. And I can't imagine how completely disheveled I must look at this point, with my hair all a mess, deep bags under my eyes, milk dribble all over my I somehow quickly find my way to the shower where the warmth of the water makes me feel whole again, and where I self-talk myself into having a great day. 

These are the moments when I remind myself of how lucky I am, how lucky we all are--because it's in these moments that I always think that we're not only living out our dreams right now with these four beautiful kids of ours, but we're also living out the dreams of so many people who would give anything to have a baby or a family of their own. So, when I'm feeling like the waves are crashing down on me, I always always always remind myself that someone else would give anything (everything) to have even just one night of sleep deprivation if it meant that they had a baby or family of their own. 

So I step out of the shower, dry myself off, brush my hair, slap on some makeup, get into legit clothes and welcome my kids to a new day with a smile and a "Good morning my loves!", as if I'm not actually about to fall over. 

Because this is real life.

And here is the honest I drag myself down the stairs some mornings...drag head pounds, my body aches from nursing all night and the weight of my responsibilities weighs heavily on my heart. So as I take that last step onto the cool hardwood floor at the bottom of our staircase, the famous author and teacher Toni Morrison's words always play over in my head..."When your child walks into the room, does your face light up?".

So I think about that a lot. And I try really hard.

Is my face lighting up when I see them first thing in the morning, or am I instead too tired and about to nag them about getting dressed and brushing their teeth before that moment even has a chance to happen? I know they can feel it, either way it plays out.  

So on those days that I feel like I'm drowning in exhaustion, drowning in laundry, drowning in chores, drowning in little people's needs and wants, drowning in self-doubt and noise...I take a breath. I breathe, and pray and reflect on what I really want from this life. What I really want for our kids. What I really want for our family. I remind myself that life is bigger than our emotions, life is bigger than our feelings and life is meant to be abundant and joyful. So I need to find it. It is my job to find it. It is my job to find my own happiness, as it is everyones. It's not Terry's job to make me happy (although of course he does). It's not my children's job to make me happy (which of course they do). My happiness is my own responsibility, and I take it very seriously. So if I'm having a day where I feel like I'm drowning, I pull myself up before my head is actually under the water. I start to get active about my happiness.

I tell Terry about how I'm feeling so we can talk it through. I go for a walk or turn on some good music. I bake some cookies or I get together with friends. I walk the aisles of Home Sense alone or I take a long bath. And I start to remind myself about all of the tiny blessings that I have in my life--because our minds are ridiculously powerful things. 

It's the same reason as to why I stood outside the door of a therapist's office on a cold winter day not too long ago, knowing that I needed to work through the grief and sadness I still constantly feel over loosing Chloe's twin and our other baby who I carried and lost right before Sophia was born. Because my sadness, my grief and that burning sense that something is missing in our family is real--and I want to be able to work through it in a healthy way. Because happiness needs to be a priority. 

So sure, I can say that some days I can definitely appreciate the whole 'drowning and someone then hands you a baby' visual. But most days? Well, most days I'm at the most peace that I've ever been in my life. I can honestly say that since growing our family to a family of six, I have never been happier or more content. I mean, I just look at our family sometimes when we're all together and I can't get over it...I just can't believe how incredibly lucky we are. These kids--all four of them, have just stolen my heart completely. And yes, sure, it's a lot of work. And yes, sure, it takes a lot of patience and sacrifice and organization and cleaning and some days it's just downright exhausting. But these four beautiful children of ours--well they're just everything to me. And I wouldn't want it any other way. 

So those days and nights that are long...well, let them be long. 

Because what I know for sure is that these days won't last forever. These tiny humans will not be tiny humans for much longer. So I'll take the hard with the easy, the good with the bad...and when I really feel like I need a life line, I'll call another mom--because without me even saying a word, she'll understand (and maybe even bring chocolate). 

Erica xoxo


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Punta Cana oh how we miss you

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I have finally forced myself to sit down in this little space of mine today, because what I'm learning from having 4 little kids these days is that it's getting harder and harder for me to find the time to actually sit down and write.

So it's the middle of the day, the baby is sleeping and Sophia is in quiet time...and the laundry is waiting, I'm ignoring the dishes from snack time, I still have to make dinner and I already hear the baby stirring. So this is going to have to be quick. 

It was one of those spur of the moment decisions, where I turned to Terry late one night and said "Let's pack up the kids and go away for a week".

And he turned to me with that look of, "That seems crazy, and sounds like a lot of work".

I mean, sure we had a 13week old at the time...but no better time than the present, right?

So we scanned the internet for a resort. asked friends for recommendations, invited our whole family to come along (and sadly Jen and Jeff and the kids couldn't make it, but both my parents and Terry's mom were in), and finally we booked ourselves a trip to Punta Cana, Dominican for a few weeks from then.

This is going to be great, I told myself as I packed a million bags full of clothes, diapers, swimsuits and soothers and tried to ignore the understandably concerned people in my life asking me if I was crazy for taking so many little people on a trip like this.

It'll be fine, I'd repeat to myself--everyone will be fine.

And you know what? It was.

It was amazing.

I told myself don't get stressed out no matter what happens. Stay calm no matter what happens. If everyone is crying on the airplane? No problem. We'll work through it. If noone wants to go to sleep at night? Well, we've all been sleep deprived before--no big deal. If our luggage gets lost? Well, it's just stuff.

Cool, calm and collected. This was my mantra.

And you know what? All of the things that I was worried could happen, didn't happen (minus the luggage getting lost--and when we found out Terry's and my suitcase was missing, I actually did say to myself and everyone around--no big deal, it's just stuff. Not to worry).

We knew that our actions and reactions would set the tone for the whole trip, so Terry and I purposed to be cheery, calm and relaxed as much as we could, especially during the getting there part. Terry and I always give eachother the pep talk before we go away anywhere fun with the kids. This is pretty much how it goes every single time: "For our kids, the family trip starts from the moment that we start packing up the van and pull out of the driveway, so we need to be careful about what kind of memories we want to leave them with. Stressed out snappy parents trying to get everyone into the car or onto the airplane really is what will be left as their memories if we let it happen"--so we try really hard to keep our cool as the chaos of departure begins.

We started our adventure at 4:00am that morning, as we woke up excited kids who were desperate to get on that airplane. We packed them all into the van on that cold, dark morning and drove off as the rest of the world slept.

And after a flight full of lots of snacks, books, movies and nursing a tired baby, we landed safely and hurried through the Dominican airport constantly counting little people, hauling suitcases, waiting in unbelievable lines and stripping kids down layer by layer as the heat hit us hard.

But we made it.

Tired. Exhausted. Hot. But we made it.

And the resort? Well it was incredible.

We arrived to cold drinks and wash cloths being handed to us, and we were introduced to our butler (that's right--we had a BUTLER).."for whatever you need, whenever you need it" we were told.

Geeze, I could get used to this.

And with 24hr room service included, we could have stayed in our room the whole time essentially--but we headed out for meals all together each day and the food was amazing and delicious.

 And at night time, the kids got to be a part of the evening shows, acting in plays in front of huge audiences...(see that cute little sheep on the back right?..that's Mya).

and Carter was one of Snow White's seven dwarfs (green guy at the front).

We all stayed up late dancing to live music,


and had a blast jumping in the waves at the beach and walking through the most beautiful, soft sand that you could ever imagine... 

while someone collected all of the seaweed that had washed up on shore.

 The kids indulged in ridiculously decadent ice cream treats by the pool,

and listened to story after story from each of the adults at the table, in an attempt to keep a bunch of little people to sit still in the restaurants for all of the meals that we had together.

 And entertainment? Well, they were set. With a water park right in the resort, we spent our mornings going down water slides...


and our afternoons were spent swimming in the gigantic pools... where they had kid performances right on the deck each day...

and water aerobics that mom, Mya and I loved doing together (two blond pony tails are mom and I sweatin' it out)

And just in case you needed a bit more excitement, all of a sudden a circus show was being set up right there in front of you by the pool 

so Chloe watched from under our sun umbrella, and the bigger kids were encouraged to actually become a part of the entertainment...


and they finished off each morning by blasting fun music and having the kids do the actions in front of other guests in the pool while we sat off to the side under huge umbrellas and cheered and clapped and took lots of pictures. 

And when all of the excitement was over, we rested in the shade...

and drank copious amounts of pineapple juice and other said beverages for the non-nursing folk. 

*we may have encouraged the grandparents to do some double-fisting by the end of the day, just for kicks. 

And with nighttime entertainment designed to blow your socks off, the kids still can't stop talking about Michael Jackson and now constantly ask to watch old YouTube videos of the pop star back in the day.

So we made it, our little family of ours. We had a ridiculously fun time and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Family time together is really what this life is all about. So we soaked up the fun, soaked up the memories and we really can't wait to continue to create some more.

*this was one of the highlights of the trip for this 2yr old. Mini sinks built just for her height. Perfection.

So the lesson in all of this? JUST GO.

Don't wait until they're older and it's easier. Don't wait until the perfect time. Don't wait until you don't have to haul diapers and wipes and blankies and stuffies. And it doesn't have to be as big of a deal as getting on an airplane. Just go to a hotel for a night with the kids. Go on a day trip to the park or somewhere local and free. Swim in the pool and eat breakfast at a buffet. Just get the kids out and have fun together as a family. The kids will never forget it. 

And I highly suggest getting some rest in when you can. Cause no matter what, traveling with little people is just plain exhausting...

but a million times worth it.

Happy whatever day it is today everyone. All the days just seem to blend into each other these days.

Thanks Nana, Papa and Grandma for coming with us. 'Til next time Dominican. 'Til next time.

Erica xo

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