Friday, 27 February 2015

Teaching and being a mom

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It's this strange place that I'm in right now. This strange place of waiting, wishing and anxiously anticipating the arrival of this new baby. But on the other hand, I'm in this place of mourning the loss of my job, sad to leave my kids and friends at school and anxious about the beginning of something new--something unknown, but something so incredibly familiar.

Newborn Carter
Sometimes it's better to be oblivious. For it all to be new and unknown. Sometimes it's better to go in blindfolded, maybe even a little naive--because then the anticipation feels a bit different. The anticipation of a baby completely changing your life, but having no idea what that really means is where I was at before.

Mya-5months old

It was where I was at during those final days of my first pregnancy--and it was where I was at during those final days of my second pregnancy. Because having your first baby is full of unknowns.

Pregnant with Mya

Then having your second is full of even more unknowns since you're now learning how to manage two under two.

But now? Well, I know what it feels like to look after a newborn and a toddler--so add a four year old to mix, and well, you've just got to let the love and chaos continue.

*Mya and Carter, just after he was born

But this strange place that I'm in right now is complicated, because the countdown is on until my last day of work. And I'm certainly looking forward to the short rest period that I will get before this baby comes--because teaching kindergarten while just weeks away from delivering a baby is absolutely exhausting. But my students--my babies--the ones who make my job so rewarding...the ones who make me smile and laugh and who make me get up each morning and feel so grateful that I have a job that I adore...well, I'll miss them terribly.

And no, it's not always easy. Great doesn't always mean easy. Love doesn't always mean easy. It's not easy when they cry on the floor or whine at my leg. It's not easy when they hit and scream and lose their temper. It's not easy when they forget to listen or forget their manners completely. Teaching little people is not always easy, but it is still the best, most rewarding, amazing job that there ever could be.

Teaching means that you have days when the world is a beautiful place. Where learning is happening right before your eyes. Where hugs are given out like candy and where you are privileged enough to actually witness a child's development and progress right before your eyes. It's where you get to snuggle little people who need some extra love and where the words "I'm so proud of you" get to pass by your lips a million times a day. And so on those days during this teaching career when I drive home with tears in my eyes, trying to pull myself together before picking up my own kids, because the life story of a child in my care is more traumatic than anything you could even imagine. Or when you sit down with your husband and break down after school because you find out that one of your own little ones is on her way to a shelter. Or when you stay up all night worrying about that child who you have called Child and Family Services on over and over again. Well, those are the days when your heart breaks. Those are the days when you can't breathe. Those are the days when you come home and tell your husband that he should expect that at some point in this career of mine I'll be bringing a student home to live with us...a child who has nowhere else to go. And he looks at me and smiles, not surprised at all--but maybe a bit terrified because he knows I'm not kidding.

So you do whatever you can in the meantime to ease the lives of these little people who break your heart. You go out late at night and scour the aisles for the perfect bedding--beautiful comforter sets and sheets for a student and her sister who barely have a place to sleep, let alone blankets and sheets. And you come home and show your husband the bill, completely blowing the budget that didn't even exist in the first place--because it just didn't matter how much it cost. And he nods his head at you, knowing that it's important, necessary and something that will not necessarily take away the pain of these children--but it will for a moment let her and her sister know that someone cares. Someone loves them. And they'll remember it every time that they pull those covers up and lay their heads down to sleep each night.

It's the times when you pull warm mitts over cold hands, or sneak Christmas presents to the parents who you know are going through hard times. It's the times when you comfort a child who just needs to talk or who needs a shoulder to cry on and it's the times when you pull a child aside just to let them how how great you think they are--because you know they're not hearing it at home. It's those times in this teaching career that remind you of why you are really doing this. It's those times that remind you that teaching is not simply about teaching the curriculum. It's those times that can sometimes change the life of another young human being.

      So this teaching job--this's more than just a job to me. It's people. It's relationships. It's meaningful, and hard and amazing and rewarding. It's heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. So leaving this life--leaving my kids and my wonderful teaching partner who make me excited to come to work every day, well it will be hard.

So, I'll sit here in this strange place. This place of coming to the end of a pregnancy that is now so familiar to me, but still full of so many unknowns. This place of leaving the work, the wonderful teaching partner and the kids who I love in order to move towards my other life dream of having a family--being a mom my kids another sibling and meeting this little person who has been growing inside of me for all of these months. This little person who we are so incredibly in love with already.

So you see, it's a bit of a roller coaster ride--this whole teaching thing--full of ups and downs, highs and lows, and laughter and tears--which is ironic...because it's exactly what being a mom feels like.

Erica xo

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Pirate birthday party on the fly

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I was looking through some old photos today while both kids were snuggled tight into their beds and I came across a ton of pictures that I had already forgotten about. This is maybe what happens when you take a ridiculous amount of pictures--you store them away, waiting for the time when you have a moment to sit down and scroll through them, deleting the repeats and smiling at the happy ones and remembering what those moments in time were like. Because you probably wouldn't have taken your camera out that day if it wasn't supposed to be memorable. 

But as I scanned through the hundreds of pictures all stored away for a moment like now, I found some pictures that made me smile--made me laugh.  

And this moment in time that I found through these particular photos was a time when I was a pregnant, bronchitis suffering mama. Bronchitis that stole my days and nights for over a month, because strong drugs to cure it quickly weren't really an option with my pregnant belly continuing to grow. So it brought me back to those days back in October of this year, when my boy was turning 2 and my girl was turning 4. Their birthdays, just weeks apart, were coming up, and their mom was a mess. Because never-ending bronchitis without drugs will just about destroy you. And although I tried with all of my might to make it happen--the birthday party details were made and bought, the date was set, the list was made...I just couldn't get it together. I was just so sick. So mama guilt was eating me alive. 

And do you know what happens when mama guilt eats you alive? Well, you try to compensate. You try to make it better. Make look at your kids and you wish that you could give them what you had hoped for...and when you can't, you pretend that you can. 

So I told my family that we'd still give them a pirate party--the pirate party that Mya had been wishing for, dreaming about, talking about and wishing for...because both of these little kids were obsessed with pirates. So a pirate party HAD to happen. It just had to happen. But it just had to happen on a very small scale. So I called my family and told them that we'd do a family dinner, as we usually do, but we'd have pirate cups and plates...and call it a pirate party, and pretend that it was a pirate party, because mama guilt makes you try to make things better. 

But do you know what happened instead? 


We showed up at mom and dad's house to a family of pirates--eye patches, creepy pirate wigs (I can't even look at Jeff without cracking up), bandannas, handmade pirate hooks...

and a paint stir stick as a sword...compliments of my creative and resourceful father who dug through bins in his basement to find a costume that would make his grandkids smile.

So with a thrilled little girl and boy now ready to party...a pirate party was put together on the fly..literally put together the morning of. Thanks to a great family who knew how important it was to Terry and I to make our kids day.

So we brought out the pirate cups and napkins, bought for the big party that never came to be... 

and quickly put together a scavenger hunt for hidden treasure...literally in the middle of the celebration

and little people ran around the house searching for the next clue, leading them to their final prize...

....a treasure chest full of chocolate coins and treasures which just thrilled them to bits.

And I pulled out the coloured rice that I had just used in my classroom to have the kids search for hidden letters, and we turned it into a hunt for treasures, rings and jewels instead.

And we turned what was supposed to be one of my crazy, time consuming fondant cakes into a simple brownie, ice cream cake, topped last minute with eye patches and pirate jewels. And they didn't know the difference.

So to anyone out there looking to throw a a little inspired to just go for it. Last minute and all. And although I still love the process of putting together parties like I have in the past, there is something just as wonderful about putting together a small gathering of just family, who show up...who dress up...and who show our kids and myself a type of love that I can never repay them for. Because they gave our kids what a very sick mom couldn't that day. They gave our kids a party that they'll always remember.
Erica xo

Monday, 9 February 2015

A little story to restore your faith in humanity

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It's that moment when you're like "Just keep clicking Terry...

...we've gotta document this pregnancy without forgetting...

...because in the blink of an eye it'll be over and I don't want to miss it".

So we quickly pull out the camera, pull at least one willing kid in so we can remember how little they were when their mom was pregnant and we snap snap snap a bunch of pictures whenever we can. These pictures, although precious to me right now, will be even more precious years from now when this new baby is a toddler, a preschooler, a kindergartner and on and on. Because we don't want to forget.

So my heart was pounding as I lay in bed last night in the middle of the night wondering if I would ever get these pictures back.

Because I left my camera at the theatre when we brought the big kids (Mya and her cousin Oliver) to a kids theatre performance a few days ago and only realized that I forget it there two days later when I went to get my camera out to take a picture.

So, this post is only to remind you of one thing...this world is actually a good good place. People really are mostly good.

Because in the midst of my panic that our extremely expensive SLR camera was for sure stolen, along with all of my pictures and memories that were locked onto that memory card, I started to think that the world might just be out to get me...and my precious baby memories.

 But instead, my wonderful dad drove back to the theatre today while I was at school, walked in and retrieved this camera---this expensive, tempting camera--from the lost and found box. The lost and found box.  That same lost and found box that was full of things I'm sure like kids hats, a single mitten, maybe a water bottle--and our SLR camera.

The world is a good good place. People are good.

And it means that I could breathe again. Because these pictures were in my hands again.

 And our kids theatre experience could be tucked away now nicely into my photo files, along with our baby belly photos and all of the other pictures that I hadn't taken off of my memory card yet.

So we captured these serious musicians jamming together...

and getting to meet and learn from the performers, who taught them all about their musical instruments up close and personal.

And of course I found some oldies but goodies that I never want to lose, like four tiny cousins crammed into a box...

and sandwich parties in housecoats and jammies on mom and dad's couch.

So if your faith in humanity needed to be a bit restored tonight...please let it be.
Thank you to whoever chose to hand in our camera--our memories--instead of stealing it.

People are good.

Have a great night,
Erica xo

Monday, 2 February 2015

Motherhood means having the patience of a saint

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It's an eight letter word that seems to be on the tips of a lot of people's tongues these days. It's a topic that keeps coming up randomly through conversations with other mom friends of mine and it's a subject that I've thought about a lot myself recently. 

And why?...well, because for the past week Terry and I have been wondering what on earth has been going on in our household. We've been wondering why we have been waking up in the morning, looking at each other and wondering why it feels like we have two newborns in our house again. Because we have been up all night long, all week long, with both of our kids. Nighttime has turned into a circus of passing each other in the hallway, late at night, stumbling out of bed for the third time, fourth time, fifth time...stumbling into dark rooms to the sounds of cries and whines, rubbing backs, wiping tears, crawling into small beds, kissing cheeks, trying desperately to do anything to regain at least a few minutes of sleep before the morning breaks. Just to do it all over again the next night. 

Then, just when you feel like you can't possibly even open your eyes or see straight the next morning, you realize that everyone in the entire house is feeling the same way. So kids get clingy. Kids get cranky. Kids get whiny. Kids get grumpy. And parents are trying to keep it together, because we're all exhausted and so patience is something that I've been thinking about a lot recently. 

So when having a shower means that toddlers are crying at the glass door, wanting you since you left their eye sight for only 5 minutes or when four year olds want only you to cut their toast in half--no one else (and subsequently forget all of their usual manners in the process),  you start to take a deep breath and realize that patience is something that is a practice. It's an art form really. It's a beautiful, hard and critical part of being a mom. Being a parent. And it's not always easy.
Because it turned out that those late nights of being up all night long...the whining, the crying, the cranky, clingy children during the day were actually two kids fighting a bug. And mom was the only one who they wanted. 

Every. moment. of. the. day.  

At this point, if there was such a thing as a reverse c-section, both of my kids would definitely crawl right back in there. No questions asked. They'd snuggle right back in, shuffle the new baby to the side, cuddle up and never even think of leaving. At least for now, that is.

But, you see, there is something that I kind of love about sick kids. Not that I'd ever wish it on any child. But I do love the snuggles. I love the heads that curl into my neck and how they force me to stop and lay with them for long periods of time, when I may have been pulled to finish the dishes, make dinner or throw a load of laundry in otherwise.

I love this little boy who so desperately needs his beloved blankie and who waits so patiently as it spins and spins in the warmth of the dryer, fighting away the germs of the bug that these two have been fighting.

And in all of this, I've learned that patience is something that I want to work on daily. It's something that I need to remind myself of. It's something that I try so desperately to have an abundance of. But it's also something that I know is possible to lose sometimes. Because when you have two sick kids who are whiny, tired and cranky all day long (and have no patience themselves since they're feeling so rotten), you have to remind yourself to be patient as well. Because mom and dad are also tired, wiped out and exhausted...because looking after two sick children isn't easy. 

So, this post is really just for me. It's a reminder for me for the next time. The next time that I feel like my patience is wearing thin..the next time that I'm exhausted, working, in the middle of report cards, sleep deprived, very pregnant, and calming cranky kids all day long. It's a reminder of what to do...because I've learned a few tricks along the way that I don't want to forget. So, self--here they are. 

Number one:

Play with them. 

Yes, play with them. 
Stop what you're doing, put the report cards away, leave the dishes, forget about the pile of sick laundry piling up and just sit and play with them. It's life's best therapy to play with kids. It steals you away from the reality of what you're going through and pulls you into their little imaginary world of make-believe. And when they're sick, they tend to forget for a moment that they feel so rotten, and the whining calms down, the cranky attitude goes away for a bit and everyone is able to take a deep breath.  

Number two:

Create activities that they can help you with.
The thing that I've learned about my kids is that even when they're sick, they're not willing to just sit and rest all day long like us adults might be able to do. They start to go stir crazy, they get bored and they need some structured activity to keep them in tact...just to get them by until the next moment when they crash again.

So we bake. She gets into her future prom dress "because it's not a school day mommy" she says, and she stands at the counter and helps me bake cookies--for the sole purpose of keeping everyone together when it feels like everyone is starting to fall apart.

Number three:
Put them in water.

It literally works every single time.
It cures the grumps, it calms them down, and it allows mama to sit and breathe. Patience restored.

Number four:
Give yourself a time-out.

"Mommy needs a time out...I'll be back in two minutes" is a phrase that my kids have heard before. It's that moment when you feel like you're about to lose the patience that you're trying so hard to keep in control--so you remove yourself. Remove yourself from the situation and lock yourself in the bathroom for a couple of minutes to regain perspective and to recharge so that you can come out and have the patience that you always envisioned that you'd have as a mother. Time-outs are great for parents...alone time for even a few seconds is completely underrated. Completely.

Number five:

Change of scenery does wonders for everyone.
We had a crazy amazing crescent/neighborhood superbowl party yesterday, where they shut down the street, had the game projecting onto a screen up on our neighbours garage door, food and drinks galore and kids sipping on hot chocolate filled with mini marshmallows then sledding down the hill that the snowplow created on the crescent circle. Talk about scoring a great neighbourhood when we moved into this place-seriously.

But with two exhausted kids and two exhausted parents we debated about what to do...then ultimately decided that watching the party from the front window wasn't doing anyone any favours.

So we threw on our snowsuits, walked ourselves two doors over and basically said "hi" and "bye" within about 15mins flat. Because being sick means that the party right outside your door might just have to go on without you...or at least until one parent at a time can sneak out at least for a bit.  
But regardless...patience was restored. That quick and short change of pace was good for us all.

So, to my two little loves who are tucked all warm into their beds as I type this, I hope you feel better soon. I hope I don't walk into the living room to find you snuggled up on the floor again asleep in the middle of the cute as it certainly was...because watching your kids fight a bug is hard on a mama's heart.

And I hope we can put away our jammies and feel just as good in real clothes again.

 Because a mother's soul breaks just a little when her babies are sick.

But I'll always love those extra cuddles. Love them oh so much.

And hopefully we'll all finally get some sleep tonight after all of these long days and sleepless nights, and patience from all of us will be completely restored.

And on those days in the future when it's not--I'll scroll back to this post and remind myself...patience is a practice, a beautiful, hard, important process of being your mama. The best job in the world.

Love, Mom xo
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