Tuesday, 28 July 2015

To the sleep deprived parent

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To the sleep deprived mom/dad,

     There isn't a lot that I can say to make it better. There isn't a magical cure to heal your aching body, your sore eyes, or your constant headache that lasts all day long. There isn't a quick fix that will ease your anxiety when nighttime creeps up and your marathon begins again. There isn't anything that I can do to make  the clock stop ticking in the middle of the night as the hours roll on and you're in the dark, rocking that sweet little baby of yours or feeding so constantly that pain shoots up your back, your neck is cramped and every inch of your body hurts. There isn't an easy solution to any of this.

Because sleep deprivation is just plain hard.

But, as I've lived through two babies and toddlers who did not like to sleep and I am now again in the depths of sleep deprivation once again with our little Sophia, I have learned one valuable lesson. A lesson that I wish someone had told me when I was in the throws of being a first time mom and being shocked into the world of sleep deprivation and feeling like I might never survive it. So, to all of those parents out there who are feeling the same exhaustion...who are wondering how they are going to make it through the day...who feel like they just can't do it anymore...I'll share with you something that I've learned after years of wondering myself how I'd make it through it. It's simple and quick:

Wake up the next morning and stop thinking about it and instead feel gratitude. 

This is literally how I make it through each day on sometimes only 2-3 hours of sleep. This is how I get out of bed at 6:20am every single day with Mya and Carter, with a baby in my arms, and start our day, even if I've been up literally all night long. Because now after having three babies, I feel like I've finally figured out how to manage it.

It's not perfect. It's NOT easy. It doesn't replace those precious 8hrs that it feels like everyone else is getting all around you. But it's a good place to start. At least for me it is.

So I wake up and forget about it. I don't think about what happened that night. I purposely block my brain from letting me re-live it again. And when anyone asks me how my night was I try to say "I don't know. I don't remember and I don't like to think about it". Because whatever you say becomes your reality. Whatever you think becomes your reality. It becomes your day. It becomes how you feel. It becomes who you are. So I try to forget about it, and I instead tell myself that I'm so rested and ready for the day ahead. I literally lie to myself each morning. And it works.

And then to top it off, I don't let myself get out of bed in the morning anymore without quickly telling myself 5 things that I'm grateful for. Specific things. Not just that I'm grateful for my family or my great hubby. But instead specific things that maybe happened the day before, or in the middle of the night--because when you focus on what you're grateful for it switches your thinking from feeling tired, sore and exhausted to feeling happy and rejuvenated. Your brain is funny like that. And it works.

So I wake up in the morning now and think about how grateful I am for all of the little things in my life--and on the days when the world is so foggy and I'm so incredibly exhausted and I can't even imagine a full day ahead of me of looking after three little kids on the 2hrs of sleep that I've had, I start with the fact that I'm so incredibly grateful that I'm so sleep deprived. Because it means that I have a sweet little baby...and if sleep deprivation has to exist, there is no better reason for it. I remind myself how lucky we are. Because I know that there are people all over the world who would give anything to be kept up all night long if it meant that they could have a baby of their own. Terry and I are so incredibly lucky. So incredibly blessed. So when the night rolls on and my eyes are burning and it feels like I'll never sleep again, I remind myself of how lucky we really are and how all of these sleepless nights are worth it...because our kids are worth it.

And the good news? You will eventually sleep again. Well, a little bit. One day. I wish that someone had told me this when I was knee deep in sleep deprivation with our first baby--because I literally thought that I would never sleep again. I obsessed about sleep..it was constantly on my mind, I was constantly exhausted, I was constantly asking people how they got their babies to sleep through the night, and I was constantly reminding myself how tired I was. And when Mya was eventually 6months old, and I realized that I hadn't slept through even one single night in half of a year, I broke down. Cried. Lost it. Then pulled myself together and kept going. Because motherhood can be exhausting.

So when I'm feeling like I'm walking around in a daze, when the day ahead of me looks long and tiring, I just remind myself that our kids are worth every single sleepless night. They're worth every single nap that is too short and every single I'm so tired meltdown. So I cuddle this sweet little baby in the middle of the night. I kiss her cheeks, rub her back, nurse her and calm her down until her little eyes flutter and she is back to dreamland. And then wake up shortly after to do it all over again.

So if you're also in the depths of sleep deprivation as we are right now, please at least know that you're in good company. Call me at 3:00am to chat...I'll be up.

Hang in there, tired moms and dads. We'll all eventually sleep again. A bit.

Erica xo



Thursday, 23 July 2015

Puppy Grief

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We lost a member of our family this week. Our beloved dog Meika has passed away and we're all completely devastated. She was young, healthy...completely fine only a few weeks ago (so we thought). But after a sudden stroke, leaving the entire right side of her face paralyzed, then finding out that she had a brain tumor which was making her stumble and fall every time that she took a step, we are left devastated. The tumor left her vomiting, dizzy, nauseous and lethargic--which left us watching our poor sweet Meika struggle to even lay down without assistance.

My coping mechanism has always been to block the reality of what I'm going through, and try to forget about it--which any counselor would say is probably the least effective way of dealing with an issue..but for now, it helps me get through the days. I get up, sleep deprived, exhausted, and fully expected to keep life going for the three little people who are looking to me to keep our reality as normal as possible. My days don't allow for alone time where I can grieve and allow myself to actually feel the feelings of this loss--so I continue to slap peanut butter and jam onto bread, pull up toddler shorts, wipe dirty faces, nurse a tiny baby and pick up approximately 500 things a day in order to keep our house from looking like a bomb has gone off in it. Grief has to wait until bedtime.

But there have been lots of questions. Important questions which reveal that a 4 year old little girl is missing her dog and trying to process all of this. She came downstairs the day after Meika died and saw a dog toy on the living room floor...

"Oh no, Meika forgot to take her toy to Heaven with her!" she cried.

And as I tucked her into bed the night that it happened, she looked at me (VERY concerned) and said "But if Meika is in Heaven, how will God know how much food she is supposed to get in her bowl? He might give her too much and she'll throw up".

Baby Mya with her best bud
So we're all working through it. We're all grieving in our own way. We're all trying to cope with this. So as I looked back to find comfort through some pictures of Meika that I had posted on my blog, I found these old posts...old posts that made me smile and reminded me how lucky we were to have such a gentle dog who was SO good with our kids. And it also made me sad because it reminded me that Sophia will never get to experience the love from our sweet little Meika.

Here is a little blast from the past...two different posts from a couple of years ago--one where a little girl would wrap blankets over her dog on a daily basis, loving on her for hours on end. And another from when Carter was little--and their growing adoration for each other.

Here you go:

Love and Blankets

     There are times when I watch Mya and it makes my heart completely melt. It's the little moments when it's quiet and I get a chance to actually just sit back and watch her little soul take shape that I love the most.

     She is becoming such a little person...a real little girl with a personality, a mind of her own and a great sense each and every day of everything that is happening around her.

      I love how she is beginning to mimic everything that we do and say, which is a constant reminder for Terry and I that we need to be aware of every move that we make. We are essentially shaping this little girl into the person who she is going to be one day and she is learning from us how to live life, how to treat people, how to be a good person and how to properly handle everything that life will one day throw at her.

     As I sit back and watch this little life in progress, it's the times when she mimics our parenting that tug at my heart the most. To watch your own child act out the way that you treat them, the way that you soothe them and the way that you care for them is an incredible experience.

      One of her favourite things to do is to use blankets, tea towels or anything else that looks remotely like a blanket to mimic our bedtime routine that we do with her each and every night. As I watch her with babies especially, it makes me realize that at her tender little age, she is already learning how to be a mama, which I just love.

     She carefully places her blankets on any willing participant and arranges them just so, "shhhing" them and patting or rubbing their back, trying to put them to sleep.

     I watched carefully the other week as she patted the floor to tell her little friend Ayva to lay down on the carpet. And Ayva complied, trusting Mya, somehow understanding without words what Mya was trying to do. One playing the baby, the other the mama. Melted my heart.

    Terry and I play along so willingly, laying down, closing our eyes and pretending that she is actually putting us to sleep...which thrills her more than anything.

But Meika, our ever-so-patient dog, gets the pleasure of being put to sleep almost daily from our little munchkin.

Whenever Mya finds the dog sleeping anywhere around the house she'll start running towards her, saying "shhh...shhh" while quickly grabbing a blanket, tea towel, dish towel or anything that she can find.

    I watch so carefully as she rubs Meika's back, then brings books over to her and starts flipping the pages 'reading' to her, just as we do each night. And Meika will just lay there, patiently and gently letting her do whatever she wants, somehow understanding that Mya is little and means no harm.

     My heart beats for these moments. These moments that make me realize that our child is learning so much from us. That she is learning how to be gentle, kind, caring and loving...which is all that a mother can really ask for.

A boy and his dog

Sometimes, when I take the time to stop and watch closely, I get a glimpse into a little relationship that is really quite remarkable.

A relationship that has taken a year to develop...

where a dog would lay beside this baby boy, and never move, each and every time that we put him down on his play mat.

*Carter at 4months

And where she now still never moves as this little boy climbs all over her...every single day.

It's as if she just knows that he's little, so leave him be...so she is so incredibly careful with him and so incredibly patient with him. It's like it's an instinctual thing. A love thing. A protector thing. Just like she was (and still is) with Mya, when she was just as little *which I wrote about here, not so long ago.

And although we are careful to be right there with them when they're together, it's really quite remarkable how this little boy can really do no wrong in Meika's eyes. She is patient, loving and protective of him, regardless of the fact that I have to save her on a daily basis from Carter's overly-loving embraces.

So with early morning bottle sharing...

where Carter sits on the floor and pushes his bottle to the ground so that milk droplets come out for Meika to drink up...

and where food is purposely and sometimes secretly tossed overboard at meal time...

Meika takes care of him and he takes care of her.

And yes, there are days when having a dog can drive me nuts.

When she barks outside, wanting to be let in, as I'm in the middle of changing a diaper or feeding a hungry baby.

When she pukes all over my floors in the middle of the night. Or digs in mud outside.

When she welcomes people at our front door as if they're royalty or, bare minimum, the most famous celebrity you've ever met. *Note to self Meika---not everyone loves to be bombarded by your love and excitement. But we do appreciate your good intentions nonetheless.

Or when I'm exhausted--and then I look over at her and I know that she wants to go for a walk. And it's winter. And that means wrangling two kids into mini snowsuits, boots, hats, mitts and pushing a stroller through the snow...but I do it anyways. Most times.

But in the end, when I see her with our kids, I couldn't ask for a better dog. She is quite possibly the most gentle, loving, patient dog that I have ever met.

And when I see how a little relationship between a boy and a dog can become so strong, in such a short period of time, it makes me smile and makes me grateful that our kids are growing up with such a loving, caring friend to call their own.

So to our first baby--our furry, excited, loving, caring pooch...thank you for caring for our kids the same way that we do. And I forgive you for the days when you drive me nuts--because you let our kids crawl on you and love on you without even batting an eyelash. And I couldn't ask for anything more.

Erica xo 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Cookie cake jammed full of treats...and strawberry fields

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Summer time means birthdays in our family. Birthdays where cake is out and other options are in--because even though I make cakes on the side for others, I'm not a huge cake fan myself, along with most people in our family. So when a birthday comes up, we have to get creative. So how do you make a dessert that resembles a cake, but isn't a cake??

Well, you create a cookie cake--with all of your favourite things jammed inside, oozing out with chocolate and peanut butter goodness.

Because if you cut up your favourite treats and jam them inside cookie batter placed in a pie pan...

you get the most delicious cookie cake imaginable. It's soft, chewy, warm and oozes chocolate and melted peanut butter with every slice. And bonus? You can put candles on top, vanilla ice cream on the side, and you've got yourself the most delicious cookie cake that you've ever tasted.

I found a lot of different options for cookie cakes online, but the recipe that I went with is HERE if you want to try it for yourself.

I promise you, you won't be disappointed. I tried not to eat the whole thing.

Then when your belly is full of cookie goodness, there's nothing better to do than fill it up with even more summer goodness--hand picked strawberries, fresh from the field.

Because really, there isn't anything better than the taste of strawberries that you picked yourself.

So we grabbed our buckets, packed up the van full of kids and hoodies on that cool July morning and willed the day to be better than the chaos of last year's strawberry picking experience. *Read last years strawberry picking experience if you want to feel better about bringing your little kids anywhere fun. Seriously.

This year though, it was a world of difference. It was calm, lovely, fun and just chilly enough to keep us feeling cozy in our hoodies and blankets wrapped around baby.

And we learned very quickly that the absolute best part of the whole strawberry picking experience was the golf cart rides back and forth to the parking lot. 

It apparently doesn't get better than that...according to little people. 

Have a great rest of your week everyone.

And don't eat that whole cookie cake in one sitting--you might just put yourself into a chocolate/peanut butter coma. Just a warning from someone whose been there. A few too many times.

Erica xo

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