Merry Christmas at last!

Merry Christmas finally from all of us here at Crazyland! My friend Leah gave me a funny note today that said, “Better late than later!” So while I drink my coffee and ponder whether to say I’m sick of being too tired to blog, or tired of being too sick to blog, I’ll begin.

We finished a busy month of redoing the basement suite just in time to decorate for Christmas. I tried really hard to fight my scatterbrained last-minute ways and do stuff ahead of time, so my tip of the season is this: pre-stuff the stockings a few days ahead and put them in a giant Tupperware tub so no tiny visitors (children move or other) will get into them.

It sure was awesome to not be filling the stockings in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve! Instead, I could just lay them on the kids’ beds (which we do to buy a little time in the morning) and head off to midnight Mass with my husband and the baby, while the kids slept with Grandma and Auntie Karen.

It was beautiful. Our parish florist always does an amazing job, and our choir is phenomenal. All the light and warmth in the darkness of night brings home the beauty of the Christmas message. Happily on the incense didn’t set off the fire alarms–until Christmas-day Mass the next day that is! Needless to say my 3 year old son was in his glory at the back of the church when the firemen came to check it out. He was still wearing his red fireman costume (to avoid a pre-Mass meltdown…plus…it’s red! Super Christmassy!).

Nice costume, buddy! Fist pump!

Best. Christmas. Ever.

But back to midnight Mass. When we got home around 3am (there was a celebration with treats after the Mass) we found out that the kids had already woken up, opened, partially consumed, and played with the contents of their stockings, and had gone back to sleep! Rascals! And they look so innocent…

Christmas Day was lovely. We had James’ mom and sister as well as my brother spending the day with us. “Gezellig” (cozy), as they say in Dutch, and everyone enjoyed spoiling each other a bit. My big surprise was opera tickets for La Boheme from my husband! ๐Ÿ™‚ Date night, here we come!

I discovered that it’s really easy to cook a whole chicken in my Instant Pot (just add a cup of water or sauce and your flavourings…we put lemon, herbs, garlic and butter), and we made potatoes, yams with cinnamon and maple syrup, and Brussels sprouts, which apparently contain excellent health benefits, even if you only look at them! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I can’t quite remember where I read that…

All was good until after pumpkin pie, when I totally crashed and fell asleep early. My Christmas duties were complete…so my body figured it was the perfect time to get the stomach flu that night! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ No fun. Thank goodness our relatives and James were still home the next day to hold the fort, because I could not move. All I really wanted for Christmas was a nap and a massage, but this was quite the price to pay…watch what you wish for!

As I lay there with a churning stomach, headache and sore muscles, I contemplated the Incarnation…how incredibly generous it was of God to enter our world as a tiny, vulnerable baby, unable to move or protect Himself from suffering. He could have remained aloof in the golden warmth of Heaven, safe from our sufferings, not subject to weakness, but chose instead to enter into our frail human existence to show us His love.

I will never comprehend the depths of His generosity!

Well, that’s about it for now! Normal life sure feels good after you’ve been sick. A breath of cold air when you can stand upright again is a real treat.

God bless you all, and best wishes for a beautiful 2019!!

My (Wonderfully) Clueless Husband

My husband is clueless. He has absolutely no idea how wonderful he is. He works day and night (literally) to support our family, and even though he is exhausted, makes a point of spending time with me…even if it’s just watching a stupid show in the wee hours so we can laugh together. Relationships matter to him. There’s nothing more precious than his family (ok, his books come a close second, but still).

Despite all this he often feels inadequate, because he can’t be the magical dad who is home at 5 pm helping cook dinner and then wrangling all the kids into bed. His work to-do list never ever ends, but without it, I couldn’t be home with the kids. I couldn’t be there for all the first steps and first words, for my five year old’s funny science questions (What if tongues didn’t stop growing?), for the impromptu ballet performances and puppet shows, for the discussions about novels and movies and what life is all about. All these things, my husband primarily has to miss so I can be there for them.

Thank you, honey. It’s crazy hard….your work, my work…but it’s a gift. Our family is a gift. I’m so grateful.

Right now, on the midst of all this business, you’ve taken a week off so I can have a break. So I can go on workshop to feed my mind and recharge my soul. Because even imperfect moms deserve a break. That means we all do. It’s hard to go away when I feel like there’s a million things I should be doing at home, but with your love and support I’m going. Sailing off to be a kid in school again for a week and study philosophical anthropology–what it is to be human and live a fulfilling life–and honestly, I can’t wait! ๐Ÿ˜‰ As a homeschooling mom, it’s nice to take a turn being the student!

While there’s always so much to do, sometimes the best way to move forward is to step back and let go for a bit. So cheers to that, and thanks, honey for being amazing.

Happy 4th Birthday, Josephine!

Thank you to everyone for making this day special! Your kind words, hugs, prayers, and thoughtful gifts meant so much! I was really happy to see many of you today.

I was especially touched by this beautiful piece commissioned by my friend Rachel and painted by my talented babysitter and art student Michelle. It captures so perfectly the essence of the first poem I wrote for Josephine after she passed away:

Josephine flashed before us

with the brightness and beauty

of a shooting star

Our hearts are broken by the briefness

of her visit with us

She has climbed onto our Father Godโ€™s lap

and is whispering to him our secrets

with sweet confidence

Speak to her in your hearts

the only language she will ever know is love

Four Years but Love is Forever

I have footprints on my heart. Don’t think that because they were left there four years ago they have faded. The impact of those tiny feet on my heart is irrevocable. I will be forever changed by losing a baby at birth. Besides a tiny curl of dark hair, all I physically have of her is a little plaster cast of her feet. Of course it is unspeakably precious to me. I have it nestled in a piece of the same fleecy soft blanket she is buried in. This is much more than many poor women who lose babies through miscarriage get.

Those of you who are close to me or have been following my blog for some time will know that I lost my baby Josephine just before she was born, due to a cord accident. She was my sixth and I was so ready for her to come…the bassinet set up, newborn diapers on the shelf, the house stocked with groceries…I even had her Christmas present already: a wind-up musical swan with her baby on her back.

She was fine at our last checkup, and then, that night in the hospital…no heartbeat. Just silence. Of course it broke my heart. My family and friends, sweet husband and kids helped hold it together.

She would have been four years old this Sunday, September 30th.

Four years and two healthy babies later, I am much more ok than I was at her first anniversary, or even her second, but sometimes things catch me off guard. I was trying to plan her birthday…maybe lots of us could go to the graveyard and bring tons of flowers…and then I thought, four year olds don’t want flowers! They want toys, and cake and balloons…music and mess and the chaos of 20 kids running through the house dressed as fairies and princesses. It hurts that I can’t give her those things, even though she doesn’t need them. Even though she’s up with the stars and her heart is brimming with love, utterly safe, totally loved, in the peaceful presence of God. I still want to do these simple, silly things for her.

So, we do what we can. The kids and I have made it a birthday week. The other day when we ordered groceries from Save-On, we got chocolate cake. We put on candles and sang. We celebrate her because we love her. We are proud she’s part of our family.

We ordered ice-cream, too and had it the next day. Ben and Jerry’s “If I had a Million Flavours.” We made blueberry crisp, too. We will have mini-cereal boxes on her birthday, as we do for the other kids on their birthdays, because they need her to be just another one of them. She’s in Heaven, but she’s still their sister.

On Sunday after Mass and pancakes we will go to the graveyard and bring flowers. We will spend a little time near her praying, and the little ones will likely run about on the grass and read the names of the people who’ve gone before us: young soldiers from the bicycle squad, grandmas and grandpas from the old country, mothers, fathers, babies who never took a breath outside the womb. All the people who await us in Heaven.

Then, because it’s nice to not be alone on this bittersweet day, we will pick up some of our favourite Indian take-out and go to have dinner at a friend’s place. Surrounded by love, just like our daughter Josephine.

Next week we will plant fall flower bulbs to bloom next spring, just like we did last year: Josephine’s flowers. Hiding under the earth and snow, but secretly full of life. Like the promise of eternal life…always making this life more beautiful.

We want her to be remembered. We are proud to be her family. Sharing her story helps us to honour her and to heal, and to know we are not alone.

Do you have footprints on your heart?

Share your story with #IHaveFootprintsOnMyHeart.

Gratitude (in thanks for a hard-working husband)

Quarter-end crunch

and you’re working round the clock

like a donkey round the threshing mill–

sacrifice in each step.

Working like your dad,

but long hours away instead of long weeks at camp.

At home,

we celebrate our eldest daughter’s 12th birthday–

a dozen years of parenthood–

building a life together bit by bit.

I think of the early days of motherhood,

pregnancy and giving birth for the first time,

and those inexpressibly precious baby snuggles.

Remembering I rejoice

and celebrate having made it thus far.

The day, says my classy and clever friend Laura,

calls for champagne.

And although it takes two,

often moms get all the credit

for building their children’s bodies,

knitting them together in their wombs.

But I think of you, honey

working away in the office each day

so I can order in groceries–

paying for each apple, cake and curry I prepare.

And I realize our children’s cells

are built upon your sacrifice.

They are nourished by your love,

strengthened by your resolve,

encouraged by your perseverance

to believe that anything is possible.

So thank you…for working so hard

so I can be with our little ones

and celebrate with them

all the mess and glory

of being alive.

Love your Cake Maternity pjs and wear them, too! Or why busy moms deserve pretty pjs…

Today my new nursing chemise arrived from Cake Maternity. I was so excited to try it but I thought I’d wait for a special occasion and put on my regular bedtime attire…and old t-shirt and plaid pyjama pants.

This outfit lasted less than an hour as Miss Baby decided to decorate it with a rather generous helping of milk. This may not have been been the special occasion I was hoping for, being far too frequent to be deemed special in any way, but it was reason enough to change, so I decided to try my new nightie on.

I carefully snipped the Cake Maternity label off and put in on my bathroom shelf. I liked the motto: Love The Body You’re In. It was symbolic for me as a mom…love the body you’re in now, as it is, with all its changes, and similarly, love the life you’re in, now, as it is…embrace it and appreciate it…this time with tiny people running about and a chubby baby smiling on my hip or snuggling into my neck with her fuzzy peach head.

This also means embracing and appreciating myself. Not waiting for later to wear the smooth, comfortable chemise that had arrived wrapped so prettily in tissue paper as if it was a gift from a friend earlier that day. Saying, today is special enough, because everyone deserves to be treated with gentleness and love every day, even me, a mom…and perhaps, for mothers, who dedicate their lives to making others feel special, it is even more important that we fill our well and do things that make us feel special also...that we love the body that we are in…that we honour it as a place of generous creativity, a place of love and of life.

Yes, this is all a fancy way of saying that we moms deserve pretty pjs! But it’s because they symbolize something much greater…self-respect, feminine dignity, comfort…and the humility to know we are merely human and need to take care of ourselves in order to be able to serve our families.

While I pondered these things the baby began to squawk a bit and needed a snuggle dance to settle down. I discovered that the skirt flits about nicely just above the knees as I rocked the baby to sleep…and feels elegant and cheerful…as opposed to the tired old plaid pj pants which drag on the floor, in great danger of picking up stray Cheerios, dust bunnies or stickers.

With a sweet empire waist and easily adjustable shoulder straps, you can make it fit just right…whether you’re expecting a baby or already nursing one. And what makes this a nursing chemise is the fact that the straps have little hooks that open, just like a nursing bra, so you can nurse properly without having to stretch your pajamas out of shape…the sad fate of other non-nursing nighties.

The sporty back gives it a nice “I can do this!” feeling, which helps for night wakings or those endurance “please, go to sleep, baby” dances. Also, the straps can’t slide off your shoulders, so you never need extra hands to pull them back up, risking waking baby in the process.

It so helps that I could order the chemise online, rather than trying to buy clothes with my 7 kids in tow. Last time I bought pjs it was after about 2 hours of chasing kids through Value Village and another hour of waiting while they tried stuff on in the limited change rooms (my four eldest are girls!).

When it was “my turn” to find pajamas I just grabbed the first thing I thought could work and hurried to the cash, with my overflowing cart and procession of tired hungry kids. What I grabbed off the reject rack were soft orange and white striped capris joggers…or as the kids call them, my pirate pants. I usually wear them to bed with my black t-shirt that says, “Sarcasm loading…please wait.”

Charming right? So given that my options are looking like a sarcastic, washed up pirate or a sweet, elegant mother, I’m so glad to have my new chemise from Cake Maternity! Bed is my favourite place at the end of a long day–may as well dress up for it! ๐Ÿ™‚

This lovely chemise was given to me in exchange for my honest review of it.

Thanks, Cake Maternity!

Beautiful Mess!

A baby is the best decoration for any room…and makes even a pile of clean laundry into a throne from which to beam at the world!

I’ve been in bed with a sore throat reading Jennifer Fulwiler’s hilarious, inspirational book “One Beautiful Dream: The rollicking tale of family chaos, personal passions, and saying yes to them both.” It’s amazing…I can so relate the struggle and beauty of a writer mom with a large young family trying to be present to her kids while digging deep to pursue her “blue flame”…her passion for writing. I love how she’s integrates them both with such honesty and humour…and leads you along her journey of discovering that perhaps a loud house full of little people is a place of inspiration and growth, rather than just distraction from her craft. If you ever wonder if only your house with kids is a little crazy…I highly recommend it!! I laughed and cried and shouted…you might, too! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, she inspired me to share this moment from our own beautiful chaos…

Evening Glory

Tonight I had a mom’s night out with other mom bloggers in a beautiful venue. We all dressed up and chatted and had fun. Besides the sweet baby whom I brought along to charm everyone, the kids stayed home and had banana splits and played games and did crafts with their babysitter and had a great time instead of just watching a “boring movie.” Then they even went to bed for her nicely! Glorious!

It felt like a double miracle: one, that we busy moms made time to get out and be together (looking quite fabulous with not one pair of pjs or yoga pants in sight) and two, that many of us are writers…that we find that time to nourish our creative spirits and connect with other people…to reach out and share our stories and do good by supporting each other.

Of course the number of children people have came up in small talk, and I’m happy to report that while queries of my family size (8 kids) did cause several near heart attacks, there were no fatalities! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Rock on moms, it’s an amazing full time job to give someone else life, whether it’s one kid or ten…may you be showered with blessings for all the generous, sweet things you do to serve your family and by extension your community each day!