Thursday, 19 October 2017

Thanksgiving Turkey Toes

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I thought about it for all of about 2 minutes before I drove out to the store to buy some candy corn.

I mean, turkey toes...on the Thanksgiving kids table, at each of their spots, is just, well...festive.  Right?

It gives kids that immediate excitement of something special sitting right in front of them...that moment of this doesn't happen every day. And I can check off my try to give them another good childhood memory box--just as was done for me as a kid. I mean, thinking back to Christmas in Toronto, one of the fondest memories I have is of my cousins and I picking chocolate ornaments off of my aunt and uncle's Christmas tree and being absolutely thrilled. I still remember just being in awe of the fact that chocolate was actually on their tree. Nothing better. Or when my mom would make chocolate bark with almonds for Christmas, and let us sample as much as we wanted. Simple, no fuss things...that kids always remember.

So turkey toes it was, this Thanksgiving. And some sparkly pumpkins too. Because happiness is definitely having something to look forward to. The process, for me, is usually just as much fun as the event itself. So I was in the works with my mom this Thanksgiving about table decor and decorations for the big day. I told her I wanted to create a scene similar to that feeling you get at Christmas--where there is sparkle, candles, decorations...that feeling that this is no ordinary dinner.

And maybe it's my crazy brain that is obsessed with trying to make sure that their childhood is full of memories that they can hold onto--traditions and all of the little things that I hope they'll remember when they're older (when life starts to really throw them the hard punches and when the reality of adulthood starts to set in for them). I want them to look back and have something to feel good about in their childhood--and it won't be perfect--it won't be unrealistic...but it will feel good to look back on when they're older. Hopefully they'll forget the days when the laundry was piling up, when the baby cried all day and it was grilled cheese for dinner or when mornings were a struggle to get everyone out the door and when their mom's patience was wearing thin. Maybe they'll remember the turkey toes.  Right??  Sure, let's just go with that and keep our fingers crossed.

So napkins were wrapped in cute little printables...which ultimately makes everyone feel a bit happy as they sit down at their seat and realize that someone is grateful for them specifically--and the kids loved seeing their names in print of course (found here if you want to print your own)...

And as my talented mom whipped up this cute burlap table runner with lace just days before, (since it's impossible to find a runner to fit their massive table)...

I filled glass candle holders with dried corn (from my sensory bin from my kindie class of course!)

and my mom surprised the kids with these cute little rice krispie pumpkins (recipe found here).

So with a little kid chaos, a lot of noise, a lot of fussing over babies and little people, a lot of hot corning wear dishes, and lots of wine and juice...our Thanksgiving was complete...

even though it's impossible to get everyone sitting or even in the same vicinity at once.

And with Carter's birthday falling on the same day, we celebrated big time...

and I made him the cake that he requested--a chocolate bar cake, drooling in chocolate ganache. 

He opened mail from loving relatives a plane ride away...and was thrilled to bits as he ripped through wrapping paper and dug through tissue paper filled bags to find the toys hidden within.

So I'm trying to hold onto these moments...these moments in time. Because life can get hard. Life can get rough. Life can sweep you under the current at times and take your breath away. So maybe, just maybe, when it happens to them as they grow up and face the real world, they'll have a bit of hope from the memories that we're trying to make for them right now.

Just maybe.

I hope.

Erica xo

Friday, 6 October 2017

A month in real life pictures

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It's been a month. An entire month since I set foot in this space of mine to write. An entire month since I even thought about taking the time to place my photos in this safe spot--this spot where I can always come back to to remember, and to re-live again and again. To be able to remember the good, the hard, the real stuff that is making our life so full, so busy, so exhausting, so hard and so wonderful all in the same breath. Because having 4 little kids at home, including one baby who has unfortunately become quite colicky and who, most nights, won't sleep more than a couple hours at a time, is all of the emotions that you can ever imagine all wrapped up into one beautiful real package that we are calling home right now.  

So as I glanced through my photos I decided to just plunk them all down here all at once, in an effort to at least have a month in photos in one space so that I can look back here maybe a year from now when the dust has settled and my sleep deprivation has eased up a bit. I might be able to see more clearly through the fog of that newborn haze and actually more fully appreciate the small things that can sometimes pass us by. 

I vowed to take more every day pictures this past month, so our kids could have snapshot memories of this time in their lives--specifically pictures of the small things that happen throughout our days....

like neighbourhood kids playing together, racing together, laughing together.

I've vowed to take my camera out more often on our court as they play outside this year--because one day they'll gasp at how young and little they all once were.

So with the snap of my camera, I hope that they remember the impromptu piano recitals that took place in our playroom on a hot fall afternoon...

and the hours upon hours of biking and playing outside that they do--until the infamous sound of their parents voices calling them to come in for dinner can be heard. 

I want our kids to remember the days of soaking in the pool...

and bathing baby dolls in Chloe's bath tub.

I want to remember this pretty red tuft of hair atop of Chloe's little head--just like Sophia once had before she turned blonde...because it's already starting to fall out, so it may not last long. 

I want to remember the mounds of shoes found at our door each day as neighbourhood kids run into our house looking for popsicles and snacks--which I love. Because my house is your house.

I want to remember cousins playing with trains in our playroom,

quiet Lego creations...

and messy playroom days where Terry and I can hear a pin drop.

I want to remember the first day of school...

and after school snuggles.

I want to remember the really hard days when I feel like I can barely keep up...when I can barely see straight from lack of sleep, when babies won't stop crying, when kids need everything immediately, when planners need to be signed, piano practising needs to be done, French words need to be practised, Home Reading needs to be done, dinner isn't made, emotions from school are running high and no one wants to go to bed. Because some days, this is just real life. 

So when I'm feeling like life is just too much on those days, I tend to try to create a little world of our own at home. I give us all something to look forward to--because in so many ways, happiness comes from the anticipation of something. Not always just the event itself.

So Backwards Day is coming up on Saturday, I told the kids one exhausting morning (as I literally made this up on the spot). 

Everything will be backwards, I told them. So we'll have dinner for breakfast, snacks for lunch and breakfast for dinner. This will be AMAZING, I told them as I watched their eyes sparkle with anticipation. 

And all of a sudden things felt okay again. Because Backwards Day was coming, and everyone was excited. 

*nothing like chicken and peas for breakfast...

(apparently it's thrilling).

I want to remember 2yr olds who pull watermelons from our garden way too soon--and the thrill in her eyes that she had when she proudly announced to all of us that she found it (and I smiled excitedly for her on the outside, but silently cried inside after waiting so anxiously for that little watermelon to ripen to perfection).

I want to remember long baths in our en suite...

and bedrooms completely taken over by baby.

And the never-ending Chloe-obsessed sister who just can't stop kissing her. 

Because these are the real days. The good, the tough, the memorable ones, that I just don't want to forget.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

Erica xo

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Butterfly Baby

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I held Chloe tight in my arms as I scanned the restaurant for our table for 12 that was waiting for us. 

We were on the last leg of our mini vacation to Niagara Falls, stopping off for one last dinner before heading home from our trip with our entire family.

I could feel the exhaustion of travelling with a newborn and lots of young kids setting in as we pulled up to the restaurant--hungry and tired, but happy from a fun few days away with everyone.  

As I stepped towards the crowded tables and manoeuvred past fast moving waiters carrying trays of cold drinks, I could feel eyes on me in the dim light of the room.

"Oh my", I heard from behind me, "she is beautiful".

I turned my head to see an older gentleman staring at the tiny baby in my arms. His wavy hair filled with streaks of grey and deep wrinkles on his cheeks that moved when he smiled told a story of a life well lived. He wasn't much taller than me, so when I looked up to see who was talking to me, our eyes locked immediately.

I smiled back at him, "Thank you", I heard myself say as I ran my hand over the tiny body tucked in my arms.

"She looks so little, was she a preemie?" he asked with a curious, but warm smile.

"No, she was actually 6.1 pounds when we left the hospital" I told him, "and she's now a bit over 7 pounds".

"Oh, that's wonderful", he continued, "my daughter was so tiny at that age too--and we're now here celebrating her 25th birthday. Hard to believe. I really do remember her being that small all those years ago. She was actually a surviving twin, so this birthday somehow feels even that much more special".

I could feel my heart stop for just a second and I lost my breath for a moment.

I looked down at my sweet girl and then looked back up at him again "She is a surviving twin too", I said quietly.

His eyes instantly filled with tears. I mean, immediately.

"Ohh...oh wow" he said between deep breaths. I watched as his body fell a bit limp and he moved towards me.

"Oh I'm so sorry", he continued, "it's just the hardest, isn't it? It's just so awful" and with a tear running down his cheek he pulled me in and gently hugged me, carefully wrapping his arms around me without touching the sleeping baby in my arms.

I was taken aback a bit, a little surprised at this stranger who all of a sudden had his arms wrapped around me as he cried--but it then odly felt okay, like I somehow knew him, like he was somehow familiar to me and like I somehow understood him.

Because, well I did.

I tried to look away as he gently pulled away from me, knowing that if I looked him in his tear filled eyes the flood gates of my own grief would open--and I wouldn't be able to close them. I would be standing in a packed restaurant, baby in arms, two sobbing strangers hugging each other while everyone stared at us, dumbfounded, wondering what on earth was going on. So I took a deep breath, and I told him I was so sorry for his loss as well.

"You have a butterfly baby, a beautiful butterfly baby", he continued.

I pretended like I knew what he was talking about.

Then before I could even respond, a young girl with short dark hair that fell just below her shoulders interrupted us and the man quickly said to her "Look at this beautiful baby--she is a survivor, just like you". And he introduced me to his 25yr old daughter.

She gushed over Chloe for a moment, then turned to her dad and put her hand on his shoulder--a gesture of comfort towards him that didn't need any words. She saw the tears in his eyes and understood why they were there.

Twenty five years later, the grief was still raw.

She pointed to her ankle where a tiny butterfly tattoo sat. "Just as a reminder of my twin that I unfortunately never got to know" she said.

"It's beautiful", is all that I could muster.

I felt like I was in a bit of a dream--this family grieving a loss that happened so long ago, combined with my fresh grief that I still haven't fully dealt with, standing in a packed restaurant that somehow all of a sudden felt incredibly quiet. I felt their pain and they felt mine--and as I stared at this girl with the butterfly tattoo it spun me ahead 25yrs, picturing what life will be like for Chloe as she thinks about her twin that she never had the chance to know.

We left the restaurant that night after our plates were cleared away and we packed up the six kids, whose bellies were full and whose bodies were tired. And in the silence of the car ride home I looked up "butterfly baby" on my phone to find out what it meant.

I scanned pictures of purple butterfly stickers stuck to baby bassinets and incubators in hospitals. It turns out that hospitals will sometimes place purple butterfly stickers on the bassinets or incubators of babies who are twins/triplets or multiples yet who lost a sibling. This way nurses, visitors or people passing through will know the story of the baby before even meeting him/her and the parents won't have to explain their loss over and over again and those around her will understand if the parents are extra emotional or need some space to grieve.

I immediately thought back to the moment when I was sitting at the edge of my hospital bed, cradling Chloe in my arms and sobbing--then feeling like I had to hide my tears as a new nurse walked into the room since I just didn't want to have to explain myself. I wish that I had had a purple butterfly sticker that day.

So to Chloe, our butterfly baby, we love you. We loved both you and your twin from the first moment that we saw those two beautiful sacs, side by side and those beautiful baby heartbeats that were once so strong together. And as that stranger in the restaurant taught me that day, life moves on--Chloe will one day be that 25yr old girl celebrating her special day with her family. But you never forget the pain from that loss.

Even 25yr later.

Erica xo

Thursday, 10 August 2017

When motherhood calls for chocolate

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I polished off a handful of Smarties the other day--letting each and every one of them melt slowly in my mouth, trying to extend that moment of bliss and distraction that only something like chocolate can bring.

I've tried to not touch this type of food since Chloe was born--trying desperately to eat healthy and lose the 20lbs left from when this tiny babe grew inside of my body only a few weeks ago. Happily watching each passing day as my once large, round belly housing the most miraculous living miracle slowly goes back to normal, eliminating any evidence of the life that once grew there.

Isn't it strange though how we do this? How in a matter of days, we go from proudly rubbing our beautiful round bellies, to delivering our babies and then somehow desperately trying to wash away any remnants of this time in our lives?

I still remember getting out of the shower in the hospital just hours after Chloe was born, looking down at my deflated stomach and thinking "dear God, I forgot about this part". So I was determined from the day that she was born to follow suit with every other pregnancy that I've had to lose the weight--every last pound before baby turns one. I've done it successfully with Mya, Carter and Sophia and I'm just as determined with Chloe. But the other day, those Smarties were calling my name and I caved into that emotional eating craving--because the reality of having 4 little kids and one very sleep deprived mama is that some days chocolate is the only thing that will get you to bedtime.

When everyone is being too loud, when 2yr olds are having meltdowns over anything, when kids are bickering over nothing and when I'm tripping over toys with every step I take, sometimes it's okay to treat yourself to a little chocolate...even when the scale still annoyingly says 20 more pounds mama.

So I'll keep my little stash of Smarties hidden high up on the top shelf, where I'll hopefully forget about them--but where they'll never really be too far from the grasp of my desperate hands on those tough days that motherhood inevitably sometimes brings.

But, in saying this--although some hard days of parenting are certainly going to happen (that's a guarantee), I have also learned that nothing lasts forever. There will be days when kids will give you grey hair, and there will be days when you'll feel like Superwoman--able to pull off every last detail of motherhood like a champ.

So I take the great days and hold onto them. I breathe them in and savour them. I sit back and pinch myself, wondering how we got so lucky to have four beautifully healthy children who we adore more than life itself. And even late at night, when it's just Chloe and I in the dark of the night, I hold her after nursing her back to sleep and I just feel grateful. Sleep deprived and all.

So we go on adventures, just the kids and I, when I'm feeling like I got this..I can handle this. Four kids 6yrs old and under? Whatever. No problem.

We slather sunscreen on, pack everything but the kitchen sink into a diaper bag, bring half of our kitchen in snacks and pile into our van to try to create a day that the kids will remember.

And when dad is home on the weekend, we take off to places like the beach and indoor playgrounds where kids come home drained and ready for bed.

Which is absolute perfection.

And during those moments when I'm feeling exhausted or overwhelmed--when I'm bouncing a crying baby while trying to get dinner on the table and clean up the spilt milk on the floor, I'll dream of those Smarties stashed away in my cupboard and know that they'll always have my name on them. Because chocolate should always be hidden in every parents cupboard.

That's for sure.

And maybe a little ice cream in the freezer too. Just in case. 

Happy Thursday everyone. One more day 'til the weekend!! 

Erica xox

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