Get it Together

For the past few weeks (ok, few months), the batteries in Penelope’s Fisher Price Ocean Wonders crib accessory (or Fishyvision, as we call it) have been dying. I keep meaning to replace them but the second I leave her room, I forget all about it until it’s time to put her down again. A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Dollar Store and noticed the battery display, and actually remembered that I needed to buy batteries for Fishyvision. Feeling quite proud of myself, I purchased a couple packs. Which then sat in the car for awhile before I actually got around to bringing them inside. Finally one day, I set about the arduous task that is changing batteries in infant toys. You see, the batteries aren’t hidden away behind a little slot like in a remote control. Oh no, you need a screwdriver to access these batteries. I swear, there are fewer security precautions on the case containing the Hope diamond. Anyway, I managed to detach Fishyvision from the crib, locate a screwdriver, and get the new batteries ready. I popped off the slot to take out the old batteries and:

This requires C batteries.

This requires C batteries.

The batteries I purchased were D batteries.

The batteries I purchased were D batteries.

AAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH! Are you f*#@&ing kidding me?! Fishyvision almost met with an untimely end at that moment.

Some days, I really feel like I don’t have my shit together. At all. I have piles of dirty laundry to be washed. I have piles of clean laundry to be folded. I have piles of folded laundry to be put away. I put off making appointments that I know need to be made. I fantasize about winning the lottery but I cannot get it together enough to buy a damn lottery ticket. That must be the definition of not having your shit together. I literally walk by a convenience store selling lottery tickets FOUR times a day when I drop off and pick Charlotte up at school, but I never think to stop and get a ticket.

Will I ever be a person with a clean, uncluttered house? Will my to-do list ever be less than a foot long? Will I ever make appointments and complete tasks in an efficient and timely manner? I don’t know. And I guess it doesn’t really matter. The house is clean-ish. Appointments get made eventually. Everyone has clean clothes to wear every day, even if some days there is less choice in wardrobe than others. When the tasks pile up and I get that hot ball of guilt in my stomach, thinking about all I have to do, I can just put away some laundry or order some supplies for Penelope and it goes away.

I still haven’t changed the batteries in Fishyvision, though.

Luckily, Penelope still loves her procrastinating mama.

Luckily, Penelope still loves her procrastinating mama.

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January

Oh, January. It is by far my least favourite month. Most years, January and I are not friends. It is cold and grey and dismal and cold and depressing and cold and there’s the post-holiday letdown to deal with and did I mention that it’s cold? The past few years in particular I have found January to be especially difficult, for all these reasons and more. This year, though, things are different. It’s January, and I actually feel…happy.

It is a strange sensation for me to feel happy in January. Ok, yes, there was a little blip in my mood last week, but that is behind me now. Some days, I get lost in thought, thinking about how well things are going at the moment and about how content I am feeling and then I look at the calendar and can’t believe that I am feeling this way in January. I have attributed my elevated mood to several factors:

1. The back-to-work transition has gone really well. I was very worried about how it would all work out, and it actually couldn’t have gone better. Penelope is happy with our nanny, Mark is dealing with the morning chaos like a champ, and I love being back at work. My part-time position is providing me with a great balance of feeling fulfilled with my career and still enabling me to stay on top of things around the house. I am lucky to have a job that I love, and the support I have received from my coworkers has been incredible.

2. The weather this January has been tolerable. Yes, there have been some very cold days, but there have been warmer days mixed in there. We recently had a thaw, so although it’s cold, there isn’t even much snow or ice here at the moment. This means that I don’t have to worry about trying to finagle the stroller through mounds of snow and ice, which is not an easy feat. Last year was terrible- the sidewalks were so treacherous, even the short walk to drop Charlotte off at preschool was a complicated endeavour.

3. My healthy lifestyle initiative has given me more energy and boosted my self-esteem. I can now fit into clothes that I haven’t been able to wear in years. I have improved my tolerance for high-intensity cardio activities and it feels great to go to a class like Body Attack and be able to keep up with the instructor. This is the longest I have kept up with a fitness regime and I’m proud of the way I have been able to fit this into my busy life.

These three factors add up to something which I haven’t experienced in some time: freedom. I am no longer Penelope’s main care provider. Mark, our nanny, and my in-laws are all very involved in her care now, and I can spend time outside the house without worrying. I am enjoying returning to my role as a nurse- I mean, I have a job where the dress code is basically pajamas and running shoes. It is THE BEST! The nice(er) weather means that I can go outside with the girls fairly easily, and we don’t have to spend days cooped up in the house. And my improved level of fitness has freed me from the feelings of shame and guilt that plagued me before I started trying to get healthy.

Hanging out with Penelope after work

Hanging out with Penelope after work

So right now, I am feeling free and happy and I’m going to enjoy it. I don’t know what is around the corner, but that’s okay. Good or bad, I am able to handle it. And anyway, it won’t be long til it’s spring, and who can’t be happy about that?

How can I not be happy right now?

How can I not be happy right now?

The One With My List of Dreams

Before falling asleep last night, I was watching an episode of Friends, like I often do. It was “The One Where They All Turn Thirty” and in it, Phoebe has a list of things she wants to do before she turns thirty. Now, I do not normally emulate Phoebe’s behaviour (she’s my least favourite Friend), but it occurred to me that I have never made a list like that, filled with crazy things I wanted to do in my life. Most of my adult years have been focused on making it from one task to the next- finding a job, finding a better job, making it through my episodes of depression, going back to school, getting married, adjusting to life with kids, etc. I haven’t really stopped to think about whether or not it would be possible to accomplish some of my innermost desires. So I think now is as good a time as any to compile such a list- things that, if money were no object, I want to do in my lifetime. There is no timeline for completion as yet, and I refuse to call it a “bucket list,” a term I absolutely despise.

5. Go on an adventure: I’m not really the mountain-climbing or sailing across the ocean type (too afraid of heights. And open water. And death). But I have heard about tourist expeditions to Antarctica, and I am fascinated at the thought. I would love to see the wildlife, and the landscape, and just to be somewhere where so few people have been. Of course, these trips are $$$$ pricey, but hey, this is my fantasy list, and it’s going on.

4. Travel: The United Kingdom and Tahiti are my top travel destinations. My family is from Ireland, and Mark’s family is from Scotland, and both are countries I have always wanted to visit. And Tahiti just sounds like my ideal vacation spot- warm, beautiful, and relaxing.

3. Live somewhere outside of Canada: The top two places I would want to live for, say, a year, would be New York and London. I’ve been to New York a couple times, and I love it. I think to fully experience everything that city has to offer, though, you would have to live there, and I just imagine it would be a fantastic experience. And I’ve never been to London, but much like New York, I think you would get so much more out of the experience by being there for an extended period of time. Plus, you know, Peppa Pig World, which is probably on Charlotte’s list of things to do.

2. Learn a new skill: I would really love to learn how to do something creative with my hands, like knitting or sewing. My mom was a prolific knitter and quite talented with a needle and thread, and though she tried to teach me over the years, I never really caught on. Even just to be able to knit up some hats and scarves for my family would be wonderful.

And the number one thing I would like to do if I can somehow find the means to do it is…

Write a book. This is something I have wanted to do since I was about six years old and started reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was the first time I identified with the author of a story and I imagined the possibility of one day writing a book myself. For years, growing up, I just assumed that it was something I would do. Of course, I got older, and I lost confidence in my abilities, and I stopped thinking that it was something that could actually happen. But I’m older still now, and wiser (sort of) and I know that there is no reason why this ISN’T something I could do, or at least something I can dream about doing. Putting it on this list, and telling all of you about this dream, somehow seems to turn it into a possibility again.

A friend of my dad’s left his job awhile ago. At his leaving party, someone gave him a copy of Guitar Hero. This man had never played the guitar before. One day, he opened up the game and played it, and discovered a new side to himself. He not only learned how to play the game, but he learned how to play an actual guitar and loved it. Now, he has amassed a collection of guitars, plays all the time, and, from what I hear, is pretty good at it. I just love this story, because it shows that it is never to late to change your life, to discover a hidden talent, or to learn something new. I find it so inspiring.

I don’t know how many of these things I will cross off my list in my lifetime. But it’s nice to think about, and dream about. There is more to me and my life than being a mom and making lunches and cooking dinner and doing laundry. There is more to me than being a nurse and giving medications and doing health teaching. My life could go anywhere, and as long as I have my family with me, I want it to.

With my family's love and support, I can do anything

With my family’s love and support, I can do anything

 

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is coming up. I have two beautiful daughters to celebrate with this year. It should be a happy, relaxing day. But for me, it is bittersweet. On March 7, 2011, I lost my mom. She was only 57. And Mother’s Day, like every other holiday and special occasion, has not been the same since.

It is almost like with her death, a ceiling was created on how much happiness I could feel. No matter how joyous an occasion, I always know that I’m not enjoying it as much as I would with Mom here. These special occasions- birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc- almost make me feel like I’m bipolar. One minute, I will be caught up in the excitement of seeing Charlotte open up her presents on Christmas morning, my heart almost bursting with happiness, and the next, I’m fighting back tears because my mom is missing it.

She has missed so much. Charlotte’s first steps, and words, and seeing her personality blossom into the smart, sweet, funny little girl she is now. She missed my graduation from nursing school- I know how proud she would have been, and how much she wanted to be there, and it haunts me that she didn’t make it. She missed the birth of three grandchildren, including the birth of my baby girl, Penelope. She would have loved being the grandmother to her six granddaughters. I acutely feel that loss at family gatherings.

Fortunately, I have many happy memories of the moments my mom was here for. She loved being the Mother of the Bride at my wedding and at my sister’s wedding. She was ecstatic with the births of her first three grandchildren- my two nieces, and my daughter, Charlotte. She saw my sister graduate from medical school. And she was here when I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life, even if she didn’t make it to my graduation.

And then there are all the moments she was there for as we were growing up: dance classes and recitals, Brownies, pizza lunches and craft days at school, class trips- she was there for them all. Every week at our softball games, she would sit in her lawn chair with her knitting or her needlepoint or whatever other project she was working on at the moment. It would have been so much easier for her to stay at home and do those things, but she never did. She was always there, and that describes her perfectly- always there.

There for the good times, and the bad times too. She saw me through illness, disappointment, heartbreak, through all the mistakes I made over the years, always with a gentle spirit, ready to forgive and help and support me no matter what. She was truly the embodiment of unconditional love. She is my role model, and I hope to be the kind of mom to my girls that she was to my sister and I. There are days when I desperately wish she was still here so I could simply ask her, “How did you do it?” Our house was always impeccably clean, with homemade dinners every night, and she made it seem so easy. I struggle with finding the time and motivation to keep even a semi-clean house, and, well, let’s not even talk about my cooking.

My mom’s legacy to me is one of love. I miss her every day, and I know that will never go away. This Mother’s Day, and every day, I am going to try to break through that ceiling and to be as happy as I know Mom would have wanted me to be. It is the one gift I can still give to her.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.

Little Moments

People often ask me how I cope with everything that is going on with Penelope. “How do you deal with it?” they ask. “If it were me, I would lose my mind,” they say. And the truth is, some days I do feel like I’m losing my mind. When she was first diagnosed, I was up all night, watching her sleep between feedings, terrified that if I closed my eyes, she would have a seizure or stop breathing. As time went on, and she didn’t have any seizures, I adjusted. I wasn’t happy about the situation, but at least I could close my eyes again without the fear that something was immediately about to go wrong. And I think what got me through that time, and what still gets me through every day, was reveling in the little moments that happen every day-those  little moments that bring happiness and are what make life worth living.

Little moments like Charlotte running up to me, throwing her arms around my neck, and declaring, “You are the best mommy in the whole world!” Or, “Mommy, you are so cutie!” I inhale her uniquely Charlotte scent- a combination of laundry detergent, shea butter lotion, and coconut shampoo- and I cherish the feeling of her small arms wrapped around me.

My sweet, huggable Charlotte

My sweet, huggable Charlotte

 

Little moments like when I have Penelope in the bath at the end of a long day, and she is full of smiles. She coos, and kicks her legs in the water, and I can feel my stress being washed away. Some days, the best part of my day is seeing how happy she is in the bath.

Penelope loving her bath

Penelope loving her bath

 

Little moments like Charlotte coming upstairs, dressed in some crazy combination of clothes. I’ve seen her wearing pajamas over her jeans, a tutu over the pajamas, accessorized with a sun hat and fairy wings. She is always so proud of her creative outfit, and I am proud that she is able to indulge that free spirit.

Charlotte dressed in her interpretation of the tooth fairy

Charlotte dressed in her interpretation of the tooth fairy

 

Little moments like when Charlotte asks me if she can sit with Penelope and wants me to take their picture. She adores her little sister, and the feeling is completely mutual. Often, when Penelope is fussing for whatever reason, Charlotte is the one who is able to get a smile out of her. I love seeing that sisterly bond.

My girls

My girls

 

Little moments like Penelope achieving a milestone. Last week, she finally rolled over for the first time. She wasn’t quite 100% of the way over- she couldn’t get one of her arms out from underneath her- but it was a big deal, and it filled me with so much joy.

Rolling over for the first time

Rolling over for the first time

It is the little moments that get me through. I don’t think that is unique to our situation, though. I think that is how most people get through life, and you don’t need to have a child with complex needs to relate to this. Like every parent, I’m just taking it one day at a time, trying not to stress about the things I can’t control, and trying to take pleasure out of all the good things in our life- and there are a lot of good things here.