My Christmas Project

December 20, 2013

One of my favourite Christmas movies growing up was “One Magic Christmas.” There is a scene in it where the mother and her two children secretly drop brand new bicycles off at a house where two needy children live. They drove away happy and excited, knowing the joy they would bring to those kids.

That movie came out in 1985 (side note: how in the world has that much time passed?!), so it was almost 30 years ago that a seed was planted in my young mind that I’d love to do something like that some day.

This is the day.

The last few years, I’ve participated in various charitable endeavours with the kids such as Toy Mountain, the Food Bank and Operation Christmas Child.  They are all fantastic organizations that do some really fabulous, much-needed work in our city and world.

I’ve wondered though, how much my own kids really understood.  Age-appropriate developmental limitations and their sheltered world aside, do they really get how fortunate they are? Do they really understand that there is a real little boy or girl waiting on the other side of their Toy Mountain donation?

I wanted to do something that would do good for the people of our city, but would also involve my children on a level that they had not experienced before.

I believe that people are inherently good. They want to do good. They want to help. Sometimes, all they need is an opportunity to do so.

With the help of a social worker friend, I was put in touch with 13 families who could use a little extra help this holiday season, and I paired them with 13 other families, who, regardless of how much or little that they had to share, volunteered to sponsor a family and essentially “provide Christmas.”

I called the deserving families, found out a little more about them and their needs, and (with permission) passed on that information to the lovely people who had volunteered to be their sponsor.

And the last piece of my vision? For the sponsors to deliver their packages to their sponsored family’s home, face to face. To create a human connection.

I didn’t know if that’s what people would want. Would the donors or receivers want to remain anonymous? Would the families want someone to knock on their doors? So I gave everyone, sponsors and families alike, two options. I could arrange anonymous delivery through the social worker, or the donors could bring the packages straight to the families doors. Every single family chose to have their donor come to their home. Every single one.

My hope is that the sponsors will get just as much, if not more, value out of this exercise than those who are at the receiving end. I hope that connections will be made. That we will all see how much we have to be grateful for. And that we c an all know, for sure, that hope and love and kindness still abound.

And guess what you guys?! It’s happening.

Donors are reaching out beyond some groceries and gifts.  They are using phrases like, “My heart is busting!” and “This made my Christmas!” They are taking names and resumes, arranging contacts for jobs. My heart is busting too.

Tomorrow my family will take our packages over to the home of another local family. My boys will hand over gifts  they hand-picked for other children, and they will say, “Merry Christmas!’

And THAT is what Christmas is all about.

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Counting the Days

August 12, 2013

At the end of the school year, I sat down with the boys and we created our “Summer To-Do List.” We were looking forward to a fun-filled summer, the kind you grow nostalgic over looking through picture after picture of perfect summer days, browner skin, blonder hair, all grinning smiles and shining eyes…

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Then the first day of summer started. OY.

The first day of school vacation was rough. Having both kids at home fighting, whining and annoying each other, I wondered how I was ever going to make it through two months with my sanity in tact.  Well, what remains of it anyway. ;)

Fast forward two months, and sadly, the end of summer is already in sight. In a mere two weeks Tristan will be headed back to school! The summer has flown by and I am pleased to say that we’ve knocked many things off of our To-Do list, and we’ve had a lot of fun in the process. We’ve enjoyed each other’s company and I will certainly miss our adventures when Tristan starts catching that big yellow bus once again. We have taken every chance to squeeze every last drop out of the fabulous bounty summer has provided us with.

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And the boys – they’ve become such great pals! Logan is really going to miss his big brother when he heads back to the classroom! As I write, I can hear them playing on the trampoline, giggling so much they can barely breathe. Maybe it’s because they are repeating the word “poop,” but hey, potty words and laughing are waaaaaayyyy better that fighting and whining right? ;)

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Two weeks left… we’ll certainly make the best of it!

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Happy summer to you!

The Best Day

June 25, 2013

I’ve just turned the big “35″ – and my celebration was one of the best that I can remember!

We were out with the boys in the morning and Luc insisted that we had to be home by 11. Unbeknownst to me, he had planned an amazing day to celebrate my birthday.

I was sitting in the living room, all ready to go…to an unknown “somewhere,” and Luc was nervously pacing the room. He would look out the front window and then check his computer, and back again. While he was wearing a path into our floor, I could only wonder what he was up to. I figured either a friend or a taxi were supposed to be picking me up and were obviously running late.

Oh how very wrong I was. Finally, my transportation arrived, and I was put inside a long white stretch limo!

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I was told that the limo was taking me out for lunch, to the spa for a manicure, and then back home again for a BBQ with friends.

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… But first, I had to have a ride around the block with my boys. :)

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My initial reaction at this amazing sounding plan was excitement, and to be honest, a little disappointment. Of course, I hid the twinge of disappointment as Luc had obviously gone through a lot of trouble organizing this day, but I was a bit apprehensive about spending this day alone. I thought the day sounded perfectly suited to share with a friend. I worried that being alone for the afternoon would be, well… lonely.

Oh how wrong I was! I had (prepaid!!) reservations at the fantastic Play Food and Wine. How marvelous it was to sit alone, lost in my own thoughts, caught up in my kindle, and people-watch out the window. I sipped my wine, savoured my food… and just breathed. And breathed some more. It’s so rare that I get to sit and just…. be. I am thankful to Luc for giving me the solo dining experience. I can’t wait to do it again!

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I enjoyed two fabulous glasses of wine with my scrumptious meal, and then tried really, REALLY hard not to appear tipsy as I had my nails manicured an hour later. God (and the manicurist!) only know how successful I was!

A peaceful limo ride brought me to home to a gathering of wonderful friends and their equally fabulous children. To be surrounded by so many that I love, and to feel loved in return, was, well, priceless.

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Seriously, one of the best birthdays I can ever remember. Thank you Luc and friends.

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FIVE!

June 25, 2013

Somehow, five years have passed since I met the precious little boy who made me a mama.

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He can be shy and timid, sometimes silly and always cautious. He loves his dinos and all things angry birds. He would happily divide his time between the ipad and the trampoline. He is great with vocabulary and numbers. And oh, how I love him. For his birthday, he had just one request – an angry birds birthday party. My boy asks… and mama makes it happen. ;)

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Add together some gymnastics and some yummy angry bird cupcakes, and I’d say it was a success!   IMG_0116     IMG_0135

Happy birthday Tristan!

Breaking the silence

March 19, 2013

Motherhood. Phew. It’s not easy, is it?

The to-do list of a mommy is endless. We keep the house together, we keep everyone fed and clean and happy, and some of us even have work outside of the house to get done too.

Yet we see them everywhere we go. Mommies wearing a brave face, along with her supermom cape. We see them at Playdates. At gymnastics. At swimming. At the bus stop.

Mommies who seem to have it all together. Mommies of children who certainly must always have three square (organic, home-made) meals a day, only the most natural of snacks. Her children were exclusively breastfed yet somehow were miraculously sleeping through the night at three months. At least this is what we tell ourselves must surely be happening over at her house.

But really? Are there really mommies out there who have it so together? All the time?

Maybe. But I would hazard a guess that they are few and far between.

The truth is, we are all human and we all struggle. We all have awesome days with our kids, and we all have some days that just feel so, so long.

That mommy you see at the park? You see that happy face she’s wearing? Maybe she’s having one of those ‘motherhood-is-so-amazing’ days. Or maybe she plastered that brave face on, determined to make it through a tough day. She put it on to leave the house, afraid that if she showed how she’s really feeling, then people would know.

They might see that sometimes she gets overwhelmed and she yells at her kids. She doesn’t want to… she’s just so, so tired. They might see that sometimes she is too tired to make dinner so she throws a pot of KD on the stove. And they might see that *gasp,* sometimes she puts cartoons on for the kids so she can have just five minutes of quiet.

Of course we all love our kids to the moon and back. We’d do anything for them. And of course there are lots of fun times. But the problem is not a lack of love. It’s about getting from one fun time to the next. Cause you know what they say? You don’t see the day-to-day in the photographs in that album on the shelf. The question is, how do we get through the day-to-day, from one fun time to the next?

Mommies are tired. New nursing mommies especially. The problem is not that the babies are waking up to nurse every 1-3 hours. Babies are hard-wired to do this. Their survival, in times gone by, depended on it.  They needed to ensure mommy was close by in case a sabre tooth tiger should wander into the cave.

But here’s the thing.

We are not meant to do this alone.

We are “supposed” to have the support of our mothers and aunts and cousins and 12 of our sisters, who all live in the same home. Nowadays, the lucky mommies have a really great, supportive partner who is home a lot, parents who are retired and live close by, and a really great group of girlfriends.

The problem is, most mommies do not have all of these supports. Add the lack of support to the exhaustion and the (false!) notion that asking for help (thereby admitting you are not supermom) would equal defeat…. means motherhood can be really, really tough.

And you know what the other problem is? We are not talking about it. I have been open about my struggle with the darkness. But a lot of us are keeping it inside, afraid that if we admit that this is hard, then we are admitting failure.

Everyone once in a while, close girlfriends will let their guards down and admit something they’re not proud of.

“I let her cry last night. I just couldn’t go in there again.”

“Sometimes I feel like I am just an observer. I feel so vacant and distant.”

We are all just trying to raise happy, healthy, conscientious kids. It might look different from house to house; we are all doing things our own way. But we have one important thing in common: everything we do we are doing  out of love.

Mommies everywhere, unite! Be gentle with yourselves. Be gentle with each other. And for goodness sakes, ask for and accept help! It takes a village!

So lets share our stories – the good and the bad. Share them with the mom at the park. Share them with girlfriends over a glass of wine.  Share them in the comment section below.

Having a bad, limited patience day doesn’t make you a bad mom. It makes you real. We’re all in this together, and knowing we’re not alone will make us all feel better about how we are managing the days between the celebratory pictures in the family album.

To Thine Own Self Be True

November 20, 2012

This morning we had a bit of an after-school-special play out in the foyer of our house.

“Tristan,” I asked, “Do you want to wear daddy’s (coveted, both boys fight over it) Tripadvisor toque this morning?”

“No, I can’t wear that one again because my friends don’t like it.”

<silence>

Ugh. And so it begins. I knew this would happen one day… but to my little boy now? At four years old? In kindergarten?

I took a deep breath and tried to gather my thoughts. Tried to figure out what words to say to a little boy who has just embarked on this brand new adventure and just wants to have fun and be liked.

Because, yes, I know, right now we are only talking about toques. But I want him to be aware of his own self and to trust his own judgement so that later on when the debate has moved on from toques and toys and onto girls and drugs and alcohol… Well it’s then that I REALLY want him to confidently make his own healthy decisions, regardless of the paths his peers may take.

I understand the desire to fit in and be part of the group. But oh, how I want him to be happy in his own skin and to make his own choices and listen to his own heart.

“Tristan,” I replied. “You loved this hat, buddy. Do you still like it?”

“Yes, but my friends only like my dinosaur toque.”

I went on to explain how what really mattered was what HE thought – if HE likes the hat, than we should wear it. It’s ok to like different things from our friends.

In the end he chose the dino hat, but at least we had the conversation. I hope that the seed that I planted will grow and give him confidence to just. be. himself.

How do YOU encourage your child to be his/herself?

We Run for Those Who Can’t

October 14, 2012

Back in the beginning of September, I received a shocking email from a neighbour. A little five year old girl from our community had been having severe abdominal pain one day so her parents took her in to CHEO. I’m sure no one could have prepared those loving parents for what they were about to hear. Their daughter was   unexpectedly and shockingly diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer.

Reading the email of this news, I sat at my kitchen table sobbing. Not understanding how the world could be so cruel. Imagining myself in that desperate situation.

Friends close the family were struggling to find some way to help, when someone came across the website for the Sears Great Canadian Run. The event is a 60 or 100 km relay from Ottawa to Montebello. Teams of up to 20 do everything they can to fundraise leading up to the event, with all money going towards children’s cancer research.

Not knowing the family at all, but incredibly moved by the story – having children of your own certainly makes these awful situations hit a little close to home- I was happy to sign up for the team.

The big day was this past weekend… and all I can say is WOW.

The event was incredible. A lot of fun and very well organized. And the most amazing part?  With just 32 teams in our little city, We raised around $250,000 towards research into curing children’s cancer! Just 32 teams! Imagine what we could do with an even bigger crowd!

My team, named Gabriella’s Groupies in honour of our little inspiration, completed 100 kms (with 8 run by yours truly). There were some stiff joints, sore muscles, and some chilly bodies. But mostly? Mostly there was a lot of fun and cheering and camraderie and support. Support for our fellow runners and support for the cause. Love for those who are fighting the “C” word right now, and love for those who have tragically lost their battles.

And you guys? There were some people RUNNING SOLO OR IN PAIRS. So yeah, do the math – that’s 50 or 1oo kms EACH! Talk about inspirational!

One of the 50km runners coming into an exchange point.

There was an awards ceremony at the end of the long day and I think it was said best by one of of the speakers. Sure, the runners may have been uncomfortable at times, pushing themselves through the kilometres. But compared to a young child dealing with cancer every. single. day…. well, a few kilometres is nothing.

Next year, I hope to see YOU out there too!

(oh – and p.s: Donations are still being accepted for this event until November 13. Donate here!)

Seven Days

October 3, 2012

It took seven days.

Seven days before he didn’t bawl getting on the bus.

Seven days before I didn’t have to physically put him on the bus.

Seven days before his emotions didn’t cause me to walk home with my own hot tears on my cheeks.

And now? My little scholar?

He’s loving it!

 

 

Grateful for kind friends and sensitive teachers who’ve helped make the transition easier for all of us!

 

 

Day Two

September 3, 2012

Day two of big boy school started off on a much lower note than day one.

From the moment Tristan got up that morning, he started saying, “I don’t want to go to school. I want to stay home with yooooouuuuuu.”

Of course I pumped school up and talked about how much fun it was going to be, knowing that even after we’ve all adjusted to this new routine, this is probably a line I’m going to hear a lot over the next 14 years. At least the part about not wanting to go to school. :)

I drove Tristan to school again and as we approached the doors he clung to my leg and his little lip started to tremble. Tears began to well in his eyes. I put on my own bravest face, and pulled out my cheeriest voice.

Again…. “You’re going to have soooo much fun at school!” and I assured him that  I would be there waiting for him when he got off the bus.

He reluctantly approached the teacher standing at the door and she immediately knelt down and wrapped him in her arms when she saw his tears.  As I walked away I looked back to see his head still resting on her shoulder.

I looked back at the teacher with Tristan in her arms and when our eyes met I mouthed, “merci.”

Thank you for taking care of my sweet boy… and thank you also for consoling me by comforting him.

And I knew that he would be alright… and that I would too.

Before becoming a mama myself, I was on the other side of this scene. I stood at the doorway welcoming my nervous grade one’s into my classroom. I never realized how much trust those parents were putting in me. I loved my students like they were my own kids, but I never realized how important it was for the parents that it be that way.

But now I know. Thank you to all the teachers of the world – for loving our children when we’re not there to do it ourselves.

The First Day

September 2, 2012

This week brought a special milestone to our house – Tristan had his first day at “big boy school.”

I set my alarm for 6:00, wanting everything to be ready for the first big day and not wanting to be rushed.

I rose to a dark room. The darkness felt heavy, solemn.

I cried in the shower. I cried blow drying my hair. I stood there staring in the mirror, internally asking myself some difficult questions.

Have I done enough in the time he’s been home? 

Did we play enough? Read enough? Snuggle enough?

Have I prepared him well enough to go off to school on his own?

Of course I know the answer is yes, but in the silent darkness of that first day, logic was nowhere to be found. Emotions ruled.

We shared a special french toast breakfast and did the regular fanfare of first-day-of-school-pictures, where I had to use all my strength to hold it together.

I kissed his palm and placed a heart-shaped sticker in the centre of it, ready to feed him love from home at any time. (In “The Kissing Hand,” the mama raccoon kisses her little one’s hand before he heads off to school. Whenever he missed his mama, all he had to do was press his hand to his cheek and feel his mother’s love.)

Tristan and his “kissing hand”

I continued to fight the tears on the short drive to school, stopping talking mid-sentence occasionally to avoid having Tristan hear the strain in my voice.

And then we were there and his commencing of school happened somewhat like ripping off a bandaid. It all happened very quickly. We arrived and within minutes the doors were open and a nice teacher asked him his name and in he went. I knelt down to hug and kiss him, and wish him a wonderful day.

As he walked away into the school, he pressed his palm to his cheek.

And that’s when I lost it. With Tristan’s eyes no longer on me, I managed to squeak out, “Luc! I need a hug!” before the sobs started and my shoulders began to shake. It was a short lasting cry but one that had been building and needed to get out.

My little boy was off on a new adventure without me and I had to let him go.

I picked him up from his first bus ride after school, and as he peeked around the first row of seats on his way to the steps, his eyes lit up when he saw his mama waiting for him. I clicked a quick picture and enveloped him in my arms.

“Hey buddy! How was your first day of school?!”

“…a little bit fun…” was his reply.

…. a mostly positive response. I’ll take it! I know we both just need a little time to adjust! :)


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