Nosy, awkward and outrageous: how I cope with comments about my family’s size


Having a lot of children raises eyebrows. Heck, having children in any circumstances not reflecting a perfect sequence of material acquisition and career advancement raises eyebrows. Having a large family flies in the face of common sense. Thankfully for my children, common sense ain’t that common.

While we know the reasons that reason ignores, and while each child coming after the second adds a new thickness to our hides, comments about family size always hurt. The intensity of the burn ranges from mild annoyance at the grocery store to lasting pain and resentment at the hands of our families. No one likes to feel like an idiot, not even mothers of 4+ children.

We have 9 kids so we’ve been raising eyebrows since 1999. I have almost heard it all. I have heard really awkward. Awkward as your three year-old making a clear-as-springwater observation about someone’s dress or facial hair. I have heard outrageous. Outrageous as only an older person with cognitive issues and no filter could possibly muster. No one has ever called me “selfish” but most moms of many have been called selfish to their face. Come spend a weekend with 5+ kids, it’ll knock the selfish right outta ya. I rent my family by the week — if you can last that long — for self-centered relaxation. Try it if you dare.

I am asked often how I deal with negative comments about my family’s size. I have a supernatural ability to ignore things that bug me, that’s the easy answer. I’m like the Penguins in Madagascar:

smile-and-wave

That said, I had two meaningful interactions with older folks when I was a young mom expecting my third child. One had had one child (whether by choice or circumstances, I don’t know) and that one child had died suddenly in his mid-forties. The second had had 10 children in close range. The one with one child still had regrets at age 80 about not spending more time with his family, about not seeing his son grow-up. The one with 10 children told me of the people in her nursing home: “All these people were sorry for me when I was having my children one after the other. Now they think I’m lucky.”

These two conversations had a profound impact on me. On my perspective on having children and making family-centered decisions. It taught me that (1) none of us gets another kick at the can once our fertile years are behind us and once our kids are grown; and (2) that raising young children is the grunt work of parenting, the tiling of the field from which the harvest will later come forth. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it proposition: we don’t get to pour the time, care and affection we didn’t pour into our children once they are grown and we don’t get to have more children once we are older and lonelier. The blessings of children are not the sleepless nights, the bum-wipings and the ear-piercing shrieks. No. Those are the latrines of parenting. The blessings come later, once the field has been tended and nurtured, early in the morning, late at night, in the cold, in the rain, back-broken and exhausted, when you felt like it and when you did not.

Most people make their family size decisions in the here and now. That’s fine, whatever floats your goat. whatever-floats-your-goatBut we never consider what comes after the crazy years of raising small children. Of course two children under 3 is enough! Children under 6 are crazy animals. Maybe some people have large families because they love being pregnant while chasing a potty-training toddler who still doesn’t sleep through the night but I sure as heck did not. I have more children because I know that however intense these years are, they are but a flash in comparison to the other lifetime I will spend in my older years.

Bear with me for a second. I started my family at 21, now I’m 42. That’s 21 years of having little kids in the house. Assuming my 9th is my last, I have another 5 years of little-kid-madness ahead of me, for a total of 26 years. Insane right? That said, assuming I live as long or longer than my grandparents, who died between the ages of 80 and 100, I have another 42 years — probably more like 50 — of life without small-kid-insanity on the horizon. Fifty year. I haven’t even been alive that long! That’s what I mean by “another lifetime”: 40-50 years of friendship and support and family meals and visits and help and whatever other amazing things will come out of having a large gang of properly attached people around me. And no one will burn-out supporting me because the work will be split 9 ways, times their spouses, times their own kids.

My husband and I were on a dinner date last year and while chatting with the waitress she pointed at a large group seated nearby. She mentioned that it was a group of 14 celebrating their mother and grandmother’s 80th birthday. All her children and grandchildren were present around the table and the matriarch was beaming, seated in the center of the table as I had seen my own grandparents do so many times when their descendants were visiting. I counted 4 grown children and their spouses with 6 grandchildren among them. The small popular restaurant was almost full and renovations were underway to open-up a mezzanine overlooking the main floor. I told my husband: “It just occurred to me that if most of our children get married and have children, and if some of their children have spouses and children, we will need to book the entire restaurant when we turn 80. It will be full to the rafters.”

When I get totally overwhelmed by the present moment, I remember the “after” and the rafters. People who think we are nuts today can’t see what we’re seeing. This is the truth.

14285651_1071349806315861_1900627908_o

Été 2016 – Des nouvelles de la famille


Bonjour tout le monde, ou du moins ceux qui me lisent en français! Il y a longtemps que je vous dois des nouvelles fraîches mais j’ai à peine écrit deux phrases qu’un enfant se réveille: interruption à point qui illustre bien pourquoi je n’ai presque rien écrit depuis un mois. Alors on commence comment?

L’été est arrivé comme à chaque année le 21 juin, avec l’anniversaire de Colin, mais pour notre famille les vacances ont commencé un peu plus tôt — en mai — afin de me permettre de travailler sur un contrat de rédaction technique. Nous avons eu le plaisir d’accueillir une jeune fille pour l’été qui est venue garder les enfants pendant que je travaillais. Travailler de la maison avec de l’aide s’est révélé une solution idéale qui m’offrait un certain équilibre et me donnait un peu d’espace pour respirer après une année intense d’école à la maison et de récupération.

Au tout début des vacances, Lucas s’est cassé la jambe en sautant sur le trampoline. Avoir un petit éclopé a certainement mis une bonne cuiller de sable dans nos engrenages. Les 5 plus jeunes allaient passer l’été à la maison, un petit été tranquille, marqué par les randonnées dans la forêt autour de la maison, les picnics à la plage du village et les visites au Daily Scoop, le comptoir à crème glacée local. Avec la jambe dans le plâtre jusqu’à la hanche, les randonnées en forêt étaient difficiles, la plage était impossible, ça nous laissait le comptoir à crème glacée que nous avons honoré par notre présence sur une base presque quotidienne. En août, nous avons fait notre pèlerinage annuel au camp familial, lieu de repos et de ressourcement — enfin, autant que les vacances avec les trois plus jeunes le permettent.

summer-2016-collage

Au début de l’été, j’ai commencé à publier des vidéos genre “tranche de vie” sur YouTube avec l’espoir d’augmenter ma visibilité en ligne. Je n’ai pas eu le succès espéré et je me suis retranchée en août. Le temps requis par l’assemblage de me petits vidéos empiétait sur tout mes autres projets et sans vraiment faire de différence sur mes statistiques. Bref, je dois accepter que mon message — qu’il soit écrit ou filmé — n’est populaire qu’auprès d’un noyau loyal de supporteurs — et de membres de ma famille — qui me suivent depuis le début. J’ai beaucoup de plaisir à écrire et à produire mes vidéos mais je ne crois pas que mes publications vont me permettre de gagner un revenu. Bref, j’ai passé un peu de temp cet été à accepter que mes projets écrits ne sont qu’un hobby et que la rédaction technique est mon gagne-pain. C’était une réflection importante pour moi car j’ai passé les dernières années à justifier le temps que je passais à écrire et à produire mes vidéos comme un investissement dans ma carrière. Cette conclusion donnait un certain aura, une priorité, à mon écriture en relation à mes autres ambitions et passe-temps. Lorsque j’ai accepté que mon écriture ne résonnait pas auprès d’un large public, ça m’a donné la permission d’explorer d’autres formes d’expression qui m’apportent du plaisir mais pour lesquelles je n’ai aucun talent ou ambition, comme la peinture, la poésie et la musique.

thumbnail-collage

En partageant cette reflection avec vous, je ne cherche pas les compliments ou les encouragements. Je veux seulement vous dire que le monde de l’Internet dans le fond, c’est un grand concours de popularité. Et je n’ai jamais été populaire à l’école. Là où je réussi à faire une différence, c’est plutôt dans les présentations que je fais auprès de petits groupe intimes et dans le contact personnel avec les lecteurs qui communiquent avec moi par téléphone ou par email pour avoir des conseils et de l’encouragement. J’ai rencontré des familles extraordinaires par le biais de mon blogue et c’est une présence en-ligne que j’ai du plaisir à maintenir. J’ai beaucoup réfléchi sur la tension qui existe entre rejoindre une large audience qui me permet de gagner un revenu ou poursuivre mon bout de chemin anonyme mais significatif. Idéalement, j’écrirais des choses qui changent la vie de millions de personnes et j’en ferais ma carrière. Cependant, il semble que pour le moment je ne réussi à toucher qu’une poignée de familles mais que ce contact est significatif. Qualité versus quantité. Je rêve d’avoir une grande quantité de qualité mais ce sera pour plus tard, peut-être quand les enfants seront plus grands.
Les enfants vont bien. Clara commence sa troisième année d’université et travaille pour la réserve des Forces Armées Canadiennes comme ingénieur de combat. Colin commence sa deuxième année d’université au Collège Militaire à Kingston en Ontario. Éloïse et Marie sont retournées à l’école cette année après 2 ans à la maison pour terminer leur cours secondaire. David et Sarah continuent à être éduqués à la maison, les jumeaux — qui vont avoir 5 ans cette semaine! — commencent à faire “du travail” avec beaucoup d’enthousiasme. Nous avons terminé l’année d’école 2015-2016 à la maison par la peau des dents en mai dernier et j’ai immédiatement commencé à faire de l’anxiété en pensant au mois de septembre. Je croyais que j’étais un peu brûlée et que mes nerfs se calmeraient avec un peu de repos et un changement de routine. Malheureusement, l’anxiété est devenue de plus en plus sévère alors que Septembre approchait et vers la fin août, j’étais complètement sur le carreau. Nous avons dû changer notre plan d’attaque afin de continuer à mettre un pieds devant l’autre. Paul a pris la responsabilité de l’école à la maison et reste à la maison avec les enfants deux jours par semaine et le samedi. Je m’occupe de l’école le lundi et le mercredi. Cet ajustement devrait me permettre de respirer et offrir aux enfants la structure dont ils ont besoin et que Paul est plus apte à fournir. La dynamique entre les enfants et moi est tendue, sans doute parce que je suis tendue, et j’espère que je vais retrouver mon air d’aller plus tôt que tard.

Je vous souhaite une bonne année scolaire. Rappelez-vous que que dans la vie, on avance ou on recule, il n’y a jamais de beau fixe. Du moins jamais pour longtemps.

summer-2016-collage-2

You don’t have to be on all the time


I was listening to the CBC Radio: Spark podcast on the effects of parental use of technology on children. This hit close to home. I use my iPhone for everything — from reading and writing to looking up recipes, words and maps, taking pictures, recording voice memos, shooting and editing my YouTube videos, communicating with my parents, husband and children, checking the weather, traffic, the news, streaming music and podcasts, look-up knitting patterns, get calendar reminders, learning Spanish on Duolingo, Netflix & Chillaxing, I must forgetting some — often fielding accusations from my children of being “always stuck to my phone”. My technology use is mostly family-related, serving their needs more than mine but appearances don’t lie: I use my phone a lot. I also remember how lonely, isolated and depressed I was before being able to connect to friends via social media. The podcast didn’t make any earth-shattering revelations for anyone who is aware that young children need their parents to be emotionally engaged. Whether you are distracted by your work, your book, your latest fling or the money you just don’t have, the question is not whether being tethered to your phone is harmful but whether it is harmful in different or more severe ways than everything else going on in your life. The study discussed in the podcast points to a shrinking attention span for children when their parents’ attention wanders.

Where the podcast rubbed my buttons the wrong way was with this quote:

“I see parents mindlessly pushing their kid on a swing while looking at their phone”

To be fair, the message was not that it is wrong to check your phone at the park but that your device should not prevent you from engaging in the normal activities of parenting such as the park. The image of the parent revelling in every ounce of childhood is one that won’t die. Once you are done cooking, cleaning, shopping, organizing, cuddling, control-towering, time-managing, refereeing and driving, you should also make a public display of gleeful cheer-leading while your children ask you for the 12 millionth time to look at them climb the slide backward for the 20 millionth time. I’m sorry but no. There is a surface covered in expensive, obsessively safe, kinetically-correct, expert-approved, City-stamped, edible, equipment right here. It has been designed to foster cooperative play with other children who are, conveniently, here at the same time you are, doing exactly the same thing you are. I gave you a bunch of siblings and believe me, it’s not because I like hospital food. So don’t mind me while I sit my ass down on this bench right here and check my phone while you have fun.

You don't have to be on all the time

Netflix and Chills: Gran Hotel


Today I am reclaiming the concept of Netflix & Chill because someone has to and because there has to be a voice for people watching a period drama while knitting. Edgy. In Canada good TV shows are few and far between. Regional licensing *yawn* agreements — or lack thereof — mean that the Netflix Canada catalogue accounts for about half of what is available in the U.S. I don’t fancy myself a TV critic, even less a TV writer, but I do fancy myself demanding when it comes to how I waste my time. As such, I decided to share with you my favorite series and movies from the very limited selection available on Netflix Canada, starting with my latest infatuation  obsession, Gran Hotel. (The trailer below is in Spanish only but the Netflix offering has subtitles.)

After Downton Abbey was wrapped-up with a bow and a cherry on top — I like my endings happy and this beautiful series was tied-up with the same flawless class that characterized all 6 seasons – I found myself suffering from a severe case of hangover, which may have been due to my unapologetic crush on everything Matthew Goode . I started scouring Netflix for something, anything, to scratch that itch. Netflix kept suggesting “Grand Hotel” but from the cover pictures I could see that the production — including the costumes, writing and verisimilitude — would not be as tightly spun as my beloved Downton. Well, was I ever right in a wrong way!

 

Cast as the “Spanish Downton Abbey” Gran Hotel — titled “Grand Hotel” on Netflix — is set with the same “upstairs-downstairs” dynamics as Downton Abbey, and that’s about where any possible comparison stops. Where Downton Abbey sought to be a reflection of the era it portrayed, Gran Hotel is using the period as an accessory to its storytelling.

 

The popular series, which ran from 2011 to 2013 in Spain, is offered by Netflix in 3 seasons totaling 65 episodes of about an hour each (so that’s about 100 hours when you factor-in re-watching all the hottest kissing scenes, *coughs* *loosens collar*). The series is in Castilian (European) Spanish with English subtitles. The subtitles are easy to follow — and entertaining for the third season where typos, missing words and the original Spanish sneak-in, suggesting that the translator got as carried away as I did — and the repetitive nature of the plots, roving and twisting around each other, may even allow you to pick-up a few words of Spanish such as disculpe, lo siento and perdon (excuse me, I’m sorry and pardon me). It turns out that Spaniards apologize as much as Canadians do.

 

Each one the three seasons is wrapped around a main plot and a few simple subplots. But unlike American series who like their plots and subplots to go on forever and finish abruptly, Gran Hotel’s writers wound and unwound each plot with satisfying regularity. Questions are answered in ways that are not always believable but consistent once you accept to suspend just enough disbelief to enter into this lavish parallel universe. Gran Hotel is light and satisfying entertainment. There are no zombies, no gore, except for some obvious cinematic blood, and your favorite characters will not be killed willy-nilly. If this is how you like your entertainment, read on as I share — without spoilers except for one that should be obvious from the series’ cover picture — my 7 (plus one)  favorite things about Gran Hotel.

 

1. The romance. Here comes the obvious spoiler: the series is spun around the star-crossed romance between Julio (Yon Gonzalez) and Alicia (Amaia Salamanca). Now, I am a very demanding consumer when it comes to fictional romance and let me tell you, this is one of the most contagious TV romance I’ve seen since Colin Firth longingly beheld Jennifer Ehle in the BBC production of Pride & Prejudice. Gonzalez and Salamanca have incredible chemistry, they burn right through the screen. Pacing is the key to a good romance and this romance is perfectly ordered. It always leaves you yearning for more but never frustrated. Their first kiss — deservedly — won TV awards in Spain and each subsequent one is equally deserving, not to mention the hotter stuff. I’d watch the series just for the kissing, seriously. Add two beautiful actors speaking Spanish to each other with the slow-burning emotionality we’ve come to associate with everything Spaniard and you have a love story playing out without a false note over 60 hours.

2. The pacing. One thing that seriously annoys me in American TV entertainment is the tendency to take viewers within a hairsbreadth of a plot resolution, only to be taken on another round of near discoveries, near deaths and missteps. I heard Gran Hotel aptly described in The Protagonist Podcast — listen here, it takes about 10 minutes to get in gear but it does justice to the first 2 episodes and doesn’t contain any spoilers — as “Downton Abbey meets 24” and it’s a true description. Of course — as with 24 — viewers need to overlook how quickly characters get from one place to the next, get changed and read letters. But I was happy to oblige in exchange for not being taken down some obscure plot rabbit-hole.

 

3.The physicality. Spaniards sure like their face slaps and Gran Hotel actors really know how to put their backs into it. When Julio fights, he fights. At first I found it a little ridiculous, over the top maybe. But I came to appreciate the unrestrained physicality because it carried over to…

 

4. The men-hugs, men-tears and men generally being very expressive with each other. The friendship between Julio and Andrès is real and meaningful and nothing else would explain how Julio can keep his job by so rarely doing it. My British period drama habit had me used to very restrained displays of manly emotions. The spectrum of British male emoting oscillates between angry, outraged and “I’ll go speak to your father…” Julio and Andrès hug, kiss, confide in each other and cry in each other’s arms, while remaining perfectly attractive — and attracted — to the female kind. Fancy that.

 

5. The smoking. The series is a 60 hour long shameless and unrestrained cigarette advertisement. The smoking=sex pipeline is not even thinly veiled. To this Canadian viewer this is entertainment anathema and I love the Spanish for their unapologetic want for political correctness.

 

6. The beauty. This series is visually enchanting. The outdoor scenes were filmed at the historic Palacio de la Magdalena in Santander, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The men are good looking but the women are stunning in a non-Hollywood kind of way. The make-up was purposely kept to a very natural look, allowing us to truly appreciate the beauty of the ladies. Except for a few shots of bare backs throughout the 3 seasons, everyone keeps their clothes mostly on, even the few sex scenes are tasteful and understated. The beauty and romanticism are wrought through acting only and this is a feat that should be attempted by American entertainment sometimes.

Women of Gran Hotel

 

7. The cheese. There is some seriously awesome cheese in Gran Hotel. From oodles of fake blood, to a Laurel & Hardy-like policemen duet, to Julio digging his own grave with his shirt off, fighting with his shirt off, looking for a lost button with his shirt off, to babies being born completely clean and as chubby as 3 month-olds, to weird twists and turns in unlikely plot lines, Gran Hotel has a soap-operatic quality that would be overwhelming if it wasn’t for how honestly it comes by it. Embrace the cheese, don’t fight it.

(Plus one) * A word of warning to my Catholic readers. I know that many Catholics are sick and tired of the perpetually negative portrayal of the Catholic Church in entertainment. The third season of Gran Hotel features a plot line involving an affair with a Catholic priest. If you can’t stand the sight of a Catholic priest behaving badly, you might need to give the Padre Grau story-line a pass. I found it tolerable myself because unlike in American entertainment where he would have been portrayed as a cruel or sick pervert, Padre Grau comes across as just another sinner, which most priests of my knowledge would admit to be. Every single character in Gran Hotel has a morally questionable dimension. Everyone has a secret, everyone hides something, protects someone, makes poor decisions. The Catholic priest is just as sinful as the rest of the cast, no more, no less. Otherwise, Catholic ceremonies and Sacraments are portrayed tastefully and many a thing are left “en las manos de Nuestro Señor” (in the hands of Our Lord).

Et voilà! Gran Hotel is the stuff cult followings are made of and considering how much fun I had looking-up links and information for this post, I am in grave danger of booking a themed tour of Spain’s Mediterranean coastline soon. This is a series that remains true to itself from start to finish and consistently treats its viewership with respect. If you have a taste for pure escapism entertainment, book at night — or 20 — at the Gran Hotel.

Julio y Alicia

 

 

 

A miscarriage debrief Part II


 

I wrote the first part of this debrief about 6 weeks after my miscarriage last September. Now that my due date has come and gone, I find myself dealing with a new range of emotions as I move past the shock of the miscarriage itself and into the realization of the broader ramifications of recovering from a significant health crisis.

 

I started showing signs of peri-menopause after the twins were born when I was 37. Low progesterone, erratic cycles, just the usual. When my husband and I decided to have another child in 2015, we knew that I was walking into a growing chance of miscarriage. I had never miscarried before but I knew enough women who had been through this ordeal not to expect to be spared forever. Through the years, pregnancy after pregnancy, I had always been acutely aware of my luck and of the increasing likelihood that it would eventually run out.

 

We conceived in May of 2015. I took a pregnancy test as soon as my periods were late and it came back negative. As my periods got later and later and pregnancy tests kept showing a negative result, I knew that this pregnancy was probably precarious. I took a third test, this one positive and my periods started the next day. It was a non-event. We celebrated the tiny flicker of life that had dwelled in me privately, without informing our children or our families. We were thankful that we had “tried” for this one. That we had known from day 1 that it was a possibility. The next cycle, I got pregnant again. This time, a strong positive test informed us of the existence of our baby number 10. We told our families right away and started informing friends and acquaintances as we saw them in person. It was an ideal pregnancy. For once I didn’t have any nausea. I started wearing maternity clothes in August and I met with my new midwife in early September. When I met my midwife, she offered to listen to the baby’s heartbeat adding: “I don’t like searching for a heartbeat at 10 weeks because we often don’t hear it and it really makes parents nervous.” I assured her that I knew what was in the realm of possibilities and we searched, in vain, for a heartbeat. I kept a brave face because I knew that 10 weeks was too early but in previous pregnancies I had always been able to hear a heartbeat at my first appointment. In other words, “normal” wasn’t normal for me.

 

The next day, I started seeing some spotting. “Bleeding is not normal but it’s common” my midwife told me, “you don’t need to do anything unless the bleeding becomes a concern.” And so I waited. I relied on the encouraging words of friends who had gone through episodes of bleeding and visualized myself at an ultrasound being showed a healthy beating heart and a pesky hematoma.

 

Two days shy of completing my 12th week of pregnancy, I was in the basement with my husband sorting through all the newborn clothes when I started bleeding heavily. I was not feeling any cramping or contractions, it was like my body was trying to flush the fetus by opening the faucet. I headed for the hospital wearing three menstrual pads and sitting on a towel.

 

I soaked through everything during the 20-minute drive to the hospital. I immediately went to the bathroom as I felt a giant blood clot coming through. It was so big that it fell in the toilet with a splash and splattered blood all over the walls and the floor. I called the nurse for help and she casually walked-in, flushed the toilet and helped me back to my gurney. Was it my fetus? I will never know. A few hours later when the gynecologist was able to remove the retained tissue causing the hemorrhage there was only parts of a tiny placenta, a tiny cord and a tiny, ripped-up, sac left. I told my husband to take pictures of whatever came out. That’s all I have, along with my unshakable belief in my fetus’ unique, eternal soul.

 

I eventually passed out from the blood loss a few minutes after joking: “I can bleed like this for *days* with no side effect!!” — loosely quoting Meet the Robinsons because what else are you going to do while everyone is watching you miscarry but quote Disney movies? I fought it hard until a nurse told me: “You’re in a hospital, we’re here, you’re lying down, you can go.” Suddenly, there was no more pain and no more worry. I was completely comfortable even as I felt and heard people rushing around me, insert an IV into each of my arm and push a bolus of saltwater into my body. I knew that there was nothing I could do but pray and let people do their work. I remembered a friend who was in labor and thought that I could offer-up my loss for her son’s healthy birth. So I prayed and I floated. There was nothing else I could do but rest in the arms of God and trust. I still remember the supernatural calm and clarity of the time I spent “under” with a smile.

 

I’m telling you all this because before my miscarriage I thought that I would handle miscarriage with sadness but also an understanding that pregnancy loss was an integral part of the experience of motherhood. When I lost the first pregnancy in May, I knew that my low progesterone would make it difficult to carry a pregnancy past the first few weeks and I thought that I would keep trying. Now, I must come to terms with the fact that even trying to conceive in the current circumstances would be unhealthy. Walking into repeated miscarriages is more than an exercise in accepting God’s will, as I have read in some forums, it’s a gamble with your health. A miscarriage can be as straightforward as a heavy period or it may cause a hemorrhage, require surgery, a blood transfusion or even a hysterectomy. We simply don’t know how and when our bodies will pull the plug on a pregnancy and this has been, for me, a very painful realization. Can I sacrifice my health — a health that is not only my own but that of the family who depends on me — to have the child that I so painfully desire?

 

Lately, I have been struggling with the notion of sacrificial love. The Catholic Church — to which I belong — is all about sacrificial love. In the Catholic Church, nothing should be held back from God. Our lives are not our own. We know that Heaven is opened to those who are “perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.” This self-sacrificing perfection is acquired in this world or in the next through purgatory — but it must be acquired before we can rise to eternal life. Saints’ stories are rife with men and women who have sacrificed their health and even their lives in the pursuit of holiness. But it is equally rife with stories of ordinary people seeking holiness through quiet, ordinary lives, in their work, their families and their communities. Is the desire for another child a sign that I am called to offer-up my health in the pursuit of self-sacrificial love? Or, if we believe as the Evangelist Matthew tells us, that where our treasure is, there our heart is also, is the desire for another child the earthly attachment that needs to be offered-up, sacrificed?

 

This is the discernment that has been gripping my heart and my soul since the due date that wasn’t. While I was still supposed to be pregnant, I was struggling with the loss of what should have been. But when the friends and acquaintances who were due at the same time I was started welcoming their babies earthside, the bellies lost their anonymity and their babies were obviously not mine. I shed the feeling of present loss like a snakeskin and moved into foreboding, a realization that the future would look very different from what I thought it would be. In discerning whether I am called to sacrifice my health or my desire for another child, this fear is telling. Fear is never from God. When I start comparing myself to others and feeling like I “only” have 9 children, when I start feeling inadequate because I didn’t have a certain number of children, when the desire for another child overshadows my gratitude for my existing 9 amazing children, when I start feeling less, when I see a mother of 10, 11, 12 as more worthy than I am, I know that I am idolizing a larger family, that I am beholding a golden calf. Sacrifices should not be easy. When getting pregnant despite the health implications appears easier than accepting the end of my reproductive years as it is, I know where I need to direct my spiritual gaze.

 

And thus I will give until it hurts, a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, as I know that it will be returned to me in eternity where I will finally meet the children I never had.

Canada Parachute edit

Des nouvelles de la famille, Volume III


Bonjour à tous de la part du clan! Il y a longtemps que je vous dois des nouvelles fraîches et des photos récentes.  Les journées sont longues mais les semaines sont courtes : soudainement nous sommes aux portes du printemps – le printemps ontarien, il faut le préciser, encore à plusieurs pas des fleurs et des sandales – et il y a 3 mois que je n’ai rien publié.

L’hiver s’est poursuivi tel qu’il avait commencé, au ralenti, toujours au rythme de ma récupération. Je suis passée sous le scalpel du dentiste juste avant Noël, ça m’a fait un beau trou dans la bouche, complet avec greffe osseuse, points de sutures et antibiotiques. J’ai trinqué la nouvelle année aux substituts de repas liquides, bien loin du champagne. Éventuellement, j’ai récupéré, repris du poil de la bête. Nous avons célébré Noël en compagnie de nos enfants et de nos familles respectives et la simplification forcée n’a en aucune manière tempérée notre joie de revoir nos parents, frères, sœurs, neveux et nièces.

Décembre 2015
Décembre 2015
Décembre en shorts
Décembre en shorts

DSC_0464DSC_0243DSC_0526

25 décembre versus 1 janvier
25 décembre versus 1 janvier

 

L’hiver était doux et la neige s’est fait attendre. Nous avons passé un joli Noël presque vert, ou plutôt brunâtre le froid ayant jauni l’herbe et dénudé les arbres. Les enfants ont fait du vélo en shorts à l’aube de la nouvelle année, précédant la toute première bordée par quelques minutes, comme l’auraient fait des cyclistes de compétition essayant de battre le nuage aux joues gonflées de tempête. Nous avons rapidement troqué les pédales pour les skis et saisi avec enthousiasme  le bras du bonhomme hiver.

Janvier, février, mars et avril se sont égrenés au rythme des semaines. Colin, qui étudie l’administration des affaires au Collège militaire royal, vient souvent nous visiter de Kingston pour la fin de semaine, Clara a terminé son entraînement militaire de base et poursuit ses études en biologie à l’Université d’Ottawa. Éloïse et Marie continuent leur programme d’études à domicile. Éloïse travaille comme coach de gymnastique en ville et le rythme de ses quarts de travail ponctue la logistique de notre famille : nous profitons de ces sorties en ville pour y faire l’épicerie, rencontrer des amis ou aller voir un film en l’attendant. Marie et Éloïse poursuivent leur entraînement de gymnastique mais ont cessé la compétition. Nous semblons avoir trouvé un point d’équilibre et notre vie familiale, quoique toujours mouvementée, en tire tout le bénéfice.

Paul travaille, Véronique gère, les enfants remuent et le dindon dîne… Ça n’empêche pas que dans les mois d’été, les mitaines se mitent. 

DSC_0092 DSC_0659 DSC_0711 DSC_0006 DSC_0041 DSC_0135 DSC_0128

Cabane à sucre Fortune près de la maison
Cabane à sucre Fortune près de la maison

DSC_0159

 

Le printemps devrait approcher mais alors que j’écris ces lignes un lourd manteau de neige mouillée recouvre la région d’Ottawa. Les enfants refusent pourtant d’accepter ce revers de Dame Nature et s’entêtent à chevaucher leurs vélos. David et Sarah se sont entichés d’ornithologie et armés de leurs nouvelles jumelles sortent tous les jours observer les canards qui ont élu un domicile temporaire dans nos champs détrempés. Damien meurt de les accompagner et  ne comprend pas pourquoi un bambin de 23 mois n’est pas le bienvenu auprès des férus d’observation tranquille. Sa patte de velours est encore en développement.

Les fêtes de Pâques ont succédées à celles de Noël, parsemées d’anniversaires. Marie avec la nouvelle année, puis Éloïse, Sarah, Paul et David. Les Pâques hâtives de 2016 ont laissé les anniversaires de Clara et Damien, généralement célébrés au cours de la semaine Pascale, pour plus tard. Cette année, la fin de semaine de Pâques a été marquée par le décès de notre amie Sylvie, la belle-mère de ma sœur Sophie. Le cancer métastatique a emporté le corps de Sylvie mais nous savons que son âme est toujours à nos côtés. La fin de semaine dernière, j’ai eu le privilège de me rendre à Sherbrooke pour les funérailles de Sylvie. C’est aux côtés de mon père que j’ai eu l’occasion de réfléchir sur les traces que nous laissons en ce monde avant de rejoindre le prochain. J’ai eu l’occasion de voir ma sœur réconforter son mari, mon beau-frère, qui a perdu sa maman à l’aube de sa vie de papa. J’ai eu le plaisir d’entendre mon frère et son épouse partager leur talent immense et chanter, permettant à nos sens de saisir la beauté qui transcende la vie et la mort, de toucher l’éternel. Je n’ai pas choisi mes parents, mes frères et sœurs, ou les gens avec lesquels ils ont décidé de bâtir leur vie, mon beau-frère et ma belle-sœur. Ces gens qui m’ont été donnés comme un cadeau que je n’ai pas mérité mais que je reçois avec une reconnaissance empreinte d’humilité.

À la fin de la messe funéraire, un moment d’une grande beauté m’a saisi par les tripes, qu’il n’a toujours pas relâchées. La famille de Sylvie a déposé des grains d’encens dans une coupe en étain. Le prêtre, vêtu de sa chasuble blanche, tenait la coupe à bout de bras, vers le ciel, alors que l’encens brûlait, montant en volutes vers la coupole de l’église. Par cette journée de grisaille printanière, le soleil s’est découvert juste à temps pour percer les vitraux de ses rayons et rencontrer la fumée qui s’élevait  en tourbillons de plus en plus épais et de plus en plus rapides. Le prêtre a tenu la pose pour la durée de la pièce Spiegel im Spiegel, dans un moment d’une beauté imposante dans son intensité et sa signifiance. Je suis partie des funérailles de Sylvie plus vivante que je n’y était entrée, avec un sens d’avoir reçu un flambeau, une mission. On m’a remercié d’être venue d’Ottawa mais j’ai en réalité reçu beaucoup plus que je n’ai donné. Merci.

Nous continuons notre petit bout de chemin accompagnés de nos enfants. J’ai commencé à poser les assises d’un roman que j’espère pouvoir mener à terme malgré le doute qui m’assaille à chaque tournant. J’ai encore plusieurs projets de publication sur l’art de ne pas laisser les enfants mourir de faim ainsi que le dévelopment de ma chaîne YouTube et de mon blogue. Ces projets évoluent encore au ralenti, empiégés par l’inexorabilité du temps qui passe, des enfants qui grandissent, des repas et de l’enseignement à domicile. Si vous trouvez une recette infaillible pour la maison qui se range seule et pour ajouter 6 heures à mes journées, je suis toute oreilles.