Answer me this: The superhero edition 


Answer Me This is the internet’s favorite virtual cocktail party where we all answer the same six random questions and get to know each other a little better. Originally hosted by Kendra at Catholic All Year, I invite you to post your answers in the comments or publish them on your own blog and post the link in the comments. Unless you just want to sit back, relax and read. That’s ok too. 
  
1. What’s currently on your To Do list?

I  not a list person. The only thing on my to-do list is to write a to-do list because the lack of sleep and exercise is finally getting to my brain. Sitting down to write a to-do list is the best way to obliterate any memory of what I need to do. Clean slate. If I manage to jot a few things down, I’ll forget I even have a to-do list. 

Would we still have time to discover new donut shops because a sign said “Donuts TODAY!” and go eat them by the side of a lake if i had a to-do list? I think not

2. Better type of superhero: magic/radioactive powers? Or trauma/gadgets/hard work?

I am not well-versed in the world of Superheroes. In fact, I don’t really know any. I don’t watch TV, I rarely go to the movies, it’s just not my cup of tea. But from what I heard, I think I prefer the magic/radioactive powers. There is a scene in the movie Frozen — I know, not a superhero movie but bear with me — when Elsa and Anna’s parents bring the girls to the trolls after their games with Elsa’s magical powers turn deadly. The chief troll asks the parents: “Born or cursed?” meaning “was she born with her powers or did they come as the result of a curse?” I think that we all have gifts that sometimes feel like curses. Or gifts that we misuse and turn into curses. I am an introvert who moves slowly. I process my feelings inwardly and I abhor conflict. My husband is the quintessential “type A” personality. He can do more in 5 hours that I can do in 5 days. He is driven, energetic and decisive. I am mellow, consciensous and ambivalent. For many years, I saw him as a model to emulate. I felt inferior, I didn’t see my phlegmatic personality as a gift but a liability. I was unable to appreciate what it brought to the equilibrium of our family. It took me a long time to see that my temperament was a complement to my husband’s. That slowing him down was not a bad thing. That tempering the drive with a little human touch was creating a much more pleasant mix than pure unadulterated energy. The born or cursed superhero has to learn to use his gifts wisely, for the service of the good. Like us, he didn’t choose to be that way. In that, his struggle is a lot more relatable than that of the whiz kid superhero who tinkers his way to greatness. I often encourage mothers who are feeling inadequate because they are not able to keep the children entertained while keeping the fridge stocked and the house clean on their way to a volunteer board meeting. I tell them: “What if your gift was not to be supermom? What if it was not to run a successful business with 7 kids dressed to the nines and a pitch perfect Instagram account? What if it was to curl-up on the couch, read stories, forage for wild berries and look for weird spiders in the backyard?” What if you have an illness or your children have special needs and you are showing the world fortitude and and perseverance just by getting up? Can you make way cheerfully to the needs of others? Are you able to put people before things or accomplishments? These abilities  are gifts. If you don’t believe me, just ask the grown children of successful entrepreneurs and neat freaks, they’ll tell you. The trauma/gadget/ hard work superhero personifies one of today’s most popular attitude: the idea that all your dreams are within your reach if you only dream hard enough. This not only false, it’s not even that good an idea. If we all followed our dreams, there would be only artists and organic farmers and no one to pick-up the trash. The magic/radioactive powers superhero must choose to put his powers to good use, regardless of his dreams and aspirations. How much suffering would not have been relieved had Robin Hood been working at dreaming to be Superman? Not everyone was made for great things. Some of us were made to achieve little things with great love. And that’s ok too. 

  

3. Finding out if baby is a boy or a girl before birth: Good idea? Bad idea?

As a rule, we don’t find out. With exceptions. When my first four were little, we had 3 girls and a boy. My son once asked me:

– I’d really like if God would make you pregnant. Because I really want a baby brother. 

I answered: “You know, if I got pregnant it could be another girl.” To which he replied, incredulous:

– Why would God do *that*? 

When I did get pregnant, Colin wanted to know so badly that we indulged and found out. It was a very happy moment and I didn’t regret finding out. But I still prefer the surprise at birth. 

 

Colin meeting his third brother
 
I also found out with the twins. The pregnancy was a big, shocking surprise. Finding out at 15 weeks that I was having twins was a big, shocking surprise. I was all surprised-out for 2011. I just wanted to know. 

With Damien, I found out by accident 2 days before he was born. I had an ultrasound and the technician, who knew I didn’t want to know, let it slip. She said: “He is going to be surrounded by so much love…” Then caught herself and said: “I mean he, like “the baby”…” I would never have noticed her slip had she not caught herself because the noun “baby” in French is a masculine noun (nouns have gender in French, did you know that?) but I left thinking “I think I’m having a boy.” I didn’t tell anyone else so my husband and children were still surprised. When Damien was born, my husband whispered “It’s a little boy!” in my ear and I thought “yup!” 

Two of my friends expecting twins kept the surprise. I really admired their self-control — because there are so many opportunities to ask when you have weekly ultrasounds! 

 

The moment we usually find out baby’s sex
 
4. Have you ever appeared on a stadium jumbotron?

I haven’t but my oldest son has. When he was about 8 we went to Parliament Hill on Canada Day and he got the idea of seeking out the Jumbotron camera dude. That’s when we realized that he had a bit of a showman personality. It was all downhill from there (in a good way!).

Parliament Hill, view from the Laurier street bridge.

5. Are you more book smart or more street smart?

That’s a funny question because I am a book-smartie who married a street-smartie. Almost 20 years later, I am more street-smart by association than I ever thought I could be. Still, my situational awareness is legendary, in the wrong sense. My husband recently moved the camping trailer we used as a base of operations during our house construction. It was located in the field immediately in front of our front door. I didn’t notice, even though I had been asking him to remove that eyesore from my field of view. I think I’m still more book-smartish. 

Would you notice if this was parked in front of your front door? me neither

6. Have you had that baby yet? (Feel free to skip this one if it’s not applicable to you.)

Well, no. I’m not even pregnant. We hope to have some good news to share soon but that old body of mine seems to be closing shop early after 20 very intense years. I was chatting with my healthcare provider after an early loss last month (what they call a chemical pregnancy: peed on a stick, saw a faint line, got my periods 2h later). She was asking me if I wanted to do anything about it, specifically look into supplemental progesterone. And upon thinking about it, I decided that accepting not conceiving was the flip side of accepting unplanned pregnancies. Also, being unable to conceive when you are 41 and tandem breastfeeding your 8th and 9th children might actually be a wise thing. As in: my body might be telling me something. And I’m willing to listen.

 

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Ya think getting pregnant could wait? 

Answer me this: Home Sweet Home


“Answer me this” is a bloggy cocktail party hosted by the lovely Kendra from Catholic All Year. We get to answer 6 random questions and chat about it. This is my first stab at it. I have to admit that not having to come-up with a writing topic is oddly linerating. Here I go!

1. How long have you lived in your current home?

6 months.

Last December, we moved to the boonies of the sticks after designing and building our own large family home. (Edited to clarify: by “large family home”, I mean that the family is large. I’m not bragging about the size of my house. Got it?) Our little piece of Canadian Shield sits somewhere in the Ottawa Valley, in Ontario, Canada. We are still learning to unlearn our city ways. Our children’s reaction to the move has been — ahem — mixed, with the old and the new being very excited and the middle being ambivalent, bordering on P.O.’d. There’s never a good time to move a 15 year-old and since we’ll have a 15 year-old for the next 20 years, we figured now was as good a time as any. 

 

Specimen of a teenager not happy to live in the country, plied with ice cream .

Living on the outskirts of light pollution has given our oldest son plenty of opportunities to dabble in low light photography. Here is the Milky Way over our house:

Hat tip to our oldest son Colin IG: @colin_deg

2. How do you find out about news and current events?

Mostly through social media (Facebook and Twitter) and CBC Radio 1 in the car. When I don’t have to listen to Taylor Swift. 

   

“NOT THE NEWS!!!'”

 

My husband is a great consumer of news and current events, especially when it concerns food, water and energy issues, and the unravelling of the European Union. He often sends me email links to articles he found interesting.

3. Would you be able to make change for a twenty right now? For a dollar?

Right now? No because I ran out of cash this week. But usually yes, for either. Our family had a run-in with excessive debt a few years ago that spurred a series of changes to the way we manage our life and our money. Those changes eventually led to our move to the country. We now operate on a cash-only basis and use money envelopes, like 8 year-olds. I can usually make change for a $20 but now my envelopes are empty until tomorrow. Sorry.

4. What’s the craziest food you’ve ever eaten?

I still don’t know! I think it was some kind of congee . We were traveling back from Niagara Falls and visiting the Toronto Zoo. We booked a hotel room in Markham and left the hotel to eat our evening meal. Everything was written in Chinese! All the strip mall signs. All the restaurants names. All the menus. We had no idea where to go and eat with our 6 children so we parked in the middle of a strip mall parking lot and kept our eyes peeled for a family going into a restaurant. As soon as we saw someone walk in a restaurant with a child, we made a beeline for the same restaurant. The menu was in Chinese and our waitress spoke as much English as we spoke Chinese. We were thrilled! We don’t really know what we ordered or how much but eventually the food started rolling-in and we started eating. At one point, we received this sort of gruel, wrapped in a large leaf and obviously containing some fish entrails and other delicacies. Even with our adventurous palate, we weren’t able to give it the honor it deserved. We had also ordered way too much food. There’s only so much chucking of unknown fishy gruel you can do on a very full stomach. 

Many years later, when my friend Johanne went to Viet-Nam to get her son Toan, he was so malnourished that getting food into his frail little body was a work of every instant. Johanne posted on her blog that Toan really liked congee and that the hotel chef was showing her how to make it for him. When I googled “congee” there it was!! My mystery dish! 

Sadly this was before phone cameras and Instagram and I don’t have a picture. Instead, here is a picture of Eve’s dish: blueberries and rice with Bragg’s. What??

  

5. Which of the commonly removed parts have you had removed? (tonsils, wisdom teeth, appendix, etc.)

For a blogger, I have this thing about sharing medical information on social media. You can get my kids’ faces but not their medical histories. Because who knows? Who knows when their insurance company in 25 years will unhearth that blog post and say “Here your mom writes that you spent 2 days in NICU as a newborn and you had trouble breathing, so we’re not covering you for any lung-related illnesses”. Know what I mean? Same goes for me. I blame the graduate studies in biomedical ethics. 

What I can tell you is that I lost 9 placentas over the years. Does that count? 

umbilical cord for miles following one of our home births

6. What’s your favorite sport to watch on TV? 

We don’t have cable so that takes care of sports watching on TV. We do watch a lot of gymnastics competitions on YouTube and Dancing with the Stars if there is a gymnast in one of the teams. 

My husband and I are not snobs about many things but I have to sheepishly admit that sports watching on TV is one of those things. We just don’t get it. 

We prefer doing sports to watching it. Sometimes we do both.

Hard


Re-blogging this beautiful post for my readers on Holy Week.

Kisses from The Cross

“In the world you will have trouble and suffering. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Numerous times over the last month and a half, I’ve told myself to write. I’ve sat with a blank page in front of me, going nowhere. I told myself that people would get bored, they won’t stick around waiting for more posts. Hurry up and write something. But the problem is that I don’t know what to say any more that I haven’t already said over and over.

Watching Gemma suffer, living it daily, is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. I often go back in my mind to the days, and the hours leading up to her birth, wondering if I had done anything differently, would things be different now? I see children her age, learning to walk and talk…

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A keepin’ it real post: How my children sleep 


Sleep. What can I say about it? We all need it. Nobody gets enough of it. If you are like me, your sleep deprived brain is running laps trying to figure out what you can do to get a better night of sleep. After all, isn’t everybody else getting great sleep? We buy the books, and the contraptions, we hire the consultants. Amber teething necklaces, woombies, and these special hammocks that are supposed to replicate life in utero. We stop eating dairy and gluten, we start eating dairy and gluten, it must be pork, eggs, or onions. Is cabbage supposed to be good or bad? Should I start or stop drinking? Once you’ve been eating nothing but water and plain mashed potatoes for a month, you start wondering if it couldn’t be the water… And all the while, your friends and families keep telling you about all the babies who sleep so well and you wonder where you went so wrong.

I get messages seeking sleep advice on a weekly basis. From these exchanges with harried parents, I have concluded two things: (1) People lie. All the time. And (2) People forget. Which is good news, no?

People lie when they describe their own child’s sleep. Or at least, they omit crucial details. Like saying that your “Baby slept through the night at 3 weeks” when what you mean is that your baby only woke-up to nurse and not to chat for 2h. Or that by “night” you mean from midnight until 5 am (which is still awesome in my books but can lead a tired parent to believe that you mean a real night, like 8pm until 6am). Or the most egregious lie of all, that your baby “just slept” when what you mean is that you sleep trained him with the 4 months sleep regression. Some babies do sleep solid nights from birth. Those are unicorn babies. Awesome but not normal.

People also forget. Those are usually the people in the “grand” category, whose own sleepless nights are 20 or 30 years removed. They just remember the sweet smell and the soft spots and firmly believe that their own children said please and thank you from birth, ate all their spinach, and of course, slept like angels.

And here you are tired parent, wondering how you are failing your baby, your marriage and yourself. Convinced that you are rowing alone, lost in the duldrums of sleep.

You’re in luck! Here I am. Tired mother of 9. I have the grown kids and the little kids and I haven’t slept well since 2009. I had the naturally good sleepers and the horrible sleepers and I’m here to tell you: how your baby sleeps (or not) has far less to do with your parenting skills than you think.

It always puzzles me how we like to Hum and Awe at birth weights, how they are all different, and don’t you dare send a birth announcement without that key piece of statistics and yet, when it comes to sleeping and eating, we expect our vastly different children to comply to some made-up matrix of when and how. Children are not machines (neither are you). They have different bodies, different personalities, different life experiences  — yes, pregnancy matters, as does their early days and weeks — that are reflected in their sleep patterns and attachment needs.

Babies’ sleep patterns often seem directly opposed to our welfare as parents. This doesn’t make much sense from an evolutionary perspective, does it? Since babies’ survival depends on their parents, one would think that their primary needs would be better aligned with ours. But are they? After all, we as adult often share our beds with another adult. And we wake-up at night to pee or even to snack sometimes. We often watch tv later than we should because we simply can’t go from up to down on a dime. Yet we expect our babies to sleep on cue, alone, and without waking-up. It often occurs to me that we demand better sleep from our babies than we can achieve ourselves. We’re funny that way.

Are our babies misadapted or are we? If you are not entitled to a maternity leave, you might be back at work within 3-6 weeks of giving birth, at a time when your baby needs several — sometimes cluster — small meals of breastmilk every 2-4 hours. Are babies broken or is expecting mothers back at work within 6 weeks delusional? If you have a maternity leave, you are probably hoping to work-out that baby fat, socialize and complete these projects you’ve been putting-off since you got pregnant. Or take a university class and start a business. Instead of seeing mat leave as allowing us to care for our infants, we see it as personal development months, free from the shackles of work. Well, about those shackles…

If you are a stay-at-home mom, you probably expect to be back in the swing of things, organizing and attending activities. The isolation of the modern homemaker is forcing us to be everything to everyone in our family, without the help of a village of older mothers, aunts and grandparents whose sleepless nights are far and gone. Our children can no longer busy themselves with little neighbours, they need us to entertain, stimulate and socialize them while the neighbours are in daycare and preschool from dawn until dusk.

Here’s the rub: we could align our primary needs with those of our infants but our modern lifestyle and expectations prevent us from doing so. The fitness classes, playgroups and doctors appointments run us ragged when we should be napping with our babies. Our expectations that babies should not “take over our lives” lead us to stubbornly insist that baby sleep in his own bed, in his own room rather than keeping him close. We live in fear of preventing maturation and individualizations, of waking-up one day with a nursing, co-sleeping, college student. We fight our babies every inch of the way and wonder why we are so tired. That’s why. Your life is the problem, not your baby. Try to manage your expectations rather than your infant and see if it helps (it should).

Today, I want to share with you how our babies sleep. So next time your spouse or your mom exclaims: “This is not normal!!”  you can say “actually, it is”.

IMG_8957

This is a picture of our master bedroom (in March 2015). The baby sleeps in a crib beside our bed. We have two crib mattresses for middle-of-the-night visitors. We push the crib mattresses under our bed during the day.

Our baby is almost 11 months-old and still wakes-up twice a night to nurse (sometimes more, never less). He slept through the night from birth until 4 months. At 4 months, he started waking-up once. Around 6-7 months, he started waking-up twice. Around 9 months (and cutting 6 teeth) he started waking-up all night. Now we’re back to nursing twice overnight. He goes to bed around 7pm, wakes-up to nurse around 11pm and again at some point in the night. I don’t know when because I don’t have a clock in my room. I ditched the clock when the twins were babies. Seeing how often I woke-up made me angry and resentful. Instead of managing my babies, I managed the clock. Believe me, it made it easier. When Damien wakes-up, I grab him from the crib and nurse him side lying in my bed. Then I plunk him back in his crib.

At some point during the night, the twins (3.5 years-old) come into our bedroom. Ève is usually grouchy. She needs to cuddle-up with us in bed. She will usually go back to sleep between my husband and I and I will put her on the cot on the floor when the baby wakes-up to nurse (a queen bed is crowded with 4). Lucas just stumbles into our room and crashes on a cot on the floor and goes back to sleep. 3-and-a-half is a tough sleep age here: Sarah just left our room at age 5 and now the twins are here. By the time they are done, Damien will probably be replacing them. Round and round we go.

I remember when my older kids were little, everybody was concerned about “returning the kids to their rooms” and “getting them used to sleep in their beds all night.” People discussed whether they should lock their bedroom door and let the children cry at the door. Anything but having a child in your room.

We tried all these things. Now, when someone suggests that I cut this crap out, I know that this person has sleep to spare. I don’t. Here’s a secret: If some parents tell you that they close their bedroom door or walk their child back to bed throughout the night, it means that they are not as tired as they say they are. You need to sacrifice sleep to listen to your child howl at your bedroom door or walk him back to his bed 200 times. I know, I used to do it. Now I need sleep. And sleep means letting my children do whatever they need to do to to go back to sleep.

That’s what our nights look like. Because I don’t have a clock, I don’t know how long a stretch of sleep I can get. My guess is 2-3h at the most. And you know what? I’m not as awesome as I would be on a full night. I move slowly. My writing is not brilliant. My house is never completly under control. I’ve been trying to host a house warming party since December and I just can’t, I’m too tired. We do barebones homeschooling. My husband does groceries on his way back from work because I don’t have the wherewithal to take 4 young kids shopping and remember what I’m supposed to buy. I have a lot of professional and personal ambitions sitting on the back-burner until I can focus on things beyond immediate care and feeding of myself and my family. I don’t sit on boards, I don’t volunteer. To everything there is a season.

This is the season for digging your head in and plowing through.

Des nouvelles de la famille


For my English readers: This is an update post about our family and our homeschooling adventures.

 

Depuis la naissance de Damien et particulièrement depuis le début de l’année scolaire, j’ai du mal à publier régulièrement sur mon blogue. Nos journées se passent à 2000 à l’heure de 5h du matin à 9h du soir puis nous avons une heure ou deux pour répondre aux courriels, flâner sur Facebook, remplir divers formulaires et préparer la journée du lendemain. Il y a un mois, j’ai enlevé l’application Facebook de mon portable car j’étais incapable de résister à la curiosité. J’ai immédiatement retrouvé quelques heures qui avaient disparu de ma journée, à coup de 30 secondes par ci et 5 minutes par là mais je me retrouve plutôt isolée. Lorsque je vais aux nouvelles en fin de journée, j’ai l’impression d’être une spectatrice un peu en retrait de la vie sociale qui se passe de l’autre côté de l’écran.

Voici donc un ramassis de nouvelles fraîches et moins fraîches, dans l’ordre désordonné de mes pensées, au gré de mes réflexions en un gris petit dimanche matin de septembre.

Il y a 3 semaines, nous nous sommes embarqué dans une nouvelle aventure d’éducation à domicile. En termes concrets, nous avons gardé 3 – bientôt 4 – enfants d’âge scolaire à la maison plutôt que de les livrer à l’autobus scolaire tous les matins. Lorsque les gens apprennent que nous faisons l’école à la maison, ils ont 3 questions (ou plus) : Pourquoi? Comment? Et qu’en-est-il du Français?

Le mouvement d’éducation à domicile (homeschooling) est particulièrement fort aux États-Unis et les anglophones ne manquent pas de ressources éducatives dédiées aux parents qui enseignent à leurs enfants. En français, nous devons utiliser les mêmes ressources que les salles de classe et ce n’est pas facile. Nous avons dû trouver une solution à mi-chemin entre une éducation à domicile strictement en français et les considérations pratiques qui me sont imposées par la taille de ma famille et les demandes d’une vie équilibrée. J’ai acheté des programmes en anglais pour les mathématiques et l’anglais (duh) et les sciences au secondaire. J’ai aussi un programme d’histoire ancienne qui est écrit en anglais mais pour lequel j’utilise des ressources primaires en français. Par exemple, Marie lit présentement une version simplifiée de l’Odyssée d’Homère en français, suivront d’autres textes sur la mythologie dans les beaux-arts (en français), la mythologie ancienne (L’épopée de Gilgamesh, L’Iliade) etc. qu’elle devra résumer et analyser en français. Pour l’enseignement du français, nous avons beaucoup de rattrapage à faire puisque mes enfants ont des problèmes de grammaire et d’orthographe assez prononcés. Bien qu’ils aient toujours fréquenté l’école française en Ontario, mon fils de troisième année écrit presque exclusivement à l’oreille (c’est-à-dire qu’il écrit les mots comme ils se prononcent) et ma fille de 8ième année écrit en français avec une structure de phrase presque exclusivement empruntée à l’anglais. Tous les deux ont déclaré que les livres en français « ça suce » et refusent de lire en français pour le plaisir. J’ai donc décidé de passer cette année à leur redonner le goût du français. Je leur fait lire des bons livres qu’ils doivent résumer en leurs mots. Nous révisons leurs phrases grâce à un Bescherelle de la grammaire de base. David doit apprendre par cœur une règle de grammaire par semaine (cette semaine par exemple c’était : « La phrase déclarative sert à raconter un évènement ou à donner une opinion. Elle commence par une majuscule et se termine par un point. ») David est en train de lire « Tistou les pouces verts » de Maurice Druon et doit trouver 3 phrases déclaratives par jour (il choisit généralement des phrase de type « Tistou était triste. » petit futé), les transcrire dans son cahier, souligner la lettre majuscule et encercler le point. Puisque son orthographe est trop pauvre pour que la dictée soit efficace, il doit copier les phrases directement du livre. Éventuellement, je lui donnerai des dictées tirées de son livre. Il doit également apprendre une poésie du Premier Larousse de la poésie. Marie doit apprendre une poésie de Victor Hugo tirée d’un recueil de poésie de Victor Hugo pour les jeunes publié par Bayard Presse. Et voilà. Pour l’instant, pas d’analyse grammaticale, pas d’examen, pas de vocabulaire à n’en plus finir. Seulement des bons livres et beaucoup de lecture.

Pourquoi l’éducation à domicile? Pourquoi pas? Ceux qui me connaissent depuis longtemps savent que j’ai essayé de garder ma plus vieille à la maison il y a environ 12 ans. J’ai toujours aimé l’idée de l’éducation à domicile mais j’ai toujours manqué de confiance en moi. J’ai toujours cru que mes enfants apprendraient mieux d’une autre personne. J’ai toujours cru que je n’avais pas l’autorité et la patience nécessaires pour que l’éducation à domicile soit un succès. Lorsque nous avons acheté le terrain en campagne sur lequel nous construisons présentement notre maison, nous avons décidé que nos enfants seraient éduqués à domicile plutôt que de se promener en autobus scolaire à travers la campagne pour plusieurs heures par jour. Je suis arrivée à un lieu d’acceptation et de confort avec moi-même, avec ma personnalité, ma patience et mon autorité. J’ai appris en vieillissant que mon tempérament flegmatique n’était pas un handicap à la discipline mais mon meilleur atout. Nous sommes encore en train de trouver notre air d’aller mais après trois semaines, je peux déjà vous dire avec confiance que l’éducation à domicile de sera pas facile mais qu’elle en vaudra la peine.

La première étape incontournable de l’éducation à domicile c’est le « repassage » des petits plis de discipline et l’établissement d’une routine familiale fonctionnelle. Cet automne, nous passons beaucoup de temps à jeter les assises d’une dynamique familiale positive et constructive. Vous pouvez suivre nos aventures au jour le jour via Instagram où je publie sous le nom Happy_Chaos_ Notre vie familiale est conviviale mais il y a beaucoup de travail à faire pour déprogrammer la mentalité scolaire (les enfants étudient et maman s’occupe de la maison) et la remplacer par une mentalité familiale où tout le monde apprend et tout le monde s’occupe de la famille. Au jour le jour, j’essaie de faire passer le caractère avant le curriculum. C’est difficile, surtout avec les jumeaux dans les pattes et la personnalité plutôt intense de Sarah. Je me sens parfois très isolée, comme en traversée de l’Atlantique en chaloupe solo, et j’espère que nous allons atteindre notre altitude de croisière avant que je change d’idée, ha! ha!
Souhaitez-nous bonne chance!

Warts and all


I had a moment the other morning. You know the kind? A “Mother of the Year” moment.

I’m telling you this because I used to think that mothers of large families were different. I used to think they had a special gift, a special patience, a special temperament. That they were “good with children,” whereas I wasn’t.  I used to think that mothers of large families found joy in the little aggravations of motherhood, whereas I found exasperation. I used to think that they had boundless patience and energy, whereas I ran out of both shortly after getting up in the morning.

I am now one of those mothers. I have 8 children including a pair of twins. I am expecting my 9th child in the spring of 2014. I am a member of the large family club although I expect someone to knock at my door and revoke my membership any day. Mothers of large family are inspirations. They make people think they can do it too. I don’t think anyone looks at me that way. Or maybe they look at me and think: “Yeah… let’s not and say we did.”

Mothers of large families have moments too. Moments like the other morning, when my 4 year-old woke-up just a little too early. I dragged my sorry behind to the kitchen to help her with breakfast before she could wake-up the twins. No luck: I heard one baby stir and thought that I may be able to nurse him back to sleep for another hour or two. I hurried to prepare my daughter’s bowl of cereal before the crying twin could wake-up his sister. Doing so, I inadvertently poured the milk instead of letting her do it. We’ve all done this right? Except that the difference between you and I is that you only have two children: I’ve had 17 years to learn these lessons and I still screw-up.

I am nursing one baby to the sound of a major melt down in the kitchen. She is screaming like her arm has been chewed-off by a shark. The second baby starts waking-up. I return the first baby to his bed and leave the room. Return to the kitchen and that’s when I had my “moment”. I grabbed my daughter by the arms, sat her down a little too firmly in front of her bowl of cereal and told her to stop screaming. Actually, I may have told her to shut-up. I did not threaten to tape her mouth shut with duct tape although the fleeting though may have crossed my mind. My entire day was going up in smoke: the twins up before 6 am meant that they would certainly fall asleep in the car when I left for errands at 9; the short car nap would certainly knee-cap the afternoon nap; no afternoon nap means no work in the afternoon; no afternoon nap means a hellish supper time; a hellish supper time makes everybody cranky and uncooperative. And I dumped all this squarely on my 4 year-old’s shoulders. Because yeah, she should know, right?

By now, I was back nursing my second twin back to sleep but my daughter was no longer screaming: she was wailing and sobbing for a hug. And from upstairs, stuck nursing in the dark, my heart sank. My child is only 4 and her need for affection and affirmation is gigantic. Not that my other children’s needs are less significant. But this particular child feels everything keenly. The frustration of having the milk poured for her but also her mother’s disapproval and anger. The firm arm grab, the harsh tone of voice, they just broke her apart. And now, I was at a loss to understand how after parenting so many children for so many years, I could still let a 4 year-old get the best of me.

I did give her a big hug. And I did apologize. Later that evening, as we were reading bedtime stories and cuddling in bed, I still felt the sting of failure but she didn’t seem to remember. We read about the wolf and the seven kids, naming each kid after her siblings, puzzling as always over who would be left out (all the kids are swallowed whole by the wolf so it’s a blessing really.) My little tantrum of the morning seemed all but forgotten.

In the balance of our parenting, we all hope that the happy, cozy, moments, the ones that we share around a bedtime story or a family walk in the park will outweigh the moments when we lose it. That’s why we need to love and cherish our children at every opportunity. So that on the whole, they’ll remember their childhood as a happy one, and their parents as loving. I don’t know yet how my children will remember me: a loving mom or a tired old hag with a short fuse? Maybe it will be a bit of both.

I used to parent with very clear goals and expectations in mind. I still parent with vision. But the minute expectations about my children’s table manners and church etiquette have given way to a broader vision of happiness and respect for themselves and others. If I can’t be a perfect parent, I will cover my imperfections with an extra layer of love and forgiveness. I hope that my children will remember the love over the imperfections. Warts and all.

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Une bien bonne année!


Notre famille commence toujours l’année du bon pieds avec un anniversaire. C’est notre bébé numéro 4 qui prend de l’âge avec la nouvelle année.

ImageCette année, notre grande fille a du faire preuve de maturité. Nous avions une bien belle fête de préparée pour elle, avec une visite chez grand-maman (avec qui elle partage son anniversaire) la veille, une fête d’anniversaire avec son parrain, sa marraine et leur 5 enfants le jour de l’an et la visite de trois amies pour trois jours le lendemain. Puis trois jours après Noël, elle a été la première victime d’une grippe qui s’est rapidement propagée à travers la famille. La veille du jour de l’an, nous étions 7 malades à la maison, y compris la fêtée.

Sa sœur la plus proche, qui a miraculeusement échappé à l’épidémie, s’est mise à la cuisine. Puisque les parents ne pouvaient pas aller acheter le traditionnel gâteau à la crème glacée, elle allait en faire un elle-même. Elle a aussi tenté de préparer une fête du nouvel an pour les réchappés (dans sa chambre) mais c’était une fête bien solitaire: à 10:30, le dernier des moins malades se couchait pour la nuit. Image

Avec papa, ils ont quand même pris le temps de décorer sa chaise et d’emballer son cadeau. Et c’est ainsi qu’elle s’est réveillée un peu moins mal en point avec une célébration réduite mais tout aussi joyeuse. Image

 

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Je crois qu’elle aime son cadeau…
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Elles ont reçu des billets pour un concert de leur artiste préférée.