Friday, October 8, 2010

Thanks a Million

This is the time of year we are all supposed to take a moment and give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. I, for one, believe we all should practice this every day, but here it goes anyway...

It goes without saying I am eternally grateful for my wonderful family and friends. But of course, as is usual with the way I see things, it goes deeper than that for me.

I look back on last year and remember hosting dinner at our house with my in-laws and very close family friends. We spent the whole afternoon cooking together, laughing together, making fun of Steve and I trying to strain the gravy together (remember that guys?) Then we all squished around our tiny table in our too-small kitchen and one by one talked about what we were all thankful for. I for one, was just so thankful to be there, with all of them. This year those cherished people are far away from us, but I am so thankful for them and the memories of that day.

This Fall saw my best friend's step-father involved in a near-fatal motorbike accident that left him paralyzed, on breathing tubes and in ICU for almost a month. But alive. I am deeply saddened that this happened to such a wonderful, loving, funny and caring human being - but I am thankful he is alive and will continue to bring joy to his wife, his grandchildren and his many friends.

Two weeks ago I received news that a close friend's grandmother had passed away. While this is tragic news of course, I am grateful it was peaceful passing at the ripe old age of 80. I am thankful for having known her in years past and for the memories that will keep me laughing for years to come. She leaves behind a large family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and I am so thankful she got to cherish them for as long as she did.

Last weekend Steven and I celebrated our 12th anniversary. Although I logically know it has indeed been 12 years since that beautiful candle-lit ceremony, I find it very hard to believe so many years have passed. The truth is I am thankful every day for having fallen in love with such a wonderful man; I often say that I am a lucky girl and I truly believe it to be true. I am grateful for every anniversary we have, every holiday we spend together and every moment he looks at me with his heart on his sleeve. I'll never know what I did to deserve him, but I am thankful nonetheless.

I am thankful for Rhian's smiley face the moment she wakes up, for Owen's little hand that seeks mine out when we walk down the street side by side. For Morgan's head resting on my shoulder as we watch tv together, for the laugher that erupts over the smallest comment at the dinner table. The random and unexpected I love you's I get from all my kids from time to time, good night kisses, good morning hugs....the list goes on and on. I am of course thankful that they are all healthy and well adjusted human beings, but I am also deeply thankful that I get to fall in love with their father all over again every time I look into their eyes and see parts of him there.

One hates to be thankful for material things, but I don't discount how fortunate we are to be able to provide for our children like we can. We have a roof over our heads, everything we need (and many things we don't) to live a comfortable life so I will not forget to give thanks for that.

To say I am thankful for family sounds so simple, when in fact it encompasses so much. My parents who have loved me and supported me my whole life, the wonderful family I married into who have made me feel like one of them from the very beginning. The extended family I grew up with was not a particularly close one, but with marriage came an onslaught of much-loved aunts, uncles and cousins that I thank God for every day. And then there's our military family. I have said it before and I'll say it again: we have been so blessed to have met so many wonderful families throughout our years in Greenwood, and now even our short month in Petawawa. The memories I have, the experiences we've shared, the friendships we've nurtured - I cherish them all and am so very, very thankful to have them.

When it comes to friends, I have been a greedy girl. I have managed to keep friends from all stages of my life, in one way or another, and for this I give many thanks. I still converse with friends I went to went to grade 2 with, friends I had through my nerve-wracking junior high years and the boy-crazy high school years. I have friends from university, college, several work places and countless random gatherings. I have friends I've met through my husband, from the neighborhoods we've lived in and friends met through my children. I have no intention of slowing down this collection, but felt the need to recognize them all.

This year we prepare to host our first out-of-town company in our new house and the excitement is palpable. We will sit around our brand new dining room table in our brand new dining room and remember all the people who matter to us in so many ways. We will go around the table and say what we are all thankful for and this time when I say, "family and friends", I will know I have spent my moment thinking of you all, and being grateful for everything and everyone I love.

To all my beloved friends and family all around the world: Happy Turkey Day!!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Life as we know it

I have started - and then scrapped - at least a half dozen blog posts in the past week and a half. I want to say its because I've been so busy and wrapped up in my circus of a life but sadly, that is not the case. In fact, its just the opposite; life is so slow and calm at the moment, I'm just not sure I have anything to say worth reading.

I suppose that isn't completely accurate - there is of course the ongoing saga of Owen's school troubles. Despite his very hard work and all the progress he has made, his teacher still feels he should be put on an IEP. Basically, she feels that he will have so much trouble catching up that he will never get ahead and placing him on an education plan will help him do "less work with more time" and avoid further frustrations. I disagree. I feel like "dumming it down" for him this early on only teaches him that he's not as smart as the other kids and that he needs to be treated differently. An IEP (or IPP, as they call it in NS) is a last resort, a last ditch effort to help a child finish the year at his appropriate grade level while doing certain subjects at a level more suited to him. It is something best visited later in the year, after many long months of hard work and dedication - not something offered to a new child two weeks into the school year. Clearly, I have a fight on my hands.

On top of that there have been a few "incidents" at school involving my son and other kids' fists in this stomach, among other things. He has made a few comments regarding his size ("What vegetables do I need to eat to grow tall FAST?") so I immediately assumed he was being picked on due to his rather small stature. It seems I may have jumped the gun - or perhaps he just doesn't really want to admit it. He assures me all size-related issues have so far been only verbal, with the majority simply pointing it out or asking why he is so small. It is clearly enough to bother him though, or I'm sure I would never have heard about it. Statements like "I am going to dream of being taller..." and "How much do you think I've grown since last week?" speak for themselves.

The truth is, aside from the problems we are having with our son at school, life is pretty perfect right now. I would gladly give anything to trade issues with his education or social status for less important ones like house paint and long commutes, but that isn't how life works. And as much a I try, there aren't very many negative things to say about this town or our life here. The kids love their school (even Owen continues to say it is much better than his old one), we all have many new friends (and even some old ones!), the town is easy to navigate and has everything we need at arms-length...and then there's the house. Don't get me started on the house. As much as I knew I detested our house in Greenwood, I really don't think I appreciated just how much until I moved into a house I loved. And love it I do. Its amazing how comfortable a house is when your family actually fits in it, and I've never before had such a desire to keep a house clean before now!

We miss our friends and family, of course, that was to be expected. We are finding though, through the wonderful technology of things like Skype, Facebook and MSN, our friends are never far away. Morgan regularly video chats with her friends from Greenwood after school and then again before bed, which I think has made her adjustment so smooth. I even got great advice and support from a beloved friend all the way from Afghanistan today - which I really needed - through one of these modern new communication tools. Followed up by a lovely chat with a close friend from "home" over the old fashioned telephone this evening, we are still feeling quite close to all our friends, wherever they may be.

So this post really served no purpose other than to keep the blog going, keep you all updated and to say this: please don't abandon me during my "dry" weeks; as my life picks up and our struggles in the school system continue, I am sure I will have plenty to say and will need all your lovely comments and support once again!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Monkey in the Middle

Being married to the middle son of three boys, I am a firm believer in a little thing called "Middle Child Syndrome." I have enjoyed teasing my husband about it over the years ("Oh you're such a middle child!") but in all reality, he is and it does exist.

A middle child is never the first and never the last. They aren't the first in the family to learn to tie their shoes, to ride a bike, to go to big-kid school. They also aren't the baby, the family's last chance to experience the baby stage, the last one learn to walk, to get on that school bus, to reap the benefits of the older siblings paving the way for them. They are forever in-between. They get the hand-me-down bikes and then pass that along to another sibling when the time comes; they don't get the same praise as the oldest child for countless milestones, as by now those things are merely expected, and they forever live in the shadow of their often more successful older sibling. The most important thing to remember about any middle child is this: you can never give them enough attention. At least, not in their mind.

So knowing all this, we were hesitant to bring another child into our family, thus making Owen - our already very needy, clingy and sensitive little boy - the middle man. In fact, this is a large reason why there are four years between he and Rhian. After many years of debate, we ultimately decided that as long as we were aware of the possible affects a younger sibling would have on him, we could deal with it. Basically, we felt the pros of having another sibling far out-weighed the cons of him being the middle child. I want to report that it has never been as issue, but that would be a lie. I do believe that him being the only boy among the three helps immensely; it is so much easier to single him out and to think of "Owen-only" activities to do with him. We have tried our best to give him the attention we know he craves, without taking anything away from his sisters, and to fulfill the lonely, 'left behind' feeling common to middle children. At the end of the day however, I must admit that it is impossible not to over look the middle child at least some of the time. I clearly remember Morgan at age 5, climbing the steps to that bus on her first day of Primary, me crying and her never looking back. I also very clearly remember my tiny 4 year old Rhian, my baby, running to the bus on her first day and me being lost and deeply saddened by my empty house. But with Owen....well God love him but I don't remember that day as clearly. He was ready, he was happy, and he wasn't the first. Or the last. See how that works?

So fast forward a few years and we find ourselves moving to a brand new province. Owen, like many middle children, is fairly even tempered and laid back. He wasn't as concerned to leave his friends as his older sister, nor was he as excited as his younger one. He just took it all as it came at him. Everything was going better than expected until the day they started school. It became immediately apparent that the school system here in Ontario is far more advanced than that of Nova Scotia (which is another rant for another day) and that poor Owen was going to be in the most trouble. As far as school work goes, Owen is not a good student. That is not to say he isn't smart, in fact the kid reads far above grade level and can do more with electronics and wires than most adults, but he just doesn't care enough. He doesn't try, he doesn't apply himself and he has always gotten away with just scraping by. Until now.

I have been thinking about this a lot and have come to the conclusion that what we at first perceived as a problem in the education of our eastern schools, is probably more a problem that started right here at home. Morgan is our brilliant student. That reeks of favoritism, spelled out in bold print like that, but it has always been a known fact in our house. She, like most first children, is a self-starter, an independent worker and has always found every grade she's been in far below her capability. She does not struggle with any area of school and has made this major move - at least in the education department - seamlessly. We knew early on that Owen had to be pushed, that he just couldn't seem to focus and didn't take his assignments seriously. So we accepted that. Over the years we allowed him (not without a struggle) to do the minimum and to get away with as little output as possible, always explaining it away as him not caring and his teacher not being firm enough with him. The day he came home from grade 4 here and we realized he was WAY behind in almost every subject, I seriously regretted moving at all. They were "reviewing" their multiplication tables, while Owen had no idea what they were. They had a "reminder quiz" on the capitals of all the provinces of Canada, poor Owen didn't even know a quarter of the provinces themselves. To top it off, the kids here have had core french every day since Pre K, while Owen didn't even know how to say hello in that language.

So we did the only thing we knew how to do: we printed out a chart of the times tables and had him spend an hour each day studying them. Steven created a dice game with him to make the quizzing fun and I showed him the tricks I always used to remember the names and locations of the provinces and their capitals. We both began speaking french to him and printing off lists of vocabulary words to ask him each day. And then a crazy thing happened: he learned. In a move no one expected, Owen rose to the occasion and began memorizing and understanding faster than we ever imagined he could. There were some bumps in the road, yes of course, and some tears, but the progress is remarkable. I realized the root issue when I asked him one day during his homework why he was crying. The answer wasn't "its too hard" or "I don't understand this", but instead, "this isn't fair." He truly believed that it was not fair that we expected him to work and I instantly knew how we had failed him: we had over looked the needs of our middle child. Again. We said we wouldn't, we knew he needed that extra push to get motivated, but it happened anyway.

So what started out two weeks ago as a potentially stressful catch-up year for our son with hours and hours of homework every night, has quickly become a blessing in disguise. I feel like only now are we really seeing Owen's potential and appreciating just how intelligent he is. I feel like we have been trying so hard to not overlook Owen physically all these years, that we have over looked the details and have missed so much. I am very grateful that we are seeing this whole new side of our precious son, he has perked up so much in the past few weeks and I must say I will never tire of that look of pride he gets on his beautiful face when he realizes he has understood and remembered something new.

As for Owen, he is loving this. Not only is this opening up a whole new world for him, but this is the answer to his personal prayers. You guessed it: he has Mommy and Daddy all to himself for an hour of homework every night.

And let me tell you, it has quickly become my favorite hour of the day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Farewell to Nova Scotia

A song I've been singing since grade school is now becoming my reality.

We've been hoping for this move, planning for this move - heck, we asked for this move. Then came the months of preparing, the waiting, the seemingly never ending stress. But through it all I overlooked one very important detail: we are leaving our home.

Although Steve and I both grew up - for the most part - in the Halifax area, this is actually not the home I feel we are now leaving behind. We have not called that area home in quite some time and have made certain over the years to keep in close touch with our family and dear friends from there. The place of our childhoods and the friends from our past are already tucked protectively in our hearts and will remain there always.

But now we must say goodbye to the town that is the childhood home of our children, the place that has become more of a home to us than we ever expected.

I tell the story often of how we moved to Greenwood almost seven years ago, not knowing a single person and feeling like outsiders. Steven made many friends almost immediately (partly due to his personality and partly because he worked with most of the community on the Base!) but it took me longer. I had two small children, another on the way, and felt totally and utterly alone. I was even beginning to have second thoughts about moving away from our familiar circle of friends, our family and our roots. Fast forward more than six years and now we find ourselves leaving this town full of "extended family", countless memories and many years of happiness.

No, I won't miss being late for work because I got stuck behind a tractor on the old highway (more times than is worth mentioning) and yes, it will no doubt be nice to have more choices than just Pizza Delight for a family restaurant. But there are so many things unique to the Annapolis Valley that I am certain we will never find anywhere else. In fact, I found it was a bit of a culture shock moving here from the city.

I remember the very first hardware store I ever shopped in in the Valley had a display of paint whose label read, "Red Barn Paint". I was floored and commented to Steve that I always knew barns were generally red, but had no idea they made special read paint for them! I remember saying, "Where have you moved me to??" It took some getting used to that the stores all closed here so early, even on weekends (although admittedly they have gotten much better over the years) and that we had to drive to the post office on Base for our daily mail. The doctor's office was appalled I would expect them to be open on Fridays or any evenings, the closest hospital was half the size of my high school in the city, and the municipality is so particular with their rules on waste disposal that they will routinely reject your garbage or green bin for the smallest infraction. We are not even allowed to throw out anything that isn't bagged garbage, which has led to the creation of two very special garbage collection weeks in our town called "Spring clean up" and "Fall cleanup" You laugh, but if you've ever lived here you know it is a great tradition here in our Valley and begins several weeks prior to the appointed day. People start lugging piles of boxes and unwanted toys, tools, appliances - you name it - to the curb for the perusal of the neighbors and passers by. Cars will slow down as they pass to inspect what you have left out and many will come by in trucks to unburden you of anything they may find a use for. Haha, oh how I will miss those clean up days and the hours of entertainment they provided.

Interestingly enough, it was one of those clean up days that led to my job at Annapolis Valley Health. Once Rhian got older we decided it was time to get rid of her old baby furniture and strollers. Steve was in the process of putting it all out by the street when a car stopped and asked him if he would hold it all until she could get home to get her truck. We were speechless at this, but did as she asked. It turns out she and her mother do this every Spring and Fall, clean things up and then re-sell them. The previous year they had taken their family to Disney World on their profits. She proceeded to tell Steven that she in fact had a great job, at Valley Regional Hospital, doing exactly what I did. So he told her that I had been trying to get hired there. She gave him her boss' name, instructed him to have me contact her and, long story short, I got a call a couple months later! Only in the Valley.

That job ended up being the best job I ever had. I met so many wonderful people, formed precious friendships, learned so much about myself and had many experiences I will never forget. It was a place I truly felt at home, with people I quickly considered family. Sometimes I would complain about having to work later in the day and then stop and think to myself, "hang on, I don't mind going to work at all!" How many people can say that? To be honest, I am a little frightened I will never find that again.

Our kids all started school here and, despite the transient nature of our town, have pretty much kept the same friends for much of their lives so far. They have had several of the same teachers over the years, and I for one will miss the familiarity of those wonderful educators who have worked so hard to contribute to my childrens' futures. I mean, where else, after the first week of school when your 5 year old has forgotten three lunch boxes at school would you have a teacher who will bring them to your door on her way home? We live in a community so small that the teachers' children are on your kids' soccer team, your lawyer is their coach, their teammates are in their class and every Saturday you all get groceries at the same store so what should have been an hour long errand is actually a two and a half hour gossip session!

One of the most rewarding - and most difficult - things we got involved in in this community was the Soccer Club. Our family is very big into this particular sport, with all three kids playing and Steven playing for three different teams at various times of the year. We decided it was important to contribute to something that impacted our whole family and help out the community. Three years later we have many new friends from this venture and have had the priviledge to have made a difference in the lives of many children. We both have worked very hard to ensure that any child in the area who wanted to play made it onto the field, no matter what, and I leave here feeling very good about that.

Through so many ties in this very close-knit community, we are truly leaving a place we've made our home and so many people we care deeply about. I often joke and call us "the elders of the village," as it seems we've been here much longer than the average military family stays in one spot. Looking back on it all, I am glad we didn't leave before now. We've watched this town grow, we've given our kids a hometown they can be proud of and remember fondly, and we've created memories we can cherish forever.

As I am going about my last couple of weeks here, I am continually warmed by the people who have stopped by the house to say farewell and the people who see me in a store and take the time to ask about Steven, already in Ontario, and to offer any assistance I many need. I am really enjoying the opportunity to visit with people I don't always make time to see and am being careful to take the time to enjoy all that this town has to offer before we head out on our new adventure.

I am leaving with a heavy heart, but with my head held high and bursting with excitement. This was our first military posting, our learning ground and the place we discovered how wonderful it is to belong to such a fiercely patriotic community. We have friends who are still here, friends who have moved on before us and friends who are getting word they too are leaving soon. The revolving door of the military life never stops but as we go through it we collect valuable memories and take with us friendships we will never forget.

Farewell to Nova Scotia, the sea bound coast....we'll be back.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lady Luck

Once again it has been a while since I’ve sat down to blog – but this time it has nothing to do with my fear of being redundant, but rather my total lack of time to sit down at all. Everyone has heard the phrase “when it rains it pours”, but with Steve and I it is usually a monsoon. Why I ever thought this posting would be any different, I have no idea.

I could go on and on with the details of the last week and a half but lets be honest here: none of us have the time or the patience to endure that. Suffice it to say that after four long, highly stressful months of having our house on the market, it finally sold – the day before Steve moved to Ontario. It all seems like a blur now but that week was both the most stress-filled and joyous week of our adult lives, all at the same time. After a long, nerve wracking day of negotiations, when we finally had a signed agreement, everyone exclaimed, “Wow, you must be so relieved!” But to tell you the truth, I wasn’t. A month ago I would have been, even a month down the road. But to have that all happen when he was preparing to roll out of town, after having made all the arrangements and preparations to live apart for a while, we just ended up trading one set of stress and problems for another.

We had long since planned that I would drive up with Steve on his move and then fly home alone four days later. It was always a bittersweet trip in my mind; it would be so great to have four days alone road-tripping with my hunny (something we hadn’t done since our honeymoon almost 12 years ago) but at the end I would fly home and begin life alone and single-parenting for who knew how long. Then in just a few short hours that trip became an essential part of the process: a way to get me up there to find us a house ASAP. There were high points to the trip (the call on the road to tell us we had an offer for a PMQ, thus relieving some of the pressure to buy) and there were low points (when we saw the Q and realized it was not any place we would ever willingly make our kids live). We had the added stress of having the inspection done while we were gone, the hours to think about what could possibly go wrong and how we would deal with it over such a distance. But it was important to have all conditions met as soon as possible to enable us to purchase once we arrived at our destination. The nail biting was worth it though when we got the call in Fredericton that it was all good and the sale was final, making our evening out with old friends a much needed celebration as well as a wonderful reunion.

House hunting proved to be an exercise in self control once we arrived and began working down the list of available houses. Some were ok, some were down right nasty, but the overall impression that became clear early on was that Steve and I were looking for very different houses and were not going to agree easily. That is why when we walked into 21 Selkirk Drive we were both stunned when we looked at each other not halfway through the tour and said at the same time, “I want this house.” We were elated, and then quickly deflated when we found out the house wasn’t available until October 30th. It would take me far too long to get into details but lets just say that after some very fancy footwork and an offer they could not refuse (I mean after all, what are the chances we would ever again find a house we BOTH loved?) we finally ended up with a signed offer. A mere hour before I jumped on a flight back home. STRESS! There were some hairy moments – viewings arriving while we were filling out the offer, approaching our buyers and asking them to change the closing date here that we’d already agreed on and signed for, some conditions they wanted that made me nervous but couldn’t really rightfully refuse – but in the end we all got what we wanted.


Well of course it isn’t over yet: we still have to meet our conditions. Although we have no reason to expect any problems, I still find it hard to relax until it is finalized and the house is officially off the market. We could have met all requirements by week’s end but in order for me to fit in an “official” house hunting trip we had to extend it until Monday so I could travel on the weekend. The military will not pay for it if you have officially “secured accommodations”. That is the part that makes me nervous, its not definite yet. I would have turned my weekend adventure into a HHT but of course work simply would not give me these three evenings off. So I came home to work three 4 hour shifts and am flying back Saturday. See what I mean? Nothing is ever cut and dry with us.

Of course I have lots to say about the actual drive up and the great adventure we had together, but I don’t really have the time to get into my uncharacteristic fascination with the wildlife fences throughout New Brunswick or my opinion on the only redeeming quality of the drive through Quebec (the availability of beer in gas stations) so I’ll just say this: things seem to finally be falling into place and although I will likely never stop stressing over something, at least now it’s the positive kind of stress.

My dear friend said it best when she said, “Michelle just keeps pulling horseshoes out of her ass.” So here’s to a few more of those lucky charms and then a couple weeks of worry-free summer before we pack up all our worldly possessions and bid farewell to Nova Scotia.

In the meantime, perhaps I will go buy an lottery ticket...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Every Cloud..blah, blah, blah

Ok, I’m going to try something different. Instead of going on and on about how much it sucks to be left behind and focusing on the negative, I am going to start looking at some of the positive things of being alone. Surely there must be some good things about having the house to myself, right?

1. Less laundry. Much less laundry, actually. With sometimes two trips to the gym a day and then soccer practice every single night, Steven generates almost a family’s worth of laundry all by himself!

2. When I feel like watching a movie, it can be one I have wanted to see for a while but didn’t want to subject him to. Ok, who am I kidding, I don’t watch movies alone. But then, I will soon have no choice.

3. On a similar note, I can catch up on all the shows that I haven’t seen all season. We have a lot of shows we follow but never in their time slots, always downloaded. We then watch them whenever we get a half hour or hour together. Sometimes it can take us months to get through one week of shows, so we don’t follow many. Some, like Grey’s Anatomy – that only I like – have had to take a backseat to the ones we both really enjoy.

4. More options when eating out. This may sound strange, but he is a lot pickier when it comes to restaurants than I am. Its not fussiness that is the matter, it’s the healthy choices. I am far less particular about a menu (clearly,just look at us!) and I find it hard to resist the lure of someone else cooking and then cleaning it all up for me, so consequently we eat out more when he is gone.

5. People tend to visit/call and invite me out more when Steve is gone away. Its not that they have anything against him of course, its just that when he’s home we’re very busy and do a lot of things together. When he’s gone, good friends tend to be more present and always there to lend a helping hand. Its something we military families do for each other and since I have such great friends here I just know there’ll be no shortage of support.

6. Summer activities will be a little easier to plan, if a little more lonely for me. The only work schedule we will now have to work around is mine.

7. There are no mysteries surrounding school this coming Fall. I was actually looking forward to taking them out of the school here and into some place new, so it is not so much a positive for me as it is for the kids. They were looking forward to moving and are understandably disappointed in the change, but at the same time are happy to be going back to the familiar when it comes to school and friends.

8. When I put the butter and peanut butter away, it will stay put away. Haha, this is only going to be amusing to me, but suffice it to say that over the years it has been a constant struggle to keep those items where they belong!! (My hubby is infamous for his peanut butter toast in the evenings)

9. I get a trip to Ontario out of it. Its not the trip I was hoping and planning for, but the destination is the same and it will give us some much needed time alone together. Not to mention a bit of a break for me before single parenting kicks in. It will also be my only trip of any kind all summer.

10. And last but not least (this is for you Karyn): BIG LOVE!! Haha

Although it feels like a betrayal of all the considerations we make for each other by putting them under the microscope and making them into positive reasons to be apart, as the weeks go by and I sink further and further into negativity, it becomes necessary. I never wanted to look at what is “good” about being in separate households, because that in itself is wrong. People say “find a silver lining”, but I find no silver lining in living apart from my husband. As it stands though, perhaps a little “me time” will be a good thing and show me once again that I am able to stand on my own two feet. I never have any trouble being alone – and I really hope everyone understands that that is not what is upsetting me here. Being alone is never this issue, watching him move away and leaving me to take care of everything, including a house I hate, is the issue. In fact, its causing me an unfamiliar bitterness and resentment that I am having trouble dealing with. But as with everything, it is my duty as a military wife and one I will have to accept. I am hoping this will help solidify some self confidence in my abilities to take on anything that comes at me, even when I am making all the decisions alone. Hey look at me, being positive! Ok barely, but it still counts.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Dark Side of the Moon

I have been avoiding blogging the last couple weeks. I am not in a good place and therefore reluctant to continue my tales of woe, as I am fairly certain everyone is tired of hearing it by now. I know I am.

I have never been prone to depression, never felt before like the universe is doing everything in its power to break me, like my world was getting darker and darker. Not like now. I stress a lot, but I’ve come to learn that is my way of working through a problem and finding its solution. These days, no amount of stressing, planning, organizing or ranting is getting me any nearer to my goal and as the time draws closer to Steven’s departure, I am sinking further and further.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I feel like I’m a kid having a temper tantrum. I am obviously old enough to know by now that things don’t always go my way; I am generally very easy-going and take life as it comes at me, but for some reason I am having real trouble with this. It seems as if every time I get my hopes up and it appears there is a possibility for a positive outcome, something unforeseen happens – like rules suddenly changing – and we’re back to square one again. At this point, I am having trouble getting excited about anything related to this posting anymore. This, of course, is very unfair to Steven. He asked for this move, we both wanted it, and despite the issues we are having with the house, he is very excited for this change. As he should be. This new position is one he has coveted for long while, in a unit he has longed to work with. I feel like I am sucking the fun out of it for him, but honestly somedays it is all I can do to muster a smile when he talks about it.

This week brought news that a four bedroom PMQ was finally available on Base, after being on the waiting list for months, but we had two days to accept or decline. With no sale imminent, we had no choice but to say no thank you. On that same day we had a viewing booked; I commented that it was either perfect timing or the universe playing a cruel joke. Looks like someone finds this whole thing very amusing.

I cannot sign off without first mentioning the fabulous week I had last week, for our nation’s birthday and my friend’s homecoming. On Wednesday my best friend showed up in my driveway a day early to surprise me – during the five minutes I had had to run money over to the soccer field. I drove up to find the family scratching their heads wondering where I could be, I guess the surprise was on them! We had a wonderful evening of catching up, baby cuddling, present opening, and of course hot tubbing. The next day brought another 25 or so of our closest friends to our house for a fun-filled Canada Day BBQ, after which we all trucked down to the field for an awesome fireworks display. Friday we all packed in our respective vehicles and headed for Halifax, Jen and family to their parents’ houses, us to the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. I had been hoping that would be a fitting “Nova Scotia” thing to do as we prepared to leave the province, and boy was I right. We were all immensely impressed – and the kids were thrilled when we took them out for ice cream at midnight! Saturday was a day of shopping and then an evening full of drinks, a boat ride on the Harbor, dancing at one of our favorite clubs and then a late night/early morning snack at the famous Pizza Corner. Crawling in at 4am did nothing for my Sunday morning disposition, but wonders for my spirit.

I had been really hoping Jen’s visit would awaken the free spirit in me, and I was not wrong. Now I am trying to take the great experiences I had and keep them in the forefront of my mind during weeks like these, when it seems everything is going wrong and nothing is going my way.


Sunday, June 27, 2010


Oh the stress. I thought I was stressed last month, when the house needed painting. I thought I was stressed after that, getting ready for the open house, and then even more so when that hit a dead end. But none of that compares to the stress I felt this past week.

Maybe its the fact that its crunch time: in about three weeks Steve will be getting ready to leave and I will be left behind. I am trying to wrap my head around the fact that this move, this big change - this whole posting, is not turning out at all like I always thought it would. For years I've watched many, many friends pack up their houses, pile into their mini vans and head out on their family trips to their new homes. It is the ultimate family vacation: you get to stay in hotels, visit new places and at the end you drive into a new town to a new house and begin to build a home there. I have looked forward to this kind of adventure for years now, and thought finally - FINALLY - it was our turn. As soon as the message came in I begin immediately to mentally plan our trip. I daydreamed about it, I made mental notes and lists and I began counting down until July. That was my first mistake: making unrealistic and premature plans.

Things obviously didn't go the way I had planned, and so now here I am, closing in on the big day with no house sold, no trip planned and facing the very real possibility of having to be left behind. I am doing a lot of feeling sorry for myself, I know. I am very slowly coming to terms with this new reality but I am going down fighting. As much as it burns me, I have by now made childcare arrangements for when I am "single parenting", have made an appointment to have the van serviced so it won't quit on me when I'm alone with the kids (which seems to always happen when hubby is out of town) and have made sure my kids are still registered in their school for the Fall. I am beginning to talk about it as if it is already commonplace knowledge, anything to take the sting out of it. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle watching him pack up his belongings to move away (not to be confused with the feelings of watching him pack to simply "go away", that is totally different in my mind) but for the present I need to find a place that allows me to function and to sleep at night.

On a positive note: I am really looking forward to this week. My best friend is coming home to Nova Scotia after a year of her being far too far away. She brings home a whole new member of her family whom I cannot wait to meet and snuggle, and in her I know I will find much understanding and endless comfort. This is also the week of the last day of school - finally - not to mention my big movie date with my very own Twi-hard. I scored tickets for the movie's opening day, making me mother of the year (for this week anyway) and I am really looking forward to the excitement that day will bring. Then it will be Canada Day, our annual backyard BBQ - complete with my best girl and her family - along with the much loved fireworks that always give me such a thrill. Friday brings us to Halifax to see the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo and then Saturday will be our big, much anticipated night out on the town.

So much fun I will forget my woes for a little while, right? Here's hoping....

Monday, June 14, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

Lately I have been having many small moments of panic: brief moments of clarity when I momentarily realize just how drastic our lives are going to change once we move and that perhaps I am not as confident as I once thought I was about the whole thing. I generally recover myself rather quickly of course, once I remind myself of all the reasons we are doing this, and continue on until the next moment stops me in my tracks.

Last night I had a moment I am still trying to recover from.

In our world - one of multiple relocations and a high turn over rate in friendships - it is rare to find a family where both couples and their children genuinely like one another for reasons beyond similar circumstance and places of employment. We have been so fortunate to have met some very wonderful people here in this town and I've always known the hardest part of all this would be the farewells. I was not expecting to have to face it quite so soon.

We have many friends here, and many we've seen come and go, but one particular couple and their son have really become family to us. Over the years we have shared many meals, from ordinary week day suppers and weekend BBQ's to Thanksgiving dinners and birthday celebrations. We have countless precious memories, hundreds of photos, and many, many shared experiences that make up a friendship we'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else. We've known for a long time that the military member of that family was slated to go over seas this summer to take his turn in the Sand Box, but between his date being moved up and our whirlwind spring - the date has arrived all too quickly. We planned to play host to our dear friends last night as a farewell send off, but as usual, with a busy weekend, I didn't think much about it until just before they arrived. All of a sudden, while cutting potatoes in the kitchen and seeing their truck driving down the street toward our house - such a common occurance as to be almost mundane - I was struck with the realization that this will be the last time we'll have this family, all together, at this house for dinner. Theoretically, if all goes according to plan, we will not longer be living in this province when he returns from his tour.

I felt like someone had punched the wind out of me. Before I knew it I was standing in front of them and it was all I could do not to burst out in tears. I am not a person who cries easily, but the entire evening for me became one of constant restraint. As fond as we all are of these friends, Rhian is probably the best example of how much this man will be missed. She has known him from a very early age and has always thought of him as a member of our family. As I watched them laughing and joking around last night, as is usual, I realized that as young as she is, the next time she sees him she won't be that comfortable around him anymore. I tried to explain to her that this goodbye was for a long time, that he will be away and we'll be gone when he comes home, but she has no concept whatsoever of what that means; she still thinks when we come back to visit she can sleep in her old room. All she'll know is that this much-loved family friend came over for supper one night, as he has countless times before, and she never saw him again. She will of course see him, but not as she does now; none of us remember things as we knew them at five years old. It nearly killed me to watch Steve say goodbye as well - this friend has been a huge support in all the training and major decisions Steve has made over the past year. He has a unique understanding of the world we are entering, making his support and advice invaluable.

I know part of why this is especially difficult for me is for the simple reason that it is the first of many. Its not like this is even the first time we've faced this kind of thing; last year one of my closest friends moved to the other side of the country and I felt like she took my right arm with her, I was so lost. But being left behind is different than being the one leaving. Thats where the panic comes in. I was perfectly content to deal with the stresses of selling this house, buying a new one and organizing a move to Ontario - and to leave the emotional part of it for later. I hadn't even truly considered how I would handle the good-byes, as they were down the road, something I could always worry about later on. All of a sudden I get hit with the reality that it is not easy to look at a person you've come to care about and send them off without any idea of when you might see them again. In fact, its damn hard. I am so thankful I still have a couple months - at least - to spend with the rest of their family and to prepare myself for the other good-byes we will have to face. I will not lose sight again of how important it is to cherish the moments we have with our "military family", and I look forward to the many memories we have yet to make before we leave.

As for our most recent military member to make the trip "over there", I just want to say this: take care my friend. Stay safe, keep in touch and we will take very good care of your wonderful wife and son while we can. You will be missed.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Winds of Change

I have always been a person who craves change. There are some very important constants in my life of course: family and friends, my job and most of my long time preferences and goals. But things like houses, furniture, wall color, clothes - I like to switch it up from time to time. I was always famous as a child for changing my room around and to this day Steven teases me about it. In our current, very small and oddly shaped house, there is only one way our furniture fits and it has bothered me for years.

So now I have this wonderful blog. I get to say what I want, share my feelings in any manner I want and most importantly - I get to change the decor whenever the mood takes me!

I felt it was time for a change, pink is not usually my color but this felt right to me today.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Ok its official: I am freaking out. Don’t pretend you didn’t know this was coming, I may have fooled myself into thinking I would get through this with a minimal amount of stress and anxiety, but I don’t think I fooled many others.

I couldn’t say exactly what brought on this sudden wave of panic, other than to say it occurred to me yesterday that I really don’t want to “stay behind until the house sells” like I always said I would. I suppose deep down I didn’t believe it would actually come to the point where that would be a reality so I simply didn’t dwell on it. Now that we’ve entered the time period where it has moved from “possible” to “probable”, I am getting nervous.

Recently we started exploring our options to see if perhaps there is another way, some alternative that will allow me and the children to make the move this summer as well, without having to wait for the sale of our house. It seems, however that our hands are tied; every avenue we have explored has ended before it really began. We considered leaving the house and living in a PMQ while keeping the house active in the market, but it turned out the military has changed their rules – just last Friday, no less – on paying for the expenses on a vacant house for posted members. Now they will only pay if the house is listed below “assessed value”, which is done by their assessors and in our case is $15,000 below our very fair asking price. There are also no PMQ’s currently available in Petawawa so we were put on a waiting list, with no guarantee we would even secure one this summer. Dropping the price drastically may attract a buyer but without the equity we have in our home there will be no down payment to purchase the next one. We are also being cautioned that the market is not moving at all between $120,000 and $175,000 so it would do us no good to make such a bold move at this point. We could always rent the house out, but that would mean taking it off the market in the middle of posting season – never a smart move – and dealing with renters from two provinces away (and that is only if a Q opens up there).

So it looks like I am back to square one and waiting it out. Only this time it won’t be because I’ve made the responsible, adult decision to do so, but rather because I have absolutely no choice in the matter. I feel like I am a child having a temper tantrum. I don’t like the “unknown” at the best of times but this one takes the cake. I don’t know what to tell the kids when they ask when we’re moving, have no way of giving work any kind of notice, I haven’t signed the kids up for anything this summer other than soccer and still don’t know if they are going to spend their vacation here or not. Everyone says we still have plenty of time but to be honest, 8 weeks is not a long time to complete an offer, do a house hunting trip, give work my notice and plan our trip to Ontario. Most of it is out of our control so the sooner it happens, the better.

And that brings me to my next biggest stressor: I am currently in week 7 of my self imposed “12 week program” but haven’t seen the inside of the gym since week 4. My excuses are legitimate: I have been working more shifts than usual lately, soccer registration has been out of control busy these past couple weeks, we’ve put a rush on our house renos recently and now that soccer has started the kids are barely in the door when we head back out again. However, the fact remains that I haven’t made it a priority. When I first started this my ultimate goal was to fit back into my summer clothes from last year and to learn how to eat a healthy, regular, metabolism-friendly diet. As the early weeks passed I began noticing changes immediately; I was suddenly hungry all the time and almost as soon as I started needing a belt for my “fat capris”, I found I fit better in the clothes two sizes down. Still not my regular size, but much closer. I must admit that this small amount of progress took the “fire” out of me and my plans. I was happy where I was and couldn’t find it in me to push myself that little bit more to achieve the original goal I had set for myself. I am still eating much better (although I MAY have forgotten breakfast a morning or two) and despite my slackened attitude, feel that I’ve made some important progress.

Then I read that my long time friend Melanie has worked very hard to lose 50lbs since January and that Jenn is over in her corner of the world getting so motivated and doing so well with her healthy lifestyle - and I feel like I’m really slipping. We are all in this together ladies, we may have different end goals but we have the same motivation and I am going to use your successes to kick start myself once again. As I promised Jenn on her blog earlier today: I will get up tomorrow, eat a breakfast with enough calories to get the old metabolism going, and head out for a run. You never know, maybe I will find running to be a great stress reliever.

Well, one can always hope.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Relay for Life 2010

As I am sure anyone who would be reading this knows by now, our daughter Morgan participated in the Middleton Relay for Life this year. She, along with 7 of her friends, came up with the idea to create a team all on their own and with very little aid from any of their parents, raised just over $1,800.00.

Heading into the event, which was held last night at Rotary Park in Middleton, NS, we were bursting with pride and excitedly awaiting the recognition they were to receive for being the youngest and the most successful youth team at that Relay. In fact, they were in 6th place overall for fundraising out of 72 teams. A very impressive accomplishment. We also knew that one of the girls on the team, whose hair was quite long, planned to have her ponytail cut off to be donated to a charity that makes wigs for kids with cancer. Once she got up on stage, however, talk turned to shaving her head in order to get more. Egged on by her friends and cheered by the crowd she readily agreed and before her head was halfway completed the rest of the team wanted to do the same. Unfortunately for them the only way to have enough hair to donate was in fact to shave it all off, but not one of them blinked. In the end, five out of the eight team members and two of their siblings sacrificed their locks to a very worthy cause, including our Morgan. In doing this they earned another $135 for their team and the utmost respect of all those present.

Needless to say, Steve and I are very proud of our girl - but not just for the decision she made on that stage, rash as it was. There is a certain type of mob mentality when it comes to things like this: one does it and the rest are quick to follow. It was a brave, courageous and extremely thoughtful thing to do, but it sure comes with some heavy consequences. After a long, emotional and very satisfying 12 hours, Morgan returned home (with a logo painted on her bald head just for me!) exhausted and ready to crash. We made her have a shower first and it was in there while preparing to shampoo her hair that she had a moment of panic and the tears began. At first, when she was sobbing and mumbling incoherently I panicked myself, wondering if we'd made the wrong decision allowing her to do this. But when all she complained about was the strange feeling and the lack of need for her favorite shampoo I realized she was simply over tired. So often I lose sight of the fact that she is still a child after all. We sent her off to bed and hoped for the best.

This is when the real bravery surfaced. She woke up several hours later in a fantastic mood, chatting excitedly about how in a few months time another child would have the opportunity to have a wig because of the hair collected from her and her friends. She talked about the feeling of pride she had in her friends and how good it feels to think of others. She mentioned one of the girls was concerned the boy she liked at school may not like her anymore now that her long blond hair was gone, and that she told her if the boy didn't appreciate the sacrifice she'd made than he wasn't worth her time. I stood there listening to her ramble on, watching her explore her bald head with a sense of awe and knew right then we had done well by letting her make this choice. What an incredible lesson. The fact is: it sucks to lose your hair. For any reason. But I told her she was lucky to be getting ready to sleep off a long night spent with friends and not getting ready to have chemo. She did this willingly, not because she knew her hair would eventually fall out in clumps. She is now a little closer to understanding how it feels to be in those shoes, without actually having to hear the diagnosis. Her sadness was a good thing, and although short lived, taught her once again how lucky she is to have her health, how important it is to do all we can to prevent cancer and how satisfying it can be do good for others. And as Steven said, its better for her to learn about quick decisions and their consequences from shaving her head than from something more permanent like getting a tattoo!

Later in the day I took Morgan and two of the other girls to the mall for some retail therapy. I felt they would now like some new trendy hats and bandanas to make the transition easier and to put a positive spin on the fact that despite the good they have done - they were now all bald. I watched them in their favorite store, trying on different hats and giving each other a fashion show - oblivious to the stares and tentative smiles from other customers. Each time someone stole a glance at them they returned it with a wide smile and didn't miss a beat. Instead of being embarrassed they were proud. Despite the full bags they carried, each one of them walked out of the mall with bare heads.

In my humble (and admittedly somewhat biased) opinion, I believe there are many adults who could learn from these girls. They each ran for a member of their family who had suffered from cancer and in the end they touched many more hearts than they'd meant to. They helped several unknown children, taught us all the true power of the young and showed a confidence few could match.

Well done girls.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mamma knows best...or at least I hope I do.

This is a bit of a continuation of a discussion that has taken over the wall of my Facebook profile since yesterday. As usual I have more to say than is feasible on facebook so decided to move it over here.

The background story is that my husband discovered two days ago - by walking behind her and reading over her shoulder - that our eleven year old daughter was online and chatting with a stranger. She was on the website called "Sketchfu", which is basically a place where kids can draw pictures, post them, and share them with their "friends". I am shamed to admit that I thought that was all there was to it, so didn't investigate any further. Now we know it is a glorified chat room. The kids set up a profile page, add a picture and a short blurb about themselves and then they are open to chat with whoever happens to see their drawings and wants to comment. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well at the time that her father walked by and got curious, Morgan was chatting with a "15 year old boy" who was telling her how pretty she was and wanting to know her name and what school she attended. That still gives me the shivers to think about. Thankfully Morgan had the sense not to divulge anything personal, but she did enter the conversation willingly enough.

We, of course, took this very seriously and immediately began combing over the history of her usage of this site and then moved on to her email account to do the same. Unfortunately there were several conversations with people neither of us knew on that website, although none as alarming as the first. I told her she was very lucky I didn't email them all and tell them just what I thought about approaching strange girls on the Internet, but did make her tell me who all of her "friends" were and made a list of those I knew. Then I called their parents. Later, I felt a little guilty for that, like I was the cliche nagging parent who is no fun and rats everyone out the second I get dirt on them. But I know deep down it was the right thing to do; if the shoe was on the other foot I would have been furious if one of those mothers knew and didn't tell me. The scary thing is: none of those mothers had any idea it was a chat room either.

That account is currently in the process of being cancelled (apparently with that site it isn't as easy as just pressing a 'cancel my account' button), and all her Internet activity is being carefully reviewed by us. She had begged us for months for an MSN account and we flatly refused for a long time. Then came the posting message and the realization that it was a great way to keep in touch with her friends. I joined the messaging world first, in an effort to get a feel for the way it worked, its privacy settings and how easy it was to track the history. Her email account is linked to mine and I check it regularly, so recently we allowed her to sign in to Messenger. So far we have had no issues. Why I didn't do the same for Sketchfu, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps it was that I had no idea it was a chat room, or that they had no real privacy settings to speak of. But that would be an excuse. The reality is that in our busy lives it is far too easy to overlook the details and to assume that because our children are smart and have been lectured on Internet safety for years that they will know what to do when approached. I am shocked to find this is not true and scared enough to now explain to my child exactly WHY she needs to be aware of Internet stalkers.

Having said all this, I do not believe the answer is to ban the Internet altogether. The Internet is an integral part of today's society, it is an excellent research tool and will continue to be a large part of our future technology. Not allowing our children near the Internet creates a naivete that is dangerous and unfair. We are instead choosing to use this as a teaching opportunity and to make her and her siblings more aware of specific dangers they are not currently aware of. They have heard the words often, "the Internet can be a dangerous place", but clearly do not completely comprehend what they mean. I do not for a moment believe Morgan was deliberately trying to defy us - I think she truly didn't know the danger she was in. By now we have sat her down, given her details on what can and does happen to young girls who are lured in from chat rooms and my heart breaks remembering her face and the shock registered there. I feel like we have stolen a little bit of her innocence and pushed her into that realm of mistrust before she was ready. However, I know it was the right thing to do. This is the real world and I need her to be ready for it.

Most recently has been lobbying for a Facebook account. I am thinking that can wait for a little while longer; I have enough grey hairs at the moment!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A visit from the Green-Eyed Monster

Did you ever walk into someone’s house and instantly feel that yours is somehow inadequate? That their house is so clean and tidy that surely no one lives there? Sure they call it home, but do they really “live” here? This happened to me yesterday and I feel ashamed to admit that for the first time in years, I felt a little jealous.

I know my son and youngest daughter came away with the same feelings that day, but for a very different reason; we had gone to visit our neighbors’ brand new puppy. While everyone else was gushing over this tiny, 4 week old, sleeping ball of fur, I was trying to be as discreet as possible while marveling at a home that looked staged - and for the most part unoccupied. Sure there was furniture, a tv and a computer, but they looked as though they might have been cut from a catalog. I was amazed. Here we showed up completely unannounced on a random weekend afternoon, summoned by their two young kids to meet the newest member of their family, and it was as if they had just spent the day scrubbing every surface in anticipation of company. Even their laundry room was spotless! Not an article of unwashed clothing to be seen – at least not by my quick glance as I passed by the open doorway. If you were to stop in to my house on a similar occasion you would come across any number of stray dishes cluttering up the table or counter tops, shoes kicked off and abandoned in all corners of every room and you needn’t go looking for dirty laundry – it would find you.

Its not that I don’t clean my house of course, in fact I spend much of my day tidying, folding, sweeping and washing. But on a weekend you’re more likely to find me hanging out, having fun with the kids and catching up on the week’s events with my husband. I once had a neighbor tell me, “Michelle, I have never seen anyone mop their floor as often as you do.” Its true, I am pretty particular with the cleanliness of my floors - counter tops, kitchen table and living room furniture too. I am not, however, a neat freak. Clutter doesn’t bother me – I consider it a fact of life in our busy house. Until of course I walk into a house such as the one three doors up from mine.

Sometimes I like to think that when the kids get older and there isn’t as much “stuff” around, it will be easier to keep a “nice home”. But then I remember that if their stuff isn’t around, then neither are they. A poem that I was given years ago comes to mind:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

I am well past the baby rocking stage, but the fact remains that I would rather spend the precious time I have with my children while they’re young than to be constantly cleaning up all their small messes. I will just have to repeat this poem the next time I stop by my neighbor’s house and be thankful that the kids want to spend time with me.

And besides, with a new puppy in the house, surely it won’t be staying so spic and span for long!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A very LONG, long weekend in May!

Three very early mornings after three very late nights, three gallons of primer, four gallons of paint, $96 in beer and $90 in pizza later....the house is painted. Phew, what a weekend. Instead of trying to recount all the hours of hard work and re-tell the numerous moments of hilarity, I will share a sort of "photo blog post". While I've said before that this blog is my preference for sharing my stories, Facebook remains my choice of avenues for sharing photos. However I can't leave my friends who've left the facebook world hanging so here it goes!! (I also can't figure out how to get them in the order I want so I apologize in advance for any confusion)

There's no way to express how grateful we are to all those who've helped us the past couple weeks, getting the house ready for such a big job and then the painting and hard work involved this past weekend. We are so blessed to have such great friends and family and we've made some great memories none of us will soon forget!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Confessions of a Stess-aholic

Hello my name is Michelle and I am a Stressaholic. I may say that I can't wait to have everything worked out and settled, organized and finalized, so that I can sit back and relax - but don't let that fool you. I will just find something else to worry about, to obsess over and to nag my loved ones incessantly over. Welcome to life with me.

All sarcasm aside, I am beginning to see some merit to my (very tolerant) husband's years of branding me the "worry wort" and am just realizing there may have been a reason for the multitude of comments such as, "calm down honey" and "relax, it'll be ok." In fact, his favorite line to torture me with (after the obligatory "I told you so") is "See? Everything always works out". And it does. However, that does not stop me from stressing out over it.

In a life such as ours there is never any lack for things to worry over. There is always someone who needs something, someone who fell and injured themselves, someone who didn't do their homework or who is being punished for something. As soon as one problem is resolved it is quickly replaced by two more. After years of managing the daily lives and trials of our entire family, I am only now realizing that I thrive on the constant search for peace and resolution. I feel needed and complete when I am working to solve a problem so what happens when all the problems are solved? Thats where my addiction comes in.

I am not writing this to look for a means of "curing" myself of this affliction, but rather to understand it. When I stress about things, they get done. Issues get worked out and we turn a problem into a productive situation. My answer to my husband's favorite line? "Yes honey, things always work out because there is someone in the background making sure they do." Me. It is another example of how we are perfectly balanced and I am smiling now thinking of how often we've had that very conversation.

This week the focus of my stress is the fact that we've (and by that I mean, I've) decided to paint the house. It is something we have talked about doing for years and it has become apparent to me in the past month that we need do all we can to update the house in order to make it marketable. My main concern is not selling in time and having to stay behind - in a house I hate - while my other half makes the move on his own. I am trying to be as proactive as I can to get things done that I would want done (things I've wanted done for years!) if I were looking at this house, and to make it attractive to buyers.

Of course even I know that my obsession over things like paint and trim are coverups for the stress of having to leave this town we've called home for so long and the people we think of as family. That particular stress I will leave for after the house renovations, and any other physical changes I can think to make, are complete. You know, that time when the house is sold, our new one is purchased and I can just lay back and relax.

Haha, as if.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Free at Last!

Stone free, that is. I am happy to report that after just two sessions of lithotripsy and many evenings spent on the couch with my trusty hot water bottle pressed against my back, all the stones have broken up and made the great escape. For the first time in my adult life my left kidney is completely free of stones. Now that we know that, I will be seeing my family doctor next week to discuss the laundry list of blood tests I had done two weeks ago and determine whether or not my parathyroid is indeed acting up again or if I’m just getting old. Haha, sometimes I feel so very, very old.

This is week 4 of my “program” and although I wish I could say I was as excited as I was when I first began it, it is still going well. Week 3 was probably not as active as it should have been; my schedule last week was much more hectic than usual. As a matter of fact we've changed it around a bit and made some allowances for my circus of a life. Still, sometimes other things take priority and it seemed like last week so many urgent things came up. I did do very well with my meals though, didn’t skip breakfast even once, and I did make it to the gym or for a run a few times. I was actually beginning to feel bad about my poor week until this past weekend. While getting ready for work on Saturday I put on my “fat capris” and low and behold: I required a belt. Woohoo! Progress at last. That of course lit a fire under me once again so after a long day at work yesterday I came home, changed into my workout gear and headed out for a run in the rain. Clearly I am doing something right so I’ll be damned if I stop now!

I want to take a moment and thank those of you who have taken the time out of your day to read this, sometimes leaving me words of encouragement or even just letting me know that you’ve been reading. It means a lot to know that the things I say matter and that when I am feeling insecure or down there is always someone there to pick me back up. As I’ve said before, it is becoming more and more apparent to me as I get older that the people we surround ourselves with are the people who shape and mold us, and its so important to have that network of support. I am so lucky to have such great friends and family in my life and I just wanted to say that once more.

This week promises to be another busy one: dentist appointments, preparing for the start of soccer season next week (which for me consists of entering every single player from U8 to Men's Master's into Soccer NS's IT system. Thats about 350 players and several hours of typing), a gigantic pile of laundry threatening to take over my laundry room, a trip into Halifax with a friend (hopefully several trips to the weight room and a few runs in among there somewhere), painting all the trim and window sills on the outside of the house and endless hours of yard work. All of this outside work will help prepare us for the biggest job of all this coming long weekend: the painting of the house.

Seriously, is it July yet?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life:

Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life:

It is an indescribable joy to watch your children grow, to see them have new experiences and to see what they learn from them; its even better when the people they grow into are people you truly like and are proud to know.

Our daughter Morgan has always been a head-strong, independant, very social child. She is assertive without being aggressive, exudes a self confidence that even I envy and once she sets her mind on something she finds a way to make it happen. She is polite, kind, very "motherly" and well liked among her friends. I have always been so very proud of her, and now I see that her generous personality is being put to good use.

A couple months ago she came to me and said that she and a few of her friends had an idea to put together a team to participate in the Relay for Life. Morgan is well acquainted with this charitable event, as her father has been involved in the Middle chapter for some time. We take them up every year to experience the festivities and to help celebrate all that the Cancer Society does, along with the good people of our community. Last year however, was an eye opener for us all. My mother-in-law, Morgan's beloved and cherished grandmother, was recovering from lung cancer. It was a fluke that it was caught and because it was, she had a great portion of her lung removed and was given a clean bill of health. As weak as she still was, she drove down to do the "survivors walk", walking proudly among her fellow cancer survivors in yellow, holding her grandchildren's hands. It was very touching for us all and apparantly left an impression on Morgan.

After some organizing and a parent volunteer, the group of girls started fund raising and amazingly are currently in 4th place for money raised online for the Middleton Relay. Words cannot describe how proud we are of her and her friends, their selfless attitudes and their desire to make a difference. I have attached the link to their page on the Cancer Society website, please feel free to visit and read the info on how you can help fight back.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Counting my blessings

A lifetime ago - before the days of responsibility and parenting, when sleeping in was a given and the most important decision I had to make was what movie I wanted to see that evening - I thought I had it pretty good. I was working a job that I was proud to have gotten, I was happily planning a future with a wonderful guy and couldn't wait to get it started. I was in a hurry to grow up, without any real idea of what that actually entailed, and my life seemed already pretty full.

Then along came Morgan.

When you're a young girl and you think of having kids, you think of having babies. They are so cute, they have that "baby smell", they wear adorable tiny clothes. And then that baby comes out and all of a sudden your world turns upside down. The life that seemed so full just last week is now but a memory, and all of a sudden you can't remember life before this miracle. When I look back on those years sometimes it seems like a blur to me. Its like I put my head down and got lost in the day-to-day circus that comes along with babies. I have never learned so much in all my years of school as I did that first year of being a mother and it was a journey I will cherish forever. In those early years I learned to function on virtually no sleep whatsoever, to change a squirming toddler in my lap in almost any location you can think of, how to tell the severity of a fever with the back of my hand, how to scare away the monsters in the closet, to cure almost any ailment with a bandaid and of course how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. We added to our brood two years later with Owen and through those precious times I learned the real meaning of unconditional love. I have had the joy by now of three babies, Rhian coming along four years after Owen. It could be said that she had it easier than the first two, being the last and some six years later than my first. But I sometimes think she has it worse; she will always be the baby.

Every Mothers Day my wonderful husband takes it upon himself to make me feel special, to make me breakfast in bed - from that first year when Morgan was four months old and could only lay on the bed and stare at me waiting for her turn to be fed, until today when the kids needed only slight supervision and even carried the tray to my bed on their own - and to show me just how much he appreciates me. The kids make me cards and draw me pictures, dote on me all day and never let me out of their sight without calling out, "Happy Mothers Day Mommy!" Today I looked at my kids and realized they're not babies anymore. All of a sudden its like I lifted my head finally and I see these three people who are here all because of us, and who are at once so alike and so completely different. I watched them all very closely, remarking on their mannerisms, thier personalities, the way they interact with eachother and I was overcome with pride. From all those late night crying spells, dirty diapers and countless time-outs, the mountains of baby laundry and marathon teething sessions, came three wonderful, caring, respectful individuals. From my beautiful eleven year old daughter who is wise beyond her years, kind and caring and who shows amazing talent for music, my wonderfully funny and adorable nine year old son who has an insatiable curiosity for how things work and how he can make them better, to my giggly, spunky and wildly fun five year daughter who keeps us on our toes and whom we affectionately refer to as our "wild child" - I am pretty sure I am the luckiest girl alive to call these beautiful souls my children.

This year I got to share my special day with two very special women: my own mother and my beloved mother-in-law. I am blessed to have these inspiring examples of motherhood in my life and am grateful I got to spend the day with them both. I know my mother hasn't had a breakfast in bed like that in some 20 years - I hope she has recovered! And it was well worth the drive to see the look on my mother-in-law's face as she watched her sons and her many grandchilren playing and enjoying each other's company. What joy to watch your family grow and expand, how wonderful to be able to experience that with her.

For all you Moms out there, I wish you all the best on this day set aside especially to celebrate us and all we do. There are no words for the bond we share with our kids and no way to describe the journey we take from that first moment we join the "club". But we share an understanding of what it means to create, nurture and unconditionally love our children and for that gift we should all be so very thankful.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Rude boys and bad manners

There is a thing called gym etiquette. I understand I am new at this and I've only logged a mere four sessions total in the weight room, but even I know that its not polite to stare.

I've been doing very well on my new journey, if I do say so myself. I've been tracking when I eat, what it contains and have followed my carefully planned out gym schedule to the letter. The best part is that while at work on Sunday I repeatedly experieced a feeling I've rarely felt in my life: hunger. I was so famished I ate all the small snacks I had brought (after devouring my lunch) and nearly teared up with relief when I dug to the bottom of my work bag and found a long-forgotten cereal bar. This, coupled with the fact that both my cardio lengths and my weights are increasing slowly tells me what I was hoping to be able to say - its working. My metabolism is waking up, my strength is increasing and my spirits are high. Until this morning.

I admit I was on a bit of a high to start with. I knew from the beginnig that by no means do I love working out; if the routines we picked for me to do became complicated or cumbersome, I would not continue them. By now I've had several cardio sessions to tell me I did not like doing it in the cardio room at our gym. I had been dreading this morning's routine so at the last minute I decided to go for a simple run instead. I never fancied myself a runner but I must say, out in the beautiful, warm spring morning all by myself I finally came to understand the joys of running. Well, I'm beginning to. I am the first to admit I don't have much stamina yet and will not be entering any marathons any time soon, but I think I have found a way to make peace with the dreaded cardio and for that reason my day started off pretty great.

So I met Steven at the gym later for my upper body workout and immediately these two guys sat down on the bench opposite me and didn't take their eyes off me the entire time. At first I thought I was being paranoid so I kept sneaking quick glances at them, expecting to find them having moved on. But no, I met their eyes several times. Then I felt my blood burn. I mean, its bad form to stare openly at anyone in public, who doesn't know this? And I'm not talking about a "oh look, a hot girl at the gym, I can't look away" kind of look. I am clearly not and they were very openly curious and judging. At one point I was on a machine that was in open view of the main hallway (this gym is not set up for any kind of privacy what so ever), doing bench presses of all things, when one of the guys came and sat on the bench directly outside the weight room and five feet away from me. By the time I'd caught him staring overtly at me several more times I wanted to go over and say, "listen buddy, you guys all want a girl with a tight ass and a lean body but you can't expect us to work up the guts to work on that if you keep rudely staring and making us feel downright stupid." (Insert a few colorful swear words and insults throughout). I chose not to engage them however; this is a gym my husband spends a lot of time in and I didn't really want to make a scene.

It did however make me work just that bit harder and with the never ending encouragement of my fantastic husband by my side, I got through it. I may not have that tight ass and lean body yet, but I refuse to be put off by rude boys and bad manners.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Project Stone Removal: Session 2

Second session, and likely last session. At least for the near future anyway.

I knew the first session had worked; within days I began to see lots of "pieces" and realized that perhaps there really was something to this "blasting" business. So when they got me under the x-ray this time, they spent quite a bit of time just looking for anything that was left. They found a relatively small stone (which always makes me laugh because its only considered small by those who have never passed a kidney stone)high up in the left kidney and so concentrated on that one. I have to admit I was looking forward to the nap - I've been unusually tired lately - but before I knew it I was out of the OR and into the recovery room. Even there they plied me with cookies and juice, threw my clothes at me and whisked me out the door so quick I barely had time to register the dull ache I had in my left kidney. I must have had a different cocktail of pain killers this time because I could barely keep my eyes open on the way to Sackville to pick up the kids, or on the way home to the Valley. Once home though I settled in with a hot water bottle and a good book and began to feel a little better. I slept in the next morning (a real treat), realized pretty quickly the procedure had once again worked, with the appearance of several more "fragments" (and the reason for the pain of the previous night), and so hit the ground running with another great session at the gym!

So from here I have to have a long list of blood tests and another KUB (kidney/urinary tract/bladder x-ray) within the next week, see my urologist in two weeks and wait to see what they are going to do with me from here. I am feeling generally well, except for being constantly tired, so I'm not sure there is much else to be done until I see the endocrinologist and he determines whether or not my parathyroid is acting up again. For the record, I believe it is.

While we're on updates, I must say our house still isn't sold and its beginning to stress me out! I do realize its still rather early in the season and real estate moves at its own pace, but I was really hoping to be house shopping ourselves by the time May rolled around. We've had many very positive viewings, so that is good news, we just haven't had the right buyer yet. Fingers crossed on that one.

Also, four days into my new "healthy routine", things are going great. Other than Tuesday, when I was not allowed to eat or drink anything for almost 16 hours, I have been being very careful to eat properly, at proper intervals, and have stuck faithfully to my gym schedule. I am very proud of myself; in the past I would have never continued in this fashion on a day I didn't feel well. I would have headed back to bed and gotten up only when I was needed or it was time for work. Now I see excersice as a way to help my body heal and to get stronger - and it seems that just when I lay down its time to get up and eat again!

So for now all is well in my world. Time to concentrate on the never-ending job of cleanging out cupboards and drawers, painting, painting and more painting and the biggest goal of all: selling our house.

Monday, April 26, 2010

And so it begins...

I don’t plan to bore you all with every gory detail of this new venture of mine, but seeing as how this was my first day I thought it worth an update. Simply put: it kicked my ass.

I should maybe first explain exactly what it is this “program” consists of. It is essentially a routine that is designed to kick start my metabolism and keep it in full gear all day. I don’t have many pounds to lose, so that is not the primary goal here. While I am confident that following this regimen will allow my body to adjust and settle where it should be weight-wise, the main focus is on eating properly (and by that I mean timing, not content) and balancing my metabolism. I’ve thought about this a lot, done some research and spoken at length to Steven (who is quite knowledgeable in this area) and all avenues point to a metabolism problem, more than likely due my age. Thirty three is still very young but for me, it’s a world away from my lifestyle a decade ago. I had my babies quite young, did the no sleep thing, the running around from sun up until sun down, generally with one - or sometimes two - babies on my hip. I never stopped and never had a spare moment. At this point all my kids are now in school, my job consists of me sitting on my backside in front of a computer for 4-8 hours at a time , depending on the shift, and eating whenever I remember that I hadn’t yet that day. With all three kids gone all day I am no longer spending my mornings chasing kids at the park or the zoo, eating at regular intervals because they are, or generally being on the go for 12-16 hours straight. These days my daily activities are folding mounds of laundry, preparing supper early to have it ready before I go off to work, grocery shopping and of course playing chauffeur to three very busy kids. Not to say I’m not busy, but its not the same kind of physically taxing activities I endured while the kids were smaller and home more.

So now its all up to me. These workouts are a combination of cardio and muscle toning, strength training and stretching. Today was the not only the first day, but my introduction to the source of long-standing female intimidation: the weight room. That’s right folks, I hit the weights today. Haha, it sounds so funny to say it like that but I must admit despite my trepidations, I ended up enjoying it immensely. I had been dreading this particular aspect of my workout, especially since it was to take place at the Base gym, at noon hour when all the military personnel do most of their PT. So, a weight room full of army and airforce men who clearly know what they are doing and then little ol’ me. But you know, it was great. I knew most of them anyway, everyone was very kind and helpful and of course having Steven there (who in case you don’t already know, practically lives at that gym) didn’t hurt! One guy, who we didn’t know, asked me at one point, “Is this your trainer?” to which I replied, “Worse, he’s my husband.”

The very worse part of the day was the eating. I got to do my cardio this morning on an empty stomach – something about a calorie deficit to kick my metabolism into overdrive – but once I got home from that I was nearly on my hands and knees crawling to the fridge. That’s the point of course and was great for someone like me who never eats before noon. But after that it was, “drink this protein shake”, now (after our weight room adventures) “you have to eat a lunch with at least 20g of protein, then a snack and have a full supper. Then take a snack with you to work.” What? I was with him right up until half way through my lunch when the hunger went away and I was having trouble getting anything else down. I’ve eaten more already today than I normally would in three days. This is going to be interesting.

Tomorrow I get to have a small break, in the form of IV pain killers and another round of lithotripsy. But I will be back at it on Wednesday, this time I am determined and at this point I’m not sure that my “trainer” would let me back out anyway!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear." - William Jennings Bryan

This week I'm going to try a new approach to my weight loss plans: I am going to begin a 12 week program designed to help me learn ways of working exercise into my busy life.

The term "program" is perhaps slightly misleading. Its nothing official, not a group I joined or a class I signed up for. Its a routine of sorts created by my husband (aka my personal trainer) from a combination of my goals, my schedule and quite frankly, my interest level. Its cardio and a little weight training, running and what ever other cruel and unusual activities the local gym provides. Can you tell I'm really excited about it? Not so much. But I know its necessary. I have decided its time I take responsibility for my own goals and for what I want to accomplish. I am by no means "fat" but the fact remains that I do not fit into a single pair of last summer's capris and I flat out refuse to buy the next size up. I am taking control now and its time to make a change.

So why am I tell you all this? To make sure I follow through of course. I have absolutely no self discipline when it comes to this subject so I am making myself accountable to all of you. I know that if my intentions are to report regularly on my progress throughout these next 12 weeks, then I'll make sure I have something positive to write about. Its a little convoluted but it is what it is and I am hoping it works.

Its also my way of forcing myself to continue with this highly therapeutic blog. I started this journey a month ago hoping to find a place where I could go beyond the quick and impersonal facebook status' and wall posts. I wanted to begin to build some confidence in sharing my thoughts and ideas and here I have found a great outlet for all the opinions, concerns, fears, etc that I have floating around in my head at any given time. I was terrified to put myself out there, to expose myself like this and invite everyone to judge me. I have not opened it up to the big wide world yet because I felt it easier to first invite only those I felt would accept me and my writing with rose colored glasses. I'm not sure why I thought I wouldn't have to deal with criticism or why it even matters to me, but it does and it hurts. I am an attention seeking people pleaser (right Jenn?) and I accept that. I don't feel I have much choice really.

Tonight I almost deleted this entire blog and all the fears that go along with it. I was ready to pull the plug on the whole damned thing and keep my inner most world to myself once more. I walked away first though, and started thinking about what this really means to me. And thats when I decided instead to throw caution to the wind, divulge the ugly truths and show the world just what I am made of. Ok, maybe not the whole world yet, but some of my favorite people in it.

Thanks for the support, dear readers, for the encouragement I've received and for following me on this journey. I promise not to give up so easily and to do my best to reach the goals I have made for myself. This is not going to be pretty, but if its worth doing, its worth writing about. You can count on that.