And just like that, we’re done.

It’s been five days since Maggie has breastfed.  I didn’t even notice the first two days.  It just trailed off, quietly, and suddenly I realized that she was no longer asking for my milk.  It was our routine to nurse at night and first thing in the morning.  We would snuggle in bed, hers or mine, and she would nurse quietly.  She would take breaks and answer the questions I would ask her.  Or she would graze her fingers across my neck and upper chest.  She fit so perfectly, nuzzled into me as if we were one being and not two separate ones.

Maybe that’s what I will miss the most about breastfeeding.  It was our physical connection that was just ours.  That only a mama and her baby can experience.  An intimate bond that I will not experience again nor ever forget.

I breastfed all three of my babies.  Caleigh stopped at 18 months, Blake just at 12.  Maggie was my longest nurser, stopping just over 26 months.  It was as if she knew that I wanted to hold on to the nursing as long as possible as she is our last one.  To hold onto that connection….to be reminded of the dependence she has on me.  I loved that when she was hurt, sad, sleepy, or cranky I would be her solace.  I loved that she could call asleep at my breast while nursing and when I would try to gently pull her off, she would anxiously suck – in her sleep – as if she didn’t want to let go.  I loved how it was our first quiet time together, just me and her, when she was born.  I loved how it was our opportunity to escape from the noise and chaos of life.  I loved that I could nourish her and calm her simply by feeding her.

I’m surprisingly at peace with it all.  It may sound dramatic but I thought I would feel more attached and almost be in a state of mourning when she was done.  I think that it speaks volumes that it was two days before I realize she hadn’t asked for milk.  She was okay simply snuggling in with me in the morning instead of feeding. It was the right time for both of us I suppose.

When I got home from work today, she asked for milk.  I had not yet taken off my coat nor hat and so I told her no, not now.  My response didn’t faze her and she simply gave me a hug and told me about her day.  And just like that, I knew it was over.  We were done.

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Travelling with a Two Year Old Can Sometimes Suck

Heyyyyyy there.  So great to connect again.  For my out of country readers, I want to share a typical Canadian winter story…I was on this amazing family vacation down in Mexico and within two days of coming home, we got slammed with a massive snowstorm.  I’ve been outside twice today shovelling the walkway, only to come back inside to find another dumping of snow within a couple of hours of the last clean up. I actually don’t mind winter but it definitely came in blustery today!  But let’s focus on the positive. Mexico.  Mex…i….co.  Beautiful.  Warm  Hot.  Sunny.  Beautiful beaches.  And an all-inclusive bar.  It doesn’t get much better than that for a week.  A week of relaxation that was long overdue and very much deserved.  Down time. It was supposed to be complete relaxation with some family fun thrown in.  We had chosen this resort based on the kids club that it boasted thinking, that as in the past, all three kids would love this kids club and want to take part in its activities.  And yes, it was a tremendous kids club.  Except for one glitch.

Maggie wanted no part of it.

I couldn’t get within 20 metres of the door without her clawing at my shoulder and begging me to let her stay with me.  So, by “relaxing vacation” I mean, hanging out 24/7 with my husband and our two-year old, while the older two kids enjoyed the club.  The quality time we had intended to take together was interrupted by a two foot tall blond in a striped swimsuit and baby blue sun hat.

But hanging out with my husband and two-year old on a beautiful beach, taking turns floating with her or building a sandcastle was still magical.  And in reality, even though it didn’t end up the way we intended (there were times that it was a downright gong show), it was still a vacation and it was still amazing.

Here are a few things I learned about travelling with a two-year old.

1)  It doesn’t matter how many distractions I pack to keep her – well – distracted on the plane, she will ignore all of them and insist on climbing over and under her seat.  Multiple times.

2)  With only a one hour time difference, I had hoped for a relatively easy transition into a new bedtime.  I was wrong.

3)  I thought that keeping my two-year old busy all day, in the sun, by making sand castles, swimming, floating, walking, running, climbing, jumping, and swinging would wear her out by bedtime.  I was wrong again.  Instead, she was wired and ready for anything.  Except sitting still at dinner.

4)  Speaking of mealtimes, they’re awful.  Buffets that give a thousand breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices ranging from different proteins to a variety of fruits and vegetables all resulted in a desire for pancakes, french fries, and avocado.  I was all over the avocado…and eventually I caved on the pancakes and french fries.  Because a thrice daily emotional break down in the middle of a busy restaurant didn’t interest me.

5)  The a la carte restaurants were even worse.  At least in the buffets, we could get up easily and walk around.   We tried one a la carte dinner and vowed to not bring her back to a sit down restaurant until she was old enough to drive.

6)  Two year olds are smart.  And when they see other children walking around with popsicles, they realize that there must be – and in fact there is – an “any time you want” popsicle bar.  We visited there a few times.  And admittedly, I was binged on these too.  One can only have so many pina coladas before it grows old.  A fresh orange popsicle tasted mighty fine at 3 in the afternoon.  So do chocolate creamsicles.  Mmmmmmmm.

7)  The all you can eat ice cream bar she found on day 2 was another reason for a meltdown.  Over and over again. We rarely even eat ice cream at home, and certainly not soft serve (gross!).  When I cut her off, she worked her magic on her older sister who was tall enough to work the machine on her own.  An older sister who can easily be swayed by the idea of getting some ice cream herself.  Remember point #6…two year olds are smart.

8)  At night, when she would finally crash, I would look at her and think of how peaceful she was when she slept.  Thumb tucked neatly into her mouth, curled up in a ball.  So sweet.  I’d settle in next to her (because apparently the hotel’s crib wasn’t up to her standards) and we would snuggle and fall restfully to sleep. Then 5AM would hit.  And the peaceful being I slept next to would wake up as the Energizer Bunny.  It didn’t matter what time she went to bed…the wake up call was always 5AM.  Always.

9)  Recounting how the distractions on the way down to Mexico were pointless, I didn’t waste my time gathering books, stuffies, crayons and the like for the plane ride home.  They were there on the rare chance that she did choose to partake but I didn’t hold my breath.  Instead, I just braced myself for a very busy 3.5 hour plane ride home which put us into Toronto at 9PM…two hours past her bedtime.  Surely, she would fall asleep along the way.  And she did!  With twenty minutes to go before landing.  Awesome.

I will likely remember none of these points and insist that next year we try again.  Because she’s cute and sweet and I get sucked into believing that the next time could be – just may be – different.  If at any point I announce plans for a future vacation with the kids, someone please remind me of this post.  Although with another year under her belt, maybe it would be different?  Older, better understanding of good versus not so good behaviour, and better communication skills….so different, right?

I won’t hold my breath.

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A Case of the “What If’s” – Relinquishing Foreboding Joy

How ironic is it that I have been so unbelievably excited to get away for four days and now, the day before I leave, I’m feeling nervous to be taking that time.  My hands are clammy as I type this.  I’m hugging my children a little tighter the last couple of days.  In my head, I’m making up scenarios that would keep me from going.  And yet, as I text my girlfriends I am travelling with, it is all smiley face emoticons and exclamation points.

I have been looking forward to attending the Freedom for Family Wellness Summit for months.  I am going with three girlfriends, and fellow chiropractors, and we not only have we planned out who we want to hear speak, but we have planned a trip into Washington to see the sights.  I have been in touch with other friends who will also be attending so that we can connect in person again.  I’ve got my workout gear packed to get in a couple of workouts.  I also packed the fancy clothes I don’t get to wear that often for the nights we go out and I don’t have to worry about getting home, after a couple of drinks, and waking up as “mom” in the middle of the night. I am told I should have no reason to feel guilty or nervous about leaving.

And yet I can think of three perfect reasons.  Their names are Caleigh, Blake, and Maggie.

Whenever I travel without my kids, I feel anxious.  I get a case of the “what if’s” and imagine things that could possibly go wrong.  What if one of my kids get sick?  What if something happens at school and I’m not there to hear about it at the end of the day?  What if something happens to me?  What if my plane goes down?  Yes, my head can go to really scary places that are hard to admit.  And I used to think I was alone in this thinking.  I certainly didn’t talk to anyone about it – other than my husband, who looked at me as in exasperation because at some level I’m taking away this experience from him too.  I sometimes felt as if there was something seriously wrong with me.  What mom can’t get excited about a weekend away from the job of being a mom?  Me!  I can’t!  I mean I can….but I can’t.  Once I’m there, I love every moment of it.  But it’s the build up to it that makes me crazy.  And really, am I crazy?

Apparently not.  Or at least, I’m in good company if I am.  I have followed and read books and blog posts by the amazing Brene Br001own.  She refers to my craziness feelings as “foreboding joy”.  Foreboding joy is the inability to feel joy without fear attached.  And that is exactly what I feel when either my kids are away from me or I’m away from my kids.  Even if they are with the one person I trust more than anyone in the world, my husband.

In an article entitled “The Fast Track to Genuine Joy” she offers up the suggestion to “stop the train” of catastrophizing.  When I’m feeling anxious and traumatized by the “what if’s”, I can replace it with “I am feeling vulnerable”.  Sounds corny but in actuality it helps.  It provides me the opportunity to recognize my own emotions without minimizing them and give me a sense of power to work through them.  I don’t know if everything will be okay but I recognize that it’s my own fears that are preventing me from simply experiencing joy in a situation that calls for it.

So, yes, my admission: I am feeling vulnerable.  Tomorrow morning, as I get on that flight, I will be excited for the adventure but also a little anxious, thinking of my kids.

Eight years ago

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Eight years ago this sweet being came into our life.  She did not at all come in quietly but of course she has also, just like her sister and her brother, left an impressionable mark on my heart ever since.

I’ve written about Caleigh’s birth before.  Every year on her birthday, I count my blessings for how healthy she is.  This year, as I think about how grateful I am for having her for a daughter, I’m also in equal amount of shock that she is in fact eight years old.  When did that happen?  She’s halfway to her driver’s license.

As my kids get older, the things that used to worry me are replaced with new worries.  Instead of watching as she stumbles while learning to navigate stairs, now I watch as she navigates the ups and downs of friendships at school.  I used to wonder if she was safe in the playroom to play on her own and now I wonder if she’s safe as she walks down the road, out of sight, to the park on her own.

I love the person she is becoming.  When she was first-born, I wondered if I would love being a mom as she grew older as much as I loved being a mom when she was a baby.  That sounds so incredibly selfish, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it but I didn’t know if I would like it as much.  And now that I’m here, I realize that I love it just as much, just in a different way.  Instead of watching her as she reaches her different milestones (first smile, first step, first word), I’m now watching as she develops her own sense of self and passions in life.  I have moments of pride and moments of heartbreak as she goes through different stages.  And I most especially love how our relationship as mom and daughter as evolved.

I watch as she figures out her emotions.  I watch as she rebels against her bedtime.  I watch as she learns that alone time is sometimes just as important as together time.  I watch as she learns about the repercussions of choosing play over homework.  I watch as she reaches that age where she still is, and wants to be, a kid but at the same time, she wants to be more grown up.  I listen to her as she shares her day at school with me.  I cuddle with her in bed when she cries over the unjust in the life of a (now) eight year old girl.  I laugh with her over jokes, funny stories, and memories from when she was younger.

Eight years from now it will be a totally different experience.  High school.  Boys.  Part time jobs.  Sports.  Right now, I’ll enjoy Rainbow Loom marathons and playing Uno.

Happy, happy birthday Caleigh.

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Two years ago

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Two years ago this sweet being came into our lives.  She came in quietly and has left an impressionable mark on my heart ever since.

Tom and I debated on having a third baby.  At the time, with a five year old and a three year old, it seemed like we had the perfect family.  It didn’t feel as though there was a piece missing.  Since before we were married, we had thought that three kids would be what we wanted.  But two difficult pregnancies later, my enthusiasm and desire for a third had waned.  But as I watched Blake grow from a toddler into a little boy, something pulled at my heart.  A feeling that I simply chalked up to the sadness that comes when I realized my “babies” were no longer babies.  But as that feeling grew stronger, we revisited the topic of a third little one.  We decided to give it six months and it if was meant to be, it was meant to be.  Apparently, it was.

It was the best decision of our lives.

Within moments of her birth, when I had my first opportunity to hold her and look into her eyes, I knew that Maggie completed our family.  I hadn’t realized that our puzzle was missing a piece.

Dearest Maggie, you are a spitfire.  I have no doubt you will contribute to more grey hairs on my head than your older brother and sister combined.  You are adventurous and brave.  I love how you leap into the arms of people you trust and love – how you come hurtling down the hallway when I arrive home, yelling “mama” and jump into my arms.  I love how you already count to twenty, kind of, because you get to nineteen and then go back to sixteen or fourteen or whatever number is on the tip of your tongue.  I love how you will argue with whoever tries to convince you that something is any colour other than green.  I love how you follow your big sister around like a shadow.  I love how you snuggle with your big brother on the couch.  I love that when you hug your daddy, you snuggle into his neck and announce “MY dada”.  I love to watch as you learn to express yourself both verbally and through emotions, as hard as that can be sometimes.  I love that for the last two weeks, you’ve sung the words to “happy birthday” to yourself as you are falling asleep.

I know you want to be a big girl – to play with the your brother and sister and the big girls outside but I beg of you, don’t grow up too quickly.  Be my baby girl just a little while longer.  There will be plenty of time to be a big girl and there is only so much time to be a little one.  As I type this, I realize that by me asking this of you, it’s really a reminder to me to enjoy these years too.  The days may be long but yes, the years are too short.

Happy birthday sweet Maggie.

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A Lesson for Blake or a Lesson for Me?

So today was one of the hard Mama moments in life.  Blake, who is now 5 years old, had made a decision that he did not want to go to school this morning.  It may have had something to do with the fact that we had to take down his blanket fort in order to have his room cleaned.  It may have had something to do with a long weekend full of fun and family and food.  Or it may just have been that he didn’t want to go to school.

I literally (LITERALLY) had to drag him out from under his bed (damn you, MALM bed from IKEA for having such a perfect hiding spot for children built right into you!).  He whined.  Kicked.  Whimpered.  He didn’t want any part of going to school.  He wouldn’t put on his shoes.  He wouldn’t put on his jacket.  We were late so my patience was growing thin.  I tried reasoning.  I explained that part of being a kid is to go to school.  Mommy and Daddy go to work, you go to school.  This is where you learn new things, play with your friends, and have fun experiences.

There was nothing I could say or do that was going to make school look any better to him today.

When we arrived at school, he dragged his feet to the kindergarten spot.  He put up every resistance.  Gave me every reason why he shouldn’t have to go to school, namely being that he just didn’t want to.  And that is when it started.  The tears.  The large, pleading tears and a quivering lip with the words “Mama, I just don’t want to go.  I don’t like it.  I don’t want to go to school.”

My heart broke.  He brought me to my knees just like that.

I looked up to see one of his kindergarten teachers at the gate.  I smiled, despite the feeling of my stomach hitting the ground, and quietly explained that Blake was having a rough start to his day and didn’t want to be at school.  At this point, the tears were streaming down his cheeks.  She smiled back, with an understanding nod, and got down to his level.

“Blake, tell me about Thanksgiving.  Tell me how your weekend was!”

Nothing.  He didn’t look at her.  He just kept quietly crying.  I could tell he was trying to hide it.  Trying not to show his friends that he didn’t want to be here.  Trying not to show how vulnerable he was at that moment.  So hard for a little guy who is quiet to begin with.

“Blake, why don’t you come with me.  We’ll walk together to our room.”  She gently took his arm, trying to reach for his hand.  But he just kept looking at me with wide eyes that were welling over.  He reached out for me and grasped my legs, almost pinching them in desperation to not go to his classroom.

And at this point, I became a Mom puddle.  I got down at his level, gave him a big hug.  Partly to comfort him and partly so that he wouldn’t see how upset I was.  He wouldn’t let go.  He pleaded with me to not make him go.  Asked me to let him stay with me for the day.  The tears kept flowing, and he choked them back.  I swallowed hard.

said “Blake, it’s going to be okay.  You need to go to school today and I’ll see you at dinnertime.  Daddy will pick you up at the end of the day.  You’re going to be okay.  I love you but I have to go.”  

And I stood up.  It took every ounce of strength to take a step back from him.  He looked up at me, defeated.  He knew he was going to school.  He slowly turned, still crying, and walked with his teacher, who knew that this was just as painful for me as it was for him.  But Blake didn’t know that.  I’m sure he just thought I didn’t care enough to bring him home.  But what he doesn’t yet realize is that I care too much to bring him home.  It’s such a fine line that I walk sometimes.  That line drawn between wanting to embrace them through every hard lesson and stepping back, allowing them to learn the lesson on their own.

I watched as he walked to the class.  His shoulders were forward, his head down.  The conversation in my head was just as difficult as watching him walk away.

“Would he be okay?  Will they call if he’s still upset?  Will anyone make fun of him for crying?  Does he know I love him?  Is he mad at me right now?”

I made my way back to my car and texted my girlfriend, a mom of two boys.  She put me at ease, kind of.  We all have those moments, she assured me.  It feels really, really awful.  Like shitty awful.  Feeling like a bad mom.  Feeling like I’m not able to be there for my son.  Feeling like I’ve let him down.

I kind of got over it.  I went to the gym.  I got my grocery shopping done.  Tom got home and over lunch I told him what had happened.  It was still gnawing at me.  I hadn’t heard from the school so I’m sure he was fine but that uneasy feeling of now knowing how he was wouldn’t go away.  And then my phone rang and the name of the school was on the caller ID.  It was his teacher, calling to reassure me that while he was incredibly quiet, waiting for the bell to ring, once inside he was himself.  He was talking with his buddies.  He answered questions about his weekend.  He was back to being Blake.

I know these lessons in life are as important for me as they are for my kids.  I just disliked going through this one as much as Blake did.  I can’t wait to get home tonight, give him a big hug, and rebuild his fort.  I want to build the warmest, coziest, pillow and blanket fort we can. Because there’s a part of me that knows it will make both of us feel better.

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September is my Second January

Sweet September 12, I can’t believe it’s been two months since I’ve last written.

This hiatus from blogging – and it appears a few other things in my life – have made for an interesting summer.  Filled with very little but yet feeling full.  Days spent with my kids – running, laughing, playing, exploring, beaching, hiking, sunning, and more.  Lazy afternoons.  Quiet mornings.  Taking a break from a lot of what I defined my life by prior to summer….a schedule that included pre planned meals, CrossFit classes, blogging, early morning power hours, and more.  All of that went to the wayside in August and apparently into the first couple of weeks of September.  I totally took a vacation from my life, other than committing to be in my office and with my kids.

And it was awesome.

That being said, I entered into September with a sense of renewal.  Ready to dive back into a life that has more schedule.  Like many parents, I crave the first day of school.  I eagerly packed up their lunch boxes the night before.  We set out the school clothes on their floors, ready to go.  We walked together down to the school on the first day and after meeting their new teachers, with a wave of my hand and air kisses as the classroom doors closed, I had this intense sensation come over me.

Freedom.

This literally was me walking back home:

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Maggie was at daycare.  Caleigh and Blake were in grade three and senior kindergarten, respectively.  I had five hours to myself with nothing to fill that time but whatever I wanted to do.

I hit up CrossFit for my first workout in almost a month (yes, ALMOST A MONTH).  It hurt like hell.  I was sore and I was tired but the sense of accomplishment after was worth every bead of sweat I left on the floor.  I felt like I was getting back to being me.

I went home.  I made some chai tea.  I read from my latest book.  I journaled.  I walked around our new home, in silence, and marvelled at how perfect it was for our family.  I sat on my back porch and just breathed it all in.  I took stock of my summer.  Yes, it had been amazing.  Yes, it had been liberating.  Yes, it had been “easier” to say no to the routine that I lived by.

But I was ready to get back at it.  I gave myself a second New Years Resolution, except it falls in September.  A September Resolution.  I started a 21 day sugar detox and gave up all sugars, grains, and alcohol that had crept into my life this August.  (I swear to you, the red wine is the hardest part.)  I have been walking again regularly (tacking on more of a walk after getting the kids to school helps).  I have been back at CrossFit four times, with the commitment back to three times a week as of next week.  I’ve been up early again (not every morning, but at least 3 mornings a week) to renew my power hour.  I feel like I’m getting back to being myself and committing to making myself a priority again.

And it feels awesome.