Tuesday, 20 November 2012

What If...?

Nothing like stating the obvious – Cancer sucks. And just for the record? Cancer treatments suck too. From first diagnosis to now, finally having my final chemotherapy treatment behind me, it has been a long 5.5 months – and we still have about a month and a half left of treatments (radiation this time) and then time to get my body (and brain) back on track to where we were prior to this adventure. It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions and learning, and although some people will suggest its made me a stronger person because of it, I would be lying if I said I was thankful for it.

After my last chemo date, I felt a gigantic sense of relief – and people who have been surrounding and supporting me throughout this journey flooded me with support and congratulatory messages. It felt like I had reached a major milestone, hopefully never making myself comfortable in those green, sterile treatment chairs again. So I was completely taken aback to feel enveloped by a sense of sadness shortly thereafter – I was thrilled to be done this leg of the treatment (did I mention it truly sucked??) so what was going on?

I’ve been focusing so much mental and physical energy on getting through the chemotherapy, that now that I’ve reached that goal, it forces me to focus on other things – like perhaps some things that I didn’t have the energy to concentrate on prior to now.

I feel like a veil of ignorance has been forcefully removed from my eyes and I can no longer pretend I’m immune to diseases and ‘bad stuff’ outside of my control. I’ve been allowed to spend the majority of my life to-date comfortably shrouded in a world of “Not me” – and now, it’s “me”. I will never again be worried about the occurrence of cancer, but will be continually aware of the possibility of its recurrence.
  • What if the cancer comes back?
  • What if we don’t catch it as quickly next time?
  • What if I have to endure these treatments again?
  • What if the treatments don’t work?
  • What if I spend the rest of my life wondering “what if”?
  • What if I don’t?

I recently attended my son’s Remembrance Day celebration at his school and was thrilled to be well enough to be there. I told him I would be there and I was – promises that haven’t always been easy to make or keep lately. So as I watched him sit with his friends and sing their well-rehearsed song, my eyes filled with ‘mom pride’ – but then quickly turned to something even stronger and the ‘game’ began once again.
  • What if I never get to go to all of the school assemblies, sporting events, music lessons, and everything else that makes up the fabric of his life?
  • What if I have to look into his beautiful brown eyes one day and tell him that all of this chaos over the last half-year has been for nothing and we have to do it all over again?
  • What if I’m lucky enough to see it all?

I have an amazing life. I have so much to be thankful for and have gained a new perspective and appreciation for the things that are truly important to me. It has truly been humbling and inspiring to see the number of individuals who have reached out since my diagnosis to make the needs and concerns of my family a priority in their lives.
  • What if I’m always seen as ‘that girl who had cancer’?
  • What if I’m never able to let these people know what a difference their kindness has made to my life?
  • What if the relationships that have been strained because of an inability to face or deal with my diagnosis never return to the places that they were?
  • What if I’ve been lucky enough to add even more amazing people to my life?

Although my brain knows that the chemo and all of the physical pains that accompany it is behind me, my body hasn’t caught up yet. All I physically feel is the cumulative effects of 4 months of treatments – but I can’t wait to start feeling better again – and know that the recuperation process will only continue in the right direction with each passing day.
  • What if my body never completely feels like my own again?
  • What if I’m always forced to live with the residual numbness from the surgery and the pins & needles in and lack of strength in my fingertips from the chemo?
  • What if every pain, ache or twinge fills me with worry?
  • What if I live a long and healthy life from this point forward?

Here’s what I know for sure – I didn’t choose to get cancer. I didn’t choose the emotional and physical side-effects of both the cancer and the treatments. I don’t get to choose whether the cancer ever comes back again. But here’s what I do have a choice in…
  • I choose to define myself as Christy – not as a someone who had cancer; not as a ‘survivor’; just me
  • I choose to keep my perspective focused on the things that matter in life, because I know how quickly they can be taken out of our control
  • I choose to be forever grateful for the people who truly stepped up and have made this process that much easier – not only for what they have done for and contributed to my family, but particularly for those people who just treated me as “me” and not “me with cancer”
  • I choose life – my life - and everthing that comes with it because it truly is a great one.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The New Normal

I’m generally a fan of pie. Well, truthfully, it’s usually more about the pie crust but, overall, pie ends up in my good books. Lately, however, I’ve been served up a slice or two that’s been pretty tough to digest – yup, the infamous ‘humble pie’. Chock full of things that are good for you, but still a digestion disaster. I have learned that no matter how “Type A” or scheduled or organized I might like to think I am, no amount of planning has prepared for me for exactly how difficult this journey has been – and how completely out of my element I am.

You see, I went in to this crazy journey trying to keep things as normal as possible – for me, for my friends, my family – and particularly for my beautiful little boy. What I have learned, now that we are officially 62.5% of the way through these “poison powwows” (but who’s counting??), is that no matter how hard I try, the ‘normal’ that I have come to know, love and rely upon is nowhere to be found.

Instead, I have been left with a new set of rules, feelings and survival tactics that I have not-so-lovingly come to refer to as “The New Normal”.

So what does this “new normal” entail?
  • It’s waking up each morning holding my breath & crossing my fingers as I pry open each eyelid in the hopes that today will be a relatively good day.
  • It’s explaining to my saddened little boy why I can’t get out of bed and hang out with him yet again.
  • It’s praying (albeit somewhat selfishly) that my eyebrows and eyelashes don’t follow the path my hair did and leave me completely.
  • It’s a continual cycle of counting days/weeks/months until the next treatment/appointment/feel good day occurs.
  • It’s attending weddings where the mother-of-the-groom dances with her son and doing everything I can not to burst out into an ugly cry at the thought of not being there for my own son’s wedding.
  • It’s feeling incredibly self-conscious anytime I wear my wig – like everyone around me knows that I’m trying to pull one over on them or something.
  • It’s spending so much time choking down pills & hooked up to IVs that the thought of ever even popping a Tylenol again makes my stomach turn.
  • It’s the daily guilt that my husband, son, family & friends have pretty much taken over the responsibility of getting our family through these past few months while I contribute next to nothing.
  • It's the constant fear that I won't live to do all of the things I want to see, do, and experience... and that I won't get all the time I want with my husband, my son and all of the other wonderful people in my life.
  • It’s celebrating people I hear about who are multi-time cancer survivors, while feeling a huge horse-kick in the stomach every time I hear about people who have to go through this more than once. No way can I do this again.

So there it is – The New Normal. And here I am, trying to somehow jam its rectangular-shaped edges into the beautifully rounded shape that the “real normal” holds in my life.  As any toddler with a shape-sorter will tell you, that’s never a pretty process – and my tantrums can be just as ugly.

What I have learned, however, is that there are a few elements of this “new normal” that seem to be able to fit in a bit more smoothly.

So as I sit here serving up yet another lukewarm slice of that infamous humble pie, I can tell you that The New Normal also includes:

  • An appreciation for the little things that add so much joy to my days – lattes & lemon poppyseed loaf, the crispness of the Fall air sneaking in through my window, extra snuggles with my son…
  • A promise to take my son on a trip when all of this is over. His choice of destination. And I won’t roll my eyes or try to lobby for a better location. And I won’t complain that we can’t afford it. I will simply enjoy the fact that I’m spending healthy, happy, amazing time with my boys.
  • An awareness that there are people in this world who will drop everything to put other people’s needs ahead of their own. I have been truly inspired day after day by the continued contributions – meals, gifts, emails, prayers – that my family has been blessed with over the past few months. I don’t know that I deserve them but I’m pretty sure no one could appreciate them more.
  • A reminder to ‘get over myself’ – my biggest ‘ugly cry’ since my cancer diagnosis was when my hair started falling out. A very small price to pay when compared with spending a long and happy life with my family.
  • The realization that asking for help doesn’t make you weak or undercut your own strength and capabilities. I simply can’t get through all of this without help – and I feel so fortunate that I haven’t had to.

So there you have it. In another week I will hopefully be 75% of the way through this – yes, 3/4 of the way there… a solid B+ if anyone was grading me. I will go on record and state that this will definitely be a big day for us around here (we’re all counting!) – so you can just imagine the state of the Lawson household once we hit that treasured final treatment date! There will be smiles, there will be laughter, there will be hugs… there may even be a bottle of wine or two!

And then we will be left to figure out our even “newer normal” – the place where we try to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other in these new circumstances. I don’t know what it will entail, I don’t know how we will adjust, but I have no doubt I will do everything I can to embrace our New Normal and all of the gifts that come with it.

And it may even involve pie.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

The very last thing I told myself leaving my follow-up appointment with my surgeon.

Seems like relatively simple instructions, doesn't?

Well, apparently I listen about as well as my 8-year-old.

I got my hopes up.

Which now leaves me in the strangely awkward position of having to give myself the “I told you so” lecture.

Truthfully, it can’t entirely be my fault… I mean, picture this:

You’re a student who knows the big end-of-year exam is coming and you’re dreading it. About a month before, your teacher says there’s a 50-50 chance that perhaps you won’t have to write it this year. Hallelujah, right? So you cross your fingers, your toes, your eyes… whatever you can in the hopes that you will be one of the lucky ones who can avoid this killer exam. Then, you get a call from your teacher right before the scheduled date and find out that, in fact, you have to write it after all.

It shouldn’t be a HUGE surprise, right? All year you knew it was coming, and here it is. But it was that tiny glimmer of hope that took hold in your heart and grew and grew that now leaves you feeling about 1000 times more disappointed and stressed out than you would have been if you’d just blindly followed the typical course of action.

Well, my oncologist was my teacher, and that dreaded final exam? Chemotherapy. It’s happening. My name is on the test paper, and truthfully, I’m pretty sure all the last minute cramming wouldn’t help the end result anyway.

Somewhere within the next month or so, I’ll have no choice but to face some of my biggest fears head-on:
•    How am I going to look without hair?
•    What sort of potential damage could these poisons inflict upon my body long-term?
•    What if I’m in the 15% of the population that has to endure all of this with no positive outcome?
•    What if this burden is just too much for my rockstar husband to have to deal with?
•    What if I’m just not mentally tough enough to truly beat this?
•    What if I’m not there to watch my sweet little boy grow up?

So many questions, so many fears… and truthfully, so little time to be worrying about any of them. The reality is, this is not the Fall season I would have planned for myself and my family, however, it’s the one that I seem to have been dealt. Therefore, doing anything other than dealing with all aspects of this situation head on and one step at a time appears to be wasted energy. Why worry about what “might” happen, when I need all the energy I’ve got to tackle what “is” happening?

Admittedly, it does wear on a person to continually listen to how rare, aggressive, invasive, and complicated my situation is. The only positive I’ve managed to squeeze out of any of the medical professionals I’ve encountered so far is that we caught it early. So I’m going to cling to that affirmation and wholeheartedly believe that it is that element of the diagnosis that is going to be the thing that works in our favour and gets us through this successfully.

Let’s get this straight – I don’t want to do this. I’m scared. And I hate not knowing what the outcome of any given situation will be – particularly one with such life-impacting circumstances. But I can’t worry about that right now. I need to get this journey behind me – and unfortunately that can’t happen without starting the treatment process. But I will get through it – and I will figure out what this voyage is supposed to teach me. I’m pretty sure I’ve got many more things that I need to accomplish in this lifetime. I may not know what they are, but I’m determined to find out. More importantly, my son has important things to achieve and, come hell or high water, I intend to be there in his cheering section every step of the way for years to come.

So here we go. Time for a deep breath… maybe two… A decaf double-tall non-fat latte for the road and off we go. I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to feel like… what I’m going to look like… how my body will respond… or what they outcome will be. The only thing I’m confident about is that I have incredibly strong & significant reasons for getting through this successfully – and I will be hugging each of them just a little bit longer every day from this point forward. Like the title of this blog says, with "two steps forward" and only "one step back", it may take a little longer, but you're still bound & determined to get there!

Monday, 9 July 2012

One Victory at a Time

In the weeks since I shared my recent cancer diagnosis, I have been truly overwhelmed, touched and deeply humbled by the outpouring of support from countless people. These days, it’s so easy to say you have a ton of friends/fans/followers, etc. but it is only through something like this – something that shakes you to your very core – that helps shed light on the fact that there are true compassionate hearts, shoulders to lean on, and hands to hold behind those names.

So, where are we now? We have officially reached the front line of the battle and are taking no prisoners. I’m recovering as well as I can from surgery – cutting out both the tumour and any delusions that this entire situation might have only been a convenient misdiagnosis. It’s definitely very real… and very sore… but on some weird level, I’m glad to have the first step behind me.

I’m pretty sure I make a terrible patient – did I mention that my husband is a total rockstar? – but I’m trying to find my glimmers of light wherever I can find them. The hospital was cold but the medical staff was incredible – and the heated blankets were a godsend!

So through all of the support I’ve been fortunate enough to receive, one sentiment keeps rising to the surface – everyone can’t wait to read the “major victory” blog at the end of this journey. Well, I can’t wait for that either, but because we’ve still got quite a few more steps to get through before this becomes a distant memory, I’ve decided to focus on the “mini victories” we’ve managed to achieve so far…

•    This process can be good for a girl’s ego – I’ve repeatedly been told how young I am throughout this whole process – haven’t really heard that much in days prior!

•    What better excuse to go out and stock up on some pretty new bras? If everyone in the world is going to be seeing them, might as well make them look good!

•    I finally managed to squeeze in a family portrait session – no idea how they turned out yet but at least I can visibly prove I’ve been part of this family too! (Thanks, Anita!)

•    There are some AMAZING resources set up to deal with these types of situations!

o    I found an incredible retail store in Burlington that outfitted me with a post-surgical camisole, support pillow and an avalanche of information and resources – all as part of a complementary support program. So sad that such a shop needs to exist, but so wonderful that it does!

o    I attended a Look Good Feel Better workshop and was shocked at the amount of resources, support and, yes, products I walked away with. Questions I didn’t even know I had were answered, hopefully putting me even further ahead in the game.

•    Did I mention my husband rocks? Forget the white horse – any guy who can deal with post-surgery vomit and empty an ‘ooze sack’ on a regular basis with a smile on his face is definitely my kind of knight in shining armour!

•    I have always been a “Let me know if I can do anything to help” kind of girl. One of the things I will be sure to take away from this whole ordeal is to offer less and do more. Seriously, my heart has always been in the right place, but I’ve learned to take the Nike approach going forward and “just do it”! The meals that miraculously appeared and kept my family fed, the decaf double-tall non-fat latt├ęs that made their way into my hands, the care packages filled with wonderful little time-fillers that just showed up, the playdates for my son that just materialized… I have no doubt that being able to enjoy these benefits while not having to coordinate a single thing definitely contributed to the entire recovery process.

Friendship isn't a big thing - it's a million little things.  ~Author Unknown

And as for the latest medical “victory”? Well, the lump has been removed, the surgeon is confident she got it all, the lymph nodes they took all came back “clear” and I’ve been able to spend the last couple of weeks recuperating and enjoying my incredible family and friends. Whew. Next step is to meet with the oncologist and find out where the course of treatment will take me. Truthfully, this is the part that freaks me out the most, but I’m not going to let it get me down. I’m just going to take it step by step… and enjoy every victory along the way.

Monday, 21 May 2012

My Lumpy Life Lessons

I need to get something off of (and out of) my chest…

I have a confession to make – I’m one of those people who resolve to focus on things that really matter when confronted by tragic situations, but after a couple of weeks, real life seems to get in the way of my best intentions and I fall back into the same old rut. I get bent out of shape by the constant telemarketing calls, the fact that my son refuses to brush his teeth for longer than 37 seconds, the fact that the dog has made it his life’s mission to continually be underfoot each time I head up or down the stairs. I get caught up in conference calls, emails, field trip forms, and dentist appointments. Admittedly, I end up forgetting to just sit and enjoy the ‘here & now’.

Well, apparently the “powers that be” figured that I needed to learn my lesson – and they delivered it with a swift two by four to the side of the head… well, in this case, the breast. Yup, looks like I have cancer… the Big ‘C’. For the last week my world has been full of words like ‘invasive’ and ‘aggressive’… rather than some of my more preferable ‘ive’ words, such as ‘decorative’ and  ‘expensive’.

The good news is that we seem to have caught it relatively early. I would love to say I was one of those proactive women who routinely performed regular self-examinations and caught it that way, but again, I fell into the percentage of the population who checks (sort of) when something reminds me to, yet was never fully sure what it was I was looking for. No excuses – I’m fully aware of all of the statistics*:

•    One in 9 women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and one in 29 will die of it.
•    An estimated 22,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and 5,100 will die of it
•    On average, 62 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day.

Yet somehow it was so easy to fall into the “Its-an-awful-disease-but-it-isn’t-going-to-happen-to-me” camp. I work out, have no history of cancer in my family, eat relatively healthy (alright, who can say no to the occasional lemon poppyseed loaf??)… it just wasn’t going to happen to me. Right?

It did.

I won’t tell you exactly how the lump was detected (after all, my mom reads these blogs!) but suffice it to say, my husband deserves a big “high five” and medal of honour for doing what he thinks is his job anyway!

So it looks like we’re going on a journey – and this one won’t be to Disney, much to my son’s dismay. My understanding is that this can definitely be a time of uncertainty and unknown. And while that may be true about a number of things, I do feel that there are certain things that I’m more certain about than ever:

1.    Cancer sucks.

2.    I won’t ever give my husband a hard time for wanting to fool around again.

3.    Hugging my son is the most beautiful feeling in the entire world.

4.    I have some truly amazing friends. Seriously, you should all be jealous!

5.    It is incredibly overwhelming to navigate your way through the medical system but it’s just as important to be your own advocate. Push, question, and investigate. It’s not just a right, it’s a responsibility.

6.    I don’t have nearly enough pictures of my family – I mean, there are a lot of my son (never enough, of course!), a bunch of my son and my husband… but not a lot of “us”. Why is it that we moms never step out from behind the camera??

7.    The thought of losing my hair doesn’t thrill me. Just sayin’…

8.    There is nothing sadder for a parent than the thought of not being there for their children. That’s why for this particular issue, I am extremely content to be the ostrich with its head in the proverbial sand – even given my extreme bird phobia…

9.    You can never say or hear “I love you” enough.

10.    My husband is a true rockstar. A full-blown multi-platinum, Grammy-winning rockstar. And this time, you can actually tell him I said so!

So, why am I sharing my story with all of you? You may be thinking that its far too personal to talk about… heck, some of you might not even be able to pick me out of a crowd of two – so why does it matter? Truthfully, it doesn’t – but here’s what does… my lumpy life lessons may not be yours, but I’m hoping that by reading this, you’ll all take a moment to find your own life lessons to work with

1.    Public Service Announcement – your breasts are yours (and quite possibly, your partner’s!) – do yourself a favour and check them out on a regular basis so you know what you’re dealing with.

2.    Allow yourself to sweat the small stuff – get annoyed/frustrated/ticked off/upset/whatever – and don’t feel guilty about it. Feel it, own it… and then let it go. It just doesn’t matter enough to hang on to.

3.    Cry hard but laugh harder… and often.

4.    Take a minute – or two- to look around you and breathe it all in. Whatever your life has blessed you with, hug it, love it, savour it, cherish it and enjoy it.

5.    Every moment you have with the people you love is truly a gift – unwrap it and revel in it over and over again, each and every day.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Playing Without a Plan

By all definitions, my mom was a ‘single mom’ – my dad decided our family wasn’t his thing, so he got the lawnmower and my mom got my brother and I. A good deal, if I do say so myself – although perhaps our lawn may have suffered somewhat in the short term. But to us, she was never a ‘single mom’ – she was just Mom. Our mom. And I don’t remember the absence of my dad ever being an issue.

Even with no financial or physical support, my mom still managed to find a way to keep my brother and I involved in a ton of organized sports and activities – hockey, ringette, baseball, music lessons, summer camp… we definitely had our share of programs and events and I don’t remember missing out on anything.

But what I remember most about growing up isn’t the scheduled activities or organized events. One of the greatest gifts my mom gave to my brother and I is the ability to simply ‘play’. Playing without purpose. Playing without a 'plan'. We would spend hours playing on the front lawn – with neighbourhood friends or by ourselves – running, cartwheeling, watching the clouds, picking dandelion bouquets, riding our bikes, running through sprinklers, burying ourselves in leaves… and just generally being kids.

That's me rockin' the chubby cheeks & the red & blue swimsuit sensation!

Somehow Mom was always able to strike the perfect balance between giving us the freedom to see where our imaginations could take us, and still be there to be an integral part of our play. I’m sure sitting through yet another tennis-racket-strumming / pot-lid-drumming concert or watching us roll down the big green hill for the 187th consecutive time were not exactly at the top of her “to do” list, but she was always there. I’m sure she had better things to do than check out yet another ill-constructed fort or create another candlelight marshmallow toasting evening, but she was always there.

Admittedly, it was a very different time then. Yes, we grew up not only able to create our own fun but were actually encouraged to do so. Our days often consisted of a whole lot of nothing – and we loved it. We even had the freedom to actually get bored and figure out our own ways to entertain ourselves. We rarely had structured playdates but were always welcome to have friends over to play. I had years of swimming lessons – but remember being able to spend hours upon hours showing off our best ‘cannonballs’ into our pool and getting Mom to count who could hold their breath longest under water. I had countless piano lessons but it’s the hours of impromptu duets with my friends that I remember most. And who was our captive audience? Yep – thanks, Mom.

Over the years I remember people telling me how bad they felt that I wasn’t able to take part in certain programs, or attend certain events, or travel to certain places. But looking back, I don’t remember feeling badly about any of that. I remember sun-filled days, laughing hard and playing hard. I remember cartwheel competitions on the front lawn, bike riding until the streetlights came on, and coming back home dirty, tired and blissfully happy.

But most of all, I remember being encouraged to “just play” – without worrying about how well I was doing it compared to other kids, whether or not it fell into any sort of pre-determined curriculum, or whether or not it had any bearing at all on the adult I would one day become. We played because it was fun – and as kids, isn’t that the point? So thanks, Mom, for being the best kid-concert goer, cartwheel counter, fort builder and playmate a kid could ever have. We didn’t have a single mom – we had the single best mom!

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The "Other Firsts"...

Okay, so we all know about those special “Baby Book Firsts” – you know, the ones you ‘ooh’ & ‘aah’ over… the ones you ‘share’ & ‘tweet’ to all your friends, family, followers & fans… the ones that makes their way into the infamous Baby Book. Agreeably, these are true milestone moments and will be remembered and cherished for a lifetime.

But what about the “other firsts” – the ones that don’t seem to have a special page in the ‘scrapbook of love’? The ones with a little less “Aww” value? Don’t they deserve their 15 minutes of fame too??

BABY BOOK FIRST:    Baby’s First Word – melting your heart the very first time your little angel gazed lovingly at you and called out “Mommy”
OTHER FIRST:    The 87th time you hear ‘MommyMommyMommyMommyMommy’ at the exact time you’re trying to finish a phone call or get dinner on the table.

BABY BOOK FIRST:    Baby’s very first tooth – documenting the very moment the first little pearly white comes poking through
OTHER FIRST:    The very first time those chompers are taken out for a spin – on a playmate, the dog, or even on you! (NOTE: Bonus first – if this “first bite” happens to occur while breastfeeding - OUCH!)

BABY BOOK FIRST:    Baby’s First Food - the first time your precious little one opens his or her precious little mouth and enjoys the wonder of pureed carrots
OTHER FIRST:    The first time this delicacy you’ve so lovingly prepared is less than a huge hit and you are, thus, forced to catch the remnants of said meal in your napkin, hand or plate. (Bonus first – if you are actually able to salvage something out of the regurgitated meal and eat it anyway!)

BABY BOOK FIRST:    Baby’s First Step – who can’t remember running for the camera/video camera/iPhone to capture those first uncertain little strides away from the safety of the coffee table?
OTHER FIRST:    The very first time those steps are all strung together to result in an impromptu Olympics hurdling event running through your living room, ending in an overturned footstool, a broken lamp, and a skinned knee.

BABY BOOK FIRST:    Baby’s First Independent Mealtime – watching with wonder and pride as your little one manages to manoeuvre those Cheerios into his or her mouth all by themselves (more or less!) for the first time
OTHER FIRST:    The very first time you watch your little sweetheart skillfully pick out every diced onion, grated carrot, corn kernel or other offending food item from the meal in front of them.

BABY BOOK FIRST:    Baby’s First Mess – you know the drill, open the diaper bag, take out the extra diapers, shift the spare clothing out of the way, dig down beneath the spare pacifier, bag of Cheerios and special ‘lovey’ to carefully extract the special non-toxic, organic, handmade baby face wipes to gently clean away that offensive speck of dirt.
OTHER FIRST:     Some spit in your hand and a swipe with the thumb oughtta get most of whatever the heck is on there! (You know you’ve done it!)

BABY BOOK FIRST:    Baby's First Successful Sleep Through The Night - no additional words needed... *Sigh*...
OTHER FIRST:    The first time you close your eyes to count to 10 while playing Hide & Seek and promptly fall fast asleep! (Bonus first – your kids think you’re actually looking for them and keep hiding, allowing you to stretch out that impromptu nap!)

So, does anyone else think their Baby Books might need a few extra pages added on to them?

What's your "Other First"?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Just Two More Minutes

Have you ever heard the phrase “the gift of time”? I recently had one of those moments that caused me to reflect upon exactly what that meant. As a society we generally walk around with a sense of both entitlement and infallibility when it comes to time. Whatever we don’t get to today can always be tackled tomorrow. Too busy answering emails to play with our kids at the park? Not in the budget to take a family vacation this year? So preoccupied with getting dinner on the table that we can’t listen to the same knock-knock joke for the 187th time? No worries. Tomorrow we’ll do a better job and be a better parent.

Last night as I hurried home from a class to crawl into my son’s bed for a goodnight cuddle, I can admit that even though I love feeling his little arms wrapped around my chest – and I was happy to be there – my mind was already jumping ahead to my ever-so-important to-do list – Make his lunch for the next day, check my emails, change the laundry, run over my presentation for the next day’s training session, remember to get gas the next day…..  Pretty typical stuff. When I went to leave he held on a little bit tighter and asked me to stay for just two more minutes. With a sigh, I thought about everything else I needed to get done that night. Besides, he should already be asleep, it was already far too late, and it’s not like I hadn’t already cuddled him. As I stood up to leave I took a moment to really feel his little fingers wrapped around mine and truly see his beautiful little face and decided right then and there that just two more minutes was not too much to ask.

There are 1440 minutes in a day – how many of those do you spend really being present? Not shuttling kids to another sporting event or dance class. Not bribing them to eat one more green bean. Not making sure that their teeth are brushed & their hair is combed. Not explaining to them why beds really do need to get made. I’m talking about really being with them.

Not responding on autopilot with another “Yes, I see…” or “Uh huh…” or “Sure, great somersault”. I’m talking about absolutely unplugging from the rest of the world and being completely present in whatever is happening during those two minutes. Not checking email while watching them run around in the backyard. Not commenting on another Crayola-inspired masterpiece while making sure the dishwasher is loaded. Not cutting a hug short because dinner is on the table and getting cold. I’m talking about truly appreciating the fact that the gift of just two more minutes with those who live inside of your heart is truly a gift beyond compare.

How many people would kill to have just two more minutes with a loved one? What if we changed our perspective to see that the number of minutes we have with our families is actually a finite number, and not an unlimited amount? What if we reminded ourselves that the next two minutes we spend with our kids are just as important as the last two minutes we have with them? What if we remembered that in our final days it won’t be our iPhones, clients or dirty laundry that we’ll be thinking of – it’s much more likely that our minds will be full of visions of sticky fingerprint hugs, sun-kissed smiling faces, sounds of happiness emanating from full-on belly laughs, the quiet beauty of a sleeping child…

Aren’t these the things that are worth taking just two more minutes to appreciate while we have them? The days are long but the years are short. Kids grow up fast… too fast. That “tomorrow” we’ve all been banking on may hold something completely out of our control. Those two more minutes we’ve all been banking on and putting off until tomorrow may become the moments that mean the most.

So today I challenge you to put down the iPhone, close up your Inbox, step away from the dirty dishes… then pull up a chair and truly be with your loved ones for a full two minutes. Truly appreciate that artwork, share a belly laugh, listen to that knock-knock joke (again), stay for that extra cuddle... You may find that those two minutes turn to five or even ten. You may find the world will actually keep turning while you step away from your daily routine for two minutes. You may even find that those two minutes will end up equalling a lifetime of memories for you and your loved ones.

Think about it. What could you do with just two more minutes?

Sunday, 8 April 2012

My Fine, Feathered Fear

To most people, the signs of Spring are welcoming, cheerful, and joyous. I, however, am not most people.

Blooming flowers… love them.
Sunny days… sign me up.
Singing birds – Houston, we have a problem!

Yes, I’ll admit it – my phobia isn’t one of the cooler snake/spider/heights variety. I’m deathly afraid of all things feathered and flapping!

Now truthfully, other than a few nasty run-ins with some killer geese at local parks, or the odd petting zoo catastrophe, this phobia is relatively tolerable. I can definitely live with it. However, what I have learned is that it’s OTHER PEOPLE who can’t seem to live with it!

Apparently, living in perpetual horror of all ‘freaky flyers’ is NOT the coolest or most accepted phobia on the block! Tell people you’re afraid of spiders, snakes or heights and you’re welcomed into the club with open arms. Tell people that Big Bird sends shivers down your spine and your met with a disbelieving stare, smirk or one of five ever-so-helpful responses:

 “You’re not ACTUALLY afraid of birds, are you??”
ACTUALLY no, I just thought it would be a great conversation starter. Please excuse any wayward hyperventilation or sweat droplets that may appear as I eye that swarm of seagulls circling above. It’s obviously just for effect…

“Birds aren’t scary – they make such beautiful music!”
Let’s face it – birds may chirp but they’re no Adele. Besides, spiders spin delicate and intricate webs of spun silk that could be admired. And some of the most beautiful views in the world are gained from the highest mountaintops or tallest buildings. You don’t see those glorious attributes winning over too many phobia-inflicted individuals!

“Why don’t you just get a bird feeder so you can watch & appreciate them?”
That’s a FANTASTIC idea! What could be better than inviting the source of my fears and frustrations onto my own turf? I’m pretty sure all of my snake-fearing counterparts take up snake charming in their spare time so they can get up close and personal too…

“What about chickadees or canaries? They’re just tiny…”
Does it fly/flap/peck? From canaries to parrots to ostriches (don’t even get me started on the concept of a bird that is bigger than I am and can outrun me too!), the only thing I want to see flying is the 747 whisking me off to a bird-free paradise!

“Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Birds’?”
Of course! Because my idea of a good time is spending an evening sitting in front of the TV with my loved ones, terrorizing myself by choice! In fact, sometimes I jab toothpicks under my fingernails during the commercials just to kick it up a notch!

So yes, I realize that there is a distinct hierarchy in the world of phobias, and my fine-feathered fear and I fall neatly to the bottom of the pile. All the cool kids are huddled together in great company staring down terrifying tarantulas, scary snakes and horrific heights – reassured that they are not now, nor will the ever be, alone in their periods of popular paranoia.

So it’s time to take a stand – I’m taking back the terror, dealing with the dread and allowing the anxiety! Have a fear that others might see as ‘flighty’? Share it here and be proud of the panic!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

I Am A Mom

I am a mom.
I know what it feels like to exist on 22 minutes of sleep and 22 cups of coffee (all cold, and rarely finished).
I’m eagerly awaiting the fashion trend that celebrates spit-up, sticky fingerprints and snot smears.
I can’t always hear myself think, but I can pick out my child’s cry from a playground full of other children.
I have no idea where my keys are but I can pinpoint the whereabouts of the extra diapers, the pink hairclip with the purple flower, the birthday party invitation, the red HotWheels car (no not that one, the other one!) and the jar of pickles… all while getting dinner on the table.

I am a mom.

I am continuously making decisions that I feel are best for my child.
I breastfed my baby because I want the best for him. I fed him with a bottle because I want what’s best for him.
My child sleeps in his own crib because I love him. My child sleeps with me because I love him.
I had my son circumcised because it was right for our family. I chose not to circumcise my son because it was right for our family.
I pierced my little girl’s ears because I think its beautiful. I chose not to pierce my little girl’s ears because I think its beautiful.
I made my child’s baby food from scratch because I wanted him to be healthy. I bought pre-made baby food because I wanted him to be healthy.
I have one child because that is the perfect amount for our family. I have more than one child because that is the perfect amount for our family.

I am a mom.

I am a mom who chooses to celebrate successes and support challenges of other moms, rather than continually contrast, compare and judge.
I am a mom who realizes that parenting is tough enough without having to make other parents justify the choices that they make for their children and their family.
I am a mom who wants the best for her child and her family and am always striving to ensure that every decision I make has that same goal in mind.
I am a mom who recognizes that we all do our best for our children and our families and “whatever gets you through the day” is quite often enough.

I am a mom.

I am my child’s biggest fan, fiercest protector, and strongest supporter.
Since becoming a mom I have felt more joy, experienced more sadness, worried more often, been frustrated more regularly, and felt more whole, more complete and more fulfilled than I could have ever imagined.

I am a mom.

I know that motherhood is about love, guidance and encouragement – not competition.
My son walked when it was time, cut teeth when it was time, said his first word when it was time, slept through the night when it was time, rode a tricycle when it was time, switched to a two-wheeler when it was time, got rid of his training wheels when it was time, and crossed the street by himself when it was time.
I am Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma, Mum and Mother.
I make every decision in an effort to forge a successful path through this crazy journey of motherhood.
I believe that every mom who has their children’s best interests at heart has earned the “Mom Badge” that allows them to choose what works best for them and their family.
I am strong, proud, insecure, confident, enthusiastic, exhausted, devoted, amused, inspired, frustrated, confused, focused, hopeful, loved and incredibly blessed.

I am a  mom.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Taking Back the Time-Out

Who among us has not been part of the “Time Out” debate? Do time outs really work? At what age do you start giving them? How long should your child stay in time out? The questions are seemingly endless.

Well, I have another one to add to the mix – one that, in my opinion, seriously trumps the rest of them:

What do I have to do to get a time out??

I admit it. I’m not a perfect parent. I’ve yelled at my kid; I’ve served up cheese & crackers for dinner; I’ve played the “Because I said so” card; I’ve let the laundry pile up higher than my son; I’ve let him go over his allotted daily screen time on several occasions….. Let’s face it – I’ve amassed quite a list of “don’ts” that would place me in high judgement from the infamous Parenting Tribunal.

So… can I go to my room now??

As parents, all the books, websites & parenting experts tell us that the best way to respond to misbehaviours by our kids is to send them somewhere to be completely by themselves – in isolation of everyone and everything else – in order to calm down and “think about what they’ve done”.

While I’m sure that counts as “dreaded punishment” to many mini-mischief-makers, to me it sounds like pure nirvana. Peace & quiet. No one to answer to. A chance to do whatever I want with no interruptions…. What was the negative part of this again??

I can see it now…

“Oops! I forgot that you only like turkey on your sandwich and not ham. I messed up. Guess I’ll go straight up to my room and think about what I’ve done…..”

Five minutes…. Lying on my bed…

Ten minutes… Flip quietly through the latest People magazine…

Fifteen minutes… Close my eyes and start to drift off…


“Nope – not sure I truly understand the consequences of my actions… I think I need some more time to truly grasp the severity of it all… Check back with me around dinner time!”

Pure uninterrupted bliss…. Perfection…

So how is it possible that with the amount of mistakes I’ve made, I’m still allowed to walk about freely?? Someone should really get their act together and make sure that I do whatever it takes to learn my lesson (and you should know, I’m a really slow learner!).

They say that youth is wasted on the young – but I’m pretty sure it’s the time-outs that are wasted on the tots! It’s time to take back our time-outs and give them to those of us who truly need them – who’s with me??

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Hit the Road... Without Hitting the Wall!

Road Trip

If you’re looking to escape the endless drones of “I’m bored” this March Break but are afraid that your car doors suddenly seem more restricting than prison walls, have no fear – the successful road trip CAN be done… Sanity intact!

Last year my family was fortunate enough to be invited on a road trip to Orlando, Florida, courtesy of GM Canada and, of course, their new Chevy Orlando.  While thrilled to be able to add this adventure to our summer agenda, double digit hours spent in the car with a busy 7 year old filled me with terror. What if he gets bored after the first hour? What if I brought the wrong activities to entertain him? What if there’s no Starbucks for miles???

Needless to say, we not only survived but even thrived, so I’m paying it forward to help you survive the dreaded ROAD TRIP…

Chevy OLrlando
STEP 1:    Break the drive up into manageable chunks of drive time. Unless you have those kids who will pass out for 10+ hours at a time without waking, in which case, you’re already a winner!

STEP 2:    Plan something fun to see or do at each stop – a landmark, a fun restaurant, an ice cream, 10 laps around the car… whatever works for you & your brood.

STEP 3:    Load up on the car tunes - a little something for everyone's tastes. Not only can a group singalong pass the time, but if the whining gets to be too much, you can always crank the tunes and drown it out!

STEP 4: Stock up on “pleasant little time wasters”! Now’s not the time to take a stand against the “evils of the Electronic Babysitters” – embrace them… enjoy them… I might have even hugged them at various points of our journey! We were lucky enough to have an iPad with us that was loaded up with games, music, movies, TV shows…  Happy kids = happy parents. Enough said.

STEP 5:    Have some “off line” back up plans. I have a friend who plans a scavenger hunt that works for in-car time & break time (i.e. find 3 gas stations, 2 McDonalds, license plates from four states/provinces, a picnic table, 3 kinds of leaves, a straw, etc.) Winner gets their choice of some fantastic dollar store prize you stocked up on before you left!

STEP 6:    Snacks, snacks & more snacks! Stopping for treats on the way can be fun – but if you don’t have your own stash ready & waiting to supplement the stops, you could spend your entire vacation in line at the local McDonalds! And while I did make a concerted effort to load up on the fruits, water, and healthy snacks, its amazing the extra mileage and bonus “cool mom” points I got for the extra container of mini-marshmallows – good times!

STEP 7:    Put everything you need within arms’ reach. Seems like a no-brainer, right? But punctuating the ‘bliss’ of our family road trip with continual not-so-silent grumbles every time we had to pull over to grab extra snacks/games/DVDs/blankets/books/sweaters/whatever, was definitely less than idyllic!

STEP 8:   This one was definitely a new one for me, but I’m now a huge advocate of using the local Tourism boards to help plan your trip. Perhaps I’m late to the party but I always assumed that as a somewhat intelligent multi-tasking mama, planning my own trip should be a piece of cake. But thanks to the incredible assistance of the wonderful people at Visit Orlando, I now know that the cake I thought I was enjoying was actually stale bread crusts, in comparison to what they could do for me. They not only planned all of our day trips & excursions with incredible ease, but even assisted us on things like securing a taxi to the airport on our way home (something I thought would be easier than it actually was!).  Seriously – they’re now my new secret weapon – I won’t leave home without them!

STEP 9:    Have fun. Despite all of your planning, best efforts, and good intentions, there will be bumps in the road along the way – someone may get car sick, someone may have forgotten their toothbrush, someone will get bored…. Just remember that in spite of – and even because of – all of these imperfections, your road trip will be absolutely perfect because you’re creating some of those family moments – good, bad & otherwise – that you’ll all remember for years to come.

So map out those Starbucks stops, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride……………….

Thursday, 12 January 2012

"Should New Acquaintance Be Forgot...?"

Okay, so forget the “auld acquaintances” we all sang about and toasted with far too many glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve – I’ve got bigger fish to fry! Well, truthfully, if fish were the issue, this wouldn’t be a problem, but that’s another story…

Recently, my husband and I finally made the decision to cave in to my son’s numerous requests for a dog. Yes, we tried to distract him with fish, frogs, hamsters and other ‘low maintenance’ pets… We even tried to take his mind off of it with fun family getaways – how can a mere dog compete with the happiest place on Earth?? Unfortunately, my son is not only a fun-loving 7 year old – he is also an elephant. He never forgets. And when it comes to this particular issue, he’s like a dog with a bone (pun intended!).

So we researched, planned, analyzed, deliberated, organized… and eventually welcomed Gryffindor Sokz to our family - A.K.A. "Gryffin" (deliberate ‘tip of the hat’ to my son’s other obsession, Harry Potter!).
The house was in chaos, the carpets were a disaster, but the kid was elated and Mommy had a chance to earn back a few of those long-gone “Mommy-of-the-Year” brownie points. Sounds like a perfect Hollywood ending, right? Insert image here of the boy & his dog frolicking off through the sunshine-filled fields as the credits start to roll… (I realize its January and the sunshine-filled moments are few & far between, but work with me here!)

And then it started.

A few eye rubs here & there…. A persistent tickle in that space where your ears & throat meet that you can never quite reach… Then full-on itchy, puffy, watery swollen eyes – the kind you get from the funeral scene in Steel Magnolias. A cold? No… feels a bit different. Could it be…? No… there’s no way…. It couldn’t be…. Oh no.

I think I’m allergic to the dog.

Now I’ve been around dogs on & off throughout my lifetime with absolutely no issues (barking, biting & pooping aside). I have absolutely no allergies, other than a self-diagnosed allergy to housework, but I don’t seem to get much sympathy for that one…

To say I feel absolutely sick about this is an understatement! “Here you go, little boy – here’s the gift you’ve wanted every day for your entire life. Enjoy! Now, just kidding!” Seriously, I have no idea how I’ll be able to afford the life-long therapy! And any chance of recouping those long-lost “Mom of the Year” points is obviously shot to hell.

I know what you’re all thinking (other than “Sucks to be you!”) – don’t put the cart before the horse (Lord, don’t introduce a horse to the equation, too!) – figure out if you’re truly allergic to the dog before you figure out the best way to crush your son’s hopes & dreams and scar him for life. Check. The appointment with the allergist is booked & I’m crossing my fingers that it isn’t the dog but is in fact my long pleaded for symptoms to that housework allergy...

In the interim, however, as each day passes and more balls are thrown, walks are taken and hugs are shared, the situation stresses me out more and more. Seriously, could you disappoint this face?

Evan & Gryffin
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