Minivan Mondays

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I fought getting a minivan.  I just didn’t see myself as one of those moms.  I think it was the immediate “middle-aged mom” image, picturing myself behind the wheel of the ultimate exhibit of a practical car that made me cringe a bit.  But the truth is I am approaching middle-aged (although I am often surprised by this when I look in the mirror and realize I am no longer 24.  I think in my head I will forever be stuck at age 24. ) I have FOUR kids (two of whom are twin infant boys!) and TWO dogs, gymnastics, baseball and soccer practices to take my daughter to, countless playgrounds, zoo visits, and other daytime adventures to go on, not to mention all the groceries!  And the reality is, when I really think about it so many of my “mom friends” drive mini vans – and I’d like to think I have cool friends, so what image was I conjuring up?  The women on the commercials driving their kids to soccer always look so put together, I love Claire on Modern Family and she drives a minivan, my own mom drove a minivan – and the only reason I think she bought one was to fit her golf clubs and friends for wine tours!  I have come to the conclusion that my aversion to minivans is not one based in reality.  So, I let it go.  I even went with my husband’s first choice of a minivan – the one with the amazing interior but not so trendy exterior – because as he said, “It’s a minivan Alison, we’ll never be able to achieve trendy!”

And now my minivan, with its automatic doors,  stow ‘n’ go cargo space, seats for girls – way in the back, heated seats, and even the DVD player, has become my haven.  After a long day on the go between doctors appointments and swings and slides I find myself lingering in the driveway when we arrive home reveling in the quiet of three sleeping kids.  I’ve been known to stay there for up to an hour, reclining my seat, putting my feet on the dashboard  – soaking up the warm sun and falling asleep – right there in my driveway.  It is just so peaceful (and comfortable) and I know once I start the process of unloading the crying will start, I will have to make bottles and change diapers, get snacks, let the dogs out…in the minivan I can just sit – and relax!  Naptime in the minivan has become a staple in our house (or should I say our driveway) as we sleep and wait for Kennedy to get off the bus.  The kids are sleeping anyway from the drive home so why not take advantage of the temporary quiet?!

And then there are Mondays – Kennedy’s gymnastic days.  With four kids and being a full-time stay at home mom my moments alone are few and very far between.  So on Mondays I drive Kennedy to gymnastics.  A drive I love in itself as we discuss the day, the clouds, or any other topic that pops in our heads.  Our 10 minutes in the minivan have become quite special for Kennedy and I, since we rarely spend time together just the two of us.  But once Kennedy runs onto the mat for warm ups I am out.  Out to the minivan that is! I always start my hour of solitude with a quick trip to Tim Hortons.  From there I may do a quick errand but most days I just go back to the gymnastics club, turn off the car, the radio, put away my cell phone and soak up the silence of the moment.  One week I ran to Subway to get dinner for the family and I ate mine right there in the minivan – knowing that if I waited to eat it when I got home I would eat it holding a child, or not eat it for hours – until everyone else had gotten their fill, their milk, their much needed napkins…man that sub was one of the best I have ever had.  I didn’t even care that other parents walking into the building might look at me and wonder what I was doing.  I just ate in peace.  Two weeks ago – on a particularly warm Monday I took a nap.  I love how the sun warms up a car and the breeze from open windows flows through providing a nice balance to the temperature.  It was so easy to fall asleep, and exactly what I needed.  It was exactly what two other moms and a dad needed too apparently because when my alarm went off and I pulled my seat up I saw them waking from their naps too! One mom actually had her head resting on the open window frame.  I let out a laugh – what a great picture that would have made.  A parking lot littered with minivans – filled with sleeping parents on a Monday evening.  This past Monday I took thank you cards, stationary and my journal.  I wrote hand written notes and enjoyed the quiet to gather my thoughts.  Tim, knowing I had a long stressful day full of appointments offered to come with me to gymnastics to help me get some errands done to lessen my to do list.  I turned down the offer.  I didn’t care about the errands, or the to do list.  When he called to present the idea on his way home from work I already had my bag packed for my writing – Tim Horton’s gift card and all!

And for all those quiet moments in my minivan there are one hundred loud ones in my house that I adore!  If I didn’t have the moments of crying and dirty diapers I wouldn’t have the moments of laughter and little hands covered in finger paints!  There was a time, a post from months ago, when I celebrated poop – and I still do ( I know its weird!) – I see the diapers as a sign of healthy babies!  I love that my house is a constant state of action with a little bit of chaos mixed in.  But those moments in my “mom-mobile”,  my Mondays of solitude sitting in my practical minivan keep me sane, giving me the space I need to recognize the joy that I find inside my crazy house.  So to all those moms out there fighting the minivan and the stereotype that goes along with driving such an uncool looking vehicle – let go of your inhibitions.  Relish your role as the woman who keeps it all together and embrace what could be yours.  Buy the minivan, celebrate the seats far in the back, the storage space, and the automatic doors!  Trust me – you will come to covet that van as if it were your own little sanctuary of sanity!

My view in my minivan!

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This is temporary

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This past weekend a friend of mine and her husband lost their daughter.  She was a bright, shining example of a child filled with love, even though many of her days were filled with sickness, feeding tubes, and endless medical procedures.  I won’t pretend that I knew her well, but in my encounters with her – I couldn’t help but love her.  She had something that made you want to do better with the time that you had. To witness this family laughing, smiling and loving with every bone in their bodies was truly inspiring.  In fact, my 2012 New Years resolution was inspired by my friend and her daughter.  “To make more with my days”  is written prominently in my kitchen and is a constant reminder to me that I must make a conscious effort to do more, make more and love more with each of my days.

Today I am sad, because I have been very close to loss in my recent past and I remember how grueling and painful the first few days are as if it were yesterday.  I haven’t written a blog in a while – and I might say it is because I am busy.  But honestly, it is because I am tired and consumed with my life in my modest home in my small town.  I look at writing like I look at working out – I’m often too tired to start but when I am done I am filled with a renewed sense of energy and zest for my life.  In this moment of reflection and sadness I need to write.  I need to make sense of the sorrow I feel for my friend and inspire myself to make more of my days once again.   If there was ever a time to dance in the rain – today is a day to learn to dance!

On Easter Griffin and Carter were six months old.  To say that I am overwhelmed when looking back at the past six months of my life would be an understatement.  I am overjoyed at their progress, and completely in love with the life that Tim and I have created for ourselves.  However hectic and tiring it may be there isn’t a day that doesn’t end with me thanking God for all that He has given me.  I am humbled to think that I could be surrounded with so much love.  From October 8th until April 8th we have made our way through what I hope will be the most difficult experience of our lives.  Griffin weighs 10.4 pounds and Carter 10.9.  They smile, coo and immediately look in my direction when I walk into a room and they hear my voice.  I am so love with these two little men, that I can’t help but miss them terribly during the few hours I take every Wednesday to get out of the house by myself.

Griffin and Carter’s journey into this world has given me another gift in addition to the gift of two beautiful sons.  I find myself calmer, more loving, and more in awe of Kennedy and Addison because the instant I look at the boys I am reminded how blessed I am to have the girls and just how fragile life can be.  Spending any amount of time in a children’s hospital is life changing.  I believe it makes you a better person, more compassionate and definitely more empathetic – or it least did me.  I am reminded that my children are a gift to cherish and to do the very best I can to help them become amazing, loving and kind adults.  I’m not ashamed to say that before the boys I was pretty strict.  Not mean, just strict with my girls.  Punctual bedtimes, proper attire, polite manners, learning ABCs and 123s, finishing veggies, and all the other “rules” I read in all my child rearing books held an important place in my parenting style.  I always led with love, even before experiencing Griffin and Carter’s fragility – but now leading with love has become my highest priority.  My girls rarely have perfect hair anymore, they usually choose their own (mismatched) outfits and I let them leave the table before finishing veggies (and I still give them dessert!).  I just don’t really care about that stuff anymore.  It just doesn’t seem that important.   Kennedy and Addison are pretty amazing – the joy they bring into our lives is overflowing.  My friend and her beautiful daughter, along with our own brush with immortality showed me just how special and perfect they are – messy hair, muddy feet, dirty finger nails and all!

I write this post sitting at my kitchen counter, sipping a glass of full-bodied red wine, listening to Sarah Bareilles radio on Pandora.  It has been a long day, a long weekend, a long six months for that matter.  Kennedy is on day three of the flu and is asleep in our bed.  Addison may be on the verge of sickness herself as this is the second night in a row she has been asleep by 6 pm.  Griffin and Carter had two doctor’s appointments today and Tim is recovering from a couple cracked ribs from his rugby game on Saturday.  So as Addie fell asleep on the couch watching Mickey and Tim did physical therapy exercises with the boys on the floor and dinner cooked in the oven I thought now was as good a time as any to gather my thoughts.  I hope they don’t sadden you, but instead remind you that all that you have in this world is to be cherished and is temporary.  Today Griffin’s occupational therapist complimented me on how calm I am, and asked if I ever got frustrated.  Well of course I get frustrated but it is so fleeting that it doesn’t leave a blemish on the gratitude I feel for the life I have been given.  My friend’s example of how to love a child, watching my sons fight to survive and losing my mother give me a perspective that I will forever regard as a gift from God.

If I have learned anything from the path that I have walked and watched those close to me walk it is this:  this is temporary.  The good and the bad, is only for this moment – take it in and do what you can to be better because of it.

Picture Update

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Let me give you a mental image:  This morning Tim left late for work because he wanted to get the girls’ breakfast and feed the dogs so I could sleep in a little (until 7:35 a.m.).  He knew that my baby (we switch boys each night to be fair) had been up since 4:50 a.m. while his had slept until 7!  Once he left I got Kennedy in the shower, made myself toast and the all important cup of coffee.  My morning “rush hour” as I call it ended with my breastfeeding both boys simultaneously while Kennedy sat in front of me reading her homework so I could comb her hair.  That was until my alarm went off blaring “I like to move it, move it…”  through out our home telling Kennedy it was time to get her shoes and jacket on.  She had one shoe securely fastened when her bus pulled up – seven minutes early!  Still breastfeeding, I threw her incomplete homework in her backpack before she slung it around her shoulders.  I shouted my “I love yous” and told her to zip up her coat and put her hood up over her sopping wet hair as she ran for her bus.  Not my best parenting but at least she was clean and going to school, right?!  Ten minutes later I finished breastfeeding and burping the boys, and settled into the couch to snuggle with the boys and Addie to watch Super Why!  Phew!

Another “rush hour” down, and I didn’t even mention my two barking dogs!  So it is clear why I haven’t had the time I would like to write on my blog.  I really want to – but my hours just slip past me and another day goes by without a post.  That is why I thought I would do a post of pictures.  That I can fit into my day – so here you go!  Here are some pictures of our family from the past couple months.  Some are from my phone, so the quality isn’t great but I don’t always have the hands free to grab my big camera.

Disclaimer

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It is not the four kids, I was made for that – in fact as I type this post Addison is climbing on me while Carter and Griffin are sleeping on my chest.  And I am loving every snuggly minute!  It isn’t that I can’t sit down without a child wiggling their way onto my lap, or wanting me to get back up to get them something.  In my house someone is usually crying, about to cry or just got done crying.  These aren’t the things that wear me down or make me so tired at night that I fall asleep before my head hits the pillow.  I am not denying that all of this can be a bit tiring at times and my husband usually has to kick me out of the house to enjoy some “me” time every week I take all of it in stride and really do feel so blessed to be a part of it.   God made me to be a mom.

Unfortunately, God didn’t make me to be a particularly tidy person, or  very organized for that matter.  I don’t like to pick up (I hear some people do, strange!)  and I detest putting away laundry.  Anyone who knew me as a teenager and saw my bedroom can attest to my weakness when it comes to putting things away!  This is where I find myself utterly exhausted.  Even if I got a full night’s sleep (which I don’t see happening anytime in the near future with two baby boys) I can’t see myself escaping the complete and overwhelming exhaustion that follows the dishes, laundry and general mess of having four kids and two dogs!  Let me clarify, I’m not gross – I do like to clean when it involves dusting, Clorox and the like – it is the picking up to get to that point which holds me back.

I have friends who have four kids, and they always seem so calm about the messy things in life – I have always admired their relaxed approach.  Now I know it is because they are too tired to exude the energy to get worked up about the small stuff.   Sure their personalities lead them to take things in stride but I bet a lot of their approach comes from their drive to survive the mess without going insane!

So this is where I sit today, at the bottom of a pile of clothes to be folded, dishes to be put away and toys to be picked up.  And I am too tired to pull myself out from under the heap!  But I will, not to worry – because if I don’t I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the park with Addie this afternoon, snuggling with the boys without guilt, or enjoy watching Kennedy master her forward roll at gymnastics because all I would be thinking about was my to do list that never gets shorter.

So instead of fretting over the mess that never goes away, I write this disclaimer:

I will be doing my best to keep up with all that goes along with four kids and two dogs.  However, if you come to my house you can expect that there will be dishes in the sink, laundry to be washed, dried, folded and put away, toys on the floor and a toy room that has a magical ability to make its own mess – no matter how much I try to organize and clean it.  So be ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work or look away – because I will be too busy being a mom to four wonderful kids to worry about impressing you with my housekeeping skills! 

Okay, enough sitting for one day…time to go do the dishes!

A month in numbers

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115:  The number of days our family spent at Children’s hospital – from my admittance to Griffin’s discharge.

98: The number of days Carter spent in the NICU.

108: The number of days Griffin spent in the NICU.

44: The number of days Carter has been home.

33: The number of days Griffin has been home, the number of days we have had our entire family together!

19: The number of doctor’s appointments the boys have had since being home.

102: The number of times Griffin’s monitor has beeped

1: The number of times Griffin’s monitor has beeped when there was an actual problem – and this was the day before he came home!

5: The number of weeks the boys would be if they had been born on my due date.

20: The actual age of the boys in weeks.

7.03: Griffin’s weight!

8.03: Carter’s weight!

Kennedy's bedtime ritual...holding each of her brothers!

Countless: The number of diapers we have changed, bottles we have washed, hours we have spent holding the boys, and times we have been caught in a moment full of gratitude and amazement at all we have come through and how well we are doing!

It has been a very busy month, there were times when I could barely keep my eyes open, or formulate a sentence from the absolute exhaustion.  There have also been times when I have been angry and sick of dealing with all that we have been given to handle.  I have had my moments where I felt sorry for myself and overwhelmed with all that goes along with raising ex micro preemies.  But then I snap out of it – often afer a reassuring talk with Tim.  All in all, we feel exceedingly grateful for all that we have been given, even if it does mean worrying a little bit more!  I won’t sugar coat it, having two “newborns” at home with special needs, a two-year old who shows no fear and a five-year old who has stories to tell is a lot of work.  I am sometimes moody,  frequently looking disheveled and always tired!  But I have also never been happier, never felt more fulfilled as a mom, never had such an acute sense of appreciation for all of the wonderful and ordinary moments that happen in my day.

Griffin and Carter are doing so well I hate to write it out loud in fear of jinxing our good fortune!  Carter now only requires oxygen and monitors while sleeping, and after a very scary past couple of weeks his eyes are finally showing improvements and we are increasingly optimistic about his vision future.  He smiles when he sleeps, and continues to be a very content and calm little man.  Griffin is officially wire free as of Thursday and other than his reflux his issues seem to all be subsiding.  He is quite the  snuggler and has already learned how to manipulate his way into our arms, tonight he intentionally smiled at me, so wonderful.  I freely admit that they both have our family wrapped around their little fingers!

Addie, such a proud big sister!

We have another Lung Center appointment in a couple of weeks and hope that by then Carter’s lungs will have improved enough to get rid of the oxygen all together.  To say we are ready for the day when both of our boys are free from wires and tubes would be a colossal understatement!!

I do miss the NICU, as strange as that may sound.  The staff there had become so much a part of our daily lives and we owe them so much for all that they have done for us.  After the boys came home it was as if we lost our friends and support system.  I still keep in touch with a few people but it is still so odd not to see them everyday after they played such a major role in our family for so long.

It is because of the amazing treatment we received in the NICU that we have decided to make the March for Babies a major event for our family.  This year we have formed a team and will walk in honor of our three ex-preemies and to help to raise funds for treatment for future preemies.  What modern medicine can do to not only keep tiny little fighters like ours alive but help them to thrive is nothing short of amazing and our goal is to forever honor our journey by raising money for the March of Dimes.  If you would like to donate to our team, or better yet – join us on April 29th for the March for Babies visit our team pageEvery little bit helps, every walker counts!

What a great day it will be to walk with Griffin and Carter, in a walk to raise awareness and funds for premature births knowing that only six months earlier they weighed only 1.08 lbs and were fighting to survive.  Nothing short of a miracle!