Thursday, April 16, 2009

Puncture Day!

On a quick trip to the grocery store today, I picked up a nice fresh sub sandwich as a treat for my husband since we'd had nothing appetizing for him to make for lunch the night before. We got chatting with the deli employee and our conversation went exactly like this:

Deli Lady referencing the kids: 'I just LOVE their red hair'

Smiling, as I often do in response to the same statement from many people I say: 'Thanks'

Deli Lady: 'your kids really are adorable, so beautiful - they have such gorgeous eyes'

Me, smiling again 'Thank you'

Deli Lady: 'wow, they must look like their Dad, huh?'

O.U.C.H!!!!! My punctured ego!

After leaving the grocery store we headed straight for my husband's work to deliver his sandwich. A few miles down the road I hear the tell tale 'f-dump, f-dump, f-dump' accompanied by a loud BANG!

Oh, my punctured tire!

(It's really a tyre you know, but we'll not quibble about it now.)

A call to my husband brought out the Knight in Shining Armour in him and in minutes he came galloping on his trusty steed (okay, he trundled along in his ten year old Ford Ranger. Whatever.) and he rescued this Damsel in Distress.

(How is it that men know exactly where the jack is, how to get the spare out and can heft a Ford Expedition off the ground to change a tyre tire in a jiffy?) (I didn't even know where the spare was! Oh yeah, I'm such a self sufficient modern woman, huh?)

Pleased with his stellar job and proud of his Super Dad status, hubs said goodbye to the kids and I and we started up our respective vehicles.


I attempted to start up mine but the heap of junk, car wouldn't co-operate. Thankfully hubs witnessed the car in all it's petulance and trundled off in search of jump leads (because you know I'm not smart enough to carry my own, right? - nor him apparently).

He got us started a few minutes later and we were on our way home, on a wing and not a few prayers. My car is 5 years old and has very low miles - it's not a clunker by any means, but it sure felt like it today.

Diagnosis on inspection this evening is I needed a new battery and the tire can't be fixed.

NO!!! My punctured wallet!

Please let this be it for now - my husband is going to Ireland next week for a week. I don't know any more Knights to call in his absence!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wrestling with our Social Consciences.

At this point I'd say it's safe to assume that everyone is feeling the effects of the ongoing financial crisis. If not in tangible terms through a reduced income, lost job, or home foreclosure, then in the intangible terms of fear and anxiety over what may lie ahead.

I don't spend every day in angst over the state of the world's finances, and about unknown factors that could directly, or indirectly affect our family. I can't worry about things that I am powerless to control, (took me a while to get here, huh?). I do however have a heightened awareness as most of you do, that things are rocky and it seems prudent to take stock, pull our horns in and make wise choices that will improve our personal financial foundation.

As the holder of the purse strings, it falls to me to manage our household finances and I have recently taken steps to reduce our spending. My biggest success so far has been in reducing our grocery expenditure and our phone bill. I am couponing and learning from these wonderful sites and from local friends whom I've adopted as coupon mentors (they don't seem to mind!). I am enjoying pretty impressive savings, and get a real buzz in the process. We have also switched our phone service from a traditional phone company, to a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) provider and are saving around 75% on our phone bill, which is great considering the transatlantic phone calls we make.

My main reason for doing this was so that we can finish paying off my car and crank up our savings. In January our plans took a set back with the announcement from my husband's employer that all employees were subject to a pay cut. This was not entirely unforeseen since it's been clear that business is way down these days, but hard to take all the same.

After a day or so of figuring out what this pay cut would mean, and an overall assessment that we are lucky that my husband's job is secure (for now), we are grateful for what we have and for the fact that our frugal measures would stand to us with a reduced income.

While counting our blessings, we are acutely aware that so many people are not so lucky. As each day brings more stories of homeless families, desperate people taking drastic and desperate measures, some with devastating results my conscience is pricked ever more, what should I be doing, what can I do?

I have written about this kind of thing before, and have received great encouragement from others, especially from Jen at One Plus Two - but of course, excuses come up, busy life with my two kids, and focusing on what we need first... After an initial flurry of determination - beyond small financial contributions, my efforts to help are not what they could be.

I hear news stories about food banks running low on donations, about thrift stores seeing increased numbers of customers, and simultaneously receiving less in terms of donated merchandise.

And, I struggle. I feel like we're doing what we can to protect our family - and yet, knowing that we have so much more than other families, I feel selfish for taking measures that effectively leave me less to give. I feel guilty that this is what is happening in many homes across the country and is what is causing the shortages in the food banks etc.

My coupon clipping of late has opened up an opportunity for me to continue to save money, and still donate to the food banks - and this is great, but is not without some conscience wrestling on my part. The thing is - many of the products that go on sale at the grocery store, and for which there are multiple coupons each week, are for prepackaged soups, mac n cheese, canned meals etc. If I combine these coupons with what's on sale, I can get these items for pennies on the dollar oftentimes, and can donate them. I wouldn't feed these items to my family - and so I ask myself if I consider them not as good as the from scratch meals I cook myself, why do I palm them off as 'good enough' for a struggling family? I don't have the answer to this - I feel like a food snob, but I have to assume that some food is better than none for a hungry family. I can't shake the feeling though - maybe I'm over thinking it?

Meanwhile, I have a four year old whom is becoming increasingly inquisitive about life, and how she fits in the grand scheme of things. At Mass she sees the Poor Box, and the little Lenten rice bowls like the one we have in our kitchen, and she understands that these are there to collect money for those less fortunate. As much as a four year old can, she gets it that she's in a better position than some. Aware that she's of an age where I can start shaping in her a solid social conscience I try to encourage her to think of others, and I involve her in sorting through her outgrown clothes and toys and with a little persuasion, she will willingly give them away so another little girl can enjoy them as much as she did.

On Sunday, Miss E put the grocery bags in the wagon outside our church and expressed concern that we were giving away our food. What followed was a conversation that started off simple enough, 'these are extra things that Mommy bought so I could give them away for families that don't have enough to eat'... and ended up with me worrying that I was loading her up with too much information that might feed her rather active imagination and cause her fear.

So, I work on balancing that fine line of giving my child an appreciation of all the good things she enjoys that some don't without scaring her or rocking her securities. We have little chats now and then as the opportunity arises where I can reinforce the concept that we need to take care of ourselves, and those in our community.

Then I wonder, when I seem to think and talk about these issues way more than I act, I have to ask, 'how solid is my own social conscience?' 'What more could I be doing?'

I understand that children learn best from what they see - I know that my husband and I need to be the example for Miss E and her brother. Once again I find myself taking small steps to contribute in a more tangible and meaningful way. Recently, I participated in a small way in a local event that involved painting the exterior of a house for an elderly woman in town. While I didn't have Miss E with me, I did tell her all about it and her response was 'I wish I could come and paint and help someone' - she knows that I felt good having done it - and I'll certainly consider taking her to the next event. I'm encouraged that she's starting to form her social conscience, which is great considering that most four year olds are still pretty ego centric.

Our collective social conscience remains a work in progress - and I am all ears to any suggestions on how to more actively contribute with my time, particularly any suggestions that involve the kids.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Mark of my Faith

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday when Catholics attend Mass and receive ashes on their forehead.

These ashes are applied in the sign of the cross with the words 'Remember you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.'

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a period that is meant to echo Christ's forty days in the desert. A time when we are called to make sacrifices designed to sharpen our focus on Christ's sacrifice for us, and on how we should live our lives in His light.

At least, this is my basic or simplified understanding of Lent - and it is one that I've followed with varying degrees of success or failure (mostly the latter I'm ashamed to say) over the years.

Jay and I received our ashes at Mass yesterday morning while Miss E was at school. We turned up to collect her a little while later and a few steps in the gate of the school I felt the stares, and one mother came right up to me and said 'I have to tell you, you have grease all over your forehead, did you know?'

I instantly felt bad - I felt bad for her that she was trying to be nice and was telling me in case I didn't know, that my face was 'dirty' - but I also felt incredibly awkward in having to explain that it was not grease.

The penny dropped quickly for this mom and she said 'oh yeah, it's Ash Wednesday' then her next question 'Aren't you supposed to wash that off?' And I briefly answered, 'no - part of the point of having the ashes is to wear them all day as a mark of faith'

This happened me last year also, albeit that it was with someone a little more rude.

These experiences bring a multitude of questions for me. Clearly, many people are not aware that ashes are part of the Ash Wednesday ritual for some and this strikes me as odd initially - since I come from an area where the population is pretty much 50% Catholic and 50% non-Catholic - but the non-Catholic population by and large is aware that Catholics receive ashes on Ash Wednesday and so it's not that big of a deal and rarely elicits comments, at least in my experience.

Deeper than this though are the questions these experiences raise about my Catholic faith and how uncomfortable it makes me to have to defend it or explain it - and then I wonder if my discomfort comes from the fact that I don't feel 100% confident in explaining it correctly - and at 36 and a lifelong Catholic, shouldn't I be confident?

Part of my reticence to discuss my faith comes I'm sure from a bad experience after Miss E was born from an Evangelical Christian who pretty much told me Catholicism was wrong, that it was not a true Christian faith and that I was wrong to have Miss E baptised a Catholic. This is a person who loves God, and does on the whole embody what it means to be a Christian - but she refuses to see that we agree on so, so many areas - we are both followers of Christ, the only difference is that I choose to be so within the 'family' of the Catholic Church.

Maybe it's because 'Religion' is one of those taboo topics, like politics, many people don't like to discuss their faith - or hear of someone else's, and so the general trend is to keep mum, and brush it all under the carpet as something personal and private.

But isn't this absolutely contra to the message that Christ give us - to spread the Good News?

I know the answer to this question - yet I am somewhat uncomfortable in discussing my Christian faith in general, or my Catholic faith in particular with people. So does this mean I don't have the strength of faith I thought I had? Maybe - and I'm pretty sure this needs a little work on my part.

Part of what comes as being a life long Catholic is that you fall into a pattern of attending Mass each week, on holidays and holy days - because, that's what you do. But, how much of that time is spent truly absorbing the word of God, and applying that to our lives, families, passing it on to our kids? Like I said, I have work to do.

My parish has a number of Lenten programs running where parishioners have the opportunity to discuss and inquire about our Catholic faith. The fact that these exist reassures me that I may not be alone in feeling this way.

I expect this post will go the same way as my only post on politics - I'll hear cricket's chirping for days! However, please do share what helps you share your faith, if you're happy to do so.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Adventures in Sleep Training

We have reached a major milestone! Miss E, my first born, my daughter of four years and four months, is sleeping through the night!

Quite an accomplishment. It only took her just about four years longer than her peers to do. But hey - that’s my Miss E all over - does things her own way, and in her own time.

I shouldn’t really claim that she’s sleeping all the way through the night. She isn’t quite, but the advances we’ve seen at night are close enough and the quality of my sleep has improved so much she might as well be sleeping all the way through.

Miss E has always been a lousy sleeper. She woke frequently at night as an infant and I, like every mother, instinctively got up, fed her, and settled her back to sleep. As she got older - she still woke frequently, and I did find myself asking ‘shouldn’t this baby be sleeping through the night by now?’ Being a breastfed baby was always the reason offered as to why she wasn’t. None of my friends had nursed their babies and their formula fed babies were in blissful slumber while my lassie was up for milk and shenanigans several times a night. I accepted this as the consequence of my choice to exclusively breastfeed and I was happy enough with that assuming that eventually she’d get it and sleep all night.

A first time mother - I knew no better. Having what we knew very early on was a ‘demanding’ child - I should have known better.

We let a habit develop into her toddler years, and into the preschool stage where Miss E was up several times a night. Looking for a drink, not wanting to be on her own, claiming fear of the dark.

Miss E started scaling her crib and managed to get out at 18 months - after a few successful but fraught with danger escape attempts, we transferred her to a 'big girl's bed' shortly afterwards.
A beautiful big girl's bed - but not enticing enough it seemed to keep our girl in there all night.

Nightlights, background noise, leaving the door open - we tried it all - nothing worked and every.single.night Miss E landed in our bed.
Too tired to face a battle of wills in the dead of night - we allowed her in thinking she needed the reassurance and sure, what harm was it doing?

The bigger Miss E got, the less room we all had. Regularly she would bring some of her friends in with her!

The more she kicked and lashed out in discomfort - the harder it was for either of her parents to get anything resembling a decent night’s sleep.

Meanwhile, her brother two years her junior - also exclusively breastfed was sleeping all the way through the night - 12 hours straight since he was about 6 or 7 months old - so that blew our original excuses out of the water!

Knowing that Miss E was in this bad habit didn’t make it any easier to break it.

We started off with a two part plan. I should explain that connected to this lousy sleep habit was the fact that actually going to bed was a huge battle as well. Our plan was that we’d deal with the going to bed part first - and tackle the night wakings (and wanderings) later. About nine months ago we got all Supernanny on Miss E and enforced a strict bedtime, a strict bedtime routine and after about 5 nights of prolonged screaming - we were dealing with a child who was settling herself off to sleep with minimal fuss by 7:30 each night! With a few blips following our trip to Ireland, and around Christmas time where we seemed to regress - she has been doing great - and is off to bed with nothing more than the normal stalling tactics that every kid pulls - nothing we can’t manage and settle within a few minutes.

The second part of the plan? The victim of procrastination. And laziness. Who wants to have a fight with their kid in the middle of the night? When it literally stings your eyes to open them and handle a disgruntled child, apt to burst into a flailing tempest of indignation at any attempt we might make to settle her back in her own bed.

My kid is 42 inches long, and 42lbs. We have a queen sized bed. Arms and legs flung in the dark of night landing square in your guts will motivate like nothing else I’ve known. Enough was enough - and into her own bed she was going whether she liked it or not.

Thinking back to my experience of potty training her - I was pretty sure if I could find the right motivator - reward, heck call it what it is - BRIBE - I’d probably get her to stay in her own bed. The carrot and stick approach has worked for us before - I just had to figure out what to use this time.

Our city has just opened a fabulous new park. A real testament to the power of mothers - this park is the realization of a dream of two local mothers with special needs kids who felt there weren’t enough areas where able bodied and physically challenged kids could play alongside each other. This park is like nothing I’ve ever seen. The equipment and layout so perfectly designed - it’s every kid’s dream come true.

Miss E, Jay and I had a short visit to this park and Miss E was absolutely DYING to get back. I had my carrot - and struck a deal with Miss E that if she could show me that she could stay all night in her own bed - we’d take her back to the park.

Miss E, shockingly, immediately accepted this deal and knew that when we had seven ticks (check marks) on the calendar - that we’d be going to the park the next day.
Worked like a charm!

She did continue to wake up during the night - and she did protest being put back in her bed - but much less than we had expected. She knew her access to that cool park was completely dependent on her staying put.

We started this in the middle of January - and touch wood - it’s going REALLY well! Miss E still wakes up at least once a night - and comes to our room - but one of us escorts her right back to her bed, tucks her in and she (and we) get to go straight back to sleep.

To any of you reading this post that might be thinking ‘duh, you should have done this when she was a baby’, I agree - we should have. Who knows why we avoid what is patently obvious - sometimes it takes us a bit longer to ‘get’ what other parents have been doing all along. Maybe we’re just masochists - we have to learn things the hard way!

To those of you reading that might have a toddler or a preschooler with the bad habits Miss E had - I say grab the bull by the horns and do what you have to do to sleep train them. Your child will sleep better, and so will you!

I have no doubt that better sleep is what’s helping me lift my mood lately.

If you’ve successfully sleep trained a child - share your tips here - who knows, sharing a success story here or there could help another exhausted parent!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Just because...

I'm not sure if this is the norm in every household, or if I'm particularly slack in the photo department, but I do have to confess that I have fewer photos of Jay, than I do of his sister at the same age.

I don't really have a good excuse other than when we're heading off somewhere, sadly the camera is the last thing I think to pack.

Thankfully, I know other, more organized moms, one of whom we met at the park on Friday for a play date.

She took these pictures of Jay enjoying his cupcake while his sister and her pals played on the slides.

I'm sharing them here along with the resolution, (it's that time of year after all), that I will be taking many more photos of my little man. So be prepared to be inundated with all his handsomeness!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas!

I know most people here say 'Merry Christmas' - but I'm sticking with 'Happy' - as it's what we've always said.

So, Happy Christmas from all of us, to all of you!

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Busy but Benign"

That's what the surgeon said to me yesterday!

I have no breast cancer, and nothing to worry about!

He told me that I have Fibrocystic Breast Disease and the pathology findings were consistent with that condition.

The calcification they removed is benign.

You have NO idea the huge relief this is for me - aside from the obvious.

On Wednesday, I got a phone call from the Radiologist who did the biopsy procedure. Her information was slightly different.

She told me the calc was benign, but they found another area of 'disorganized cells' which in 30%-40% of times becomes 'something bad'. She also said it wouldn't show up on a mammogram until it was 'really bad'. Her recommendation was that I go ahead and have a surgeon do an excisional biopsy.

You can imagine what that did for the old stress-o-meter!

I went to my surgeon's appointment then waiting for him to tell me all of this too. He simply read the report through with me and told me I was in the clear!

I told him what the Radiologist had discussed with me - and he again went through the report telling me it said nothing about disorganized cells, no evidence of atypia at all - just healthy, albeit lumpy, tissue! And, under no circumstances did I need an excisional biopsy. He was quite irritated that I'd been told otherwise.

This surgeon is a very nice, very no-nonsense kind of guy. I trust him 100% - and happily take his diagnosis!

So a weight off my mind to be sure.

Now if I could just get my little man a clean bill of health we'd be good.

We were back with Jay at the doc's today - fifth time in 3 weeks. I think I'm due my own parking space there at this point!

Poor little mite after three weeks in which he's had croup, pneumonia, croup again, congestion and a bad cough (which I was paranoid was a pneumonia relapse) - now has an ear infection!

Please, please let this be the end of it!