Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 In Review

2013: A year in review

Amazingly enough, this is a tradition that dates back 8 years! Welcome to the 2013 edition.

Sum Up Your Year In A Nutshell

2013: Last year, I ended this post by saying that "2013 will have its work cut out for it if its going to top this one." Amazingly enough, I think it did. This year was one of the most eventful, exhausting, amazing years of my life. I have become a better mother, friend, wife and person than I ever thought I could- and have learned that I still have much work to do on all those fronts before becoming the person I really want to be.  This was a year of birth, of renewal and of growth. It was also a year of endings, of turbulence and of hardship. It was an exceptional year on all fronts, and I'm glad it's over. ;)
1) What did you do in 2013 that you have never done before?
Held my daughter in my arms. Charlize Andree-Anne was welcomed into our family on February 20th, 2013. 
2) Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions and will you make more next year?
Last year's answer: Yes, and no. (See next post). I will be making new "resolutions", but these are more guiding principles than actual tangible goals.  The one thing I am learning to (slowly) accept is that life has a way of handing you unpredictable hurdles and that- while goals are important- focusing on flexibility and adaptability are more important life skills for me than accomplishing specific tasks. 
This year's answer: I think that, for the most part, I met the goals I outlined for myself last New Years. I have come a long way in terms of flexibility and rolling with life's punches.  
My "word" for the 2014 is "ADAPTABILITY"- this has also become my life's mantra.  It's a life long journey, but I have the two best tour guides in the world ;)
3) Did someone close to you give birth in 2013?

Mine was the first of the 2013 babies in my life, but quick on my heels were baby Hailey, baby Ethan, Baby Sophia, and Baby Flynn (to name just a few from my closest friends). 
4) Did someone close to you die?

No one close to me died, but I did feel the grief of friends of mine who lost their loved ones this year. My heart continues to with them.  

5) What countries did you visit?

This was the first year in forever that we didn't go anywhere. Like, we didn't even leave central Alberta except for a few trips to Stettler and Calgary. Wow. We're lame. Also, traveling with Sam is a task easier said than done.

6) What did you lack in 2013 that you would like more of in 2014? 

Time. I never seem to have enough time.

7) What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory? 
February 20th, the day my heart grew two whole sizes!
Also, Sam's first day of school, Charlie's first Christmas, Sam's first Christmas concert, and every single word my son spoke for the first time. <3 Also, this year we finally "officially" welcomed a new sister into our family in a perfect wedding that made me smile from cheek to cheek! 

8) What was your biggest achievement of the year? 
Balancing a newborn, special needs parenting, school schedules, various appointments/therapies, social programming, sensory diets, food restrictions/aversions, taking on a musical, and going back to work has been tremendously difficult. Most days I come out unscathed. That's an achievement, right?

9) What was your biggest failure?
While I'm not sure I would characterize it as a "failure", per say, failing to account for "me" time was something I really struggled with. I definitely need to find the time for the everyday "me" things (she types, as she sits, unshowered and in her pajamas, with a sleeping baby balancing on her lap.)

10) Did you suffer injury or illness?
The "saga" of fertility/pregnancy/labour health related issues ended with a relatively easy  Some complications arising from the birth, but nothing compared to what we had experienced in the past. While it is hard to accept that my "child bearing years" are past me, despite the fact that I would probably continue to have kids until I had my own colony, I know that our family is finally complete with Charlie's arrival.

11) What was the best purchase you made? 
My Blentec was amazing. Going gluten free/dairy free with Sam came with many challenges, the biggest being that we now have to make almost all our food from scratch. I would be lost without that thing. Also, we just got a new Macbook- it was definitely time to retire the old one, which served us faithfully for over 6 years.

12) Whose behaviour merited the most celebration?
This always a really tough one. I am surrounded by some amazing people. But this year, the answer is a LOT easier than it has been in the past. The one person who blew my mind this year with his achievements is unquestionably Sammie. Every day, in every way, I am amazed at the little man he is becoming. He takes on his obstacles with grace and determination, and a presence of mind that many adults would be well served by. While we still have a long road ahead of us when it comes to meeting all of his needs, Sammie's development is a daily reminder that he is EXACTLY who he is meant to be and that his potential is truly untapped and endless. I am so very proud of him, and so much better for having him in my life.

13) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? 
As always, I will not name names nor will I point out one or two people. Instead, I will chose to focus on specific behaviours and patterns that particularly annoyed me this year. 

There is one thing in particular that I have learned that I have little patience for: parents who treat their children as inconveniences to be managed instead of human beings to be loved, respected, and uplifted.  

In the world of special needs parenting, we have definitely been exposed to all types of families and while I certainly can not tell anyone how to live their lives, there is very little more heartbreaking than hearing parents talk about how "hard" or "awful" or "bad" their children are. Yes, sometimes it is definitely challenging to have a child with a disability. But these are not "bad" kids. And you don't deserve praise or a medal for having a "harder time" with them than other parents do. The fact of the matter is that parenting is hard. It is hard for special needs parents and it is hard for non-special needs parents. But it's what you signed up for. You owe it to your children to give it your all, and not blame them for the things that go wrong in your life.

So yeah, that was probably my biggest pet peeve this year.

14) Where did most of your money go?

Actually, we made some surprisingly good financial decisions this year and are ending it consumer debt free. We still spend a lot more on luxuries than we need to, but our priorities have shifted to providing our kids with everything they need. This was definitely the year that we matured into responsible financial adults, and I am really proud of that.

15) What did you get really really excited about?

Overall, it was an exciting year, but the birth of Charlie was the one thing I got "really" excited about. She is a wonder- a true force to be reckoned with. I've never met a person quite like her and I can't wait to see the beautiful woman she will grow into. (But I am terrified of the toddler years, because she has a VERY spirited side to her...)

16) What song will always remind you of 2013?
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"- the first song Sammie ever hummed intentionally. Hearing him sing, with absolutely perfect pitch, was one of the greatest moments of my life.  This is followed closely by "Up On The Rooftop", the first song that Sam ever "joined in" with, giving a hearty "ho ho ho" during the chorus while his dad, uncle, aunt and I caroled down Candy Cane Lane. It was amazing. 

17) Compared to this time last year, are you?
Happier or hardened? Happier. I don't know if I've ever been this happy. And I think most of the "hardened" side of me has softened out, alone with my waistline ;)
Thinner or fatter? Thinner. I was in my third trimester with Charlie this time last year. And, overall, I am thinner this year than I have been in many, many years- and hopefully this trend will continue.
Richer or poorer? Richer- in more ways than one.

18) What do you wish you'd done more of?
I always wish that I would spend more time actually playing with my kids, but the one thing I really wish is that I'd had more one on one with Jason. Charlie is a very high maintenance baby and we only got our first date night in December of this year. Even then, it was short and very stressful for her (and my poor mom, who had to listen to her cry.)  I am looking forward to getting some more time with Jason as Charlie becomes a better sleeper...fingers crossed.

19) What do you wish you'd less of?
I wish I'd spent less time arguing with strangers on Facebook. I have this "debater" side to me that constantly feels the need to discuss every topic, no matter how futile the discussion. This has caused me a great deal of unnecessary stress and it is something I plan on better managing next year.

20) How did you spend Christmas?
Surrounded by my family and friends. It was a lovely holiday, filled with "ho ho ho".

21) Did you fall in love in 2013?
More and more every day. I could not be more deeply in love with my husband if I tried, and I am deeply grateful for the life we have built together.

22) Any one night stands? 
Nope.Ha ha. This question makes me laugh every year. I've never really been the "one night stand" kind of person to begin with.

23) What was your favourite program?
I'm a creature of habit, so my favourites are the same every year (West Wing, Lost, 24, Community, etc.) but I did greatly enjoy watching "How I Met Your Mother" this year. I also have a seriously guilty pleasure for "Gossip Girl"- it's like a flashback of all the trashy teen novels I used to love as a kid. 

24) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year?
I have released myself of hatred. That sounds corny, but it's true. I did end several relationships, some with more sadness than others, but I have absolutely no ill will towards any of them. 

25) What was the best book you read?
I admit- I LOVED the "Hunger Games"...

26) What was your greatest musical discovery?
 This may not be the answer this question is looking for, but this year I "rediscovered" my love of musical theater and stage work and will be beginning 2014 with "Tales of Two Cities". I'm definitely dusty and rusty, but am having a wonderful time with the production.

27) What did you want, and get?
Baby, out on the outside of my belly. Mission: Accomplished. ;) Also, a new espresso machine. This sleep deprived mom needs all the caffeine she can get.

28) What did you want, and not get?
Not much, actually. We are finally in a place where if we want something, we can get it. Though we did buy a whole bunch of new flooring which we haven't had a chance to put in yet. So yeah, that's annoying. 

29) Favourite film of this year?
Man, I really didn't watch many movies this year. I enjoyed "Les Mis", for the nostalgia more than the performances. I thought "The Sessions" to be really moving as well. And my drunken, live tweeting marathon of Twilight was epic and awesome. 

30) What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
We went swimming to Servus. It was all very dramatic- my brother's badge got stolen and police got involved. It was crazy and chaotic. But all turned out well and the badge was recovered.

31) What is one thing that would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More sleep. The lack of sleep definitely made this one a more challenging one than in the past. May was particularly difficult, as Sam's sleep had regressed down to 2 or 3 hours a night, total. But since going gluten free, we have seen massive improvements on this front. Now, if only we could convince his sister to follow suit...

32) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Um. "It's clean. It'll do." I finally bought myself an ENTIRELY new wardrobe last week. I will be starting off 2014 by purging any piece of clothing that is older than 3 years and/or too damn big for me.

33) What kept you sane? Family, friends and Sammie and Charlie's awesomeness.

34) Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I don't really have celebrity crushes. They really aren't my thing.

35) What political issue stirred you the most? 
Probably the Remand Strike. Followed closely by the overly dramatized "Fatal Care" series, that proved to me that journalists care more about themselves than the safety of our most vulnerable population. Many idols fell that week...

36) Who do you miss?
My dad. And my family/friends who are far away.

37) Who was the best new person you met? 
I met many amazing new people, most specifically linked to Sammie's school. But the one person who has made a huge impact on me this year is Grace Wong and her amazing son, Marcus. Having the support and advice of a parent who has journeyed this path before us has made an incredible difference in my life.

38) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
As I did last year, I will sum this up with a few quotes:

“Autists are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It's that you're destroying the peg.” ― Paul Collins

"A daughter is a miracle that never ceases to be miraculous...full of beauty and forever beautiful...loving and caring and truly amazing." -- Deanna Beisser
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close." Pablo Neruda 

39) Quote a song lyrics that sums up your year:
"Everything (Between Us)" (Liz Phair)

We have everything we need here
We have everything between us
You have nothing left to fear dear
Cause it ain't ever gonna leave us

We might get a room downtown now
Get away for a half day
We might drave a car to the next town
Get away from our family

Let your body move real slow
Tell your body we left yesterday
Let your body hold me close
Let your body move you
We have everything we need here
We have everything between us

You have nothing left to fear dear
Cause it ain't ever gonna leave us

Let your body move real slow
Tell your body we left yesterday
Let your body hold me close
Let your body move you

Let your body move real slow
Tell your body we left yesterday
Let your body hold me close
Let your body move you

Let your body move real slow
Tell your body we left yesterday
Let your body hold me close
Let your body move you

We have everything we need here
We have everything between us

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

He shines

Every minute of every passing day, I am rendered speechless by him.

He shines, brighter than the sun, breaking through the darkness between us to touch my spirit and my soul.

One by one, the smiles become brighter. His focus is more present. His eyes are somehow more aware.
He looks at me and his gaze sends shivers down my spine. He sees into me, through me, and I see myself through him. His hand reaches out to mine- a connection so real, so tangible.

Every day, more and more, my son chooses to step out of his world and into mine.

We connect and are one with each other, happily co-existing...different but complimentary, built for each other, despite our different outlooks and understandings. There is a growing peace between us. I no longer fear this unknown journey. He reminds me to always have faith that we are exactly as we are meant to be, perfect in our imperfections.

He is happiness, incarnate.

Today was Sammie's first Christmas concert.

It may sound mundane to some, but for me this was a milestone that I have dreamt of since I first began to envision my life as a mother. To celebrate family, peace, love and laughter with my child is, to me, the very essence of what it means to be a parent. It is a time that unites us and where every miracle seems possible.

Today was one of those days that reminded me of just how far we have come on our journey together. Today was filled with miracles.

As I walked into the crowded room, literally bursting with noise, excitement and anticipation, I made a rookie move. I couldn't help myself. I desperately wanted to see my boy- to show him that I was here, ready and waiting to celebrate this happy occasion with him.

It didn't take me long to find him, squirming in the arms of his aid, his piercing eyes taking in all the activity around him.

His eyes found mine, and we connected.

I was thrilled and waved enthusiastically to him! "Hi baby!"

It took him a second to register what was happening...Mom was here!

And he decided that he DESPERATELY wanted to say hi as well.

Of course, this wasn't the time for visiting. Sammie had to wait with his class. They were the first the go on the stage, and he needed to be ready.

And so there were tears of anger and frustration at being held back from coming to welcome me.

I'll admit, a part of my heart broke watching him struggle. I wanted to take him into my arms and reassure him that everything would be alright.

But there was also a part of me that was joyful. He *wanted* me. He *needed* me. He knew that I was there, was aware of me despite the crowd, and wanted to come to me.  And while I wish he didn't feel so frustrated in that moment, my heart soared at the knowledge that he knew that he belonged with me.

There is always a silver lining....

I would like to say that the tears passed quickly. But his frustration was not abated by any of the efforts of his skilled team. My little guy knew what he wanted and would not settle until he got it. So he struggled his way though his song (Up On The Rooftop) and at the very end, gave a big smile when he was finally released. He ran into my arms for a great big bear hug!

We spent the rest of the concert together, dancing, holding hands and playing games with each other as the other classes did their presentations. When he felt overwhelmed, he rested his face into the crook of my neck, the way he did when he was just an infant. He found his safety and security in me.

And from the moment he jumped into my arms, no tears were shed.

Parenting expectations are funny things. I know many people who would have been frustrated, even angry, at their children for being "that kid" who cried through the entire song. I know many parents who would have been disappointed that his bow tie was crooked or that he had peanut butter in his hair.  I know many parents that would have wanted to see him, sitting peacefully and obediently beside his teachers, waiting for his turn to be called.

In a different time, at a different place, I might have felt the same way. In fact, I know that I would have.

But if there has been one gift that I have been given in this unexpected parenting journey it is this:
Reality far exceeds expectations, if only you learn the cherish the what is instead of the what might have been. 

We do not count the beads of sweat on the face of the victorious marathon winner.

We do not

The victories in life happen when and where we least expect them.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I dropped the ball...ish

Well, sort of. I quit before the end of my NABLOPOMO challenge last November. I didn't forget about it as much as I consciously decided to step away for a few weeks.

The thing about blogging is that it is therapeutic for me. It is a place where I can organize my thoughts, share my feelings, and record the memorable moments of our lives.

But sometimes, it isn't therapeutic. Sometimes it is stressful and too much. And when it is, I take a step back- from the blog, and usually from social media in general because I find that the two go hand in hand. I don't step back because the blog makes me unhappy, but I do step away from it because it is time consuming. And if I am "unhappy", it almost always means that I have been misallocating my time and messing with my very delicate life balance.

So I walk away for a week. Or two. Or a month. Maybe more. It doesn't matter.

What does matter is what I do instead.

Last month, instead of blogging, I snuggled with my husband.

I read stories to my babies.

I had long phone dates late at night with my friends.

I drank a few too many glasses of wine.

I put up my Christmas tree.

I cleaned out my storage room (a project I've been procrastinating on for years).

I bought all my Christmas gifts.

I watched some favourite movies.

I took some long baths.

I spent too much time stressing about politics.

I visited with my family.

I played trains with Sammie.

I taught Charlie how to clap and how to say "HUZZAH" when she is excited.

I slowed down.

I made memories.

And, slowly, I started to feel better and I started to take control over the things that were causing me unhappiness and stress.

Because as therapeutic as this space is, there is no therapy greater than spending more time with the ones that I love.

So now I am back, and I'm doing another "challenge" (which I will write about right away). I can't promise you that I will be faithful to it, but I can tell you that I am going to enjoy it.

And if I don't, I will simply walk away and live to blog another day.