First Day of School V.2012

The 5th installment is done. Thank you for your patience. We hope you like it.

And, for fun, here are the first four.

2008

2009

2010

2011

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Don’t Blink

And just like that, my Big Girl, my baby, my honeybee, took the fast track to growing up. I hid behind the camera videotaping her grade 8 valedictory address last night to keep me from blubbering.  I was so proud of her.  Achieving that honour was a long-term goal she set back in September and she was reaping the rewards of her hard work up there on the stage.  I tried my best to coach her throughout the year and even on her speech without micromanaging, because I knew that this is the point in your parenting career where your job is about loosening your grip.  Your instructions become more zoom-out in nature; more about making them calculate the consequences themselves and less about checking their homework or enforcing a 9pm bedtime.

As I was enjoying that proud parent moment at the ceremony, I descended into the depths of Ugly Momness for about half a minute.  I gave my Little Girl the evil-eye-while-talking-through-my-teeth twice as she stumbled with the camera.  And my dad caught it on video.  Please, Dad, don’t post that on YouTube and instead save the file in the Hall of Shame folder.  He showed me the video and we laughed, but I was disgusted with myself.  It was an embarrassing testament to my ability to multi-task.  I apologized to her and everything was seemingly okay after that, but I’m sad to know that I rendered 30 seconds of both our lives worthless.

At the same time, half way around the world, my cousin was burying his four year old son.  The unthinkable had happened to him, his wife and two young boys now longing for their brother.  It is a long journey ahead for this family and any way I describe how my heart aches for them would be an understatement.

Where am I getting with all this?

Don’t forget the value of your job as a parent, whether you planned to be one or not.  It is a calling and a responsibility.  You don’t do this job within certain hours.  Work hard to be a good parent every minute of every day.  Lead by example.  Say sorry when you make mistakes.  Hold their hand.  Kiss them goodnight twice whenever you feel like.  Be constructive with your discipline.  Tell them you love them.  Pay attention.  Talk to them.  Don’t waste time.  Enjoy them.

And whatever you do, don’t blink.

The Godfather

My parents chose my dad’s twin brother to be my godfather, or Ninong, when I was baptized shortly after I was born.  Growing up, though, I didn’t quite see him that way.  I was too busy delighting with my siblings in the idea that half way across the planet there was a dude who was just like our father.  We lovingly referred to him as Tito (Uncle) Daddy.  He and his family would visit Canada, or we would visit the Philippines and my thoughts would be consumed by the trippiness of it all.  But as I reached adolescence, already in a confusing whirlwind of being a motherless daughter learning to live in a blended family, I began to long for the support and wisdom I thought I was entitled to from him.  My older sisters were closer in age to his children, my cousins, and I felt at a disadvantage, like they had a more direct link to him than I.

And then they moved to Canada a few years ago.  What a joy to see my dad and his twin brother reunited after dozens of years living apart, and to have the opportunity to get to know our cousins better and have all our children grow up together.

And then my Ninong was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.  And the lesson I yearned for all those years ago had begun.

I had floor seats to witness a journey of perseverance and surrender; faith in its purest form.

Not once did I see him wince or draw pity from anyone.  And when he was physically able, he would be driving around, attending daily mass, playing tennis with my dad, helping to care for his grandchildren, and enjoying fellowship with the wide network of friends they amassed in the few years they were living here.  He and my aunt even lent their support to Team Tini in 2009 and joined our Light The Night walk on that chilly October evening.

When the decision was made to stop pursuing treatment last fall, we had an intimate gathering before Tito Daddy and Tita Mila went back to the Philippines.  How difficult it was for the rest of us to stay strong the entire night!  But him?  He was oozing bravery.  In a calm voice, speckled with a cough here and there, he shared his thoughts with us and closed with, “I just have to prepare for Heaven now.”

I was fortunate enough to squeeze in a less somber lunch with them a few days later – my first (and last) opportunity to spend time alone with him.  I moved forward from those two days with a heart full of gratitude.  My godfather taught me about strength, selflessness, surrendering to God’s will, and unconditional love, all by example.

My heart is broken today and yet at the same time it is overflowing and at peace.  Because he is Home.  And I know he was ready for it.

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To The Men

To the man who works to be a provider at a job he may or may not love, or at multiple jobs, or by taking the graveyard shift,

To the single mother who assumes the role of father, stripped of the seemingly minute choices of checking what that sound is, waking up to get the little guy a glass of water or who gets to be the bad cop,

To the husband becoming more like a parent as he cares for an ill wife,

To the man who strives earnestly to create a new legacy for his own family, rid of addiction or abuse,

To the men who pack lunches, clean toilets, change diapers, push the swing, coach teams and buy the groceries,

To the man who must surrender leadership of his family and let his wife and kids take care of him,

To the man who trains the boy to be a gentleman by example,

To the man who walks into an instant family and tries his best to fit into an almost impossible role,

To the man who has graduated from raising his own children to delighting in the next generation,

To the boy who said “It’s going to be okay” the moment he became a father, and delivered,

 

Cheers to you.

My name is Leah & I am 35.

I am at that age when many of my peers, mostly women, have celebrated a handful or two 29th birthdays.  To each her own, but I only had one, and the year after that, I turned 30.  And I celebrated it.  And now I can’t stop.

I think it’s funny that, as kids, we wanted to be grown-ups so bad, and then one day we changed our minds and started wishing we were Benjamin Button or something.

If I spend the rest of my life turning 29, then I am devaluing the lessons learned and wisdom gained in each year that follows.  I would have never learned to appreciate and take better care of my body.  I would still be saying “yes” more times than my life could really accommodate.  I would never have as full an understanding of my own parents’ parenting.  Caring about what others think about me would still be too high on my priority list.  I would not have learned the lessons that came with starting (and then ending) my own business.  I would never discover the miracle that is mascara.  I would never have started blogging (how sad for you!).  I would not have learned how to feed my faith in God or how to put it into action.  I wouldn’t have a sense of urgency to achieve peace in almost all areas of my life.  I would not have learned the need to create my own legacy independent from my past.

Note to Self:  “Self: Request a t-shirt for Mothers Day that reads: Every useful thing I know I learned after 29.”

Acknowledging every new year of my life with appreciation and gratitude not only shows respect to the sources of my life (both divine and earthly), but also honours those whose shortened lives did not allow them the opportunities or experiences that I have.

My name is Leah and I am thirty-five.  And a half.

Pretty Awesome @1000awesome

In honour of the 1000 Awesome Things grand finale tomorrow, here’s my own rundown some pretty awesome things:

  1. Getting a recipe right on the first try
  2. The call for a second interview
  3. Your feet returning from size 9 to size 8 after delivering your baby
  4. The rush of competing on a stage
  5. Winning an Ontario Dental Association poster contest and enjoying a free Blue Jay game with your dad at Exhibition Stadium
  6. Finding a great hairstylist
  7. Rubbing a full layer dead skin off your lips in the shower
  8. Driving your sister to her wedding in a Smart Car
  9. Delivering a baby that looks like you
  10. Sudden, slap-you-in-the-face inspiration

I actually never followed the blog and admittedly just started following it on Twitter only a couple of weeks ago.  But it doesn’t take a 4-year fan to acknowledge that sticking to anything that requires you to count to a thousand, let alone changing your life (and countless others) in the process, is one pretty awesome thing.  Congratulations Neil.

In the Motherhood – One More Time

It is the final episode of this year’s birthday season, which means it’s my last go at this acronym business.

This is dedicated to my sweet, sweet Little Girl who celebrates eleven years of life today, and to our Lord and Saviour, who has blessed Hubby and me with the gift of our family. Happy birthday to you both!

M is for Molly Ringwald. On the afternoon before I went in for my induction, I was watching her you-weren’t-a-child-of-the-80s-if-you-haven’t-watched-this-one The Breakfast Club for the first time. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that. It was, after all, 2001.

O is for Oxytocin. Wowzers, that really gets the labour going. From the first drip to the Ring of Fire, it took 5.5 hours. Each contraction was double the intensity of the last.

T is for “Talk amongst yourselves”. Despite having already experienced a natural delivery, this was the first time I really noticed the threshold where you can no longer speak because the pain is so consuming. (Husbands, go back out and get something pretty right now.)

H is for “Holy Schmacks, she’s watching!” You know how I just said it hurts so bad that you can’t talk? Well, long story short, as I was reaching that home stretch (whoa, play on words), I looked netherward and saw my then-3-year-old Big Girl and my mother-in-law standing there, watching the whole thing. If I came with subtitles, they would be in caps, underlined, bold and in italics: THIS WAS NOT PART OF THE BIRTH PLANNNNAAGHHHH

E is for eleven-o-eight. My only nighttime birth.

R is for Rice Noodles with Beef, Green Peppers and Black Bean Sauce. Hubby was kind enough to pick some up for me as my post-delivery treat. And rightfully so; he delighted in sushi earlier that evening and boy did I want to punch his lights out by the time he savoured that last roll right in front of me.

H is for “He’s my baby-daddy”. I didn’t update my Health Card with my married name when Big Girl was born and felt bad for it, as she was then identified as Baby Girl L at the hospital. I fixed that in time for Little Girl’s arrival, and she was tagged Baby Girl A.

O is for Out of Mommy’s Bum. Big Girl reported to every visitor we had that she saw her new baby sister come out of Mommy’s bum. I thought it best to wait about eight years before I corrected her.

O is for Buttercup. (You didn’t really think I was going to dig for an 0-word for this, huh?) Our in-utero nickname for this shy little baby, who concealed her gender at every ultrasound. I added the Peanut- prefix every once in a while because I thought it sounded a bit more boyish, just in case.

D is for Daddy’s Little Girl. Straight up. She is undeniably more attached to her father (no hard feelings, insists Mommy), and strives to be like him. Her love of sports, as both a spectator and a player, has Hubby written all over it. And now that she just made the final cut for the school basketball team, he couldn’t be happier.

Back In The Motherhood

Okay, Round 2.  Technically this is Round 3 because this post honours my third child’s birth, but his day comes 9 days before the real Round 2.  Clear as mud?

Of course, this effort is dedicated to my bouncy sunshine, my Big Boy, who feels a little bit taller today as he is officially a whopping eight years old.

M is for Malfunction.  Before we headed over to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, it was the late hours of the night, and I watched Janet Jackson’s first interview (on Letterman) since the Superbowl wardrobe-malfunction.  She was extra quiet.

O is for Old Pro.  That’s me.  The nurse was impressed by me informing her that another contraction was coming based on the monitor’s needle and not by pain-induced wincing.

T is for Tour Des Hôpitals.  Big Boy had mild complications when he was born and by the end of a very long week, he has amassed a collection of three different blue plastic ID bracelets.

H is for Hair.  How fair is it that the Boy is born with more hair than both his sisters did at birth, combined??

E is for Enormous.  Generally, with each subsequent birth, a mother’s milk comes in more quickly and abundantly.  Enough said.

R is for Reeeeal Close.  Labouring mothers check their dignity at the door during the admission process.  Handfuls of staff, mostly strangers, end up hanging out in front of your Netherlands for possibly hours; there’s no space for shyness in the delivery room.  By the time the lactation expert came into my room and asked me to drop my top to show me how to use the Super Duper Double Pump 6000, I had no more shame left.  I told my best friend not to bother leaving the room.  And the rest is history.

H is for the Hospital for Sick Children.  Wow.  So far my blessings come in a way that doesn’t have my family being a regular there, but for the few days we were in the Neonatal ICU, I could see where the funding was going.  The nurse-to-patient ratio was 1:1, state-of-the-art equipment that wasn’t available in the non-specialized hospitals and much appreciated by Hubby, there is a Burger King downstairs.

O is for Optimus Prime.  Daddy’s first gift for his boy was a little Transformer that sat on his tiny bed at Sick Kids.  (Okay, it wasn’t Optimus Prime but with three children, that’s nine O’s.)

O is for God.  Yes, it is.  He’s God, so He gets to start with whatever letter He wants.  We hadn’t decided on a second name for Big Boy by the time he was born, but after getting through that very long week we decided on Emmanuel =God With Us.  And there He remains.

Do me a favour, please.  Say a quick prayer for every family bringing a baby into the world today.

Proper Ganda #kony2012

First, if you’re not one of the 70 million+ in the world who have already seen it, watch this:

This campaign is brilliant.  It just made serving the world cool.

It’s been a few days since the video’s release and I know people who are awaiting their action kits, I’ve heard the criticism, I read up a bit, and yesterday I watched an interview with the film’s director, Jason Russell.

Let’s focus, people.

At the heart of this are communities suffering.  There is murder, mutilation, rape, kidnapping.  Families are being torn apart or killed.  And the sad part is that I’m sure central Africa isn’t the only place in the world where this is happening.  As Spiderman’s wise Uncle Ben said, with great power comes great responsibility*.  I have been blessed with circumstances rich in resources and influence.  At the final accounting, what will I say if I didn’t try to do my part to help the helpless?

Let this video and the buzz around it serve as a call to action.  No, you don’t have to donate to Invisible Children if you don’t want to.  I myself have chosen to donate to a more grassroots organization working down there.  But I was reminded this week that I am in a position to help someone.  Most of us are.

If nothing else, let’s applaud this organization and others, like People For Good and Maxwell House, for harnessing the power of the media to bring attention to better things than good Christian b*tches and playboy clubs.

*shout out to FDR for the original quote but let this be a lesson that good advice can come from many sources…

Probably, as per daughter

This weekend we are celebrating Mom’s anniversary and, as it always happens every year, the weeks leading up always find me hyper-reflective about the ordeal and the journey our family has been on.  This past year, though, I’ve come to a much deeper appreciation of a different angle on the whole thing….

Imagine that you are in your early forties and that you and your spouse have been blessed with six children, ranging in age from 2 to 17.  Thanks to hard work and the Lord’s good favour, you have a nice home that can comfortably accomodate such a large family.  The car’s getting a bit tight and showing its age, but it gets you all where you need to be.  You’re the only one in your family living in Canada, with most members still in your birth country and a couple in the States, but you are surrounded by a great community of extended family members and friends.

Your spouse is then diagnosed with cancer.  And so begins a new daily routine of putting in a full day’s work and then spending the evening at the hospital until visiting hours end.  The hospital is maybe 40 minutes from home, so an already exhausting day is that much longer.  Thankfully, the older kids are taking care of the younger ones back at home, and that incredible network of family and friends is doing everything they can to help out, even dropping off already-cooked dinners to the house.  The ordeal lasts almost a year and slows down only for birthdays spent at the hospital or short visits home.  You throw the traditional debut for your daughter’s 18th birthday and it is bittersweet to say the least.  There are some good days and there are some setbacks.  The car is hanging on for dear life, and there is even an unwelcome adventure driving home from the hospital with the kids one weekend where it overheats.  Your spouse’s physical existence is ever-transforming in to something farther and farther away from what it was only a year ago.  But through it all there is God, and you know this because your spouse has posted inspiring reminders on the wall.  They have done this to keep themselves positive and motivated, but you are probably relying on those just as much.

Imagine next that, a week before their birthday, your life partner, co-parent and best friend for almost 20 years succumbs to the illness.  The days that follow are a chaotic blur as the whole community rallies with love and support.  It’s likely a welcome distraction from moments like when you have to explain to your little ones what they’re about to see and experience in the funeral home.  Or when you return to work after only a week, leaving the children to also begin figuring out their own new realities.  You gotta do what you gotta do.  But how on earth do you do it?  You are now a single parent of six children of such varying ages that each one has very different needs than the next.  You have three teens in high school and one still in diapers.  You are so busy trying to take care of everybody and everything that there is no time to be lonely.  Or maybe every effort to take care of everybody and everything is lonely.

Fast forward 24 years.  Practically another lifetime.  The children are all grown and you have over a dozen grandchildren.  You too now have another wife and, while the early years had their share of blended family growing pains, you are all together, happy.    Somehow all these years you found a way to manage all the roles of father, widower, son, new husband, in-law, mediator, teacher, and maybe at times student.

Now imagine that today, your fourth child, who lost their same-sex parent at the cusp of adolescence, has taken a hard look at how it must have been in your shoes, and realizes that you did the best you could back then, and in the years that followed.  And it was the best.  And you know that, even as a grown woman, married with three children, she misses her mother every day, but hopefully those extra-tight, just-that-little-bit-longer embraces you give her every time you see her channel her angel’s love to her and remind her that she was never alone because you were always right by her side.

Probably.