Sunday, October 13, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.  
~Melody Beattie

Friday, September 6, 2013

Wondering Why?

The beauty and wonder of nature:
Two things I'd love for my kids to love

I've had a couple of friends ask me lately, why I spend so much time taking hikes and doing outdoorsy stuff with my kids. Another likened me to his "crazy old aunt". I took that as a compliment, but it also got me thinking. How can I explain it?

Before I go any further, I need to confess that I grew up as a girl who longed to be a Boy Scout like her male cousins. Stories like The Hobbit, The Call of the Wild and Robinson Crusoe, and shows like The Swiss Family Robinson, fired my imagination. Camping, hiking, fishing, boating, etc. have always been part of my life. Best of all, I loved helping my dad make campfires, and they've always had a peaceful effect on me. I went on my first no parents camping trip after my high school prom, and have been backpacking and car camping ever since. Heck, Steve and I even camped on our honeymoon. Simply put, it's part of who I am, and the older I get, the more important it becomes to me.

As a mom, I've always got disaster and emergency preparedness in the back of my mind, and there are skills that I feel we need to know, but it's more than that. I want my kids to feel connected to nature. I want them to understand it, appreciate it, take care of it, and be able to handle themselves in it. More than that, I want it to be important to them.

There's a simplicity in being out there that I want for them. In our daily lives, we're surrounded by gobs and gobs of stuff. It feels sometimes like we could easily spend all of our time either using said stuff, or making money to buy more of it. At it's worst, life is fast paced and very electronic. At least four of us in this family could spend entire day in front of a computer and not even notice the time passing. I used to have to drag Jonas into the house, he loved playing outside so much, but now that he's discovered video games, it's the exact opposite a lot of the time. Once he's out there, he absolutely loves it, but getting him there has become more of a chore than I'm happy about.

I don't want that for us. I want us outside in the fresh air, hiking the trails, learning about the plants and animals around us, cooking over fire, catching fireflies, and sleeping on the ground (ok, my hip and shoulder disagree with this one) and under the stars, gaining ever more confidence in ourselves and each other as we do. Most importantly, I want us out there being together, without all those distractions that are always calling to us from inside the house. It's amazing the things I learn about them when we're doing something as simple as taking a walk. Our tongues relax as our bodies do, and the listening comes easier. The insights are pretty incredible sometimes.

My goal is that, ideally, we'll spend time together outside every day, even if it's just a walk around the neighbourhood. It's good for our bodies, our minds, our souls and our relationships. I want my kids to explore the world around them, and let their imaginations and their bodies run wild. Don't get me wrong, I know that there are going to be days that it just doesn't happen. There are just so many things to do every day, between school, work, keeping house, etc... sometimes it's just hard to make the time. What we can do though is to make it one of our top priorities, and not let less important things push it aside. Most of the time, it's not going to be big family excursion. Most of the time, it's going to mean reading in the backyard, or having dinner in the forest out back, or something equally as urban. We're doing though, and we're going to keep doing it. That's the plan anyway.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Messages from the Universe


I read once that the universe has lessons to teach us, and that it will repeatedly send us messages until we learn that lesson. My lesson, for years now, has been to learn to say "No." In recent weeks, I guess the cosmos have decided that it's time, once again, for me to resume my studies.

I suck at saying no. I hate feeling like I let someone down, and I love the feeling of helping other people. In fact, volunteering to help others is an important lesson that I hope to teach my kids, but here's a fine balance that needs to be struck. It's a wicked combination for me though, that makes that one two letter word very difficult for me to say. Our family is still recovering from can't say no volunteer syndrome, which overtook me a few years ago. The intentions were good, but resulted in a huge strain on family life. I always try to live my life with passion, and when I commit to something, I always try to do my best. The problem is that I let other people's priorities skew my own, and ended up doing more for others than they were doing for themselves. I'm determined not to let that happen again.

I do tend to feel guilty about saying no when the request comes from a person or organization that I care about. I try to be polite, and beat around the bush, and that never seems to work for me. I end up feeling selfish and beaten down sometimes, and then I end up putting the blinders on. That only makes things worse, because the other person ends up feeling frustrated, let down and disrespected. That's never my intention. Maybe I need to take a course in assertiveness or something!

After a day of confronting this issue, I need a drink!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day of Grade Five - New Beginnings

The cool man in black. He even put on smelly stuff!
Jonas was pretty nervous about his first day of Grade Five. He had a hard time getting to sleep last night. He doesn't know that to expect, but he knows it isn't going to be easy, academically or socially. We talked about a new school year is like a new beginning, a fresh slate to write a new chapter in his story. Then his optimistic streak showed itself. When we were reading "The Hobbit" last night, he said something that I think we're going to post on the fridge this year: "Bilbo Baggins is just like me. Just when things look like they're going to turn out horrible, they turn out just fine. He just has to keep trying his best and not give up."

He woke up just fine shortly after the sun came up, but was a little leery about going as the time drew nearer this morning. When he complained of tummy cramps, it flashed me back to my own childhood, when I cried and had an upset stomach every single first day of school until high school. (Heck, I even threw up in Grade 8.) The cool factor overruled his nerves though, and he declared that he did not want Steve or I to go with him this morning. I was one proud mama watching him walk down the driveway towards the unknown.

When he got home, he exclaimed "This was the best day I've ever had at this school!" When we asked him to tell us about it, he was very excited to share that he made a new friend today. There are two new boys in his class, and he gets to sit beside one of them. They spent all recess and lunch together talking about Minecraft, and have plans to play together online on the weekend. "I'm so glad I have a new friend!"

He doesn't remember his teachers names or the name of the other new boy in his class, has no idea what his schedule looks like, didn't recall when the cross country team starts, and he forgot to eat his lunch, but he made and new friend. We both think that's awesome!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Summer of Memories

Well, if that's summer, we've done it! We missed Tasha, and we didn't venture very far from home, but four of us were together, and we made the most of it. Hopefully it's one that Jonas will never forget. I know I won't!

Here's a little slide show of some of my favourite pictures from Abby's first summer and Jonas's eleventh.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

End of Summer Camping with bacpacboy

It's hard to believe that there's only a few days left of Jonas's summer vacation. The one big lingering item on his To Do List was an overnight camp with just him and his mom. His camping career has been on a bit of pause the past couple of summers because of his new little sister. We've always made it a priority to carve out one-on-one time, and hiking and camping are our favourite ways to do that, but having a new baby in the family has taken some adjusting by all of us. Nonetheless, it was our goal to sleep out together before the end of the summer. It came down to the wire but we did it.

The bacpacboy and I spent a couple of days at Darlington Provincial Park, just before the long weekend arrived. The weather forecast predicted that Thursday and Friday morning would be our best chance. We always have our camping bags packed, so we double checked them, added a bunch of extra food and cooking gear, threw in a couple of extra water bottles, and we were ready to go.


It was a wonderful trip. We went hiking and frog hunting, practiced our firecraft and camp cooking, he made some new friends, and we had an awesome time snuggling up and reading "The Hobbit" by the glow of the campfire as the bats flew by. I'm so glad we went.

Here's a little slide show:

"It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us
how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy."
— Horace Kephart
"We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it.
We get it rough enough at home, in towns and cities."
–NESSMUK (G.W. Sears), Woodcraft, 1963

Super kudos to bacpacdad for staying home with the bacpacbaby while we went off and played!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Day at the River with the Kiddos

I've had a few questions lately, by non-Facebookers, about what we've been up to this summer and why I haven't been blogging. Rather than resort to the obvious, "I've got a baby and a boy on summer vacation" response, I thought I'd show you.

Steven woke up with a headache yesterday, so the kiddos and I headed out to the local creek for a day of fun in the sun and water. It was awesome. Jonas had a blast playing in the creek, and at the park, and even made a few new friends. Abby spent most of the day babbling while trying to walk, and even had a couple of short naps. I sat watching and joining in the fun, thinking the entire time that life is good!

A quick peak at our day:

bacpacboy playing in the river:

We're into the final week of Jonas's summer vacation and we're trying to make the most of it with lots of outdoor together time. His summer To Do List isn't complete yet, but with a little cooperation from Mother Nature, we might be able to squeeze them all in. Cross your fingers and I'll see you again in September.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Checking In

This is Jacqui, checking in. No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth or succumbed to post-partum depression. A baby who's trying her darnedest to walk and never sleep, and a ten year old who never seems to stop even when he's asleep, sure do keep a mom busy. Life threw us a little curve when Steven lost his job in April, but we've been trying to make the most of our time together before Jonas goes back to school in September.

While Steven has been job hunting, the kids and I have been trying to get out of the house every day and enjoy the summer. It's been a busy one, with lots of hiking, picnics, swimming, rolling and general summer fun. (Jonas even got his first hockey concussion when he took a stick in the mouth while playing road hockey.) Though we missed a couple of Scout camps that we were really looking forward to, and Jonas, Tasha and Jake are still trying to organize their "no parents allowed" camp, Jonas and I did get a couple of overnighters in as well, with another hopefully coming after we get back from the cottage.

I've turned into the paparazzi, and taken a thousand pictures of our adventures. I'm trying my hand at a little videography too. Here's a link to my youtube channel if you're interested in seeing what we're up to in a little more vivid way:

We're off tomorrow morning for a few days at a cottage my Mother and Father in Law have rented near Sandbanks Provincial Park. I think Jonas is having a good summer with our adventures, and going to summer day camp, but he's still got a pretty long list of things he wants to do so I think it'll be a frantic finish for the last couple of weeks of summer before school starts.

Whatever you're up to, I hope you're having fun!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

We Interrupt This Life...

It's been a long time since I last blogged. Life has thrown me a little curve ball, in the form of a dental nightmare. I had some issues arise while I was pregnant, that needed to wait until Abby was here and weaned to address. I've been in the chair four times in the past two weeks, and I go again tomorrow for two i.v. sedated extractions. Hopefully, that will put the worst of it behind. My life has come to an almost complete standstill the past week and a bit. The upside, if there is one, is that the pain has actually overridden my fear of the dentist.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Life Update

Wow! Time is flying by!

Abby is almost three months old, and in some ways, it feels like one really long day. A lot has happened in three months though. She's changing every day. Smiling, cooing, controlling her reflexes, finding her hands, holding up her head and torso, rolling over, sitting up, comforting herself... babies sure have a lot to learn in their first few months!

Jonas is a going concern too. Homework and school projects, learning to use his new laptop, getting back into Cub Scouts, getting back outside with the kids in the neighbourhood, learning to better manage his ADHD, occupational therapy... Only a few months left of Grade Four and he's trying to finish strong. Plans are starting to form for summer vacation too.

Tasha's making plans of her own for the coming months. Shifting to working in the garden centre always seems to perk her up, and she's currently apartment hunting with a friend for something a little bigger. It's not easy being on your own, as she's finding out, but we're really proud of how well she's hanging in there.

Steve, and the rest of us, are adjusting to another big life change: he lost his job last week. Thankfully he got a severance package, so we're not in crisis mode yet. He's got some time to decompress, refocus and find something new. In some ways, it's a blessing. The timing is oddly perfect. It gives him more time with kiddos during this important time in their lives, and since the school year is almost over, he has more geographic options when job searching. We're trying to think of it as a chance for a new beginning. Of course, he's been home for two weeks now and the home improvement projects, as well as their subsequent frustrations, are multiplying, so keep your fingers crossed for us. ;)

As for me, other than a slight fear of impending construction nightmares, I'm a tired but happy mama. The Spring sun, and the possibility of getting outside for some fresh air and exercise doesn't hurt morale. The now looming date on the calendar (when Steve's severance runs out) is, admittedly, a little stressful, but I'm an optimist at heart. Steve's a good guy and a good worker. He'll find another job soon, and we've been working hard to chip away at our debt, so I have faith that everything will work out just fine.

What is it they say - "The universe never gives us more than we can handle"?


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Family Photos

A special thank you today, to my Sister-in_law, Anne for these amazing family pictures.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Day in the New Life

Jonas, Abby and I spent a wonderful day together yesterday. They both had to see their pediatrician in Toronto - Jonas to check his weight and do an ADHD and med review, and Abby for her first immunizations. It went really well, although Abby might debate that if she could talk.  ;)

When we left the doctor's office, we walked out into a beautiful Spring day. The kind of day I've been waiting for for months. The kind of day where we could get outside and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer. So, we had a quick lunch and then headed home to hit one of our local bike trails for some exercise in the fresh air and sunshine.

While Jonas got his bike, I loaded the jogging stroller with Abby, a diaper bag, a bottle of formula for Abby, a bottle of water for us, an extra blanket and our jackets. It took a little longer than we've become accustomed to, but eventually we were off!


The trail was soaked (but not completely swamped) and there were still snowy patches, but the birds were chirping and the sun was shining.  Jonas climbed a tree, we found all kinds of treasures, picked up some garbage, collected some tinder for our next campfire, threw sticks into the hugest puddle either of us has ever seen, stopped at the park for a while, let Abby feel the sunlight on her face without any barriers between them for the first time ever, and generally enjoyed a wonderful afternoon together.


After dinner, we settled into an evening that was a mish-mash of predictable and unexpected. Here's a quick recap:

The Night After

8:00 pm - Jonas gets ready for bed
8:01 pm - Jonas comes to me in a panic because he can't find Teddy
8:03 pm - we realize that we lost Teddy on our walk
8:04 pm - Jonas and I get our boots and coats on, grab our flashlights, get in the Jeep and head out on a Search and Rescue mission
8:13 pm  - We see Teddy at the trail head
8:13.01 pm - Boy and Bear are reunited
8:14 pm - We get back in the Jeep and head for home
8:15 pm - I laugh when, as he apologizes to Teddy for being left out in the cold dark night all by himself, Jonas says "I'm sorry Mumm-ah lost you." 

I'm not sure why it was my fault, but thankfully, we moms seem to come with built-in GPS system
that tracks every item that ever comes into the lives of our children (and spouses)
All I can say is "PHEW!!!!!!!"

8:18 pm -  We arrive back home and start Jonas & Teddy's bedtime routine a second time
8:47 pm - I kiss Jonas good night and head back downstairs 

8:48 pm  - I relieve Steve from a crabby Abby and Steve attempts to fix the household computers, which have decided that they hate me
9:27 pm - Steve declares the computers fixed and relieves me from a crabby Abby
9:45 pm - I give up on what I'm, trying to do on the computer and go for a bath
10:15 pm - I rejoin Steve and Abby on the living room couch to watch a movie
11:00 pm - Abby is asleep but my headache is now screaming instead of whispering so I go to bed
1:01 am - Steve puts Abby in her cradle and cuddles up with me
1:01.01am - I bolt upright, trying not scream, because my loving husband is like an ice cube
1:04 am - Steve and I finally get spooned nicely and drift off to sleep
3:20 am - Abby starts to stir so I start the "SHH!" + rocking + bottle routine
3:45 am - Jonas wakes up and crawls into our bed with Steve
4:00 am - Abby is not buying what I'm selling and Jonas and Steve are both snoring. There's no room in my bed for me anyway so I take Abby downstairs to continue the "SHH!" + snuggle + bottle routine
4:47 am - Everyone is asleep but me and my headache is back.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Washing off the Blood Spatter

It's been an exhausting 8 weeks. Life with a newborn and a 9 year old boy with ADHD is wonderful but REALLY tiring. She's sleeping better but still on a newborn schedule, and Jonas has had a rough week at school. I've hit the invisible wall that all parents of newborns come to. I tried to phone it in on Jonas last night and it came back to bite me in the butt.

After falling into bed for a few hours of much needed sleep, while Steve took his usual late night feeding shift, I awoke to the sound of Jonas crying in the hallway at 12:26am. Without turning the lights on, I asked what was wrong. He said "A chair fell on me." He was sobbing and, since there is no chair anywhere near where he was sleeping, I assumed that he had just had a nightmare. He said his lip hurt so, trying to keep my eyes closed and at least pretend I was still sleeping, I suggested that he get a glass of water. (A cure all remedy from my own childhood.)

Then he said "It makes the blood taste worse."

Wait. What? Blood? Blood!

Queue the instantaneous alert status.

Did you know that kids' faces bleed a lot when they're cut? I forgot for a moment. I actually, truthfully considered that he might have had a run-in with some Freddy Kruger-like creature from the netherworld.

Long, blood-spatter story cut short, he somehow managed to scratch his cheek and lip while pretend camping' on his bedroom floor in his sleeping bag. In retrospect, Freddy Kruger is low on the suspect list. More likely it was his finger nail, the sleeping bag zipper, the handle on his crank flashlight or his cat.

Regardless of the culprit, he's going to tell the kids at school "You should see the other guy!" That ought to put a damper on the bullying.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Easter Road Trips

Easter is right around the corner. This year, that means some road trips for us. We opted out of travelling at Christmastime, so we're hitting the road to see family over the next three weekends. It's a chance for Abby to meet her sister, as well as more of her aunts, uncles and cousins. Of course, Jonas, Steve and I are looking forward to seeing everyone too, especially Tasha.

One of the things I love most about these trips is seeing my nieces and nephews. They grow so much between visits. Seeing it happen through pictures on Facebook is great, but it doesn't compare to seeing them in person. My nephew's logic, my niece's charm or the whit of a teenager, for instance, just can't be conveyed in pictures. After all, pictures are meant to preserve memories, not make them.

Of course, we all do the best we can. Between jobs and kids, there aren't enough hours for our day to day routines. Despite our best intentions, we find ourselves letting more time pass between calls and visits than we want. This holiday is another chance for us to make some those memories together and I can't wait. Cheers!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Seven Weeks Already?!

As week seven of Abby's life draws to a close, I thought I'd check in to let you know that we're doing pretty well. Life with this newborn isn't complicated, it's just exhausting. It sort of feels like one really long day. She's feeding every two or three hours and hasn't mastered the art of putting herself to sleep unless she's in her car or vibrating seat. She likes her soother but is still learning how to use her fingers, so she needs help when she wants it but it isn't in her mouth already. She's generally a happy baby, and is working on her gorgeous smile, but her days seem to start at 3am and she has a seriously fussy period every night from about 5:30pmish until 8:30pmish. This all makes for lots of fits and starts of sleep during the night, and results in a very tired mom and dad. 


Jonas has been on March Break this week, and we've been mixing having fun with working on his history project for school. Much to his chagrin, he woke up on day one of the break with the Chicken Pox, so we've been mostly cooped up inside. We are going to end the week on a couple of highs though, before we clamp down this weekend to finish up his project and get him ready to give his presentation on Monday. He left yesterday morning for a sleepover at his best friend's house and Steve is going to take him out for a boys night at the movies tonight. He was almost literally bouncing off the walls in anticipation. I can't wait to hear all about it later today.

I'm sure it's going to be non-stop action around here when Jonas gets home. I have to admit that I'm not keeping up with him as well as I'd like to these days. Just like Abby is struggling to get herself to sleep, so to am I. One sage piece of wisdom that's given to every new mom is to "sleep when the baby sleeps". I haven't mastered this. I seem to get my second wind just as she settles into sleep and I am not inclined to let her cry it out, especially when the boys have to get up for school and work in the morning. I'm working on it, and am doing well to steal a little time for myself in the tub every night. Steve has been great about taking over the evening shift so that I can shift gears for a little while, and I am truly blessed to be in this with him.


Edited to correct the grammatical mistakes of the sleep deprived. ;)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Two Weeks Old

Abby had her first photo shoot with Auntie Anne yesterday!
Thank you so much for these wonderful keepsakes, Anne.

Friday, February 1, 2013

What's in a Name?

"So," said that doctor, "What are we calling this gorgeous girl?"

Choosing Abby's name was not easy. There are just so many options! Some of them got thrown out quickly, and others quickly rose to the top of the list. We had a top three or four list all along that was pretty consistent, and we had middle names picked out right away.  We never really certain about her name though, until we saw her for the first time.

For her first name, we wanted something that wasn't currently being used by somebody in our lives. I always envisioned naming my daughter Lillie, but Abby and Jonas's cousin claimed it first, so to the baby name books we went.

Both Steve and I liked the name Abby from the outset, but thought Abigail sounded a little old fashioned for us, so Abigail moved on and off the list, as we seemed to change our minds every time we thought about it. And then Jonas suggested Gabrielle about a week before she was born. We realized that it would be shortened to Gabby, and had reservations about combing that nickname with her genetic predisposition to be a talker. The more we considered Gabby, the more Abby shone through. When she was born, Abby just felt right. No formal Abigail, just Abby.

Abby's middle names were chosen quite easily. We wanted to name her after our Grandmothers, so we chose Mae and Lillie, after my Grandmas Symonds, Martin and Gertie. (I tried but Gertie got four thumbs down from Steve and Jonas every time I suggested it.)  Of course, her last name is Blanchard, so she nests nicely into Steven's family tree.

So Abby Mae Lillie Blanchard it is. She hasn't complained about it yet but I'm sure that day will come. I'll smile and nod, kiss her forehead, and then tell her to be glad that we didn't keep calling her Esmerelda after she was born.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Introducing Abby

BGB decided at the last minute not to wait for her scheduled induction, and instead gave us a fast and furious delivery, during which they barely got a spinal and epidural in on time. They had to slow down the contractions to give enough time for the IV antibiotics for group B Strep to work their magic and protect her.

Abby Mae Lillie Blanchard joined the world at 6:05am on Saturday January 26.
She weighed in at 7 pounds 4 ounces.

It's Day 3 and Abby and I are both doing great. She's pretty sleepy but nursing well and having longer periods of alertness. I'm a little sore and starting to get tired, but managing well. We came home on Sunday afternoon and the four of us have been doing just fine, though the Steve's and my initial burst of adrenalin and euphoria are starting to lose the battle against fatigue. Big brother Jonas is thrilled and Tasha is looking forward to a visit home soon to meet her new little sister.

She's sound asleep watching a movie with her dad and brother right now right now so I think I'm going to try to squeeze in a nap before her next meal.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy Birthday!


We love you and we can't wait to see you soon!!
XO    XOxo    XO