Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Nest Eggs and Crystal Balls

I am acutely aware of my age.

At 38, most of my friends and family are long "done" having babies. There are a few exceptions, but by and large that is the reality. At some point, say 15 or 20 years down the road, they will have an empty nest.

I don't know if we'll ever have an empty nest. As our children grow, I am seeing the disparity between what they can do and what Abby can do. When the big girls were both small, the difference didn't seem like a big deal - they both required tremendous amounts of intensive, in-the-trenches care. But things have changed. Rachael, at 7, is quickly maturing into a young lady. She is able to do so many things independently now it sometimes surprises me. Joseph, at four and a half, is also quickly growing up.

Bedtime is a good example. I can tell Rachael and Joseph to get ready for bed. They will, with no or minimal assistance from me, use the toilet, wash up, brush their teeth and put on pj's. I just need to read them a story.

Abby, at age 9, needs a similar amount of help as baby Christina. I must help her brush her teeth, wash up or have a shower, change into her pj's, brush her hair, etc. The only step she does independently is use the toilet.

Now, independence takes her a long, long time. But chances are, even as an adult, she will require a level of assistance. She will always need a caregiver to help her with basics like hygiene and dressing, administering  medications, preparing food, you name it.

 So where does that leave us? 

We will likely keep her at home as long as we can. Probably age 30, but maybe longer. Even if and once we are able to transition her to an assisted living situation, we will likely still participate in her care as much as we can. We're probably looking at having her at home until my husband and I are into our 60s or 70s. 

I worry about her future. We save, financially, taking advantage of programs like the RDSP making a little nest egg for her, and we have provisions in our wills for her perpetual care. I still lie in bed awake at night, worrying if it will be enough. Worrying if something happens to us too soon, what would happen to her. I have those same worries for our other kids, but they are particularly intense when it concerns Abby.

Sometimes I think I would cash in all the nest eggs in the world if only I could have a crystal ball. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Chair

The chair started it's life as my grandfather's. 

I don't recall exactly when my grandfather procured the chair, although it was undoubtedly after my grandmother passed away. I don't remember it being in the apartment they shared at the end of her life. I do remember it being in that last apartment my grandfather lived in before he died, and how he would sit there to watch TV or listen to his big-band music while rocking. 

14-month old Abby with duck lips. 

After he died, the chair came home with my parents. It lived in the rec room in the basement for a time, until it migrated upstairs. They put it in the small bedroom that was mine as a child - a room that eventually contained a crib for Abby to use when we were in Winnipeg, which was a considerable amount of time during the first two years of her life. Abby and I put lots of miles on the chair while it was at my parents, rocking, nursing, cuddling and reading.

The chair found it's way to my house earlier this year. My brother had actually called me up months before, offering it to me as he was cleaning out his spare bedroom/office in preparation of his son's arrival.

I wanted the chair! I had occasionally wondered what had happened to it, as it disappeared from my parent's house several years earlier when they got new furniture. I didn't realize it had been adopted by my brother, and had been living there. Alas, I had to say no, as there was no room at this inn.

Christina sleeping.

A few months pass, and my husband and I were contemplating what to do with the sleeping arrangements. Christina sleeps (theoretically) in a crib in our room, as the other bedrooms are occupied with other kids. We'll eventually have more bedrooms in the basement, but we're not yet done the never-ending renovation. The problem was, Christina was (and is) still waking up to nurse, and I have no where to sit. It's tough to sit on the end of the bed and nurse when you're half asleep, so I would tuck in her bed with us and nurse. Naturally, we'd both be sound sleep about 30 seconds into this procedure, and in our bed she's stay the rest of the night.

Co-sleeping works for us when they're very young, but there is a point where we just want our own space. Usually that occurs somewhere around 6 to 12 months, when they become too restless and we get tired of sleeping with little knees and elbows in our backs. We were at that point with Christina, where I needed her to sleep in her own space. With both Rachael and Joseph, we solved this by putting a double mattress on the floor of their bedroom where they could sleep. I could nurse them to sleep cuddled up in bed, and then tiptoe back to my bed once they were asleep. It was only inches to fall if they managed to roll themselves out of bed, which was rare. It worked brilliantly. 

Except, there was no room at the inn for such a plan this go round. 

What to do? We discussed getting a king-sized bed, but that was frought with financial considerations. Plus, then we'd have this ginormous bed, to resolve a relatively short-lived problem. 

What I needed, I thought to myself, was a chair to fit in the alcove of the bay window in our bedroom. Then, it struck me. 

I needed the chair

It was perfect. Compact, with a small footprint, it was comfy and it rocked. It was brown, so it even fit our blue-and-brown quasi-decor. But the question was, what happened to it?

Turns out my brother couldn't part with it. He had it stored in his basement. He was very glad to send it with my father in law next time he was out this way.  

I love the chair. It sits in my bay window, facing east, where the sunlight streams in the morning. A love to sit and read there, with my coffee cup precariously balanced on the window ledge. The kids come and sit on the chair and keep me company while I fold laundry on my bed. Christina curls up in the chair with either me or Daddy to read "Llama Llama Nighty-Night". I sit there and nurse the baby in the evening while my husband gathers his clothes for the next morning, and we chat.

The chair is a connection to my grandfather. It's beginning to show it's age, the arms getting threadbare in spots, and it squeaks like crazy unless you rock just so. But it's the most comfortable chair in the house. It's like a big, warm hug from Grandpa. 

I love the chair. 

So do I.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Before I Begin..."

Image by taoty at
I often listen to CBC Radio. I like CBC. It makes me feel grown up, for one. It's mature conversation, on the most part, and there's no teenie-bopper music on it. I mostly listen to Radio One, which is the talk side (vs. Radio Two, which is mostly music). There's no ads on Radio One, except at election time. 

Which would be right now. 

They are mandated to provide air time to all political parties at designated times of day. I find them fascinating. I like Elizabeth May of the Green Party. I can't stand any of the mainstream parties (the Blue Ones, the Red Ones and the Orange Ones). The Communist Party's ad sounds like it's right out of Soviet Russia and would be downright hilarious if it wasn't for the fact that they were so gosh darn sincere. And honestly, if the Pirate Party was running a candidate in my riding, I would actually consider voting for them. 

But I digress. 
Anyone for a ride on a pirateship?
Image by Carlos Porto at

I was listening to their tech show, Spark, one afternoon this week while cleaning up after lunch. I only caught the last few minutes of the last article of the show. They were talking about creativity, and I think specifically the guest was talking about the process of writing a novel for some odd reason. There was something he said, however, that really struck me. In fact, it struck me so much I had to get a pencil and paper and jot it down. 

He said, "The three most destructive words in the English language are, 'Before I begin... ' ". 

Image by digitalart at
I think what he meant was that the creativity process is often killed before it even gets off the ground because we want to accomplish certain things before starting into that novel we've always wanted to write. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was more than that. How many things in our life do we not do because we're waiting for something?

We don't start our "ideal careers" until we're done school.

We don't get married until we've established our careers. 

We don't have kids until we can afford them. 

But with what result? We "do" school only to discover maybe that wasn't the career that we wanted, or we're so saddled with debt we're virtually paralyzed anyway. We marry later and later, get divorced more and more, and leave having our kids so late that we have trouble getting pregnant, or we're old when we have them and can barely keep up. 

Image by Witthaya Phonsawat at

But there's a flip side to that. 

We are unwilling to wait for things. We want to wait until things are ideal before getting married, but want a domestic partner right now, so we live together instead. We want to buy a house, but bemoan the fact that we can't afford an all-done house instead of buying that beater of a house and putting in the sweat equity. We need to have the latest TV's and iWhatevers, and then bemoan the fact that we never have time for the things that are "important" to us. 

Image by stockimages at
But it still becomes, "Before I Begin...", doesn't it? We feel the need to take these steps prior to, or even in lieu of, making these big commitments. Maybe it's a symptom of our inability to wait for delayed gratification?

We can't begin while we're busy amassing the "right nows". Amassing education that we may or may not use, collecting domestic and sexual partners that suits us for the moment instead of waiting for the one we're going to commit to permanently, reaping electronics like they grow on trees. We can't wait for any of it. 

And as a result, so many of us fail to begin.

But it's not only the big things this failure affects. It's the little moments too.

I was ruminating this blog post earlier this afternoon when Joseph came up to me and said, "Mommy, let's play a game."

What was my answer? 

"Just let me do the dishes first."

It wasn't until he walked away that I realized what just happened. And I wonder how much of the little things in life I miss out on, or how the relationships around me are impacted, all because of "Before I begin..."

Image by franky242 at

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Trial by Fire

We were late. Again. 

I have a love/hate thing with 9 a.m. Mass. On one hand, it's early and we're home by 10:30 and have the rest of the day gloriously stretched out in front of us, to fill at our leisure (I don't remember the last time we had a leisurely Sunday, but you get the idea). It's to-the-point, and less prone to funny stuff you can encounter at more popular Masses. It's before baby's nap, so less cranky there. The kids are relatively well-behaved because they haven't quite woken up yet, haven't gotten engrossed in other projects, haven't had a chance to turn on Netflix yet... 

But dude, it's 9 a.m. Which means we need to get everyone up, dressed, and out the door by 8:45. Easy for those of you who shuffle your gang off to school that time every day, which I don't.

And it was soooo not happening today. 

As we pulled out of the driveway at 9:02, we did manage to make it just as they were intoning the Psalm. Which I have to say, is pretty good. 

Speed limits are only suggestions on Sunday mornings anyways, right? 

So why did I publically admit we were atrociously late for church while probably bending the speed limit this morning? Because we had to sit at the back. 

This is will make sense in a moment, I promise. 

According to the Novus Ordo calendar, today's Gospel was from the book of St. Mark. I'm sure you're very familiar with the passage:

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' [...] Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

I don't touch on marriage very often in this blog. My husband and I are about to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary at the end of the month, something which seems to be rarer and rarer these days. I'm so thankful for every day that he's in my life, as I literally can't imagine it without him. My only regret was that we had such a late start together.

Even though we weren't that young when we got married, we did a lot of growing up in those first few years. Most people do, I assume. Having your first child, that accelerates the growing-up for most of us. There's nothing like being responsible for a tiny, helpless little person that simultaneously enthralls you and scares the living daylights out of you. 

Okay, so back to church. 

Theologian Scott Hahn famously said, 

 [...]in the marital covenant the two become one, and God has designed it so that when the two become one, they become so one that nine months later you might just have to give it a name. 

We were at the back of the church with our brood of covenantal manifestations, trying desperately to keep them relatively quiet. I think they were thrown a bit by our uncustomary degree of lateness (usually we're there by the Gloria at the latest) and the sitting at the back thing (we're usually at the front). The baby was determined to walk up and down the aisles. Abby kept repeating, "Hi! How are you!" to everyone around us, not always with her "indoor voice". Joseph was being Joseph, squirmy and incessantly whining telling us he couldn't see. Rachael was in the corner of the pew, having a mad-on about some infraction committed by her brother. 

I think with that description, we've established neither my husband or I were paying that much attention to Mass. 

But we both tuned in to the homily at the same moment. Father quoted a theologian (that I wish desperately I caught the name of!) that said that the best marriages have a little bit of trial in them. That a little bit of difficulty was a good thing to make them stronger. 


I remember my mom asked me once, a few years ago when several marriages of family members were in the process of imploding, what made our marriage different. At the time, I gave her a glib answer about how were were both too cheap to pay for two houses to live in. But in truth, it's because of the trial. It literally is a case of what didn't kill us made us stronger. 

If you grow up exponentially once you have a child, sometimes I think you grow up exponentially of an exponent when you have a special-needs child. And it literally either breaks you or cements you permanently. I was so mad at God during the long, dark days, and felt like I was abandoned ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!"), but every morning, my husband was there. When one of us couldn't handle it anymore, the other took over. When I cried myself to sleep at night, his arms were around me.

Abby is a life created out of our covenant with each other. Our responsibility not only to her, but to each other fundamentally changed our disposition. The trials we endured, especially at the beginning, set the tone for our lives together. This too shall pass. We shall not break. We will get through this, just as we always have. 

There is always a solution, imperfect as it might end up being. So help us, God.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


I watched this TED talk last night. It explains, clearly, what the change is diagnostic criteria did for Autism rates, and infers how that's actually a *good* thing. It was amazing and eye opening. You should watch it.