Father’s Day

No matter how much I try to deny it, Father’s Day is by far the toughest day of the year for me.  Many of you know, that my father passed away at a very young age after what can only be described as the most bizarre period of my life.  In 2000, I was 22 years old, newly married and I hadn’t had my children yet.  Dad slipped away into the confusing and heartbreaking journey through Alzheimer’s, despite only being in his 40’s.

It wasn’t until over 15 years later that I finally started properly grieving his death.  Some days I still look at my daughters and a wave of anger washes over me – how could he be missing all of this, all of these moments, the laughter, the family visits and these granddaughters that he so enthusiastically looked forward to spoiling to bits?

I’m not a rational person when it comes to Father’s Day. I see kids struggle through the stage of not treating their parents well and my heart hurts for all the times I was rough on my poor dad.

Despite being generally sad on Father’s Day, I am very aware of how fortunate I am to have great dads in my life still.  Mike, the girl’s dad has always been a great father.  I treasure my conversations with Doug, Brent’s stepdad and I enjoy visits with David, Brent’s dad.  The last two years I have really loved watching my brother in law Chris shine as a dad, and of course my brother Dan is pretty much the exact replica of what I remember my dad being like when I see him with his girls.

There are countless other dad’s in my life that I admire.  But this year, I’d like to tribute my husband Brent.

Father's DayIt’s really hard to put into words what has happened to me this last week or so, but I can tell you that the events that unfolded have completely transformed my perspective on this man.  As in any marriage, things haven’t been easy.  We are both smart, and come equipped with our own firm set of values and opinions. Those haven’t always lined up. But now, I think I finally see that what I have been looking for in him has been there all along. I just never knew it until this week.  I realize that might sound ridiculous – after all, I am married to the man. Just hear me out….

One week ago today, I was in Grand Marais with my friend Lauren. We were blissfully basking in the afterglow of an epic spa day, making our way back home.  About 2 hours from town, my phone rang.  It was Mike, calling me from an ambulance, where he was with Camryn headed to the hospital.  In the short conversation that I can’t fully remember today, he explained that she had broken her leg while dirt biking at his camp.

Shaking, I realized that I couldn’t be there when she got to the hospital. I immediately called Brent, explained what I knew of the situation and asked him to be at the hospital with her. All he said was “Yes.”

When I arrived at emergency room two hours later, I walked in to find Camryn in a highly anxious state – and there was Brent at her bedside.  He stayed there, until almost 11pm.  He arrived at the hospital again at 7:30am with a bag packed for her, and he stayed with me all day Sunday while she had her surgery, got settled back in her room, and finally left at nearly 10pm that night. Just as I was getting settled in my “hospital chair that pretends to be a bed” a text came in that said “I miss you.”

I just stared at my phone, in disbelief.

Father's DayThis man, who had spent nearly 48 hours non-stop by my side, who had been nothing but steadfast, calm, and comforting for me, and for a child that *isn’t even his* leaves and then 15 minutes later tells me he misses me?

A wave of emotion came over me. Because every day, he chooses this life.  He doesn’t have to, but he does.  And when shit gets real, he doesn’t waver. Ever.  I thought about all the times I felt angry with him for not buying me flowers, or not saying the exact romantic thing I wanted to say at the exact moment I wanted him to say it and how in those moments I thought he was just the worst person ever and I felt shame. Because, if that same man can stand with me at my worst and tell me he misses me then he deserves my best, forever.

Nadia La RussaAll of a sudden, it was like the lights went on.  I became very, very grateful for the life I have.  I have a man who accepts me as I am, and who wholly and unconditionally loves my daughters as if they are his. And that makes Father’s Day a really, really amazing thing to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day Brent

Love,

All your girls

 

We are headed to Bali!

So, back in September, I announced to Brent* that I thought it was time to give the kids the “one big family experience.” We have travelled as a family before, when the kids were younger, but we’ve only ever travelled in the car with them – places like Wisconsin Dells, Minneapolis, and Lutsen.

Right now we are in this strange parenting vortex; one where there are days when I have happy kids, and then the next day I have moody pre-teens. One where these inklings of entitlement peek through gratitude, and where normally content children all of a sudden demand to be taken shopping.

It’s a tricky time, these years.  Throw in a dash of mixed parenting ideas and blended family dynamics and I tell ya, there are some days where I just want to leave the planet. (Preach, right?) My idea, instead, was to go to the other side of it.

Brent gave me his usual, half-smile, cute eyebrow raise “oh ya?” which I *think* might possibly mean “What have you got cooking THIS TIME, oh insane and crazy wife of mine?” to which I responded. “I’m taking the kids to Bali for six weeks this summer!”

You’d think this would spark some sort of discussion, debate, argument, SOMETHING. Nope. Brent simply reached for his phone, opened the calendar app and said “What dates?”.

Less than a week later, I had our flights arranged courtesy of three different point collection agencies.  I had found a lovely AirBnB spot in Kuta Utara (check it out here) and we had the kids and the exes (mostly) on board.

And then, I got on with life.

Now, as we approach our departure date, and because it’s becoming a comfortable and easy idea, I have been inserting it into random conversation with friends. Not because I’m looking for shock value, simply because it’s just now become a part of my plans, so I forget that most people aren’t quite expecting this.  Conversations have typically gone something like this:

Friend: Summer is coming! We should plan a weekend at camp together!

Me: Sure, sounds awesome. We are leaving July 22, so it has to be before that.

Friend: Leaving where?

Me: We are going to Bali until September.

Friend, with obvious shock: What? What do you mean “you are going to Bali until September?”

And this is where I realize, that casually saying that you are meandering off to the other side of the world for 6 weeks isn’t a normal thing to do.

From there, the following questions appear, in varying order. I decided a blog post to address them might be a good idea, for those of you that still haven’t wrapped your heads around what your crazy friend is up to now.

“Are you kidding?”

Nope, this is the real deal. The girls and I are leaving in the late afternoon of July 22nd, and should arrive about 12 hours before Brent and the boys, who are leaving the morning of July 23rd. It takes approximately 35 hours to make the trek.

“All of you? You are taking ALL the kids?”

We are all going. We are taking ALL the kids.  Despite the fact that this might sound overwhelming and expensive, it really was quite reasonable. Our friends at Aeroplan, Avion, and ScotiaRewards were helpful in coordinating flights, making sure the kids weren’t travelling alone, but did fall short of booking the parents in first class. ?

“Why?”

This is a good question.  I feel like I don’t have concrete and logical answers to this.  My reasoning for doing this is kinda fuzzy, but I have narrowed it down to the following, somewhat rational statement;

“Our kids are at a critical age and stage where they are growing into adults and with thoughts, beliefs and opinions of their own, but they still want to hang out with us. We recognize that we have a very short window of time left where they are under our influence in this way and I want to show them a different part of the world. I want to give the kids my travel bug, walk them through busy, crazy, loud international airports and have them experience different languages, currency and food. We want to show them that their North American lives are not the only way people live, and we want to teach them the value of living in another culture that is completely different from our own.”

Am I crazy? Oh probably.

“Why Bali?”

I chose Bali for a few different reasons. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • It’s far away from here, and while it’s somewhat expensive to get to, it’s very inexpensive to live there.
  • Bali has been on my bucket list, so part of the decision was a selfish one on my part.
  • It’s a different life than we are used to – I could have picked Florida, or Hawaii, but I wanted to be in a place where English isn’t the first language and where things aren’t “normal” like they are here.
  • It’s on the friggin equator. The weather will be both hot and predictable. This is important, because we are only packing carry-on luggage.

“YOU ARE ONLY TAKING CARRY ON LUGGAGE FOR A SIX WEEK TRIP?”

Carry On LuggageCorrect. Brent and I learned the hard way that the “lug” in luggage can make or break the travel experience. I have yet to meet one person in my life who packs two enormous suitcases, fenangles them through airports and says “wow, I’m sure glad I brought all this stuff!”  It doesn’t happen.  We don’t need any more than we can carry in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of us. We will never have to deal with baggage claim, and we will be forced to deliberately choose the items we have with us.  And also, we don’t need more than we can fit in a carry on. Seriously. Our days will be spent in bathing suits and tank tops.  If we can’t fit what we need in a 21” bag, then the whole purpose of this experience is lost.

 

“Can I come with you?”

Absolutely!

You can’t fit in our luggage (see above comment re: carry-on luggage) but you are completely welcome to join our adventure. We have rented a simple, grass roof home, and I plan to cook each meal from scratch with delicious food.  If you can get yourself to us, I will feed you and give you a place to sleep.  Please reach out to me before you book your flight, so we don’t get too crowded. Kids welcome.

“What about work? Will you actually be off for the whole time?”

I will be off work as much is practically possible, but entrepreneurs are “off work” about as much as parents are “off parenting” when their kids aren’t around. I’m blessed with an amazing group of people who run the companies, and an amazing group of clients who recognize this opportunity.  In 20 years of owning my own business, I have never taken a vacation this long.  I will be using my typically less than average sleeping requirements and the 12-hour time change to my advantage.

“Will you have a blog or Facebook updates so we can see your adventure?”

Totally! I plan to do daily Facebook updates and the occasional blog post. Also, if you’d like to receive a post card from us, reach out to me!

 

*stellar human, patient husband and generally goes along with my crazy ideas. Sorry ladies, this one is taken.

My Life With Andria

I want to share with you the story of my daughter Andria.

Andria entered this world just over 14 years ago, after a wrenching 49 hours of labour. She was 6lbs 15oz and I was just 23 years old at the time. I remember looking at her in my arms and thinking about the amazing life we were going to have together: her learning to crawl, walk, talk, read, ride a bike, go to school, graduate, get a job, get married and have children of her own. I think that’s what all mothers do, in some form, don’t they?

As many of you may know, it’s likely that Andria’s life isn’t quite going to turn out that way, and I want to share some of the realities that I’ve been presented with over the course of her life. I want to be raw, open and honest. In return, please don’t get your self-righteous fingers on your keyboard and think it’s OK to type something into the comment box that you would never in a million years say to me in person. Just don’t. It will make you look horrible, trust me.

And I want to clarify a few points:

Point #1 – I love Andria. Beyond what I can even describe in words. I think it’s a pretty normal mommy-daughter love – we have periods of frustration, arguments and tough, messy parts. But I have not for one moment ever stopped loving her.

Point #2 – I am fully aware that, despite the challenges we have been through, it’s not a far look to find parents that have things much, much worse. This is not about comparing my life to theirs, or complaining about my life, or anything like that. This is just a look into my reality.

Moving on…

When she was 11 months old she suffered what was later told to me to be a ‘harmless’ febrile seizure after a pretty nasty flu. Doctors and paediatricians assured me repeatedly that there would be no long term, permanent effects, but I didn’t believe them. I didn’t believe them because I’m The Mom, and sometimes The Mom just knows.

About a year later, she ate a peanut butter cup, and we had the scare of our lives. That scare where doctors and nurses shove you out of the way and say “Get the mother out of here” and speak in that scary code language that we normally only see on the most intense of television drama shows.

So, I had on my hands a mentally disabled toddler with a life threatening allergy to peanuts.

Which back in 2004 were-friggen-everywhere. There were nuts in my bath soap, most of my food, even the wax that was in the garage to wash the car. Everywhere. While she laid in her hospital bed under constant observation, I was at home bringing garbage bags of food out of my house because now, life was very, very different.

The doctors told me that she wouldn’t have any further cognitive issues because of the peanut allergy, but again, I didn’t believe them. Because I’m The Mom.

Three months after that, she couldn’t walk. My life became a wild ride of appointments, medications, specialists and therapy that goes along with a Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis. So now, I had a mentally disabled toddler who I was scared to take anywhere where there was food because of the peanuts. That couldn’t walk because of arthritis. And couldn’t tell me what was going on because she is mentally disabled. Say that 10 times fast.

And then, I just yelled. I said “I’m The Mom and I just KNOW so stop telling me she will be completely normal!” And they did. Finally.

If I had a few sentences to describe Andria

I would tell you that she is kinder and more compassionate than most people. That she is a 6 year old trapped in a 14 year old body, and has the communication skills of about a 4 year old. That she has a contagious laugh, and a great heart and a big desire to please. She teaches me how to be more easy going, to see the joy in simplicity, and to let things go. Like water off a duck’s back.

She really is one of my favorite humans.

But, here are a few tough things about my life with this kid:

  • She will likely never leave home and live independently. Most moms are sad when their kids move out, but really, that is the natural progression of things. You raise them, they start their own families, then they care for you as you age. That’s how it’s supposed to go, right? Do other moms lay awake in their beds wondering what’s going to happen to their child when they die? Stressing that she will need regular care for the daily things of life (and that I really don’t think it’s fair for that responsibility to fall on her sister). Most of you probably don’t visualize yourselves in your 70s still trying to find childcare for your daughter.
  • A kid like her makes relationships tough. The person you marry has to be fully aware that there might never be a “the kids are out of the house let’s travel the world for 6 months” phase. They have to be ok with not parenting like a regular parent. They have to be ok when sometimes you just let things slide because you just can’t handle one more correction.
  • She has vulnerabilities that other kids don’t. She’s 14, and developing like a 14 year old. Except, just about every day as she leaves the house I pray that there isn’t a 16 year old boy with not-so-great intentions because that could be just a crappy situation.
  • She doesn’t fully understand how she is different. It’s so hard to answer her when she says “Mom, when can I have kids?” every time someone in our circle of friends or family has a baby. Or “Mom, will I get married?” because I can’t exactly picture that right now.
  • Like most moms, I have thoughts that I instantly regret. Like “I didn’t sign up to have a 5 year old for the rest of my life” and “I don’t want to do this anymore” and “This isn’t fair!” I’ve learned over the last while that a good sleep solves most things.
  • No one exactly gets it. The thing about mental disabilities, is that there is no template. No road map. No regular course. And no cure. No one – not one single human on this planet – can speak with confidence about what the general future of her life will shape out to be. Most of us can assume that our children will grow and develop into adults. I can’t say that for certain about Andria. Some days she acts like a normal 14 year old – she can make a meal and clean her room and do her laundry. The moment I start thinking “Hmm. Maybe she can live independently” I discover that she has left the water running, the stove on, or not flushed the toilet and I’m slammed back into my reality.
  • There aren’t many fantastic resources available for kids like her. Our standard government programming like ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) and the RDSP (Registered Disability Savings Plan) programs are definitely added bonuses, but ultimately, I need to figure out now what she will need after I’m no longer around. It overwhelms me sometimes, trying to make sure I have enough money saved away so she isn’t a financial burden on her siblings after we pass away.

The blessings she has brought into my life and what I have learned from her have far outweighed the challenges and the future unknowns. Some days I get excited at what potential she has and it makes my heart burst to see the joy she brings to everyone around her.

For now, we’re taking it one step at a time.

Coping With Family Stress Over Easter

Doesn’t it seem that while we can’t wait for long weekends to get here, once a holiday weekend arrives you can’t wait for it to be over?

Easter weekend (and any holiday, really) can often be wrought with anxiety, stress, and family blowouts for many of us.

If family gatherings have you reaching for yet another glass of wine, eating an entire cake and you need a week of solitary confinement to recover, this post is for you.

Try coping with family stress over Easter this year with a different approach:

Commit – Either Way

Despite the heavy slathering of guilt associated with attending family events, you do have a choice whether you go or not. If you choose to deal, then deal. You shouldn’t (for many reasons) choose to do something and resent it later. Commit to your decision and pack your best attitude. For many of us, it’s expensive to travel over the holidays, so try to make the most of it.

If you decide it’s simply not worth the stress, send a nice gift or card instead. Even organize a Skype/FaceTime chat with the family so you’re sort of there.

Then spend the weekend with people you actually like hanging out with, or do something that will benefit others, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen.

 Make a Game Plan

Ok, you’ve committed and you’re going to the family function. Don’t go in unprepared. Communicate ahead with your partner or family, and decide on a game plan for the day.

 What’s the worst that could happen? No really, what is the worst? Go over potential anxiety-inducing situations, and decide with your partner how you might deal with each. What’s your exit strategy when things start to go south? What’s the secret signal for “I’m trapped in this conversation, help me!”? Who is responsible for keeping an eye on the kids? By communicating ahead of time, everyone knows where they stand, and you may prevent arguments later.

Now, for a bit of tough love:

The most important part of this part is remembering that you have agreed to do this, so it is not the time to be irritable, passive aggressive, argumentative or lay on guilt to anyone else. This is when your shiniest, happiest, most pleasant self should be present. Nothing is worse than agreeing to do something, then ruining it for those that actually want to.

Alleviate Unnecessary Stress

What can you nip in the bud early on? If you know the family member hosting the party/dinner is a huge stress case, call them a week ahead and ask how you can help. Whether that means preparing some of the dishes so they don’t have to, or picking up drinks and platters on the way. Ease their load if you can.

If your in-laws are notorious for overindulging your kids with sugary bribes, speak to them well in advance about what is and isn’t an acceptable gift. Suggest other kinds of (non-edible) presents that you know your kids would appreciate. If your children are old enough, talk to them about the amount of treats they can have. Do it before you leave the house. It’s easier than having to take it away from them and explaining why later.

Pick Your Battles

There’s always some family member who gives you a hard time for your life choices – whatever they may be! Your relationship status, your job, your clothes, your hockey team, your car, where you live, what you have bought recently… they have a comment on everything.

Instead of reacting to a hurtful or insensitive comment, pause and think about whether or not it’s worth gettingIf family gatherings have you reaching for yet another glass of wine, try coping with family stress over Easter this year with these survival tips.

worked up about. It’s probably not. Taking the bait and getting into an argument may be your go-to response, but there’s more chance of the actual Easter Bunny joining you for dinner, than ever changing your agitator’s mind.

Change the subject, or walk away.

If the same scenario takes place every year with the same toxic person, keep away from them and hang out in another part of the house. Make a point of spending the most time with the relatives you do like instead.

Have a Wingman or Wingwoman

Coping with family stress over Easter is so much easier with a friend. A supportive person on your team is helpful when the smoke starts to stream out of your nostrils. If you’re simmering, signal your partner and get outside for a quick walk to reset. If you don’t have a partner, get someone on standby for SMS vent-therapy if needed.

Play Bingo

This is my favorite way of coping through difficult family gatherings, and seeing how silly things actually look from the outside.

bingo2If family get-togethers are predictably painful, see the humour in them with a game of bingo. Make a list of all the ridiculous things typical to your family gatherings (e.g. uncle gets drunk and passes out on the table, cousin starts on political rant, aunt asks you why you’re still single, the smoke detectors go off and dinner starts two hours late). Organize these items into your very own bingo card.

Check each event off your card when you get home, and if you get a line, YOU WIN! Treat yourself to a bottle of wine or a pedicure.

 

Nadia La Russa is a wife, wellness coach, mom, step-mom, and former stress case.  To book a coaching session, or find out more, contact her here.

10 Great Things About Nadia!

Catchy title, eh? Thanks for reading anyway.

Truth is, this post is more for me than for you. Over the last few days (weeks? maybe longer?) I have felt – and mostly ignored – the mounting and overwhelming feelings of insecurity, uncertainty and general self-dislike. This happens from time to time, and usually ends the way it did today, with me sobbing uncontrollably in the shower trying to figure out *exactly* what is wrong. I still don’t actually know.

The tough part about being me is that most people see me as this happy-energetic-nothing-gets-me type of person, but honestly nothing could be further from the truth. Behind the confident smile and quick responsiveness is a little voice.  The little voice says things like “Really? Are you SURE?” and “You can’t do that!” and “Who do you think you are anyway?”

I would say that I’m having my semi-annual meltdown. The culmination of a severe lack of sleep, endless “to-do” lists and the desire to keep my shit together.  The truth of the matter is that Successful Business Nadia cannot simultaneously be Get To The Gym and Eat Perfect All the Time Nadia.  Supermom Nadia cannot simultaneously be Crazy Workaholic Nadia and Selfless Nadia cannot simultaneously be Please Pamper Me Nadia.

My mother is probably the best at dealing with Extreme Meltdown Nadia, although I’m sure she does feel a bit at a loss these days.  During my last catastrophic meltodown, I ended up in a friend’s basement at midnight, ugly-crying into her throw pillows while she looked at me incredulously and said “Wow. I have no idea what to say or do right now. You are my most ‘put-together’ friend. Huh.”  I realized at that moment that I’m seen in this world as someone much different than I see myself.

Sometimes, it just sucks.

Instead of a woe is me pity party, or a let’s go find someone who has things much worse off attempt (neither of these are difficult tasks), I decided to tell YOU some great things about me. The purpose of this whole thing, of course, is really just to tell ME some great things about me. Because me needs to hear that – from me – right now.

1) I give.  Yep, I’m a giver. If I have something, and you need it, I will give it to you.

2) I’m an open book. You might argue that this is a not great thing about me. However, I will share anything, with anyone, at anytime about my life or experiences.  I have learned *so much* about life and how I live that if would benefit someone, I’m happy to talk about it.

3) I don’t do passive-aggressive.  I’m honest about my feelings.  I don’t get “secretly mad” and not say something about it. How I’m feeling is exactly how I say I’m feeling. I don’t say I’m fine if I’m not fine, and I don’t “act.”

4) I love being a wife. I absolutely love it. I love the smile on Brent’s face when he sees me, I love cooking and taking care of the house, I love being “wifey”.  I would like to clarify that I’m not trying to say I’m the perfect wife, or that I’m an awesome wife. I just love being Brent’s wife. Even the messy parts.

5) I have a pretty catchy smile and a great sense of humour. I love to smile and laugh.  I’m trying to be as positive and happy as I can and it’s tough. But I think my smiley face makes other people smile.

6) I’m a great travel partner. I don’t stress about travel, I’m willing to go anywhere, with anyone, and try new things.  I don’t fuss about travel delays, and I generally love seeing new places.

7) I never complain in restaurants, and I don’t return things to retail stores. Ever. Like, ever.  I once read that someone who is not nice to wait staff is not a nice person. I believe this, wholeheartedly.  I will never, EVER treat anyone in a retail store or restaurant poorly (on purpose). I give loving feedback if I have a complaint, and I’m a fantastic tipper. On the flip side, I won’t shop or dine with you if you are nasty to wait staff or store clerks.

8) I’m a very hard worker. I like to work, and I like to get things done. I always try my best.

9) I love to cook for people. And I’m good at it! I love having people over, entertaining and feeding people.

10) I’m fiercely loyal. Always.  If you are a friend of mine, you are a friend forever.  I love a lot, and forgive easily.

 

🙂 I feel better already.  Off to face this day!

How to be a stepmother – 101

If you had told me 5 years ago that 5 years from then I would have three stepsons I would have thrown my head back and laughed and laughed and laughed.

A few reasons for this:

1) I don’t have boys. I have girls. I practically WILLED the girls to be girls. When I was pregnant with Andria, I announced her gender at the 8 week dating ultrasound. The technician just shrugged and said “You have good eyes lady!” Andria tries so hard to act like I boy, I’m sure she would have preferred to be a boy….so I decided to have another girl. Camryn is your ultimate girly girl – hairdos, and dresses, and DRAMA to the max. I get all of this. I understand it. I doesn’t bother me.

They sit still. They colour. They stay quiet. They bathe, sometimes even voluntarily. Their toys don’t make noise, have remotes, drive, fly, or break apart into six million foot-stabbing pieces.

2) I’m NOT a kid person. The two I birthed myself were…let’s say…surprises, mostly to me. I am a career person. I don’t finger paint, I don’t tolerate whining, and I really, REALLY need my sleep. Kids are messy and unpredictable and generally inconsiderate because…well…they’re kids. When mine came along, I loved them from the very moment I saw them. Then I promptly made darn sure I wasn’t going to have any more.

Whaddaya know. I have 3 stepsons. Over the last 4 years, I have tried to get into the groove of mothering a) kids that aren’t mine and b) boys. The challenges that have arisen seem insurmountable, and surprisingly, there is very little useful literature on the matter. I have a few highlights that I have gleaned from what I have read and what I have experienced for stepmommies:

1) There will be days when you think your husband has forgotten your existence and you are a complete stranger in your own home. Just remember that the kind of guy you WANT to be married to is the kind of guy that will forever overcompensate to his children for the demise of his marriage to their mother. You would never, ever want to be married to a dead-beat dad so when you feel invisible, draw a nice, long, warm comfortable bath and thank God that you are married to a guy who wants to be an amazing father, even if he doesn’t seem to quite know how. The even better part is that he also wants to be a great husband even if he can’t multi-task.

2) No matter how many crafts, activities, gifts and privileges you bestow upon your stepchildren, they will ultimately utter some version of “my mom is better than you.” Remember that you are helping to raise children to honour their parents – and that includes her. When this happens, smile and say “I get ya bud. Mom’s are great, aren’t they?” Then go get a hug from your husband.

3) At the best of times, between biological parents, there will be disagreements on parenting style. Trying to have ultimate agreement between parents in a blended family is like trying to nail jello to the wall: It won’t work and you’ll end up in a mess. State your boundaries and preferences in a loving way and release yourself from the outcome. This will be tough, but remember, that you married a man that comes with children…and they need your love too.

4) You can have your spotless clean neat house in pristine order later. Now is not the time to fuss over silly things when your children and stepchildren need your love (and so does your husband!)

5) If someone offers help, take it. If you need something that you think might sound silly, ask anyway. You’d be surprised how the little things make the biggest difference.

6) Pray. Pray all the time. Pray for God to work in your heart to be soft to your children and family. Pray that He will use your love to create awesome little people in His image. Pray that as your children and step-children grow that they can look back and know they are loved.

Love is kind

It’s been a crazy month and a half. I couldn’t believe it when I logged in to find out my last post was in January. I would like to humbly admit that my first attempt at my second attempt of the love dare didn’t go well. To be brutally honest, Brent and I have had a rough six weeks.

I understand that most of the nonsense in our marriage is a direct result of my terrible sense of self worth and my lack of self confidence. It was some time after my last post that I realized that there is actually nothing about myself that I like. Now, before you all start awwww-ing, just hear me out. I’m actually ok with realizing that I don’t like anything about myself, because from there I was able to identify and conquer these items.

I have some broad goals for this year, in no particular order:

1) Get my body in better shape.

I don’t quite have this mapped out just yet, but I am struggling through the ongoing frustration of having drastically changed so much about my eating and activity habits only to see absolutely no changes in my physical appearance. 5 years ago I gave up soda pop, fast food and started actively exercising. Then, two years ago I gave up gluten, and started eating more fruits and veggies daily. Then last year, I started running regularly. Guess what the result was? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I haven’t lost any weight or dropped any inches.

My new view of this is that a dedicated and serious attempt is required: mindful eating of whole clean foods only. The only liquid to enter my mouth is water, 64oz per day minimum and sweat-inducing workouts 4 days per week. I have decided to track this for the next 12 weeks (with your help, Dear Reader, of course!)

2) Get my marriage in better shape.

Isn’t falling in love fantastic? Isn’t staying in love the most difficult thing in the whole world? Why does no one point this out in a clear fashion *before* married couples find themselves on the brink of emotional disaster? Truth is that Brent and I love each other terribly. I know this. I have read pretty much every relationship book there is, and the basic premises of these writings all make perfect sense – and all seem to completely vanish in the moment of a good argument. Our last big fight was on Valentine’s Day – how ironic. I miss being romanced and being doted on, something Brent pointed out was not in our wedding vows.

He has told me clearly that he has no intentions of being more romantic or changing in any way, so the reins are in my hands on this one. I’m going to try again.

3) Get my house in better shape

All five kids have grown since we last went through their closets, my room and kitchen need a major overhaul and the basement, well…ya. I am blessed to have Katie Miller in my life – she is coming to give me a hand at the end of the month. I find that I am much more relaxed when I feel like the house is in order.

4) Get work in better shape

All things considered, work is going pretty well. I have already completed a bunch of training this year and have a clearer idea of where I want the companies to go – implementation will begin May 1.

So – back to my love dare. On the topic of kindness to Brent, I have a long way to go. Some “journal” thoughts are this:

How would your husband describe you on the kindness meter? – Very low, ashamedly.
How harsh are you? – In general, I feel I come off as very harsh. This is not intentional. Brent has said to me “you have no idea how you sound” and I hate that about myself.
How gentle and helpful are you? – I feel like I am quite helpful. I try to lighten his household burden, but I get frustrated when it goes seemingly unnoticed. As for being gentle, yes, I am, but it’s intentional instead of natural.

I guess what I am realizing is that love needs to exist in me, even if I don’t feel I am receiving it. So, for the next 3 days I will say nothing negative to Brent, and I will show him at least one act of kindness per day.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you.”- Ephesians 4:32

Mosquito’s Find Me Tasty!

Recently, I snuck away to Cancun with Brent. And boy, did we *sneak*. Only two people knew we were going before we left…best trip ever 🙂 We chilled, relaxed, did a little flyboarding, and slept in every day.

I’m noticing a trend with mosquitos – that is, I never see them, yet they manage to have a feast out of my flesh. Only mine, not Brent’s. My first experience with this anomaly is when we went to Thailand last year for Tara’s wedding. I woke up after the first day with my left leg, arm and shoulder covered in little bites. We determined that I must have kicked off the blankets while I slept, or, uncovering the buffet table as you will. They looked and acted just like normal mosquito bites – small, itchy red bumps with no other unique qualities – until our flight home reached crusing altitude. By this time, I had fully taken advantage of our Avion-points-extra-super-duper-first-class-seats complete with mini bar and my friend Drambuie, when all of a sudden, the mosquito bites quintupled in size, became burning hot to the touch, and broke my skin open.

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I paged the flight attendant and asked if they had Benadryl on board. She returned a few minutes later with a small baggy containing two unmarked yellow pills, smiled and handed them to me with my 4th Drambuie. Skeptical, I consumed both, and the Drambuie, and woke up what felt like a short time later on the ground in Paris. Brent tells me about 9 hours passed.

The flight from Paris was the one leg of our trip that was economy class. By the time we landed in Toronto, I was emotional, sore, my legs were on fire, bleeding and I was afraid that I was going to have to have them both amputated. I did the only logical thing that any well-adjusted professional would do. I burst into tears and called my mommy.

Me: Mooooooooooommmmmm!!!! IgotbitbymosquitosinthailandandnowmylegsareSORE! *sob*
Mom: Mm-hmm. Ok. Well, what time does your flight land?
Me: IDUNNO!*sniffsobsobsob*
Mom: I see. Alright. Well, how about I figure it all out and pick you up at the airport with some Benadryl?
Me: Ya
Mom: So, is Brent there with you?
Me: Ya, but he has no clue what to do with me.
Mom: No kidding.

Sometimes moms just know how to fix things. A few days, a hospital visit and some more tears later, they went away.

I had completely forgotten about them until Cancun. During an excursion to Chichen Itza
I looked down at my feet and saw this:

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I have no idea why this happens to me. About $115USD later I had some lovely drugs and a topical cream so that I could continue walking without wanting to claw the skin off my ankles.

I guess I’m just tasty.

The Sniffling-Sneezing-Stuffyhead-Sorethroat-Ifeellikedying

Uggggggggghhhhhhhhhh.

I’m sick.

I hardly ever get sick.

Probably because God doesn’t like to inflict sick Nadia on my friends and family. I immediately turn into a clingy-whiny-needy brat. This started on Tuesday of last week when I completely lost all drive and energy and fell asleep sitting up at a church potluck at 6pm. Brent sent me home, where I immediately fell asleep again until 7am the next day. Now every time he leaves the room I text “Where are you!” and when he comes back we identify that I really didn’t *need* him for anything, just wanted him in the same room for….something…

Then, I lost my voice. Which, after you hear for the hundreth time “Oh wow, lucky Brent you have no voice har-dee-harhar” it gets old. And really, who came up with that joke anyway? Is my normal talking that terrible? Cause I tell ya, having to say everything twice when you have a sore throat aint fun.

Today I have sexy-raspy-voice. You know, the one where it sounds like you are a voice double for Marge Simpson’s sisters that smoke 8 packs a day. The one where you can’t quite yet have a coherent phone conversation.

And the exhaustion is probably the worst part. Poor Brent has been cleaning up after me all week. I get these bursts of energy, and think I can do normal things like prepare fancy dinners and bake. Then, about 3/4 of the way through I drift off to the bedroom, leaving him piles of dishes, baking supplies and various other messes to sort out.

And isn’t it also cool when you are sick you think that this is the opportune time to start experimenting with concoctions that you wouldn’t dream of consuming in normal life. Next to me on my desk, where my coffee usually sits is a witches brew of various kitchen spices including cayenne pepper because “the internet” insists that it will bring my voice back.

Yummy

Diet goes out the window as well. Forget working out, and what feels best on a sore throat? Why, ice cream of course! For dinner!

I have an idea…I think I’ll take a beach vacation…