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.

431325_10150506690362212_571724387_n

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:

IMG_0053

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…

Saturday Breakfast is the Best Ever

There really is nothing better than breakfast on what I call the “full kid” Saturday. Every second week, we have all 5 kidlets, and by Monday afternoon Logan is putting in his order for Saturday morning pancakes. When he is older, I’ll tell him that my pancake recipe is really, really healthy.

This past week, I gave up my healthy option and pulled out a loaf of this amazing cinnamon swirl bread that we picked up in the states last summer. I had it pre-sliced and ready for cinnamon french toast.

I’ve decided that my favorite kitchen item is my grill. I use it all the time. It’s almost not big enough to properly fit all the food I need to cook. In my mind I have a picture of my new house, with a grill built right into the counter, next to the stove. I’m sure this already exists, and it’s on my list of “absolute musts” for my new home.

Best kitchen device

Best kitchen device

The day before I got home, my mother in law stocked up my kitchen with groceries. (I’m certain she’s on the list to be sainted one day) so I was able to sort out a full breakfast with what I had in my kitchen. She bought me a bag of potatoes, so I fired up the trusty smitten kitchen page and found the most delicious hash brown recipe. I’m thinking I’ll never purchase frozen fries or hashbrowns again.

Hash browns from scratch, courtesy of smitten kitchen

Hash browns from scratch, courtesy of smitten kitchen

Finally, the bacon. The best decision this family has made this year is to purchase half a pig from our friends the Zavitzes. The meat is to die for, especially the bacon. It’s by far the best bacon I have ever had in my life. A bit of fruit, a drizzle of syrup and…..voila!

Presentation is just as important as taste :)

Presentation is just as important as taste 🙂

It’s as if the children can hear the spatula lifting the french toast on to the plate, because 4 minutes later….

I never get sick of looking at this face!

I never get sick of looking at this face!

🙂

Ottawa

This year for Christmas Brent and I took the girls to Ottawa to visit my Dan, Natasha and Zyta. Much to my (happy) surprise, we were immediately assigned as babysitters for miss Z because Dan and Tash’s work schedule overlapped.

WOOT!

I guess the only explanation is that it’s been 7 years since I had a baby, and those years were also the years I had a job, a toddler, a new business and a new house, but I feel like I have no idea what I am doing. But, it’s fun! And she is one of those kids that is just so darn cute, I can totally see her taking complete control of a household with a grin and a giggle. If I had to guess, the three pieces of banana bread I gave her yesterday after (she didn’t eat her) dinner were likely beyond Tash’s threshold for “spoiling.”

And watching Brent with her is just so awesome. There is something sexy about a man with a baby, I tell ya 🙂

Today Tash and I took the girls to the Children’s Museum. Were it not for the need of food, we would have spent the entire day there. I love times like these, where I can chill out and just be mom for a bit.

Shawdow puppet show at Ottawa Children's Museum

Shawdow puppet show at Ottawa Children’s Museum

Camryn drops some weight on her sister

Camryn drops some weight on her sister

A toothpicked version of the Eiffel Tower. I hope to show her the real one some day

A toothpicked version of the Eiffel Tower. I hope to show her the real one some day

Zyta plays backgammon. Frank would be so proud :)

Zyta plays backgammon. Frank would be so proud 🙂

Camryn Lamers aka Dr. Seuss

So, I decide I’m taking the girls tenting at Sibley last weekend. I got a variety of responses to this: everything from “Oh that will be so fun!” to “You realize that ‘tenting’ means sleeping in a tent, right Princess?”

Truth be told I’m quite the camper. In my pre-kids days Anita and I spent many a weekend in tents. So boo to all of you who think I’m too much of a Princess/Rockstar to tent.

Princess Camryn however, did not take that well to the idea. We set up the tent, blew up an air mattress for her and rolled out the sleeping bag.

Camryn – What is this mom?
Mom – This is where you will sleep
Camryn – Ummm actually, I’ll just sleep in my bed at home, okay mom?

But the best, the absolute BEST was waking up on Sunday morning. She pokes her head out of the tent and announces “Mom!!! I can’t find my shoe!”

“Well, it has to be there somewhere, ” I reply. And the following phrase is what comes out of her mouth:

“Boo hoo, I lost a shoe, I used to have two, now I am blue.”

Seriously. How is this not the most hilarious thing you have ever heard??