Enough

I recently was able to admit that no matter what it was, I never quite felt ‘enough‘. As a Mother, a Wife, an employee, an attempted homesteader and lastly hidden way down somewhere an individual- I feel the strain of wanting to be everything to everybody, but truly only capable to give 75% at any given time to any specific thing.

Our modern day society puts so much pressure on ‘being’ that I believe you unintentionally get so caught in striving to do more that we neglect the basics and simplicity of life.

I don’t know where this image originated from that we could be a gardening housewife with a picturesque home accompanied with a hot, home cooked organic meal by 5:30, maintain a full-time career, regularly give to the community, keep up a fitness regimen, entertain the pets and still be the best Mother to my children- but damn, it’s getting tiresome, and this Momma is diving straight into a burnout. And friends- it’s not that I don’t want to see you, I’m still trying to schedule in a haircut sometime before next season.

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You are persuaded to be so much- be thrifty, be giving, be unique, be smart, be innovative, be an environmentalist, be opinionated, be conservative, be more- but caution! You should always, always be less. We live and work a 24/7 culture with so much persuasion by social media, which is a finger click away. Truly it is a wonderful resource to share, network, communicate and inspire- however it is also a gateway to an overwhelming desire to keep up with the Joneses. Only this isn’t your next door neighbour, it’s an entire community of friends, family and complete strangers. (Oh the irony that this is via ‘WordPress‘!)

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When I’m struggling within, I turn for advice to one person I know that has survived those very same struggles- my Mom. Her advice to me was ‘you can do anything, but not everything. Know your limits, appreciate them and work within your capacity.’ (I think this mentality is what makes her such a great nurse- and role model).

She also told me that ‘no matter what you do, it will always seem like something is falling through the cracks’. So I’m translating this to mean that some days the boys are probably going to watch too much TV, my house will remain in a constant state of disarray, my body is probably going to stay soft and squishy, eggs are acceptable for both breakfast and lunch (hey- and free too!) and one day hopefully, the boys will appreciate the real life experiences over some scheduled extracurriculars.

Don’t get me wrong- I would love nothing more than to do it all and keep up with ‘Super Mom‘, but for today, we’ll just settle for ‘enough’.

Giving in the Spirit of the Holidays

Now that the chaos of holiday excitement is nearing an end, I can take the opportunity to reflect on the feel good part of the holiday season- giving.
I recently had a discussion with my oldest friend about the origin of our community service and continued commitment of getting involved. Was this something that we were raised with? Was it related to personal relationships? Did we just wake up one day and decide to get involved? Really it was all of the above.
Growing up our family was heavily involved in Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of Canada- and as a member of these organizations, you are encouraged to take ownership within your community and getting involved in various causes. If I only had to take one small lesson from those 9 years of service, it would certainly have been the power of giving and helping others. There were also many other moments of growing up that while seemingly insignificant at the time, moulded us into the individuals we have become. I recall carving Turkey after Turkey alongside my Grandmother for the Mission’s Christmas dinner or wrapping gifts until 2 am with my Mom so all the residents on the Auxiliary would have something Christmas morning. All those lessons have allowed me to share the spirit of giving with my family today.
Throughout the years I have met varying individuals- some have become friends, others have passed through and the majority have presented experiences. There are so many fascinating people that have a wealth of knowledge and stories to share- if you can spare a moment and an ear, open you heart and listen. Unfortunately some of those have also undergone great struggles in life, and occasionally by no fault of their own. These are the individuals that inspire us to give more. The latter part of 2015 was very heart wrenching to see so many more families, friends and contributing citizens suffer with the economy shift.
Previous years we had started a tradition of ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ whereas our concept was to spend less monetary on gifts for each other and redistribute to those in our community and in need. Because we were not exempted from the downward spiral in the economy, this year we were positioned to give much less than previously. Instead of clustering all our deeds into one month (as time certainly would not allow), we spread them throughout all of 2015 as they were to mostly be in the form of acts of service apart from generosity alone. And while there are certainly aspects of previous gestures that were enjoyable and missed this year, having the opportunity to commit all throughout the year to a cause is so much more rewarding.
Deep down we all find happiness in giving- it’s a satisfaction that cannot be bought, borrowed or taken. The spirit comes from within and when allowed, will spread more rampant throughout the holidays- or everyday throughout the year, than any other gesture.
From our home to yours- Merry Christmas and may 2016 bring you happiness, good health and prosperity.

Babywearing

Before I really knew anything about it, I was completely naive and truly believed that babywearing was something that indigenous people did in under-developed countries. It was nothing that I had ever heard of prior to having children- and its not that I wasn’t exposed to infants and young families in my “youthful” years, it truly was not common or even seen throughout the community. At the end I will be listing some great links for the benefits to baby wearing and resources, but thought first I would share out story of how this passion came to be.

My life with boys
My life with boys

My passion into babywearing and the oh-so-many benefits began when Mr. Max was an infant and had outrageous acid reflux. He had a long stretch where being upright was the only position he was happy in and frankly my arms needed a wee bit of freedom once in a while. A friend had given me a Snugli and that carrier brought us amazing comfort, freedom and occasionally- well needed rest. But with Max being my first child, I had the opportunity and desire to hold him hours on end and only brought out the Snugli for walks and those few necessary instances.

While I was preparing for Cooper’s arrival, I knew that we were going to need something that would allow for a bit of arm sharing. He was going to be worn for longer durations and wanted to find something that was more ergonomically supportive and comfortable for both of us. I had received some suggestions and opted to begin his days up and cradled in a ring sling. Let me tell you this was the beginning to a whole new relationship!

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Ring Sling

Shortly after Cooper’s surgery I realized that the added weight of his helmet wasn’t going to support his little neck when he was in the sling, so began to source other carriers. I had found an Ergo with a hood that snapped over, that added just the right amount of neck support from that helmet and added that bit of isolation from the outside world when it was nap time (because at 4 months old, there is FAR too much to be seeing to nap you know!)

It wasn’t too long after this that the world of babywearing as I knew was about to change forever. I had attended a “Rock Your Bump” Exhibition and witnessed Nancy, who’s amazing talent I would and continue to admire for years to come with UppyMama and now with her own studio as West of the Fourth Weaving, effortlessly weave tiny threads of cotton to create phenomenal art- art that could be worn!! I had to have – and more importantly wear, this art.

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Fortunately, a few weeks after I had won the draw to purchase one of UppyMama’s glorious wraps- a linen “Aurora”, our local baby wearing group hosted an introduction session on babywearing. I had found a wonderful library of YouTube Videos’- but another person critiquing, helping and educating was something that I cannot be gracious enough for. Our Central Alberta Babywearing Group has get -togethers quite a bit and even has a lending library to try out different carriers to see what you like/don’t like before investing the money into something of your own- this to me, is a tremendous resource in our growing community.

It has been nearly two years now since I invested in my first wrap, and there isn’t a moment that goes that I regret any of it. Cooper was ill quite a bit for his first 18 months, and babywearing allowed him to be close, comforted and secure against my body. Like Max- it also allowed him to be upright when laying down became a painful struggle. I also believed that wearing Cooper allowed Max and I to interact a lot more- as he would be often sleeping on my back and Max would be content playing tractors in the sand with Mom. I’m in no way saying that we wouldn’t have been close, but time spent nursing or putting Cooper to sleep was often on the go with Max leading the way.

How precious is this??!!
How precious is this??!!

This past week was International Babywearing Week, and while I had decided a few months ago that our time of babywearing had come to an end and the stash had to go (let me assure you there were tears with this realization); I brought a few pieces out again that were bundled up to sell. I am not done wearing my little guy, and he’s not ready to let it go either.

So in the meantime- I will wear my babies, let them explore the world around them from the security of Mom’s body, allow them to rest when they are tired and most importantly let them find comfort in leading this weaning- I’ve done all the weaning so far in his little life, it’s his turn to decide when he is finished.

Fantastic Resources:

Babywearing International Website 

Babywearing Faith- YouTube Video Tutorials 

Central Alberta Babywearing Group (via Facebook)

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Cranio… What??!! Part II

On September 9, 2013 the boys and I drove to Edmonton for the big event. Max met up with my Mom, where he would stay for the duration of Cooper’s, and Cooper and I travelled to the Stollery Hospital for his pre-admission. We met with the anesthesiologist, went over fasting, what to expect the morning of the surgery and some details about his after care. There was a wonderful lady named Cindy that helped calmed my nerves, re-explained scenarios and provided great tips to get through the night and morning with trying to fast a baby. While every person at the Stollery and the Paediatric Neurosurgery department were fantastic, I’ll always remember and be thankful for her kindness that very emotionally charged day.
That night we stayed in a hotel and Paul joined Cooper and I late evening after work. We had decided to get a hotel room to give Paul somewhere to sleep at night, and myself an opportunity to go during the day to catch a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. It’s funny now- but I was more concerned about getting through the fasting then I was for the operation (well until he went in). I had a plan though- 4:06 am was the last time he could nurse, so I woke him up at 3:30 and we had a bath together. I made sure that Turkey was wide awake (no dream feeding!) but after a warm bath he would be nice and relaxed. He bathed, he ate, he snoozed- then at 6 am the 3 of us headed off the Stollery.
4 am bath time at the hotel!

 

 
Patiently waiting for surgery

 

Shortly after arriving and confirming all details, we began the waiting. We were so very fortunate to have Paul’s brother Mike and my best friend Wendy meet us there for emotional support- but in retrospect, it was more of a distraction, which we truly appreciated. To this day I still don’t get how Cooper managed to go that long without eating (as he never went more than a few hours before and up to a year after), but I was so very thankful for a fairly content little baby that morning.
Then came the moment of passing him over for the surgery. I remember Dr. Mehta writing down our cell number ‘just in case’ and then transferring our baby boy from our arms to the waiting nurse. It was at that point the anxiety started.
There isn’t really a ‘place’ to wait while the surgery takes place, they just give you an approximate time when your baby should b going to his room. Mike and Wendy- and even Paul’s Mom joined us later in the day, and were great at keeping us distracted, but there came a point when we both started pacing. Cooper was due to be back and nobody at the desk knew why he wasn’t yet. Dr. Mehta’s nurse practitioner, Wendy, finally came to inform us that Cooper had a few setbacks during the surgery but he was fine now and in recovery. I remember a splurge of emotions- relief, nausea, panic- and overwhelmingly desire to see him.
Nearly an hour later, we could see the stretcher get off the elevator and the brim of Cooper’s car seat floating down the hall. It was that point that I broke- all the emotions of the last few weeks that I’d been holding onto suddenly were released to see him. We stayed in ICE for the first night to monitor his breathing and fluids. It was explained that during the endoscopic surgery, a ‘blood lake’ had been struck which was the reasoning for the extra blood. In addition, Cooper had some issues breathing on his own while coming out of the anesthetic, which caused his extra long recovery time. Because of the additional IV fluids and units of blood, he had swollen right up and was given to drug to help his body expel it (it was pretty cute). The one thing I wasn’t expecting (having had surgeries myself I should have), was the jar of baby hair Wendy handed over that had been shaved off- sometimes it’s those tiny details that set you off. At 11 weeks old, he had his first hair cut in the operating room.
   
 
My little Trooper

 

Miraculously Cooper healed much faster than we all expected and a few days later were given the green light to go home if we felt comfortable (let me assure you this option was not questioned even for a moment!) Wendy had sent us home with an appointment at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital a few weeks later and Dr. Mehta’s strong message to return ASAP if anything seems not right.
 
A couple weeks later Cooper was fitted for his molding helmet. He would be required to wear this helmet 23 hours a day for approximately 4-5 months to reshape his skull. The process is quite amazing- a sleeve is placed over his head with tiny sensors and a machine is ran all around that picks up the sensors while a 4-D image of his head is recreated on the screen. There were about 12 pre-set patterns to select from and we choose a cute construction themed covering.
 
  
So flippin’ cute!!

 

About a week later we had our first visit with Tania from peds rehab. We would spend a reasonable amount of time with her over the upcoming months and she was absolutely terrific with Cooper and educating me how to make temporary fixes at home. Tania wasn’t happy with how the initial helmet turned out so had us go back to the Glenrose to get a second scan and a new helmet made up. The second time the helmet style was altered from a two-piece elastic held to a one-piece Velcro secured- which I personally appreciated as the screws kept getting caught in my hair while I was burping him.
The two helmets
We made the most of his helmet wearing experience- dressed him up as a hockey player for Halloween and had handmade hats/toques created to fit around the helmet. It was astonishing how many people would come up to you not to ask why/how, but acknowledge how adorable they looked or that their child wore a helmet too. I did find we had a few modifications to our everyday living with the helmet- Babywearing was a huge one, the carrier I had didn’t support his weak neck as well as it would have without a helmet, so we bought a different style with a hood. Those younger weeks in the car seat and swing I would put something behind his back to open his chest cavity/airway- but these were all minor adjustments. But I caution you to the smell… the best comparison I can provide is a well used pair of hockey gloves.
First day with the helmet

 

 
I’m a hockey player!

 

 
It was four months after Cooper began wearing the helmet that we had a follow up with Dr. Mehta- and he felt confident that the circular percentage of his skull was at the point of discontinuing the helmet. We called this ‘Helmet Graduation Day’, but because it was a cold winter day- he still had to wear it for the rest of the day because his toque was too big without it!
Since then Cooper sees Dr. Mehta annually to monitor the progression and ensure no complications are arising. 2 years after surgery he still has a soft spot that will continue to remain for years. At our last appointment a few weeks ago, we were told that he will have a CT Scan around 5 years of age just to ensure that there is no repeat fusion and then we should be good.
Since his surgery and rehabilitation, we have connected with the Neurosurgery Kids Fund with the Stollery Children’s Foundation which provides amazing support, events and opportunities for affected children in various capacities. We are a member of the NKF Community and invite you to check out the page and get involved.

The Escape

There a few physical places that are truly an escape from the everyday where you can associate such grand memories throughout your life. Banff and specifically Johnstone Canyon is a very special place for Paul and I- a place to rediscover our relationship and take a break from technology. The boys are becoming very attached to the river at home, but for me, it is ‘the Cabin’. The Cabin was built by my grandparents in the late 60’s, and the material was mostly provided by the deconstruction of a church in Athabasca. Growing up this is always where we would have our family vacations and was fortunate to only have it 45 minutes north of the farm, so on a hot summer day- Mom would pack us up for a bbq and a quick swim.

   

My Mom would often share with me growing up that Grandpa would always shut everything down mid afternoon on Sundays and they would come up to the lake- didn’t matter where they were at with farming it was his commitment. I obviously did not meet my Grandpa until many years later, but he’s always been a man that made time for his family and truly is such an inspiring individual.
 
Fast forwarding 45 years and while it has undergone a few improvements such as cold running water and a septic tank (but the interior is still as eclectic as originally intended) it is still a haven for our family. My Mom’s family is very close, and it is so evident watching everyone gather up at the Cabin on weekends alike- 4 generations made it this September long weekend, a situation that is quite the normal.
The Cabin is situated at Calling Lake, AB and while we may not have lakefront it’s maybe a minute walk to a beautiful powder beach and sand bottom lake. Many of my own childhood memories and now those of my boys are spent laughing, playing and splashing at that exact beach. We were fortunate that a late Uncle of mine was an avid fisherman and spent many hours allowing us kids to tag along and partake in the glorious fishing that the lake had to offer (and most especially baiting our hooks with the live leaches). A previous trip this summer, Max was able to relive this experience I so fondly remember growing up and even on the same pontoon boat that my cousin has beautifully restored.
   

As the children gain their independence and I so eloquently age (sure right!?), there are many times I catch myself lost in absorbing the innocence and wholesomeness of their play. Maybe it’s their inner child’s natural attraction with water, or just their fascination with anything that can dig and construct- but watching them at the cabin gives me a different escape now then it used you. Without the help of any modern day interference, it’s knowing that we are recreating those lifelong memories that perhaps they will one day (many, many days!) share with their families.

Peace in the Chaos

As like every mother I know- and frankly every woman, I find myself questioning the choices and decisions made for our family. A friend and I often refer to many of these internal parenting struggles as ‘Mommy Guilt’ (I know all you Moms out there – and Dads too, know EXACTLY what I’m referring to).

Life in the country brings extra challenges- most of which I was aware of, but perhaps not fully prepared for. There is quite a bit of time that needs to be invested that corresponds to all the projects, maintenance and general upkeep needed- time that I don’t get to spend playing/teaching/learning from my boys. And then starts the ‘Mommy Guilt’. I recently was very inquisitive if all the work, unknowns and hefty mortgage payments was worth the guilt. But then when you aren’t looking- you find those magical moments that melt away your guilt and you wonder why you ever considered having it any other way.

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My most recent ‘moment’ encircled the lawn… or in our case, a lush clover and dandelion covering laced with mole mounds and pig weed that takes a considerable amount of time to cut. We have 2 options, the ride on mower that does not turn on a dime or the push mower. The obvious choice would be the ride on- however consideration must be made to the 2 small tractor obsessed littles that reside here. And a lawn tractor is well… a tractor, especially in my boys eyes. So one must be prepared to balance a child on each leg whilst weaving in and around spruce trees, toys and ditches (I can assure you that it is not as easy as it would seem). I personally opt for the push mower- not only does it substantially decrease trim time, but the boys get in line with their ‘bubble mowers’ and we now have ourselves a convoy that generally lasts until someone gets hungry! In our earlier years, I used to wrap Cooperoo up on my back and power through- he’d snooze to the hum of the lawnmower and I power walked as a sweaty mess in a half decent workout.

A priority for me- even long before moving out here, is to have a vegetable garden and grow as much of my own produce that our seasons would allow. Apart from the fascination with dirt (I may or may not currently have a small city being constructed through my dill), Max has always had an interest in caring for the plants and more importantly, the harvesting of the vegetables. He gets so focused when he’s in the garden – often just by himself. I’ll be making breakfast and he excitedly comes charging in to show me all the wonderful vegetables he picked that are ready (he’s still young, so ‘ready’ is a topic of interpretation). We’ve really developed a deeper, silent bond between the rows of dirt – a relationship that was built on love, but now expanding to a shared passion. And Cooper- lets just say he’s really good at building roads.

So as our adventures and chaos continue to unfold- I’m learning how to find the peace in the midst of it all. I get to be taught by my children where to find joy in the busy, when to acknowledge- then also let go of that ‘Mommy Guilt’ and most importantly how precious our time together really is. And somedays we just need to stop it all and play in the mud.

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Chickens??!!

I’m uncertain at what point I sat my husband down to ‘discuss‘ (ok- to tell him) that we should have laying hens but I remember it going better than I had predicted. I grew up in a poultry influenced family to say the least, so was no stranger to picking eggs, plucking feathers and cleaning out the coop- but if you asked me even 2 years ago if I’d have chickens of my own I would have laughed you out the door.

Fast forward and we currently own 5 bodacious babes! Getting them here was a bit of a scramble though. I didn’t feel up for the challenge of dealing with chicks in my entry year, so the search was on to find some pullets without waiting for the year to be over. We did find a farm fairly close to us that were raising chicks to sell and was blindsided when we were told they’d be ready to pick up in a week! This vision just went into high gear and we didn’t even have a coop!

With the time constraint I found a cute little pre-fabricated coop that the boys and I assembled in an afternoon. It came complete with nesting boxes and a  wee little outdoor space, which we will certainly expand- but for now it will do. Free range is most definitely not an option here as surely Duke (our Great Dane/St Bernard) would mistaken one for a chew toy.

Coop in the coop!
Coop in the coop!
Checking out the roost!
Checking out the roost!

Then came chicken day…

While the boys knew we were getting chickens I never told them the day I went to pick them up. When they came home and saw these hens for the first time it made everything worth it as their reactions were one of those memories that you lock up forever and never forget. The boys, especially Cooper, have been so involved with them- we pick eggs every morning before leaving (and as I’ve learnt, one cannot use the excuse of running late to skip egg picking in the am or I hear about it alllllllllll the way to town). We’ve also began sorting our compost- to chicken friendly and just plain compost. (Because we don’t have enough going on??!!)

The ladies settling into their new home
The ladies settling into their new home

The most amazing experience with these hens has been watching the relationship unfold between our very Alpha male dog and his protective mothering over the chickens. Duke spends his days lying next to their coop and we often see him blitzing across the front yard to chase something off. One day somehow a latch was left open and we came home to 4 hens grazing the front lawn and shockingly Duke was strolling behind them. So will the day come that we will be open to free range? Probably not- but I feel better knowing that he doesn’t salivate over eating one all day long.

Next time- I’ll share my glorious experience of being pecked in the eyeball!

This just got real!

So here I am, after years of thinking “I should blog”… this is finally happening! This is all still very new, so please be kind as I stumble my way through a world that is beyond foreign to me. 

I’ve always wondered when following my friends and fellow bloggers, how did they come up with their name??? Often it seems so simple, yet so unique to them. So in the event you are wondering where I would randomly come up with “afterthebend”, let me assure you that it was not my first- nor was it even my eighth choice. “After the bend” has become a frequent statement in our home on giving directions to service companies, friends and family to get to our acreage. You see our little road is a dead-end, and there are only a few of us that are along with road (so private and peaceful). We are the second house on the left- however there is an access area into some stables that many consider a driveway, so to save our neighbours unnecessary visits- we’ve just gotten into the habit of saying “second driveway on the left after the bend”. So there- the great mystery has been exposed (as I’m sure you were all very curious lol!)

As I dive into this online world- I hope that you will enjoy our funny farm (this is the best way I describe our crazy little life) and our adventures together in our mission to live a healthier, happier and simple life.