Having it all

I would like to preface this post with a mini life update :

  • Boulette was born June 22 after a predictably painful but beautifully brief birth. He real name is Florence and she’s magnificent.
  • I’m on maternity leave for another 14 months. Oh, Canada!
  • Arthur is 2.5 years old – which is apparently the age at which children become criminally insane. Not really. But maybe.
  • JF and I are close to celebrating 15 years of togetherness.
  • Odie is six years old and getting smellier every month.
  • We still live in a humdrum bungalow in sweet little Wyevale.

Meet Flo, princess of leg rolls

Basically, I’m a very, very lucky person.

I have all the things society tells us successful humans should have: an amazing partner, two beautiful children, a big sweet doggo, my health, a reliable job, two working cars, an incredible network of friends and family, and a comfortable home in a nice neighbourhood. I know many people would love to have my «problems.»

Two of my (adorable) dependants

Most of the time (let’s say 97.5 per cent of the time) I bask in it.

I savour the family meals, the baby baths, and the Odie walks. I enjoy my friends when I’m lucky enough to see them. I hug my sisters close. I find my son hilarious. I even love cleaning my car.

Other times I am totally overwhelmed by it all.

  • Partner = Damn it’s hard to keep the romance alive.
  • Toddler = Are you eating an earplug?
  • Baby = How did you get poop in your armpit?
  • Dog = Ready for yet another cold and rainy walk?
  • Health = Does lifting bags of chips count?
  • Car = Is that a rotting cheesestring under the passenger seat?
  • Friends and family = Oh shit, I forgot (insert name here)’s birthday!
  • Home = Googling “how to get dry, crusty play-doh out of a jute rug.”
  • Neighbourhood = We need to up our decorative gourd game.

It’s like I’m stuck standing in the surf on a windy day. The waves keep crashing down and my feet keep sinking into the mud. It feels kinda nice, but it would be good to have dry feet again. And some days I wish someone would pull me out and drag me onto the beach where I can sip a margarita and read a romance novel.

I haven’t had time to improve this sad, sad Halloween display. Bonus: Odie peeing on my hedges.

I recently had one of those days.

I was running on 2.5 hours of sleep (damn you, teething!). My house looked like an episode of hoarders. My head was pounding. I had a nasty cough. My car was out of gas. My fridge was empty. And Florence just wouldn’t nap long enough for me to fix any of it.

Then I picked up my toddler who was in a miserable mood, right before he pooped his pants. I overcooked dinner. The kids’ bedtime took forever. I had a row with JF over potty training (this is my life now). Then I spent an hour wallowing in self-pity before finally conking out. Basically, I was Alexander.

There is no time for beauty routines. I literally woke up like this.

The next day was better.

I slept a whole five hours in a row. My brain was unfuzzy enough to appreciate and absorb the little things: a good cup of coffee (thank CHRIST for coffee), my daughter’s giggles, fall flowers, sloppy kisses from my toddler, and my husband’s dry jokes.

I had enough energy to tackle the groceries and the clutter, and enough wisdom to ignore the garden weeds and peanut-butter-stained windows. I even did a bit of mother flippin yoga.

Conclusion?

Having it all is pretty swell. But sometimes – mostly when I’m exhausted – it sucks. I want to leave it all behind and become a hermit on some isolated mountain in the Urals.

And I’m learning that’s it’s OK for me to feel that way, on occasion. That those crappy days can be a really important reminder to practice gratitude. Because I really am so very lucky.

So lucky!

And then there were four: Barfy, Worry, Smelly and Lumpy

Our little family of three is about to grow. We’re pregnant! In fact, today is the 100th day of our pregnancy – our pregniversary.

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Meet Lumpy. I think he or she looks like a misshapen peanut.

Here are our pregnancy adventure nicknames:

  • Barfy: I throw up at least once a day. It sucks.
  • Worry: JF is already in full research mode. His latest obsession is evidence-based parenting.
  • Smelly: I have been super sensitive to Odie’s stink lately – especially when he’s wet.
  • Lumpy: Our nickname for the little goober.

Together, we’re the four gestational dwarves. We’re a team! Slowly chugging toward our April delivery date.

Three of the four gestational dwarves. Missing from the image: Lumpy.

Three of the four gestational dwarves. Missing from the image: Lumpy.

And I mean slowly. The last three months haven’t exactly been a magical journey. In addition to the regular vomiting, I’m exhausted, sore, bloated and gassy – plus a few more things no one wants to hear about. Let’s just say I am not glowing.

My daily vitamins. I have to carefully time them to avoid puking.

My daily vitamins. I have to carefully time them to avoid puking.

But somehow, between naps and visits to the toilet, I’m still excited. I keep a journal. I have colours picked out for the nursery. And I can’t wait for itty bitty socks and baby smell.

Under his mountain of daddy books and stroller spreadsheets, I know JF is excited too. In fact, he’s been a total rock star. He now shoulders all the Odie walking and groceries, plus the occasional meal prep. Today, he even cleaned my car. His grumble-free dedication to Lumpy and I makes me love him even more. I am so lucky.

Me on a rare dog walk. JF has been doing all the Odie-minding lately.

Me on a rare dog walk. JF has been doing all the Odie-minding lately.

As we begin our second trimester, there’s a lot to do and a lot to worry about. But there’s also so much to be grateful for. I like to think all four gestational dwarves are looking ahead to a (hopefully retch-free) future – a new, exhilarating and mildly terrifying chapter in our lives.

p.s. Ignore the sad last verse of this song!

Wedded bliss

Well, we did it! Almost 11 years after our first date, we got married.

Weatherpeople predicted hail, thunderstorms and even tornados for our wedding day, but in the end, it was just a bit cool and windy.

More than 200 people came to watch us say our vows. They all toasted to our long and happy lives together. We’d like to thank each and every one of them for being there. Jf and I both felt very supported and fortunate.

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No event is without its glitches (our tent filled with angry smoke when someone tried to light a bonfire despite the wind) but mostly, we had a grand old time.

So many friends and family members worked hard to make our day great – far too many for this post. We owe about a trillion favours. But my uncle Andy deserves a special thank you. He delivered the most spectacular home fireworks show I have ever seen in my life. It was better than Canada Day in Midland, truly.

We spent Sunday cleaning and quietly recovering from the party with family. On Monday afternoon, we were leisurely packing when we realized that our flight left at 5 :30 p.m. not 11 :30 p.m.

Despite a few heart palpitations, we managed to cram some things into random suitcases and speed to the airport, leaving a sad Odie, and hasty instructions for his care, behind us. We (barely) made it onto our flight.

I thought I’d hate Venice (a.k.a. Americans-in-Italy-land) but I quite liked it. It was charming and beautiful. JF and I have decided Slovenia is the perfect country. People are kind, groceries are cheap, tourists are scarce, and the scenery is gorgeous wherever you look. We spent a few days in Croatia, mainly tanning on the coast, before heading home.

Now, we’re settling back into reality again. Everyone asks me « how does it feel? » to which I answer « exactly the same as before.» Because after a decade there is no mystery, just well-worn, comfortable, wonderful love.

Brittle joy

I’m feeling philosophical this rainy evening. My giant, smelly dog is snuggled next to me on the couch. I’m drinking black tea with milk (a habit I picked up from dad) and pondering a pretty big concept: happiness.

I think I have a wellbeing spectrum. I can be mopey one week, incandescently happy the next. Some things (JF, Odie, family, friends) boost me up the scale, others (bills, illness, work stress) shove me down.

I’m fortunate to have spent more time in joy than in sadness. I think it’s because my mom trained me to find pleasure in little things like watching old movies, picking blackberries, and reading good books.

I work at seeing and recognizing those happiness-boosters every day, because they tip the balance in joy’s favour. And sometimes it is work – important work that prevents the bad stuff from swallowing me up. Joy can be brittle.

Today, I don’t have to work at anything. I’m feeling glad and grateful for so many reasons. Here are my top 10:

  • New stained glass window: For two years, we’ve lived with a broken windowpane over our front door. Now, thanks to local artist Renee Havers, our hallway is lit by a beautiful, coloured work of art.
  • Visits with good friends: I have a lot of kind, funny and smart people in my life. Lately, I’ve spent time with many of them over food or tea.
Mireille and I watched the Jays' game and coloured. It was pretty great.

Mireille and I (intently) watched the Jays’ game and coloured. It was pretty great.

  • Fall walks with Odie: I adore fall. And the colours this autumn have been spectacular, so I’ve been sporting my blundstones and sweaters on local trails, with my giant pup.
This is the route we take most mornings. It's been really beautiful lately

This is the route we take most mornings. It’s been really beautiful lately

  • Magic Mike and Mary: Turns out we needed a handywoman, not a handyman! Mary has already connected the two back decks. And Mike, a family friend, came by to install a back porch light. Thank you both.
Tada! Bigger and better back deck! (ignore the leaves, we need to rake)

Tada! Bigger and better back deck! (ignore the leaves, we need to rake)

  • My wedding dress is in: I’m trying so hard to be practical about this whole wedding business, but I was pretty excited to pick up my dress – a generous gift from my mom.
  • Lists of love: Some of my most prized possessions are handwritten lists of reasons I’m loved. I keep them in my wallet for those days when I’m feeling glum. Two friends recently created new lists that were truly soul-nurturing.
Toot toot!

Toot toot! Thanks Lainers.

  • New bras: Wearing these, I feel like a new woman. If you haven’t gone for a fitting, I highly recommend Secrets from Your Sister. They cost a pretty penny, but bras that fit are like shoes that fit – they just makes sense. 
  • Time with avo: My grandma makes me laugh and offers me valuable pieces of wisdom. I’ve really enjoyed seeing lots of her lately. She also made me these awesome, elven slippers. Thanks, avo!
Slippers knit by my grandma = awesome

Slippers knit by my grandma = awesome

  • Thanksgiving: A holiday for food and family – two of my favourite things. This past long weekend, I saw many beloved cousins and my old roomie Steph. I also checked out the Elmvale Fall Fair and ate until I had to undo my pants.
  • A clean home: We spent a full day giving the house a good clean, and it felt great. For those hard-to-reach nooks, we found a local cleaning lady who charges $25 an hour (cue Enya).

But as lucky as I’ve been lately, I’ll never take joy for granted. Because sometimes life can be tough as pushups after months of slothfulness, or as harsh as hail in May.

 

The view from here

I’ve struggled to write lately, because there’s at once so much and so little to say. Life – full of to dos, visits and meetings – is blasting by at warp nine. Yet, it all feels rather pleasantly humdrum.

But instead of letting you believe I’ve been eaten by Odie, my blog left to wither tragically, I thought I may as well share some updates from Elmvale.

1. The Lefaive girls are back in business

Gen has returned from the distant land of Guelph to eat mom’s food and work at ye olde Disco Harbour. It’s been great to see her more regularly.

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2. Odie is a sweet terror

He playfully flattens all children. JF says his wagging tail feels like a bludger to the crotch. He also accidentally crushes your toes when accosting you for affection. On the upside, he now knows how to sit AND walk on a leash (little victories!).

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3. Wedding plans are progressing

We have a location, a tent, a caterer, flowers, a dress and an officiant. Plus a lovely friend has offered to make 100 invitations by hand. Please make note of their loveliness when you get yours.

4. We’re regularly visiting the sands of our youth

We splurged and bought a Tiny Township beach pass for Tobias. I’m pissed at the cottagers who erect barriers (physical and metaphysical) to keep locals out – my family has been using these beaches a century longer than yours! – but glad this option for pseudo access still exists. Here’s to the smell of coppertone.

3183_10151304130796177_1713857898_n5. I joined another board

Yes I know, I was just whining about how busy I am. But I couldn’t say no. It’s with La Clé – an organization that’s vital to the health and well-being of the local francophone community. I’m delighted to represent both my hometown and my age bracket.

6. My garden has expanded

Helena and Owen devoted a whole day to helping me create a new garden bed in the yard. It’s looking a little sparse, but (finally!) intentional.

7. My choir did another concert

Minus a few terrifying bars, it was quite good. We were mostly on key and everything. And I always feel good after singing with friends.

8. The 2015 Humber High reunion took place

The gals from PR school do an annual general meeting. It always includes food and shenanigans. This time, we had a big breakfast then went to Body Blitz, sat around in warm water all day, and talked. It rocked.

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here's last year's AGM

No one likes a bathing suit photo poster, so here’s last year’s AGM

9. I painted a wolf

Or rather, a wolf cutout, at Quest Art. Several acrylic-splattered howlers, including mine, will be available at le Festival du Loup through a silent auction benefiting both the gallery and local francophone musicians. Win win!

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10. We bought a Roomba

This shouldn’t be news, but this little round robot is so beautiful to me. He whirls around, bumping into furniture, happily beeping and sucking up dirt. We’ve named him Rambo and I dedicate this song to him.

I think that’s kind of it, folks! I figure since I’m getting as granular as dirt on my floor, it’s probably time to stop. The road goes ever ever on (how many nerd references can I fit into one blog post?).

My big, fat Franco-Ontarian wedding

The date will be June 11, 2016. Our dog will be there. It will be big and casual. There will be booze, dancing, fireworks and a potato gun. But that’s all I know about my wedding, so far.

Us an the Odester. We want this dude there on our big day!

Us an the Odester. We want this dude there on our big day!

Having a small Franco-Ontarian wedding without maiming hearts is impossible. We have 24 francophone aunts and uncles between us, plus 15 from our German and Portuguese factions. And I love my cousins — all billion of them.

I’ve helped plan many weddings. I’ve attended at least 30. We’ve talked extensively about our ideal day. I have a whole pinterest board about it, so it’s practically planned already, right? But with our guest list, it all boils down to what we can afford.

Right now, the big question is the venue. I’ve found a sum total of zero in-budget, non-ugly spaces that can accommodate 200 people that aren’t Elise and Roger’s backyard. Truly, all we need is a pretty field with electricity and space for a thousand cars. Is that so much to ask?

Still, we shall overcome. And however frustrating this first leg of planning is, it’ll be a lovely day with the people dearest to us. Or at least, a memorable one.

 

The benefits of dog walking

Every morning, I wake up at 6:45 a.m. and put on:

  • A pair of wool socks
  • And then another
  • Long johns
  • Sweat pants
  • A tank top
  • A t-shirt
  • A hoodie
  • A down parka
  • Sorel boots
  • A long scarf
  • Some woollen mittens
  • And a toque

before filling my pockets with lavender-scented poop bags and kibble. Then I spend a solid 10 minutes trying to clip a leash on my very excited dog before michelin-manning it out the back door.

Every time that blast of cold hits my face, I think: “I’m a good dog owner, I’m a good owner, I’m a good dog owner” while gritting my teeth and dreaming about the fence we’re going to get as soon as the ground thaws. By about the tenth minute, we’ve reached a local trail and Odie is prancing about like a king. I can’t feel my nose.

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There are no dignified photos of me in my dog walk getup, so here’s one of Odie in the snow, pre haircut.

The walk home – about half an hour later – is usually a bit more eventful. Cars pulling out of driveways, kids walking to school, and retirees taking out their garbage in their pyjamas. Odie, whose universe used to be limited to a backyard, greets them all by jumping on them.

But last week he suddenly started barking. I was puzzled until I saw the stout elderly lady who had slipped and fallen. She’d been on the ground in her nightgown for nearly half an hour in -35 degree weather. Her nose was bleeding, but she didn’t want a doctor. She asked for help getting up and into the warmth of her home.

I tied Odie to a post, put one of my billion layers over her legs, ran to get JF, and we helped her inside. After about ten minutes of hand-wringing over the possibility that she was concussed, I called the paramedics after all. Before leaving for work, I made sure they found her house.

On our after-work walk, Odie and I dropped in for a visit. Jean was fine, but her nose hurt like the dickens.

Morals of the story? Dog walking is a great way to meet people. Also, visit your older neighbours regularly. Also, spring will be awesome.

Digging around for his frisbee

Digging around for his frisbee