The beauty of a grand-parent

Yesterday we celebrated Mr. C’s grandmother’s birthday as a family. I sat back and watched Mr. C’s grandparents interacting with my children and thought to myself how fortunate we are that my children have the chance to get to know their great grand-parents! How amazing is that??

I do not have any grandparents left. All of mine have passed away. Mr. C. still has all four of his grand parents left. All 4!! I feel like at our age it’s rare to have any of your grandparents left let alone all 4. Not only does he have all 4 left but he has a very special relationship with two of them. They have a beautiful bond. In the ten years that I have known Mr. C. I have also grown very close to his grandparents. THey have become my surrogate grandparents. THey are kind and thoughtful people, bringing me chocolates every time they see me, making me feel like a little girl again.

I grew up living a far distance from all of my family. We saw them often but when you don’t live close enough to see them on a regular basis it can be difficult to have as close of a relationship. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was young. As my brother and I got older and our lives got busier we didn’t spend as much time together as we probably should have.

I look back now and feel a little sad about that. I realize that my grandparents didn’t really know me as an adult, especially my mother’s parents who passed away when I was still a teenager and who lived out of country. I wonder sometimes if they would be proud of me, of the person I have become. I wonder if they would love my kids, if they would want to have a relationship with my children.

I sat watching Mr. C’s grandparents connecting with my children with a heavy heart as I became conscious of the fact that my children were never going to meet my grandparents.

Then it hit me that my heart shouldn’t be heavy, it should be happy that I have been successful in giving my children the chance to know their grandparents! Growing up I always wanted my children to be close to their grandparents. I made a decision to stay close to home so that my children could have a bond with my parents that I didn’t necessarily have with theirs. My children have a very close relationship with their Nana, Grandad and Lita. We spend a lot of time with our parents.  We have travelled as a family, we go on outings to parks and events and sometimes it’s just an afternoon at each other’s homes. I love that we see them often. I love that my kids love them and feel close to them.

I am so thankful that our parents put in that effort to maintain a good relationship with their grandchildren. THey really want to be a part of their lives. From the very beginning, when Mr. T. was in the hospital and they came every single day. To now where they not only see them often but they take the time to plan fun things to do with them so that Mr. T. and Ms. J will always have these memories to take with them forever.

Recently my Dad planted some flowers with them and every day Mr. T. checks out the plant to see if flowers have sprouted. He then calls Grandad to share the news. Mr. T. loves to play what he calls the laughing game with Nana. The laughing game is simply some form of kicking a ball around the backyard, chasing each other and giggling uncontrollably.

It makes my heart smile to see that my children will grow up with a special bond with their grandparents. The same bond that Mr. C. shares with his grandparents. I know they will cherish this relationship for life. The love between a grandparent and grandchild is special. I’m glad my children are getting the chance to experience that love, not only from their grandparents but they are blessed enough to experience that love from their great grandparents as well. I hope they take these memories with them through life because the love of a grandparent is a special kind of love and one that not every one is fortunate enough to have.

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Church and Children, do they mix?

We go to church. I won’t sit here and pretend we are regulars but we do try to attend as much as we are able to. We aren’t fanatics and I’m embarrassed to say our bible is buried behind a stack of popular fiction on our bookshelf. We go through spurts where we go quite often and then we won’t go for a few months. We are members of our church, our children were both baptised there and Mr. T. goes to Sunday School, but we don’t attend every Sunday.

I grew up going to church. We went every single Sunday when I was young. I sung in the church choir, I played handbells in the handbell choir and I took care of the little ones in the church nursery. My parents taught Sunday school and I was confirmed. We were active members of our church and I had always assumed that I would one day go to church with my family. I felt like it was an important thing to introduce to my children. When they are old enough to make their own decisions their religious beliefs will be their personal decisions however I always felt like it was my job to give them a starting point.

We have found a wonderful family friendly church where we are always welcomed with open arms no matter how long it’s been since our last visit. We leave feeling warm and fulfilled after each and every service. Our church really puts family and children at the centre. Our service has a children’s time where the kids sit up at the front with the minister while she tells a story then they go off to Sunday school or nursery depending on their age. They have a toy kitchen in the back of the room so if children get restless they are free to go play. There’s even a family with three little girls who are apparently dancers at heart because every time we sing a hymn they go up to the front and spin around in their little tutus moving to the music.

Recently we went to a special service at a different church and had a very different experience. Now I’ll preface this by saying that I have a fear of Priests. The way some people are afraid of heights or clowns, I am afraid of Priests. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? I don’t have any explanation as to why I have this fear but it’s very real and I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps this fear has clouded my judgement slightly. Needless to say I’m not entirely comfortable in a Catholic Church. I will however make the effort because Mr. C. was born and raised Catholic. From the moment we walked into the church we, meaning both Mr.C. and I,  felt awkward and unwelcome. I felt eyes boring a hole in my back as I walked down the aisle holding my kids hands trying to find our way to our pew. I felt the instinctive need to protect my children by pulling them in  closer to me and further away from these strangers who sighed as we walked by. The service was actually dedicated to Mr. T, our reason for being there, but it seemed as though it was more of a burden that both him and Ms. J were even attending. I began to sweat as my children started to get restless and whines echoed into the cathedral ceilings garnering more judgmental looks and murmurs from the pews around us. My heart was beating powerfully, it’s rythmic drum pounding throughout my entire body, as I noticed the Priest watching my mouth to see if I was reciting the proper words. Which of course I wasn’t since I am not actually Catholic. I felt shamed. As though he was looking at me like I didn’t deserve to be there. Eventually I left with Ms. J who was loudly protesting the fact that she was expected to sit still  and quiet for the entire service. An expectation that I personally think is unrealistic for a toddler. Mr T. is used to our church where he can get up if needs be and where he actually participates so he was saddened when he wasn’t allowed to contribute anything.  Walking out into the warm early summer air I felt relieved to be away from all of the judging eyes. I didn’t feel warm and fuzzy. I didn’t feel closer to God at all.

It raised in me a question about where children fit into religion and the church. Am I expecting too much for a church to welcome children? I am fully aware that my expectations are based upon my experience with my own church so is it unfair of me to assume that all churches happily encourage you to bring your entire family. Shouldn’t there be a place for children in Church?

I think my opinion is obvious and already stated. I think if you are religious and have your own beliefs, regardless of which religion it is, I think it’s important for you to teach that to your children. So of course I think there should be a place for children in a place of worship.

Obviously I made an assumption when heading to this service, an assumption that my children would be able to attend a service as children. I didn’t think that perhaps this church doesn’t function the way mine does and that they would be expected to sit quietly, to be seen and not heard. I won’t make that mistake again. It isn’t fair for me, my kids or the rest of the congregation who isn’t expecting a service with an added soundtrack of fidgety little ones.

The most ironic part of this whole ordeal to me is that a part of the service was talking about a mothers love and the gift of bringing children into the world. The message I ended up taking away was that becoming a mother, bringing a life into this world is truly a gift from God, however please don’t bring those gifts into God’s house, that’s actually an adults only environment.

I think I will make a point of attending service this Sunday. I’ll make sure we are attending our family friendly church, where kids are encouraged to be seen as well as heard. We’ll leave the adults only service to well..the grown ups! It’s for the best really. Perhaps a little hymn dancing is just what the doctor ordered!

In the words of Aerosmith “Life’s a journey not a destination”

We have been blessed. Both of our children are good sleepers. I know this has prevented a huge amount of stress in our lives. We don’t usually fight with our children to fall asleep. They usually just go without arguing, in fact Ms. J. will actually tell us when she’s ready for bed. Rubbing her little eyes she’ll say “i tired” and when placed in her sleep she’ll just roll over, hug her bunny and go right to sleep. Although Mr. T. isn’t quite that easy, normally when we say it’s bed time he lays down and goes to sleep. I am fully aware of how lucky we are in this respect.

This evening Ms. J. screamed when put in her crib. She cried and screeched at the top of her lungs begging one of us to come get her. This isn’t her, so I went up to settle her. As I sat trying to rock her into peace, my mind raced with all of the things that I still had to do before going to bed. I had to pack their daycare bags, put in laundry, get my clothes ready for tomorrow morning and I still wanted to try to write a little. “Just go to sleep!” I thought to myself.

Just then Ms. J let out a sigh and wiggled in closer to my body. She startled my mind out of its rambling anxiety and I realized that I missing a truly beautiful moment.

This isn’t new. I do this all the time. I rush through my life as though it’s simply a to do list and my job is merely to check off each completed task. While playing with my kids, I’m mentally planning out the week’s meals. During story time, I’m running through what needs to be packed in the kids daycare bags. Now, while I should have been rocking my beautiful little girl to sleep I was pleading with her in my mind to just close her eyes and sleep so that I could go downstairs and what? Put in laundry, pack diapers, sit on my laptop????

So I told myself to forget about my to do list for a while. I tried to be in the moment. I felt Ms. J’s little body, warm and sticky with sleepy baby sweat, cuddled up in my arms. I listened to her breathing as it slowed and steadied. I looked in her eyes as she fought the sleep and physically felt my love for her. As I settled into the moment I forgot about everything but her. I remembered the long nights I spent with her as a newborn in middle of the night darkness, doing exactly this. I felt her weight in my arms and it dawned on me that she’s not a baby anymore.

My time with both Mr. T and Ms. J is not infinite. I can continue to treat my life as a destination, somewhere  I am trying to reach by completing each of these mundane tasks of life, but I am bound to miss out. The chores of a working mother don’t go away. There will always be more dishes, another load of laundry, a floor to be swept and the list never ends. There will not, however, always be another day to my babies childhood. I can not continue to mentally miss these beautiful moments because I am so worried about all the duties that have unofficially been assigned to me. I need to remember that life is a journey and I need to cherish every single moment I have with my beautiful family. They are what bring me unimaginable joy.

With that said, I am heading to bed and I have left some clothes unfolded in the basket. Instead, I rocked my princess to sleep. She wrapped her little hands around my neck in affection and appreciation. My heart swelled as I enjoyed a moment of pure bliss. The pile of clothes that got left behind would never have done that for me.

Mother of a monster

It was 5am and as I laced up my sneakers for my morning run I turned on the news. It normally plays in the background keeping me company during my early morning runs, sound turned down while music pumps through my body keeping me going. The flashes on the screen giving me a taste of the days news as most people are still soundly sleeping in their warm beds.

Today a face flashed across the screen that caused me to take out my earphones and shift my focus to the screen. It was Michael Rafferty’s mother. For my readers who don’t live in southern Ontario where this story has taken over the news, you may have to google it because the contents are so disturbing that I don’t want to go into them. In short, Michael Rafferty and his girlfriend kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered an eight year old girl.

To be perfectly honest, when news stories come across the TV regarding this case, I tune out. I can’t listen to the details of the story as they have caused me some anxiety. After listening to one of the first reports after this trial started I had nightmares for a month. I decided then that I would not be able follow this trial as it hit too close to home for me.

This time was different, it was the first time I had seen the mother of the accused. I was interested in hearing what she had to say. Would she defend her son? Would she apologize to the victims for the pain her child caused? I didn’t know what to expect.

When I finally heard what she had to say I was disgusted. She laid the blame elsewhere. I understand that her son is pleading not guilty but does that mean that he has no guilt? That he played no part at all in this crime. She claimed that her “son is innocent” and that “Terri McClintic has wrecked their lives” She further mentioned that Rafferty’s” biggest mistake was meeting McClintic” and that “this could happen to any man walking around right now”.

I felt compelled to speak to these comments. To say that I was appalled would be an understatement. Firstly, I understand your instinct to protect your son, to defend him but would a Mother’s love really make you believe anything?. Let’s be perfectly honest here. Her son was far from an innocent victim and no this could not happen to any man. Most men wouldn’t just sit back and go along for the ride when a little girl is kidnapped and brought to them. Most men would turn that child and the kidnapper into the police right away. Most men wouldn’t allow someone to murder a child in front of them without intervening. His biggest mistake was not meeting McClintic, it was taking part in such a heinous crime. I am giving the benefit of the doubt here and going along with the story that he was just an innocent victim, which I think even Mrs. Rafferty, in her heart of hearts must know doesn’t make sense. Regardless of who actually killed this poor sweet little child, both are guilty of murder. Your child is not innocent.

Secondly, why do you feel the need to say anything at all? Out of respect for the parents of this little girl you should stay in the background. You want to support your son, that’s fine, but you don’t have to make any public statements. You do not have to rub salt in their wounds. At least have the decency, respect and foresight to see what your words might do to this family. They have been through enough, at the hands of YOUR child. To make a statement making any reference to how YOUR family has been destroyed is revolting. Your child played a role in this little girls death, regardless of the level of the role. The impact to your family is meaningless in comparison to the actions of your child.

I made an attempt to look at this from a mothers perspective. What would I do if that were my child? Would I stand by their side? Would I believe whatever story he told me, no matter how implausible it seemed? I don’t think any of us can put ourselves in her position. I don’t think any of us want to put ourselves in her position. Am I being cold? Should she not be allowed her moment to grieve?

I am by no means disputing the fact that this woman has also suffered a tragedy. She has “lost” her son. She has to live with the fact that she is the mother of a monster. She will feel the impact of his crimes even though she had nothing to do with them. Yes, I think she should grieve for her child and for the unimaginable things he did. I just don’t think it’s appropriate to do so publicly. I think this mother needs to remember that her son made his choice. He chose to commit the acts that he committed or ignore them depending on the story you believe. I can’t speak for the events that occurred, that is up to a jury to decide. I can, however, say sit down Mrs. Rafferty and allow this family to mourn in peace.

Our attempt to say Thank You

I remember the day that Mr. T. was released from the hospital like it was yesterday. Up until that time, it was the second happiest day of my life. THe first being the day Mr. T. was born.

By that time Mr. T. had been transferred down a level in care to another hospital a bit closer to home. He no longer needed critical care but wasn’t yet at the point where he could go home, surprisingly even that was emotionally difficult for us. We had been at Sick Kids for so long that we were in a routine. We knew the doctors, we anticipated rounds and were comfortable with the nurses. While being taken out of critical care was a good thing and was a move in the right direction, in meant change for us. We would have to put our trust in yet another set of doctors at a different hospital. We would have to get used to new nurses and different facilities. Change was scary. But we were one step closer to home so we were cautiously optimistic and convinced ourselves it would work out.

I am the one who has a harder time with change so I turned to Mr. C. to assure me that everything was going as planned. We were returning to the hospital where Mr. T was born and he reminded me how fantastic they were in his diagnosis, I let out a sigh of relief.

We had our own room at this hospital so we were able to stay overnight with Mr. T. A hospital bed was set up beside his little crib and Mr. C and I squished ourselves into the single bed just happy that we didn’t have to leave him. On our first morning we were woken up by the wonderful doctor that would eventually discharge us. He tore into our room bright and early, rising us out of our restless sleep, his voice booming “Morning folks” he said, “let’s get you out of here”

We called him Dr. Dan. This nickname was because he reminded us of Dan from the show “Roseanne”. He was a big yet gentle man with a loud rowdy voice who kept a smile on his face at all times. From the moment he walked in to our room his goal was to get Mr. T. well enough to go home and it was just the attitude we needed at that moment.

In total we spent just under a week at this hospital. We had Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital cafeteria with my parents. Warmed in the microwave, we ate a delicious turkey dinner in that sterile setting with Mr. T. sitting in his little infant carrier beside us. We started to feel a little like a family here. Little did we know that shortly after this unconventional yet truly beautiful Thanksgiving meal we would be heading home.

Mr. T. was weighed every day and the conditions of his release were that he was steadily gaining weight and keeping down the majority of his feeds. FInally, finally after 6 long weeks, Dr. Dan swept into our room bright and early on a sunny fall day and announced that today would be the day we would be going home. I was elated. I wanted to jump up and hug him. We called our parents and packed our bags. Ready to go home for the first time as a family of three.

A feeling of slight panick came over me as I realized for the first time I would be alone. I didn’t have doctors or nurses to turn to for reassurance. It was all on me and I felt terrified.

I can still feel the warm sun on my face as I stepped out of the hospital into the crisp fall air with my perfect little boy beside me. I watched the other new mum’s make their first slow walk out into the real world with their babies in tow and although I had been a mummy for 6 entire weeks I felt just as new to this as they did. I was in heaven as I settled into the back of our car keeping my hand on Mr. T’s car seat the entire drive. Mr. C. and I chatted and planned the entire drive home. It was then that together we decided that this was not the end of this.

We talked about how lucky we were. How many wonderful people had crossed our paths over the past month. Not only doctors and nurses but volunteers and even the baristas at the Starbucks were so kind to us! There were volunteers that read to Mr. T. when we weren’t there. That rocked him for us if he was alone. That knit him hats and booties and made him quilts. We realized that the world was full of good people and we could never forget them. We vowed to ourselves and Mr. T. that we weren’t just going to walk away and turn our backs. We needed to figure out a way to give back.

A few months later at one of Mr. T’s many follow-up appointments I came across a poster for Meagan’s Walk. I came home and looked it up online and was so unbelievably moved by the story. Meagan was a little girl who passed away from a brain tumour at just 5 years old. She spent months at Sick Kids fighting this terrible disease that took her life. Meagan’s mother started the walk in memory of Meagan. The money raised goes to pediatric brain tumour research and the Sick Kids foundation. As I read her story I sat back and thought to myself that Meagan and her parents walked the halls of Sick Kids just as we did. They experienced terrible pain, worry, fear and the horrible loss of their beautiful little girl. They experienced a pain that I can’t even begin to imagine. I realized, again, just how fortunate we were to have walked out of that hospital with our little man in tow. We had to participate in this walk. It occurs every year on Mother’s Day, although this year it is occurring the day before Mother’s Day. I couldn’t imagine a better way to give back to the wonderful hospital that saved my little boys’ life than to walk in this precious little girls name on Mother’s Day. It also allows us an opportunity to remind Mr. T of just how much love and support he received in the first weeks of his life. It allows him the opportunity to give back and support others just as others supported us. I am hoping it teaches him to have a generous spirit. To always be thankful for the fortunes life has bestowed on us. To never forget where his little life began.

We are participating in Meagan’s Walk again this year. If anyone reading is interested in joining the walk, supporting our walk team or spreading the word of this amazing cause please see the link below.

http://my.sickkidsdonations.com/personalPage.aspx?SID=3326856&langPref=en-CA