where do i go from here?

sometimes it feels as though everyone around me is moving forwards in life. their momentum appears to be positive and energetic and full of optimism, while i’m stuck in the doom and gloom of the grey winter blahs. i don’t want to sound ungrateful or whiny, because neither is my intention. but, i suppose i feel bored. not as in i have nothing to do, because i have plenty to do, but i guess in a more, i am understimulated kind of bored. 

[source: here]

as my children grow and gain more independence, i find myself wondering more about what my future holds. as i peek into the crystal ball i see plenty of familial time. but, i also see myself as a more refreshed image of who i am today. refreshed by what i am doing, how i am doing things and where i am doing it. i had a massage before the holidays, and the masseuse said to me (quite rudely and unprofessionally) that i looked depleted. i immediately felt defensive and embarrassed of my depleted self. but, once i got over the shock of what she said (several days later, mind you) it dawned on me that she was onto something.

although, it doesn’t matter what she thinks of me or what anyone thinks of me actually (well…), i did have to admit that she was onto something. my body has been through some significant stresses over the last few years and as a consequence my body has become a weak, soft, vessel that gets sick and exhausted easily.

my point in this friday ramble, is that so many things in life are not important. as i sit in the haze that has become my life, i am willing to move forwards and move towards a more focused and clearer future. one that is stimulating, challenging and exciting in all the right ways! although the winter blah’s are sitting tightly on my shoulders, i do see a twinkle in the horizon of light and life, and i am keen to move towards it.

xo, mama lola

oh, fire!

ozfire turned two this weekend. he’s the youngest son of friends and we had wonderful time at his birthday party this morning. i brought my camera, but completely forgot to take any pictures of the beautiful people there. 

as i was remembering back to his birth it made me think about my life and wonder where we were two years ago in january of 2010…

  • i was about three months pregnant.
  • i had just found out about my tumour and on the morning of ozfire’s birth, i had my second appointment with my neurologist.
  • i was on tylenol 3’s for the headaches and feeling so guilty while thinking about my unborn babe, my wee lion.
  • i was being referred to a high risk OB at the big hospital out of town, but i was able to keep my midwives on for support… LUCKILY!!!
  • we were living in another city, anxiously saving money for a down payment for a house in the city we currently live in.
  • bear was almost two, still in diapers, learning to talk, napping in the afternoons and clueless about the baby who was coming to rock our world.
  • dear hubby was working at a fairly new job and things we’re going well. 
  • unbeknownst to us, it was the beginning of the most stressful year of our lives. 

all of the above pictures of bear were taken in january 2010.
today, in january 2012, two years since all of that, i am truly coming to terms with all of that. dear hubby and i have come to the realization that we were in a fair bit of denial with the tumour situation and the specifics of the scary birth which brought us our wee lion. although we felt the seriousness of each situation, only now are the finer details settling into our consciousness. i am reminding myself that my focus should not be on the details of the past, but instead on the details of the future. 
happy birthday sweet ozfire! we love you so, so much and are looking forward to more shared adventures with you. choo-choo fire! 

xo, mama lola

another year has come and gone… welcome 33.

i love my birthday.
i especially love spending it with my boys.

i used to share my birthday with my mummo before she passed away. here’s a picture of our first shared cake and the 66 candles that sat on top; one for me, 65 for her! denzel washington also celebrates his birthday with me. lucky me! or him!

my first birthday as a mama with my sweet bear.

as i enter 33 and 2012 i am hoping life will roll a little more easily and smoothly for myself and my family this year. i feel like we deserve a break from all of the turmoil that has been thrown in our faces in the past two years. i want to discover fantastic adventures with the kids, explore life through their eyes and travel this great land we call home. i would like to return to school and finish what i have started, sooner rather than later.

lion trying on my first pair of specs. he LOVED them!

perhaps with 33 i will discover the fountain of patience. although mothering has been easier this past month or so, i know i will be tested tremendously in the coming year. i want to be so much more than just a “good mother”, but fulfilling those expectations of myself are pretty much impossible. and not just patience with my kids, but more so with myself. 
i want to grow more as a person and find who i am again. i am so often only seen as a mother, but i am so much more. but i only have my self to blame for that, i have allowed the other parts of me to disappear under the exhaustion, the busyness and the oh-so predictable routine that has become my life. and not that those things are unpleasant, but they make it difficult to feel free, creative or curious.

we are heading up north to bring in the new year with some of our bestest friends! lots of good talkin’, good food and good booze! it looks like there will be snow, so the kids will be delighted to be able to go tobogganing and build snow people and the always popular lumilyhty!

see you on the other side.

xo, mama lola

coming full circle.

today is finland’s independence day. we lit our two white candles, listened to the national anthem and i shed a few tears for my motherland. man, i miss that place so much.

tomorrow i have a very important date with my tumour team in the big city. it’s my annual check up: that’s right, it’s been a year since my surgery. the anniversary passed quietly on november 12th, with only a quick mention to dear hubby and some quiet thoughts on my own. it’s been a wonderful year without the debilitating migraines and the handfuls of T3’s i would eat almost daily. 
it’ll be two years ago on december 18th that my family doctor phoned me at home and told me i had a tumour in my head and had to get to an opthamologist immediately. two years ago that my life changed in a way that i never could have predicted. december 21st will be two years since my first meeting with my neurosurgeon. we discussed the possibilities of surgery, but since i was only about 3 months pregnant with lion, everyone was unsure about what to do next. that holiday season of 2009 was really surreal and filled with fear. our families didn’t even know i was pregnant until we formally announced it at each family’s christmas dinner. first we discussed the horror of the tumour and then we threw in that we were expecting. what an emotional rollercoaster!

but, we survived and are here to tell the tale. 

tomorrow’s appointment is to discuss the results of the MRI and bloodwork i had done in the fall. i am feeling hopeful and optimistic, but there is also a part of me that is terrified. so many what if’s are jumping around my head and it’s hard to remain completely rational at all times!

kiddo’s, advent calendar in it’s full glory, tree with shooting star.

it’s been a stressful few years. 
i am waiting for a calm christmas that is only made anxious by burnt cookies and pricked fingers!

xo, mama lola

birth. stories.

looking for submissions: a friend is looking for birth stories for her blog MotherGather. it’s a wonderful resource for new and experienced mamas (or anyone really) and a platform where women can share their own birth stories. western society has warped the importance of birth by dismissing its importance as an experience to be celebrated and acknowledged as a milestone in a fertile woman’s life. hollywood and our media bombard us with images of birth as a painful, “man hating ordeal” where women are at the hands of experts. i find this distressing, because it is inaccurate and sends the wrong message to moms of what the true experience will be like. but, birth stories don’t just have to involve a mother birthing a baby out of her body, they can include parents adopting children and birthing a new family, so to speak. this of course is never talked about in media or hollywood honestly either.

i know from my own experiences, the births of my two cubs, that although they were completely different, neither was what i had expected. or hoped for. but, that being said, i did the best i could in each day, hour and moment of labour and delivery with each of my boys. i did the best i could, with what i knew at the time. and, that is the best anyone of us can do during birth. or life.

after bear’s birth, i felt like a failure. as if not bringing to fruition my idealized, romanticized and fantasized images of labour and delivery would somehow brand me as a bad mother for the rest of my life. as if the different road that was travelled for those 59 hours that i laboured and the one hour i delivered, somehow makes me a failure, because i was not at home and in a tub. sounds silly, even to me as i type this but, alas, this is a part of my struggle as a human, a woman and as a mama. perfection, or what i consider to be perfection for me. i would never imagine holding someone else up to these exorbitant expectations, as i logically understand that they are unrealistic.

when did my babies stop being babies?

lion’s first haircut. i trimmed his bangs. 

it’s time to bid farewell to you, my faithful readers, but only for a short while. we are headed to the big apple for a week and while we are frolicking in the streets of the city that never sleeps, my computer will be undergoing some serious surgery at the techie-hospital. i will be offline for a while, but will return with buckets overflowing with pictures and stories of our adventures. our days will be filled with trips to central park, FAO schwartz, MOMA, and times square, just to name a few. we will also be witness to the nuptials of some lovely friends on friday, but best of all our city weekend is bookended with quality time with dear hubby’s sister and her mister. it’s been a while since we’ve seen them and we are anxiously awaiting shared dinners, hikes along forest trails and just the opportunity to catch up on all of the important stuff.

please have your fingers crossed for us, and hope that we have a rainless vacation, especially on saturday and sunday. the experts have gone from rain, to snow to sun and back. yesterday the forecast for saturday called for 10mm+ rain and today all sun, all day. how can they be so different??

see you in november!

xo, mama lola

it’s that time of year: pumpkins n’ rakes n’ scarves, oh my!

well, it’s that time of year again. time to pull out all the mitts, toques, sweaters and scarves. mother nature has brought us fall with its grey, but sometimes with a side of sunshine, damp days and cold, dark nights. once october rolls in i turn into a neck-cover-upper, meaning i love to wear scarves and turtlenecks. i found this awesome video on 25 ways to tie a scarf and am truly inspired to vamp up my scarf wearing. check it out!

since we will be in the big apple (t-minus 3 days) for halloween, we decided not to carve our pumpkins, but paint them instead. this morning bear and i set up our painting station outside on our front porch in the glorious warm sunlight. he was absolutely delighted to paint without the wee brother distracting us, and boy o’ boy did he ever paint. the kid had his artsy juices flowing and created some phenomenal work today. i love how fearless he is, especially when painting; he mixes colours and brushes and just paints. he’s not concerned about what anyone will think of his work and seems to really love the process. i wish i could say the same about me. even though i’m just painting pumpkins, i feel this odd pressure for things to look good and funky. augh, i need to get over it!

the kid’s a natural.

we got a bunch of fall/ winter prep done this weekend. the backyard patio furniture is packed into the shed, leaves raked and bagged and taken to the dump. the backyard is swept, sticks piled by the composts and various flower pots emptied and packed away for next spring. the swing from the front porch has been taken down to the chagrin of the boys, but it’s that time of year. it feels really good to be ahead of the game for once and ready for the upcoming change in season.

the guys cleaned the inside of the car today too, in preparation for our NYC roadtrip. dear hubby took various seats out, vacuumed them and had two little guys in there wreaking havoc on the whole experience. they were supposed to be helping, but instead the two tried to sneak out of the van through the open trunk or honked the horn or closed the doors on poor dear hubby as he was carrying a heavy carseat. but, the car sparkles as well as it can and is ready to go!

i’ve been moving slightly slower than preferable this weekend as i have been fighting something that wants to severely attack my immune system! it started with a sore throat and then moved to my sinuses and now is weakly holding on. i’ve been chugging my beloved oil of oregano and i think i have overcome whatever bug this was. phew!
look what i found in lion’s bottom bunk. 

bear is eager to sleep with his little brother and sneaks down to the bottom bunk every so often. secretly, i love it and it breaks my heart. realistically, i think they’re almost at the right age to sleep together, or at least fall asleep together. bear is such a mover and a shaker in his sleep, which worries me a bit for lion’s sake. maybe we’ll give it a try at the hotel in NYC.

speaking of new york, it’s time to start packing for our family adventure! i’m hoping to get most of the kids’ things done tonight, so that i can focus on my own stuff, which is going to be tricky. i can’t figure out what i should wear, as the weather predictions keep changing from snow, to rain, to sun, which is pretty unhelpful. i tend to over pack, always have, because i am always concerned with all of the what ifs. i’m the kind of person who prefers to be prepared for any situation whether it means stopping for an unplanned pee break on some foreign country road or feeling hungry and not finding any gas stations for those all important snacks! that being said, i feel a bit overwhelmed and would love some packing suggestions!

kissy lips.

can’t wait for this week to get going, because then we’ll be that much closer to leaving!
hope you have a wonderful monday tomorrow. 

xo, mama lola

homemakers, homemaking and me.

i am reading this absolutely amazing book radical homemakers by shannon hayes. it is a book about how our current consumer driven society came to be. how we evolved from homes with two homemakers, where two adults worked all day to maintain the household and family. they worked in the home, for the home, for the family. today, homes sit empty all day while people leave their homes to work for someone else so that they can afford their homes. it is about the consumer society that has dictated a new norm and we are all supposed to follow this path in order to maintain the buy, buy economy. hayes argues, for example, that there is excessive value placed on work, especially over work, keeping family members away from the home and separated from each other. this in turn has led to rising rates of depression and other mental health illnesses in the USA, where hayes is writing from and about. her book is well researched, presented and for myself, has made me take a closer look at my family and our values and think about where we’re headed with the choices we are making.

lion loves to help in the kitchen.

i am a stay-at-home-mama by choice. years before dear hubby and i were ever married and seriously considering parenthood, i knew one day i wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. dear hubby has always been very supportive of this career path of mine and shared the belief of its importance. and yes, i do call it a career path or choice. homemaking is what i do all day, it is my work, my job. i may not receive monetary compensation for it, but i tend to our home and tend to the needs of the people living in our home. i ensure there is healthy food, clean clothes, clean living spaces, safe activities for the children, and much, much more.

being a fulltime at home parent is a rarity. there is tremendous pressure in our society to own lots of stuff, as that is a way to measure our success and ultimately, our self worth. the sizes of homes are getting bigger, but not because families are, but because of what it represents. the bigger the car, home, or diamond the more money they have and the happier they must be. but, according to hayes, research has proven this assumption is massively wrong. more money often means more hours worked, which actually means people are unhappier, because their time is very limited with their family.

i often get quite defensive when explaining my reasons for wanting to be at home. i feel like i have to justify that what i do is legitimate work and not just a lazy day with the kids. i in fact take my at-home duties very seriously, as i would with any job. for example, i try to feed my family fresh, nutritious foods, making meals from scratch most evenings. i am trying to teach my children how to enjoy a variety of foods; understand that food is grown on farms thanks to hard working people and doesn’t just appear in the grocery store. it is very important to us that our kids appreciate the manual labour and handmade aspect of their toys or clothes or food. obviously these discussions are short, as our kids are small, but we do acknowledge the fact that someone had to pick the fruit we are enjoying and someone had to ship it here and then someone else had to unpack it at the store.

we picked these apples and are making an apple crisp.
sneaky little bro trying to grab an apple chunk!

our society has lost the basic skills to darn, sew, knit, make clothes or fix cars, appliances, tools or grow and make our own foods, like bread. everything is ready-made for us. when things break, we toss them away and buy a new one.

in our household we make a conscious effort to try and make things, like gifts, for the kids, family and friends. for example, last christmas the boys got a much adored kitchen dear hubby built from an old night stand we purchased secondhand. i sewed some simple food items and found some real kitchen items from value village to round out the gift. this was our way of continuing our christmas traditions that will hopefully create a smaller foot print environmentally, but willalso create a sense of pride in the handmade items, no matter how small. we have been known to make soups, cookies, other baked treats, soaps and small sewn items as gifts for people.

all of that being said, i will admit that i too feel the pressures of keeping up with the jones’ (whoever they are). i want to have beautiful clothes, furniture and stainless steel everything, and i often feel the pressure to go out and get a paying job, so that we can afford more stuff. but, then i am reminded that we in fact do not want that stuff. we don’t want a tv, another car or fancy tech toys that are all the rage these days. what we do want is to see and experience the wonder of new places and people; we want live and work abroad, dear hubby seriously wants to sail around the world as a family, but most importantly we want to do EVERYTHING together.

i hope i didn’t come across as self-righteous. i am only speaking of my life and my family and what works for us. we are very much a work in progress.

here’s a little mama humour to leave you with on this soggy wednesday; something i found on pinterest.

xo, mama lola

don’t judge!

it is difficult to make new friends as adults. i guess it’s because we have all sorts of assumptions about other people, where they’re from, what they like and what makes them tick. even though we’ve been told never to judge a book by its cover, we do. it’s hard not to make judgements about books or people based on how they look, right? it’s hard to admit too, because we all want to believe that we, ourselves, are kind and open to all, no matter what.

but kids on the other hand… boy ‘o boy. they don’t care about what pre-school their friends go to, who their daddy is or what kinda jeans they’re wearing. kids just want a buddy to play with, to laugh with and figure out the complex rules of our society. 

bear has become much more friendly and social in the last handful of months. he speaks very specifically about his friends; what they played, what they laughed about and is always asking when the next playdate is. he is truly morphing into a wee social butterfly in his own shy way. his friendships are important to him, like mine are to me and that warms my heart. bear remembers his friends and small details about them. for example he’ll tell you that so and so has a baby sister with blue eyes and who cries when she is hungry. he will explain the new game another friend taught him about monsters and lobsters and giggle just at the thought of it. he will re-tell the story of the licking game that he and mr. transformer developed on a rainy friday afternoon. it is magical and beautiful that he recognizes the importance of these people, his little friends, in his life and shows the value of these bonds as well as a three year old can.

but so it goes…

i wish i had that naivete my lovely three year old holds. to not hold pre-conceived ideas or notions about people. i try desperately not to, but i fail. so, my goal is to be careful what i do with my assumptions, who i share them with and how i present myself to the world. because, at the end of the day when i am perusing the shelves of bookstore, i do judge a book by its cover. 

xo, mama lola

friday night and no date night.

it’s friday night, dear hubby and i are home with the kids without the sitter. we decided not to have her come as we were gone wednesday evening to see cirque du soleil. too many nights away is stressful and we need to be filling up our stress reserves for our adventure in new york in a few weeks. i am getting super excited about our first real vacation as a family that is not camping. we are looking forward to hanging with dear hubby’s sister and her mister for a few days and then we are celebrating the nuptials of a long ago friend of hub’s. it’s going to be grand and fun and hopefully not rainy.

more on that trip later.

just chatting on the cell and munching on penguin crackers.

so there’s this thing with the screaming. lion, our littlest cub has turned into an epic screamer. not the crying kind either (although he is skilled at that as well), but the kind he rips out when things don’t go his way. they are piercing and painful on the eardrums and i have no idea how to curb this LOUD behaviour. unfortunately, being the little brother means things often don’t go his way. sigh.

check out these awesome dudes bear drew on our back door. he’s really keen on drawing people, especially ones he knows. these dudes below are various friends and he explained why each of them was smiling, which i have unfortunately forgotten. once he drew a picture of his wee brother as a girl. kids’ imaginations are amazing things!

so remember back when i vented about house & home writing Ikea in their magazine instead of IKEA? well, here’s an email i received in response to my snippy complaint. tell me what you think, because i think her reasoning is a bit silly. i will one day write to the canadian press stylebook and i will keep you updated on this topic.

Hi Julia,
Thanks for your letter — we love hearing from readers who are as passionate about spelling and grammar as we are.
In answer to your question, House & Home has always spelled “Ikea” as such in accordance with The Canadian Press Stylebook, which most Canadian magazines and newspapers use as a source. 
As for your concern about other mistakes in the magazine, you can rest assured that we have an experienced team who proofread and factcheck every product name, price, web site and phone number listed to ensure that the information we publish is as accurate as possible. 
I sincerely hope you’ll continue to enjoy House & Home.
Beth HitchcockExecutive Editor
511 King Street West, Suite 120
Toronto, ON, Canada M5V 2Z4
tel: 416.593.9411 ext 241

it’s going to be a wet weekend, but a good one spent with friends on saturday and sunday we will get a few much needed jobs done around the house. i’ll be pinning away with a hot cup o’ coffee so come find me on pinterest, i’m under mama lola.

happy week ending to you and thanks for reading everyone!

xo, mama lola

the mental health side of things.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
~World Health Organization, 1948

i’ve wanted to write about this topic for a while now. it’s a tough topic to get in to, without getting too heavy, but i think it’s time my wee blog tries to break the stigmas linked with mental health. our society invests millions of dollars in encouraging people to take care of their physical health, by recommending what foods to eat (and not to eat), diseases to be aware of and how to avoid them, what vaccines to take and when and it’s all fine and dandy, but what about the other healths that make us human.

our mental and emotional healths also need our attention in order to be balanced, secure and happy. when i was in college studying to become an addictions and mental health counsellor, i was astonished to hear that 1 in 4 people live with a mental health illness. now, that does not mean they have been formally diagnosed, but it does mean that there are a whole lot of us struggling, often alone.

if you do the math, 1 in 4 is a lot of people in your family, circle of friends, co-workers, uni pals, neighbours, whoever. and that doesn’t even count the number of different kinds of illnesses people can have or that some people even have more than one illness! mental health is all a part of a continuum, giving it flex to move and shape itself; some days are better than others, some years are darker than others and some decades can be a blur, while others are meticulously planned and lived.

so why the judgement? my guess is fear. mental health or unhealth can present in ways that are frightening to those witnessing the behaviour but is also terrifying to those living with it. the mind is a very powerful source of doubt, pain, misinformation, paranoia, fear, distrust, self-loathing, hatred, hopelessness, and a slew of other horrific symptoms that are difficult to imagine. medications can help, but they often come with a long list of adverse effects, which can be difficult to live with. Some people have found fewer side effects in cannabis from budmail alternative green society. This can help but doesn’t take away how difficult it is to manage these perspective-altering conditions.

Living with mental health issues can be a challenge each and every day, it seems like there is a neverending hell and upset going on inside the person’s head, they need support from people, whether it be from friends, family or a trusted confidant, if they have someone to talk to it can help with the pain and possibly even lessen it. There are treatment centres that can help people work through their issues such as addiction, anxiety and depression, the list can go on, no matter where you live you’ll be able to find a place where they can help you, from mental health treatment in houston to mental health treatment in Deleware, no one is alone and letting them know that can help. There are other natural options to help relieve anxiety and put you in brighter spirits if you’re living with depression, for a certain amount of time. Some people use medical marijuana for these cases, which you can find on sites like purplelotus. It is worth exploring this option if there is a chance it will improve your quality of life.

if you know someone living with a mental health illness or you suspect someone is, reach out and support them. this does not mean “curing” them or becoming their counsellor, it means to offer to baby-sit their kids, take them out for a long walk, call and touch base regularly, make them dinner, offer to clean their house or hire a service with help from others such as the Renewed Freedom Center, go to appointments with them, basically be a friend. many people, when diagnosed with a mental health illness lose their friends at a time they so desperately need the extra support.

what did YOU do for your mental health today?

xo, mama lola
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