Friday, April 6, 2012

Reasons to Be Thankful

Her little eyes closed peacefully and she settled in for her nights sleep.

I held her tight and soaked her in.

My baby girl is beautiful.

She is perfect.

I am so in love.

I looked at her little face, with those kissable, chubby cheeks and the feeling of thankfulness overwhelmed me.

Today my husband shared with me a blog about a family and the birth of their baby. Their new daughter has a heart condition and is waiting for surgery in the next couple of days.

My heart breaks for this family.

I pray have been praying for them.

With all the heart stuff Jim has gone through lately this story was raw for me.

Our situation isn't the same. My babies were born healthy.

I thank God for healthy babies and safe deliveries.

But the possibility was there.

We recently went through screening for both our kids for the heart condition Jim has.

Their tests came back clear for the condition. I am thankful.

As I sat there in my very silent family room, snuggling my baby girl, the realization of having so much to be thankful for became evident.

Health
Beauty
Peace
Serenity
Calm

Sweet baby Kora.

My son is amazing too.

Our story could be different.

I am thankful it's not.

I am thankful I can sit here, gazing at my sleeping baby feeling pure joy. No heart ache, no fear. I have the peace of knowing my children are healthy.

For that I'm thankful.

I'm thankful.

LJ

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kid's Get It, I Wish I Would Relax

I had my little guy out in the yard the other day.

While he played with the dog I raked our yard. The more I watched him play the more stressed I felt.

I have a faith. I have a home. I have a job. I have two kids. A marriage. A husband. Personal needs. Friends and other relationships. Hobbies. Things that bring me joy. Demands on my time. Responsibilities. Priorities. Stress.

That's how my mind works.

When we went outside it was to play. I immediately grabbed a rake and began working while expecting my child to play. He wanted to play. I saw a job that had to be done.

I was torn.

I want to be with my kids. I want a picture perfect home. I want to sing and play my piano, write stuff. Paint. Bake. Spend time with my husband. Date. I want to hang out with friends. Spend time with my family. I want to be successful at my job. I want to grow closer to God. I want to serve his people. I want to care for my kids. I want to create memories. I want them to be smart and healthy. I want them to learn at every possible opportunity. I want a foot rub. I want to watch tv. I want to read that book I got for Christmas. I want to make cookies and take them to people. I want to have the best meals for my family every night.

Demands on my time. Responsibilities. Priorities.

I raked that yard. I was working it like Jillian Michaels was standing there yelling at me. My son played. I got mad. I wanted so desperately to play with him but I felt so obligated to clean that yard.

"What would the neighbours think if it was left?"

Then I had to stop myself. Who cares what the neighbours think. If they don't like my yard then they can come and help me clean it. The conviction hit me when I thought, "What memories will James have of me?"

More stress.

I don't know how to be a mom. I don't know how to be a wife. I don't know how to fill a bunch of roles and be good at them.

Maybe I am too honest. Reality is I suck at living my life. I want things to look so fantastic and to actually be fantastic that I put the pressure on myself and I can't rise to the challenge.

I want Home and Garden magazine doing a photo shoot of my home, while I'm selling paintings and writing number one hits. I want my children to be super intelligent while being physical specimens. I want Sport's Illustrated calling because they want me in a photo spread. I want my husband to rave about how awesome I am. I want my parent's to come over every Friday night for turkey dinner. I want Martha Stewart calling me for crafty ideas. I want my friends to be around me all the time because I am so much fun. I want Beth Moore to call and ask me to start touring with her.

I want...

But I can't do it all.

It's funny. Most people probably rake the lawn and think about raking the lawn. I rake the lawn and try to plan my entire life. I try to solve my problems. I try to plan out my weeks. I try to think of creative ways to parent. I pray. I try to come up with party ideas and new things to cook for dinner. I try to budget. I dream.

In all my trying all I do is stress myself.

So I'm raking. My kids running around, playing with the dog, eating "dirt". I'm feeling guilt while "feeling the burn". I'm planning, I'm really stressing myself and this thought wave comes over me.

I have a faith. I have a belief in God. That's an extra pressure as a parent. Not only on top of my own needs/wants/desires, my husbands needs/wants/desires, I as a mother have to think of my kids. So on top of keeping my children alive, healthy, teaching them, encouraging them to grow up and contribute to society, I have extra stress. I now, because of my own faith have to impliment that in their lives.

More stress.

My faith suddenly became a burden.

Now, out in my yard, raking dead grass, it felt like a demand. I have to pass this on to my kid.

As this thought process is jumbling my brain and causing me more anxiety than I live with normally, my 3 year old decides he has had enough with the dog. Outside stinks and it's time to go in and eat.

To make a really long story a shorter one, I took my kid in and got him lunch. At this point I'm stressed about life in general. I'm stressing about every area of my life and even stressing things that aren't my reality right now, like my daughters prom dress or something stupid like that.

Now it's time to feed my picky little eater lunch. YAY!

I get it ready. I set in front of him and the battle begins. I just want the kid to eat a vegetable. That's all I want right now. In my battle to get my son to take one bite of a freaking carrot something is revealed to me.

It goes like this...

"James, will you please take one bite of your carrot. That's all I ask. One bite."

James, about 45 minutes into the battle and 7 hilarious remarks later, closes his eyes and says this.

"Dear God, What am I going to do? I need help. Tell me what to do. Amen"

At this point I'm hysterically laughing on the inside and being very stern on the outside.

He slowly opens his eyes and looks at me, and says this.

"God says James mommy is mean."

Two things came out of this. One my kid is 3 and doesn't understand health. He doesn't get the concept of eating healthy, being healthy. That's not his reality. He thinks I am asking him to try this new and "yucky" food because I am trying to be mean. Whatever we will get over that.

The thing that stood out to me was this. He gets it. James gets it. He sees me living out my faith and he's picking it up. He knows to turn to God. Even over something like eating a carrot.

Exampling my faith to my kids doesn't have to involve bible stories and scripture memorization. Me exampling my faith to my kids is making God real and accessible to them. Showing them love and reaching out to care for others. It's teaching them compassion and grace. It's helping them understand forgiveness.

I guess Im doing that.

So one worry off my list.

I have been a mom for 3 years now. I still don't know how to balance life. I'm not one of those super moms who knows everything and has never made a mistake with their babies. I mess up daily.

My 3 year old showed me something pretty amazing. I'm doing a good job as a mom. I don't have to be perfect. He actually doesn't want me to be perfect. He wants me to be his mom.

So what will James memories of me be?

I hope they will be memories of a mom who loved, who had fun and who always had time for her kids.

This is my new challenge.

L

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Evening on the Farm - Photography

We explored the farm.

Enjoyed the warm March air.

We jumped in puddles.

Swatted Mosquitos.

We laughed.

Muddy faces.

Rubber boots.

We sang songs.

Sunsets.

Mighty machines.

Spring time on the farm.

L

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Book Breathes

I have had more than one person say to me, "you should write a book".

Truthfully, I have enough stories. I could fill pages with tiny text. Enough words to fill cover to cover.

But now is not my time.

Right now my book breathes.

My book walks.

It sleeps. It eats.

My book lives.

I am my 500 pages of laughter, tears, disbelief and lessons learned.

As I live my life, I am writing the script.

Collecting dialogue.

Building climax.

Discovering the plot with each breath.

Someday I would love to be an author, with a best seller. Right now I am living the story. Later down the road I may capture it in ink.

Possibly.

For now my book is flesh covered.

It has locks of curls. It speaks, it moves.

For now my book is me. It learns, it loves, it lives.

My book breathes.

L


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Finding God on Gerrard St

Sickness and uncertainty has reigned in the Forde home the last few months.

I desperately wish I could say we have had the flu. Suffered from a head cold, some skin irritation or diarrhea (and i guess we have) but the sickness I'm talking about is much more than a common winter illness.

Our journey started just over two years ago. After a series of medical "events" my husband was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition called HCM.

This invited many medical professionals, trips to hospitals, nights of researching, genetic counseling and other new additions to our life.

It also brought it's challenges. The invitation was open to hurt, worry, fear, uncertainty.

Distance.

Fear.

Distance.

Intense fear.

In December of 2011, my husband's condition had escalated to the place where his heart needed some help. He had a pacemaker/defibrillator implantated.

The news, although unexpected, brought with it some peace.

The device was implanted and after this ordeal, our life was promised to return to normal. We now had the reassurance that he could never experience sudden death, again.

In February, I received a text from Jim saying his machine had fired and he was heading to emerg. I had decided I would never receive this message. Unfortunately I had. After a couple of days and a extremely fast trip, we were back in Toronto, Jim awaiting another surgery.

To make a long, boring story short, surgery day arrived. I got up, got myself ready and made my way to the hospital.

On a side note, I have a friend who lives approximately a 3 minute walk from her door step to the doors of the hospital. I was staying with her, and had stayed the time before and deep down I believe this in itself was Godly intervention.

The morning of Jim's surgery i felt sick to my stomach. I was riddled with nervous, for my self and Jim. I was panicked to get to Jim's side but part of me wanted to slip into the sea of people on the street and never stop walking.

I got myself pulled together. My feet hit the pavement, passed the heavenly greeting of SubWay (the restaurant) smells dancing in the morning air. My body craved coffee. My mind craved peace. The day had come.

As I walked down Gerrard street, past the Kabob restaurant and the sushi place I knew I had 3 minutes that were so insignificant that I could make very significant.

I prayed.

I asked God to show me that he was with me. That he knew my heart ache, that he could hear my cries. I sought out peace. Pleaded for healing. Cried for strength.

As the tears streamed down my face, landing on the cracked cement and stains of life, I saw him. In a little court yard, up in a tiny tree I saw him.

Sparrows.

My passing caused the small flock to take off and they made a grand spectacle out of themselves.

I knew that was my God.

A simple tiny sign, just for me. Others walking before and behind saw no significance in those birds, but I did. Others who stepped on my foot prints had no idea the value of seeing those birds, and never would unless they walked in my shoes.

Those sparrows were the answer to my prayer.

"Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds." Matthew 6:26 MSG

I glided through the doors of the hospital. I grabbed my Starbucks, rode the elevator up to 5 and descended on room 168 bed 1 with confidence.

That morning I sat with Jim unshaken by the knowledge of the days events. With my body caffeinated I was able to let my mind rest in His peace.

L

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Challenging Inspiration

The world is full of beautiful people. Thankfully I have some of these people in my life.

I was challenged this week by a beautiful woman I know. Her challenge was one of grace and gratitude.

It made me think.

Her passion and joy sparked something deep within me.

It was an inspiring kick in the butt.

I was challenged to look deep within and find the essence of myself and begin the process.

Healing.

Feeling.

To become present in my life again.

To stop abandoning my life.

I was dared to rip the security blanket out of my hands.

Her strength and desire to live her life to the fullest made me want to dive deeper into living.

Now it is time.

I will search for the gifts.

I will search for the treasures.

I will search for the purpose in my life.

I never back down from a challenge and I can not ignore inspiration.

There is a reason we have beautiful people brushing shoulders with us in life.

It pushes us to strive for more.

It ignites a yearning for success.

It helps us see the potential in ourselves.

There is hope exampled.

Thank you beautiful person.

L

Monday, January 9, 2012

Photography

Lately I have had some time to stop and take some shots of things I encounter in my daily life. Here are a few snaps (some with edits) I would like to share. Enjoy!

Sweet Kora

My happiest moment of 2011 was hearing the nurse say to me, "ok Leah, just one more push". One more push and I would get to hold love in my arms.

So sweet.

One more push and this mystery person would become a part of our life and our family, permanently and all we knew about her was the amount of discomfort and heart burn she contributed to my physical life but nothing more. Yet we were still excited. We still longed to meet her. We could not wait to see her face. To learn what she looked like and who she was.

One more push.

A little after noon on October 11, I made the final push. My beautiful baby girl was whisked out of my body and laid delicately across my chest.

The moment was beautiful.

"Hello little one, I'm your mommy."

We stared. Their were smiles and tears. I felt love. It was so happy. I was happy.

In a moment of pure love and tranquility the nurse asked us if our new daughter had a name. With an inquisitive smile to my husband he said, "does she?"

Months of agonizing over the perfect name. It was time. I had created lists of name combinations, possible choices and absolute no go's. Now it was time to choose the one that would make this helpless little being a person.

Kora Lilly Kevyn Forde

A few hours with our Kora and we knew she was a doll. She was calm. She loved cuddling and being close. She thrived on the sound of someone else's heartbeat. The warmer her little body was the more she relaxed. She was beautiful. She was sweet.

It didn't take long for the nursing staff to start calling her Sweet Kora. She was so new yet she oozed this sweet, comforting, endearing charm that was so intoxicating. She was like a drug. Looking at her, holding on to her would make you feel like a better person.

She is 3 months now (give or take a few days). She is still so sweet. She is full of charm and smiles, always warming the hearts of strangers with her across the room cheer. She loves to coo and giggle. She's beautiful. Cuddling is still a favorite pass time.

Kora brings life. She is a comfort and a symbol of grace. She has brought life in to our family and freshness that we needed. Her smile reminds me why I don't mind the lack of sleep.

She's precious.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Update

Update on the Christmas Blues

So Christmas is over. I haven't been this exhausted since those final few days before the birth of my daughter. The pregnancy coma days, where all the body wants to do is nap for 10-12 hours without interruption. Not an easy task to accomplish with an 11 week old baby, an almost 3 year old and a husband that just had heart surgery.

Christmas this year wasn't my ideal but it wasn't horrible either. The spark and magic of the season was missing but the reason was still there.

My little family attended 3 gatherings. 

This season, more than anything was about tradition and I found no shame in breezing through on the coat tails of it this year. So we did.

Christmas eve was the Fraser family Christmas. This celebration is one that I cherish and have looked forward to my whole life. The tradition existed long before my birth. We would all gather, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents at my grandma and grandpa Fraser's. The celebration trademarked by the heaping mounds of turkey and dressing, casseroles and homemade rolls. A beautiful display of desserts delicately draws you in and instantly gives the untrained attendee diabetes. Pies & cookies, fruit salads and christmas cake. Fancy tiered plates filled with a sampler of grandma's fine baking. Beautiful trays of candy and fudge. It's divine. 

As kids the anticipation was always for the moment when the adults prepared their cups of coffee and tea and we all settled in around the fire place. Then the magic would begin. Words can not do this justice, but I will do my best to describe this event to you. 

After everyone had defiled themselves to the point that was sinful and displeasing to God we transitioned our evening to the gift giving and receiving. Usually this would involve grandma's green christmas stocking to be passed around full of an assortment of chocolates and candies or if you were the unlucky one toothbrushes and other practical items. You had to pick wisely and quickly. After that the 3 cousins at the time would monopolize the adults time with some kind of less than talented presentation of a song or a skit. No matter what was on the playlist it was not uncommon for us to be adorned in elves costumes or Santa hats, ties and puffy dresses or atrocious Christmas sweaters. Then we would open presents. I always got a beautiful, puffy, bow and crystal adorned miniature prom dress from my grandma, porcelain dolls and other large floral printed clothing. The boys got matching outfits, dress pants, sweaters and ties.  Always a winner. There would be the odd toy but usually rare. When the presents were done we would all pack up, wish everyone a merry christmas and make the 45 second drive home where we would always have a Rudolph sighting. (now I'm aware that it is the flashing light on the top of some kind of telephone tower). 

Once we arrived home we would put out cookies and milk, write a nice, clear, yet demanding letter to santa and head to bed. Throughout the years the night was always different. It held excitement from not being able to sleep, to checking out the tree, to hiding under the dining table thinking our house was being invaded only to realize that it was actually our uncle arriving late. 

No matter what the night held the morning was an early rise. My brother and I would sneak down and check out the tree, snoop through the presents and then head back to bed. The excitement would vibrate through our bodies almost making it impossible to wait for the events of the day. When mom and dad got up we would open presents, joined by grandparents and uncles and aunts. Then when it was all done we would eat and enjoy the day. 

That was childhood Christmas. Through the years of course we grew up, we traveled more and the grandparents did less. We spent a few Christmases in Florida but when we were home we held to tradition.  

This year I choked tradition. I held on for dear life in hopes of feeling something. 

The kids are older now and new kids have come along so christmas looks slightly different than in the old days. 

We still meet at grandma Fraser's for out christmas eve celebration.  Now 23 bodies cram into her shoe box sized apartment to eat, laugh and exchanged presents.  We sweat a lot. We eat. No one really moves around much, which is hard on the 4 great grandchildren. Upon arrival everyone finds a seat and that's where you stay, the earlier you arrive the closer to the balcony you get to sit and further from the hot kitchen. Balcony seats are gold. The food is still a mass selection, although these days not all prepared by grandma herself, she actually lets us help. We still pass the green stocking. It is still full of chocolate and candies, or practical things only now that grandma is 90 she doesn't wrap them individually so it's easier to cheat. After that we open presents from grandma and watch her enjoy having provided Christmas one more year for her family that now extends to great grandchildren. It's hectic but really beautiful.

After the kids are in bed my husband and I exchange our presents. This year I was spoiled. I asked for nothing and I got beautiful gifts that are for me and only me. Art, a spa day, some new clothes and a book by one of my favorite authors. He was pleased with his gifts too. A nice cup of Tea and some Christmas-y themed tv and then off to bed.

Christmas day. 

Now that we have kids it is different. I'm the mom madly wrapping and planning surprises. Thankfully our kids are still young. We got up and we had to convince our almost 3 year old to open presents. Once he got into it he had fun. The prize was the train set. I was so happy. I shed many tears over that thing. I knew he had to have it, I just wasn't sure how he was going to get it. I think I was happier being able to give it to him than he was to receive it.  And he was over the moon. 

After our presents my husband made us a beautiful breakfast, my son played with his train set and I packed for the day. We made the quick trip down the road to be with my parents and my mothers parents for the day. We relaxed. We talked. We ate. We enjoyed each other. This was the first christmas with the two new girls in our life, my Kora and my brother's wife Becky. That in itself was gift enough for me. After our traditional
Christmas dinner that my dad prepared, we exchanged gifts among the generations. My children are so blessed to have great grandparents in their life. There were hats and scarves, toys and photographs. Deer hunting supplies, flash lights, jam and gift cards. Everyone grateful. Everyone happy just to be together. After the gifts were opened it was christmas pudding time. Unfortunately by this hour we had lost a 29 year old, 11 week old, a 36 year old and a little guy, all giving into exhaustion. The christmas pudding went down fast. Then we packed up and headed home. 

Another christmas day over.

We rose early and I madly packed and prepared for the day ahead. We got on the road and made the trek to my in-laws for another christmas celebration. This one is very different for me because it isn't my tradition. I am still learning and embracing my husband's traditions. 

We arrived.

The big hit this year was of course the new baby. She was passed around and snuggled. Her aunts definitely enjoyed her. We opened presents together with my father-in-law playing head elf and my nephew Caleb learning the role. I have no idea what anyone got. It was a blur of ripping paper, thank you hugs and chasing after my kid. When I would leave the room one person would be opening their present and when I came back it was someone else's turn. I know my kids got beautiful clothes and some nice toys and I got a necklace that I have been coveting for some time now. 

We sat down to dinner at a beautifully decorated table, as we do for every occasion and indulged ourselves with my husbands families food staples. These I have come to embrace (it didn't take long). Onion casserole, sweet potato casserole, turnip puff. 

Delicious! 

After dinner I questioned my choice of pants while others played games and we watched sporting events. It wasn't long after the night came to an end. 

As the last car faded in the distance Christmas came to an end. It was all over. 

Finally. I laid in bed that night and cried. All the craziness and busyness was done. I could forget about present lists and wrapping paper. The stress of Christmas related finances, gone. Now I could focus on my life again. 

There's enough going on in my life right now that Christmas wasn't a nice distraction it was an added stress. Thankfully I had good old tradition to fall back on and really it's about being with the people who love and care for each other, and I did lots of that this season. 

Christmas turned out to be ok.