Monday, November 26, 2018

New Worlds: My Dad is getting married!

With my mom's illness and passing come the immersion into new worlds; and today I am talking about a whole new world, romance and all. A post that I have been looking forward to writing. Honestly. I have. My Dad is getting married. 

My Dad is awesome. He's also human and flawed, as we all are. But also, and more than that, he is awesome. He stood by my mom, he knelt by my mom, he carried my mom, he walked and washed and supported my mom in every way possible through her illness. And he has met someone who has done the same for their spouse. Who loved a spouse through illness. Who cared for daughters while loving a spouse through illness. They both kept their faith, their relationships and their sanity through a lengthy illness and death of a spouse. On the other side, they have found love again. 

It's truly amazing the similarities. They both raised kids in the same small town. They both trained as teachers. They were Christians in the same circles. They loved some of the same friends. They both had swimming pools in their backyards. They both have daughters almost exactly 2 years apart (us 2 years and 2 days, them 2 years and 3 days). My Dad taught her daughters. I met her at the Chiropractors in 2012.  Dad and mom attended a baptism at their pool. She was the receptionist at the chiropractor's my Dad went to, who also happened to be close friends for both of them. In fact, the wife of the chiropractor had thought about introducing them but hadn't gotten that far yet. Hanging out with them is like Jory 1 and Jory 2. Seriously. Plus she can handle the boys (Colin and Paul) and all their teasing and can take the chaos of 7 grandkids in one place. 

We just got back from a night of wedding planning with Dad, Dee, Jenna, and one of Dee's daughters Deana (sadly her other daughter Leanne lives up in FSJ so she couldn't join us but she was very much with us via text). What a fun night of dreaming and planning, and oh so much teasing. Dad and Dee have very similar sense of humour, as do us kids, and it felt natural from the start. Dad and Dee have moved VERY quickly - so we joked that we couldn't do a wedding slideshow because it would just be two pictures. Then I made us take a group picture - their picture count is up to three! Weddings are so fun to plan, but of course the bigger new reality is their marriage and their life together! They are just so excited and ready to get there. It's fun to be a part of. 

I asked a friend this summer how it was for her when her Mom remarried after her Dad's passing. Her mom has now been married 10 years. She said that some of the best advice she got was that, we don't know what our parents were like when they dated and fell in love and got married. That we might see sides of our parents that we haven't seen before. It might be or feel strange, but it doesn't mean it isn't true to them since we weren't there the first time around. Watching my Dad blush and giggle and have all of these feelings...well it's been a new experience. He's head over heels, or as we have been saying, smitten, and it's a delight to see. It's certainly a new side of him.

Blogging about a new relationship is strange. I've been able to blog about my mom....well, because she couldn't read. Plus she made it her life goal not to turn on a computer (she had to once and boy was she sad about that). But it matters to me that people see beyond the cute kid pics and the Christmas card photos in my life (not that I've managed to send out Christmas card photos since Avie was born - how easy I had it then) and yet I want to honor and love and cover my Dad and his new wife. I don't know what it will look like to blog about this new thing. This beautiful thing. This real thing. I know that God is already doing a work in my heart - he is molding and growing and changing things inside of me. He is doing the same for every member our family, hers included. 

I want a mom. My Dad wants a wife who wants to be a mom to us. His fiancee wants to be that. I want a grandma for my kids (though the two they have already are amazing) on my side of the family. My Dad wants to marry someone that empowers him in his role as a grandpa. He has often mourned the fact that he couldn't take my kids for a weekend as a single grandpa. His fiancee wants to be a grandma, to my kids. There is so much that could go right and so much that could go wrong. My Dad's fiancee has kids. She's already a mom. She has grandkids. She's already a grandma. My Dad wants to be a grandpa to her kids. He wants to be a Dad to her girls. Oh, it could be so good, and oh it could be so hard. 

I want to be realistic. I want to be loving. I want to be kind. I want to have realistic expectations and, I'll admit, I want to self-protect. It's scary to have such high hopes. It's scary to love truly and deeply. It's scary to be vulnerable and admit my hopes and dreams. I don't know how this turns out. 

I do know that my Dad loves me - and loves all - loyally. He showed this in my mom's life and has shown this in my life over and over again. I know that his fiancee similarly has done the same. I don't know this personally but her daughters have spoken of her, and my Dad has spoken of her - and she is there for the people she loves. I also know that the moms in my life have been such a blessing - the aunts, the grandma's the mothers-in-law, the friends. The women who step up and show up. The women who drop everything and fly or drive to BC to help me. The women who drop everything and take a ferry to help me. The women who take my kids for a weekend so I can get away with Paul. The women who stay longer to do the dishes and fold the laundry and bring the dinners. The women who love my kids with gifts and toys and care; with ice cream cone toys (Avie's current obsession) and movie dates and ballet classes. I have seen women show up and fill the mom gaps in my life, and I feel the freedom to hope that this mom, this new female relationship, will be good news in my life, whatever that looks like. That I could be a blessing in her life as well - to love a new woman in my Dad's life. To enjoy her. To see her bring out another side of my Dad that I have missed, and to get to be a part of honoring and loving that woman. To get to build a new family with her kids - new sisters, deep relationships despite the lack of history. A blended family - where 'blend' is a positive (like Starbucks coffee) and not a negative.

There is much to gain or much to lose, but I will choose to enter this new relationship with faith, with hope, and with joy. Because the mourning has passed, a new day has come, and love is with us. 
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Friday, November 23, 2018


One of the most vulnerable (and valuable) things I do is host moms group. I know, it doesn't sound vulnerable, right? But somehow it is. See mom's group is important in my life for two reasons: 1. I love creating spaces for deep relationship and authenticity. I value hosting women and creating community so people don't feel alone, especially those in the throes of mama life. 2. I go stir crazy if I'm home with just my kids all day. Moms group fills my social need, gives my kids friends to play with, and fills my need to love people. 


The thing is, kids are unpredictable. Sometimes my kids don't cooperate. Sometimes other kids don't cooperate. Sometimes I wish I could cancel. Sometimes so many moms show up. Sometimes it's crazy and sometimes no one shows up. The times it's crazy I worry that other moms aren't enjoying themselves. The times that it's just me, I know I'm drained. The times that other kids don't cooperate I worry about the moms who are worried about how their kids are acting.

October twin mom group

November twin mom group

Most of the time though, it's perfect. Some days it's been me and one mom, so we get deep real conversation - though of course, I worry that she's wishing more moms came. One day it was me, and a pregnant friend and my sister. The pregnant friend stayed all day and it was a delight. One week it was 6 twin moms, 12 babies and while I'm pretty sure not one full conversation or thought was had, it was awesome. Crazy and loud and full of babies, but awesome. 

Visiting with Jess, mom to be (now full on mama to a cutie pie of a boy)

It's a strange mix these weekly meet ups. A blessing but beforehand I'm nervous and excited and insecure. I'm also in need. If no one comes, it's hard to be alone all day with all 4 kids. It's not the work of 4 kids for me (although I won't pretend that's not a thing) but it's the social aspect that I need. Last week none of the moms could come for moms group, though my sister and her son managed to swing by for 45 minutes at 9:15 which made the morning.  Even that 45 minutes helped so much. I can, of course, go without it, but it just makes it easier to be loving and kind and gracious with my kids - when my heart is full. 

Sherri and Avie - so thankful for friends who show up when I call needing support!

That being said, the biggest thing I want from mom's group is for moms to have community. Twin moms, non-twin moms. I want people to mix and find commonalities and differences and a place to belong. The first year of parenting ROCKED ME. I was so thankful to have an amazing community of mom's around me - my friend Leah and sister Jenna hosted a mom's group every second Friday (the original iteration of this moms group) and it was so good to me. I also had friends from prenatal class - we met up consistently for walks and happy hour. There were church moms, stay at home moms, working mom friends, and neighborhood moms - our old neighborhood had the best community ever, it still does. I don't take these different communities for granted - they have helped shape me into the mother I am today. The friends I am today. I want to offer that to others - through moms group, through hosting the twin moms (because while those types can mix, there's something special about the multiples gatherings), and through meeting up with moms one on one. It offers my heart a lot, and I like to think it affects others as well. 

Visiting with Rachel, a mama friend I met at a party two summers ago and we just clicked! 

I say all this not to highlight my need or even these specific moms groups - but for those who are stuck home with little babies, for those who don't have community and feel alone in their parenting, for those who have a community but are open to more, or for those who have friends alongside in them - a reminder to search out community, to value relationships. To see the parts of ourselves that exist outside of our kids and nourish those - whatever that looks like. For me, it's social times (among other things) but for each of us it's something different - and so often a community of women, of moms, can be a part of meeting those needs. 

My friend Shakira (newly moved back to Vancouver, thank goodness) came immediately when I called for reinforcements with baby bjorn bouncer in tow - plus she has kids that my kids love. This is a friend I met in the hot tub at the pool when our oldest girls were just babies!

What value there is in hearing that others feel the same you do. To hear that others struggle with the same struggles. To hear that others get annoyed or sharp with their kids. To enjoy your kids together as they interact. To sit side by side in the chaos, shoulder to shoulder without many words. To talk over stroller walks, or playing kids. To engage your heart and your mind with friendships. What a gift to be honest and real - it's a gift to ourselves (freedom) but its a gift to others (connection). 

A twin mom friend, from California. I sure do love me an American! Plus she has twin babies of her own and is holding Charlotte here <3

Every Friday, it is worth it to me to sit here, hoping moms come, knowing that this space is good news to my heart and it is good news to those that make it - whether there are 2 of us or 6 of us. Whether its just my kids and me or my kids plus 10 others - it is 100% worth it. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Into the new world without my Mom

In the past I've said that the slow grief and the waiting through illness was like living in the woods between the worlds - not fully in any place, waiting. I didn't realize quite how apt that was as I feel like we have emerged into a new world. A new reality. Mom is gone. We are a core family of 3; Dad, me and Jenna. Our world with a living Mom is now a past world; not forgotten but no longer in existence. Our world with a sick mom is now a past world; not long gone but so thankful to be done. We are in a new world, one with just Dad. It feels a bit like the sick-mom-world just without the sadness, guilt, and heavy responsibility. It feels like I can breathe again. It feels like I can enjoy my Dad without all the feelings that come up with my Mom. I can see him again for him. I can enjoy him for him. I spend time with him because I want to and not because I can't bear to have him handle the illness on his own. 

Often in my life people have told me how I will feel about something in the future. If you do this, you'll feel this. When your mom dies, you'll Insert the feeling. I've often felt that they aren't correct but I mean you never know until it happens. I feel about how I expected to feel. Relieved. I mean, I miss my Mom, don't get me wrong but I was already missing my Mom. I have been missing my Mom since this disease took her down; since it changed her. I miss MY mom so often. The mom who would have LOVED being a grandma to my kids. The mom who would have enjoyed getting to know me as an adult and enjoy me; who I would have enjoyed getting to know as an adult myself! We were just about to hit our stride, I know it. We always knew that the adult years would be our best - we just didn't know we wouldn't get them. I wish I could call her and have her come help me decorate my Christmas Tree - she loved decorating. I wish I could prepare dinner for her and make all the fancy little things she would have been amazed to see me make and would have loved to eat. So here is the emotion I wasn't expecting, and that no one warned me about, her passing makes me miss the past mom so much. When she was sick I couldn't face that side of her, I couldn't think of it. It was too terrible. But now with the memorial services as a reminder, the spark of who she was has been rekindled in my heart and I miss her. I miss who she would have been in my life. The memories of the past are there and cherished - and we all have our childhood memories. I miss the mom she would have been. I didn't see that coming. I thought I had already mourned that loss; already grieved it. Turns out I just hid from it, and it doesn't remain hidden. 

These feelings bubble up and I experience the loss of her, but I still experience the relief that the illness is over. I am thankful for the time to say goodbye to her - that she wasn't snatched quickly, from health to death in an instant. But the time was too long, we said goodbye, and then goodbye, and then you just don't know what to say anymore. So mostly, I am relieved that it is over. That we get to build our new now; our new world. And more than anything I am thankful it is over because I don't know how I would have survived this #4kids3andunder life with the obligations of hospital visits. It was hard at times before but this would have been just too much. My weekly morning visits with my Dad take place here now - I don't need to pack up my kids and drive into Yaletown each week. I don't need to figure out how to factor one more responsibility into my life. I can ask my Dad to come here, to help. Now we push two strollers when we walk, instead of me having to be in charge of all my littles, while he cared for mom. He can support and love me, which feels pretty excellent. I mean I've watched him support and love me, but it's different when you have to care for someone in it. He can be fully present in my world and at this time of life I need that. I need ALL of him in those moments. 

My sister and I have been grieving differently. We both see counselors. We both talk with our friends. We both see our Dad often. But we experience it differently. Thankfully we have found the grace to walk through those differences with love and I am so thankful to have her by my side. We are more fragile versions of ourselves currently - I'm surprised that that is true for me. We were prepared, we saw this coming, we grieved and grew and still, we're not whole. The winter we were pregnant with Bailey and Harrison we had lunch with our Nana (mom's step mom) and our Auntie Lesley (mom's sister) and it felt so wrong that mom was alive but not with us, though if she were with us she wouldn't actually have been with us. This past weekend we had dinner with our Nana and Auntie Lesley and it didn't feel like she was a ghost at the table - we could talk about her and remember her without it feeling as heartbreaking. I don't know why, but I am thankful. Before I didn't know how to honour her or remember her without it hurting because she was still her; she was just locked away inside of her. Now she is gone, but who she was still remains, and it remains much more accessibly to me. It doesn't hurt to remember her now. 

Sometimes it comes up in conversation with random people; "my mom died 6 months ago". "Oh, I am so sorry," they say. I hastily add, "it's ok she was sick for a long time". It was easier to receive condolences for her illness than it is for her death. I feel slightly guilty when they respond graciously because I am mostly relieved. Then I remember how fragile I can be now, how grief can still appear in strange moments, and I chose to accept care and well wishes. Because death sucks, even if it comes partnered with relief. 

I've known my Mom my whole life. Right? Obviously. But I didn't really. First I was a baby (obviously very unaware), then a kid (only seeing certain realities) and then a teenager/college student (woefully selfish) and so while I knew her I didn't always GET her. I learned things about her at both the memorial services. I was reminded of things about her at both services. I learned things about myself that I thought I came up with, that it turns out come from her! I am notorious for leaving my favorite coffee/tea/drink/sweetener at my friends' places so I can always have what I want when I visit - I was so sure I came up with this genius idea. Then her friend Diane mentioned that mom always left her favorite coffee at Diane's house so she could have it when they visited. I'm so glad I didn't come up with it on my own. A lineage of mild imposition for beverage perfection. I didn't know how her friends saw her; how her colleagues saw her. To hear how they experienced her, how they enjoyed her; it solidified so much of who she was. It filled in the parts I couldn't see. You know, both our husbands (her sons in law) said something a bit sobering after the funerals - that Jenna and I had painted a bit of a worse picture of her than others - that we often pointed out the flaws more than the strengths. While we talked this through we realized that the things that drive you the most nuts about your parents are often the things that others admire or love the most about them! My mom was SO EMBARRASSING. She would do whatever she wanted - singing loudly in hallways, picking through to find the cheapest piece of meat, asking huge favors of people that were probably a bit presumptuous. But person after person commented that my mom had a gift of getting people to do things that they wouldn't normally do, and this benefited our churches and communities greatly. I heard people say they loved that she would burst into song randomly. My childhood embarrassment was their happy memory! I'm curious and scared to think of my how my children will someday describe me.

One of my mom's best friends just also became a twin-grandma (our babies are just months apart) and I was surprised to find that it shook me - I was so sad because she would have LOVED to have that in common with her dear friend. She would have loved bonding about it. There's a picture in my baby book of my mom and this friend with their oldest daughters as babies, and now here we are with twins the same ages! She would have delighted in this. 

And with that segway to the twins, family life is going well. Avie started dance class two weeks ago and is LOVING it. She's full on little girl and I love it. Bailey is going from baby-toddler to little girl and it's fun to watch. The babies are becoming bigger babies and it's so fun to get to know them. I just got a weekend away with girlfriends this past week, Paul and his mom looked after our 4 kids. I slept for 12 hours the first night. I came back refreshed emotionally, the deep hole of exhaustion was somewhat filled. I am now tired again, but oh man was that time away delightful. 

Twin nap cuddles

Delivery from Amazon

Big sisters helping feed twins

This twin photo just gets me - it's very real

Avie's first day of dance class

Bailey at play gym while Avie dances

And that is that. The grief, exhaustion, fragility mixed with the relief, sweetness and joy of all of this. The high high's and the low low's. It's all very human up in here right now. 


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