Monday, June 3, 2019

The growth season

People often ask me how this past year has been for me, “how are you since your mom has passed?” I find it hard to answer because these past 15 months have been a lot to handle. The decade of mom’s illness before that was challenging and draining, and grief-bringing. But these past 15 months have just been so much.

15 months ago I went on bed rest from parenting (and partly from work) during my twin's pregnancy. I had two toddlers at home and had to outsource all parenting. I was on bed rest for almost 2 months and watched from the couch as Paul single-handedly ran our home. Then 38 weeks came and on our way home from being induced at the hospital, while I was in labor, we got an eviction notice, giving us 2 months to find a new home for our family of 6, plus 3 students. We spend the newborn days keeping 4 humans alive, doing the newborn stuff with twins, trekking to house viewings (for mostly terrible houses), and filling in paperwork to dispute the eviction and give us a bit more time. 

Pregnancy & Belly shots

First pic with TWO new babies

My sister/best friend and my babies

Life with twin babies

It was an exhausting time, and yet I can see these beautiful glimpses. First off, the twins birth was amazing - so much fun, then healthy and amazing. The newborn stage was intense but we made it through. Somehow through all of it - the showings, the feedings, the exhausting fog - we got through it all. 

4 weeks after the twins were born my mom passed away. We moved into ‘the work after death’ stages; all while the babies still needed us, the toddlers still needed us, and we were still trekking from house to house for viewings. We planned and organized; we put on two services (one here in Vancouver, one in Port Alberni). We also attended one that Yaletown house organized for the residents who had died that month.  The night of Mom’s Vancouver funeral (June 25th) I found the house listing for the house we live in now. We saw this house on June 26th (Dad babysat our older girls, so we could be here – something he hadn’t been able to do before while Mom was alive), and by the end of the day, it was 75% sure the house would be ours. This house is perfect for us - an amazing neighbourhood, a better price than we were paying or even actually hoping for. The layout is amazing and works perfectly for us. Early June 27th we had confirmation the house would be hours, and Paul had to complete the dispute/arbitration process for our old house downtown and boy was it a blessing to know where we were going to be living as he entered that and knew what to fight for. June 28th we got the keys and signed the final paperwork for the place, just hours before heading to the ferry to the island for a week for mom’s Port Alberni funeral. I cannot express just how much of a gift it was to go away for that week of mourning and celebrating knowing that we had a home and that all the loose ends were resolved. That week was healing and beautiful. It was hard. Any event planning brings stress, a funeral is no different. Add in emotions, 8-week old twins, and 2 toddlers. Hard. But it was also a wonderful time away with my sister and her family – some family friends let us use their beautiful home that had enough space for us all, and our extended family could gather there with us and that time was so precious and valuable, and perfect, and oh so needed. I learned a lot about my mom and even myself during that funeral and the closure was so helpful. 

Our last visit with my mom

Canada Day in Port | Mom's CoL notice | Cousin hangout time in Port

It should also be noted that in the same week of my mom's funerals John & Lindsay (the couple in the middle and some of our very best friends) moved away to California. We had a fun last night together with our other best friends but oh man, it was sad to see them go!

We headed home, with the funeral chapter closed, entering into the moving season in full force. We spend the next 3 weeks managing our household and kids, packing up a 6 bedroom house, and unpacking into a new home. What a blessing that Paul was on Paternity Leave – if he had still been working it would have been so much harder. He saved us $2500 over our last move by being so on it in advance, moving so much into our new home before we fully moved. We had a friend come out the week of the move, which was a life saver. She offered to come without even knowing we were moving then! My aunt also came to stay the week before and oh my goodness – without those two women we would not have made it. They fed us, and played with our kids, and were a balm for my soul. My best friend Ana also came over multiple times and even helped me pre-plan my entire kitchen, with detailed pics and graphs, AND helped me unload into it. We had to share with our community how overwhelmed we felt, and how much there was to do. It was humbling to ask for help but so many people showed up and helped with the packing and the unpacking. I was floored. We moved on July 20th, leaving us 10 days to tidy the old house and prep for selling. What a help that was. And then began the season of unpacking and organizing and keeping the twins and toddlers alive and happy. And trying to enjoy summer through it all.

feeding twins | with Auntie Sandy & Kari | with all 4 kiddos

New home | our main living space

The only major thing on the horizon was finding someone to look after our kids come September when both Paul and I were going back to work. I mean, and handling life with #4kids3andunder, which in itself is a lot. I knew we needed someone full time on Tuesdays & Thursdays when I would be working, and I wanted to find a Mothers Helper in the afternoons for the three days I would be home alone with the 4 kiddos. Finally, in the third week of August, the weight was lifted; we not only had an awesome mothers helper lined up but the biggest piece, the nanny was solved. The wonderful woman who we had paid to be a companion for my mom for many years, would be our kids' Nanny. She already saw them as family – she had been praying for them for years on my mom’s behalf. She has raised 4 kids and fostered 100’s more. She’s the older girl with a younger sister, then boy/girl twins that she helped raise as well – so she has that in sibling order in common with Avie. Our situation and many kids don’t scare her at all. Plus she comes with a tiny dog that has ultimately helped our kids stop being afraid of dogs. I can now say all of this with great relief, but the weeks leading up to this resolution were so stressful!


We went away near the end of August with the twins for a friends wedding. We were so excited. The twins were great at sleeping and with no toddlers to need us we could nap when the babies napped. It was sunny, we were in love, and we were so excited to be away together. While we were on the ferry I started to experience stroke-like symptoms. My vision was blurring, I had shooting pain in one arm, I felt off and headachey, and my speech and texts were a jumble of mistyped words. We arrived at my Nana’s in Victoria, and she took one look at me and said we needed to head into the ER (which we were already fearing). I spent the next few hours in the hospital (until 2am) with my 80-year-old Nana while Paul worried at home with the twins. It was rough. Ultimately it turns out this was an irregular migraine brought on by stress. My doctor said that often a stress migraine like this will appear after a major stress (and Lord knows we’d had a lot of stress) just when the body was relaxing. She also explained that an irregular migraine has many symptoms on top of a headache, and can often be quite scary to experience. Thankfully with some sleep, pain killers and much hydration, I was better by midday the next day. Still, it felt like a lot.

And then life began to be a new normal – Paul back at work full time teaching for the VBS, me back at work 2 days a week doing the Admin/Finance/HR for our church, and me being home 3 days a week with the kids. Lots of moms groups, twin meetups, family visits, and church life around all that as well. It was tiring and fun. Around this time my sister’s depression was seeming to stick around more than expected, and I mention it here because she’s so open about it all, and because it was an underlying reality in our new normal. What looked like some grief after mom’s death, just wasn’t going away. My sister is a trooper, and I’m so amazed at how she handles everything life throws at her, even from the depths. And so life settled – routines, and family, and life mixed with care and concern for those around us.

Jenna & Bailey

Pretty quickly into the new normal, my Dad met up with an acquaintance to compare grief journeys and fell in love with her, enter Donne (or Dee, as he's nicknamed her). After a whirlwind romance by Halloween, we were planning a wedding for the Spring! Acquiring a new set of sisters, a new mom, and dealing with all the feelings and stuff that comes along with that. We went hard into wedding planning – which is something I love but also definitely a lot of work on top of family life! Thankfully my Dad and Dee are both willing to talk and work through emotions. We have all been able to be honest about the ups and downs, but also truly accepting of this new relationship. As daughters we all watched our parents serve and love their sick spouse, and man I know they deserve this new happiness.

And just when we thought that life with 4 young kids and a wedding to plan was a lot to handle, my uncle Jake passed away suddenly. My Auntie Sandy is my second mom, she’s one of my best friends. The sudden passing of her husband was hard in so many ways. Paul particularly mourned deeply as he and my uncle Jake had a deep friendship. A month or so after that our student (who has lived with us for 2 years) had her Mom pass away – so it was a time to be with her and support her. Another death, more grief. We could see clearly though how God was with Him and us – how He’d orchestrated moments in the months leading up to Uncle Jake’s death of connection and relationship. Just months before he had visited his daughter and her family in China – otherwise it would have been 2 years since they had seen him. We had him over for dinner at Christmas and had such a fun time with him. My sister had him over for dinner for the first time ever and had said it was such a blessing to have that time before he left. How neat to see how God moved there.

The weekend before my Uncle Jake’s funeral on the island I had a major work event that I plan each year (and love) – I raced through that weekend, speaking in front of 60 women, then home to my kids, before heading off again to the island for another family funeral – twice in one year. What a gift it was to be there to support and love my Aunt’s family and grieve together. My cousin and her family stayed with us before heading back to China, which was such a silver lining to a hard time. We got to see our daughters play together, as we did for all of our growing up years. After that, it was time to support our student in her mom’s funeral. How strange that we both lost our mom’s within a year of each other. How strange that my aunt and my Dad both lost their spouses within a year of each other. It was another season of grief, and beauty within mourning.

My cousin Leanna and I | My Auntie Sandy & I | Avie & Annie

We made our way through though, and then it was back into the wedding planning. Despite everything, a wonderful wedding was planned. It went off far better than I could have hoped and helped us connect with our new siblings in new and beautiful ways. We even worked together to sing a song for our parents at the wedding, which was humbling. All of our kiddos were in the wedding, to which Paul now vows, never again.

After the wedding was birthday/celebration season – Avie, the twins, our anniversary, my birthday, Jenna's birthday and then finally the one year anniversary of mom’s passing. So maybe you can see how I don’t quite know how to answer any questions about this past year. We’ve had more on our plates that I would have ever thought we could. Life has also been so much more enjoyable than I would have ever expected. I have learned so much about myself, about grief, about being a mom and having a family.

Fathers Day | #4kids3andunder | out & about with the kids

One year since Mom's passing

So, how am I? Covered. I’m close to God in my weakness and need. I see how He loves me, and how He empowers me to get through here day. I see how He’s orchestrated so many things to work out for good. I’m here with my kids. I’m thankful for the fun and joy they bring. I’m aware of my own emotions and limitations in parenting and I ask for and receive help when needed. I’m in love with my husband and enjoy him so much – I love being his teammate. I love my friends – being a mom has opened a depth of relationship that pretty wonderful, and being a twin mom has opened up new circles of wonderful friends – something I wouldn’t have expected when we first found out it was twins. Church is busy and full but oh man, I love our church family and life. Our home is perfect for us – a better price, a better location, a better flow. I can barely handle how perfect this house is for us. I love it. I’m enjoying the enjoyable parts of my life, I’m working through the hard or emotional parts of my life, and we’re not just surviving but actually thriving. Our lives feel like a precariously perched house of cards - if anything falls through it has the potential to affect so much. Like with jenga, each moment feels like it could go horribly wrong. Yet, we're happy, we're healthy, we're healing and I know for a fact that my Mom would ecstatic to watch my life now, and that’s pretty awesome.

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