Thursday, March 26, 2015

My little monsters

On the eve of my 29th birthday, I am pausing to reflect.
Actually, I'm just buzzing from 2 late night cups of strong coffee, and in the silence of the 11th hour I am taking an opportunity to sit and listen to myself think.
It's not easy, finding stillness, with three kids three and under, and the energy of spring filling their young lungs. 'Antsy" doesn't even begin to describe the pent up energy I had to deal with today.

I use to love having a March birthday because it meant spring.
Now spring means snow/sleet/rain/mud/wild things, in one giant hodgepodge pool of energy.
And I am tired. I wake up to bellows. Full scale stampedes happening down the hallway. Babies/toddlers/adults (possibly me) just yelling. It's madness. The moments of quiet are my moments of guilt, because it means I have resorted to berenstain bears, or worse, super silly songs. But for goodness sake, at some point, a woman needs to put her bra on in peace and take a morning pee.
Today was a day when the volume reached epic heights, and my patience was at its all time low.
The put together family photo on the mantle really masks the monsters we can become. When the baby jolts awake on repeat for 4 hours because any quiet moment is snatched away with warrior cries or blocks hitting the inner monster stirs.
And then when I spin my wheels trying to clean, discipline, eat, feed, change, and maintain and contain the madness, aka. the kids, I give in. Monster.

Sometimes I just get sick of hearing myself say NO. Of course, I have to say it, but it gets so tiring.
"No, you can't eat three bananas"
"No, you have to wear pants"
"No, you can't run around naked"
"No, you can't go to grandmas"
"No, I'm not going to spoon feed you"
"No, you can't throw your blocks at the wall...or at your sister... "
"No, you can't wrap that string around your neck"
"NO, you can't use your hand..  you have to use toilet paper!"
"No, you can't take the fish out!"

.. and then I catch myself and think.. do I really have to say this? Shouldn't they know the answer is NO!?

But they don't. They really think that these things, no matter how ludicrous, are within the realm of possibility. And then I wonder what I signed up for in this mind numbing job of motherhood.
The fact that I did, about an era ago, go to University and graduate with honours, means absolutely nothing.I am about as sharp as a sweet potato- casting about the house with wild eyes wondering when the house exploded and how come I heard nothing? Then realizing I've been hearing low grade bombing all day, starting with the first bellow from the bathroom when someones butt needed wiping, and so it's no wonder I didn't actually hear the house explode.

And in my sweet potato state, I lose perspective. I say equally ludicrous things, like when my husband asks if I'd like anything, and I respond "I'd like to be a vapour." And when he responds that he can't make that happen, I snap "Arent' you a scientist? Just figure it out!".  Of course the vapour thing is a bit extreme, but the essence of the request is simply that I can find somewhere to just get lost for a bit. To recover myself. To hear myself.
I ended up sliding under the table at supper time, only to see Anneliese poke her head under the table and say "hi mom".

So, today was a marathon.  The kids were an extra handful and I couldn't find that other hand. But I got through it. I even have a quiet hour to sit, write, and exaggerate my woes to the world. But with the quiet comes perspective. Some deliberate thinking over the past day, the past time. Tomorrow I'll be 29- on the brink of the next decade, and it's a little daunting. I suppose I am mostly daunted these days by the endless cycles of monotony that motherhood brings. But then when I really think about it, during these blissfully quiet hours of the night, I am daunted by what I'll do when they're behind me. Because God knows I love those little monsters :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mattea, you are already three months old, and you are getting ridiculously cute. Thick dark hair that keeps growing, big, round blue eyes, two chins, huge cheeks, roley thighs- you are just plain healthy looking and I like that. You bring me so much joy throughout the day, because you are simply so joyful. You rarely fuss, and if you do, it's because you just want to have a good look at me. I swear I spent the other day shuffling your bouncy chair wherever I had work to do, just so you could keep me in your field of vision. Your eyes are big, and curious, and if I may say so as your biased mom, intelligent. You have a lot of your daddy in you- I see that already. You made your own sleeping schedule, and stick to it religiously. You are asleep by 7 pm, and up by 7 am, and you get incredibly social-ed out in large crowds. You are serious and selectively smiley, and you love your big brother. It helps that he is always willing to put your soother in, sing to you, get you your diapers, and make you smile. Watching that Franklin episode on the role of 'big brother' might have been my best parenting move to date. Jesse takes the job seriously.
I am discovering the incredible gift I have been given in you, and Jesse and Anneliese. My heart keeps expanding, keeps delighting in things that from the outside are terribly mundane.
I love that God's plan for me is better than anything I could plan for myself. And it's landed me with three kids I can't imagine life without.

Monday, January 5, 2015

December was a social month.
Mattea's baptism pulled my siblings and parents out of their Sunday routines and into ours. We fed and watered them, and sent them on their way to second service.

Danielle and I planned and hosted our ESL Christmas potluck, involving a guest list of 45 people when counting teachers/spouses/children, and students, and it was a fantastic time of eating, talking, and carol singing.

Two days later we gathered our small group into our kitchen for a more intimate dinner affair, and though it was a tight fit, it was both comfortable and cozy-- which is exactly what I'm going for in a home whose aim is to be hospitable.

And then my little Anneliese turned two, so we had a party. Why not.
This last little shindig was a last minute shindig, and true to my consistent good luck with all things last minute, it was pretty great. I made a snowman cake, and an Olaf out of our last 2 balloons,  (because "Frozen" is a big deal around here)  and the stage was set. I also made a few little crafty things with felt (build a snowman) and with baking soda (make snowballs, and blow them up with vinegar) and Anneliese entered happily into her second year of life :)

And now James is on holiday, and we are gearing up. The revolving door reins will slip into my moms eager hands and we will feast on vast quantities of sugar, caffeine, and meat. It's a beautiful season.

To date, this has been a particularly memorable holiday, and I will label it one of my all time favourites. The weather was kind, for starters, and I avoided entirely the clawing feeling of claustrophobia and cabin fever. We did a 3 km hike with 3 kids and no one's face froze off, and continued to hike around various parts of Hamilton over the break.

We had a photoshoot with 30 people, and despite discussing the colour scheme to death, the whole thing actually turned out! Following pictures, we had a "kids christmas day" that went surprisingly well for how much we failed to actually plan it. We ate appetizers, played football and soccer, gave gifts, made crafts, and sat back to enjoy the charming chaos that children bring to any social gathering.

But the real highlight for me was the adult dinner. We did gourmet, and so turned the eating into the event, and throughout the hour or so that we stood and prepared our small individual feasts, kid-free, we connected again as adults, as siblings, as friends, and it was really very wonderful. That will be our last gathering in that home for a Christmas meal. The memories my kids have of grandma's house won't be that one. And so we played it up a little, sharing our most embarrassing stories under that roof (starting with my dad- whose memories stretched back to grade 5 in that house) and reliving some of our worst fights and best memories. Dave and I even managed to wash and dry at least 2 dishes together before he quit on me, and history repeated itself. If there ever was a pair to fail at kitchen clean-up, it was us.

After dinner, we opened some gifts, had some coffee, talked (blissfully uninterrupted by children) and then moved back to the table for round 2. Dessert was another event, a little more competitive with the crepe flipping, (of course) and then back to the living room to settle in and digest. Being a parent is wonderful, but I'd love to see a few more adult dinners sprinkled into my yearly calendar. Seeing my siblings  'off duty' was good. They were fun.

And that's how I'll sum the holiday. Fun. We had yet another party at our house to ring in the new year, which involved games, snacks, Chinese food, and a lot of yawning, and then that was it. Family flew home, we re-established our home routine, and this morning James got up and went to work.
And now I try to implement the resolutions I have set for myself, create good habits that will stay in place as I grow another year older, and steel myself against the inevitable cold that January will bring. And that involves a good reading list :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Life with three

Mattea- you are almost three weeks old, and here's an update just for you. ( I want to ensure that I write things 'just for you' because you may find that being third down the line, there's not a lot coming down the pipeline that hasn't been first discovered and handled by your older siblings. SO, this is for you.
Day 1 was a day to relax and recover. You were my pretty little stranger, with dark hair, brown skin, and big eyes that stared.

Our first few days at home were blissfully quiet. Your grandma took Jesse and Anneliese for 3 whole days, and I am sure I fully recovered from giving birth in those magical 36 hours.
When they did come home, Jesse was a bit over eager, but a diligent 'big brother' nonetheless.
Anneliese- I'm sorry to say- did not take her role as big sister quite so seriously, despite the shirt she wore so proudly labelling her just that. She pretty much ignored you (and me) so it's safe to say she is still adjusting.

And I am adjusting to the irrefutable fact that children are, and will always be unpredictable. Our first night home as a family of 5, Jesse was up at 2 am with a sudden case of croup, and needed to go to the ER because he could hardly breathe. He recovered nicely from that, only to pick up a nasty cold, which he then spread to Anneliese, and you.

We got through that week, and headed into our first weekend without James, who was coaching an overnight volleyball tournament. So, first night with all three kids on my own proved to be another catastrophe. For starters, Halloween is never a great night to be home alone. We did a little bit of trick or treating at Uncle Doug and Aunt Vanessa's, just enough to get the kids thoroughly terrified of people in costume, and then headed home-- where we encountered more people in costumes.  Of course, I had only managed to get the kids undressed and then they were sprinting around the house like maniacs on a sugar high, and you chose that moment to want to be fed, so when the doorbell started ringing, I was in no position to run and answer it. So Jesse, hospitable soul that he is, was answering our door in his underwear, getting scared out of his wits by the trick or treaters, but not clueing in that he needs to STOP answering the door.  We ended up sitting in our house with the lights off, which was almost as bad.

When the morning finally came, I felt a surge of relief that we had survived the night. Turns out that feeling was a tad premature, because during my 4 minute shower, Jesse managed to get pinned under his dresser. He was providentially wearing his costume from the night before, and I think Bob the Builder's hard hat might have saved his life. The hat stayed pinned under the dresser, while his little body scampered out, relatively unhurt. I stood there puddling for a few more seconds (hadn't had time to grab a towel) desperately missing James' (at least, the extra set of hands). And that Mattea, is a sampling of what life is like with a 3 year old.

So while we are on the topic of your brother, I'll let you know that he also gets these ridiculous nightmares almost every night, (he currently is in one as I write this, and no matter what we do, he won't wake up). This, to my dismay, is moving from the realm of unpredictable to predictable, and we don't really have a clue what to do about it.

But it does have me wondering what YOU have in store for us down the road. Right now, you are a quiet, content, cuddly newborn. You eat, sleep, dirty up some diapers, and cry from time to time. You will soon be capable of a whole lot more, and although I'm much more experienced, I know you will throw your own curve ball at us in due time. Not sure I want to think about that yet, so I'll just enjoy the sleepy stage of life you are in. Because if you are anything like your brother and sister, you will grow up way too fast.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Labour and Delivery, round 3

I woke up Tuesday morning a total grump. It was a rough night of kids crying to crawl into our bed and moving into hysterics when we moved them back into their own. There is only so much 'cuddling' I can handle at 9 months pregnant, and my kids are sprawlers, which doesn't allow for anyone to really sleep comfortably.
This particular Tuesday morning happened to be my scheduled due date, and I was in no mood to share my precious bed space with anything other than my gigantic stomach.  I didn't realize it then, as I lay in bed crampy and grumpy, unwilling to admit the day had begun and stuffing a pillow over my head,  but labour had begun.
James was in game mode- rushing to put his tie on, and barely glanced over when I said- " this baby is coming today."
I mean, I barely heard it myself, being stuffed under my pillow, and not believing it anyways. I just thought it would be fun to throw James' off a little.
 Then the kids rushed in, and James rushed out, and my pillow didn't hide me half as well as I thought. Time to get up.
This is when things got interesting. Apparently, in the getting up, my water 'broke' or half broke, and I was startled by the painful cramps of pre-labour. Time to start panicking.
I wasn't packed (despite James' badgering over the past week) the kids weren't packed, the house was a disaster (we were recovering from the flu, remember!?) and I had absolutely no idea how I was going to get it together with James at work and two demanding toddlers scrambling around my ankles.
I pitched my previous game plan (which was to have a super stay at home cleaning kind of day) and opted to call my mom. She came over that morning, bearing donuts and coffee. Blessed Relief. The whole morning I felt 'off', but with work to do, I didn't dwell on it, and we tackled organizing and cleaning a substantial amount. Mom continued to spoil all of us, whipping out to A & W to grab delicious fast food for lunch, and then we resumed the cleaning- 'we' being relative, because at this point, I was having to stop and lean my head against the wall while my stomach tightened into a cannonball, and my kids fought over a bouncy ball, and mom carried on with her mission to make our rooms presentable for the newest addition. God bless her.
Around 4, I thought I'd give the hospital a call, just to see if my water potentially breaking was of any significance to them-- and as it turned out-- yes, in fact, it was, and I should really get my butt over there ASAP so they could check things out. SO, mad scramble to pack up the kids, call up James, and pack the 'in case' over night bag if things really got rolling.
Despite some maddening traffic, we got to the hospital at 5:30 pm, discovered my 'membranes had ruptured (fancy way of saying my water kind of broke) and were presented with two options. Since I wasn't even in the ball park of being in real labour yet, I could get induced, or go back to Hamilton (with the threat of being induced in the morning). We opted to walk around Beamsville in the rain and grab dinner. I may have gone into panic mode at the word 'induced' (see post on Jesse's birth story, if you are curious at that reaction) and so a walk in the cold rain felt delicious. During said walk, my water fully broke, contractions came every 2 1/2 minutes, and became increasingly difficult to walk through. We ended up back in the hospital a half an hour later.
I think the nurse was shocked, because she had just sent us packing back to Hamilton, but I told her in no uncertain terms that this baby was on its way. She gave me one of those dainty little hospital gowns, and a bouncy ball, and pretty much left us to our own devices. I heard a lot in the next 30 minutes about 'climbing that mountain-- getting to the peak-- and climbing back down'.. nonsense really, but surprsingly helpful. Also helpful that James was there to rub my back, and let me bruise the crap out of his hand while I 'climbed that contracting mountain'.
After half an hour, the climbing turned into pushing, and I found myself on the bed, ready for the last, and most painful stage of labour. In 20 minutes, it was over. There was a brief scare in the middle, when the babies heart rate dropped, and Dr. Nwebube raced out to grab some forceps. I think it was a tactic, because the sight of that forced me to practically pop my head off pushing- and soon after, at 7:47 pm, to be exact, my girl was born, unassisted.
And she's a beauty.  A dark head of hair, dark skin, 8lbs even, with a lusty cry, and a healthy dose of both Harskamp and Sikkema. Everything about her seems strong and sturdy and beautiful. We are thrilled that she is healthy, and here. Especially that she is here, and the fear of giving birth is behind me. Hallelujah!
These moments in life are very special to me. I get to see and experience the miracle of a life God created, and to receive the gift of a child God gave specifically to us, for His purpose, and His glory. And now we are home with this new little person, Jesse and Anneliese are (mercifully) still with their loving grandma, and I am just soaking up this clean, quiet living space, with my clean, quiet little baby. She has been so good so far, or maybe I'm just a little more experienced- but either way, life for us Harskamps has changed again. And if there is one thing I really do love, it's a bit of change every now and then :)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

             The baby boom of the year, (beginning with Matt and Morgan's little girl, followed by Aaron and Michelle's little boy, and most recently, Mike and Rachel's baby girl) is nearing completion. There are only two booms left, and one of them is mine. Due in two days, I'm still feeling about a week or two away from the boom reality, which will probably have Doug and Vanessa squeaking their baby in ahead of mine. Fine by me. I am still recovering from the untimely visit of the thanksgiving flu, that knocked us all on our asses for a full 5 days. Horrible.
             I don't need to go into detail, for everyone's sake, but there was a lot of laundry, a lot of drugs, and a lot of NOT sleeping. SO, you can understand why the thought of introducing the newest Harskamp into the last week's madness was not a welcome one, and I think the mind has a lot of power over the body when it comes to that stuff. Every time I thought I might be in labour (and let me tell you, a toddler with the flu is exactly what would induce early labour) I told my body to knock it off, and carried on with the carryings on-- one hour at a time, for 5 very long, tiring, yucky days.  And now, here I am, emerging from the isolating cave of sickness feeling alive and very much pregnant. So, it is time to think about nesting.  I have to say, I don't have a clue what to expect with this little baby. I know I've already had two, but that doesn't really seem to register, when faced with the impending pain of bearing a baby. I wish we at least had a name. James and I can't seem to land on a mutual favourite, and so the baby is currently nameless, and that is not helping me 'nest'. 
            But there is some benefit to my procrastination in nesting. The longer I put it off, the sooner James starts to do it for me :) Like today, he took it upon himself to actually see if we can fit three little people in the back seat of our car. Initially, things did not look, and I got my first taste of that sentiment.." you should have thought of this sooner..." (But after a lot of coaxing and door slamming, the seats were made to fit, seating problem solved). 
            Dear baby #3. Don't think that because you are currently nameless and we have procrastinated planning your arrival that you are not already filling up our hearts to full capacity. Just know that I have my hands and mind full with Jesse and Anneliese- 3 and 1 1/2, and the place you are filling right now is not just my uterus. I love you already, my heart is full, and the pain of bringing you into the world is already worth it. And although you will most likely only wear hand me down's from either of your siblings,  (sorry, tight budget) and you may be a little squeezed in the car, and not ever experience a house of peace and quiet, you are going to have two older siblings to look out for you, and two loving parents to raise you, and I'm not sure what more planning is really necessary. So, we will leave the when and how to God, because He crafted you, He knows you, and He has planned for you. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's the 15th of September, and the heat was turned on. The heat. Summer has been clipped short, like a chicken's wing, and I am going to squawk about it.

I believe I kept my vow- that I would try not to complain about the heat this summer, but soak up every morsel of vitamin D at my disposal to carry with me into the coming winter. I was banking on at least another month of storage.

 Apparently the birds knew this was coming, and starting migrating in August. Apparently we are in for some strange polar vortex during September, a chinook during October, and a brutally long hard winter after that. Apparently, it's time to put the kiddie pool away for good, and accept the fact that my big plans to be a 'sunhat' girl this summer never materialized, even though I bought two sunhats so I could rise to the occasion.

Of course, if it were just me, I could deal with the clouds of gloom, the crisp air, and maybe even embrace the early festive feelings of fall. But Jesse and Anneliese have colds, and want to go outside in their undies, and don't like feeling cold, and so will last 5 minutes, come back in, and then turn the house upside down in their attempts to burn the endless energy God has blessed them with.

And it's September. Winter hasn't even really started to think about coming yet. This is all fall's fault.
Anyways, complaining is silly.
To cheer up with chin up, it has been nice seeing families emerge on the street again, walking their littles off to school every morning. I love seeing the small kids with their huge backpacks, always trying so hard to keep up with their bigger sib. I can picture Anneliese and Jesse in that scenario, and it's a warm thought.

That thought gets me thinking that there will be another little sibling to add to the picture in about a month! It's always strange to try and imagine the family with a new little stranger that's been added. I know I had a hard time picturing it when I was pregnant with Jesse, but Anneliese sort of slid seamlessly into the picture. I hope with this one, it's a smooth slide, cushioning the harsh reality of winter that will inevitably come. (I shouldn't let the seasons get to me, but deep down, I just know I belong in the Caribbean :))

James and I are leading a small group this year- we've officially been recruited, and start it up next week. We also begin our TELL program (Teaching English Language Learners). A new ministry being headed up by Danielle and myself to reach out to those in our city who find themselves isolated by language. I'm excited at the prospects of interacting with people from around the globe on a weekly basis, but I do feel like I'll need a serious boost in stamina over the course of the program. Either way, I'm very happy that James and I have become so plugged in at our church. It's a great family.

Speaking of family- mine is getting squirrely, and Clifford just isn't performing today ;) Time for them to get out and start running laps or something.