U Are Not Alone

It’s been a rough couple of months for this one. Dis-located shoulder, strep throat, hospitalization for possible shunt mal-function…. it comes in waves for her, for us. I don’t talk about it a whole lot because I have realized it’s a lot for others to handle or I don’t want to be a burden, or I just don’t feel like it. But sometimes, actually all the time, I’m learning it is better to be honest and vulnerable even if it is hard for others to handle, or uncomfortable for me so here it goes because many of you are asking….

When we r in the hospital we hear the terms “medically fragile kids”, “chronically ill kids”.  I do not like these terms. Though they may be the reality its a term that people want to use to define her. There is no lying or hiding that the past couple months have been hard, and dark for her and for me. Always hoping it will be different the next time. She does not want to be pitied… or for people to worry. She longs to be a “normal “ 17 year old with 17 year old worries and for the most part she is. As our kids get older it doesn’t get easier. Period. Whether they r healthy or “medically fragile” we worry, we hope, we dream. It’s true it does look a little different for our family. We truly do not live in fear of the next hospitalization. I believe that would rob us of the daily joy and adventure we feel and have as a family. We live and carry on each day like there isn’t a chronic illness. And sometimes we go a couple years with the bliss of nothing. Maybe that’s naive… maybe that’s why we r taken by surprise and pissed off each time it happens again. We sit for endless hours in the ER,she undergoes countless pokes because her veins have so much scar tissue they can’t find one and more tests than anyone should have to …ever, and she’s been doing this since she was 5 months old. And still… it does not define her. I’m am not gonna lie, at present we r weary, she is weary. It is lonely… no one understands, and once again the tension sets in, that u don’t want anyone to understand. She feels it, I feel it. Each new time the anger, the grief, the sadness and the helplessness rises closer to the surface. It comes quicker, the anger the hot tears.Her mind and spirit r so fierce but her body is broken. For now…. it is broken and failing her.

Not to mention the toll it takes on the other 4 members of our sweet family. People think when we leave the hospital it is this beautiful, grand reunion when we get home. But the reality is that while we have been gone the others have had to carry on, worry, answer questions they don’t have answers  to and a tired and cranky mom is what they get walking thru the door.

Journey is currently working on a documentary based on the role HOPE has in the healing of people who have faced tremendous adversity. Something she is obviously familiar with. Yesterday I saw it put into action as my girl sat hopeless, drained and in pain waiting for answers. Her best friend walked thru the door with Kombucha, yummy sandwiches, lavender lotion and fresh new cozy pants and jumped into bed with her. The laughter, and smiles and connection boosted our spirits for the next 5 hours. Then another friend showed up played music, drew on the walls and ate popsicles with her. I am sooooo thankful for her friends. It takes courage to show up. I get it… hospitals are not for everyone (nor should they be) they r dark and often scarey but I can not say it enough…if u can bring yourself to do it, show up. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Don’t let fear stop you. Because the light, the laughter, the sanity u will bring is one of the greatest gifts to the people stuck behind these sanitary walls.

Guys, we all have our shit, boy do we ever. We all have things that r hard, dark and situations that feel hopeless. We often don’t like to talk about them tho because it feels weak or it feels too vulnerable or there is fear of being judged. I don’t share this stuff for you to pity us/me. I share it to say u r not alone. In that dark, fearful, place. U r not alone. Share your shit. Talk about it with someone. And share it all.  The celebrations, the good, the bad, the messy…. all of it because as I’m learning (and I learn on a regular basis) It’s ok to be angry, it’s ok to be sad and it’s also ok to hope. And once again remember that this too will pass. That hope is scarey but essential and that when I don’t have it odds are, there are people out there that will have it for me/us. Thank u to my people and my girls people for showing up. U will never know the beautiful, impact u have had.

Just get in the boat.

If  you live in the Pacific Northwest you will know that we have had 50 days of rain in the last 60 days. SO MUCH RAIN. This time last year Truth and I were boarding a plane to Sayulita, Mexico to visit our dear friends the Chomlacks who were spending a month down there. I can not tell you how thankful I am that we did. The warmth, the ocean, the colors and the quality time with our friends. More and more I have realized since that trip that when these opportunities arise you take them. We can make many excuses as to why we shouldn’t go. The money, the logistics, the time away from family etc. etc. Lots of excuses. Looking back it was that time in Mexico that would fill my soul and my well so completely  and so deeply that I would have the reserves to sustain me through the next  months and year ahead. Ignorance is bliss.

*warning this may be long winded:)

Coming home I knew the winter season would be busy. Christmas, snowboarding contests, life with four kids, the usual.  We did not know that the Christmas holidays would be filled with a hospital stay for Journey. I wrote about that a few posts back. My well drained a but I had reserves. She healed, we nested and we rallied. Spring came and I was thankful to be entering a new season. I was enjoying my two jobs immensely. I could not be more thankful to be working with brand new moms and their babies. It is the most scarey, incredible,rewarding, humbling job… becoming a mom and I feel honored to be walking alongside these new moms and their babes. With spring comes re-birth. It also brought  big change for our family. Ben decided to move on from his job in Vancouver and join our family full-time in Whistler. I could  not have been more proud and excited for this new chapter and how he walked it out.  For the last 17 years he has worked incredibly hard for our family,  so that I could stay home and raise our humans. A decision we have never regretted but also required great sacrifice. For both of us. Now was his time. To breathe, to dream, to not get up at 6am and drive the long hwy into work. We saved so he could take a much needed break and it was exciting and terrifying. ” What’s next” everyone keeps asking. We have no idea….. but it’s going to be great, whatever it looks like. Again, we can make all the excuses in the world as to  why we should stay in a job, money, logistics, security but sometimes you just need to walk away. Let go. Believe that there is more, even if more is just being at home every night for dinner with your family or at your kids school plays. For us it was time.

Summer was fast approaching and we were just taking each day as it came. For the first time in a really long time we could get up and do whatever we wanted. We were not bound by “work”. Some days we would load the dirt bikes up,  pack a picnic and drive to remote logging roads and just ride. Deeper and deeper into the wilderness.The mountains, the rivers, the silence.  This filled my well. Some days we  would just sit in a coffee shop and dream and giggle at the fact we did it. I looked forward to more days like this in the summer. I hoped for many, warm lake days and maybe a road trip or two.

School ended and I was ready. Ready for no routine and and excited for yet another new season. Life feels full but so good as well. We are surrounded by an incredible community and I am thankful. The people I love are healthy and happy… and then they weren’t.

It still amazes me how one minute life can be so calm and sweet and carefree and the next it isn’t. Things can change in a heartbeat. I should know this better than anyone. I have lived this time and again. I mean most people have…. And yet when my best friend tells me she has cancer, I am shocked, gutted, blindsided and sad. ” No not you…. no.. no there must be a mistake.” Many of you know that for the last 4 months my person, my ” sister”, my sidekick has been battling an aggressive form of breast cancer. Many of you have checked in on me and asked me how I am doing as you know I have walked this road before. I figured it was time I told you.  We found out in July.  I went to the appts. with her and the first biopsy. I had convinced myself that it was not cancer. That it was a cyst or something else, she’s too young…no family history.. not cancer. We took our boys to Kelowna for a fun few days. Again just do it. Just get in the car and go and don’t make a thousand excuses as to why you shouldn’t go. It was four days of good eating, good drinking, tons of laughing and again ignorance was bliss.

This kind of news hits you like a Tsunami. Waves of grief for life as we know it has changed in an instant. A feeling of great loss for her, her family and mine. The fear of telling our kids. The fear of the unknown and magnitude and weight of the decisions she has to make in the coming weeks and months. Do I run? Do I try to avoid another loss or excruciating heart pain? No… this is not her story. This is not our story. This story is different I write it in my journal from day one. I will not run.  Nope…. Life is like being on the open ocean. Some days it is like glass and as calm as the eye can see but sometimes the waves are huge and scarey and overwhelming. Do I want her to be in the boat, in this storm alone? Of course not, so I get in the boat. I make the decision to stay in the boat with her. Not matter what the sea looks like. No matter what this day and the days and months ahead hold.

See here’s the thing…. when you find your person or your people you don’t get to decide what you go through together even if you have been through it before.  You don’t get to choose the circumstances that will shape your friendship. You do however get to choose how you will respond. Despite the pain and ache you get to choose whether or not you will show up. It might be scary. It might not look pretty. It might make you uncomfortable and it might rock the boat.But if she can walk through this fire with the grace and dignity she does then I can too. Again you get to choose how you will respond. It just so happens I am really good at the medical stuff. If I can take anything positive about Journey being in the hospital so many times it is that I can do hospitals. I know them, they don’t scare me. I don’t like them but I am not afraid of them. I have had the privlilege  of accompanying Stace to many of her appointments. Of holding her hand, joking inappropriately, waiting in waiting rooms and taking notes when receiving info. I am humbled and in awe at how she is walking through this… how she responds.   She gets the info and runs with it. With every fiber of her being she fights… she will be well. Some days are easier than others. Some days I can distract her, make her laugh, make her food, or do her laundry. Some days I can not. These are the hardest days. When nothing I do or say can take away from the fact that this sucks..that she has cancer, that she still has two more rounds of chemo and surgery. I can’t fix her…. I can’t take it away. Do I run? No, I stay in the boat. If she can stay in it, sit in it despite how high the waves may get or how rough the water churns…. then so can I.

As I watch her fight, there is a feeling deep inside my gut that feels familiar. I have fought too. I fought to live, I fought to be ok. I fought for my family.  I did not fight cancer but I fought for my life. My body failed me but my mind failed me more. I don’t know what chemo feels like, I don’t know what it feels like to lose my hair. But I  do know what it feels like to lose my memory and to feel like I lost myself…. my dignity. There is a quiet, unspoken understanding. It’s different but what is not different is that if I had known her then she would have been in the boat with me. AND she would have brought the best, high end rain coats, some super cute wellies and probably some yummy drinks.

So again.. many of  you have  asked how I am doing and thank you for that. The truth is  I am ok. I am taking one day at a time. I am choosing not to be afraid of what I do not know. I am choosing to joke inappropriately. I am choosing to acknowledge that this is a different story.  Some days I am incredibly sad that she and her family have to endure this. Then some days I am overwhelmed with gratitude and deep joy that I have a friendship that will last and weather any storm. That cancer doesn’t define us. That this is just another part of our story. Many days I look ahead to the many adventures we have yet to take. To India, back to Mexico, to Spain or wherever else our boat takes us. Today we are ok…and today the water’s are calm and peaceful. Not sure what tomorrow will hold for a job for Ben, for my my dear friend, or for my family but I do know that today we are ok and I so look forward to what the future holds. Here’s hoping those 50 days of rain will soon turn to 50 days of snow. Then we will trade the boat in for a snowmobile:)









Double Digits

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetTomorrow my youngest of four will turn 10. That’s right…… 10. When Journey turned 10 almost 6 years ago I remember saying to Ben ” I can’t imagine the day when all of our kids will be double digits. Like no more single numbers in our family”. I remember the thought of that totally and utterly making me feel sick. We had four kids in five years and I knew that once they started to get older….. really older that it would be like a mass exodus.

If you would have asked me 20 years ago how many kids I wanted I would have said 6. Yup, 6. That was my ideal number. Not even sure why other than I had been surrounded by some pretty cool families in University that had really big families and I like what I saw.

I think I had told Ben that information when we were dating but then again we were children. When our girls were 2 and 1 I remember Ben sitting on the couch with the girls with his arms around them and saying ” this is so good babe. These two little girls. So complete we are good right”? Wait Ben you mean we are good as in we aren’t going to have anymore kids? Hmmmm. We are good… they are amazing but I for sure want more kids! Of course then Truth came along and having a boy in the mix was just perfect. Such a bonus. I think everyone thought we were done…. I secretly wanted one more for sure.

Our little family ( like really little 3 kids under 4) was sweet. The girls loved their baby brother and I loved being their mom. It was all kinds of crazy but it was our life. Then I had an accident. A horrible, snowboard accident that would literally change my life forever. When I first came in there was not a ton of hope for me. I have shared about this before so I will not go into it again. I will say that a part of me died that day. Up there on Mt. Seymour. The woman, mother, wife and friend I was, was gone. I now had to fight and re-define who I was and who I would be. This was a brutal, draining, and heart wrenching process. To be honest I do not remember much of this time. There are tiny snipits but those two years are essentially gone. It’s probably best. Ben tells me it’s best and that he wishes he could forget.

The reason I re-cap this story today is because part of the reason I recovered and fought so hard was because 2 months after being released from Lions’ Gate hospital ( after six week of care) I found out I was pregnant yet again:)

Now….. this was not ideal. At all. The neurologist called me all sorts of names as this was possibly the worst thing that could have happened for my recovery. The odds were already against me having three young children at home. The Dr’s said in order for me to have a full recovery I needed to spend hours and hours in a dark room in silence. Yeah right. So to add another child to the mix just made them angry. The number two thing on a list of ten that will make a brain injured person snap is a crying baby. ” Good luck with that Mrs. Smith”.

Again, I don’t remember much about that time but I do remember feeling very alone. Very sad, very scared. I was a great mom before I had the accident. I was multi-tasker extrordinaire. I knew everyone’s name even after I had met you once. Now I was not even allowed to be alone with my children for fear I would leave a burner on and burn the house down or leave the kids in the tub and forget. I felt insulted.

This is where the miracle part for me comes in. This baby inside. The little one that would move so gently when I was feeling so down and lost and dead inside. He would gently move as if to say “hey…. it’s me. You are alive. You are my mom”. This baby…. was so gentle and so mellow that the Dr’s were concerned he didn’t move enough and would send me for non-stress tests. Nothing is wrong… this baby is just mellow. While pregnant with Oak a very close friend of mine came over and told me about a feeling and a dream that she had. She told me that this baby inside would bring great healing and peace to all around him/her. That he/she would be a light in this dark world. I remember taking great comfort in those words when  my memory would fail or when I would be so tired I could not imagine taking care of another life.

So on the eve of this remarkable boy turning 10. Double digits, I reflect on those words my friend shared with me all those years ago. ( you know who you are:) He is so,so kind. He brings light to all are around him. He walks into a room and people smile.  He brought healing to me in some of my darkest moments. He has brought peace and comfort to many of his friends and people that are hurting. His heart is deep and his empathy for others is great. His joy and love for life is contagious and I am so very, very thankful that even in a brain injured state he chose me to be his mum.

Oak Bravery, the last 10 years with you have been an absolute delight. Watching you grow, and laugh and be beautiful, artistic, creative you. I could not be more proud of who you are and that you are not afraid to be you.  I am truly filled with excitement as we watch what the next years have in store, and here’s to the next decade of raising kids that are no longer little. Maybe it’s time to get a puppy:)

Here’s to the mess…

Once again I find myself behind the keyboard over a year after I last wrote. I always have lots to say so that is not the issue but I just don’t seem to take the time to write it down. Maybe it’s just the stage of life I am in. Four kids, five years apart, all involved in different things at different places at different times. Nothing new to those of you that are also taxing your teens and pre-teens around. Regardless,  I must do it more.

I have found that in these past two months I have come to a couple of realizations. We all face challenges. We all face struggle. It might not be the same kind or at the same time but sooner or later we will all walk through it. This past Christmas season I found myself bouncing around in my emotions and body like a pin ball. Journey had another un-expected shunt malfunction which as per usual resulted in surgery. Every time this happens we hope it will not happen again. She had already had one in march and knee surgery in June so one more just before Christmas was a huge bummer to say the least. She is almost 16. In those 16 years  has had a total of 18 surgeries ( of various kinds) She goes in, she comes out into the recovery room entertaining and joking with the nurses high on morphine and telling tales the size of Everest. And each time the nurses say ” we love Journey. As much as we never want to see her again we love having her here! She makes our day.” Then we stay a few nights and we go home to “recover”.

There is always aftermath. For her, for me, for the rest of my little family. People say “you must be used to this by now” I will never get used to watching her fall asleep on the operating table. Or kissing her forehead before she closes her eyes. Maybe it’s that I don’t want to be used to it. Insert realization number two. Having a medically fragile child can be a very lonely place. I am caught between longing to have someone understand to being thankful I don’t have anyone that can understand because that would mean their child was sick, struggling…having to be poked time after time with needles, or having to juggle the emotions that each physical and emotional scar leaves.

Unfortunately two days after Journey was released from hospital she started experiencing pain in her abdomen without going into details we found ourselves back in hospital the day after boxing day. I was sad, and I was angry that this is what our Christmas holiday was. I was sad and angry that finally Journey got her knee fixed in June and she was so excited about getting on the mountain during Christmas break. One disappointment after another for her and for me as her mom. When will she get a break?

This time was different. She didn’t want people to know, she didn’t want to communicate with friends. We were hoping to avoid another surgery but sure enough one day later we were being wheeled back into the operating room. Even one of the nurses who recognized me from a couple of weeks before teared up. ” I hate that I recognize you now” she said. Me too. I knew that this surgery was going to lead to at least one more within the week and as I kissed her forehead and walked out of that room the tears flowed. I am usually pretty good at holding my crap together but not this time. They came and came and came and they didn’t stop. Even when I felt ready for them to stop they didn’t. I hate this for her.

She came out and we knew that the next few days would be uncomfortable and different. I didn’t know how to walk her through this one. I didn’t know how to fix it. I didn’t have words. We joked inappropriately of course as we always do but this time she slept, she stared at the wall. How much more can one kid take? I don’t want to hear one more time that this is what makes her “stronger” or that she is amazing because she can “handle” it. Then my mind would go to my other kids. The ones that were left waiting for answers, for phone calls saying she was ok. What was this doing to them?

If you know us… you know we have never let the disability and medical stuff define us. We don’t worry about the next surgery in fact sometimes can be a little delusional as friends could attest when Journey is in malfunction. We moved away from the hospital, we want to live and for the most part we do…. we live really well. But then the reminder creeps in that there is a piece of plastic that Journey needs in her body to live and right now her body does not want it in there and we start the healing process yet again.

We found out we needed to be in there past New Year’s so Ben and the other three came down from Whistler, we had party hats ( I think they were meant for dogs) strung white lights and ordered Thai food. She came out of her second surgery at 6 pm New Year’s Eve and ready to party:) At the end of the day all that mattered was that we, the Smiths, were together. Once again my emotions were all over. Grateful she was ok, mad that she had 5 surgeries in 2015, thankful for our healthcare system, sad that she now had more incisions and scars to deal with, sad that I didn’t get a real Christmas holiday with my husband and kids, thankful we had Christmas day together at home, grateful we have incredible friends. Like I said boing, boing , boing emotional roller coaster on steroids.

So why do I write this time? I write and I share because I know there are other moms, dads, siblings that are feeling and going through many of these same things. The whys, the wishes, the sadness and the joy.  The hospital kitchen is a meeting place for us to share our story’s about what our kids are in there for while we make Mr. Noodles and look like we have been in the same clothes for 7 days. I find great solace in that place but then we leave. We return to life and people want us to go back to normal. We often don’t talk about it because I know for me I don’t want people to feel “sorry” for us and yet I know there are people going through the exact same thing somewhere. Like I said, different thing maybe but still going through it and sitting silent.

I want to go back to normal even though normal is overrated and unattainable. I want to wave a wand and take her scars away. I want to turn the clock back and re-do Christmas holidays but I can’t. And instead of acting like everything is ok I embrace the fact that some days it is not. That some days it’s ok to cry and be mad and wish that things were different. Wish for a moment that we didn’t know that life, in the hospital, and wish that my younger ones didn’t either. Yet in the same breath, my kids, their empathy, their concern for all around them, their deep joy in the midst of hardship, helps me know that regardless of these circumstances, they are living….. truly living in light, and joy and hope one day at a time. That we are a family that sticks together through it all even if it means we party in the hospital and make our nurse wear a dog party hat. Here’s to 2016. I know it will be incredible, messy, hard, chaotic and full of tons of inappropriate humor. Here’s to being vulnerable and sharing our mess and here’s to family.



Oh the Places You’ll Go

So it’s been a while since I have blogged. This is how I role. I go in and out of things. Not saying that is a good thing but life speeds up, there are less hours then a I think and before long months have gone by and I have not written.

Today was interesting. Today my husband and I dropped our 13 year old daughter off at the airport to fly to Hawaii for the first time to meet her best friend and her family. Now I know lots of kids fly really young, on their own. But today it was more than just her flying by herself on a plane. Or going through security or customs by herself. I knew she could do it. Ben assured me she could do it. But when I/we reflected after we walked out of that airport about why this felt “big” to us I think it was because years ago when I was pregnant with Journey, I dreamed that she would travel the world. That she or he at time, because I didn’t know what I was having would love to fly, to see new sights and experience new cultures like I did. As well as the fact that Ben and I were living abroad when we got pregnant with her.

I remember even on the car ride to hospital telling Ben that we needed to come up with a ” girl ” name just in case and he responding with ” it’s a boy but you can think of a name if you’d like” Journey… I thought to myself. Fast forward five months to her diagnosis and I must admit a part of me allowed myself to believe that the dream of her traveling the world
would not be a reality. How could she do it on her own? Now I have shared Journey’s story here on this blog so most of you know that she has blown away every odd set before her. So why should I think this would be any different? When given the opportunity to meet her best friend in Hawaii we/she was thrilled. How could we pass this up? So she worked hard, saved her pennies and we found a ticket that would require her to fly alone ( with no assistance from airline) there and back. When I asked Journey what she thought she did not even flinch. She squealed with delight.

The rest is history and we find ourselves at the airport this morning. I reminded her 10 times that a passport is an important document and that she can’t lose it ” I know mom…and I know to keep my wallet close. yes… I know mom”.

As she hugged me goodbye she began to cry. She is only 13 and she still likes being around me which I will count my blessings for. They were not ” sad” tears but I knew she was a little nervous of the unknown. We stood and watched as got to security. She floundered with the buckets with her one hand and of course I wanted to help her. It takes time to take off your shoes and tie them back up… it takes her twice the time. ” She will be ok. She can do this” Ben said and I knew she could.

So why does this seem like a big deal to me? I know it is layered. My little girl who is not so little really stated her first declaration of independence today. Sure she’s been away from us numerous times to camp or with friends on holiday. But today we sat in the airport and realized that for the last 14 years we have been holding her so close… we have watched as she has beaten odd after odd. We have seen her win huge battles and seen her be defeated and now we are entering a new stage. We still get to hold on but she is taking steps to her future. A future that in four years may see her out of the house… off to college or on a world adventure. A future that may include a graduation or a wedding. And the reality of that being closer now than to the day she was born hit home today.

I know we all of these moments. They are bigger for some than others. But today that dream that one day she would fly somewhere else in the world without me came true and I have a feeling when she returns, she will soon be planning where she will go next. I read all of my kids Oh the Places You’ll go by Doctor Seus. What an exciting adventure for all us. It is amazing what our kids will do… where they will go when we learn to let go just a bit ( not too much:) but just a little. Let them spread their wings and sure enough they fly. Sounds soooo cheesy but it’s so true. She has landed safely and is already enjoying the warm water an sunshine. She did it..Of course she did:) And she still has he passport and wallet.


So it’s been a while since I have written. Months actually and part of that is because  we have been going through a lot of change. Before I was married and had children I thrived on change. Change of jobs, change of countries which by default meant change of friends etc. It excited me. I needed it. For many years my mom refused to write my address in her permanent address book because she knew it would change within months.

Then I had kids..and the change was different. Change of diapers, change of baby food change of sleep patterns. But my location for the most part stayed the same. Somehow now I didn’t want things to change. I didn’t want my babies to grow up, to start venturing out and sometimes change  scared me. I got comfortable in my neighbourhood, my school, my coffee shop and my everyday people.

Many of you know that for the past 7 or 8 years we have been travelling back and forth to Whistler. In the beginning it was because the mountains were bigger and better for snowboarding. We both grew up with our families on the hill and our dream when we first met was to also have our family grow up on the mountain no matter what it took. Soon Whistler however became a place where we had community. Our church, our friends, and the mountain became a bonus. We often tossed around moving here full time. But the logistics just were not right. We lived accross the street from the school, we lived 10 minutes from the hospital we have great friends. But still we talked and struggled through here or there and deep down there was a fear of change.

Finally this past year the change began…we have never done things conventionally. Most people in Vancouver do not have four kids. Most people in Vancouver do not have four kids in a three bedroom home. We hear this all of the time. Ben began a new job that allowed more flexibiltiy, Journey was going into high school and some decisions needed to be made. Do we make the move full time to Whistler? Or do we settle down into our life in Vancouver.

We wrestled, we prayed, we laughed, we sought advise on all fronts and finally decided to do it. Now or never. We did not want to be pulling kids in and out of high schools. We did not want fear to paralyze us and to make our decisions for us.  We did not want the fear of Journey’s medical condition to dictate where we lived.  Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of judgement. We were leaving a wonderful school. A place where my kids were loved and supported. Only crazy people leave this school. It is number one and accross the street. Who does that?

So we packed up our house and packed up Sally and we hit the road Northbound. I had a lump in my throat as we drove away from Inverness St. It felt safe there. But I also had an excitement that only comes from change. Instead of looking at what we were leaving behind we looked forward to what would lie ahead on this new adventure. A new home, a new school, a new soccer team, new friends…We have been here for two months and the change has been good. There have been adjustments but welcome ones. And I realize that I am thankful that we did not allow the fear of what “may” happen or what people might say discourage us from making a change in life for our family. Who knows how long this adventure will last. But what I do know is sometimes we just have to do it… go out on a limb, swallow our fear and know deep down inside that even when it doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t “feel good” that change is exactly what we needed to do. I love this quote I recently read It sums up the way I want to live..

” Welcome the unexpected in life, learn to bend with grace.Let yourself be humble and never forget to look for the beauty change can bring” Author unknown

Raising Girls…


Photo courtesy of Anastasia Photography. http://www.anastasiaphotography.ca

IMG_5365 IMG_5555 IMG_5695 Before I had kids I always thought I would be a mom of all boys. Actually I remember thinking I would have four boys. Not really sure why other than I was and still am kind of a tomboy. My closest friends growing up were boys and I felt like I could relate to boys better than girls.

Then…. I had my first girl and then right after that I had my second girl:) When they first announced that Journey was a girl I remember feeling utter shock, as I had no idea what to do with a girl! We had bought all boy clothes and had a boys name. Of course I dressed her like a boy because I didn’t know how to dress like a girl myself lol!

As I have watched my girls grow I have been amazed at how much I enjoy them. I am amazed at the bond they share. There is something so special about sisters. We have also been very intentional in the way we are raising our girls ( our boys too ) but in a society where the emphasis is on outer beauty, image and appearance it has taken a different approach to parenting than maybe I was expecting.

I have always been very strict on what movies and shows our kids watch. I have really wanted to make sure that the content was age appropriate and that it wasn’t more than what they could handle. I do believe this has a played a part in my girls “innocence”. I know it is hard in our society to say “no” to cell phones, certain books and movies when everyone else is watching them and reading them. I have always told my kids that I am here to be their mom, a guide… not their friend. Yet I do hope when they are 20 that we will be friends and that we will hang out and drink coffee together. My girls have always accepted that.

As we are approaching the teenage years it has been a time of re-evaluating our parenting. I know that I am doing what many parents are not at this stage. That is pressing in as opposed to letting go. There is a lot of gigging… and a lot of talking… A LOT. The conversations I am having in bed with my girls at night are so important. Topics like self esteem, body image, body odor:), spirituality, periods,changing bodies,changing friendships, exercise etc. All things I didn’t really talk to my mom about. I never want my girls to feel alone. This time in life can be so scarey, so lonely. I so desire my girls to love themselves for exactly who they are. The beautiful, strong, incredible girls others see them to be. They are so very, very different. My oldest loves to read,sing and will be found in funky glasses and skinny jeans. My other is a complete tomboy and has been since the minute she came out. Board shorts and t-shirts, bare foot in a tree or on a skateboard. One is out-going one is painfully shy. They are both sensitive and tender and the bond between them is beautiful. We celebrate these differences. We might not get them but that is one thing I am learning. Why do I have to get it? Why does she have to wear shoes or wear her hair the way I want her to? It’s about celebrating who they are, their beauty inside and out.

I also believe it is so very important to surround my girls with strong, beautiful creative women. Their Aunties. My girls are blessed to have wonderful aunties in their lives. I know in a hearbeat that they could go to any one of these women with questions or thoughts, with worries or concerns.Especially in the years they may not want to come to me. At least I know they will be welcomed, surrounded with love a hug and a listening ear. It’s just so important.

IMG_5972The realization I have come to is if I as their mom learn to love myself, to think I am beautiful then they will too. If my girls grow up to love themselves, to think they are beautiful even if the media or others are  telling them they are not what beauty is. If they are confident in who they are then I have done my job and I really do hope that when they are 19 and 20 that we are still talking a lot… our conversations will look different..boyfriends, travels, life decisions, spirituality (still) saggy boobs (mine) and yes we will be drinking coffee lots and lots of coffee. Cheers to raising healthy, confident beautiful girls and celebrating exactly who they are today and who they will become in the future.


Everyone Needs an Anthem


I love music… Always have. A song will come on and it will move me to dance, to laugh to cry. In the last couple of years a band came on the scene that has moved me over and over and over again. Like… over and over lol! If you are in my house or in my van you will for sure be listening to Mumford and Sons.

A couple of years ago amidst a blurry, dark time my best friend introduced to me to them… Mumford.. (their music, not them:) It felt like every song on the entire album was written just for me:) It was a time of deep grief.  The song Awake my Soul touched me in a way that I can not explain.It became my “anthem” if you will.  So much so, that a year later when I had come out of the fog… I had those words tattooed on my ribs AWAKE MY SOUL. A reminder that it’s ok to be numb, sad and to feel dead inside. But to only sit there for little bit.. a season.. and then it’s time wake up,to move forward and to live again.

Recently they came out with a new album called Babel. Now sometimes the second one isn’t as good as the first one so I was leery, but oh my…. every song offered something. “THE” song however is called Below my Feet. You may laugh, but I have this dream…it actually sounds ridiculous even as I write this! But I have this dream. I am on stage with Mumford and Sons. The song starts… I am in an adorable black, short, sleeveless dress.. Probably a bit vintage, lace looking. I have the most amazing pair of cowboy boots on  and my hair is looking awesome! Like Elvis awesome…I am singing my guts out with them. I am stomping my boots to the banjo ( an instrument I secretly really want to learn to play) and shaking the tambourine like a crazy woman against my hip. I am singing my anthem….

“Keep the earth below my feet, from my sweat my blood runs weak. Let me learn from where I have been. Keep my eyes to serve my hands to learn. ”

I know it sounds silly…. but the vision of this brings a huge smile to my face. And on any given day (ask my kids) you may find me in my living room or my car… blasting this song and singing into my hairspray bottle or my thumb microphone because this is my new anthem. For this season, for me… this is my anthem.Now get up and dance!


Be warned…this one could be a novel:)

I know it sounds cliche but 13 years ago as I anticipated the birth of our first child I worried about the dreaded teenage years. You see.. I was not an angel teen. In fact the exact opposite. I was also a high school teacher so I saw first hand what I didn’t want! I hoped and prayed that this baby in my belly would not be a lippy, naughty, moody, entitled teen.

After 42 hours of crazy labor she was born. There had been complications with her birth thus ending in a c-section at 3 in the morning. Drugged and exhausted ( that would be me) they handed her to me and asked me what her name was? “Journey Hope Kennedy Smith” I mumbled. Little did we know that her name would come to mean so much and in those next few months and in the years to come.

We were discharged 4 days later with the typical ” congratulations on your healthy  baby girl. ” and we left dazed and in wonder as every first time parents do. I assumed my daughter was healthy. I assumed she would grow like other babies. I dreamed about who and what she would become. She and I would walk for hours.. I would sing to her and she would smile. She was the happiest most content first baby I had ever met.  That all changed at 5 months when she and I were on a trip to Ireland for my friends wedding. Total strangers would comment to me on how HUGE my babies head was. I just thot the Irish were so rude! I didn’t really think twice about it until I returned home to Canada 6 weeks later and took her to the Dr for a cold. I joked with my doctor about the comments that had been made. She appeased me by saying ” she had a massive head at birth… thus the c-section”. However she humored me and got the measuring tape to measure Journey’s head. She measured once, then again, then a third time. Every time her face got more and more serious. She called her nurse in to measure and then they went outside and mumbled. I now got that sick to my stomach feeling mothers get when something is very wrong.

They both came back into the room and the doctor said ” if our measurments are correct.. Journey’s head has grown 6 cms in a month. A typical baby’s head should grow 0.5 cms in a month. Something is wrong”. Within the hour we were in the hospital having an ultrasound on her head. This ultrasound revealed massive amounts of fluid on and around her brain. We needed an MRI to show us why. The hours and days that followed were probably some of my darkest and loneliest. Because there was no availabilty in our hometown for and MRI Journey and I had to fly to Northern Ontario where an MRI machine laid dormant. After 9 hours of pictures and waiting the radiologist called me in.

Doc~Mrs. Smith. does your baby sit up? clap? Make eye contact etc?

Me~  Yes all of those things.

Doc~ Hmmmm, I find that very hard to believe. Looking at these pictures this the brain of a vegetable. Also, has she ever been dropped on her head?

Me~ NO!  ( I honestly can not say that with that much conviction about my fourth child but with your first????? NO!

Doc~ She has a hemorrage on the left side of her brain…. she has had a stroke and I am sorry to say that this is the worst case of Hydrocephalus I have ever seen.

Me~ Will she be alive at Christmas?

Doc~ I can’t tell you that.

I left that hospital with my baby, with the MRI in my hands, not even knowing she would be alive two months from then. Tears streamed down my face on the plane as she played peek-a-boo with the gentleman behind me. How could this be happening?She is perfect. I could write pages about the hours to follow. Long story short a few days after being diagnosed with Hydrocephalus we handed our treasure.. our gift… our Journey over to the neuro-surgeon for the first time. She would have a shunt put into her brain to allow the fluid to drain. We did not know if she would survive and if she did what her quality of life would be. It was at that moment that my husband gave me some tough but needed words. He said that we could choose to raise her in a bubble… to be a “sick” kid or we could choose to not worry… and to empower her to be whomever she wanted to be. He said he was choosing to be the empowerment dad. Not the coddling one. But that I had to make my own choice.

I knew I wanted more for her but I didn’t even know if she would ever walk, ever talk… would she be blind? Could she feed herself? Would she get made fun of?So much unknown. We were warned that after the surgery she would not want to eat.. that she would be in the hospital for up to 10 days. That she would lose weight. Two hours after she left the recovery room she wanted to eat..48 hours later we left the hospital and Journey had gained a pound. I knew at that moment that she was a miracle. That she would defy all of the odds stacked against her.

So on the eve of her 13 birthday… I am reflecting on this exceptional girl.. no, this young woman that is my daughter. She is beautiful, smart, kind, patient, so very, very funny. She is the most compassionate kid I have ever met. She thinks of others before herself. She is wise beyond her years. Despite the fact that every day she lives with pain, that everyday it is a struggle to button her shirt, put her hair in a pony tail, play sports.. she plows forward. She never complains, and almost always has a smile on her face. She has endured 15 surgeries in 13 years. She has had her hair shaved, her leg butchured so she could walk and not be a club foot or end up in a wheelchair. Yet she plows on. She has dreams, she has goals and all she longs for is to be “normal”. Is she a “sick” kid? No, she is the furthest thing from it. Does she deserve to be a diva? A moody teenager? Yes she does and yet I find myself so grateful that whaIMG_5604t I thought I would feel entering the teen years? I do not. I am excited. I am thankful and she is mine.  Happy Birthday sweet Journey. I am beyond grateful you came into my life 13 years ago. I am reminded every day of the miracle you are. Thank you for inspiring me on a daily basis to keep going, to keep smiling to keep laughing and to keep hoping. I love you more than words can say. Bring on the teen years baby!! They’re going to be great!

Eat A Pint of Ice-Cream

When I went into the “baby” industry I heard all kinds of crazy things. That is probably partly why I became a doula… so I could educate people properly. About all things birth,and after birth:)

One of the things I pride myself on in my pre-natal practice is being real… being honest. I used to be a major dreamer but now I realize that I am actually a realist. I think it’s important for women/couples to be prepared and educated before entering as my friend  calls it ” vietnam” better known as the labor and delivery room:) The same goes for afterward. Parenting is difficult. Especially when it is is your first baby.

For those of you that have had babies you know that often we hear other women’s experiences and we compare ourselves to them. We get down on ourselves because our babies are not latching properly ( in fact our nipples are ground beef) our babies are not sleeping through the night, our babes are too skinny. This is the part of my job as an educator and as a mother that makes me crazy.

I recently chatted with a woman that had just had a baby. The baby was not even two months old. My friend and I were sitting drinking coffee when she set her beautiful baby down next to me. Of course being the baby freak I am I instantly ooed and awed about how beautiful her baby was. We started chatting and she said “I am just so tired” and we responded with ” oh yeah… we get it. We have six kids between us and we get how tiring it is”. We then got to talking about how many woman talk about how well everything is going and make others feel somehow inadequate if it isn’t. She shared how her baby was not putting on weight so she went to the Dr. The advise the Dr. gave her was to eat a pint of Hagen Daas Ice cream every afternoon. THIS was the advise the Dr. gave her! I can tell you that in all of the years of being and educator.. being a mother I have never heard of such advise. Ice-cream does not make your milk thicker or more bountiful. Milk does not make milk. Beer??? Yes, maybe but ice-cream??? No.

Chatting with this woman reminded me once again that it is so important to get the right information.  To have a group of people you can trust, ask questions  and to have a community of women that you can be yourself with. Where you leave feeling better than when you came, not more inadequate. And sure if you like to eat ice cream? Then do it,  not because it makes your milk thicker but simply because it tastes good and you just feel like eating a pint of Hagen Daas.