Break me in gently

This post was written AND illustrated by my amazingly talented friend, Anna from Borderline Bonkers. Thank you Anna Banana!

I really think that God breaks us in to kids gently.

I am not a supermom or even close to one.

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I remember when Kaitlyn was born and I stood there watching the nurse bathe her because I was too scared. She was so fragile and small and I was so terrified.

I was afraid to change her diaper and had the nurse watch to make sure I did it right, and then we had to take her home. Home!? Out of the safe clean hospital with all the doctors who knew how to care for babies. I was shaking as we walked in the door to our house and promptly sat there staring at her to make sure she was breathing.

After a few weeks we fell into a routine and my confidence grew. I started thinking this whole mom thing was pretty easy. I mean, hello, I have a kid and can get stuff done, I must be superwoman. Look at me!

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We got pregnant again. (I miscounted my days and it happened.) I was fine with it. After all, how hard could it be? So far one was a cinch!

Then my three-month-old little girl started getting more active (turning into a terror). By the time Ethan was ready to pop out I was freaking and spent many nights praying that he would just stay in there for a while. How the heck was I supposed to give birth again when it felt like I had just given birth, and then take care of another baby?

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Turns out babies start out pretty easy and become more work as they get older. Who knew? Someone could have told me! I really thought I had it all together! If I had known that I would have two little people only 12 months apart fighting over who gets the biggest bowl of cheezies and then together deciding that dumping them and grinding them into the carpet was more fun, I might have thought a bit harder about spacing my kids.

This must be why God doesn’t let us give birth to terrible two-year-olds. We probably wouldn’t take them home with us and if we did would give up in the first few weeks and book ourselves into the loony bin. I totally admire people who adopt children or have multiples or foster for this reason. They are my heroes!

I remember when Ethan was first born I would haul him around in his car seat and carry Kaitlyn on the other hip. I would think about the days when they would both walk and in my mind everything would be easier.

Ha, ha!

What was I thinking!? That was easier! Now they can both run whichever way they want and now I dream of those backpack kiddie leashes. My house has never been such a dive but I am sometimes okay with that. Stages.

Turns out God knows us pretty well. He gives us small babies to learn and grow with. They get busier and smarter as we figure out and adjust to caring for them. It is a learning process and as we discover and instill our values in them, it becomes a natural progression.

I used to think that I would just one day sit down with my children and tell them how the world works. This image terrified me and haunted me in my sleep like a monstrous dragon breathing fire.

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Turns out they are learning every moment how the world works by watching us and how we react to and treat every situation. It is baby steps the whole way.

Looking back now, I really think that God breaks us in gently to kids. They start out small and quiet and then they grow and learn with us.

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I have not come far in this parenting gig yet and I have a feeling that it is not going to be an easy road, but I do hope and pray that I can lead and be the example of what a good citizen should be.

Well, so long as being a good citizen doesn’t include being a good housekeeper.

Why travel is still worth the money!

love of travel

This post is from Monna from Teacher Meets World. Thank you Monna!

A lot of people are worried about money right now. The economy of North America is shaking in its leaky rubber boots. But I am going to continue to say, “Let’s go to Florence!” Or the Grand Canyon, or the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. Even in uncertain times, travel is still worth the money. Here’s why:

1. The world is such a vast place.
(See also, My country is not, in fact, the centre of the universe.)

Many of us live most of our lives in the relatively small world that exists between home, school, work, family and the grocery store. Travel allows us to develop a better understanding of the vastness of the planet and the complexity of the cultures that call it home. I have lived in both Colombia and Mexico but it was not until I moved to Barcelona, Spain (the motherland), that I began to really understand Latin American culture—including the enormous fondness for blowing things up (at close range) at festivals and the culture’s reverence for the Virgin Mary. As a Canadian with Scotch-Irish roots who had not visited Great Britain until this year, I was amazed to see so many Dubliners and Londoners who looked just like me, with those same blue eyes and ruddy cheeks. Travel has helped me understand where I come from and where I fit in as a Canadian living in Europe.

2. Travel helps you get over yourself.

Usually I’m pretty good with directions, but drop me into the metro system in Paris and I want to cry like a baby. I’m accustomed to feeling and being competent. Some of the obstacles I encounter while traveling make me uncomfortable and remind me just how many skills I still need to develop. Necessity is, however, a master teacher. When I decipher the metro map, buy my ticket in creaky high-school French, and finally, emerge in front of the Louvre under my own steam, I feel so proud of my small accomplishment. Plus, the Mona Lisa is inside and I could look at that painting forever. (Yes, I know. It’s smaller than I expected. I like it anyway!) Travel locks us out of our comfort zone, throws out the key, and forces us to adapt. Now!

3. Travel is filled with amazing highs—and many of them are free!

Do you remember how you felt on Christmas morning when you were five years old? You crept down the hallway to the tree and, just as your parents had promised, Santa had been to your house while you were sleeping that deep sleep that only small children seem capable of. Your stocking, hung carefully the night before, was bulging with good stuff and you could hardly breathe you were so excited.

You can experience that magical childhood moment again and again when you travel! For you, it might be the first time you see Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia in Florence or the Pyramid at Chichen Itza in Mexico. Or it could be at the Great Wall of China. Pablo Neruda’s home in Valparaiso, Chile. The Eiffel Tower. The Rocky Mountains. The Mediterranean Sea. Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. Ayers Rock in Australia. Vegas, baby! The “happy places” are different for each of us but I promise that visiting yours will make you giddy with excitement and grateful to be alive.

4. Your travels don’t end just because your vacation does.

I feel terribly sad when a trip ends; a little grey cloud descends over me as I resume “regular” life. But after a few days, if I don’t dwell too much on my sorry state, I find myself rebounding. I’ll order a cup of café au lait like those I enjoyed during our trip to France, or prepare to make mole for the first time after traveling in Mexico. Maybe I’ll visit the library and come home with a history of the settlement of the American West. We bring the music and food and smells home with us; life spills over into life.

Being home also allows you to share your adventures with others. When we lived in Mexico, friends invited us to a post-vacation party and each person was asked to bring his or her favourite travel photos on a pen drive or computer. We ate potluck, drank good Chilean wine and Corona and Sol with lime, and watched the travel slide show of a lifetime. You should definitely try this one at home!

5. You realize that that people everywhere have a great deal in common.

It can seem, when you are traveling, like you have just landed on Mars. I remember visiting Budapest, Hungary, and being undone by the language. Hungarian is a Uralic language and is unrelated to most other languages in Europe. We had learned a few basic phrases but we couldn’t read the street signs. Then we took a train from Budapest to Prague and sat with a young Hungarian woman who was going to visit her boyfriend in Italy. She talked with us about university and relationships and the future and we exchanged e-mail addresses when she got off the train. The world had suddenly become so small. This young woman was struggling with the same types of issues that my younger sister is dealing with, just halfway around the world and in Hungarian. If we permit it, travel transforms us into more compassionate creatures; travel can bring home just how much the people of the world have in common.

“Let’s go to Florence!” I say.