Living a Less Distracted Life…Focusing on What Counts

Today, I was reminded once again what an incredible blessing it is to have children. I cannot think of another experience in my life that has challenged me, refined me and simultaneously made my heart full more than being a mother.

There are days when I am in tears from the frustration and exhaustion of parenting two little ones. But then are those days, when I finish the day feeling elated, needed and vastly important in the eyes of those two little souls who look at me with such hope, dependence and love. It almost takes my breath away.

Today was one of those happy days when I couldn’t take my eyes off my children. Their quirkiness, curiosity and energy had me mesmerized and I decided early in the day, that this was would be a day free of distractions. A day when I would be fully attentive to the needs of my children. The emails, internet, dishes, and other chores were going to take second fiddle.

One of my favorite parts of the day was when my 4.5 year old asked me what the heart was. I felt my nerdy “biology-ness” kicking into gear as I tried to explain what the heart was. Finally, we went on an expedition to our basement to leaf through one of my old biology textbooks. My son’s eyes opened wide as I showed him a schematic of the heart with all its chambers, arteries and veins. He was fascinated! He then proceeded to ask me how the brain works so we perused the biology textbook for a diagram of the brain and I explained the best that I could so that a  4.5 year old would understand.

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Our son Caleb having fun with our microscope

Our science lesson for the day concluded with my son asking if he could take a look at our microscope. At first he was frustrated that he couldn’t see anything through the eye-pieces but with some gentle manipulation of the reflective mirror, he was able to see at least a circle of light (note to self, time to find some slides and cover slips so we can observe some actual specimens). He was ecstatic when he saw the circle of light and I felt so proud of him for persevering. I think we have the makings of a young scientist! Despite my 2-year old daughter being sick and feverish the last two days, she was generally in good spirits today and regularly showered me with hugs and kisses.

As I took pictures and videos of my children doing various activities, I was reminded how precious this time with them is. I cannot take it for granted. I want to make more effort going forward to lead a less distracted life and zoom in on what I consider most important and worthy of my time. How many times has my son tried to get my attention but I’m too busy reading an email on my phone? It’s no wonder he was getting frustrated sometimes. Technology such as the internet is beneficial in many ways but I wonder how much of the outside world we miss when we get caught up in its web (no pun intended).

As I sit and write this, the house is quiet but I still hear in my mind the sound of laughter ringing from earlier in the day. Today reminded me that there can be a different way to live…a simple, less distracted life…a more focused life.

The funny things kids say:

“Mummy, you saved the day! You’re a super-hero!” Caleb said to mummy after she miraculously fixed one of his broken toys.

Mummy, just so you know, we’re going to marry ourselves…I’m going to marry Namz” Caleb informing mummy that he and his sister will be getting married.

“Mummy, why aren’t girls boys?” Caleb looking puzzled about the female ‘species’.

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Life is fun when you’re riding a stuffed monkey

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Our little musician…jamming on the piano!

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Our inseparable munchkins

Caleb and Naomi January 2016

Brother-sister love…our darlings Caleb and Naomi

 

A Birthday Celebration…A Little Girl Turns Two

My dear precious daughter, I can’t believe that you are 2 years old already. We can see so much of your personality and interests showing. You have an excellent command of language. You love books, music, dancing and coloring. You love to run and climb.

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The birthday girl

You are a bit shy of strangers but you love to take care of people and keep everything organized. You are the first one to bring us our coats, hats and gloves while you “order” us to get dressed. If anything is out of place, you point it out and want it fixed or corrected. You are very independent, trying to do things yourself. You make us laugh with your funny antics and dance moves!

You also have a sensitive side. It bothers you if you see your big brother crying or if our cat is “meowing” because she’s hungry. You are very conscious of how others are feeling, “Mummy, tired?”

You absolutely love your stuffed animals and you have an elaborate bedtime routine for them. The top 2 animals that go almost everywhere with you are two giraffes (better known as “Raf one” and “Other raf”)

All-in-all, you have been such a welcome addition to our family. You are so calm, gentle, sweet and thoughtful, Naomi. You have your challenging moments like any child does but you continue to teach us so much about ourselves and have brought so much joy into our household. Happy 2nd birthday Naomi! We love you!

 

Forgiveness Includes Forgiving Yourself

It can be so hard to forgive yourself when you make a mistake that hurts others, particularly those you love. This week was a lesson for me in the art of forgiving myself for not being the perfect mother I envisioned. Of course, I know deep down I cannot be the perfect ‘anything’. But given the weight of responsibility of being a mother, I figured I had better get this right. Two other little humans are depending on me for direction and to be the best example I can be.

Motherhood has been one of the most challenging, heart-wrenching, and tear-inducing experiences I have been through…and yet one of the most wonderful, joyful and rewarding. My children simultaneously bring out the best and the worst in me. Through seeing my own weaknesses daily, I am finding it easier to be more gracious towards others, because I know I sorely need grace myself.

Back to this week’s motherhood challenge. My son went through a difficult ‘terrible twos’ phase two years ago. This was to be expected at this age and with consistent discipline in the form of time-outs, his behavior improved significantly by age 3. I was then very surprised when at the age of 4, he seemed to embark on a ‘terrible fours’ phase (does such a thing exist?)

None of the usual discipline was working. Time-outs were ineffective and seemed to make my son very angry and upset. He seemed like a completely different child and I felt ineffective and helpless. This week we reached the zenith of the difficult behavior. Coupled with the stress of unexpected repairs to our house, I was hardly the in-control mother I hoped to be. I lost my temper, became very angry and said things I shouldn’t have. I felt like a different person.

I talked things over with my husband and we decided we needed to adapt our discipline methods. What had worked before was not very effective now. We decided to implement an approach of positive reinforcement. Specifically the behaviors we focused on were:

  • Obedience
  • No whining
  • No rudeness
  • No melt-downs

For each of these 4 behaviors that my son managed to achieve throughout the course of the day (one warning was allowed), he would get a star on his reward chart and a sticker of his choice at the end of the day. We would review how the day went and ask him how he felt it went. The idea is not to suppress his feelings but to teach him how to control them better.

Today was Day 1 of the new approach and it went fantastically! He would still get angry or upset sometimes (which is normal) but he handled it much better. My son likes stickers and reward charts (it worked really well for potty training) so I think this new approach will go well. I don’t expect every day to be perfect but I think this is a step in the right direction.

Parenting can be so difficult sometimes, but I’m reminding myself that I am helping to shape a human being who can then go out and have a positive impact on this world. All the disciplining, the tears, the heartache… will be worth it for the person who will emerge with character.

Today, I forgive myself for making many mistakes as a mother. Tomorrow is a new day with my beautiful family, with my wonderful children who I adore, a new opportunity to treat them with love and respect…no perfection necessary.

Caleb and mummy 2012

My son (when he was  around 9 months old) and I going for a stroll along the boardwalk in Saint Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. Beautiful memories.

Fall Leaves, Sandy Parks and the Love of Children

Despite runny noses and some difficult nights with sick kids this week, it was a wonderful week! I had the chance to spend a day with each of the kids alone and it was just so lovely to spend time with each child. Our time together was simple. Long walks to the park or in the woods. While my son was frolicking in the sand at the park, I exercised on the grass, my son laughing at some of my funny poses. As he giggled and played, I couldn’t help joining him on the slides and monkey bars. We even managed to see-saw as I figured out how to balance my weight against his. I felt like a kid again and it was so refreshing!

Beautiful Fall colors in Saint Lazare, Québec. Image courtesy of potentialdoctor.com

Beautiful Fall colors in Saint Lazare, Québec. Image courtesy of potentialdoctor.com

My walk in the woods with my daughter was met with the most magnificent array of autumn colors. The tall trees that had been so lush and green just a few weeks ago were now shedding their fiery red, orange leaves, creating a crunchy multi-colored path under our feet. The colossal clear blue sky provided a beautiful contrast to the autumn leaves and it was so nice to just clear my thoughts and pray. As my daughter turned around in her stroller every so often to face me with a beaming smile, I thought to myself, “This is my little girl, MY little girl. I don’t feel like I deserve you but yet here you are, a precious part of our family“.

As we climbed the stairs back up to the house, our little chatterbox Naomi turned to me and said “Mummy, I love ooo“. It just melted my heart. My son Caleb further encouraged my soul when he spontaneously said to me, “Mummy, I want you to be my doctor because when I’m sick, I just want you.

My kids make me feel so loved and cherished. It’s moments like these that erase all the strife of teething, tantrums, time-outs, leaky diapers or melt-downs. It’s all a part of parenthood and those special moments with the kids make it all worth it!

Our big boy Caleb having fun at the park

Our big boy Caleb having fun at the park

Our precious angels, Caleb and Naomi

Our precious angels, Caleb and Naomi

Motherhood Reflections and Big Boy Letters

Today was a simple but enjoyable day with the children. We actually made it through the day with only one fight under our belts and no meltdowns to speak of! I decided in the morning not to focus too much on chores. Sometimes I get so caught up with all that needs to get done around the house!

I spent a good part of the day sitting down on the carpet just watching the kids play. Every so often I became a character in one of their plays. I loved the moment when Caleb was pretending to barbecue on the couch. He assembled a bunch of mega blocks on pillows and announced that they were multicolored potatoes. As he busily flipped the “food” with a spatula, cautiously watching the progress of the food “cooking”, Naomi ambled over to the couch, taking an interest in what Caleb was up to. Caleb promptly stated in a firm voice, “No Namz! It’s hot! Don’t touch! I’m big like a daddy so I’m allowed to do this. But you’re too little!”

I love it when Caleb gets into “big brother” mode! As they continued to putter and wade through the sea of toys that had gradually built up on the living room floor, I continued to watch them. I felt a bit emotional that these two creatures who often drive us nuts, also elicit so much love and joy from my heart!

Caleb proudly showing me his letters

Caleb proudly showing me his letters

The day got even better when Caleb burst into Naomi’s room while I was putting her down for her nap, proudly showing me his attempt at writing letters with a big red marker. I was so proud of him when he showed me the sheet of paper with his letters! He had a big smile on his face!

How did our kids grow up so fast? I can’t believe Caleb will be starting school next year! I still fondly remember bringing newborn Caleb home from the hospital on a hot summer day in 2011, the start of this challenging but beautiful journey called motherhood!

As Naomi slept peacefully upstairs during her nap today and I asked Caleb what he wanted to do for the rest of the afternoon, he wrapped his arms around me and said, “I just want you, mummy!”

Then he asked if he could watch Lego Batman…

All Medical School Applications are in…Let the Waiting Games Begin!

Today I submitted the last of my medical school applications and it was a very rewarding feeling to hit the final “submit” button! I have also verified that the universities I have applied to have received all supporting documents and transcripts so I am relieved that this is all under control!

I have one last exam to do at the end of October, the mysterious CASPer exam (required by a few medical schools in North America) which is a 90-minute online exam with various scenarios in video and written format. I found some sample questions online that I have started working on.

In preparation for any potential interviews, I am practicing interview questions with my husband and have started reading through an interesting eBook called “Making Evidence Matter in Canadian Health Policy“. So far I have learned an incredible amount of useful information on Canadian healthcare (with some comparisons to healthcare in other countries) and I realized that some of my perceptions of the system were actually inaccurate. I also came across this useful website that has a plethora of ethics scenarios complete with commentaries to guide you through the thought process.

I am excited that this Fall season is promising to be very busy with some new activities at my church. Not only has the weekly “Women’s Morning Out” started back up (a fun morning of exercise, bible study and prayer) but I have also started teaching Sunday school to a cute bunch of 4 to 5 year olds (my little Caleb included) on Sunday mornings.

This past Sunday school class was a lesson in my perfectionism going right out the window. Between one child running around a table frenetically and another trying to eat play-dough, I ended up not sticking to my lesson plan and had to improvise to keep the children focused on what I was trying to teach them. After the class, I then raced down to the church sanctuary to take my place at the piano in time for the worship songs. It was a hectic but very fun day!

Today at the ‘women’s morning out’, as we exercised outside in the crisp Fall air, I felt really grateful to be in the company of people who are so accepting of you just as you are. We are a group of all ages, shapes and sizes! Back inside, as we studied the Bible, talked and prayed for each other, I felt completely blessed to be surrounded by a great group of women who are supporting me in my dream towards medical school and who are keeping me uplifted in prayer.

So as the waiting game begins towards the next step to medical school, I am reminded that no matter the outcome, I have so much to be grateful for already. Getting into medical school would be an added blessing to my life that is already enriched by so many wonderful friends and family.

Image courtesy of num_skyman at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of num_skyman at freedigitalphotos.net

Teaching by Example…Lessons in Servanthood

My children never cease to amaze me in how much they pick up from people around them in word and behavior. Moments like Caleb kissing and hugging his little sister because he has observed us doing this. Or Naomi busily putting away toys as she tries to mimic mummy’s “tidy up” song. Being a mother has caused me to assess my behavior in many circumstances because of what it might be teaching my children. I am realizing more and more that although it’s important to express things verbally, my children are very much guided by what they see.

My daily prayer, without putting too much pressure on myself, is that my husband and I can be good examples for our children. Some days it feels like an enormous responsibility too great to bear. I feel simultaneously privileged yet sometimes uneasy that we are ultimately in charge of raising these two precious children. They learn so much from other people too, of course, but the fact that we are their primary caregivers, teaching them about life sometimes stops me short as I contemplate the great importance of this task.

Earlier this week, I was reading a passage in the Bible that describes the scene where Jesus is washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). He gingerly removes his outer clothing, wraps a towel around his waist like a servant would, and starts to wash the disciples’ feet. I have read this passage before but this simple act of humility never ceases to amaze me. Jesus could have simply told his disciples he loved them but he went beyond this and performed an act that demonstrated how much he valued them and set an example for them to follow as they encountered others. This story really reminds me of how much I want to teach my children and to do it by example. It’s not easy. There are days I get impatient with the children and wish I could have been more understanding. But I remind myself that I am only human and I cannot expect perfection. In fact, parenting has shown me just how imperfect I am.

But when all is said and done, even after a challenging evening with the children, when I put my son to bed, I always ask him “you know that I love you, right?” He lets out a big, beaming smile, nodding vigorously, seemingly unaware that we had a difficult evening, and I am struck by how quick he is to forgive, his arms draped securely around my neck.

Caleb with Naomi (who is looking particularly mischievous in this photo!)

Caleb with Naomi (who is looking particularly mischievous in this photo!)

Caleb the bookworm being a good example for his little sister! When not fighting over toys, they love reading together!

Caleb the bookworm being a good example for his little sister! When not fighting over toys, they love reading together!

Turkey Tails, Luna Moths and Canoes…Family Time in the Laurentians

Weekend getaways with the kids usually involve a significant degree of preparation. There comes a moment when I must sit on our suitcase trying to squeeze in all the various kid paraphernalia one needs while away from home. Our car is a Toyota matrix (not very big) but somehow my husband manages to cram in our suitcase, car-seats, food, playpen, feeding chair, books, toys, stroller, diaper bag and let’s not forget our two children and massive dog (Great Dane-Boxer mix) who takes up the entire trunk of the car! Despite the usual drama of preparing for a trip with kids, we had a beautiful weekend in the Laurentians visiting some of my husband’s family.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms spotted by Granny and Caleb in the woods

Turkey Tail Mushrooms spotted by Granny and Caleb in the woods

The weather was perfect all weekend for outdoor activities. While Caleb, daddy and Granny veered off the road and tromped through the woods investigating various kinds of fungi and insects, I continued to walk along the road with Naomi, not wanting to push the stroller to its limits in the vast interior of the woods. It was so peaceful with tall, sturdy trees lining both sides of the road, the sun glistening in between the leaves and casting abstract shadows on the ground below. Every so often, the sparkling lake came into view as random birds called out to their companions.

It’s moments like these when I feel especially close to God. I  breathed in the fresh air and took the opportunity to pray and sing. There were no requests or complaints for God that day, just a simple prayer to thank Him for his goodness and to appreciate the beauty of nature. Just then, a small deer trotted quickly past us almost as if he waited for the opportune moment to cross right in front of us. I scrambled for my camera but he was too quick for me to catch him in action. Before I knew it, he had disappeared in the dense foliage of the woods. Granny later informed me that he was probably a young, excited “teenage” deer, exploring the woods for some adventure.

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Luna moth found by Granny in the woods

After the tromp in the woods, Caleb and Granny got to work making cheese puff pastries and they were delicious! Caleb and daddy then disappeared into the woods again, sneaking in a canoe-ride and swim in the lake. The water was tranquil, undisturbed and peaceful. The “boys” had dared to cross it at this moment of complete calm and solitude. As we said goodbye to the panoramic mountains, I couldn’t help feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be blessed with family both far and near. Sometimes I just gaze at my children and wonder, “Are they really mine? All mine? Amazing!”

Caleb and daddy canoeing on Horse-shoe Lake

Can you spot a little boy? Caleb and daddy canoeing on Horse-shoe Lake

Naomi getting a better view from daddy's shoulders

Naomi getting a good view from daddy’s shoulders

A picture of Northern Tooth Fungus courtesy of Granny

A picture of Northern Tooth Fungus courtesy of Granny

Celebration, Friendship and a Walk Down Memory Lane

As I write this post, I hear grunts, giggles and thumping sounds as my son Caleb and my husband roll around in the basement. Every so often, I hear “I’m ready to begin the battle” and “fight!“. In getting caught up in the day-to-day mounds of laundry, dishes, cooking and cleaning, I sometimes forget how blessed I am to have two little children and how the joyous sounds of their voices and laughter brighten up our home.

Celebration time! Caleb's first bike on his 4th birthday.

Celebration time! Caleb just turned 4 years old! He was thrilled to receive his first bike.

The past few days have been a grand celebration of Caleb’s fourth birthday. It seems like just yesterday he was born. Now he’s growing up into a funny, loving, curious and energetic boy and I love watching him experience the world through the eyes of a child. His birthday present was his first ever bike and as he donned his helmet and teetered precariously on it, I felt a little tug in my heart. I remember when I was riding my first bike and my older brothers were guiding me through the long grass of our backyard. Now it was our turn to guide our little boy and let him figure out how to maneuver his way around.

One of my oldest friends visited this weekend from the States to celebrate Caleb’s birthday with us. It amazes me that as children, we used to race around our local neighborhood on our BMX bikes wearing mini-skirts. Now here we are as adults and my friend is an adopted “auntie” to my children. It reminded me that close friendships are a beautiful thing and something that must be worked on and held on to.

We took a trip to downtown Montréal, about 45 minutes from our house, something we haven’t done in months. As we walked along the famed cobblestone streets of the Old Port, I noticed a newly married couple holding hands. The bride’s shimmering white dress flowed behind her and her husband pulled her along gently. Strangers, tourists and families milled around them oblivious, yet here was a new couple at the very start of their lives together. I had a quick flashback to my wedding day and it brought a smile to my face.

Caleb's first experience of poutine at Frite Alors! in downtown Montréal.

Caleb’s first experience of poutine at Frite Alors! in downtown Montréal.

My husband decided it was time to initiate Caleb into some Quebecois culture and so Caleb had his very first poutine (a dish of fries drenched in gravy and cheese-curds). It’s not the healthiest meal in the world but something you must experience at least once if you live in or visit Quebec. As we partook of our poutines at a restaurant called “Frite Alors!”, I was again thrown back in time. This restaurant used to be a cafe called “L’etranger” and my husband and I spent a lot of our time here during our dating days, sipping on hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. The decor was still the same with its faded red booths and plain square tables. An old piano sat on a raised platform waiting for some warm, pliant fingers to run along its keys. There was something very special about bringing our children to a place where my husband and I had spent our first dates, getting to know each other and growing our love for each other.

This weekend was a beautiful one of celebration, friendship and a walk down memory lane. So simple, yet so wonderful and a reminder of the many blessings I have to be grateful for.

Celebrating friendship: My oldest friend! We've known each other since we were 6 years old and grew up together in Kenya.

Celebrating friendship: My oldest friend! We’ve known each other since we were 6 years old and grew up together in Kenya.

You are Mum…You are Dad…And You are Appreciated More than You Know!

The past few weeks have been an amalgamation of wonderful moments with my children as well as some difficult, tearful days. Today, I would like to dedicate this post to mothers and fathers, and the incredible job they do in bringing up their children. It’s a hard job… but know that you are appreciated. Take a look in the mirror and recognize the man or woman who is bringing up another human being, a precious life. I am not a poet but these are the words from my heart to yours today:

Image courtesy of pinterest (worksinsweatsmama.com)

Image courtesy of pinterest (worksinsweatsmama.com)

There are days when you feel like what you do is not enough

There are days when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing

There are days you feel like the responsibility is too great to bear

There are days you feel like you are drowning

There are days you feel misunderstood

There are days when it feels like no one notices

There are days you want to disappear

But know that this is just one side of the coin

The other side shows the children who depend on you

The children who view you as their hero

The children who dote on you

The children whose eyes light up when they see you

Children 3The children who are so quick to forgive

The children who giggle when you tickle them

The children who love you to read that same bedtime story

The children who love to be enveloped in your arms

The children who feel secure in your embrace

The children who despite life’s challenges

Will know that they are loved

You are playing a vital role

A role that has no price tag

You are mom

You are dad

And you are appreciated more than you know

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When the day is a challenge with your kids, take a deep breath, smile and remember some of the silly things you can do or used to do with them like rolling around on the floor, playing peekaboo, or disguising your voice with funny, foreign accents. I like to remember the fact that my son explodes into laughter when my husband pretends he has slipped on the floor. Is there any group of people on the planet who can be simultaneously so difficult yet so easy to please? My life is forever changed by my children. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they’ve made me grow up, and they’ve taught me so much. Don’t give up, mum or dad. You are doing your best and your children will remember you, and your unconditional love for them.

Caleb and Naomi, life is fun when you're zipping around the house on your Fisher-Price automobile!

Caleb and Naomi, life is fun when you’re zipping around the house on your Fisher-Price automobile! Won’t you come along with us for the ride?