Glory

Please join us in welcoming Stephanie back to Mama Might!

In July 2013, I posted an entry in which I shared my struggles with infertility. I ended my post by making sure that all of you knew of my faith in the Lord and how in His own way, He asked me to be patient. I knew He would send us another child, how and when we didn’t know, but His voice was strong in my heart; He was asking us to have trust and faith in Him.

About a year ago, I decided to thank God for the child He was preparing for us. As a reminder of the miracle that would come eventually, I attached a onesie to my ensuite blinds so that every time I would look at it, I would try my best to remind myself of the miracle our Lord was preparing and giving me the chance to thank Him for His plan.

I started praying every night using scriptures where Jesus declares His power of healing. I started thanking Him for His healing hands and the work He was doing through me. Basically, I was declaring the truth of scripture to increase my faith. On the feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 2014, we attended mass to celebrate our mother Mary and the renewal of the vows of the religious sisters who lived in our community. After the mass, we met this lady with whom we started chatting. She shared that her boys were having a great time with our son and she then proceeded to ask if he was our only child. There it was—the grueling question! We answered that he was and that we had been trying extremely hard to give him a sibling, but we were struggling with infertility. She instantly took pity on us and asked if it would be ok for her to pray with us for the gift of another child. We happily said yes. While she was praying, a feeling of warmth invaded me. I could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence with us. My whole body was tingling and I knew something amazing was happening. The Lord was touching me, whispering to me. The thought “am I experiencing my own annunciation right now?” filled my mind. My husband also felt the same way and on the way back home shared with me that he thought God just told us that it was time. Our child was coming.

I was still protecting my heart and wasn’t getting my hopes high. Seven days later, we found out that a little miracle was growing inside of me. Instantly, excitement and gratitude filled my heart. Unfortunately, while experiencing some physical signs of a possible unviable pregnancy, fear and doubt also invaded my mind. Was this baby going to be another lost child? Through the fear and doubt, our Lord was once again asking me to hold on and to have faith. “This was it,” a little voice was whispering in my head. Randomly many times and in different situations, the following scripture would come up “[…] if you believe, you will see the glory of God.”- John 11:40. I decided to cling to those words that Jesus spoke so many years ago. I also discovered the song, Glorious Unfolding, by Steven Curtis Chapman that would lift my spirits when doubt would take over. God was showing the importance of having trust in Him in order to see His glory… my baby. It is now almost time for our little glorious gift to make his grand entrance into the world. After praying, we found the name Loïc, which means Glorious Fighter. Is it a coincidence that the term glorious is mentioned again? Absolutely not. He did promise us to have faith in order to see His glory. For the second time, I’ve been carrying God’s glory and promise. It is a beautiful, breathtaking and indescribable experience. I can feel His perfect creation moving; what He has been preparing for us for so long… His promise. Once again, I am experiencing a little bit of Heaven by carrying our second son and will be living double of the divine graces by watching my miracles grow together.

Like the parable of the talents, this is a talent; a gift that the Lord gave us and I can not bury it and hide it. This miracle needs to be shared in hopes of giving faith and hope to all of you and to make you understand the divinity of God, His power of healing, and the importance of putting all of our trust in Him when we feel Him calling us to completely surrender, even if it is not easy.

What I pray for is that our story will bring many closer to His glory.

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A Bit of Sunshine

Please join us in welcoming Michele to Mama Might!

When my husband started graduate school a year and half ago, I remember standing in the door frame of our new apartment with my six month old in my arms as he left for school the first day. A feeling of dread washed over me as I realized that I was stuck in 650 square feet with a baby. I had nothing on my agenda. It was blank for not just for the day but for weeks.

After a few long days, I realized a few things. If I didn’t get out of bed, no one would care. If my house was a mess, no one would see it. If my hair didn’t get brushed or if lunch consisted of eating Cheerios out of the box, no one would ever know. There weren’t cookies brought over by neighbors. There were no lunch dates or play dates. I went to a few church activities but would come home in tears begging my husband to move. There was a little extra sting because even my sweet husband was busy with his new school. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t see what my life was like at home when he was gone (which was most of the time). I had a chronically sick, crying baby and nowhere to go.

I felt completely invisible.

Now, I’m not one to sit and mope. I’m a generally happy person and I believe that life is what you make of it. After six weeks of sitting around, I went and got a nanny job with the only requirement being that my baby could come with me. Over the next year, my daughter and I created a happy life. We worked in other people’s homes. We went to flea markets and the beach. She and I explored farmer’s markets and libraries on weekends. I set goals for myself, such as walking outside for at least thirty minutes a day and to get rid of any possession that I didn’t want to clean. Through my adventures and goals, my life turned into something that was uniquely created by me, and I was enjoying it.

The thing that I kept pushing in the back of my mind was we were not at home. It was still true that if our beds were not made and dishes had not been done, that no one would notice. If we did not go out of the house, no one would care or miss us. And while I was aware of it, decided that I was perfectly okay with that because I was happy.

Then one day this all changed. A lady advertized on Freecycle that she needed a blender. I had a blender that was only used for making milkshakes, and I thought, “Eh, why not, she can have it. I don’t like cleaning it anyway.” I emailed her back telling her that she could come pick it up the next day at 2:00 PM. I thought that would be a great time. My daughter and the baby I am currently watching in my home were both usually napping by then. It shouldn’t be a problem.

Famous last words, right? I think it’s needless to say, but the next day did not go according to plan. The little guy I was watching got his first teeth in that day and would not stop crying. My daughter took advantage of this and decided to do all the things that her toddler mind wanted to do that I never would let her. When I put her down for her nap, she put her feet up against the wall and kicked it repeatedly. At one point, I realized one of the thumps was a bit off rhythm, and I realized, “Oh! There is someone at the door.” It was the lady from Freecycle, and I had completely forgotten. I opened the door frazzled and ran to the kitchen, grabbed the blender, and shoved it in her arms. She was trying to thank me and explain that she needed it to can peaches. I forced a smile and told her that it was nap time and sent her on her way.

A few hours later when I regained a bit more control, I felt so embarrassed that I treated her that way! I was so rude. I set her a quick email apologizing and then forgot about the incident (probably as my toddler shoved a roll of toilet paper down the toilet).

Exactly two weeks later, there was a knock on the door. I was surprised to see the lady from Freecycle standing at the door again. She was standing at the door looking nervous. She said to me, “Michele, I brought this for you. Thanks so much for giving me your blender. I really needed it to can all the salsa from my garden.” She then gave me a bag telling me it was for my baby and then left.

I opened the bag and inside was a beautiful yellow blanket with a card. The card said, “Here’s a blanket I made for your daughter. I hope it brings a little sunshine to your day. I know how hard it is to be a mom, but what you are doing is important. Best regards.”

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I put down the card and sobbed. The feeling of validation and love I felt in that moment was overwhelming. Even now as I type this tears are falling from eyes when I think of the tenderness of that moment. This random stranger came to my home and for the few minutes she was there she got a glimpse of my lonelier part of motherhood. She saw the mess. She saw my wrinkled and stained shirt. She saw me trying to comfort an upset baby on my hip with my toddler in another room needing my attention. She saw me trying, and she decided to acknowledge me as a person. She even remembered my name.

I don’t know much about her, other than her name and email, but I often wonder if she’s a mother. I would love to know how she learned to be so perceptive and to reach out. I learned from her how much one gesture can feed another person’s soul. I made a new resolution that day to be more like her- to keep both eyes open and to not let fear get in the way of reaching out to people. After all, you never know who is feeling invisible and needs a little reassurance that they exist and are important.

MicheleMichele is a stay-at-home mom of an almost two year old in Princeton, NJ. She spends her time figuring out how to live a fulfilling life while her husband goes to graduate school. Some of her current interests are trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle, Futurama, RIE parenting, and Waldorf schooling. She is on a first name basis with her local librarians and cupcake bakers and can be found reading some random non-fiction on the children’s floor on Thursdays afternoons. You can read more of her life at her own blog, Aisle 11.

 

Trick? Or Treat?

30 years ago, Halloween was one of the highest points of a child’s year. Right up there with Christmas morning, Easter egg hunts, and birthday parties. The excitement of picking out a costume, the thrill of running around the neighbourhood with siblings and friends, collecting obscene amounts of treats, and the days – even weeks – worth of candy, chocolate, and chips to enjoy. I remember being Pippi Longstocking, a parrot, and a rabbit. My mother was the kind of person who would allow us to choose whatever costume we could think of, then she’d make it come to life during the weeks leading up to Halloween. That’s a tradition I’ve enjoyed carrying on with my own children.

These days, it seems things aren’t so cut and dry. More and more people are forgoing the tradition of door-to-door treat gathering, choosing instead to have All Saints parties, trunk-or-treat parties, or just skipping the night all together.

I’m not sure exactly when or how things got so complicated, but they have. There are issues with food allergies and sensitivities that prevent children from being able to eat any of their Halloween spoils. There are fears that a holiday of Christian origins has been taken over by too much darkness and gore. There is a general mistrust of what some kids (perhaps with eggs and TP in their backpacks) might be up to on October 31st.

Frankly, I understand all of the concerns. We try to shelter our children from many things, including a lot of the spookiness that goes along with Halloween. We don’t eat wheat and we try to limit refined sugar, so treat-consumption is somewhat challenging as well. But when it comes down to it, the decision we’ve made is based on one major point: trick or treating is just so much fun.

It’s simply kind of magical. It’s one of those nights when kids can really just be kids. It’s crazy, being allowed to accept candy from strangers. It’s uninhibited. It’s playful. We steer our kids away from houses that are decorated to look creepy or ghoulish, and stick to ones with friendly jack-o-lanterns. We certainly don’t allow costumes that are in any way dark or gory, but stick to ones that are fun and imaginative. (Last year we had a farmer, a bunny, and a carrot.) Tonight I think my kids were only out for about 35 minutes before they’d filled their (small) bags and had all the excitement they could handle. It was more than enough! (Really, more than enough. In fact just a few days ago Princess threw out the remains of last year’s Halloween haul.)

The bottom line is this: I completely respect whatever decision people make for their own families, whether it’s similar to ours or completely the opposite. Send your kids out! Keep them home! Have a party! Whatever fits within your comfort zone is what is right for your family. Our decision may evolve over the years if our needs or circumstances change, but for now Halloween is all treat.

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An Open Letter to the Candidates of the 2013 Provincial Election in Nova Scotia

**Hello friends! Thank you all for the overwhelming support with regard to my open letter. As this continues, please remember that my letter was about effectively managing financial resources in our education system. The bullying booklet finally pushed my frustration levels high enough to speak out about how we could better address issues in the classroom. I am not an expert on anything but my own life and I am just trying to speak my own truth. And FYI, I am not affiliated in any way with any political party. Nor am I “aligned” with anything other than my own personal beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. I am just a mommy who loves all kids and is annoyed by all waste.  Thank you again.**

Dear Candidates,

My name is Amanda.  I am thirty years old.  I have been working (and thus paying taxes) in Nova Scotia since the year 2000, and am currently employed as a permanent classroom teacher for the Halifax Regional School Board.  I live in HRM.  I have been married for almost ten years, am a parent of three beautiful, intelligent, kind, honest, sweet, little children, the oldest of which is in grade primary.  I am grateful for the many blessings I enjoy and benefit from, and I thank you for your commitment to protect them by endeavouring to promote a standard of living that I believe every Nova Scotian deserves to have within their reach.  With that being said, I find myself becoming more and more disillusioned as the standards set by our provincial government continue to decline.  In this time of uncertainty, “A Better Future for Today’s Families”, “Change That Works”, and promises to put “Nova Scotia First”, are all lines that I desperately want to believe but am unable to.

Today I am writing specifically in response to a document that was sent home with my son from school on Thursday.  I am currently on Maternity Leave and so I did not see the document prior to that afternoon, nor was I aware of its existence.  I am referring to the 58-page booklet entitled “Bullying and Cyberbullying: What We Need to Know (A Reference for Parents and Guardians)” that was sent home in the back-packs of Nova Scotia’s public school students.

When I first saw this document, I was exasperated.  The more I read and thought about it, the more my sense of frustration grew.  And today as I write this, I am angry.  Let me explain why.

First, please understand: I am glad that the provincial government is attempting to communicate to students and parents that bullying in schools is a matter of concern.  As a teacher, and as a parent, I agree wholeheartedly that bullying is a serious and very relevant issue that requires our time, attention, and yes, even our resources.  The children of Nova Scotia deserve a learning environment that is nurturing, safe, and effective.  My colleagues and I have lost students to suicide.  We love our students, we want change, and we are prepared to work hard to help bring it about.  Despite all this, I fail to see how sending home a “reference” will do anything to help solve the issues our children actually face with regard to bullying at school.  I have read the document myself.  The information within it is not bad or incorrect, but it is nothing new.  Nova Scotia is, after all, the home of Rehtaeh Parsons, Jenna Bowers, and Courtney Brown.  Nova Scotians are familiar with bullying, how and why it sometimes happens, and the potential consequences for the victims.  It is a problem, there are ways parents can talk to their kids about it, there are appropriate channels to follow when reporting it, and the NS Department of Education does not condone bullying in schools.  We get it.  But to be perfectly frank, all I saw when I looked through this glossy, color printed, and expensively-produced booklet were more words, and no action.  I am deeply disappointed by this.  I am also deeply disappointed in the lack of wisdom displayed by this flagrant waste of resources which will no doubt be proudly referenced in speeches, press conferences, and the like, as a shining example of how the NSDOE has met the truly difficult and complex issues head on, in a meaningful way.  This is simply not true and as a parent, teacher, and tax-payer I find this very, very frustrating.

Combating bullying in schools must be a priority.  But hiring (and paying) who-knows-how-many consultants, graphic designers, printers, publishers, panels, editors, reviewers, and writers to produce this project and distribute it to the masses (who, by the way, used it to line their blue bags on Friday morning) is not a responsible, reasonable, or efficient way to accomplish this.  (And since I mentioned efficiency, or rather a lack thereof, I would also like to point out that sending the booklet home with four children from the same family, when their parents are both public school teachers, was simply stupid.)

As a teacher, I would say that the most important way in which I strive to combat bullying in my school is by communicating to each child I encounter that they have value.  They are worth spending time with.  They are worth spending time on.  They are worthy of my respect.  They are worthy of my best efforts and my best ideas.  They are worth all the meetings, program plans, phone calls and emails, coaching on sports teams, chaperoning at dances, personalized feedback, time away from my family, and kindness I can give them.  I see them every weekday, and I truly believe that those are the best things I can do to educate them in the fight against bullying.

You may not see the students of Nova Scotia every day, but you can still show them that you believe in their worth by your actions.  You can teach them that the other students in their school also have value, and are therefore to be respected.  And the best way to do that is not by giving them pink t-shirts, water bottles, bracelets, and 58 page reference guides like the ones you asked the teachers of Nova Scotia to distribute last Thursday.   Our students may be young, but they’re not stupid.  They understand that all the “free” pink stuff in the world won’t help them in the hallway tomorrow.  Again, combating bullying must be a priority, but it can not be, nor appear to be, the only priority.  That alone will not make students feel valued by those whose role it is to promote and facilitate lifelong learning.

Let me tell you what I firmly believe will.

Start by giving them enough teachers. 

Then give every teacher a classroom.  Then give each student a desk that has not been recovered in Dollar Store floor tiles that their teacher had to buy with their own money.

Fix the microscopes in the science labs so they can experience the wonder of biology.  The real thing is way cooler than the virtual online microscopes, especially when they have to take turns on the computers.

Give them guidance counselors whose only job is to counsel children, not coordinate all the standardized assessments, attend meetings, and fill in at the main office.

Make it easier to provide real-life, hands-on learning experiences, outside of the school building.

Give them policies that will allow teachers to describe their progress in words they actually understand.  Let us tell them when they are bright, helpful, friendly, respectful, and self-motivated.  Let us put it in an official report so that they have physical evidence which states they are good at something they learned at school.

Give them standards to uphold.

Give them ideals to strive for.

Give them the opportunity to experience consequences.

The current platform of the NDP promises that if re-elected they will “give our kids a better start by focusing on what matters most.”  The Liberals claim that “education isn’t a line item in a budget, it’s our future.”  The PC party guarantees “the very best classroom education for our children.”

 It’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

As my colleagues’ jobs continue to be eliminated, as our class sizes continue to grow, as our students are continually cheated out of a high-quality public education, largely due to a lack of both financial resources and wisdom in curriculum development and assessment methods, and as teachers continue to be crippled by the provincial government’s lack of financial foresight, the production and distribution of  “Bullying and Cyberbullying: What We Need to Know (A Reference for Parents and Guardians)”, is a proverbial slap in the face to us all.  I have great respect for my colleagues and for the many efforts they make to provide their students with the best education it is within their power to provide.  I am one of them, and we all do our best.  We love our jobs, but we no longer trust you to help us do what you hired us to do.  And on a personal note, I want you to know and fully understand that if I had access to the resources, I would happily choose to educate my three children privately.  They deserve better than what the NS Department of Education is permitting their teachers to offer them.  I am tired of expensive words that end up lining recycling bins.

Respectfully,

Amanda Winsor

Back to School

“But Mommy maybe my new teacher won’t love me like you and Daddy do.”

My heart, already sore, was starting to throb with the unexpected pain of sending my four year old off to primary last week.  He is so young, so small, so innocent, and so vulnerable.  He looked like a baby standing beside the older kids at his bus-stop in his new clothes, bright, white size-nine sneakers, and Super Mario back-pack, which looked as though it weighed more than he did.

As we stood at the bus stop, waiting for the much-anticipated moment when my oldest baby would go somewhere without one of his parents for the first time, this was the burning worry on my child’s mind:  Will I be loved?

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Any teacher, or for that matter anyone who works with children on a daily basis, would say that they love their students.  I can say with conviction that I love mine.  Not because they are easy to be around.  Not because they are easy to teach.  Not because they offer me love in return.  I love them because they are worthy of being loved.  Inside each child I teach is untapped, and often unrealized, potential for greatness.  Each of them was born to do something incredible.  Each of the lives represented in my classroom every year have a purpose.   As their teacher I have a unique and awesome opportunity to help them discover what they were put on this earth to do.  And I endeavour to do this by loving them in a way that, hopefully, says: “You are worth spending time with.  You are worth spending time on.  I love you because you have value.”

Last Wednesday, my son was thinking about many different things.  I find it incredible that the words he actually spoke in that moment articulated the fear we all have when faced with change, new challenges, and moments of vulnerability:  Will I be loved?

This past week many of you, like me, stood at bus-stops, holding small hands, comforting small hearts.  Many of you had to peel little arms from around your neck and allow a teacher you had never met before, to lead your child into an unfamiliar room, full of children they had never seen.  Maybe some of you felt a different kind of pain mixed with pride as your confident, smiling child ran towards their friends on the playground, calling “Bye, Mom!” over their shoulder on their first day of school.  Maybe some of you sent the last of your babies off and then spent the first of what seemed like a very long, very quiet day alone in the house that used to be noisy and busy.  Maybe some of you, like me, questioned your value as a mother now that your child would be loved by someone else for most of their waking hours.  Maybe some of you even drove many kilometres with a loaded mini-van full of lamps, extra blankets, groceries, twenty-seven pairs of shoes, and four suitcases to help your somehow grown up baby move into her very first dorm room and then hugged your girl goodbye before driving back to a house that may never hold her again, except for Christmas and summer vacations.

Like our children, as school begins, we mothers are often faced with changes and new situations where we have to confront thoughts and feelings we would rather not deal with.  As we begin to navigate our way through a new school year alongside our children, there will be moments where we too will be asking the same question that burns in the hearts of our babies, both very young and not-quite-so-young.  As we all move forward, and as we continue to evolve into the moms our children need for this new season in life, I want you to know that you have value, just as you are.  Like our children, we all have the potential for greatness within us.  Like them, we have a purpose.  Like them, we are loved.

I am confident that my son’s teacher loves him and understands that he has value.  I am also confident that she will do everything she can to communicate those things to him over the course of this school year.  I am also confident that my son will sense her love for him and the other children in his class, and when he realizes he is loved, he will thrive in an environment that once struck fear into his four year old heart.  And I am equally confident that as I move into this next season of motherhood, that a Teacher who loves me more than I can fathom is waiting to guide me along my new path.  And I know that, with time, I too will thrive.

My True Love Letter

“A real love letter is made of insight, understanding, and compassion. Otherwise it’s not a love letter. A true love letter can produce a transformation in the other person, and therefore in the world…Some letters may take the whole of our lifetime to write.”  –Thich Nhat Hanh

My husband has never written me a love letter.

Over the ten years that we have been a couple, nine of which we have spent as husband and wife, I have never received a love letter from him.  He has purchased beautiful cards on (almost) every birthday, anniversary, mother’s day, and Christmas we have shared.  Most of them have brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart.  Many have made me smile, and a couple of them have made me laugh out loud.  Some of them have been short, sweet, and simple in their delivery of a loving message and some have covered three sides of card-stock with words so beautiful that I can’t believe they are meant for me.   Although I do not doubt that my husband has chosen these cards deliberately and with great care, they are nonetheless cards filled with words written by someone other than the man giving them to me.

I have every card I have ever received from him.  I keep them in a clear plastic tote next to our filing cabinet, and the fire-safe box that holds important documents, the kids’ ultra-sound photos, our wedding video, and three tiny wisps of baby hair in varying shades of brown.

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I have hinted at the idea of a love letter at various times over the decade we have spent by each others’ side.  I wrote one to him in hopes that he would write one back.  I have come right out and asked him to write me a letter.  He has yet to pick up a pen, sit down with a sheet of paper, and put his feelings for me into words that I can read over and over again and cherish in a special box for the rest of my life.  He has never written me a love letter.

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He has spent hundreds of hours transforming the woods that pressed against our house, making me feel isolated and anxious, into a gorgeous yard where I feel relaxed and truly home.

He has held my hand at funerals, gotten out of his seat to find a tissue, and then helped me wipe my tears so my mascara doesn’t smear.

He has gone out for Honey Nut Cheerios, in his pyjamas, at eleven o’clock at night.  Without a single disparaging comment directed towards his very pregnant, and very unreasonable, wife.

He has stood by my bedside, holding my hand, offering sips of water, tracking down pink popsicles, and whispering words that kept me calm and helped me focus three times as I laboured babies into our lives.

He has tucked our boys into bed at night so gently and sweetly that I have stood in the hallway outside their door with tears in my eyes from the joy of having a man like him as the father of my children.

He has called out a sweet greeting to our tiny daughter as I bring her down the stairs and into the kitchen where he has been making breakfast for the boys, every morning since she’s been born.

He has thoughtfully offered insight after listening to millions of my words, tumbling out of my mouth at mach speed, more times than I care to remember.  He has held me and said, “I understand”, more times than I can count.

He has forgiven me over and over and over and over.

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He is kind.  He is not jealous.  He never thinks of himself.  He does not get angry.  He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

He has come home to me every single day for ten years.

He has never written me a love letter.

Instead, my husband has given me his whole life.  Every choice he makes is largely driven by his decision to love and provide for us.

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Every time he wipes up a milk spill, every time he offers me a smile at the end of a long day, every arm tossed over my shoulders in the middle of the night, every cold, dark trip to the emergency room with a feverish child, every financial sacrifice he makes for the sake of our future, every piece of toast he gets up to butter so I can have ten more minutes in bed, every phone call I get from him while he’s at work, every flower he sends to me from the backyard in the hands of one of our sons, every time he drives our loaded mini-van to church on Sunday morning, every time he kisses us goodnight, every time he laughs with me after a rough week, he adds to the manuscript he has been working on since the day he asked me to share his life with him.

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His life is the love letter he writes to me every single day.  And when I take the time to read it, it changes me from a woman who longs for words written on paper, to a woman who knows what it means to read love in every act, every step, every moment of a life lived together.

**Shout out to Lisa-Jo Baker for writing the beautiful post that was my inspiration for this one!**