Thursday, May 23, 2013


DISCLAIMER: This post is sort of self therapy for me. Its chalk full of feelings.

People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.
  ~Maya Angelou

The last few months have been difficult. I haven't talked to many people about what has been going on for a variety of reasons.

On March 16/17, I attended a birth- but it wasn't a usual birth or even a happy one. The baby- a gorgeous, perfect little boy had died suddenly due to a cord complication just days before his "due" date. It was the blind leading the blind in this situation- not one I had ever really thought about or anticipated or prepared for. Naïve? Probably.

I had to try to support this couple through what would likely be the hardest day(s) of their lives. I had no idea how to do it and was trying to come to terms with my own emotions during the process. To say it was difficult is an understatement. I think about that day and that couple on a daily basis. They have impacted my life and my future as a doula forever.

I haven't spoken about it much for a few reasons:
  • It is not really my story to tell. Sure, I have my own perspective and involvement in that day but ultimately the story of their son's life and death belongs to them. I have been writing my account of the day and the emotions that go along with it in a personal journal as a way of coping.
  • Its not something that people want to or know how to talk about. How can I try to process and explain to someone what it was like to be in that room with them as they gave birth to the son that would never take a breath? Many people can't and don't want to imagine what that is like. As mothers, we don't want to imagine that kind of pain. As doulas, we hope we never have to support someone through a similar situation. Finding someone to talk to about it that can relate is not easy.
So, I've been quietly struggling with trying to process that experience. It worked out well that I had not booked any clients for April or May so I could take some time to just work through the emotions. As my next clients' due dates approach, I still don't feel completely ready- there is that little bit of anxiety about what could happen. Surely, lightning won't strike twice, right? Three and a half years of doula work, 40+ babies and until March, all had been healthy.

With my next client's birth on the horizon, the potential for another difficult outcome is a very real possibility. Again, its not my story to tell but another set of first time parents have to endure test after test and weeks of uncertainty of whether their unborn baby will survive and if so to what degree of "normal".

How do you try to support and guide someone through a terrifying situation that you have no experience with and already feel some anxiety over the outcome?

I've been struggling- struggling with whether I can and want to continue to work as a doula. Emotionally it is the highest of highs when things go well but I've learned that it also has the lowest of lows when things end tragically. I'm human- I can't "turn off" the joys and the sorrows that I feel with clients that I have established a relationship with over the months leading up to their due dates.

I'm also really struggling to find support in my friends to help me through these tough experiences. While I know that no one can relate, knowing that there is someone there to just support me would mean the world to me.

Its true that I've been withdrawn and quiet for the past few months as I process my feelings, but I feel isolated and removed.

I love my small town and the camaraderie that comes with it- for the most part. Recently I've begun to feel disenchanted and isolated in a town that I love that is full of people I thought were friends. I've had to learn and endure some harsh and hurtful truths recently. Salt on an open wound.

Being connected to people in a small town and the instant information that Facebook and Instagram provides can be a really wonderful thing- but it can also be really hurtful and just feel like blow after blow to the gut.

I used to feel like I had a support group- people who I knew without a doubt would be there for me to talk to, laugh with or do things with to distract me. Lately, however, the people I thought I could count on to be a comfort and the group we once felt a part of have (intentionally or not) excluded us from activities- birthday celebrations, impromptu BBQs, playdates, weekend activities, etc.

Unfortunately for us, living in a small town means that if we didn't see the status' or photos on facebook, we can see the gatherings with our own eyes or hear them talked about by the kids at school.

At a time when I am feeling especially vulnerable and lonely emotionally, it is easy to think its all in my head. It would be easy to blame that old, unwelcome guest, Depression. But that would minimize what I am feeling.

I tried to convince myself that I was being over sensitive and reading too much into things but then Chris began to notice and feel it too. Neither of us is sure why we are suddenly on the outside looking in on the group we thought we had a place in.

Its tough. Its hard to see friends move on in front of and without us. It hurts to not be included. It hurts even more to hear about things being said about me. It hurts to feel betrayed and cast aside.

The silver lining through the past few months has been the best of best friends. Chris and I have become even closer and more connected- I didn't even imagine it possible. We've shared many late night conversations and comforted each other. He's wiped my tears and allowed me to speak completely honestly without judging me.

The things that I know deep down make me a good friend and a great doula were characteristics that I had begun to see in myself as a liability. I love deeply, I give myself and my time freely (more than I really should), I empathize strongly and am incredibly sensitive. It is these characteristics that help me to connect with clients and to laugh and cry with them.

Ironically, it also seems to be these same characteristics that have isolated me from my friends. Giving of myself too freely, caring too deeply, being too open and vulnerable when maybe I should have been more guarded.

I'm hurting and I'm struggling with not only my feelings as a doula but my feelings as a friend. For now, all I can do is go day by day and support the families I have committed to supporting to the best of my ability. That's all I can do.

As for the friendships, I can't change who I am. Like life, friendships ebb and flow. There are great times, good times and rocky times. The true friendships endure.

I know I am a strong person and I am even stronger with my absolute best friend and soul mate by my side. My anchor, my support.

“...but even strong women need an
 arm to lean on now and then.
 (Anna Whitney in Glory in Death)”
J.D. Robb

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A new kitchen!

What started as a fairly innocent email to my husband about my plan to stain the mantle in our living room and paint the wall from chocolate brown to blue turned into a full blown kitchen renovation.

Here's how it went:

Me, being the kind of person that gets antsy to change furniture arrangements and paint colors had gotten to that point. Perhaps it was the seemingly never-ending winter that made me a bit stir crazy and longing for change. Perhaps it was spurred by all the great DIY projects on Pinterest. Who knows?

One afternoon in early March, I sent Chris an email saying that I intended to paint the brass on our fireplace, to stain the mantle and paint the wall. Really, I was just warning him of what was to come. It lead to a discussion like this:

If we stain the mantle, then the tile around it will look funny and we (Chris) want to replace it anyway. If we pull out the tile to replace the brass edging around the carpet, we will have to pull up the carpet. If we are going to replace the floor in the living room, we should pull out the wall between the living room and kitchen to make continuous flooring rather than doing the living room and then repeating the process at a later date.

If we were going to take out the wall, I (Janice) would like to add onto the island a breakfast bar. Adding a new counter would require new counter tops so they all matched (and to get rid of the hideous pink countertops that I have loathed for the past 6 years). While we are at it, why don't we put some drawers and a counter under the window where our kitchen table once stood? And since we have a huge pantry in the back hall, we really don't need this little one here. Let's rip that out and, oh, hey, lets move the fridge over where the pantry was and add anther cupboard and counter where the fridge was. Since I'm dreaming up a dream kitchen right now, how about building a wine rack and getting new backsplash too?

We had fun sitting and looking at our cozy little kitchen, dreaming about how we could make it more spacious and modern but I don't think either of us really thought it was going to be realistic.

We have a way of getting excited over things like this and it is contagious. I was dreaming of a fabulous kitchen and I think Chris was thinking of how fun it would be to inflict such destruction on our choppy living space. We dug out the blueprints that we were fortunate enough to have been given when we purchased the house.

There are 2 sets of blueprints for our house- the original plans and the modified plans that the family that purchased the house had done (the ones that made the house the choppy many-roomed maze that it was). Well, would you look at that? It turns out that the plans we just dreamed up in our heads were nearly exactly what were drawn up in the original floor plan for the house. This actually made us more excited for the possibility of doing this- if the original design was for this, then the walls we wanted to take down should (in theory) not be load-bearing or full of heating, plumbing and electric.

The very next day, I headed to Home Depot to get paint for the small project I had in mind- the fireplace and wall. While I was there, I had a look at flooring, tile and paint colors. I might have brought home a stack of samples. I also might have measured and created a drawing of what I had in mind and estimated the amount of tile needed for backsplash.  It just may be that I had already decided this renovation was happening.

The fireplace and living room wall before:
 And after:

With Chris' bonus due to be given in just a few weeks, I was anxiously waiting to hear of it's arrival. We had decided that IF we were to do the kitchen, it would be completely dependent on the bonus.

Bonus day came and we were thrilled that it meant that not only could we afford to do the kitchen, but that there would be more than enough to cover it. Our taxes were also submitted and we were getting back more than we had dared to hope so we were in a good position.

When it came time to measure for the amount of flooring, I suggested that maybe we think about buying enough flooring to do the entire main floor (apart from the formal living room, bathroom and back hall) so that the flooring was an exact match WHEN we were ready to install it.

Some before photos:

We custom ordered the laminate to be placed on top of the existing countertop (after finding stuff we liked weeks prior then discovering it was out of stock when we needed it), we went and cleared out every box of the laminate flooring that we liked from Lowe's (53 boxes in total- my poor truck!). Somewhere along the line, we also decided to replace the stainless sink we had with a black sink (to match the new counters) and of course, a new faucet. All these were purchased and waiting in the computer area.

We mentioned to family what our plan was and rallied the troops to come the weekend after Easter for a work bee. Our original plan was to do the demolition ourselves in the week leading up to the weekend everyone was coming to help. Instead, Pat came to help the Saturday of Easter weekend and by the end of the day, the walls were down, carpet in the living room and lino and subfloor in the kitchen was ripped out and the garbage hauled out and the now huge space was swept clean.

The boys were eager to help tear down the walls!

The trick would be trying to live in the mess for the next week until everyone came to help put our house back together again. It wasn't my idea of a good time. With a fridge in the living room and a stove moved completely out of the way, cooking was a challenge. There was some slow cooker, some BBQ and a lot of eating out that week.

Throughout the week, Chris worked well into the evening to get some of the smaller jobs done- electrical rewiring, new drywall, and building the base of the breakfast bar.


The weekend of the major work came and work began quickly. With the help of a rented tile lifter tool thingy (that's the very technical term), the dining room and computer room tile came out rather quickly. Oh, did I forget to mention that our "future" plan of continuing the floor at some later date was changed to doing it right then? Turns out that the direction Chris wanted to lay the laminate would require that it all be done at once. No biggie.

My hands were bruised and blistered after pulling so many staples out of the floor!
And it was so very dusty from all the destruction!


By the end of the Saturday, all the old flooring was pulled up, the new drywall was taped and mudded and some of the new flooring was in place.

 By the end of Sunday, the flooring was complete (and looked fantastic!), the fridge and stove were in their homes and useable and the new cabinets were in place. If only there were a sink in the kitchen so we didn't have to wash dishes in the bathroom sink!


Pat and Joanne were staying for a few days to get the bulk of the work done. I had to attend a workshop on Monday and sub on Tuesday so I am so thankful that they were here to help Chris on the days that Chris had taken off work. Joanne was such a help in preparing crockpot meals for each day and keeping the boys occupied when she wasn't helping where she could in the kitchen. Pat and Chris worked so hard from the moment they woke up until they fell into bed in the evening. Without my fabulous in-laws, there is no way we could have gotten the amount of work done in such a short time. Plus, it was nice to have them stay with us for a few days- something that almost never happens. And just to throw in a little bit extra, we were also dog-sitting for our friends that were in Florida for two weeks.

On Monday there was new countertop on the bank of drawers and the counter on either side of the sink. By Monday afternoon, I even had a sink! Tuesday saw more of the countertops finished. I don't think any of us anticipated the installation of the counters to be such a time consuming task!

Chris returned to work for a few days and on Friday Pat and Joanne returned to help with the last of the major jobs- the counter tops and to finish the mudding and taping. Luca and I had to attend his Beavers Sleepover at the Telus Spark Science Centre and I was delighted to come home Saturday morning to another countertop done! Oh, and throw in there a starter that went on Chris' car the Thursday morning as he was getting ready to leave for work just to make it a bit more interesting!

By the time a snow storm blew through on Saturday afternoon, forcing Pat and Joanne to head home early, all but the breakfast bar had new countertops and the walls were ready for paint. I helped Chris attach the breakfast bar that evening and finally the kitchen looked like it was more finished than not!

Sunday morning Chris left early to get to the airport for his flight to Houston. While he was away, even with a minor mishap involving 3 gallons of the wrong shade of paint, I managed to get the kitchen and living room entirely painted.  With just weekend projects left to finish the details, our kitchen was nearly done and we are loving it!

After about 6 full days of work spread over 2 weeks, we (Chris and Pat and brothers mainly) transformed our small kitchen and living room into one large, bright space! Left to do are smaller projects: reinstall the baseboards, install new toe kicks under the cabinets, modify and hang a new upper cabinet and wine rack and someday scrape and re-texture the ceiling to blend the patched areas where walls once stood.

After living here for nearly 6 years and often dreaming of a new kitchen and larger living space, we finally have it and love it!

Coming this summer (hopefully): the remainder of the tile removed from the pantry/ back hall area and replaced with linoleum and new countertops and lino in the bathroom.

Oh, and the tile around the fireplace? It stayed and looks great! ;)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

5 Years Old!

Today my baby boy turned 5. It seems so unreal that he is 5 already- I remember his birth and those tiring weeks afterwards like it was just last week.

But yet, he is also such a huge personality and has really kept us on our toes for the last 5 years!

Levi is so funny- he's such a performer around people he knows but so shy around strangers. When he dances, he puts every ounce of energy into all his crazy, wild and hilarious dance moves.

When he thinks something is funny, he laughs this belly laugh that seems to come from his feet and is just so contagious. And he thinks he is the funniest person ever most of the time!

He is stubborn. As stubborn as they come, really. If he's made up his mind to not want to like or do something, there really is no point in trying to change his mind.

 He is so particular about clothes- until very recently, he would not wear an item of clothing unless the size said 4 (because he was 4). If his pants touch the tops of his feet, he insists they are too big and so always looks like he's waiting for a flood. And also like his mother doesn't notice that his pants are too short (not the case!). He also absolutely loves wearing button down shirts and ties. Around Christmas time he wore a tie to school almost every day but then refused to wear a tie for his Christmas performance. Stubborn, I tell you!

He loves school and is eager for kindergarten in the fall. Levi is a very social boy and has "loved" the same little girl in his class since September. Him and his best bud, Jack are pretty much inseparable.

I want to never forget the way he crawls up into my lap and wants to snuggle and how he often comes to say "I love you" totally unprompted. He gives the best, tightest hugs and always wants me to tuck him in at bedtime. I know that it won't be long before these things become rare and I want to always remember how my heart beats just a little faster every time I get a big hug and hear those special 3 words from my littlest boy.

He has recently been developing his own interests and not just following what his brother likes. He is quite a fan of Phineas and Ferb and their pet platypus Perry.

For his 5th birthday party, he wanted a Phineas and Ferb spy party. So, I set about scouring Pinterest for ideas. Some have commented at the amount of effort I put into my boys' parties- my theory is that they only get a birthday once a year so I can handle to stress and craziness of it to make that one day special. I always remember having great themed parties as a kid and I want my boys to have the same.

He was determined to invite his entire class of 16 to his party, so we did. Plus his brother and Donny. We ended up with a very manageable 11 kids in total.

After searching high and low for Phineas and Feb party ware, I finally found some and began planning the décor. Everything was teal and orange- the colors of Perry the platypus!

We started with coloring sheets as all the party guests arrived.

I assembled the kids and told them that they were going to learn to be spies and that they were after the Evil Dr. Doofensmirtz who was creating a secret concoction in his lab.

To begin the process of becoming spies, we made spy ID badges with a thumbprint, agent names and laminated them. Then everyone got to choose a Phineas and Ferb tattoo to have on their arm (cuz what kids don't love temporary tattoos?!).

After that we sneakily made the trek to the laser maze that was securing Dr. D's lab. Each child had to make their way through the maze without touching the lasers! All the kids thought this was great!

After navigating the lasers, we found the lab and discovered the secret concoction was SLIME!  Using a simple recipe of water, borax, glue and food coloring, each child made their own batch of slime. This was great fun for the kids, but Chris commented that he didn't know how kindergarten teachers managed to do activities like this. He was a bit out of his element in the slime lab!

After everyone was de-slimed, it was time for cupcakes and ice cream! The cupcakes were (of course) teal and orange icing on chocolate cake with teal and orange NERDS candy sprinkled on top. The cupcake toppers were made with cardstock and printed Perry images.

Drinks were "magic" juice with ice cubes made of 3 different kinds of fruit juice with 7-up poured over top. As the ice cubes melted, the color of the pop changed and the flavor became more fruity.

Presents followed and everyone took home a TOP SECRET goodie bag worthy of only the best spy.

It was a great party and we all had a lot of fun.

The birthday celebrations continued later in the week. Yesterday, Nona and Papa came and took Levi out for lunch- McDonald's, his pick and then we had a special pancake supper.

Levi opened gifts before breakfast with Daddy watching on FaceTime as he had to be at work early. Levi was thrilled to get an Agent P DVD, Phineas and Ferb book, Phineas and Ferb bandaids, a new bike helmet, pjs, and the stuffed platypus that Daddy picked out in Houston. He was a spoiled boy this morning!

Today, we had a Mommy and Levi day and hung out at home for the morning and then had a date at Menchie's for frozen yogurt this afternoon.

Supper was his choice again and we are going to be dining on chicken nuggets and fries.

Now it is time to start planning a certain almost 7 year old's partry....