Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The latest in the lives of The Grahams

*October 3, 2009

Jessica and Brock's gorgeous, intimate wedding ceremony in Canmore, Alberta. It was a fantastic weekend and we had a great time celbrating with Brock and Jessica!

*October 11, 2009

Chris' brother and sister in law, Shawn and Carrie, hosted Thanksgiving dinner at their house in Edmonton. The meal was absolutely delightful! Carrie had put so much work into making a wonderful meal, that was obvious! We all had a great time and it was nice to all be at Shawn and Carrie's house- some of us for the first time!

I forgot my camera so don't have any pictures of the day. :(


*I am back to work after surgery. I'm averaging about a day adn a half per week of subbing. I'd like 2 or even 3 days for the paycheque but am ok with working less. Dee has been watching the boys when I am at work and they just love it there, as I knew they would.

*Post-surgery I am feeling pretty good. I was surprised at how quickly I felt back to normal (about day 6 I was feeling more or less fine). I did have about a week right around Thanksgiving where I was getting a lot of stomach pain again. Maybe the foods I was eating then? Not sure. I was hoping to talk to my surgeon at my appointment on the 19th of October, but it was postponed until November 9th for some unknown reason. So, hopefully I will be feeling well until then otherwise it could be a long couple of weeks! At least I still have my pain meds!

*Because of surgery I was unable to join the current session of bootcamp. I was quite disappointed. A few weeks ago, the instructor (a friend of mine) came to me and asked if I would tutor her son in reading in exchange for personal training at home. I jumped at the chance! Today was my first session and it is obvious by the already sore muscles that I took too much time off, but I am really excited to have a program tailored to me that I can do at home, on my own time! I'm hoping to get 3 workouts a week in and then in 6 weeks or so she will change my program for me to keep me on my toes!

*In the summer, I was asked if I'd be interested in joining the Crossfield Library Board. I was happy to join and I attended my first meeting last week. There are about 8 of us on the board (I think) and I'm really excited to be involved in something else in the community. My job as a board member will be to oversee the children's programming and services that the library offers, such as Storytime, which we attended every Wednesday last year and loved, as well as the summer reading programs for kids and Spring Break programs. I'm really excited about this new venture!

*I have been quite busy with MOPS and am really enjoying that as well. My job as TLC coordinator is to get new moms a baby gift and meals (donated from our members) as well as struggling moms meals and/or financial assistance if needed. So far this year we have been busy with delivering phone books to the town of Crossfield (our largest fundraiser), a Big Cook to have meals in the freezer for when they are needed, our bake sale (another big fundraiser) at the Crossfield Christmas Farmer's Market on November 1st as well as our usual Thursday meetings. Tomorrow is 'Crocktober' and we take our crockpots to MOPS and come home with a meal to simmer all day and serve at suppertime! YUM! Last year was the first year we did this and it was a smashing success - it runs alongside our Spring Spa Day as the most favorite meeting. And thanks to fundraising and the wonderful, generous owner of our town grocery store, we are able to provide 60 families with meals tomorrow!

*The boys have been keeping us very busy lately. Levi is a mover and a shaker. He climbs EVERYTHING and stands on top of whatever he can get his feet on, whether stationary or not! One day I caught him scaling our bookcase, Spiderman style! I see some hospital visits in our future- that boy shows no fear!

I was tired of battling with Luca to use the potty. It became so exhausting every day, so we have stepped back from it to give both of us a break. I have put him back into pull ups and am not giving him the attention of being disappointed in him for going in his pants. I am hoping that soon he will just decide to poop on the potty on his own. He is capable of doing it and capable of holding it, so it was simply a battle of wills between us. I am going to leave it until about the middle of November and then we will try again after we have both had time to regroup and distance ourselves from the daily battle.

*Besides MOPS and library board, subbing and tutoring, I have been busy working on Christmas gifts. Last year my goal was to give homemade gifts where possible. I did pretty good last year and am aiming to do better this year! I have most of my gifts planned out, its just a matter of finding time to get them all done! I really enjoy receiving homemade gifts, I think that they mean that much more and are so personal.

That's the past month for us in a nutshell!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

In Loving Memory

On September 29th, we lost an amazing woman. Chris' maternal grandmother, or Nona, as we all called her passed away after a quick but difficult battle with cancer at the age of 87. She was loved by many and will be so dearly missed.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I am choosing not to dwell on the sadness that her death has caused, but instead to be thankful for these things:

-In the final months of her life, she was surrounded by family and love

-We were able to see her a number of times while she was in the hospital. While at times hard, it gave Chris and I peace to know that we were able to say goodbye.

-When she took her final breath she was with her daughter and son in law, not alone.

-I am thankful that I was able to know her and laugh with her for the past 10 years. She was a hilarious woman (not always intentionally) and I always knew that when visiting her there would be laughter.

A wonderful woman, no longer on Earth, but rejoycing in Heaven. We love you, Nona.

No Mom Alone

One of the themes for MOPS this year is "No Mom Alone". That may mean different things to different people, and that's ok. I was asked to write my story of being a mom alone for our newsletter this week. I'd like to share it with you, my friends and family.

Here is my story as it was published in the newsletter:

By Janice Graham

I had very mixed feelings when my husband came to me with news about a possible job transfer to Calgary in March of 2007. Firstly, I was excited about the prospect of my husband who for the past few years had been working away from home most of the month for the past few years, being home every evening for dinner and nights of sharing the same bed. But there was also fear, sadness and disappointment.

We had recently bought our first home in Ponoka and had been working to fix it up and make it our own. Both of us being from Ponoka, we were within a few minutes drive of each of our families and had old friends nearby. I had my support team all mapped out. I was active in a parent’s group, and had been teaching in town for a few years. My roots were in Ponoka and I was quickly and firmly spreading those roots to take hold. When your partner works away, you rely on your support team to help you be a parent, and quickly become close to those you lean on.

I had visions of my father-in-law coaching my son Luca’s soccer team, as he was doing for my niece at that time. I saw Luca in the loving arms of my sister in-law, playing with his cousins when I returned to teaching. I was enjoying weekly dinners with my parents and my in laws, and loved that they were able to watch Luca grow up.

But, all that was pulled out from under me when the prospect of a new job came up. After many teary conversations weighing the pros and cons, it was decided that my husband would accept the job. We were moving to a place where I knew only one person and had to start all over again. I was terrified. I felt so alone.

Within a few weeks of moving to Crossfield, I was offered a job teaching full time in Airdrie. While great for our bank account, this was not good for me as a mother and was definitely not the best way to begin to seek out connections in my new town.

As the months went on, I began to feel more and more alone. I was not loving the new job, was missing days with Luca and was harbouring the mommy guilt that comes with having someone else tend your child for the majority of his waking hours. Plus, I found myself exhausted and sick with a new pregnancy.

When I was put on medical leave at 30 weeks into my pregnancy, I was excited at the prospect of spending time with Luca before the baby arrived and getting out into the community to meet other moms. Unfortunately, this time also coincided with the spring shut down of the programs meant for moms and their children.

With a new baby and a not quite two-year-old, I found myself very alone every day. I would see groups of mothers out and about with their children, laughing and looking like they had it all, but was too shy to try to join in. By the end of summer, I was feeling very isolated and was battling full-blown postpartum depression.

Levi was a needier, fussier baby than Luca was, and I was used to having family and friends around whenever I needed a bit of help or a break. This experience was vastly different. I found myself spending days alone in my house, resenting the move we made and my children more and more every day. I was angry and jealous of my husband, who got to leave every day, who got an hour of uninterrupted silence during his commute, and who got to eat real food for lunch in restaurants with other adults! I grew more and more impatient with my children and the longing for something else festered, becoming a monster inside me.

I would go grocery shopping in the evenings alone so I could get away. I would take my time, making an hour task stretch into two or sometimes even three hours. I began going to movie theatres alone on Saturdays just to get away and forget that I was Mommy for a while. I distinctly remember on more than one occasion, when coming back from Calgary or Airdrie, as I took the exit ramp towards Crossfield thinking that I could just keep going straight down the QEII, keep driving toward that vision of sleep, shopping, visiting, anything that I could do without kids and anything that resembled the life I left behind, an hour and a half to the North.

I felt that every day my two-year-old was defying me out of spite and that my baby was on a mission to make my life as awful as possible. I was convinced that no one could handle two children because mine, at least were the worst, or so I thought. I thought this would never end.

One evening when venting about my day, my husband kindly and softly asked if I thought that there could be something more going on than just being the tired mom of two. Taking great offence, I responded emphatically that it was not that there was anything wrong with ME, but that I had a toddler that would not listen and a baby that would not shut up. It couldn’t be me. I was doing my best. It was the other parts of my life letting ME down. I thought.

Finally, one afternoon in late August, I called my husband at work and told him through tears and sobs that he needed to come home or I was going to lose it. I had been crying for hours at this point and wasn’t even able to get off the sofa to do anything more than the necessities like changing a diaper or giving my kids something to eat. I had finally admitted to myself that I was not coping with the changes that had taken place in my life. I loved my kids, I did, but I didn’t like them and that broke my heart.

When I visited my doctor (who has known me and my family for years and is acutely aware of the familial susceptibility to depression) she so gently confirmed what deep down I had known to be true; I had postpartum depression.

Going through the list of symptoms, I realized that PPD was affecting more than my ability to be a patient, engaged mother. Normally an avid reader, I was unable to focus to read more than a page or two and even then rarely remembered what I had just read. I was withdrawing from my family, who I normally spoke to at least once a week, sometimes daily. I was now avoiding their phone calls and requests for visits. I had absolutely no interest in being intimate with my husband, preferring to sleep instead. But, let’s be honest, what new mom doesn’t want to choose sleep? I thought this was normal. I was experiencing intense anxiety attacks over minor things, to the point of being afraid to leave my house some days for fear of getting caught in a storm, for example. Things that used to bring me joy were no longer appealing to me. I was unhappy, I was not myself. My doctor prescribed antidepressants with the warning that it would take a few weeks, possibly a month to begin to feel better.

The light peeking through the darkness came a few long weeks after I had seen my doctor. A few things came together at just the right time. I joined MOPS with my best friend of almost 10 years, who had just moved Crossfield. Not only did I have my best friend just down the street, but I was hoping that MOPS would not only give me a much needed break for a few hours every few weeks. And that maybe, just maybe, I would begin to make friends and feel like I belonged.

I began to count down the days until the next MOPS meeting. Slowly, I was building friendships with others in town. Once in a while I had a coffee date with another mom.

I had almost forgotten what it was like to have friends nearby and to be able to talk to other moms going through similar phases with their children.

When the opportunity to join the MOPS Steering Team came up, I jumped at the chance to be even more involved and to hopefully foster deeper relationships with those that I had begun to know.

The year after I moved to Crossfield was one of the worst for me emotionally and psychologically. I don’t think I realized the importance of having relationships with other moms, other women, sisters in this walk of life that we call motherhood.

I can safely say that it was MOPS that helped pull me out of my depression when I was the mom that was alone.

Not only is MOPS a great place to get a break from your kids, but it is a fantastic place to create and build friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I have been so blessed to feel like a part of a community and to feel the loving arms of the members of MOPS.

It is my wish that every mom who might feel alone or just need friendship and a place to talk will find that in MOPS. Being with other mothers has helped to make me a better mother and has taught me that I still need to take time to be the woman that I am outside of being Mommy. I am now regularly enjoying time out to do my own thing such a scrapbooking, shopping, visiting, exercise - and I’m not wanting to keep driving when I am on my way home. Now, I am recharged and refreshed when I come home and ready to spend another day with my children, whom I love very much.

MOPS changed the path my life was taking and for that I will be forever grateful.

P.S. Thanks to Tom, my wonderful brother in law and an amazing writer for helping me to edit this. You're the best, Tom! :)