Friday, 30 September 2016

Our Trek out West

I figured it was time to document our trek out West. Not because I have any grand insights into cross-Canada travel with four kids and a dog, other than: DO NOT DO IT! I repeat: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD THIS BE ATTEMPTED. But, I want it documented here so that we will never do it again, even in a couple of years, when my brain chooses to forget the anguish, the suffering and the mind-numbing monotony my dear family endured over the course of those five days, and I suggest to Mr. Level-Headed:

Let's drive home this summer to save on the cost of air travel. It will be fun! It will be an adventure. We are due for an adventure.

Because we all know it is inevitable . . . I really am that crazy. 

Future Krista must be stopped. So, here goes:

Our first mistake is that we made this trek with two vehicles (the Uhaul and the Loser Cruiser) and only two drivers . . .what were we thinking!

Our second mistake was deciding to leave late Tuesday night after Avery's soccer game. Sure it was nice having the day to attend to any last minute details, having lunch with Grammie at McDonald's, napping at Nanny's and finally watching Avery's playoff game with all the grandparents and a dear friend from high school, BUT hello!! I had just said goodbye to my parents and our 18 year old Baby Girl, who needed to stay behind to finish her summer job, AND I had spent the past two months packing, prepping the house for sale and caring for five children all by myself, while Mr. Level-Headed worked up North. It was no surprise that after a mere three hours, I could drive no further and needed to stop at Grand Falls, NB, rather than push on to Quebec, which was the initial plan. I was in no physical or emotional shape to drive for five hours.

No worries, Krista. We will just make up the time tomorrow.

That Mr. Level-Headed . . . he is always so flexible when it comes to meeting his adorable, but whiny wife's needs.

After finally finding a hotel that had a vacancy, which proved to be a very difficult task throughout our entire trip, we all had a good night's sleep and woke hopeful and eager to start our first full day on the road.

And it went great . . .  well, for awhile. Sure Harriet cried, and I had to listen to the Backyardigans sing: "The Worman Polka" over and over again, and I kept thinking they were singing the Mormon Polka, which didn't make any sense because the Backyardigans are probably not Mormon . . .Anyhoo . . I ordered lunch for everyone at Subway in french . . . woohoo! Yay, me! and I found a great splash pad just outside of Montreal, where we ate pizza and the babies ran and played.

Elliot and I got the biggest kick out of this town name in Quebec: Saint-Louis-du-Ha!-Ha! I should have read it as an omen. The gods were laughing at us. 

Look at those fools. All hopped up on excitement and optimism. They think this drive is going to be a breeze . . . . muhahahaha! We will show them.

Shake your booty! 
Oh, and that dark speck on the right side of Harriet's hair is a knot that she created from twisting her hair and crying on the drive. Oh, she is a treat. She definitely won the worst travel companion award. 

After our rest at the park, everything went downhill from there. Elliot did not eat supper and chose to lie down in the van instead. When we packed the van up and started rolling again, he complained that his back hurt. Before we hit the highway, we stopped at a drug store to get him some muscle relaxants, thinking his pain was from sitting in the car all day.

An hour later Elliot perked up and started to eat the left over pizza we saved for him. Two hours later, as were driving through Ottawa, Elliot started complaining that his stomach hurt. By then, it was dark, we were all exhausted and even though we had not reached Mr. Level-Headed's planned destination . . . again, we texted him:

We need to pull over for the night.

For the record, most people stop for the night before 11pm, which means all those lovely hotels you see along the highway are booked up by then and you have to drive through tiny, backwoods towns in the dark to find sketchy, old motels that only the really desperate people, like ourselves, are willing to stay at. Just for the record.

So, after encountering many dead-ends and having to turn around countless times with two crying toddlers and a teenager who is getting progressively more sick, Mr. Level-Headed finally finds a vacant motel, and while he is getting the room keys, the babies run wild through the parking lot, the teenager throws up all over the parking lot, the pre-teen desperately tries to wrestle the dog away from the puke and I . . . well, I am ready to shoot someone and curse the day that attractive Mr. Level-Headed walked into my life because we all know this is his fault somehow.

Families are such a blessing.

After a quick text to Zoe informing her that I love her and to warn her that if she never hears from me again, I have been murdered and left to rot in some sketchy motel in Ontario, I fall asleep.

The next day, everyone was worn out, but Elliot had stopped vomiting and was ready to sleep off the apparent food poisoning in the Uhaul with Mr. Level-Headed. We grabbed some breakfast at McDonald's and hit the road.

See the mark on her forehead? That's where Harriet scratched herself during one of her fits. Yep, like I said: Worst Travel Companion Ever.

 It was a grey, drizzly day and it was one of those days where the weather matched everyone's mood to a tee. Our excitement had dissipated. We were ready to be done, but we still had two more days to go. After driving all morning without a break and with two babies crying and no playgrounds in sight, I texted Mr. Level-Headed:

Find somewhere for the babies to play.

He stopped at a mall. I lost my mind.

The babies need fresh air. They need water. They need to run. So, we are going to take them shopping?

Oh, I pitched a fit, and once my tantrum was done, we went shopping. Elliot still was not feeling well, so he stayed in the car and slept with Scout. We bought Leif a pair of sneakers (because he somehow managed to leave NB with only one shoe . . . insert eye roll here), snacked on smoothies and let the babies play on the mall rides.

Everyone enjoyed themselves. I was wrong to pitch a fit. There, I apologized. And really I should apologize because little did I know but this was our last taste of the modern world for another 36 hours. Oh, Northern Ontario. You are such a doll!

The next two days can pretty much be summed up as follows:

convenient store
convenient store
and repeat
and repeat

Two freaking days. . . I now have a better understanding of what Chinese Water Torture must feel like. Oh. My. Land.

Oh, and just another tidbit of information, you will never see a grocery store on your travels through Northern Ontario, but you will come across a strip club that rents rooms AND North America's largest porn rental shop. I kid you not.

Anyhoo . . .

Somewhere along the line, I managed to pitch another fit in the parking lot of a restaurant . . . who am I kidding? I was the Worst Travel Companion Ever. We found a playground, an old, rusty playground with a vicious dog incessantly barking and growling at us through a chain-linked fence, but oh, that playground was like a gift from the heavens. I swear I heard angels sing when we drove up to it.

That right there is what joy looks like.

And Elliot got sicker and sicker. For two days, he laid in the back of the van, not moving a muscle. We kept telling ourselves he was getting better, but he wasn't. Finally, late Friday afternoon, I started to get really worried and scared. Thankfully, the scenery started to change. The lakes disappeared and the road widened. Suddenly, there was a sign:

Thunder Bay
Population: 108,359


We had entered the modern world once again. As soon as we turned onto the off-ramp, I saw a sign that pointed in the direction of the nearest hospital. I looked in my rearview mirror and knew without a doubt that Elliot needed to be seen by a doctor. Once we pulled up to the intersection, I texted Mr. Level-Headed (it was a red light)

Go straight to the hospital.

I pulled up to the emergency doors, hopped out of the van and started barking orders.

Avery, you stay with the babies in the van.
Derrick, go park the Uhaul. Then, get the van and  find somewhere for everyone to eat. 

I can be such a treat sometimes. I felt bad. I knew Mr. Level-Headed really wanted to be in Winnipeg by Friday, but we couldn't go any further without Elliot being looked after.

Oh, and get a hotel. We are done driving for today.

I rushed Elliot into the hospital. As soon as we were done in Triage, they sent him into an examining room, and within moments, he was hooked up to an IV and saw the doctor. At this point, I was still thinking it was food poisoning, so when the doctor told us Elliot needed a chest x-ray, I nearly pitched another fit.

What?  Have you not been listening to me?

But I didn't. I did what I was told and headed to X-ray. Low and behold, the doctor was right; Elliot had pneumonia. He prescribed an antibiotic, some Gravol and Tylenol, and sent us on our way.


It really should not have come as such a shock because crazy seems to be what we do best. 

That night, we slept in a nice hotel. Before we went to our separate rooms (Hello! Our family size is not hotel friendly), Mr. Level-Headed kissed me on the forehead and assured me it was almost over. We only had three and a half more driving hours to go, and we could do this. 

Right. We do hard things.

The next day, after being all hopped up on his medicinal cocktail for a good twelve hours, Elliot felt much better. We had breakfast in the hotel dining room and enjoyed eavesdropping on all the older, retired couples, sharing their travel tales and words of wisdom with one another. Their trips sounded remarkably different from ours, I should have shared our story . . .  tee hee! 

With our bellies full and our hope returning, we hopped back into the vehicles and headed for the Manitoba border. We were quite eager to be done with Ontario. Thankfully, the travel gods were done with us too, and the remainder of our trip was uneventful. Once we saw the flat fields of Manitoba, our excitement grew. We had made it. We may have been a day late, but we made it!

Welcome to your new home, Websters! 

Now, all we had left to do was unpack . . . Seriously, what were we thinking?

. . . tee hee!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Difference a Year can Make

Yesterday, the babies and I drove Mr. Level-Headed to the airport because he was needed in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. As we drove, I kept exclaiming:

This is soooo weird.

This is just too weird.

I can't believe we are in Winnipeg and I am going to see you in just ten days.

This is too weird.

Last year, at this time, we were getting ready to send Derrick up to Rankin Inlet for his new job, knowing we would not see him for three months. Zoe was uber sick and Harriet was only four months old. We were scared, really scared, but we were hopeful. We had prayed about it, and we continually felt like this was the best decision for our family even though it sure did not look like it at the time. So, on our drive to the airport yesterday, I kept marveling over the fact that we survived it all, and we made it out of that long, dark tunnel. I don't know how, but we did, and we are in a much better place today because of the sacrifices we made last year.

Often when we reflect on the past, it is easy to forget how much we struggled. Being on the other side of trials sometimes leaves us with the impression that we just muscled through it and never looked back. That was not the case for me last year. I did not muscle through anything, I simply muddled, and there were plenty of times I wanted to give up, but I kept moving forward with the sincere belief that it would all work out in the end. 

With all this fresh in my mind and now currently living in our "happily ever after", I wanted to impress upon my boys the importance of never giving up because in this life, the only thing we can be certain about is that trials and challenges are coming. So, on Monday night, as our family held Family Home Evening, one night a week we Mormons sit down with our families to have a brief lesson on something spiritual followed by games and treats, we talked about the importance of never giving up. Then we watched a video my aunt shared with me on Facebook about a football player and his coach:

I knew it would grab their attention! Afterwards, I posted a quote on our wall:

Don't you give up.
Don't you quit.
You keep walking.
You keep trying.
There is help and happiness ahead.
-Jeffrey R. Holland

I really hope my kids get it. They have done hard things, they survived and they will continue to have to do hard things. That's life: getting the poop kicked out of ya' and getting back up time and time again, a little bit stronger each time. The new buzz word you will hear in parenting and education is resiliency, and it is simply that: teaching kids they can do hard things and not get discouraged by them. Our life has not been easy, and there have been times when it felt like our challenges outweighed the rest times, but I think my kids will be stronger because of it.They have seen their parents struggle, but more importantly, they have never seen us give up.

So, last night, after I put the babies to bed and texted Mr. Level-Headed to make sure he arrived in Rankin safely, I sprawled out in the middle of my bed, grabbed a book and enjoyed my downtime. This is my time to rest. Unlike last year, there were no tears and no fears . . . ugh! did I just write that? . . . gag! 

It's crazy how much can change in a year. For instance, Harriet went from being a four month old baby to a teenager . . .

You knew I was going to figure out a way to put some pics of my babies up on this blog . . . tee hee! I am shameless!

 Put that boy down now, mom, and help me down these stairs.

Listen here, mom. I am in charge and you are going to listen to me.


Thinks to herself: Oh my goodness, she is really not going to listen to me.

My super powers have vanished.

Hahahahaha! Oh, this girl is fun.

Yep, I am going to enjoy this time of rest. We have reached a plateau, and I can look behind me and bask in how far we have come, but I can also look ahead and get excited for all the possibilities out there waiting for us to reach up and claim them. This is my time to heal, to take a deep breath and to muster up some energy for whatever does come next because, let's be honest, whatever it is, it will most likely not be easy.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Our New Hood

Excuse me while I gush over my new neighbourhood for a moment. I am currently sitting on my back deck; it is overcast but it is warm and there is a gentle, cool breeze blowing. I can hear the birds chirping and the chipmunks chattering. I am eating my lunch and  blogging, while the babies snooze in their stroller beside me. They are exhausted because we just spent the morning at our local YMCA, where they ran for 45 minutes with other toddlers and preschoolers in the open gym that was filled with balls, ride-on cars, scooters AND a ginormous bouncy castle. Then, we headed to the pool, which was a lot of work for this mama who only has two hands but also has two independent, adventurous, free-spirits to protect from drowning . . . hello, workout! We all managed to survive, though, and only one of our threesome was crying as we headed out the door. That's a pretty good ratio for us . . .  and no I was not the one crying . . . this time . . . tee hee! But the best part of all this is that these activities, plus a ginormous indoor play structure, are only a fifteen minute walk from our house and are available every morning of the work week. Excuse me while I do a little dance. I am currently living in stay-at-home mom heaven, which leads me to think that there has to be more of us out there. I briefly chatted with a few mamas this morning, and I hope that by going more regularly we will make some new friends in no time. Because, let's be honest, that's the biggest downside to living here in Winnipeg right now, we are without our people, and it can get pretty lonely and boring without your people, even with so much cool stuff at your fingertips.

Harriet was so tired from all that playing that she fell asleep mid-sandwich . . . what a sweetie!

Last night we took Avery to his basketball class at the Y and let the babies play on the indoor playground. I thought Harriet would only climb to the top of these stairs and then stand around and watch all the kids whizzing by her. Leif tends to get into these mazes and stands there, looking all pathetic and cute until some little girl takes pity on him and comes along to guide him safely through. The funny thing is that it actually works! I tell ya' he might be our smartest wee Webster yet . . . Sorry, Baby Girl. But Harriet was having nothing to do with this helpless baby routine, and the minute she got up those stairs, she took off! I panicked and headed into the playground after her. She was on the third level by the time I caught up to her because I had to squirm through tiny holes and dodge kids coming at me from every direction, and those same kids would give Harriet a boost if she needed to get up to another platform. It was total mayhem in there, but I can see why kids love it. It is an adult-free zone, they get to make the rules and from what I could tell on the inside, they manage it quite well. It was neat to see how the older ones look out for the younger ones. It warmed my heart . . . after I had my fifteen month back in my arms . . . sheesh!

It really is a monstrosity!

Yep, all of this plus lots of outdoor playgrounds, a swimming pool, splash pads, all three levels of schools, restaurants and major shopping chains all within walking distance and I think you can see why I am quickly falling in love with our new neighbourhood. Winnipeg, despite your mosquitoes and your notoriously cold winters, I may actually be developing a crush on you.

Doing Hard Things

A couple of weeks ago, Harriet and I flew to Toronto to meet Zoe, whom we had not seen in three whole weeks, and helped her get settled into her new home at the University of Toronto. It was a fun, exhausting, expensive, and exciting weekend! When it was time to say goodbye to Zoe, I kissed her on the cheek and said:

Don't do anything stupid. There are lots of stupid things to get into in university. Don't do them! I love you, Baby Girl.

And then I pushed Harriet in her stroller, while lugging her carseat and our luggage, outside to the sidewalk, where I planned on calling a cab. I must have been a sight! I truly am a traveling gong show.

Anyhoo . . .

Once we got outside, I noticed a family also saying farewell to their daughter, and I was struck at how emotional the father became. He tried so hard to fight back the tears, but he lost the battle and had to walk away to try and compose himself. I almost cried for him. Then, it occurred to me that I never shed a tear when I left Zoe and the first words to pop out of my mouth were: "Don't do anything stupid".

What kind of mother am I? I am a monster.

My callous reaction really bothered me, and I thought about it the entire flight home. Sure, I felt a brief moment of panic when our plane took off and I saw how incredibly huge Toronto is:

Eeeek! I just left my Baby Girl amidst all those people all by herself.

But it was just a moment, and that feeling passed.

Seriously, how can I be so heartless? 

Then it came to me: leaving Zoe at the university of her dreams was not hard. Watching her endure a crippling disease like Colitis was hard. Sitting by her bedside nursing her while she healed from an extremely painful surgery was hard. Helping her manage an ileostomy bag, albeit only temporary, was hard, and helping her finish an entire year of school in only three months was extremely hard. So, no, saying goodbye to Zoe, who has been given an opportunity to live her life disease-free in a  big city she loves, studying what she loves, was not hard. We have done hard things, and this was not one of them.

Lately, a lot of people have asked me how I am doing. I am sure if you follow me here on the blog you know that my life has been one major shit show for the past year. I apologize for cursing (and I apologize for making you curse when you read that . . . just tell the Big Guy it was Krista's fault and He will understand completely), but as hard as I try, I cannot come up with a better description. Poop is just not strong enough to sum up all that we went through.

  Anyhoo . . . 

Since everyone keeps asking me how I am doing, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on that question.

How am I doing?

Well, to be honest, I think I am doing pretty, dang great (see . . .  I don't swear all the time. Only when I really have to), which makes no sense at all because I really should be curled up in the fetal position, rocking myself back and forth, back and forth, singing the Hokey Pokey, but I am not. I keep waiting for my impending breakdown, but it hasn't happened. I wake up each day, like I always have, tired and a little cranky, and I get to work.

What's the deal?

No, I am not smoking anything, and I am not a closet drinker; I just think I have learned how to do hard things. That's it. That's my big secret. I am stubborn, I do not back down from challenges, and I refuse to be beaten. I am determined to make this the best possible life for myself and my family, and I will not let a little thing like life get in my way. 

It also helps that I am just about as crazy as crazy comes.

. . . tee hee!

But seriously, if you think I can do hard things, this girl right here is the real fighter and my inspiration. No one else could have done what she did and managed to make it turn out exactly as she always dreamed.

I love you, Baby Girl, but like I said: "Please, don't do anything stupid"

. . . tee hee!

Monday, 19 September 2016

Just a Hop, Skip and a Jump Away

What do you think of the new title? After recently moving to Winnipeg, where there are no ferries in sight, I figured the blog needed a new name. And since I am desperately trying to convince myself that we really are not that far away, A Hop, Skip and Jump seems appropriate. Oh, and I finally added Harriet onto the blog header . . . only 15 months later . . . ooops . . . mama loves you, Harriet.

There have been lots of changes here at Shenanigans Inc. The OBG (original Baby Girl) is living in Toronto, attending the UofT, and loving every minute of college life. Even though she is far away, she makes her presence felt, and she is currently sending me angry messages about how much she hates the new blog header, hates how the title is laid out and is demanding I put more spaces between our pictures . . . insert eye roll here. But since I already caved on one of her wishes by adding the word "Away" to the end of the title even though I prefer "Just a Hop, Skip and a Jump", I am going to ignore her demands. So, I guess what I am saying is that even though we are living in a new house, in a new province, and without our favourite oldest daughter, life really hasn't changed much: Zoe is still running the show . . . .tee hee!

Anyhoo . . .

Life is good, and I feel tremendously blessed to be able to say that because for a long time it was just plain hard. The boys are making friends at school and are getting involved in different activities. Mr. Level-Headed comes home every night for supper and tries desperately to inject some level-headedness into our life that is nothing but one ginormous gong show, and I have finally recovered from the upheaval of moving seven people out of our home and getting them situated into two different provinces . . . phew! That was fun . . .NOT! And finally, the babies . . . our babies, who bring us to our knees, quite literally, a thousand times a day either out of sheer frustration and exhaustion or out of absolute adoration and love, are doing great. Leif has finally stopped begging to go back home, and he is currently watching the sky for the first snowfall  because he knows that after it snows, Christmas comes, and when it is Christmas, we are going home to see all of his people. He can't wait! Harriet is finally walking, and that has been a huge game-changer around here because she feels like she is one of the kids now and loves to play with them, leaving her mama free to actually get something done once and awhile. Also, ever since she started walking, Leif changed how he introduces her, and it is the cutest! Leif used to say:

This is Harriet. She is my baby sister.

whenever I would walk into the room after their nap, or someone would enter the house. Now, he goes:

This is Harriet. She is my baby sister and my best friend.

Seriously, it kills me every time he says it. And whenever he is playing, he now asks Harriet to join him.

Let's play with me, Harriet.

Too stinking cute. 

Yep, life is good right now, and I just pray it can stay that way for quite some time. Oh, and if you can think of a way I can convince my father that Winnipeg is actually the Canadian tropics so that he and my mom will move here, please share!

 . . .  tee hee!

It might work.