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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What the hell do I do now?

I'm sitting here in total silence. Nothing. No Max and Ruby playing in the background, no dog chasing Shayleen down the hallway while she giggles in delight. No yells outside the bathroom door earlier when I went in there, nothing. And it will be like this for hours. Today Shayleen started first grade, full days. Days full of silence and a lot of nothing for me. New friends, new teacher and lots of adventures for her. And the two boys? Nathanial starts high school today, grade 10. And my first baby, Mitchell, is off to his last year.

If you were to enter the house now you wouldn't hear silence, I have been sniffling and sporadically breaking into my ugly cry all morning. For better or worse, my life is defined by my kids. The night before my maternity leave was to end when we had Mitchell, I can remember curling into a fetal position beside his crib and calling Tim, who was away working at the time and hysterically crying. The woman I had picked to come babysit our baby just didn't seem good enough, I didn't want to leave my baby with her, and I was in a total panic. I don't remember exactly what Tim said, but I remember him just being soothing and saying that it was okay, we would work it out, I wouldn't go back to work. And for the majority of the last 17 years that's what we have done, I have stayed home with the kids to be here for them as much as possible. It doesn't work for everyone, and in those earlier years we really did without a lot of things and some years it felt like we barely made ends meet. But we did it. 

After moving out here to Fort McMurray, I did take some full time jobs those first two years. First so we could get a mortgage and then because I loved working for the local newspaper. But when we decided that it wasn't a good fit for our family, I was surprised at how happy the boys were that I would be home again to get them off to school and greet them when they came in the door. And then we decided to adopt Shayleen. In some ways the last five years we may have paid more attention to her in some ways. It felt like we had to make her stronger for when she would go out into the world, and with all the kids we wanted them to never doubt how much they are loved. 

So this morning, Mitchell and Nathanial kissed me good-bye and told me to not worry and to have some fun today. And then they got in the truck to drive themselves to school. Shortly after I buckled Shayleen into the car and drove her for her first day. On the way she reminded me that this was only temporary, as she wants to get on the bus. And then she hugged me and said, "See you after school mom." Tim and I always wanted them to grow up to be strong minded, and independent thinkers, but now that they are stepping away from us I just want to grab them and hold them close and keep them a little longer. 

When I was pregnant with Mitchell I kept a calendar and I marked off the days until he was due. In the back I wrote down some notes about milestones in his life, like first birthday, first year of school, and I also marked down that in 2014-15 he would be graduating and leaving home. And here I am, starting that year. I have always been one that has never taken my kids for granted, nor the time that I have been able to spend with them. They are my pride and joy. And while I am pretty sad this morning, I am so proud of them and the young people they have become. 

Tim, we did okay, it wasn't easy all the time, but I still thank you for always supporting my decision to stay home with our children. And thanks in advance for all the times you will have to listen to me weep this year as we prepare to watch Mitchell leave the nest and really go off to make his way in the world. 

I am a bit more emotional this morning because I am also thinking of our dear friends, Mel and Rick. Their son Drew was in a terrible car accident on the weekend and they are in Edmonton with him. When Shayleen first came to us, we didn't know how long she would be with us, but we fell in love right away. And then she was very sick and in the hospital in Edmonton. Many asked how I could leave my "real kids" to be with her down there, and some said I was becoming too attached. Not Mel. I remember her calling me late one night and totally dismissing me when I started justifying why I was there instead of home with the boys. "You are right where you need to be, that little girl needs you Verna, and you love her, so you need to be there for her or you wouldn't forgive yourself." Mel always got me...we moved West from Nova Scotia in the same year and while our sons had brought us together through their friendship, it was our connection that has grown and stayed strong. She is one of those friends that no matter how much time goes by we can still pick up right where we left off. She was the only person who drove all the way to Edmonton when Shayleen was in the hospital, on my birthday to see us. She is the ultimate mom, and my heart is breaking that she, Drew, Rick and her daughter Ally are all suffering now. So this morning, I would ask for your prayers for her family. I can't stop thinking of them all, and can't wait to see Mel later this week. I would give anything if she could be sending her kids off to school this morning like I am lucky enough to do. So for Mel, I will not wallow this morning, I will do what she would want, and I will make the best of the day, and I am thinking of all my "mom" friends, and I hope that you all have a wonderful day too. 

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