Casual Friday + On Birthday’s and Doing Things for the Last Time

  • I know it doesn’t need to be completed on any timeline but when the final months of the year start ticking by I get anxious to tackle our annual photobook. I’m now officially done up to October and it feels…great. Most years Blurb has a post-Christmas sale, which I always miss. I would LOVE to order this on New Years Eve (because I’m fun like that). We shall see.
  • We have some special plans to celebrate a birthday – #7 for a certain little boy in our household! On alternate years our kids get big (8-10ish friends) and small (1-3 friends) parties – this is the year for a “small” party. His request? To invite three neighbourhood friends for video games and cake and supper. So, basically like any other day minus the video games and cake! There is always a contingent of neighbourhood kids floating around our house…and it’s not infrequent someone stays for a meal.
  • The week involved domino structures. It was a fun activity – sort of. At least 75% of the time I accidently set off my domino arrangement prematurely which Levi found hilarious…and I found shockingly frustrating.
  • I did not get the downstairs artificial tree up yet. The last few years I’ve aimed to get it up in the family room before Levi’s birthday. I had the time, I just didn’t really feel ready to launch the Christmas decorations hoopla. Renos are finally in full swing (after about a month of delays; we’re just lucky our contractors came as I know many peope couldn’t get supplies or labour this year), and so I think I’m craving all the extra peace, quiet, and calm I can get. Update! The kids and I did this in an unexpected burst of holiday enthusiam. Plan it in and do it anyway, right? And a cheery, twinkly glow is our reward.
I bought this tree on clearance for $20 at Zellers just after getting married. It has cast a festive glow over our family every Christmas since. It’s a bit of a Charlie-Brown tree and every year it loses more and more of those flimsy, plastic needles…but I love it – especially laden with all the homemade ornaments from preschool days of yore.
  • Speaking of holiday enthusiasm – I just wrapped up my #SecretSantaMugSwap2021 gift and it’s ready for a trip across the country via Canada Post. A huge shout-out to San for organizing this very fun event.
  • This week we had homemade chicken noodle soup (delicious), walked to school in winter coats (brrr), read winter-themed picture books (cozy), sourced festive postage stamps for sending out our family photocards (whimsical), and bought pecan pies for Christmas dinner (yum). The holidays are coming, y’all.
Children picture books are one of my favourite things. Christmas is another of my favourite things. So I am elated when both interests collide. It is officially holiday book season in our house and I couldn’t be happier.
  • My oldest sister is currently en route to Ironman Cozumel. She will swim 3.8 km, she will bike 180 km, and then she will finish things off with a leisurely 42.2 km run. I, on the other hand, will try to make it up one hill without complaining. It really does blow my mind she can/will do this! I’m also very jealous of the warm weather – we had snow/flurries twice this week. #notreadyforwinter.

ON birthdays and LAST TIMEs

Coming home from the hospital.

This time of year holds a lot of memories for me. Seven years ago today I was scared. I was two days away from knowing the answer to a question that had haunted me for months. After a relatively normal pregnancy, we were shocked to learn at the mid-way point that our baby could be facing some serious health complications. The ensuing months were an exhausting haze of appointments and tears.

My whole body was literally shaking on our final drive to the hospital. I knew answers were coming soon and I wasn’t feeling ready. It was like a surreal dream – life was moving in slow motion while hurtling ahead at warp speed. It’s an experience unlike anything I’ve experienced before or since and I still have flashbacks to so many details from that 24-hour period; they come into sharpest relief as we near his birthday.

It’s been seven years since that morning when I found myself lying in the operating room praying the words of Philippians 4:4-7 over and over – even when my heart was full of fear – until I literally felt the peace of God which defied all understanding and human logic. And then the miracle and joy of life and health.

This time of year I also find myself reflecting on how fleeting life is. A vapour, the Bible says.

I spent time the other night looking at baby pictures; he looks impossibly small. It feels like forever ago and yesterday at the same time.

It can be a hard balance – living in the present while being mindful that life is short and we’re all a heartbeat away from a complete and utter transformation in our experience. And that, even in little things, there is always a last time.

As I had been musing on this very topic, Jenny mentioned a recent David Cain article titled The Last Time Always Happens Now where he writes “It turns out that ordinary days are full of experiences you expect will keep happening forever, and of course none of them will.” This same day I read Laura Vanderkam’s tragic reminder that life can change in an instant. And the central premise of the Oliver Burkeman book I recently finished – Four Thousand Weeks – is based around this idea.

Memento mori, indeed.

There was a last time I washed a baby bottle. There was a last time they sat in a stroller and high chair. There was a last time I stumbled through a middle-of-the-night-feeding and diaper change. There were last goodbyes at preschool and final nights in a pack-and-play. I don’t have the dates of any of these events recorded; I likely didn’t know it was the “last” time. Or, after years of strollers and diapers and bottles and preschool pickup, the end may have felt like a relief.

And it’s not that I miss diaper changes at 2 am, but I do miss what they represent. Those days are gone. There really is an end to all things.

Like when did our baby exchange plush coats with those universally heart-melting ears…

…for fashionable puffer coats with faux fur? In the blink of an eye.

Almost every time I pick him up, I wonder when I’ll do it for the last time. And there will be a “last” time. I wonder if I’ll recognize it as such? Somehow I doubt it, and that makes me sad.

I’ve talked about that odd sense of loss I can feel in the midst of joy (I tear up at this post) and the complicated wave of emotions I get watching them sleep at night. So I try to keep this notion of “last” times in mind, while treasuring (and capturing) the moments now, as I’m able, knowing that there is good stuff ahead, too.

Hopefully, someday, I’ll pick up their children* and the cycle will continue, as it does.

*And then I will hand my grandchildren back, head home and get a full night of sleep and allow my children to experience the wonder of middle-of-the-night wakings and diaper changes…

14 thoughts on “Casual Friday + On Birthday’s and Doing Things for the Last Time”

  1. This is beautiful. I’m fairly new to your blog so I don’t know the backstory of your son. But he looks beautiful and perfect- did he end up having any health issues?
    I’m going to read some of the posts you link to later (I’m at work and don’t want to be weeping right now- I get very emotional about these things!) Glad you liked the David Cain post- I notice he has a new one today but I haven’t checked it out yet.
    Love the Christmas festivities happening in your house! We will be decorating our tree in one week! And your tree is amazing. It’s funny, my kids don’t want their old preschool ornaments on the tree but I try to sneak them on anyway. Hee hee.
    Good luck to your sister! An Ironman.- incredible.

    1. He is practically perfect in every way. He was born without any of the health challenges we/the doctors thought might present at birth based on things detected on the ultrasounds!

      We do actually put another, larger tree upstairs, so this is our “extra” tree. At this point the kids still like to look at their old ornament creations, but the most sentimental items will show up in a few weeks when we put up the main tree. Beyond the two trees and a mantle swag, I don’t do much decorating for Christmas, so I like that they love/appreciate the trees so much.

      I know – the whole Ironman thing blows my mind!

  2. Oh, how the “last time” topic resonates with me… This morning, I gathered my kiddo on my lap because she was having a rough morning, and I held her and thought about how fleeting this time is, how I won’t know the last time she sits on my lap until it’s passed me by. Trying to hold onto how precious things are in the moment, without mourning them in advance, is something I struggle with.

    Happy birthday to your kiddo! I hope you are able to find space to deal with all the complicated and wonderful and conflicting feelings that come with a child’s birthday, especially one that brings back some painful memories.

  3. Oh gosh, worrying about a baby’s health during pregnancy is the absolute worst. I’ve been blessed with healthy babies, but I did have a massive blood clot at 34 weeks and that was very scary. I actually didn’t really understand how scary it was until later when my sister told me how awful things could have gone. My mom and sister are/were nurses so they have a different level of understanding about things like that than I do. So it was probably a blessing that I was kind of naive about things? Although from that point on, the whole OB office knew me as the girl with the blood clot – from receptionists to lab people to nurses! It is apparently very rare to get a blood clot and mine was massive (basically the entire length of my left thigh).

    We are approaching a season of lasts since our baby is turning 1 in 2 weeks. I don’t feel a sense of sadness about it now, but I am sure I will have delayed sadness? It’s tough when you don’t know that it’s the last time you are going to do something. So this is a good reminder to really try to appreciate this fleeting season of life, even though it’s really exhausting right now (the toddler was up 3 times w/ a bad dream, the baby was up crying for over an hour last night – I fear his ear infection has not been resolved w/ the meds he’s on….). But this, too, shall pass and I won’t be able to hold them in my lap or pick them up as easily.

    Happy birthday to your son, though! I love his low key birthday party! It really does not take much to make a child happy! I love that he has buddies in the neighborhood and that they are in and out of your house and sometimes stay for dinner. That sounds like the arrangement I had with my best friend growing up. It’s what I want for my kids, too, so I am glad there are kids around their age on the block! Paul has 2 buddies and there are a couple of babies close to Will’s age so hopefully he’ll have friends as he gets older!

    lastly, OMG – an ironman. That is a whole other level of craziness! I have ran 4 marathons and can’t imagine doing one of those after swimming AND biking. That takes so much dedication and a crazy level of fitness – and discipline. Congrats to your sister!! What a strong lady!

    1. Wow! What a terrifying pregnancy experience. One thing that I always think now – it really is a miracle every time a baby is born healthy and the mother remains in good health. Almost every single person I know has had some unforeseen challenge/danger/emergency related to their pregnancy or delivery. It is so sad to think of the generations before and all the loss and heartache that was so often associated with pregnancy/childbirth. And based on my experience, I’m so thankful for modern medicine – without it some very special ladies (and children) in my life wouldn’t be here today!

      We’re pretty low-key people. I’m an introvert and parties are…not my thing. Last year was bigger (but still at our place – a PJ’s and a movie party), but very minimal compared to some of the other parties my kids have been invited to.

      And yes. An Ironman is crazy! But also so cool. Not an aspiration of mine, but I live vicariously through her experience.

  4. Thank you for sharing that story. It really does make you think. The things about the last time. We take so many things for granted and once they are gone we realize how precious they have been. Isn’t it amazing that we often need to “loose” things before we appreciate them. How annoying some of the daily routines. It is such a gift to appreciate the little things. To be mindful. I love that you always think that the school walk may be the last time. Makes you enjoy it more, doesn’t it?

    I am glad to read your son is all happy and healthy. I can only imagine how scary those 24 hours must have been.

    Also I am always “surprised” about the culture of putting up Christmas trees around thanksgiving. I grew up with putting the tree up earliest Dec 23. Mainly to have it unfold itself so we could decorate in the morning of the 24th. in Germany we celebrate on Christmas Eve. I always love getting glimpses in everyones Christmas traditions. Looking forward reading more.

    1. I grew up in a family where we didn’t put the tree up until mid-December…I feel like here in the West, the celebrations just start earlier and earlier. Christmas is really the only holiday I invest much time in preparing for and as the nights are getting so dark and cold, I enjoy having the extra time to enjoy the warm glow of the lights.

      But this little tree is rather hidden out of the way in the basement, so it doesn’t feel like a focal point and doesn’t require us to move anything! I do love it though 🙂

  5. this is such a bittersweet post. I totally get this feeling some evenings. how time flies especially when living with kids, wanting to stop the clock, while at the same time have so many expectations about the future. it’s an opportunity to reflect what we have/live while looking forward to the near future.
    oh last time… my most memorable moments of last time involve breast feeding, in both occasions, I still remember them and knew at the time that I was doing it for the last time with them.

  6. First of all, happy birthday to your little guy and I am so glad all the health scares turned out to be nothing! I can only imagine the dread that you must have felt 7 years ago…. so it’s even more precious to see him grow up happy and healthy.

    I am superstoked that you decided to participate in the Secret Santa Mug Swap this year. I always love to do something nice for the holidays and putting a smile on someone else’s face is on the top of my list during the holiday season. My package is also ready to go out to its recipient this week 🙂

    I love your little tree btw and am glad you did decide to put it up. As Tobia mentioned, in Germany we usually don’t put up the tree until the day before Christmas (and keep it up well into January)… but I’ve kinda adapted to the American tradition to put it up right after Thanksgiving. Since we don’t have a live tree, we can enjoy it a little bit longer.

    I very much enjoyed Jenny’s post about the last time that we do things. It’s something that I think about often and that I am trying to be aware of, when I can, e.g. when we moved and we spent the last time in our house, or something like that (but obviously, often we won’t know that we’ll do something for the last time).

    1. I feel like the November decorating is just getting earlier and earlier…but I really like having the one small tree up in December – and then we’ll put a bigger one up on our main floor early-to-mid December.

      I think we’ll put up the mantle garland (artificial) today…and Abby is desperate to get a few Christmas knick-knacks up in her room, too! It’s rainy and windy, so that might be our after-school activity today.

  7. This idea of “the last time” has totally been on my mind for months, but I haven’t read 4000 weeks and I don’t know how it even got in my head! I so often think back to when my boys were little…my younger son would call his older brother “Brother” instead of by his name. IT WAS SO CUTE!!! He did it for years! In his cute little voice….and then, suddenly, he stopped. But I never noticed when! We used to wonder how long he would keep it up (I mean, he clearly knew his brother’s name and could talk just fine) but he would still always say, “Brother, come here!” etc. Kind of makes me sad to think about. It’s on my mind nowadays, as the boys will still yell for us at bedtime to go and “tuck them in”. They still like for us to sit or lay down, just for a couple minutes, and will still accept hugs and kisses. But I feel like our days are numbered on this…with technically a “teen” in the house already. All of the examples you listed about babies are so true too. When WAS the last time I changed a diaper?? I honestly don’t really remember the last time I nursed them. Crazy. I’ll have to put that book on my Christmas list…since SHU was reading it, I have seen it all over the place now! Seems like all of her blog readers must have picked it up. 🙂

    1. I know – the special words they use. Like for years one child called yogurt “Agoo” (we still sometimes call it that); another called dessert “ba-zert” and the library, “li-berry.” And then…they didn’t.

      I first heard of Four Thousand Weeks through a BBC article my husband sent me over the summer. I ordered the book from the library immediately…and got it right away so I think I must have been one of the first to pounce (usually I wait months for a popular book – sigh).

      I think I wrote in an earlier post – I didn’t necessarily like the writing style (for example, I like Laura Vanderkam, Gretchen Rubin, and James Clear’s styles better), but the takeaways have really stuck with me because they did feel unique. Definitely worth a read!

  8. Happy (belated) birthday to your kiddo! I’m so glad the predictions were proved wrong, and that he is healthy and happy. 🙂

    And, thank you (and Stephany!) for putting me on to Jenny’s blog. I receive the newsletter from Dave Radparvar and remember well that post on doing things for the last time. His newsletter is quite good, if you don’t subscribe already.

    Finally, so glad you got up the little tree. 🙂 A bit of light and joy in the day is never a bad thing.

    1. Thanks! He had a great time, overall.

      I do love the little tree. I’m itching to get the big tree up but I’m waiting a bit longer for more renovations to get wrapped up because I have horrible visions of the tree getting knocked over and that would be…terrible.

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