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For James On His Birthday

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To my darling son James,

Nine years ago today, you finally decided to leave the comfort of the womb and join us in the world. You were a week overdue: either you were very comfortable where you were, or you figured that we would need an extra week of quiet before the adventure began.

The day of your birth was incredible, filled with little moments that I will never forget – like the little kid in the hospital coffee shop who was convinced that I was Santa Claus. You can’t blame him: it was Christmas morning and I had a massive belly and a Santa hat. The best moment of all, though, was when you came flying into the world like a cannonball, screaming in outrage. There was never any doubt that you had a very healthy pair of lungs and an abundance of energy.

Since that day, you have filled our lives with a very special kind of magic. You are never afraid to explore and discover not only what is in the world, but what is within yourself. Your massive imagination takes all of us on weird and wonderful journeys, and the front of my fridge is covered with your fabulous artwork. Your creativity combined with your love of animals has given us a zoo of animals that have been lovingly crafted by you. As I write this, you are transforming ordinary cardboard into a set of Wild Kratts creature power disks.

You have the biggest heart of anyone I know. You are one of life’s true givers who experiences absolute joy through the act of making other people happy. Every single day, I am on the receiving end of your spontaneous hugs and little handmade gifts and notes. I see the kindnesses you extend to your friends without even having to think about it. Being a caring person is so much a part of who you are that your school gave you an award for empathy.

The love that you have for your brother is genuine and complete. You do not take anything for yourself without first making sure George has something too. If George’s autism is making things difficult for him, you calmly and patiently do whatever you can to soothe and comfort him. You play with him, you share with him, you protect him. You take care of him so beautifully, and yet you think of him as your hero.

I know that sometimes I cannot keep up with your boundless energy and your constant chatter. But I absolutely love that those things are a part of your character, and I would not change a single thing about you.

I love you, and it is a joy and an honour to be your mom.

Happy birthday.

Lots of love,
Mommy

 

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A Birthday Message To My Son

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To my darling George,

As you go through life, you will hear many people saying that they don’t know what the meaning of life is. What is the purpose behind it all? Why are we on this earth and what are we supposed to accomplish?

Eleven years ago today, I found out the answer, and it is not something that can be put into words. It is something that can only be understood from looking into the eyes of your newborn child as you contemplate the enormous responsibility of creating a life.

Your birth – all 21 hours of it – was an anxious time for me. I had never done this before, and I really didn’t know what to expect. It took me several hours to recognize my labour pains for what they were. I suppose my frantic nesting activities that day should have been a clue. I was almost manic with activity as I flitted from one task to the next, vacuuming, doing laundry, reorganizing the fridge, cleaning windows – all while each pain radiating from the centre of my being brought you one step closer to me.

And then, that magical moment arrived. I lay spent on a hospital bed as your first cries filled the room. You were placed into my arms, and as I felt the warmth of your tiny little body, the thought struck me: “This is it. I’m a mom.”

That day feels like it was five minutes ago and a lifetime ago. Sometimes I look at you and think about how far you’ve come, how tall you are, how you are starting to make the mysterious transition from boy to man. And other times, when you come to me in need of comfort or a hug, when you try to curl your lanky self onto my lap, I look at you and see my baby.

Life with you has been an adventure. You have not followed the same path as most kids. There have been many times when we have had to stray from the beaten track and take the scenic route. The scenic route may take longer and have more obstacles, but it allows us to look at life from a different angle, and when we arrive at our destination, the sense of victory is like nothing else on earth.

I keep hearing about how challenging it is to be the mother of a child who is different. And yes, the challenges are real and cannot be denied. But the truth is that above everything else, being your mother is an honour and a privilege. You, along with your brother, represent what life is all about. Every day, you teach me something new about the things that are really important – love, determination, perseverance, togetherness, family.

You are my heart and soul.

Happy birthday, my son. I look forward to another year of discovery and adventure as you start your next rotation around the sun.

I love you forever,

Mom

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Merry Christmas And Happy Birthday

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Once upon a time, on Christmas Day, a child was born.

No, this is not a story about Jesus. Apparently, historians haven’t been able to determine exactly when Jesus was born. We just celebrate his birth on Christmas Day because it was a popular day for pagan celebrations.

The baby in my story, who was actually born on Christmas Day, is none other than my younger son James. After keeping me waiting for more than a week past his due date, he came flying out like a cannonball eight Christmases ago, and he hasn’t stopped since. Maybe he can’t walk on water or turn water into wine, but he has definitely added a special kind of energy and excitement to my life.

He has also made birthday celebrations a little challenging, simply because of the day on which he chose to make his very loud arrival. On the one hand, we feel that we need to separate his birthday from Christmas, so that his birthday can get the attention it deserves. On the other hand, we want to celebrate his birthday on the actual day of his birthday.

Over the years, we’ve gotten better and better at this birthday-on-Christmas thing. We divide Christmas Day in half and do Christmas stuff in the morning. Then we have lunch, and from that point the rest of the day is devoted to James’s birthday. We give him birthday presents and have cake, just the four of us.

The full-on birthday parties that include James’s friends have, until now, happened in early December. This year, I decided to change the formula and have the party in January, after the actual birthday. And that is how, three days ago, I had a house full of energetic boys.

The party was a resounding success. For most things, I took the easy way out: pizza and chips for lunch, and disposable dishes so I wouldn’t have to spend all night washing up. I invited the kids’ respite worker – a 17-year-old boy who the kids absolutely adore – to come and run the activities. I got a pinata and some prizes, and goodie bags for all of the guests.

As I do every year, I worked very hard on the cake. For both of the boys, I do theme cakes based on whatever they are into. George has had Bob the Builder, Mr. Potato Head and Spongebob Squarepants. James has had Thomas the Train, Lightning McQueen and Ben Ten. This time round, it was a Beyblade cake. I was up until midnight the night before the party, mixing icing of different colours and meticulously drawing out the design on the cake. I looked like a mad scientist, with my hair all wild and bowls of red and blue and grey icing surrounding me.

The end result was pretty much what you would expect from someone who knows squat about decorating cakes, but I was pleased with it. More important, James’s face lit up in delight when he saw it, and his friends were saying Oooooooooh! and Cool! The cake was clearly and instantly recognisable as a Beyblade cake, and that was really all that mattered to me.

That and the fact that the kids had an amazing time. We had just the right number of kids, and the activities flowed at just the right pace. Even George, whose autism frequently makes him retreat from things like this, was happy to be among all of the kids, even if he didn’t actively participate in a lot of the proceedings.

The birthday boy was happy, and he felt that he got the birthday he deserved.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

 

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My Birthday Race: Tannenbaum 10K

Photo credit: Rob Tripp

Photo credit: Rob Tripp

When I sat down at the beginning of 2013 to plan this year’s race calendar, there were three or four races that I knew I had to include. The Tannenbaum 10K was one of them. I ran this race in 2012 (in the pouring rain, I might add), and had a fantastic time. Also, this year’s race was going to happen on my 44th birthday. Anyone who’s a runner will know there is no better way to spend a birthday than by running a race.

I stalked the race website throughout the year, and about five minutes after seeing the announcement that registrations had opened, I was signed up. I sent an email to the race director asking if I could please, pretty please, have bib number 44. He replied on the same day, promising to try. When I went to pick up my race kit on the eve of the race, I was delighted to see that I had, in fact, been given bib 44. I was also given a race kit with some nice goodies, including a super-cool winter hat that has already become an essential part of my winter wardrobe. I never leave the house without it.

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Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle

On the morning of the race, I found a parking spot (a free parking spot!) about a minute’s walk from the start line. This, along with the gorgeous winter weather, boded well. I went to check my bag and ran into my friend Phaedra. We chatted for a while, then it was time to check my bag and line up at the start line.

I got off to as good a start as I could. I started far back in the pack and got caught behind slower runners (a deliberate tactic to avoid starting too fast). During the first kilometre, my dollar store earbuds gave up the ghost. I didn’t have a spare pair of earbuds with me, so I had to run the race without music. I realised that I have become far too dependent on music for setting my pace, because I struggled to find my rhythm after that.

In spite of this, I managed to keep a reasonably consistent pace, and I didn’t do too badly running up the Spit. Usually I hate running up the Spit. I find it lonely and soul-destroying. However, the race only took us a short distance up the Spit and back. At the 5K turnaround point I sped up a little, knowing that I was now heading back the way I had come. A wave of exhaustion hit me somewhere around the 7K mark, but I forced myself on, telling myself that I only had about 20 minutes left.

I crossed the finish line in a little over 1:04:00 – not my best time, but well within what I was hoping for. I collected my finisher’s medal, and then went to get a post-race snack. Instead of the usual bananas and bagels, there were these sinfully delicious scone-pastry type things. They were so good that I had two of them.

 

Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle

Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle

I met up with Phaedra again, and we headed to the awards presentation area. Not only was Phaedra the first Masters woman over the finish line, she broke the women’s Masters course record. She collected her award, and I picked up a draw prize (a hat and a voucher for a Road ID, which is already on its way to me).

Just like last year, I found this event to be well-organised and festive. There was a community spirit that sometimes gets lost in the larger events. And the cause – giving Christmas to families who cannot afford it – is absolutely fantastic. After two years of running this race, I can say with confidence that it has earned a permanent spot on my annual race calendar.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle.

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The First Decade

Today my son George is ten years old. There are no words to say how I feel, so I made this video instead.

A Decade Of George

This is an original video created by Kirsten Doyle. Music written and produced by Eric VonHunnius.

 

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Giving Away My Birthday

My 40th birthday

During the weeks leading up to my 40th birthday, I had a bit of a freak-out. It was the first year that I was really bothered by the idea of getting older. I has this sense of life having passed me by, and I started to regret wasted time, lost opportunities and mis-spent youth.

As it happened, turning 40 worked out really well for me. A few days after my birthday that year, I officially became a Canadian citizen. Approximately five minutes later, my now-husband got down on one knee and proposed to me, right there in front of the citizenship judge and about 100 fellow new Canadians. I went on to have one of the best years of my life – albeit one fraught with the stress of wedding planning.

With all of that excitement behind me, I am now at an age where my birthdays aren’t really a big deal. All they do, along with the increasing number of grey hairs on my head, is remind me that I’m getting older. So I am quite happy to give my birthday away to someone who can make the most of it.

This Saturday, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

My younger son James was born on Christmas Day, and in some ways that’s a bit of a rough deal, and we have to work very hard to make sure his birthday gets the recognition it deserves. We have his birthday parties a couple of weeks before Christmas, before everyone is sick to teeth of going to parties. This Saturday happened to be the best day for it this year, and by happy coincidence, that happens to be my birthday.

Someone asked me if I didn’t mind giving up my birthday to host a children’s party. My answer is that although I’m giving away my birthday, I am celebrating it in the best way possible, giving my boy the birthday party he deserves.

I cannot wait. It’s going to be the best birthday ever.

(Photo credit: Gerard Doyle)

 

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There Are No Words

There are no words to describe the anxiety of enduring a pregnancy right after a second-trimester loss. What if it happens again? What if I lose this baby too? Will I ever experience the joy of motherhood?

Every little twitch and twinge was a cause for concern. The baby isn’t moving enough. The baby is moving too much. What does that look on the ultrasound tech’s face mean? Is it concern or detached professionalism?

There are no words to describe the gut-wrenching agony of labour, and the bone-chilling fear of seeing your soon-to-be-born child’s heart rate take a momentary nosedive. You’re so close, baby. You’ve made it so far, baby. You can do it. Find your way into this world.

There are no words to describe the welling-up of emotion as you lie spent on the delivery table, hearing your baby cry for the first time as the doctor congratulates you on your brand new son. He’s here. He’s alive. I am a mother.

There are no words to describe how it feels to hold your newborn baby in your arms for the first time. He’s beautiful. He’s fragile. I have been entrusted with the most precious gift anyone could ever have.

There are no words to describe the joy and pride of watching your baby become a toddler, and then a child, and then a taller child. Adventure. Laughter. Bittersweet. Love. Exploding-heart happiness.

Maybe there are some words. But not nearly enough.

Happy ninth birthday to George. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being you. I will love you forever, all the way past the stars and the moon and the universe.

(Photo credit. Kirsten Doyle)

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Blog Beginnings: A Funny Guy Made Me Do It

Tim "Red Barren" Carter, who gave me the idea for my blog

Two years ago today, my blog was born. When I wrote my first post, I didn’t really give much thought to where it would all lead me. I wouldn’t have even started the blog if I hadn’t been pushed into it.

Here’s what happened:

Over a decade ago, a super-cool dude by the name of Bruce started a super-cool ezine called Really Good Quotes, and I was one of the original subscribers. In the early days of the ezine, Bruce did everything himself: the research, the writing, the sourcing of quotes, and the compilation of the issues. Five days a week he did this.

After a while, Bruce realized that it would be nice to have a life, so he cut back from five days a week to three, and he started enlisting help. He recruited a couple of writers and asked me to be the editor. And so it became my responsibility to collect everyone’s submissions and format them into something resembling a respectable ezine. When I’d been doing this for about a year, Bruce offered me my own column. I handed off the editing responsibilities to a guy named Cliff, who does it far better than I did (and writes an awesome column to boot), and I started focusing my attention on writing.

Through this whole process, I became friends with the other writers on the ezine. We were a close-knit little group from the start and our friendships started to extend beyond the bounds of Really Good Quotes. One of my fellow writers – a guy who, sadly, is no longer with us – was called Tim. Tim had a heart the size of Texas and he was an amazingly funny guy. He was also a technogeek, so in addition to being a friend, he became my unofficial tech support person.

It was Tim who got me into writing outside of Really Good Quotes. My older son’s autism diagnosis came when I was in the midst of post-partum depression, and I felt myself buckling under the weight of everything. Tim contacted me during this dreadful time and told me that perhaps I needed an additional forum for my writing.  He offered me a space on his website where I could write whenever I wanted. There was no requirement to post, there was no pressure and no expectation. I simply had a place to go when I needed to vent.

One day more than a year later, Tim told me I needed to spread my wings. He wasn’t booting me off his site, and in fact he wanted me to stay and continue posting, but he felt that my writing was good enough to warrant a wider audience. He encouraged me to sign up with one of the well-known blogging platforms that came complete with a large community of bloggers. At first I was resistant to the idea. It sounded like more hard work than I was in the mood for.

Tim’s idea would turn out to be a bug that, once planted in my mind, kept nagging at me. After a couple of months, I thought, What the hell? I signed up, and here I am, celebrating my blog’s second birthday.

Many things have happened since then, both in my blog and in the broader context of my life. I have seen all kinds of growth in my kids, I have watched my son beat out all of the doctor’s predictions, and I have done some growing up myself. I have run all kinds of races and beat my own personal best times. I have voted for the first time as a Canadian citizen, I have tied the knot with my long-time partner and I have taken on extra responsibilities at work.

As far as my writing goes, I still write for Really Good Quotes. I am also a writer and scheduling editor for World Moms Blog and I participate regularly in the Indie Ink writing challenges. I have been invited to participate in the Health Activists Writers Month Challenge which runs in April. I have been voted as one of the Top 25 Canadian Mom Blogs. And very soon, my website will be going through an overhaul. I am excited at the prospect of launching a new look to showcase my writing.

I feel like I am entering a whole new phase and I cannot wait to see where it brings me.

Happy 2nd birthday, blog!

(Photo used with the kind permission of Kristen Carter)

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Remembering the Captain

Captain Snuggles would have been one year old today. His mom, Amy, should be wiping birthday cake off a sticky face and cursing about how difficult it can be to get new toys out of packaging these days. Instead, she is going to the cemetery to visit a tiny grave.

Amy, if you’re reading this, my thoughts are with you today. I am sending you love and hugs, and wishing for a day of peace for you.

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Remembering the Captain

Captain Snuggles would have been one year old today. His mom, Amy, should be wiping birthday cake off a sticky face and cursing about how difficult it can be to get new toys out of packaging these days. Instead, she is going to the cemetery to visit a tiny grave.

Amy, if you’re reading this, my thoughts are with you today. I am sending you love and hugs, and wishing for a day of peace for you.