Wednesday, 27 June 2007


After about a month of Colin's incessant whining of "Uhhhnnnn" to try and get something he wants, I finally sat down one day and with much patience and persistence taught him the word "help". Amazingly, even though he has very few words that he consistently uses, this one he picked up immediately.

Now, from every corner of the apartment, we hear "Help? help? help? help? help?" Often I feel as though I've buried a little bit of his stubborness I admired so much. But "help" is infinitely better to hear than "Uhhnnn!" I hope that has he settles into this new word a little, he will find a balance between figuring things out on his own, and asking for help with something he needs us for.

The other day I was home alone with Colin and feeling particularly ill, and so while he was reading in his room, I was resting on the couch. The next thing I heard was a large object being dragged along the ground, a whole lot of huffing and puffing, and after a few seconds, the beginnings of a tantrum. I could hear Colin dragging whatever it was he wanted, stomping his feet, and screaming in frustration. Listening carefully, I could tell Colin was making his way out of his room and toward me, and so I waited in patience. Before long, I saw a struggling little head appear in the hallway as Colin lugged the large knapsack we use as a diaper bag/overnight bag for him. He yelled as he tugged and just as he came into my sight, he stopped in his tracks, whipped around to face me and in all innocence inquired "help?" It was priceless. It was as though the previous minutes of struggling had disappeared in that tiny word, so confident was he that I would be able to ease this burden.

A family wedding

James and I were blessed to be a part of his brother's wedding this past weekend. Sean married his girlfriend of 5 years, Julia, in a beautiful and very well planned ceremony and celebration. James was the best man, and as Julia's first "sister", I was also in the wedding party as a bridesmaid.

Standing in the church, across from James and listening to the words of the minister, I felt for the first time I was really listening to God's words on marriage. I don't know how it is for others, but I remember very little of what was actually said during our wedding ceremony. I know there were words of wisdom and passages of scripture, but most of the words are but whispers in my memory. But this time I stood and truly heard what has been written about love. I understood better the pure emotion it is, and how I should be trying to develop it, and what the potential of love really is. I realized that my own marriage will take an enormous amount of work to ensure it lasts, and much of this work must be done on my own as I develop the quality of love in myself. I heard each portion of this passage about love and reflected on how I am working to achieve each of these aspects.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.

Turtle on a Fencepost

"If you come across a turtle sitting on a fencepost, you can be sure of one thing - it didn't get there by itself."

I came across this humbling thought today and the imagery of it really stuck with me. I think of all the things I've done in my life, who I've become and the blessings I've been given, and I truly feel like a turtle on a fencepost. There is no way I got where I am today by myself. I know there are those who believe the earth exists today because everything just happened to align just right at the exact perfect moment. For me, in my life, it seems a bigger stretch to believe that all the elements just fell perfectly into place, rather than believe in a high power watching out for me.

So as I sit here on my fencepost, maybe feeling that I'm teetering a little and not quite sure how on earth I'll get to the next point of my life, I take comfort in knowing I don't have to get to the next post on my own.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Hide and Seek

Colin has a new game. He thinks it's great - us, not so much. He loves to hide just out of sight, usually when he's up to something he shouldn't be.

I told him it was time for us to to his bedroom to change into his pajamas. He ran and hid behind his stroller. He has the patience of Mother Theresa - he just stands there, breathing loudly, but perfectly still, probably thinking he's completely out of sight.

But my favourite had to be the other day. I can't for the life of me remember why, but I needed him to do something and off he ran, into my bedroom. Now, he is not allowed in my bedroom unsupervised because there are too many things for him to get into. And he is acutely aware of this fact. So I follow him into the bedroom, and as I turn the corner and peek in, I see his little head, impish grin stretching ear to ear, disappear behind the bed. He is crouching out of site, breathing loudly, waiting. I drop to my knees, crawl over to the bed and stick my head up just over the edge.

We wait. A long time.

He breaks first. Like a jack-in-the-box, he jumps to his feet, still grinning. He startles in surprise that I'm so close, then breaks out in a full laugh. He drops to the floor again, disappearing.

We play the game for a while until I finally grab him and get to what we were supposed to be doing.

I love these moments with Colin. Children truly bring out the child in all of us.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Life's Not Fair

I heard a thought-provoking idea this morning:

Ever think to yourself "life's not fair?" Well, you bet it isn't. I went to bed with a full stomach of my favourite meal while thousands died of hunger. I indulged in some television while single mothers trudged to a second job to make ends meet. I spoke with my mom while others cried in loneliness. I took the car out to run an errand, while some walked on cracked and bleeding feet miles to where they needed to go. I slept safe and secure in my bed while families around the world were being displaced. You bet life's not fair.

If life were fair, every time I exceeded the speed limit, I'd get a ticket. If life were fair, every time I cut corners, I would be penalized. Every time I didn't let someone in, someone wouldn't let me in. Every time I said something not-so-nice about someone, I would be cut by a disparaging remark also. Every time I didn't study for a test, I wouldn't pass. If life were fair, you'd never get to "catch a break".

Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good things happen to bad people. Life's not fair. But would you really want it to be?

If life were fair, life would be all about judgment, and there would be no mercy. Would you really want to live your life without the gift of mercy?

I'm thankful that life isn't fair.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

A House of Order

Will I ever be able to achieve a house and a life of order again? Lately I seem to be just managing to make it through one day at a time. Even my daily prayers reflect this desperation: Let me feel well; let me sleep tonight and wake well-rested; let Colin sleep tonight; let James travel home safely. My wider concern for family, friends, and world-issues seems to be waning. Long-term goals don't even flash across my mind in wishfulness. My calendar lies neglected in the bottom of my purse. I can barely remember what I'm supposed to do today, let alone tomorrow, later in the week or next. Gone are the weekly schedules, planned outings, daily trips, grocery lists, cleaning plans, and get-togethers. I sometimes have trouble remembering the month, never mind the date, or even the day of the week.

It's amazing how much your life is affected by illness. The old enthusiasm has faded. The loss becomes all the more evident when James comments on one of my good days "it's great to have you back."

I think that remark encapsulates how I'm feeling. I feel as though I'm staring down on myself with unfocused vision, and all I can do is reach out and hope to steady myself to keep me from slipping.

My appreciation for health has sky-rocketed. I know this state won't last forever (although November seems so far away!), and all I can do is be thankful for the insight I have and look forward to the day I will have some order restored.

Monday, 18 June 2007


As research for my upcoming media workshop for teens, I picked up a book called "Branded". Reading it has been nostalgic, scary, eye-opening, and a little bit hopeful. The author candidly discusses how marketing affects the teens of today.

One of the most impressive concepts she outlines is that teens are getting "older younger". For years I thought it must just have been my imagination. I was a teen less than eight years ago. It was hard to believe that in such a short time teens could be growing up so much faster. And yet, here in print, I found my observations validated. The author claims marketing is the number one suspect responsible for the crime.

I am aware of advertising. I am aware of the brand names that surround me. I use "Kleenex" (not tissues) and "Band-aids" (not adhesive bandages) and "Tylenol" (not acetaminophine). I remember the popular clothing brands my classmates wore. I even dabbled part time during university at an advertising agency. Half the people working in the industry had four-year university degrees that taught them how to effectively infiltrate our minds; the other half had street experience in understanding how we think. But this book was eye-opening, even for me.

Most-horrifying for me to read about was "peer-to-peer" marketing. Companies solicit the elite popular crowds in schools and shower them with branded gifts. Mostly girls, these teens act as free marketing tools by strutting these brands around school and inciting a frenzy that trickles down to the very "dregs" of unpopularity. We all know who the "in-crowd" was. We saw what they wore and what shows they watched and whether or not we had the means to imitate their lifestyle, we all ardently wished we could.

I never had the money to keep up with the affluent peers at my high school. University, a supposed bed for breeding individuality was no better. My classmates were mostly made up from the same affluent background as my high school friends were. I did my best with what I had, and was fortunate to be a part of the "grunge" years, when shopping at thrift stores was fashionable.

My mother never allowed fashion magazines to filter into our home (too dangerous, raising three teenage daughters - and thank goodness!), but I was aware of the perfection that graced the covers. I was not aware, however, of airbrushing, touch-ups, and the magic of photoshop. So I, too, fell into the trap of wishing I could be as tall, as thin, with eyes as wide and hair as perfect. Luckily for me, I could never manage to equate beauty with pain, and so mostly I did the best I could and let the rest slide. (I can't say I wasn't affected by it all, though. Just last week I felt a tiny thrill of joy when I read in a beauty magazine that fuller, more natural eyebrows are in style this summer. I've never plucked. And by chance I'm finally in style this season).

Even "anti-branding" is a marketing ploy. I imagine Dove's sales skyrocketed when they launched their new "natural beauty" campaign. Yes, we were finally seeing more average looking people in TV and print ads, and some of the model mystique was thrust under the spotlight, but those who bought into the product simply bought into another ad campaign.

I have two more weeks to prepare my workshop for the girls, and each day I'm realizing that eight years out of the teen life is a long time, and the pressure they feel is infinitely more than what I experienced. But I am now able to be more honest with myself and therefore will be able to be more honest with them. I think more than anything they need to hear that it's hard, and they won't make it through unscathed, but the morals they are trying to implement will come through one day.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

It will be a boy!

Today James, Colin and I went to see an ultrasound of our newest family member. Everything looked excellent, which was a relief. I know the ultrasound is usually an exciting event of pregnancy, but I was extremely nervous, both this time and last. I feel that until I actually see that everything is okay, things are up in the air. The ten minutes or so it takes for the technician to take all the photos feel like hours! I'm lying there, completely helpless, staring up into her face and desperately trying to discern from her facial expressions what is going on. She gave nothing away, which only compounded to my already frayed nerves.

But it all checked out great, and it was very clear that we are having a boy. Of course, we're not getting the baby's name put on anything before the birth, because you never know. However the technician seemed to have no doubt, it's a boy!

So all things going well, Caleb Gawthroupe will join our family around November 11!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Colin's first scraped knee

The temperature peaked above 30 degrees Celsius. The sun beat down, challenging any amount of lathered on sunscreen. Our air-conditioner-free apartment started to bake. It was time to pull out the sandals and shorts for Colin.

He often runs around our place in shorts, or even just a diaper, no problem. But he's always worn pants when I've taken him out, mostly due to cooler weather, but also to protect those beautiful smooth cream-coloured knees.

The sandals are new. He only ever wears one pair of shoes, but today it was just too hot for socks and shoes.

His outfit was adorable, with his beige ballcap, brightly coloured striped t-shirt, shorts too long (reaching just above the knees, but often falling below that), and little brown sandals.

The trouble started on the walk down the hall. The weight, size and feel of the shoes were new and were throwing him a little off balance. He kept glancing down to find his footing, racing ahead too fast and tripping over himself again.

We had to walk down 50 feet of cold, hard concrete sidewalk to get to the car. We had passed the halfway mark when it happened. One toe caught the other, and down he went. My hand shot out, too slow.

Colin scraped his knee.

He was down for only a moment when, encouraged by my words, he pushed himself back up to standing. He stared at me with wide eyes. I knelt down to inspect the damage, pulling back the ends of the shorts. There on his right knee the cream-coloured skin had been gently sraped away to reveal a small white patch (truly no bigger than a nickle).

I smothered a proud grin long enough to answer his outstretched arms by scooping him up into my own. There was no more fuss about it from either of us, but I document the moment here. I myself was a child of bumps and bruises and scrapes, and I know this will only be the beginning. I feel an extra kinship with my son today.

Moms raising sons

I caught an interesting interview with the co-author of a book about fathers raising daughters and mothers raising sons. I grew up with only sisters, and James grew up in a house of brothers, so it was a poignant conversation to catch. Neither of us have any experience of being in a house with siblings of the opposite sex.

The first gold nugget (and the one that hooked me into the program) was "God tailor-made our children for us." I have always believed that Colin was a part of our family before we came here, but I never considered that his complete make-up is exactly what I need to grow and learn as a woman and mother. These past few days I have viewed each challenge and each moment of joy in a new light. What is my little boy bringing to me? How am I growing for having interacted with him? Why is this a trial we need to go through together?

The second little jewel was "Boys are born to be challengers." Most often girls are content to sit and socialize, and even the active ones are hardwired with a need for communication. Boys are conquerors. They want to be strong. They need to go out and meet the world head on. They can't be saved from scraped knees and emotional topples. (Luckily, I myself also have a bit of the conqueror in me, and today I was even a little proud of Colin's first scraped knee.)

The advice given by the author was definitely food for thought. Boys innately love their mothers and are protective of them. However, they often don't see them as a 'woman'. She's just 'my mom'. This can often be why men will defend their mothers to the ground and in the next breath be so degrading to other women around them. Mothers need to teach their sons about respect for all women. Teach them table manners, and to open the door. Teach them to listen and to intelligently converse with women. Speaking as a woman, I can definitely report that chivalry is not dead, and there is nothing a woman appreciates more than being made to feel special.

It was an enlightening interview that cast a bright light on my hope of raising my children. I'm currently reading about the marketing traps set for children and teens, and amid the horror of it all, I needed to be reminded that I still can be the biggest influence in my children's lives. It was a bright ray of sunshine I truly needed.

Booster shots

Colin got his last booster shot today...he giggled through the entire process. Something about getting needles tickles him! Go figure.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Sometimes you just have to laugh

My dear little boy has taken to walking around wearing other people's shoes - most often my own heels!

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

The good old standards

I've mentioned before how much Colin enjoys "reading". We have a mountain of books - new and old, board books, interactive books, picture books and word books. We have many of those new ones designed to sustain a toddler's attention, with flaps and bright colours and activities. However Colin's favourite book is one written and first published almost 70 years ago! "Pat the Bunny", or known affectionately here as "Pa!", is a book that is enjoyed daily, multiple times. The drawings and colours are simple, and the activities very basic. And yet for some reason it this is oldy-but-goody that has captured Colin. I love that Colin is drawn to this book, because it reminds me that we don't need to flood our house with flashy things.

I think it says so much about consumerism and the products of our day and of yesterday. I could jump on a tirade here, but I'll hold back and let you consider the thoughts in relation to your own life.

(Colin, forgive us those days when the book mysteriously disappears!)

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Behaviour vs. Temperament

I've been learning an interesting lesson this week on the differences between behaviour and temperament - and I'm sure glad I picked this up now and not in another six months. I'm classifying behaviour as something learned, a habit picked up. Temperament, rather, is part of the innate personality. Where behaviour can be disciplined and rewarded, temperament needs careful checking and overcoming, although it will always lie there, deep inside. "Little Women" is one of my favourite books, and in it Mrs. March and her daughter Jo discuss a little bit about parts of their temperament. Mrs. March reveals that she has an awful habit of flying off the handle when her emotions rise, and she lets them get the better of her. Jo remarks that she has never seen this side of her mother, and Mrs. March confides that those moments when she slips out of a room quietly, or presses her lips together, she is battling that very temper. Although after years of careful practice this part of her rarely seeps out, it still lies dormant inside.

Lately Colin has taken to displaying his impatient side more often. He is a brilliant toddler who picks things up after only seeing them done once, but he is easily frustrated by his lack of ability to complete more difficult things. He also screams and yells when he isn't getting what he wants. I know that some might observe him and comment "what a terribly behaved little boy" - but he can't help these innate characteristics right now. As he grows we'll have to work with him on them, but being only 18 months, we can't expect too much from him.

A perfect example of this personality is evident in a story I will always remember, of when he was only a day old. Everyone had left the hospital and it was just Colin and me, settling down for his first night. Then, all of a sudden, he started to cry - scream, really. No amount of feeding, rocking or singing would calm him. The nurses couldn't figure out why he went on and on, for hours. Tired and needing to use the bathroom, I finally laid him down in his crib and stepped into the bathroom for a minute. Within a minute, there was silence. After the initial panic passed, I rushed to the crib and found him sleeping peacefully. I was completely puzzled, until I my foot stepped on something on the floor, beside the bed. It was his little ankle identity bracelet. His poor little foot was red from scratching where it had bothered him. Somehow in the minute I was away, he had managed to wiggle his way out of the anklet and toss it out onto the floor! The nurses were astonished - they had never seen a baby able to do that before! But that was my little persistent, brilliant and frustrated child.