Saturday, 29 December 2007

Best Friends

(Overheard by Mommy and Daddy)

Caleb lies on the floor, cooing softly. Colin enters, sees his brother, and lies down opposite him. Colin gently strokes Caleb's chest, staring into his eyes. After a minute, Colin shares his thoughts:

Colin: Best friend, Caleb? Okay.


Well, we made it. We survived, what I affectionately call, the "four days of Christmas". We are blessed to have many members of our close and extended family nearby, which means that we have a Christmas celebration every day from the 23rd to the 26th of December. I even hosted my first Christmas this year when James' family came in from London. (And yes, my first turkey was a success!)

What was a little wild, however, was the sheer amount of stuff we acquired this year! All given with good intentions, it became a little much for our little guy. We forget that with that many days in a row of relatives, visiting, food, treats and presents, it can become tiring and overwhelming for anyone, and especially for a two-year-old.

As I dropped the bags of opened gifts in our playroom, I wondered if the true meaning of Christmas might be getting lost for Colin. We love and appreciate everyone's gifts - I could see the joy in their eyes as Colin opened something they had lovingly picked out for him. However as I sat there surrounded by so many new toys, I wondered how I could get through the materialism aspect and reach Colin about why giving is so important this time of year.

Then it hit me. It didn't necessarily matter that Colin was receiving so much, as long as it was balanced with him giving as well. So yesterday after his nap, we sat in the playroom and chose some of his toys to give to children who don't have any. It took a few of my own selections before Colin got the hang of it, but then we went through his buckets together as he chose a few of his toys to send along the way. We talked about how lucky he was to have so many clothes, toys, and enough food to eat and a warm house to live in. We talked about how other little children don't have all that we are blessed to have, and how Jesus has asked us to do what we can to help them. So especially at Christmastime, we needed to give what we could.

I'm not sure how much of it all will stick, and I pray that in a few days Colin won't be upset when he can't find some of his older toys, but as a parent, I'm just trying each day to fulfil my responsibility in teaching and raising my precious boys.

There is a beautiful lullaby that I sing, which reminds me that my children are not gifts, but a precious loan from my Father in Heaven. Though the task might seem daunting at times, I'm working hard every day as I help to direct those I have been entrusted with on this journey called life.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

The New Trivial Pursuit

James and I love to play board games, and our favourite by far is Trivial Pursuit. We've been playing the original Genus edition for years, even though there are countless other card refills and versions that have been released. Last year, finding we were starting to hear the same questions over and over again, we decided to invest in version six, to give us some new cards.

Last night we pulled it out again, and realized why we hadn't played it again since last year. The questions were beyond obscure and impossibly hard! These weren't general knowledge, they were specific trivia written by extreme geeks who had studied that subject exclusively for an entire lifetime!

But from this unfortunate event was born "the new" trivial pursuit. We decided to create our own questions, sort of a party mixer version. We asked questions about ourselves, such as "What were the solo songs I sang in "Man of La Mancha" or "What school sports teams did I play on?" We had such a great time, both thinking of questions about ourselves and answering questions about our spouse. The questions are divided by categories, such as "People and Places", "Science and Nature", or "Arts and Entertainment", and we made sure to devise questions within each category.

This game receives 5 stars out of 5 from us, and comes highly recommended for good friends and spouses everywhere!

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

"Happy Birthday Chocolate Cake"

Earlier this month, I made a delicious chocolate cake for Colin's birthday party. He thought it was just the best thing he'd ever seen. Every few days after that, he'd sing to himself the line "Happy Birthday to you" followed immediately by the question "Chocolate cake?" After the first week it evolved simply into "Happy birthday chocolate cake?" We gently explained to him that the cake had been a special treat for him on his birthday, and that no, we wouldn't be having it every week.

Yesterday (Christmas Day), we explained to Colin the reason we were celebrating this holiday, that it was to remember the day Jesus had been born. It was Jesus' birthday. Not too long after, Colin looked up at me and asked "Happy birthday chocolate cake?" Without thinking I absent-mindedly started to say "no honey, not today..." then realized in fact he had been processing the idea that today was Jesus' birthday, and indeed it did warrant some chocolate cake.

And so last night, after returning from our drive to look at the neighbourhood Christmas lights, Colin and I made another yummy chocolate cake. We watched a short five-minute film on the birth of Jesus, and then sang him happy birthday, blew out the candle and enjoyed the decadent dessert.

I love the innocence of my children. I love their matter-of-fact way of looking at the world. I love their logic. I love how much I can learn from them. I love that we made "Happy Birthday Chocolate cake" and I think last night a new Gawthroupe family tradition was born.

Letting our kids learn

I rarely do this, but I read something that was eye-opening to me as a parent. Here are a few sections from an article titled "We Let Them Learn" by Laverd and Flora John:

"During our early years as parents, we behaved as if our children had been born to us - to have, to hold, and to mold. It was so easy to tell them what to say and do, and if our directions were correct, we shared part of the credit for their successes. Eventually, we learned that pushing them - "do your homework," "clean your room," "do the dishes" and so on - generated feelings of resentment and resistance.

"The day our family home evening lesson included the scripture "let every man learn his duty", our eyes were opened, and our approach changed. To let them learn, we had to acknowledge that our children had been born through us with agency and the potential to unfold...

"So we began arranging situations for our children where they could unfold on their own....

"The let them learn concept helped us when Rose Marie, our 11-year-old, asked, "Do I have to go to church today?" Our first impulse was to say, "Yes, you do!" But we quickly regained control and let her learn by saying, "We can't answer that question." "Why can't you?" she asked. "If we say you have to go, you may go, but with a negative attitude toward learning. If we say you don't have to go, you may stay home, and then the responsibility is ours. We lose either way. So you will have to decide whther or not to go." She pleaded: "Then can you tell me why you're going? I don't understand why it's important to go"...

"We savored every experience as we let our children learn the warm feelings of satisfaction and the unbelievable blessings that come from keeping the Sabbath day holy, paying tithing, budgeting money, cooking meals, cleaning the house, keeping the yard in good shape, and belonging to a supportive eternal family."

Friday, 21 December 2007

Soups on!

Just before I got pregnant, I had planned a project to take on the world of homemade soups. I love soup. I love the comfort it provides on a hot day. I love the lightness of it for dinner. I love the wide variety of soups out there. However, I can't stand most store-bought soups. They are watery, tinny, or chalk full of sodium. And so I wanted to start making and freezing my own supply of homemade soups.

Then I got pregnant, sick, and then became a new mom again, and so the project was left on the back burner. But it's time to light the fire again. (Sorry for the terrible analogies!)

I've had three tries, and I can humbly admit, three excellent successes. The first was chicken noodle. We were all under the weather and wanted nothing more than the imaginary healing powers of chicken noodle soup. However we found the cupboard bare of this essential item. So mustering the strength that I had, I rummaged through our food and pulled out some chicken stock, pasta, a chicken breast and whatever leftover veggies I could find. Into a pot it all went, along with a little flour to thicken it up, and I left it to simmer. The result was a masterpiece!

The second and third attempts were from recipes, and both quite similar. One was a spiced carrot soup and the other was sweet potato soup. Both were spiced with cinnamon and ginger, and once again, both were a hit. A little bit of vanilla yogurt or sour cream added the final touch.

So I'm on the lookout now for easy homemade soup recipes. And when I say easy, I mean less than ten ingredients, made mostly from stuff that's usually around the house and cooked by throwing it all in a pot, letting it simmer, and then throwing it in a blender before serving (if necessary). Feel free to pass along any of your favs, or ask me for mine.

This project has certainly been a success. My plan for freezing leftovers hasn't amounted to much because the soups rarely last more than a day or two!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Is that silence I hear?

Well, there is the drone of the baby swing in the background, but otherwise, yes - it is silence! I am treasuring the few minutes I have been granted today. Colin is sleeping, and Caleb is lying content (content???!!!) in his swing, allowing me time to hear the thoughts in my head!

Lately I have been on the edge of insanity. Caleb has, what most call, an awful case of colic. He has one "long" sleep every 24 hours, and that only lasts 2.5 - 3 hours at most. Luckily it comes between midnight and four am, so at least I'm getting a little sleep. Otherwise he generally needs to be held upright to provide him some relief from whatever gastrointestinal problems are weighing his little body down.

Colin is taking the terrible twos to a new level. I have never subscribed to the "let him cry it out", but if I try to comfort him he only pushes me away and continues to scream at a level my ears have never been exposed to before. The other day he screamed for a full hour at the front door after James left for work.

But I just put Colin down for a nap, and as he clung for dear life around my neck while I sang him a few lullabies, I breathed in the scent of his hair and felt his warm cheek against my face. These are moments that will soon be gone and I can never have back with him. Before long he'll be too old to be held by his sentimental mother and I'll only have these times in my memory. It's almost enough to make me head back upstairs, wake him up and hold him a little longer. Almost.

And even though my heart aches that I cannot ease Caleb's pain, and my head hurts from his screaming, I know the next two years will fly by in a flash, and the two after that, and then two more...I don't know that in a house of boys I'll ever get much silence, but I'm learning to appreciate the noise filling it up.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

In the Meantime

I sometimes wish I could peer in a window to other mothers' homes, just to see if they struggle as much as I do. Lately it seems as though nothing is getting done - I'm just in survival mode from one day to the next - or one minute to the next. My newborn eats every hour and a half and rarely sleeps more than half an hour at a time. While not sleeping or eating, he is usually crying if I'm not holding him. My two-year old is really trying out what it means to be a "terrible two". Today he threw a fit at my friends house as we were getting ready to go, refusing to put on his boots or jacket, and ended up being carried upside-down, boot-less, coat-less and screaming to the car. I can't seem too keep things off the floor, let alone get any cleaning done. And this is a 24 hour job I've signed up for.

I know how important being a mother is. I know that being home with my kids is the best thing I can do for them. I'm so thankful I'm able to be here for them whenever they need me. And as my list of "things I need to do but will never get done" grows infinitely, I try to remember a song a heard a few years back.

In the Meantime
In her heart she holds the dreams
She's carried since the day she turned 13
Of all that she would be when she was grown
Of all that she would do when she was finally on her own
She dreamed she'd fly
She's still waiting for the chance to try

But in the meantime she's a mother and a daughter and a wife
Doing all she can to stay above the daily grind
And she wonders when she'll ever have more meaning in her life
She doesn't know she's being molded and refined
In the meantime.

Someday she'll go back to school
When the carpools and the soccer games are through
'Cause deep inside she's still the girl
Who's always felt the fire to make a difference in the world
She dreams she'll soar
When she finally has the time to do more

But in the meantime she's a sister and a teacher and a friend
Hours turn into days that turn to years that never end
And she wonders when she'll ever really find herself again
She's becoming one on who God can depend
In the meantime

Heaven feels the joy of every victory in her life
And Heaven hears her heart before she cries
And somewhere in the middle of the triumphs and the trials
She's becoming sanctified

But in the meantime she's an answer and and a blessing and a gift
To every empty aching heart that only she can lift
Still she wonders if she'll ever get to see where heaven is
If she could only see her mansion waiting there
If she could only feel how much her Father cares
She would know she's being perfectly prepared
In the meantime.

Getting back up on the horse

Colin is so great at "getting back up on the horse". Yesterday he had climbed up onto a chair at the kitchen table to eat a snack. James and I were both at the table also, but the next thing we knew Colin was tumbling over head first to the floor. He hit with a loud SMACK and tears welled immediately. I ran to him to give him a hug and soothe his wails, and although he hugged back for a second, it wasn't even a minute after he'd fallen when he pushed away from me, turned around and climbed back up onto the chair. There was no way he was going to let that chair get the best of him! I was so proud.

Then today he had another spill off the chair. I was at his feet this time, and managed to half catch him on the way down to ease the fall. I waited to see how this second tumble might affect him - but our Colin is so resilient! There weren't even tears this time. He just picked himself up and climbed back up onto the chair.

Okay, I might not keep letting him back up on the chair without closer supervision - I don't want to tempt any broken bones just yet! But I am glad to see this determination showing through!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Gawthroupe tidbits

Today's entry is just a compilation of little things going on in our family...

Today Colin sang me the entire first song of "The Impossible Dream"
Caleb is now in the "Colic stage" and generally sleeps no more than 20 minutes at a time.
Terri-Ann is gearing up for her choir performance next week.
Colin is speaking in full sentences (sometimes).
Caleb took his first bottle yesterday...there is some relief for me in sight!
We celebrated Christmas with my side of the family on Saturday. It was our first extended car trip with both boys...and we took a new way home, with much help from our Ontario map.
I started "holiday baking" today, although I'm still not completely sure what the point of holiday baking is. Everyone's been talking lately about how they need to get started on their holiday shopping and baking. We were never a baking family growing up. Nevertheless, today I made two loaves of banana bread.
On the other hand, all my Christmas shopping is done and wrapped. I'm super excited this year because I really did well with shopping this year and I think everyone will really love what I found for them.
We will be having a white Christmas in Orangeville this year!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Guilt and Grace

I've been thinking about this interesting contrast of concepts lately. Guilt and Grace. Within the world of religion, these are often the forefront ideas that will surface when talking about religious beliefs.

Guilt certainly has deep roots in Christianity. For hundreds of years, religious leaders have preyed on the fears of mankind, instilling deep feelings of guilt regarding our very existence. Men are made to feel guilt over their natural tendencies, unavoidable emotions, and personal circumstances. Perhaps guilt was meant to bring us to our knees amidst our growing hubris.

But personally, I don't think guilt has any place in one's spirituality. Guilt and fear are not emotions of God. They are dark, destructive ideas that can never lead to healing or light. All that is good comes from God - guilt is definitely not a productive feeling. I don't believe that guilt leads to a true change of heart. It may temporarily alter one's habits or behaviour, but it doesn't get you to the roots of what God's intentions are for you.

I also believe that guilt isn't an emotion another can make you feel. Guilt by definition is a personal emotion - you feel badly about your own actions. Another could try to point out why you should feel guilt, but only you can actually experience it.

Grace is the gift of God by which he extends mercy, loving-kindness, and salvation to people. I love this definition of grace. I may be undeserving of the gift, but I need not feel guilty about receiving it. As a parent, if I give a gift to my children, there is no expectation in return. I give it freely, simply because I love them. Grace means that I don't need to feel badly about my shortcomings. Grace means that I can daily work to better myself. Grace means that after everything has come to an end, and I still fall short (as all will), it's okay.

I think all too often those of us belonging to religious organizations get caught up in the appearance of things. How many service projects did we total this year? Did I attend all my meetings? Can I check off daily prayer and scripture study? Can I answer all the questions posed to me in Sunday School? Church is not a check list of activities - it's a place to find strength and come to know God. Not to know about him, but to truly know him. Although it's wonderful to be a part of a church family that supports you, ultimately your journey to God and his grace is one you take on your own. Until that is written on your heart, you're bound to get caught in the web of guilt and appearances.

I have friends with religious views that fall all over the map. Some attend religious organizations, others practice their faiths on their own. Some adhere to the tenets of Christianity, others to the doctrine of science. Belief is a personal journey that too often is swept aside in today's materialistic world. I cannot and dare not contend for other's beliefs - I have only the authority to discuss my own. I have found joy - true joy, not momentary happiness - in my own journey - a journey only just begun. I have discarded the chains of guilt and embraced the gift of grace.

PS - I have been enjoying a beautiful rendition of the song "Amazing Grace" by Chris Tomlin lately that speaks of the beauty and peace of grace perfectly. Have a listen at:

Monday, 3 December 2007

Beautiful Blanket of White

It's cold. Bitingly cold. The kind of cold that hits you in the face and sticks with you for hours. But it's beautiful. Having lived in Toronto for the past few years, and especially since we lived right on the lake, we saw very little snow. It was never a white Christmas, and only rarely did we have to deal with treacherous driving conditions. In Orangeville, we shoveled four times before December hit! We're now living in what is called the "Snow Belt", which means that we will get a good snow each time the weather turns. We love it.

I've never been an outdoor winter person. I never ski and rarely skate. I haven't been tobogganing since I was a teen. If I have to venture out, I'm wearing at least 4 layers of clothing, plus a parka, hat, scarf, gloves, boots - it takes me longer to dress than most kids! But it sure is beautiful to look out at from the warmth of my living room.

There is something magical about snow that sets the mood for this season. And I just think all the "suffering" might be worth it.

(Ask me again in three months what I think!)