Thursday, 31 January 2008

Love (and peace) at home

I have discovered first hand today just how little good anger does in the home. After two sleepless nights, I admit that my patience hadn't just worn thin - it was a huge gaping hole. James was in London last night and today, and I just wasn't "in the mood" to deal with a baby who hasn't learned to sleep and a two year old demanding every bit of my attention.

I am grateful that children seem to easily forget our grown-up faults. Today I was short with Colin, I snapped at him, and I even resorted to sending him to his room (where he proceeded to hit his head repeatedly against the door while I tried to feed Caleb). I had no patience for what I considered to be his "antics". I left any cajoling or pleading or reasoning behind and often just picked him up and put him where I wanted him to be.

And now, at days end, I'm even more exhausted than I was this morning. I have realized that although at the time it seemed like less work, the negativity I brought into our house wore me down even more. The shorter my temper got, the more frustrated Colin became, and the less we got accomplished. Our ill moods seemed to stoke each others' fires until the entire house was filled with negative emotions. I remember reading somewhere that a mother needs to make sure there is always love and peace in her home, and that it is her responsibility to be the prime example of it. I can say there were none of these virtues abiding in my home today, and for that I am sorry now.

I sometimes forget that being two years old means that sometimes you do things without knowing why; it means that you can't always remember the rules; it means that you're testing and learning limits - and important part of growing. Ultimately, being two means that people need to dig deep and find that extra ounce of patience because you really are trying your best.

Thank goodness for his fleeting memory, and for goodnight kisses and "I love yous". And thank goodness for tomorrows, which bring the promise of a new day and a new try at ridding my home of contention and replacing it with love and peace.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The boys

Looking back on my most recent articles, I noticed that I've had the tendency to wax philosophical as of late. Therefore, I devote this entry to my boys.

Caleb is getting much better - both with his colic and with sleeping. We solved much of both problems by actually putting him to sleep several times during the day. Colin always just fell asleep wherever he was, and so I wasn't used to the idea of having to actually put my newborn to bed! I've noticed that he also really needs touch. It's not that he needs to be physically held (although he really loves that too), but that he likes to have that contact. Even a hand on his cheek is enough to reassure him that I'm near. He loves to laugh, mouth open wide and deep blue eyes shining. His favourite song is the hymn "How Great Thou Art". This song settles him without fail, and it;s become his nighttime lullaby. He is growing like a weed. He is already wearing mostly 6-9 month clothing - not for the width, but the length! He won't be Colin's "little" brother for long! We'll be taking a trip out to British Columbia next month so that he can meet his great grandparents, and his great great grandmother.

Colin is embracing being two years old with every fiber of his being. He is testing his limits in almost every area, but is very quick to learn. Our phrases "not a toy" and "dangerous" seem to be yielding good results, rather than the standard "no!" He has an instant memory and is broadening his song repertoire. He is becoming addicted to watching movies, and so we are fighting the daily battle of limiting his screen exposure. But he is smart as a whip and misses nothing. He sees everything around him and only needs to hear or see something once before he's got it down. He is becoming a real social bug - often asking to call his friends and family members, or to have them over to play. He is still a Daddy's boy, but is starting to show preference for either of us depending on the activity. One of his favourite games is called "Chugga chugga", which involves James or I making train sounds as we chase him around the house. Colin is showing much more affection for Caleb, often bringing a pacifier when Caleb starts to cry. The other day, Colin said his first unprompted "I love you, Mommy" (and my heart melted completely).

I'm still adjusting to coping with a two year old and a baby, and Colin's independence and Caleb's dependence are making it a real challenge. But I'm loving it and cherishing each moment I have with them.

Monday, 28 January 2008

The Influence and Power of Motherhood

I've had more than a few looks from people when they ask what I do, and I reply that I'm a mother. Some feel I'm wasting my talents. Some think I've got it easy. Some say that at least I don't have to deal with the pressure of a job.

We had an interesting discussion at church yesterday about the role of mothers. It was based around an article written by Julie B Beck, called "Mother Who Know". It was an inspiring, although overwhelming, reminder of just how much weight we mothers carry on our shoulders. Here are some excerpts that really spoke to me:

"More than at any time in the history of the world, we need mothers who know...When mothers know who they are and who God is...they will have great power and influence for good on their children.

"Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are becoming less valued...young couples should not postpone having children. In the eternal perspective, children - not poessessions, not position, not prestige - are our greatest jewels.

"Mothers who know are nurturers. To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes. Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work.

"Mothers who know are leaders. In equal partnership with their husbands, they lead a great and eternal organization. These mothers plan for the future of their organization. They plan for missions, temple marriages, and education. They plan for prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. Mothers who know build children into future leaders and are the primary examples of what leaders look like. They do not abandon their plan by succumbing to social pressure and worldly models of parenting. These wise mothers who know are selective about their own activities and involvement to conserve their limited strength in order to maximize their influence where it matters most.

"Mothers who know are teachers...A well-taught friend told me that he did not learn anything at church that he had not already learned at home.

"Mothers who know do less. they permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home....[Mothers] consume less of the world's goods. They spend more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to do it all.

"Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord's kingdom."

So next time someone thinks what you women at home are doing isn't important, perhaps this can be your reply: "I'm raising the future of God's kingdom. What did you do today?" Remember, fellow sisters and mamas - we are arguably doing the most important job on the planet - raising the future of tomorrow. Our children can grow up to make a difference in this world - be it world-wide or on a much smaller scale. We mothers have great influence and power in how our world is taking shape. Stand strong and immovable in that which you believe, and take heart - we're all in this together!

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Will somebody pay attention to me please?

Amid a whirl of activity yesterday, Colin was desperately trying to get James' attention:
Colin: Daddy? Daddy? Daddy! James! Sweetie!


During our week-long moratorium on movies:
Colin: Dumbo?
Mom: No, Colin. No Dumbo. No movies today.
Colin: Bug's Life?
Mom: No. No movies. Would you like to do a puzzle with me?
Colin: Monsters?
Mom: No movies.
Colin: Toy Story? Okay.

Having given himself permission, he proceeded to get the movie out and put it on himself.


At the end of naptime, Colin often crouches at the return vent in his room, which leads to our family, and calls down to us. He likes to let us know he's awake and ready to come out of his room.

Colin: Mommy? Mommy? Somebody?

Thursday, 24 January 2008

He Who Walks with the Wise Grows Wise

Why is it that each next generation now thinks they know better? We look at our parents and say "I see what you've done, but I'm pretty sure I can do it better (without your help)." I read an interesting proverb today: "He who walks with the wise grows wise." There is a reason our society includes our elders - and it's not to hide them away in a place with others of their age. Do you realize that ours is the first age in which 'seniors residences' exist? In time past, older members of the family lived with the younger ones. And it wasn't considered a financial or other type of burden. It was an opportunity for the younger members to take something from their years of experience. No amount of book knowledge can come close to the benefits of experience.

Now I'm not putting down growth and progress. Hopefully, as a society, we are each advancing a little further than the last. But I hope we can try to remember this proverb in our search for wisdom.

Diamond Dust

Today out of my bedroom window I saw diamond dust falling from the sky. These tiny little snow flakes sparkled in the morning sun as they gently danced in the air. As I rocked Caleb to sleep, I marvelled at the natural beauty that surrounds us. It makes me yearn for a world free from artificial additions, adorned only by that made by the hand of God.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

You can't take it with you...

"He who dies with the most stuff...still dies."
"You can't take it with you."
" Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal."

Have you ever noticed how much stuff we have? And how we never seem to feel like we have enough? And how much worth we place on things?

I have a pot at home, that we call the "Mrs. Mennill Pot". It was given to us at our wedding by one of James' high school teachers. It is a fantastic skillet: thick, heavy, and obviously of great monetary worth. It has a solid handle and a glass lid, and I have made some really great stir-fries in it. From the beginning, I took great care of this pot. I never used any metal utensil on it and never fried anything in it like eggs or hamburgers. I always rinsed it immediately after using it, using only a soft cloth, never a scrubbing pad.

Then yesterday as I was washing out hamburger grease that had been caked on for at least four or five hours, I chuckled to myself at how "low" this pot had come. The bottom of the pot was scratched, and I haven't tightened the handle in quite a while. I didn't get a new one, neither had this pot lost its charm or use. It just didn't hold the same position in my value system as it once did.

I find the same thing happens with many different things: a new book, a new sweater - for the first while you try not to bend the cover of the book back, or you hand wash and reshape that sweater. But then as time goes by it becomes just another thing in a house full of things.

Having children has taught me many things, but one of the biggest lessons I've learned is not to place so much value on "stuff". My clothes are going to be thrown up on. My books are going to be coloured in. Plates are going to be broken. Carpets are going to be stained. Things get torn, broken, ruined. If I have no attachment to them in the first place, the disappointment from their eventual and inevitable demise is significantly less.

It also makes it much easier to part with things I no longer need. I learned a great lesson about this from my grandmother. I am one who holds onto things forever, knowing that "one day I'll need this". My grandmother, however, has a good hold on what is worth keeping and what is not. The other day my grandmother called to offer me a crockpot. "I bought it last month, and it has just sat in its box since then. Would you like it?" A month! It takes a least a year of not using something before I reluctantly wonder if I'll ever need it again. I've been trying harder to be more ruthless now - both parting with the old and refraining from buying the new. Maybe clearing my house out a little will give us a little more breathing room, literally and figuratively!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

What can one person do?

A while back, James and I rented the film "Amazing Grace", about a man named Wilberforce who pioneered the end of slavery in England. It was a moving example of the kind of difference one person can make in this world.

I have always been a humanitarian. I often feel as though there is so much change in this world that needs to happen, and there is so little I can do about it. I have dreams of teaching children in Africa, of digging wells and planting trees, of inspiring the youth of today to become leaders of tomorrow, of building homes in the islands hit by the tsunami, of stopping gun violence, of bringing warm clothes to the homeless in Eastern Europe, of reducing our footprint on this planet. I am antsy in one place, knowing how large the world is, how privileged my life is, and how much need is out there. My life feels full to the brink with daily duties, to the point that I fear I'll be stuck here forever, unable to affect anything at all.

There have been great men and women in history that combined passion with action to change the world in which they lived, and yet I think to most of us, they seem to be figures that are far beyond us.

But here are two quotes that I have come across lately, that are giving me hope that there is something that I can do.

"Great men and women - some famous, most not..."
- Susan V. Bosak
"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. "
- Elie Wiesel

May I always remember to stand up for what I believe in, and remember that some of the greatest works I do will be within the walls of my own home.

Feeling overwhelmed?

The Girl in a Whirl
by 'Dr. Suess'( a.k.a.. Vickie Gunther)

Look at me, look at me, look at me now!
You could do what I do If you only knew how.
I study the scriptures one hour each day;
I bake, I upholster, I scrub, and I pray.
I always keep all the commandments completely;
I speak to my little ones gently and sweetly.
I help in their classrooms! I sew all they wear!
I drive them to practice! I cut all their hair!
I memorize names of the General Authorities;
I focus on things to be done by priorities.
I play the piano! I bless with my talents!
My toilets all sparkle! My checkbooks all balance!
Each week every child gets a one-on-one date;
I attend all my meetings (on time! Never late!)
I'm taking a class on the teachings of Paul,
But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all.
I track my bad habits 'til each is abolished;
Our t-shirts are ironed! My toenails are polished!
Our family home evenings are always delightful;
The lessons I give are both fun and insightful.
I do genealogy faithfully, too.
It's easy to do all the things that I do!
I rise each day early, refreshed and awake;
I know all the names of each youth in my stake!
I read to my children! I help all my neighbors!
I bless the community, too, with my labors.
I exercise and I cook menus gourmet;
My visiting teaching is done the first day!
(I also go do it for someone who missed hers.
It's the least I can do for my cherished ward sisters.)
I chart resolutions and check off each goal;
I seek each "lost lamb" on my Primary roll.
I can home-grown produce each summer and fall.
But that is not all! Oh, no. That is not all.
I write in my journal! I sing in the choir!
Each day, I write "thank you's" to those I admire.
My sons were all Eagles when they were fourteen!
My kids get straight A's! And their bedrooms are clean!
I have a home business to help make some money;
I always look beautifully groomed for my honey.
I go to the temple at least once a week;
I change the car's tires! I fix the sink's leak!
I grind my own wheat and I bake all our bread;
I have all our meals planned out six months ahead.
I make sure I rotate our two-years' supply;
My shopping for Christmas is done by July!
These things are not hard; 'tis good if you do them;
You can if you try! Just set goals and pursue them!
It's easy to do all the things that I do!
If you plan and work smart, you can do them all, too!
It's easy!" she said...and then she dropped dead.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Follow the Leader

I shouldn't be surprised (and I'm not, really), but Colin is ever emgerging as a leader. He absolutely loves to be around people - kids, teens, adults, any age will do - and loves to be guiding them in whatever activity he creates. Sometimes it's a little trying, while he's this young. Yesterday we attended a library reading group, and Colin was up and exploring most of the time. And as soon as the other kids saw him roaming, a few started to follow him, while others just kept their eyes trained on him. Either way, Colin was blazing the trail. Luckily, most of the mothers there seemed to be okay with it. I've been to a few groups where the parents clearly don't allow as much exploration as I do, and are visibly upset that I allow Colin as much freedom. Once Colin is going, their children don't see why they can't follow.

He might gather a group around him, but Colin is definitely leading the way as to what and how they explore. At one point he lied down on the ground to get a better view of the ceiling. When two others lied down beside him, Colin decided that he'd had enough and jumped up again. He is definitely not influenced easily by others.

Which, one day, I hope will serve him well. The most influential years are inarguably the teen years, and it is at this time that I hope his leadership skills don't fail him. I want him to be able to run to the beat of his own drum, and not feel obligated to do something just because the others are. I know how difficult that is, and how hard I tried at times to fit in. I have a cousin who is naturally individualistic, and looking back she may have been high maintenance and ofttimes a little princess, but at least she was leading the charge. She expressed herself the way she wanted, and few people could influence her otherwise.

It's hard to say what will happen in the future, but for now I will tolerate the other mothers' stares, defiantly sticking to my guns that Colin's independant leadership qualities will do him more good than harm in the end.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Feeding the Ducks

Family History

This year our church congregation is having a special focus on Family History. I have to admit, this is an area in which I have great interest, but little drive. Every so often I light a fire under me and jump into genealogy, entering names of relatives into family charts and enjoying trying to keep it all straight. However, it never lasts long. Quoting a friend, "Family history is for when you're retired and have lots of time on your hands."

But I know how important keeping a family history is. I know I enjoy hearing stories from my grandparents, and imagining all the different members of our family's past. I've never been a faithful written journal keeper - this online blog is the closest thing to consistency I've got. I also know that my own grandkids, or great grandkids, etc. would probably really enjoy learning about who I was and the things I did.

So I've decided to come at this a different way. I want to start compiling stories from my relatives. The plan is to videotape them as they recount their past and memories, and then I will transcribe it all into a little book. I had had this idea earlier in the year, and now I'm really going to jump on it. How neat will it be that my kids could pull a book off the shelf and it's all about their own grandparents, or great grandparents? I've had the blessing of having a young family, and so many of my older relatives are still with us. However, I know that as my children grow, they won't have the privilege of knowing them as well as I do.

So this is going to be my second project of the year...I'll keep you posted on the progress!

Working Man

(Conversation at lunch the other day)

Colin: Where's Daddy?
Mom: At work.
Colin: Ma?
Mom: Ma is working, too. And Pa is working, and Auntie Jennifer is working, and Auntie Krystal is working and Uncle Jesse is working.
Colin: Mommy not working?
Mom: Yes, Mommy is working. I get to work at home. My work is playing with you and making lunch and tidying up.
Colin: (pause) Colin work too?
Mom: Where would you like to work?
Colin: Work at nursery. (Nursery is the class Colin attends Sundays at church, for 1 1/2-3 year olds)
Mom: That sounds like fun. What would you do at work?
Colin: Play toys, with Timmy and Grayson. (His friends)
Mom: That sounds like a great job.
Colin: (nods with satisfaction) Colin go to work.

Thursday, 10 January 2008


If I could remove a word from our vocabulary, I think it would be this: "but".

James and I discovered the poison of the word "but" last summer after one of our disagreements. We had had an argument, taken a little breathing time, and had come back together to appologize. It went something like: "I'm sorry, but I just didn't have the time."

What we discovered was that "I'm sorry" followed by the word "but" doesn't really feel like an apology. It says something more like "I'm sorry you were so wrong" or "I'm sorry I am still right". Really saying your sorry means you're sorry, period.

You'd be surprised how easy it is to add the word "but" into your sentences. "I'd love to but..." "I wanted to but..." It seems to make what you're saying disingenuious. Let's take the "but" out and get down to what we we're really trying to say.

This all came to mind again yesterday while I was in the Book of Luke, in the New Testament. Jesus calls to two different men to come and follow him. The first says he will, but just let him go bury his father (an expression meaning to look after aged parents until their death). The second says he will, but first let him go and say goodbye to his family at home. Both men have included "buts", or conditions, of their following Jesus. Jesus' response: "No man, having put his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

How many times have I said "Lord I will, but..."? How many times have I dedicated and re-dedicated myself to Him, only to look back? I can't stand to feel discouragement, and so I try to remind myself that He will forgive my weaknesses as many times as I put myself back on the road. And yet every day seems filled with "buts". I only hope that this new awareness stays with me, so that the next time those three letters start to escape my lips, I can catch myself and just do it, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

A Day in the life of Colic

(I want to note - this entry is not about garnering sympathy from readers - it is merely an entry of information).

Our little one has colic. For those of you not familiar with the term, it is basically a five-letter word for "I don't know". Doctors use the word when a baby is in pain and it has something to do with the digestive system. In an adult, the doctor would ask a variety of questions to narrow down the diagnosis. In babies, however, they are often unable to determine the problem. Most often it is summed up as an underdeveloped digestive system that just needs to "work itself out".

So what does having colic mean in day to day life? It means your baby cries - a lot - inconsolably. It means tears stream down his face and his lips quiver, his feet wrenching up and down, back and forth, in and out. It means that he feeds irregularly and rarely sleeps. It means that he is never awake and happy, or even just sitting or lying down - if he is awake, he is crying, or about to cry if you stop rocking him or try to put him down. It means literally having to hold your baby anytime he is not sleeping, and often when he is sleeping. It means watching your precious little one in excruciating pain and knowing there is little you can do about it but try to comfort him in your arms.


Diary of a Colicky Baby:

12am-2:30 am - the one block of sleep Caleb gets
2:30-3am - feeding
3am-5am - lying in bed, grunting, squirming, sniffling, wanting to sleep but unable to
5am - feeding
5:30-8am - crying, screaming, with one or two small 10 minute naps
8am - feeding
8:30 - 11am - crying, screaming, pausing only for a minute or two to catch his breath
11am - feeding
11:30 - 2pm - crying, which is calmed to sniffling as long as I am carrying him directly upright
2pm - feeding
2:30 - 5pm - crying, screaming, with a few 10 or 20 minute naps
5pm - feeding
5:30 - 11pm - crying, screaming, feeding on demand, a few naps as long as he is being held in the sling
11pm - feeding, in our bed, followed by sleep as long as he isn't moved at all


I've heard about colic, but I never really understood it. A friend of mine experienced it with her newborn this year, and now truly sympathizes with our plight. The mother of a colicky baby does whatever she can to ease the crying, both for her baby's pain and her own sanity. We co-sleep, we feed on demand, we feed on a schedule, we let them sleep in a swing or a carseat or on our chests or anywhere that works. We forgo burping if they fall asleep feeding. We sit and cry right along with them. We make and break rules daily.

The doctor tells me prime colic time is 4-8 weeks. Caleb started right on cue at 4 weeks, and is now 8 and a half weeks. Today Caleb had two bouts of 3-4 minutes during which he was awake and not crying/whimpering. It actually scared me to see him just sitting there, eyes open, with no noise. I had to go over and interact with him, just to make sure everything was okay. We are praying (fervently!) that he is nearing the end of it, or that our two-month doctor's appointment tomorrow will provide some insight.

Now you know a little more about colic. In the words of my friend's mother (who had 8 children of her own) after 2 hours of baby-sitting her colicky grandson: "I had no idea it could be like that." I hope they are able to find a little bit more about 'colic' so that we are able to rid our vocabularies of this mysterious word and replace it with some real answers.


2017 - postscript

I noticed that this post regularly gets traffic, 8 years later. I wanted to note here that we now believe our "colicky" baby had undiagnosed food allergies. Our daughter born 4 years later had the same thing, and with new understandings of how food allergies can manifest in the body, we were able to get her body under control.  In addition to crying all the time, Caleb (and our daughter, Juliette) had eczema.  Caleb's cheeks would bleed it was so bad. Juliette's face would get a little puffy.  Because the allergies were so many, food elimination diets didn't reveal anything.  Juliette could not eat: gluten, oats, rice, beans, dairy, corn, or soy. If she stayed on strictly fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat her "colic" was gone and her skin stayed clear. Good news - she outgrew it by the age of four.  Caleb, I believe, outgrew most of his between 2-4 (the colic stopped at 2, the eczema at 4). I also had to stick to Juliette's diet while I was nursing her. And Juliette's medical allergy test (scratch test) showed negative for everything, but our doctor said those tests are inconclusive before the age of 5, and from pictures of reactions said that indeed she did have the food allergies. We used a homeopathic doctor to help us with Juliette.  We don't see that doctor for anything else, and we don't usually see a homeopathic doctor, but it did provide what we needed at the time.  Obviously not all colic is allergy related, but I know how much mother's of colicky babies need information for anything that might possibly be an answer.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

New Year's Resolutions

I am not making any New Year's Resolutions. I find it too depressing, as most resolutions have fallen by the wayside by the end of January. So I've decided I no longer believe in making New Year's Resolutions.

Really, it's the common concept of New Year's Resolutions that I take issue with. It implies writing up a list with three or five or ten numbered items, such as "I want to lose weight" or "I want to learn a new skill" or "I want to watch less television." Resolutions are rarely more than one line each, and often extremely vague.

The term "goal-setting" seems much more productive. Setting a goal involves stating the goal to be achieved, but also coming up with a list of steps which will take you toward that goal. When you realize the work involved in each goal, you are much more likely to set fewer goals, each one being more realisitc and specific than "resolutions".

However, I am not making any "New Year's Goals" either. I am making New Year's projects. I find the term project much more hands on. It inspires a work ethic. It has the sound of something I am starting and going to finish. Maybe it's leftover from my school days, during which I thrived on getting a project done. I may not have started them right away, but even as a last-minute worker I enjoyed the idea of doing a project and doing it well.

And so I have a few projects in mind that I'd like to accomplish. I have not set a time limit, as life with my kids is way too unpredictable. But I'm excited about the projects, excited enough that I don't think I will let these ones slip away and end up causing more disappointment than satisfaction.