Friday, 31 October 2008


An interesting day today. The weather is beautiful out - blue sky, shining sun, and warm enough to toss the jacket. It's Hallowe'en and there are a ton of different fun things we could have done today. Could have done.

Unfortunately, we lost out entire morning to an orange. An orange! The morning started out well enough as the boys knowingly awoke just as James was pulling out of the driveway. Breakfast was uneventful, and Colin even asked to get dressed (clothes are a daily battle in our home). I threw on a movie for Colin while I put Caleb down for his morning nap (he'd been up early) and then came down to grab a quick 20 minute nap while Colin's movie finished. I had just lied down when Colin asked for an orange (clementine). I peeled and sectioned it, put it in a container and lied back down. 10 minutes later Colin told me to go get him another orange. Anticipating this, I had put an extra one on the table within his reach. I told him to bring it to me.

He burst into tears and yelled at me to go get it. I insisted he bring it to me. And so back and forth and back and forth we went. I'm trying to help him learn to do some more things on his own, and also that demanding I do anything will result in nothing.

He screamed and yelled and cried for half an hour. When I was done my "nap", I went to get myself a snack, and so I offered to peel the orange at the table.

Colin burst into tears. He didn't want me to peel it in the kitchen, but in the living room. He took the prepared orange slices and tossed them at the fridge. He cried for another half an hour. Caleb woke up and I went to get him. I offered to take the boys out somewhere. But Colin was fixated on this orange thing!

Still crying, Colin then picked up the slices and placed them at James' seat at the table. "That's Daddy's orange. Make me a new one." So back and forth we went about how the orange would dry up if left there, how it was perfectly fine for him to eat, and how he cannot demand anything of me. He cried for another half an hour, demanding a new orange.

Then I ate "Daddy's orange." More screaming, yelling and tears. I got Caleb dressed and pronounced us ready to go out, if Colin chose. Distracted just long enough, the waterworks ceased. Colin asked politely for an orange. I graciously gave him one.

Two hours we lost to the orange. All morning, essentially. We sang some songs and played some games and soon enough it was lunch time. And the gorgeous day laid to waste.


Tonight we are taking Colin trick-or-treating, although I think his excitement is really only stemming from ours. He's going as a firefighter, thank goodness. For the month leading up, the only thing he wanted to be was "Thomas the Tank Engine", and I'm not that good with crafts! But he saw this costume in the store and got really excited, so I snatched it up. It's a size 8, but I just cut the coat to fit him, and he's happy as a lark. Caleb is going as...nothing. We borrowed a costume when Colin was 1. Several times I had really cute costumes in my hand to buy for Caleb (a pumpkin, a caterpillar, Tigger), but each time I realized that dressing up a one year old is really only for the parents, and there was no need to spend the money. So although we'll all go out tonight, Colin will be the only one dressed up. We'll only go out for a block or two, but it's amazing the haul young toddlers can get! For some reason people see a cute two year old and think he needs a whole handful of candy rather than just one piece!


Postscript - once the boys got up from a good long nap, their humours were much better. We had a fantastic 30 minute outside, where Caleb spent the whole time trying to sweep leaves and a reluctant Colin got excited about a new toy I'm building him. It's incomplete, (there are houses and a fire station and an airport, plus sides and legs for the table!) but he loved it anyway.


Sleep is a word that has not been in our vocabulary this past year. We've struggled since day one with trying to get Caleb to sleep well, which of course would result in me sleeping well. And more than just trying to get enough sleep to be able to function, a lack of sleep in Caleb also makes him very temperamental, prone to crying fits and being generally unhappy. Those few times when his smile and laughter break out, he's such a joy. But all too often he is suffering in more ways than one because of his lack of sleep.

We've been working on this since birth. I've read countless sleep books, surfed websites, talked with our doctor and even a baby sleep specialist. None of these resources were able to help us with why Caleb has difficulty sleeping, which makes it especially hard to fix the problem!

Finally, however, I stumbled across one small paragraph in yet another book about sleep that seems to pinpoint his troubles precisely:

Issue: He hasn't learned how to fall back asleep on his own
Solution: Babies with poorer self soothing skills and more challenging temperaments may tend to wake up when they enter periods of light sleep. These transitions occur about once every 60 minutes. That's a lot of opportunities for a baby to wake up each night. If there's anything else that disturbs them as they make this transition - hunger, noise, cold, wetness - it's game over in terms of baby's sleep and yours.

Four things:

1. Finally seeing something about temperament included was a relief. I always thought this was a big part of the problem, and seeing it acknowledged felt like I was finally getting somewhere. Caleb is easily frustrated and hates being ignored or put down during the day - add the frustration of being woken up and it's a nightmare!

2. The 60-minute sleep cycle makes perfect sense. Caleb's daytime naps were always only one hour. But after a little bit he'd be super-cranky again. Now when he wakes after the hour I just put him back down and he gets the second hour that he really needs. His night wakings are also always on the hour (ie: if he goes to bed at 7:30pm, he usually wakes at 10:30pm)

3. The "conditions" aspect finally explains why he sleeps through the night at my parents but is constantly waking here. They live further out in the country, in a completely quiet neighbourhood, where he sleeps in a dark room with well-controlled heat. Here there are cars that drive by through the night, plus the vent to his room is shared with Colin's room, so noise travels easier. There is no return in his room so the temperature is difficult to control. He also hates a wet diaper during the day, insisting on being changed as soon as he wets it, and often is woken by a wet diaper at night.

4. I was not pleased to read this paragraph and find out that their conclusion to the solution was "game over". What kind of an answer is that?! Too bad, so sad, nothing you can do. Well, I guess it's true. The answer is to do the best we can to control what we can and hope for the best.

Although nothing is really solved, per se, it's at least nice to have some answers. I also found some ideas on how to break Caleb of the habit of needing to nurse to fall asleep. That, of course, is my own doing in resorting to feeding to calm him down. Unfortunately, because of his temperament and how easily his senses are stimulated by sound (singing, shushing), sight (someone in the room), smell (milk), and touch (being held, rocking, rubbing his back), nursing is the only thing that actually calms him down, whereas all these other things only wake him up more.

And so, our days and nights go on. We pray for sleep to come soon, as Caleb grows and hopefully outgrows some of these habits. I keep reminding myself that one day he'll be a teenage boy who we won't be able to drag from bed at noon. One day.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy

I love discovering new-old hymns. There is a lot of fantastic new and inspirational Christian music, but there is something enduring in the hymns of years gone by. Every so often I become acquainted with an old hymn whose poetry touches my heart.

"Brightly Beams Our Father's Mercy" is one I've come across lately.

The words and melody are beautiful, but it was the story behind the song that impressed me. The hymn was written by Philip Paul Bliss after hearing a sermon about the Cleveland harbour.
On dark, stormy nights, although the lighthouse burned bright, it was of great importance that the lower lights of the town along the shoreline be light. Although the lighthouse could guide the boat in the general direction, the lower lights enabled the boats to navigate the rocky channel. The sermon was concluded with this admonishment:

"Brethren, the Master will take care of the great light-house; let us keep the lower lights burning."

And so, the words to this mid-19th century hymn were penned.

Brightly beams our Father's mercy from His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.

(Aside: just as I wrote the title of the hymn above, Colin started singing the song to himself while he is playing! There is much simplicity and beauty in being taught spiritual truths through music.)

A Prayer from Mother Teresa

Deliver me, O Jesus,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the desire of being popular,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being suspected.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Money, economy, and grown-up worries

I'm in the middle of another "mind-shift". These internal, personal evolutions seem to be coming closer together now, and are of a deeper meaning.

Economic down-turn, recession, depression. Scary words in a world where the majority of people live paycheque to paycheque. This is where I send out a huge thank you to my parents who taught me money-sense, and to my husband who shares my views. We long ago paid off all debts, built up a sizable savings, invested a little in long-term secure investments, created a monthly and yearly budget, track every expense, and set out a specific plan to pay off the house. None of this is easy on one modest paycheque that allows me to stay home with our boys, but we persevere.

Ironically, during these uneasy and wearying times, we are surprisingly financially secure. This past September James left the security of his employment to launch full-time into our own business. Actually, it's a family business, which his father began, James is expanding, and his brothers are also going to be involved. Over Thanksgiving, we had a share-holders (I'm a shareholder! How grown-up!) meeting to go over the future plans and outlook of the company. The numbers blew me away. Owning your own business is a lot of work, but the benefit is that you can grow it as large as you want. And, if successful, the monetary rewards can be...very rewarding.

And so amid all the chaos, we find our family in a good spot. With a good outlook.

And yet, I'm experiencing a mind-shift.

I've been moving in this direction over the past few months. I have become acutely aware of the lifestyle the Western world strives toward. I have become aware of the clothes spilling out of my closet and drawers as I buy another cute sweater. I have become aware of the endless pursuit to bigger houses. I have become aware of the piles of toys. I have become aware of how easy it is to buy something because I can. I have become aware of the attitude of ease that accompanies financial security.

While my brain was sorting through all this, two books fell into my lap: the first was "A Simple Path", an interview with Mother Teresa detailing her simple and profound way of living. The second was "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau, who writes an account of his simple life in a woods. I'm currently in the middle of both books and find myself reading all those jumbled up thoughts in my head written down in an orderly fashion.

Thoreau talks about the general pursuits in life. Once you have obtained the necessities, then you often obtain more of those. And once you have more, then you try to obtain better. More, better, more, better - I think the cycle becomes subconscious. I liken it to being on a staircase - if you are standing on a step and there is another step in front of you, you don't think about whether or not you want to climb the staircase - you just put one foot in front of the other. Stair after stair, our minds are programmed to perform this task. But when do we stop ourselves and ask "is this enough"?

I'll leave today with two quotes from the books I'm immersed in.

"People try to fill the emptiness they feel with food, radio, television, and keeping busy with outside activities. But this emptiness can only be filled by the spiritual, by God. If we give time for God to enter this space, then our hunger can be more easily satisfied by just being with God in prayer. From this place we can grow stronger in our relationship with God and in our spiritual life. But it is a hard thing to be prayerful in our society, which feeds us with so many distractions." (Mother Teresa)

"Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hinderances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor." (Henry David Thoreau)

Monday, 27 October 2008

Youth fireside

Last Sunday I gave a Youth Fireside at our church. (A fireside is basically an evening where a guest speaker comes to address a specific topic related to the youth). I had only about a week's notice, which is not a long time when you have to fill 30-45 minutes. I serve in the Women's ministry in my church on Sundays, and that's a whole lot easier. With adults, you simply have to make the topic interesting. With youth, you have to make the topic, the delivery and yourself interesting. This generally means trying to have most of the address memorized, because reading from a paper for an hour is boring.

I was asked to talk about the "do's" of the Word of Wisdom. The Word of Wisdom is a health code by which we try to live, which encourages health and strength, and honoring our bodies created for us by God. Mostly people refer to it as the reason why we don't drink alcohol or coffee, and why we don't smoke or use illegal drugs. And as a teenager, this is the part you mostly remember - the "don'ts"

However, this is actually a very small part of the health guidelines. The larger part is the "do's": do eat mostly grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and eat meat sparingly. In our age of fast food, convenience food and junk food, this part if often unintentionally neglected.

So, having immersed myself in reading about whole, natural and organic foods over the past six months, I was approached to talk to the teens on this subject.

I opened by having them look over the code with me - and realize themselves how little of it is actually spent on those three "don'ts", and how much more is actually there. I love to teach via self-discovery - a lot less work for me, and a lot more meaningful for them!

Then I had 10 food containers (pots, casserole dishes, etc) on a table and inside each one was an object that demonstrated a point I wanted to make about eating healthy food. Each container corresponded to an interesting fact I had discovered in my reading, something they probably didn't realize. For example, in one pot was a 2 kg bag of sugar. We talked about how much sugar is in soda pop, and that the average teen boy consumes the equivalent of 17 bags of sugar a year in pop alone! Another container revealed two shopping lists that listed the ingredients in making a strawberry shake - homemade and manufactured. There are 5 ingredients in a homemade strawberry shake. There was 7 pages (large font) of ingredients in a fast food shake.

After the fireside I felt really good about the success of it. We laughed, talked, and discussed. They actually participated, which can be a difficult task. I managed to stay mostly off my notes and hit all my points.

But the real confirmation of the success came the next morning. I dropped off Colin at nursery school, which is run by two ladies from church. One of them, Linda, has a teen daughter who was at the fireside. As Linda and I got talking, she made this comment to me:

"Evelyn really enjoyed the fireside last night. She came home and said "Mom, it was surprisingly really good"."

Linda immediately blushed. "Oh, I don't mean she thought you would be boring, she just...I know, the Word of Wisdom..."

I cut her off. "Linda, that's probably the best compliment I could hope for from the youth!" And it truly was. From an age group that is often sullen and reluctant to engage with adults, I'll take "surprisingly good" any day!

I love working with teens. I know most people would shudder at the thought, but I love the challenge. This is when you can really impact their lives and help shape their futures. I love being a part of that.

Friday, 24 October 2008


Caleb's place to store his soother while he nurses: in my mouth. Just in case I was needing a little soothing while he ate.


I'm working on getting Caleb used to a sippy cup. He doesn't even really use a bottle on his own, but I figure at almost I year, I'd be putting the bottles away soon anyway. He's not really getting the idea of the cup yet. The other day he found his cup, brought it to me, put it in my hand and then threw back his head and opened his mouth wide, waiting expectantly.


Still a great lover of food, nothing is safe if it's within Caleb's incredible reach. At Thanksgiving I fixed him his own plate of all the good eats and he sat on James' lap to eat. And eat he did - from his own plate, James' plate, Grandpa's plate and any platter within his arm's reach. earlier in the day we had gone out with James' parents and were sitting down for lunch - hot dogs. I had intended to pacify Caleb with a bit of bun and then feed him when we got home. But Grandpa, sitting across from Caleb, got distracted talking and was holding his hot dog a little too far across the table...


I know most parents would think I'm crazy, but I can't wait for him to learn how to talk. Caleb not being able to communicate to me is the most frustrating part of our relationship. He's an extremely strong-willed kid, and knows exactly what he wants. And he always wants it now. The current stage he's in means he justs points and lets this loud yell/growl out until we figure out what it is he's after. And it's not even worth trying to ease his temper with something else. His way or the highway, baby.


Caleb walks everywhere now. There was no stopping this kid once he figured it out. Crawling up the stairs also came immediately. Coming down was a little harder to master, but luckily it only took a few days of tumbling down the one stair into the playroom before he decided just to sit and yell at me to lift him down. And after a week of constantly doing that, I decided that he was going to learn how to do it himself. Thankfully, he did, and quickly. His judgment is sometimes a little off, but it's so funny to watch him get to his stomach, turn his feet around and then blindly shimmy around until he finds the stair.


This morning I was treated to a lovely concert. Colin just seemed to have a heart full of song today, and one song after another came pouring out. Starting at breakfast time, lasting through play time, and right into lunch, he sang - sometimes purposefully, sometimes absent-mindedly, but always with the emotion and gusto that are his trademarks.

Included songs: "Stranger in Moscow," "Windy," "The Theme to Star Trek," "Amazing Grace," "How Great Thou Art," "Mom-mom Mom-mom," Brightly Beams Our Fathers Mercy," "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad," "Santa Baby," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Little Drummer Boy," Row, row, row your boat," "The Impossible Dream."


Colin's memory is always astounding. Lately I've noticed that he is aware if you skip something in a story book. If two pages stick together, he notices. If you skip a line on a page (even in longer books with 10 or 12 sentences per page), he notices - and corrects you. And many of his books he can "read" on his own, because he has committed the words to memory.

This, of course, is stuff he is exposed to often. But even his long-term memory is great. While playing with a toy plane the other day, I asked him "do you remember when you went on the plane"? Without missing a beat, he said:

"Yes. And Pa was there, and Caleb, but not Daddy. And we bought the new DVD player to take on the plane, and I watched "Finding Nemo," and then "Cars" and then "A Bug's Life." And we ate food and then we went to Vancouver."

Not only are all these details correct, but he hasn't watched those movies in the last six months - and still recalled the exact ones and the exact order we watched them. He recalled my father was there, but not James. Oh, and did I mention that the last time he was on a plane was last February?!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


I love to sing. Music is a huge part of who I am. I've been playing the piano since I was eight. I learned the clarinet in school. I know how to play (although am not proficient on) the trumpet, saxophone and organ. I've led many choirs. But more than anything I love to sing.

Trouble is, singing is not one of my talents. Oh, I can carry I tune alright. I can even sing in parts. I've sung in choirs (alto) and small groups. At home I can sit for hours at the piano and go through my stacks of books, singing and playing Broadway songs, religious songs, Christmas songs, pop songs, oldies...I've got it all and love it all.

Somewhere inside of me I could probably do a decent solo. Not fantastic, but decent. Unfortunately I can't seem to do it. Literally, I can't do it.

You see, back when I was a fragile teenager, a friend told me that I didn't have a good singing voice. And I believed them. I very quickly faded into the background of a piano accompanist. This was a lot easier with a lot less risk involved. I'm a really good piano player, an excellent sight-reader and a great accompanist. I also coach singers really well, helping them with the performance aspects of singing. But I never sing myself.

When I'm by myself, I belt it out like there's no tomorrow. But as soon as someone else is in the room, my voice literally seizes up. I have a physical reaction that I can't control. In front of close friends, family and even my husband, my voice just won't replicate what I know I'm capable of.

And so I made one of my 101 goals in 1000 days to sing a solo in church. I knew there would be lots of opportunities to sing other than in front of the entire congregation, so I thought that would be a good place to start. Well, this past Sunday, I accomplished this goal.

I currently serve as a teacher in our Women's group, which means that once a month I teach a lesson and lead a discussion on a religious topic for about 30 other women. I have a book that provides the basis for the lesson, but it's up to me to decide the best way to shape that hour. This week's lesson was titled "Hold fast during the storms of life". One of my favourite religious songs is called "Hold On" and conveys the exact message of the lesson. And so I bravely sat behind the piano and accompanied myself as I sang this song.

How did it go? Pretty much as I expected. My voice crackled through it, my nerves gripping at my throat. I know the song cold and I know I can sing it really well on my own. But I got through it. And that was the whole point.

My whole hang-up is purely psychological, but I am truly amazed at how something in your mind can actually physically effect you. At any rate, I did it. And maybe, just maybe, I might do it again. I'm sure that if I can just get a hold of these nerves, I might actually do it well one day.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The fence

I bet you thought I forgot about the fence, right? That I finished it long ago and just felt the humble need not to brag.


I finally finished it over the weekend. After months and months of work (and some months of no work due to busy children who refuse to play outside), nailing and sawing and measuring and building, it's finally finished! I have my beautiful picket fence.

Down the two sides of our property I built picket by picket the fence you see. I couldn't bear cutting down the trees, shrubs and brush that line the back of our yard, and so I opted to just fill it all in instead. I installed a green temporary fence, while I wait for the bushes I planted to grow.

My little fence. We love it. There are rumours floating around that the Seniors' Centre may try to buy up the last 7 houses on our block as they expand. I don't know if I could bear to sell the house knowing they'd just tear down my beautiful fence! I feel like I just want to live here forever now!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Finding time

I've developed an infatuation with the idea of homeschool. I would write the word "love" in place of infatuation, but I'm not sure I'm there yet.

This morning Colin went off to nursery school and Caleb is indulging me with an hour and a half nap so far. With this "spare" time, I was able to tidy up the living room, throw in a load of laundry, clean up my desk space, bake some homemade buns, listen to a radio program, and have my own personal bible study and prayer time. This is unheard of in my life.

If my boys were home all the time, I can't imagine where I would ever get in any of this. From the time (often before 6am) that I'm wrenched from a few hours of sleep until 8:30pm when the boys are generally sleeping, my boys use up all my focus. As it stands, the house is generally untidy, I'm always behind on laundry, and James has been wondering if I'm on a bread strike lately. My bible time is usually loaded up on one day of the week and prayers are prayed either hurriedly as I attend to my children or at night as I lie in bed about to drift off.

My hope is that this is just the stage my family is at. Both of my boys demand my attention all the time. Caleb generally cries to be held all day. I, of course, can't comply, and so often have to endure his mad screams as I maneuver around the house with him attached to my leg. Colin is learning to play on his own, but doesn't like to be by himself for more than a few minutes. I can be almost certain that trouble is brewing when I don't hear any noise coming from the playroom.

I have relished these two hours this morning he has spent at "school", and am equally grateful that Caleb actually napped so that something could be accomplished. And as I sit here and indulge in writing, I wonder how mothers who homeschool manage to get anything done when they have 3, 4, 5 or more children under foot all day. Right now I usually run around like a chicken with my head cut off between 8:30 and 10:30pm trying to keep up with everything that needs doing, as these are the only hours in the day I have to devote to stuff like that.

Am I alone in my wild world? Have I missed the boat in teaching my children to amuse themselves, or at least be a little more mild-mannered? Is there a secret time of the day I don't know of? Or must I patiently endure this crazy time of life, simply trying to cherish the young ages of my kids, and know that things will smooth themselves out eventually?

Ahhh. The little one is crying again. The dishes, the vacuuming, the laundry, the dusting (do I even have a duster?) the lawn and the soup will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

It's That Time of Year

Our lawn is awash in the red and orange hues of falling leaves, and the air is refreshingly crisp. I pulled out my warm sweaters and winter shoes. It's dark in the morning when we open our eyes, and the sun is a warmer shade of gold. And beautiful tones of Christmas songs fill the air.

Yes, that's right - Christmas songs. Too early? In fact, much later than usual. In the past I've been in charge of one Christmas event or another, which often meant pulling out the albums in August. This year I have graciously given my family a little extra time to seem somewhat normal. But finally, it's that time of year.

I'm an early Christmas shopper - in fact I'm a year-round Christmas shopper. I already have a few things I picked up last spring. I love perusing the stores for that perfect item that will entice a magical smile from the recipient.

I also have been struggling with the inundation of gifts over the past years. We have been blessed with so much already, and the car-full of presents to add to the heap seems redundant and just a mite spoiled. Plus there are other things I want to impress upon my children about the Christmas season than just getting gifts.

So, here are a few of the things we have tried in the past, or are trying this year. I hope you'll all share some of your gift-giving traditions, too.

A friend told me that in her family, for the first two Christmases and birthdays for a baby, she just wraps up toys they already own. Around September (or a few months before the birthday) a few things quietly disappear from the toybox and are stored away from sight. She wraps them up and gives these on the big day. Since the delight is really in the paper and boxes, she avoids the expense and storage space of new gifts for a baby who doesn't really know what's going on.

Growing up money was tight in our home, and so my parents started getting my sisters and I to make Christmas gifts for each other. Sometimes it was a Family Studies school project, sometimes it was a craft we'd come up with on our own. To this day I still have a Christmas ornament and a homemade pillow I received. Sure, it helped with the budget, but my parents were teaching us more than just saving money. The delight of seeing my sister open a gift I'd personally laboured over is incomparable.

This year I'm making most of my boys gifts. This isn't out of a budget necessity. I want to give something to the boys that will last over the years and will mean something to them when they are older. I'm also after toys that aren't made solely of plastic. Textures are an important part of learning, and there is something so beautiful about a real wooden train or a cloth book. This year I'm working on three projects. The first is a large 11"x 14" photograph for each of my boys. The photo is one of them sleeping as a baby, and I'm adding the text of the lullaby I sang to each one overtop of the photo. The second is a train set for Colin. We've purchased the wooden track, and will be building and painting a table on wheels and then assembling the track on it. The third is a set of cloth stacking blocks for Caleb, with letters and numbers and animals on them.

I also read recently of a woman who wanted to make sure her four boys understood that Christmas is a time of giving. Her and her husband gifted each boy with money to donate to a charity of their choice. Each child would spend the month of December thinking of how to use this gift. Sometimes it went to a local cause, sometimes it was donated overseas. Sometimes it even went to buying gifts for a family who might not have much for Christmas that year. On Christmas morning, each family member would then share who they had blessed with the money.

Another of my friend belongs to a very large family. Very large. Her husband is one of nine children, and each child is married with 4 or 5 children of their own, and some of those children also have children. They rent a hall each year and have a huge Christmas dinner. But instead of trying to buy gifts, they donate to a cause. Each of the nine families takes turns choosing a charity of their choice and everyone donates to that. They have also helped out with local, national and international things, in areas ranging from animals to children to environment.

Those are some of the ideas I've gathered over the years. What are some of your Christmas traditions that help to light the love of the season?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Election Day

Election day is here (again). We've been at the polls quite often over the past few years, one of the joys of the Canadian system of government. And it looks like we'll be back at the polls again next year. You'd think the leaders in the government would take a hint that Canadians are not satisfied with their choices as we elect minority government after minority government.

Tonight James will be popping a huge bowl of popcorn and plopping himself down to watch the results roll in. This is an event that rivals the Oscars for him. I also like the anticipation of seeing the voting unfold, although I'm not such a die-hard fan. I suppose I should be grateful my husband's vice is elections and not baseball or football or something I find completely uninteresting.

Just a quick note to a dear friend who called this morning to see if I needed a ride to vote today. She knows I'm usually without a car, and phoned just to make sure I was going to be able to get to my polling station. I'm grateful for her thoughtfulness.

My grandmother introduced me to a voting strategy I wasn't aware of. At Thanksgiving this weekend, our family chatted about politics. She voted in the advance polls, but didn't not vote for any candidate. Huh? That's right. She did not support any of party leaders, and also was not impressed with her local candidates. So she went to the polling station, registered her vote, then put a blank ballot into the box. Unlike spoiling the vote (where you mark up your ballot any way other than writing one "X" in one of the boxes), casting a blank ballot is registered as a vote of protest. Last week I wrote about wishing our ballots had an "abstain" box to vote for, to show you wanted to vote but did not support any of the candidates. This, in effect, is the same thing. I do wish that they widely released the statistics on protest or abstained votes. It might send some louder messages to our political leaders out there.

Our family took a short poll online that required you to choose which statements you agree with on certain key issues. At the end it tallied up how many answers for each party you chose, and told you which party your views are most in line with. Surprisingly, our family of about 13 vote equally across the board. Some are strong supporters, others are finding themselves with new parties. I love the diversity in this country and in our family. It's what makes life interesting.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The wheels in his head have been turning

Caleb moments that amaze me:

Mornings often start early in our home, which means the four of us snuggling up in our bed with some morning cartoons. Caleb is totally uninterested in the TV, but absolutely enthralled with the TV remote. Colin is not impressed with this, as it often led to Caleb changing the channel. As a result, I usually take out the batteries before handing it over. The other day Caleb was sitting with me on the bed and spied the batteries on my night table. He crawled over and picked them up, then got off the bed and crawled around on the floor. After a minute he found what he was looking for: the remote. He then flipped the remote over and put in the batteries (almost), then took the little battery cover and did his best to slip it into place. Now that's a lot of association to make!


Today during church Caleb insisted on playing with my pen. I twisted the top to lower the ink, and surrendered it. He then wandered over to the next pew where a piece of paper was sticking out. He grabbed the paper and then proceeded to "write" intently for the next couple of minutes. I would love to know what story his little brain was concocting!


Caleb loves food. Loves it. To the point where you better hold tight to what you're eating, or he'll snap it right out of your hands (like the hot dog he did from his grandpa yesterday, whose arm was leaning just a little too far across the table!). Today I had a little container of cereal that he was snacking out of at church. A little girl no more than 18 months in the pew ahead of us spied the snack and stood, drooling, looking over at him. Her little arm wavered toward the container, but Caleb saw the potential offender right away. He stuck his fist in and grabbed a handful, then quickly put the lid on. He munched on what he had, then uncovered the container again long enough to grab a few more pieces, then covered it again. This continued on until he was finished. Nothing comes between Caleb and his food.


Note to self: don't bother with toys for Christmas. I packed a bag with all sorts of toys for Caleb at church. I spread them out on the floor. The other infants flocked to the toys. Caleb spent the hour playing with: my pen, my wallet, a straw he found on the floor, and the leg of a table.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Our little ball of emotion

Since he was a baby, we've noticed that Colin experiences every emotion at 100%. There is never feeling just a little sad, or simply content, or slightly frustrated. He is sobbing uncontrollably, over-the-moon elated, or screaming with impatience.

Last night my sister, Jennifer, was babysitting the boys for us, which included bedtime. When we arrived home, she recounted this story to us.

Bedtime was fairly uneventful, which can be unusual for us. Caleb went to sleep no problem, which left Jennifer time to spend with Colin, reading a few books, singing songs, talking about the events of the day, nighttime prayers, and then going to sleep. Everything went smoothly, she shut off the light and came downstairs.

About 15 minutes later, she heard a soft sobbing from upstairs. At first she thought it was Caleb, but as she listened outside the bedroom doors she discovered it was in fact Colin. She opened the door and went to his bedside, to discover his pillow soaked with tears from a long period of crying, and Colin softly gulping air, tears falling freely down his cheeks.

"Colin, what's wrong?" she inquired. Through sobs, came Colin's response:
"I didn't get to say goodnight to Derek."
(Derek is Jennifer's boyfriend of 5 years, to whom Colin has taking a particular liking. On hearing this simple plea, Jennifer's heart broke!)
"Would you like to call him and say goodnight?"
"Yes, please."

And so, after a quick phone call to Derek (which melted his heart!), Colin snuggled back into bed, content. Within minutes he was fast asleep.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Our true north strong and free?

I actually felt sick to my stomach the other day listening to a local news report. As a federal election looms, I am preparing myself by learning about each party platform, familiarizing myself with my local candidates, and getting to know the party leaders. I am doing what I can to make an informed decision to cast my vote. I am proud to live in a free country where I can make my voice heard in our political system. I am not one who would consider not voting, even if I am disillusioned and disheartened with elements of the process. I do think it would be interesting to have an "abstain" option on the ballot (ie: I am voting, but do not support any of the above candidates), but until then I will wade through the often messiness of elections and decide how to exercise my right to vote.

I strongly believe in voting, because I strongly believe in democracy and accountability. My goodness - can you imagine the power we would have if everyone actually got out on election day and voted in accordance to their beliefs? Can you imagine if every mother voted to make their city, province and country a better and safer place for their children to grow up in? Can you imagine if every small and local business owners voted to sustain local economies? Can you imagine if every artist voted to assure the importance of culture to a society? I'm not talking about some, or most of these people. I'm talking about all of these people. The politicians want us to believe that the common man or woman couldn't ever really understand the business of running a country, and that only these few, select people actually know what's best for us. That's the biggest lie of them all. They know how powerful we can be together. They are scared stiff of what we think of them! The proof is in the pudding - how many times do candidates "withdraw" or are "let go" from their party? They know they have only a few weeks to impress us and win our votes. They will do almost anything to secure enough ballots to propel them into the house.

(A great scene just popped into my mind - for all you parents out there, remember the film "A Bug's Life"? The grasshoppers know that if the ants were ever to combine together against them the grasshoppers would be easily overthrown. For them, it's all about optics and scare tactics so that the ants never really the power they have).

Back to the news report I was watching. Supporters in Toronto of one of the major political parties have had their property vandalized over the last few days. Lots of spray-painted messages opposing the party leader, but also many cars had their brake lines cut - an action which could potentially be extremely dangerous. One mother reported getting in the car with her young children and, not realizing she had no brakes, starting to drive the car. Luckily she was able to run aground without injury, but it could have been a disaster for her and her children. The vandals have been randomly targeting people with lawn signs for one specific political party.

While reactions to this story have varied from sympathy to outrage, what immediately came to my mind was the recent election in Zimbabwe. Many countries condemned the farcical show of democracy taking place under President Mugabe. The opposition leader pulled out of the election, stating that "it's not an election. It is an exercise in mass intimidation." There were reports of violence against those in support of the opposition party, and also of people being forced to the polls to vote in support of Mugabe. Words like "perversion of democracy" and "difficult and distressing" were used to describe the situation. Many Zimbabwe people feared for their lives if they were choosing not to vote for Mugabe, or even to abstain altogether.

Granted, cut brake lines are a far cry from the violence in Zimbabwe. But I find it deplorable that in our free country, where we prize democracy and freedom of speech, that someone should find it acceptable to try and intimidate local voters. Many victims felt compelled to take down their lawn signs, and local candidates felt it necessary to warn those who accepted to post signs of the potential danger. What era and country are we living in? Some voters chose to stand up to the vandal, defying the attempt at intimidation by keeping their signs in plain view. But I fully understand those people who feared the attacks might escalate, and who have families to worry about and protect.

What has really come to light for me is how alike we are as humanity. We western countries like to sit upon high horses and look down at the poor, uneducated people of "lesser" countries, sending troups to war to protect their rights to how we think they should live. I support human rights everywhere, including in my own country. We are a global village now, and my brother and sister in Zimbabwe are not so different from me after all.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Relationships take work

I know that relationships take work, if they are to grow and evolve and deepen. One of the wisest pieces od advice I've received about marriage is to work hard at it. Some marriages end in explosive battles, often spurred by selfishness. Others, however, just fade away. The years go by and the days fill with other commitments, work, kids. Your spouse just always seems like she/he will be there, until one day you find yourself looking across an empty table at a complete stranger. I have an aunt and uncle that recently experienced this. They have amicably divorced, finding that they simply have different interests and wants after 25+ years of marriage.

I also know how much work friendships take. Again, with life so busy, friends who I used to see or talk to weekly, if not daily, I rarely touch base with once a month any longer. Some of my best friends from school I haven't seen in the past year. Others I am not even in contact with any longer. None of these friendships soured, they just went by the wayside.

What I had never realized, however, is that this also applies to my relationship with God. I am not always actively working at keeping our relationship strong. I don't ever mean to walk away from Him, and yet with a lack of work on my part, I find myself distant from Him. Why is it that I expect that our relationship will just stay the way it is, despite my lack of effort? No other relationship works this way. Life is full and busy. If I don't actively work at keeping my relationships strong, they'll fizzle.

If you had asked me what my focus as a faith-filled person was up until last week, I would have said "service'. I always strove to serve those around me, showing my love and care for each person in my life, and also those strangers I come across, by actively doing. "All we need is love" would have been my answer to the question of how to solve many of the problems in our society today.

But I have since rediscovered what our primary purpose should be. In fact, "Love thy neighbour" is the second great commandment. The first is "Love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." What I really should be actively pursuing in life is my relationship with God. For although I can try to love my neighbour as myself, my natural selfish tendencies will only frustrate this goal. With a strong relationship with God, however, he will give me the love I need to overcome my selfishness, and truly be able to love and serve those around me.

This will be sort of an experiment on my part, then. But I believe that if I focus on improving my relationship with God, really coming to know who he is and what he wants for me, then his love will fill me, and overflow into the world around me. I won't have to work hard at consciously serving others - the second commandment will naturally occur as I work hard at the first.

Relationships take work. So I'm putting my nose to the grindstone and getting some serious work done.

Book Club

When I lived in Toronto, I joined a book club at our local library. It was tons of fun. I have a habit of getting into a groove of reading either classics written more than 100 years ago, or historical fiction. And generally the books could be used as a paperweight. And so, in an effort to break out of this beloved cycle, I joined the book club.

The group was completely not what I was expecting. I think the average age was about 60 years! It was a mix of men and women. There was one other mom, and a student for whom English was a second language. We read books that had been on bestseller lists, along with a couple good Canadian books. Some of the books I loved, some I didn't even finish reading. But the conversation was always fantastic, delving into these literary works of art with others equally interested in reading.

When I moved to Orangeville, I checked to see if there was a book club. There isn't. There's been rumours about starting one, but nothing has materialized yet. The difficult part is having enough of the same books to go around. We have two small branches here - hardly a large collection to warrant 10 or 12 copies of books.

So, instead of a traditional book club, I've joined a book recommendation/trading club. We met for the first time last week. Each person brought a book they've enjoyed and presented it to the group. Afterwards, we borrowed those which were of interest to us.

Although it won't be a group in which we can discuss the literary merits and pitfalls of a common book, it will be nice to expand my book list from other people's recommendations, and perhaps start reading things written in the last century!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Wrecking ball

I heard a woman use the expression yesterday "God completely wrecked me." She was referring to an incident that caused her to completely reevaluate her priorities in life, and the "facts" that she had considered unswerving.

Immediately, the image of a huge wrecking ball swinging full force into a building filled my mind. I saw the carefully built walls crumbling in an instant. A few weeks back I witnessed the demolition of a two-story house: it was brought to the ground in less than 20 seconds. It would likely have taken months of labour to build it up, and it was all erased in an instant.

God is working at me in much the same way. I work so hard laying each brick. My building grows taller and taller and then in one or two good knocks my understanding and way of life come crumbling down. It is a good thing - no, really, it is. Amazing knowledge and understanding emerge from the settling dust, as I am awakened to a new reality. But it can be hard to know where to start, standing alone amidst the destruction around me.

And so, God is wrecking me. He's continuously trying to teach me that it's a pointless endeavor to build my own walls. I might as well be building the tower of Babel. Good intentions but wrong purpose. God's will and plan for me are what is best for me. Why do I always insist on trying it my way first? I feel like I'm two years old so many times, digging my feet into the ground and saying "I want to do it by myself!"

But exciting things are stirring within me. This morning alone I jotted down seven or eight individual thoughts, each of which my mind is mulling over, exploring. They'll find their way to the page eventually. Not all at once, for they each need time to grow. But let me tell you, God didn't just knock a room down here, the whole building has come crashing down.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Life sans vehicle

Generally I'm pretty easy-going with my vehicle-less life. I walk everywhere. Our house is less than 10 minutes walking distance to pretty much everything (except friends' houses). I have a good pair of running shoes and a plethora of devices in which to bring along my kids (including but not limited to 4 different types of strollers, a wagon, a push car, a tricycle and numerous baby carriers). We also love to take the bus, even on those few days when we've missed the last one and end up walking much further than we intended (our bus stops at 6pm)

But there are some days that just try my patience. Yesterday was one of them.

The morning started being picked up by a friend at 9am for a community activity. This isn't a terrible thing - I have some fantastic friends who are really great about picking us up for things like this.

We arrived back home at noon. As soon as I opened the door a waft of gas engulfed us. The gas stove had accidentally been left on all morning (5 hours) and the entire house was awash in the fumes. I opened all the windows, but decided we should probably vacate for a bit to let the gas dissipate. We had no car, it was lunch time and then naptime by 1pm, but we had to go.

So I packed up a quick lunch (crackers, cheese, fruit and veggie slices and a juice box), plopped the kids in our double stroller and hightailed it up to the Early Years Centre. As I neared, I remembered starting yesterday they were closing Thursday mornings until 12:30. I prayered fervently for the doors to be open early, and thankfully they were.

We ate, had a quick play and hurried home just before 1pm. I got the boys down only 15 minutes late for nap.

After nap James took Colin for an overnight trip to London to see the grandparents, so it was just Caleb and I. I had plans for the evening, so I called my babysitter and made sure she could make her own way here, called the host for the evening event to find out who was attending, called a friend also attending to see if she could not only pick me up and bring me home, but also give my babysitter a ride home, too.

Then I flipped open my cookbook to see what delectable treat I would bake to take that evening. I decided on a quick and easy squares recipe I have, but for which I didn't have all the ingredients. It would require making two stops in the complete opposite direction, but with 3 hours until I had to leave, there was more than enough time for an afternoon walk.

Cold and crisp weather meant bundling up both Caleb and myself. I packed a snack and made my way down to the main street. On the way to Bulk Barn, I passed by a second-hand shop that had a fantastic toy for $2! I've been looking for large weather proof toys to put outside to encourage Colin to play out of doors more, and this was perfect. I opened the door and called inside to the shopkeeper (not a stroller friendly entrance!) She came out, I paid, but then asked if I could pick it up on the way home, as it was large, cumbersome and wouldn't fit in the bottom of my stroller.

I continued on my way to the first store, picked up the items I needed, and made my way back to pick up the toy. Using garbage bags and string, we rigged it to the stroller to help in carrying the huge thing home. I remember vaguely wishing I had the car.

I made a quick stop at home to drop off the toy and pick up warmer jackets and an umbrella. The weather had been crazy all day, changing from blue to grey sky every 10 minutes or so, and had included a hail storm from a cloudless sky earlier in the afternoon.

We then hiked up to the grocery store. By this time Caleb was getting fed up with the stroller (unusual for him) and so I had to carry him, wrapped in blankets while pushing the stroller (not easy to navigate in this way!) I cajoled him back into the stroller on the way back from the store by providing him with my wallet to play with (his favourite toy). As I neared the exit of the store it was as dark as dusk, and only 4pm. Rain was imminent, and not the light drizzle of earlier in the day. I considered briefly hopping on the bus , but I saw it whip by as I came out the doors, so that was a no-go.

So I bravely opened my umbrella and started off. Yes, the heavens opened and drenched the world around me - gratefully my umbrella held out and the cover to the umbrella protected Caleb.

I arrived home, made my squares, fed Caleb, tidied up, ate some cereal for dinner and off I went with my ride. I was a little nervous as the evening went on, that my ride wouldn't be ready to leave for the time I promised to be home for my babysitter. But the evening wrapped up and home we went, and off went my babysitter.

Ahhh. That's my little tired sigh even now as I recall yesterday. I love walking and enjoy being outside, as do my boys. And one big bonus of all the walking is that my pregnancy pounds just melt off almost instantly after having kids. Plus I save money on a gym membership and stay fairly healthy and fit and do a bit of good for this world in which I live. So for all the adventures of living life sans vehicle, I'm not really complaining all that much.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

101 Things in 1001 Days

61 / 101 goals. 61% done!

101 things in 1001 days is a new internet phenomenon slowly making its way around. In a world of failed New Years Resolutions and lackluster lists, someone came up with a much more manageable way for people to try and get things accomplished that either need to get done or they want to do.

You write down 101 goals that you want to accomplish over the next 1001 days (roughly 2.75 years). The goals should be specific - nothing generic like "I want to get organized." Instead you could write "buy a calendar" or "write my appointments in my agenda every day for a month. You track the goals you achieve, and many people also write about their adventures along the way. There are even online communities in which you can see other people's goals and what they are getting done.

A couple of my friends (from completely different friend circles) have created their own lists, and one good, long time friend invited me to join a small group she is starting. The headings are my own creations, and were written down after I had half my goals laid out. Really, it's just a way for me to organize my thoughts (and help me come up with more - 101 is a lot!) Each heading is a personal characteristic I am hoping to develop further.

Some goals are fairly every day, some are much more personal. This is a personal journey for me. Feel free to comment and follow along, but please try to be supportive and uplifting in your comments. There is a link in the right column that says "101 things in 1001 days", and if you click on that you'll find yourself back at this list. then, if you click on a goal that is highlighted in green, you'll come to a blog entry about how I accomplished the goal.

And so, without further ado, my 101 things in 1001 days.

Spiritual Giant
1. Have more meaningful prayer, once a day, during naptime for a month.
2. Memorize 25 bible verses. (4/25)
3. Complete all the reading for my Women's bible study class for one semester. (Nov 20, 2008)
4. Have morning devotional with the boys every day for a month. (April 30, 2009)
5. Complete 100% visiting teaching for 4 months in a row. (October 2010)
6. Create 3 CDs of General Conference talks on 3 different subjects and listen to them.
7. Complete the "21 Days Closer to Christ" challenge. (November 2010)

Loving Wife and Mother
8. Go on a winter outing with my family and don't complain about the cold. (February 20, 2010)
9. Have a date night once a month for one year (September 2009)
10. Create an art station for the kids. (October 2010)
11. Play with Colin during Caleb's morning nap every week for a month. (October 2008)
12. Finish decorating the master bedroom.
13. Take Colin to the Zoo. (June 2010)
14. Hold Family Night every Monday night for a month (November 17, 2008)
15. Get baby portraits done with Caleb. (March 20, 2009)
16. Play a board game with James once a week for a month. (September 2010)
17. Collect Colin's letter artwork from Nursery school each week and put into a book for him. (June 16, 2009)
18. Do Kindergarten prep with Caleb. (February 2010)
19. Order 10 books from Scholastic Book Order. (November 5, 2008)
20. Decide on a family motto and create a way to display our family motto in the house. (October 2010)
21. Make the majority of the boys' Christmas presents myself. (December 2008)

Happy Homemaker
22. Create a memory box for each member of my family and sort our keepsakes into each one. (April 2010)
23. Finish building my fence. (October 18, 2008)
24. Have a three-month Food Storage. (March 31, 2009)
25. Set up my sewing machine in my bedroom. (October 4, 2008)
26. Learn how to use more features in Quicken and create a proper budget and financial tracking system for 2009. (March 1, 2009)
27. Stay on top of budgeting in Quicken, by falling no more than 2 weeks behind for 6 months.
28. Purge my clothes twice a year, getting rid of things I didn't wear at all in the last 6 months. (August 2, 2009)
29. Clean all the windows in our house.
30. Find a side table for the living room. (October 14, 2008)
31. Build a shelf under the kitchen sink.
32. Find two more shelves for our food storage. (November 1, 2008)
33. Clean all the boxes out of the garage. (October 30, 2008)
34. Refinish our bedroom dresser.
35. Back up the computer.
36. Organize our photos, including printed copies and CD backups. (Jan 2011)
37. Hem 5 pairs of pants. (5/5) (March 2010)
38. Set up a cleaning schedule. (February 23, 2009)
39. De-clutter the master bedroom (top of dresser, closet basket, sewing table top) (February 9, 2009)
40. Make a piece of art for our home. (December 2009)
41. Put a car emergency kit in the car. (February 16, 2009)
42. Gather copies of all important documents and keep a copy here and one at my parents'.
43. Do a load of laundry each night instead of stockpiling it for one day. Do this for two weeks. (January 22, 2009)
44. Choose a room in the house and work one month on keeping that room tidy.
45. Don't buy myself any clothing for 3 months.

Healthy Woman
46. Grow a vegetable garden. (August 2009)
47. Cook 5 new vegetarian meals.
48. Go skating.
49. Drink a litre of water every day, aside from mealtimes for two weeks.
50. Buy my produce from a local farm each week for a month. (July 2010)
51. Try a new vegetable. (Spaghetti Squash - March 18, 2009)
52. Can my own preserves.
53. Go to the dentist. (November 2010)
54. Make chicken broth from scratch. (October 16, 2008)
55. Make beef broth from scratch.
56. Try the new Japanese restaurant. (November 29, 2008)
57. Ride my bike to do errands.
58. Put nothing on the stair landing for one month - run it immediately up or down the stairs to put it away.

Intelligent Mind
59. Read 3 books about 3 different methods of education. (3/3) (May 2010)
("Weapons of Mass Instruction" - open source learning)
("The Leader in Me" - leadership focused learning)
("Teach Your Own" - unschooling)
60. Watch the rest of the AFI 100 films of all time movies that I haven't seen. (8/35)
61. Join a book club. (October 2, 2008)
62. Write briefly about some goals I accomplish.
63. Watch 10 documentaries. (8/10)
("The High Cost of Low Prices")
("Jesus Camp"
("Why We Fight")
("Souvenir of Canada")
("Black September")
("Food Inc.)
("The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins")
64. Watch an entire political debate.
65. Read 10 non-fiction books. (August 8, 2009)
("A Simple Path")
("The 100-Mile Diet")
("God Wants a Powerful People")
("The Strong-Willed Child")
("The Purity Code")
("Weapons of Mass Instruction")
("The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis)
("For Women Only")
("Dumbing Us Down")
("Toss the Guilt, Catch the Joy")
66. Read 10 fiction books. (June 17 2009)
("Anne of Green Gables" Series, books 1-8)
("Fishers of Men")
("Come Unto Me")
67. Learn 10 constellations.
68. Read a Shakespeare play I haven't read yet.

Creative Spirit
69. Learn a new instrument (flute) (Started November 2, 2008)
70. Buy a second-hand clarinet and begin playing it again. (March 21, 2009)
71. Sing a solo in church. (October 19, 2008)
72. Write 10 poems. (2/10)
73. Print and bind each year of blogging into a book.
74. Learn and practice 3 new piano songs from the Grade 9 conservatory
75. Sing in a choir. (December 2008)
76. Write a children's book on what I've learned about food. (Started February 1, 2009)

Involved Family Member
77. Send photographs and a letter to all my grandparents 4 times a year. (4/4)
78. Go to Bobcaygeon with the boys to see Nana once a year. (July 2010)
79. Help one of my sisters in a house cleaning project. (June 2010)
80. Create a "welcome basket" for my first niece or nephew (December 2008)
81. Visit my family in Vancouver, BC.

Natural Service
82. Write a letter to my local politician about an issue important to me. (February 17 2009)
83. Cook 3 meals to freeze for a friend who is pregnant.
84. Host a party.
85. Babysit for another mom so she can have time to herself.
86. Follow a friend's goal list and comment on her accomplishments. (October 2008)
87. Donate the toys that aren't favourites. (August 3, 2009)
88. Go to a local sports game. (February 2010)
89. Visit 5 local tourist attractions.
(Downey's Farm)
(Theatre Orangeville)
(Santa Train)
90. Pass my magazine subscriptions on to someone else after reading them. (December 2008)
91. Pay for someone else's purchase behind me in line.
92. Organize my craft stuff and pass on the scrapbook stuff I'll never use.
93. When I feel like buying myself something, buy something for someone else instead.

Time Out For Me
94. Travel to France again.
95. Get my hair cut at least three times a year. (2/3)
96. Go to the movies by myself 3 times. (3/3) (Feb 2011)
97. Go Christmas caroling. (Dec 2010)
98. Visit New York City.
99. Ask for help when I'm overwhelmed instead of trying to handle it by myself. (April 3, 2009)
100. Spend an hour reading in a coffee shop, sipping on a gourmet hot chocolate. (Nov 2010)
101. Go out to dinner with some girlfriends. (February 2009)

Something's cooking

Autumn is coming, which brings with it a delectable variety of fall flavours and meals. Fresh baked apple pies, crockpot roasts, stews and soups, chili with cornbread... Warm and comforting hugs while the cool weather nips at your cheeks. I love the autumn.

This fall has also brought some new things into my kitchen.

Last week I canned food for the very first time. Aren't my pears just gorgeous? Beautiful glass jars lined up on a shelf, almost too good to eat - almost.

This is my first chicken roast of the season, complete with the mandatory potatoes, carrots and apples. The glaze you see was a fantastic honey mustard curry concoction that pleased all palates here.

We stocked up on a bushel of Mactintosh apples fresh from the orchard. We've been snacking on them whole, sliced with cinnamon, and the rest will be turned into apple pies, preserves and homemade applesauce.

Squash is a new venture for me this fall. I am tiptoeing outside of my comfort zone and going to try a recipe this evening for the Delicata squash (that's the striped one). The other I've got is a butternut squash, which from my reading, is difficult to ruin and very tasty.

Well, that's it from my kitchen today. Let's all raise a glass of apple cider to the fall!