Saturday, 29 November 2008

He'll Carry You

He knows your heart
He knows your pain
He knows the strength it took just to simply breathe today
He sees the tears that you cry
He knows your soul is aching to know why.

He hears your prayers, each humble word
When you said you couldn't face another day He understood
He knows the path when you walk blind
Though you've felt alone He's never left your side.

He knew there'd be moments when no earthly words could take away your sorrow
And no human eyes could see what you're going through
When you've taken your last step and done all that you can do
He will lift your heavy load and carry you.

He'll bring you peace and leave you hope
And in the darkest night He'll comfort you until you know
the sun will rise
And each new day
You will have the strength to live again.

And in the moments when no earthly words can take away your sorrow
And no human eyes can see what you're going through
When you've taken your last step and done all that you can do
He will lift your heavy load and carry you.

He hears you
when you're crying in the night
He hears you
when your soul longs to fight
'Til the morning will come
and the light of the dawn reassures-

That in the moments when no earthly words can take away your sorrow
And no human eyes can see what you're going through
When you've taken your last step and done all that you can do
He will lift your heavy load and carry you.

- Hilary Weeks

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Freedom of Speech

This is an interesting yet difficult entry to write. I am amazed sometimes at the audacity of the claim that North Americans hold to regarding freedom of speech.

Last month James and I saw an interesting documentary called "Expelled", regarding the theory of Intelligent Design in the world of science. The basic idea is that the genesis of all life was begun by some sort of creator. The community does not necessarily saw "God", but simply that the very first spark of whatever needed some sort of designer to put it there. Even evolutionists cannot agree on how that very first spark of cell could have appeared. The documentary explores the suppression of this theory in the scientific community, and how professors and researchers are having their careers ruined by even considering the idea. It is not an argument about the theory of evolution, it is an exploration on freedom of speech and expression.

This past US election gave birth to a new controversy regarding freedom of speech. You likely have heard about Proposition 8, which asked Californian voters their thought on the definition of marriage. By a slim margin (about the same that Barack Obama won the Presidency), the Proposition was passed, defining traditional marriage as a union between a man and woman.

Many religious voters organized themselves to campaign for this proposition, expressing their personal beliefs in traditional marriage. Likewise, many people campaigned against the proposition also. Now, after it passed through the fair and long-standing way of voting, people are rioting against communities who voted for it. What I'm specifically referring to are the acts of defacement, destruction, and threatening against members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church has pulled out thousand of volunteer missionaries, fearing for their safety. Religious church buildings and temples have been seriously vandalized. People attending the churches have been warned: "Let this be a warning to the Mormon church: Dissolve completely or be destroyed."

I believe opponents of Proposition 8 have every right to express their feelings on the subject, but I am in awe that they feel these tactics are justified. I think this quote sums up exactly my feelings on the subject: "To place anyone in fear of threat to their houses of worship or their personal security because they have expressed deeply held religious views is contrary to everything this nation represents."

Sometimes I think Western countries sit on high horses, staring down their noses at countries who put others' lives in jeopardy for expressing their beliefs. Just last week there was another attack on girls in Afghanistan trying to go to school. The acts were condemned by the West, and I doubt you could find many people in North America who would agree with the perpetrator's actions. And yet....

This isn't a journal entry on whether or not Proposition 8 should have been passed or not. This is about the freedom to vote according to your conscious, and not to live in fear because of your beliefs.

It will be interesting to look back on history 100 years from now and see how "archaic" our lives today seem. I think back to the mid-1800s in the US when an extermination order was issued against people of the Church of Jesus Christ (the Mormons). An extermination order. I would hope and pray something like that wouldn't come about today, but it seems, according to some (small, marginal) groups, that the warning "dissolve completely or be destroyed" is not that far away.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A small victory

Last night, Caleb slept! That's right, we may finally be turning a corner.

He slept from 7:30-10:30, drank a bottle of milk, and then slept through until 6am! At which point he nursed a little and is still sleeping...and it's already 7am! So that means that this morning I was able to pray, shower, dress, eat, check email and start this blog all without little bambinos at my feet.

What is different? Well, a couple of things.

First of all, we've had some light shed on Caleb's personality that likely is the reason for much of his sleeplessness so far...he has a wicked temper! I have never seen the like in a baby. When he doesn't get what he wants immediately, he screams, kicks, hits, flails on the ground, and throws anything he can get his hands on. We regularly find his soothers clear across the room. The other day he actually picked up the laptop and tossed it when I closed it up so he couldn't touch it. Before you think it, we don't spoil him by giving in to his every whim. As much as you can help a one year old learn that screaming doesn't get you everything, we are trying to teach that. Because he hates to be alone, when he wakes and finds he's by himself, that temper boils over and the screaming begins.

I've also realized that he nurses when he's scared. Yesterday I had some friends and their kids over, and the house was full and boisterous. Whenever the noise level peaked, Caleb clung to me to nurse. So all those nights when he wakes up alone and needs to be calmed down, he wants to nurse.

The last few days he's started to give up morning naps, which I will sorely miss, but would trade anytime for a good night's sleep.

The last thing we've started to do is let him sleep. Up until this point we've been waking him around 10pm (on those very few nights when he didn't wake at 10pm on his own) to give him a night feed, hoping it would help him sleep through. Then the other week it occurred to me that perhaps by waking him we are interrupting a natural sleep cycle. So even though it meant likely waking just after I'd fallen asleep at 11 or 12, I let him go. Two nights ago this method produced his first six hour sleep at home (from 7pm to 1am). Then he woke at 1am, 3am, 5am, 6am and 7am, but at least he got that six hour stretch.

And so, last night, he slept through. It's impossible to know why, if it was something we did, or if his body finally kicked into sleeping gear, but whatever the reason, I'm so grateful. Two days of showering, two days of breakfast by myself, and yesterday was the first day in a long time when there was an air of peace lingering in the home.

One small step for baby, one large step for family and mom's sanity.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A simple testimony

Something different about the church I attend is that we don't have a preacher, per se. Not in the same way as other Christian churches, who have one (or a couple) designated persons who preach the Sunday sermon each week. Instead, all the members of the congregation take turns teaching each other, with 2 or 3 speakers sharing the sermon time.

Yes, this means that everyone will likely speak at least once during the year. The topic is assigned by our Bishop (at the head of the congregation), and usually you have 10-20 minutes to fill. So although not everyone is a powerful orator, and each speaker is at a different point in their spiritual journey, we realize that we can all learn from each other. Even the teens take a turn (although they usually only speak for 5-10 minutes).

Yes, it can be very scary. Standing up in front of 150 people to speak about such a personal subject can be daunting. But the experience is also humbling and revealing. And the person who inevitably gets the most out of the sermon that day!

Some weeks I struggle to stay focused, as someone reads monotonously from a novel of typed pages. Other weeks we are in stitches as a father shares stories he learned as a dad. Some Sundays are deep in doctrine as someone who has made a career of studying the scriptures shares what he knows. Some Sundays are profound in their simplicity. Today at church we had a beautiful example of simplicity.

An elderly woman sat poised her chair in the front of the chapel. Her smile was there, but there were slight trembles at the corners. She surveyed us all as the meeting was opened in song and prayer. When it came to her time, she slowly rose and made her way to the podium. Her trembling hands placed sheets of paper in front of her and she looked out upon her audience. "This is my first talk in front of you all," she confessed in halting English, layered thickly in a Polish accent. She then began to deliver the words she had prepared on the most simple subject taught by our Lord: charity. The concepts she spoke of were not complex, and the scriptures she quoted were short. A minute in, her eyes began to tear as her trembling voice tried desperately to get through. "I'm so scared, I have such stage fright" she interjected, then continued. Her fingers reached for a tissue. And yet she persevered. When all her reserves of courage finally gave out, she stopped mid-thought and pronounced "I think that is all, now." She quietly made her way back to her seat. Even though the ordeal was over, I think it was likely her heart still pounded in her ears.

I was taught much today. God's message is one of beautiful simplicity. Charity: the pure love of Christ. All the rest is ornamental; it is this one virtue for which I must strive, for without it I am nothing.

I also remembered that I must rise to the occasion to which I am called by God. I pray not for a task equal to my ability, but an ability equal to my task.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

My new gadget

For my birthday, I asked for a FoodSaver preserver. It's a great little machine that sucks the air out of packaging so that the food you freeze remains preserved much longer. Even though I got it about a month ago, I finally was able to pull it out the other night to try it out on three family bulk size chicken breast trays I got on sale.



There I was at 9-o-clock at night, snipping off bags from the roll, seal one end, filling the bag with chicken, and then vacuum sealing the other end. I labeled each back with contents and date, and popped it in the freezer.

This new gadget, along with my new canning equipment will be put to much use next summer, as I hopefully start shopping a lot more at local farms, and buying up in bulk to preserve for the winter.

Yes, I am aware how crazy this sounds, since I have at least 5 major grocery stores within 5 minutes of my house. Yes, I am aware how time-consuming of a task it will be. And yes, I am aware how much tastier fresh farm food is, and how much better it is for us, knowing the grower and the exact process of how my food came to my dinner plate. A friend looked at me a little crazy the other day when I mentioned my new plan. But then I said: well, what else do I have on my plate? Seriously - I don't work outside the home; I'm home every day with my kids. I'm sure I could find one day a week throughout the summer that I could spend preserving food.

I'm hoping it will become a little bit of a friend and family event. This year I canned pears with a friend, and we had a blast (and her husband was very grateful he wasn't the one who had to help her peel bushels of pears!). The images hearken back to a day when members of a family sat out on the front porch peeling potatoes, mothers and daughters baked up pies in the summer kitchen, or church friends gathered to pick strawberries and boil them down into jam. Now that's community!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Work. Job. Career. These three words have evolved to have very different meanings over the thousands of years of human life.

"Work" implies getting something done. The very basic of the idea, a task, perhaps menial, perhaps enjoyable. These days often termed as a "dirty four letter word".

"Job" is the next step up from work, a place where you go to earn money. It is often neither enjoyable or passionate, but it "pays the bills."

"Career" insinuates formal training, personal interest, climbing the corporate ladder, investing your time. Many people feel defined by their career and display a certain amount of pride in their chosen field.

Ultimately, though, all three things boil down to fulfill the same thing: the basic needs of life. Whether I'm doing work, performing a job or fulfilling a career, I am earning money to put a shelter over my head, clothes on my back and food in my tummy.

This thought has made me pause and consider the lifestyle our culture has come to embrace. Many people go out and spend 40+ hours a week earning money to buy these necessities. Doesn't that seem like an unnecessary middle step to you? First you spend the time working, then you spend the time in the stores buying, then you spend the time fixing and cleaning the home. What if we simply worked for the necessities in the first place?

I know, I know - completely archaic, right? I mean, our ancestors did that for thousands of years - thank goodness we have our modern conveniences that free up our time to enjoy pleasure and leisure.

Free time?

When was the last time you actually had "free time"? If you look back to "primitive" people's lives, it is thought they spent somewhere between 2-5 hours a day collecting and preparing food. Their simple dwellings were built by their own hands, completed within months (if it took that long). General tidying and upkeep went fairly quickly - even I could keep two or three rooms clean. Sewing became a skill they were so adept at that a roll of material could be turned into a dress, a pair of pants, a shirt, in a day or two. Granted, the material needed to be purchased, as did a handful of other things, but those people realized that direct trade was much more efficient than first working for money, then going out to spend that money.

I wonder then what my life would look like today if our family relied on these "primitive principles"? (Okay - I realize first I'd have to buy a little land, and endow myself with years of experience my family does not currently have. But after that...)

James would not commute an hour and a half into the city for his company. Work would begin right here in our own home and on our own land. Most of our time would be spent in the area of food - planting, harvesting, preserving. In order to "purchase" those extra items needed, we would like trade our famous family berry pie, or perhaps a music lesson or two. Maybe James is enlisted to perform at the local Christmas concert, or I help in the neighbours' children's school studies. No, we couldn't trade these skills for a widescreen television or a computer, but I think the community socials, neighbourhood gatherings, and family nights would fill what I could indeed call "free time".

I'm not working on a time-machine, here. In fact, quite the opposite. I think this could be a movement of the future, where jobs like "telemarketer" don't exist, and where essential careers like "doctor" are supported by the community. Then we could work 20 hours a week side by side with our family, instead of spending 20 minutes with the kids before we tuck them into bed at night. Our kids might learn the value of work and actually leave home before the age of 30. We would be satisfied with less, because that "less" was wrought with our own hands. And we might finally have some free time on our hands, to do with as we please.

Let it snow

Usually I can't stand winter. It's cold, wet, takes an eternity to get kids ready and out the door, and difficult to walk anywhere pushing a stroller over unplowed sidewalks. Did I mention it's cold?

But winter came early this year. Saturday night we were buried under a foot of snow, catching everyone by surprise. Many of our trees still had leaves on them. The snow was so thick and heavy that it is still resting six inches thick on the tree branches.

It's an absolute winter wonderland.

Softly falling flakes have been coming down on and off for the past few days. One minute the sky is a beautiful bright blue and the next we are in our own little snowglobe. Last night the snowflakes were so large and falling so slowly that I stood for a few minutes in the grocery store parking lot staring up into the midnight sky, in absolute awe of the beauty. The contrast of dark wood and ivory snow have illuminated the abundance of trees in Orangeville, making every drive nearly like a "picture print by Currier and Ives".

We usually hold off until December to decorate for the Christmas season, but nature has set the pace for us all - how can we not revel in the glow of Christmas lights, the scent of candles, and the green hues of garlands when outside our windows are a blanket of snow?

And so I say...let it snow! Let the warmth of the holiday season banish the chill of winter winds. Let it snow!

Monday, 17 November 2008

New toys!

Today I saw the fruits of a great mom trick I heard a while back. The growing trend of children's inability to focus and concentrate is sometimes linked to the toy overload in our houses. With hundreds of different options, kids bounce from one thing to the next, never stopping to really explore and enjoy one specific toy.

I like to cull our toy collection often. There are some that are favourites, some that hold a certain appeal, and some that just don't seem to attract my kids. I pass these neglected toys onto friends or Goodwill stores, hoping that some other child will find pleasure in them.

And yet, even after a good purge, I found the toy room still cluttered and bursting. So I bought four Rubbermaid bins, and started sorting. I set out the larger items against one wall of the room. I put all the cars into a bucket. I found all the pieces to toy sets and collected them in a pile. Then I started filing my bins, with a good variety of large toys, small toys, cars and toy sets. Once this was done, I lined up three bins in the play room, and put one bin into the basement.

That was six months ago. This morning, I did another clean of the playroom, tidied all the toys into the three bins, then swapped out one of the bins for the one downstairs. It was like Christmas morning for the boys! Toys that had gone unused in days gone by were suddenly being rediscovered. Fresh delight filled their faces as they dug through the new bin. You know what? They didn't ever realize some of their other toys had mysteriously disappeared!

This is a practice I will definitely keep up. My plan is to rotate every 2-3 months (it was only 6 months this time because the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" bin in the basement went forgotten for that long!). Be sure when you choose toys to "disappear", they aren't the current favourites, or you might be found out. But this toy tip worked like a charm for us.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008


"It's no secret that we, as a society, have been losing the traceability not only of our food, but of every aspect of our lives. On any given day, chances are high I will have no idea what phase the moon is in. I cannot reliably list my brothers' birthdays, and I regularly use products that work according to principles that I cannot explain. I suspect I will go through life without meeting any of the people who make my shoes, or even seeing the factories where those shoemakers work. Like many people, Alisa and I have lost all trace of our traceability to community. We've lived five years in the same crappy apartment block, where the rent rises yearly while wages continue to flatline. We've never met the owner of the building, and we know none of our neighbours by name." (J.B. MacKinnon, "The 100-Mile Diet)

Community. We practically live on top of each other in our neat little suburban subdivisions, and literally on top of each other in the sprouting city condos. And yet we are less familiar (and often strangers) with our neighbours, our land, our city officials, our schools and our markets than the settlers of a hundred years ago who had to walk miles to their "next-door neighbour".

Is anyone else feeling the loneliness of today? It might be in large part due to the busyness we get ourselves into. Whatever happened to simple gatherings? Days when neighbourhood children would roam from backyard to backyard, tasting homemade treats and playing hide and go seek? Whatever happened to lazy Sunday afternoon picnics, or weekend barbecues, or just "stopping in" for a visit and a chat. We are notably called "bedroom communities" now, because most people spend their time home inside.

I've noticed a trend (or maybe it's always been a trend) of returning to the beloved books like "Little House on the Prairie" or "Anne of Green Gables" and the like. Our hearts are longing for those simpler times, when connections were electrified by daily encounters with friends. A time when life rolled by, and when you checked up on your neighbour instead of the stock market. I'm not blind to the problems they had back then (I wouldn't give up my flush toilet and hot shower!), and of course literature often preserves the ideals and dreams of the author. But I can see, feel something missing in our lives today, a new phenomenon we are creating that has never existed in any culture I think in all of existence.

So to all who know me, and are local (or not) - my door is always open. Drop in without calling, stop by for lunch or afternoon tea. Bring your kids - we've got a yard, they've got their imaginations, and we have all the time in the world.

Garden food

"If you wish to truly make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." (Carl E. Sagan)
I am deep-down, dug-in, diving fast into a new book: "The 100-mile diet". The story chronicles the adventures of a husband and wife as they try to spend a year eating only food local to their dwelling. A quick review would include words like "witty," "fresh," and "honest." Their writing style is only the icing on the cake, however. Their adventures are inspiring.

I am guilty of what most people in North America are guilty of: a very narrow variety in diet. I might spice them up or vary the sauce or change the method of cooking, but generally we eat a steady diet of (vegetables): potatoes, carrots, broccoli, corn, peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and a little squash. Certainly nothing exotic or unpronounceable, and I don't think I've ever bought something at the market I hadn't heard of before. What I find amazing is that authors Smith and MacKinnon are the types to have a wide-reaching diet, and yet day after day of their experiment they came across new, unheard of foods (mostly plants).

Although it is not my desire to take such a drastic change in our own grocery list, my interest in gardening has been tweaked again. I am excited to get down and dirty in my own backyard, sow and reap the food I find on my plate, taste the delectable difference of fresh-from-the-garden food. I'm also excited to branch out a little next year in food shopping, making a better habit to shop at the farmer's market, and also to visit local farms directly. This year the summer passed as a busy time for the business, which meant most days I was with both kids and without a car. Next year, the car issue will likely be solved. And the kid issue, well, I've decided that if I can't take them along, then I will stimulate the local Orangeville economy by hiring a babysitter. It's worth the $10 or $15 - I am seeing that now.

I'll leave you with one more inspiring passage from the book - food for thought (I couldn't resist!)

"My fresh market salad was different. It was human scale. I could relate each item not only to its place but to its specific farm and to the faces of those farmers. Greens from the Landley Organic Growers; eggs from the Forstbauer family farm; garlic scapes from a shy man named Albert. The foods that overflowed our big glass bowl were not only the flavours of spring, but of this particular spring, this unique year with its hard rain and rare glory of sun."

Lima beans

Last night for dinner (after I started a recipe and misjudged the preparation time) I made pizza and homemade french fries. For Caleb I also cooked up some frozen mixed vegetables.

Colin looked longingly at the bowl of veggies. "Mommy, could I please have some vegetables?"
Like he has to ask twice. I scooped a good helping onto his plate. He rummaged through the pile and found what he was looking lone lima bean, as though it were a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket.

"Mommy - look! A lima bean! I got a bean, Mommy! Oh, it's my favourite!"

He held the precious find for a moment and then savoured the flavour as he popped it in his mouth. He then proceeded to clean his plate of the vegetables. James ended up with Colin's french fries, and the pizza went untouched back into the fridge. I love it.

Caleb, on the other hand, felt the only useful purpose of his pile of vegetables was target practice on the floor.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Houses and homes

"There is some of the same fitness in a man's building his own house that there is in a bird's building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing then they are so engaged? But alas! we do like cow-birds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveler with their chattering and unmusical notes." (Henry David Thoreau)
I have always been fascinated with the idea of building homes. Other than raising your own food, building your own home fills life's most basic needs. I've often watched houses being built, observing each stage as the house slowly reveals itself. Have you ever walked the aisles of a building centre and noticed that there really aren't that many different sizes of pieces of wood? It would seem to me that it's just a matter of learning which pieces go where, like solving a puzzle. Constructing a modest, simple home cannot be beyond the average person, as average people regularly built their own dwellings for thousands of years.

In fact, my grandfather, father and uncles built the house my grandparents moved into for retirement. It is simple, but beautiful, and everything my grandmother wanted. When many people hear of someone "building their own house", it often means something nearly palatial, and custom designed and built by a company. The way I see it, the more space you have, the more area there is for family members to spread out. A big house is there perfect way for everyone to be home and never see each other.

A few years back I had signed up with Habitat for Humanity to assist in the construction of homes in Toronto. Two weeks later I found out I was pregnant with Colin, and so was unable to work with the organization, but one day I hope to volunteer again.

Last week I saw advertised in a Home Hardware flyer a cottage. That's right, an entire cottage. They supplied all the materials necessary to build one of two or three designs. I figure if they are advertising it in a flyer, it can't be beyond the average woman!

What a dream fulfilled it would be to one day build my own home. Every day I would lay down to sleep surrounded by the walls I built with my own hands, and perhaps sing with a little more poetry in my voice.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Wintery, blustery day

Last Monday we walked to Kinderclub, it was 18 degrees Celsius and we ditched our coats.
This Monday we walked to Kinderclub with snow on the ground, snow falling from the sky, and bundled in long johns, snowsuits, hats, mitts, boots, scarves and blankets.

Only in Canada.

Walking was a last minute event this morning, as James had to run out to work to fill in for a sick employee. So with only 20 minutes until class and a 20 minute walk ahead of us, I raced around to dress everyone. But the surprise of walking took me off guard, and we hadn't had a chance to "practice" the snowsuit yet, which is really important for Colin. He has a difficult time with change, and really needs some advance notice for things like this. After struggling and arguing for 10 minutes, I finally gave up on the hat and mittens and plopped him into the stroller. Off we went, the wind making tears streak down my face and my nose snuggled into my scarf. As we walked, and as each extremity of Colin's froze, he quietly asked for each additional winter item, first hat, then mittens, then finally for me to do up his jacket.

My heart ached for him, though. It really is tough on him, and when we arrived at his nursery school the stress of the morning caught up with him and he threw his arms around me, bursting into tears. I often get so caught up in our schedule that I forget how easily I could toss it aside. Really, what difference would it have made if we skipped class today? He absolutely loves going, it's true, but my adult watch-wearing, clock-watching, time-keeping habits certainly aren't necessary in a child's life. I think I need to take a page from my kids' book, toss the clocks and live life moment for moment.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Happy Birthday

Can a year have passed so quickly? Caleb is celebrating his first birthday today. A baby grows so rapidly during his first year, changing more than he ever will again.

Caleb is a joy in our lives. He runs around the house as fast as his little legs will take him. Once he discovered walking, there was no way he was going back to crawling on all fours. He loves cars, and drives them all over the floor, making a little "drrrrr" engine noise as he goes. He is understanding a few words now: "ball" was the first (about a month ago), and will happily find his ball for anyone willing to play with him. And he's got a heck of an arm on him, easily launching the ball across the room. He also knows the word "kiss", and turns his whole open smile to you, leaning in for an open-mouthed kiss if you ask. He has a good temper on him, and has mastered the art of crying and screaming when he is unhappy with the situation. He doesn't sit still for a second, and is constantly roaming and exploring his surroundings. There is little fear in him, and has no qualms about climbing, turning, digging, or doing anything he sets his mind to. And he's as smart as they come. It took less than 2 minutes with each childproofing device to figure it out. He sees something once and understands how it works. He's very strong, and holds his own against Colin, despite his age and size. If you take something from him, he'll likely charge you and get it back. He's a mama's boy through and through, and is rarely happy with anyone else if I'm in eyeshot. He loves to nurse and is showing no sign of self-weaning yet. In fact, he nurses on average between 10 and 12 times a day! I'm sure this has something to do with his affinity for me. He loves food. He has a sixth sense for food, even if it's covered, wrapped, or hidden. He trains his eye on it and there's no distracting him until he obtains the golden prize. Most of all, he has the most joy-filled smile, big apple cheeks and sparkling eyes that make your heart melt.

He's my little guy, and he's a whole year old today. How time flies by you before you even know.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Family Tree

The old nature and nurture question has been brewing in my mind today.

I have many different friends, all with different views on life, ways to build a home and raise their family. They have different ideas on faith, how we got here and where we're going. I love to get a glimpse into their lives and see who they are and what they are becoming. Most of all I love to see the gentle evolution of self. As they learn and grow and read and ponder, each one is developing new ideas to incorporate into how they spend each day of this life they have been given.

I see in them qualities I admire. I see the battles I fight daily that they seem to have already won. I see concepts they are grasping and planting deep within, and often wish I had the same root.

I see homes that are fun, homes that are peaceful, homes that are creative, homes that are educational, homes that are always busy and homes that retreat into family life. Of course most of them are balanced, but each family has a particular characteristic that emerges as a sort of defining element. I wonder how my family is seen, not out of fear of being judged or of not measuring up, but more out of curiosity and clarity. Amid my whirlwind, what is rising to the surface? I find it impossible to wade through the chaos to look in from the outside and see.

Are nature (parental genetic code) and nurture (parental influence) the only influences? Both of these have a large parental aspect, which seems to leave out both individual personality and evolving growth. Can I ever integrate a new quality that I see in another friend or family? Or are the influencing factors of nature and nurture simply too strong to ever accommodate a more drastic change of direction? Will I only ever be able to achieve an imitation of the deep-seeded natural characteristics I admire?

Can I ever have a home with more peace, with a family of first-born, out-going, natural-born leaders? Or am I fighting a losing battle, and should simply embrace the chaos and energy and spend my time channeling it?

How much do we really change from our long family line? If history doesn't repeat itself, I've certainly heard that it rhymes. Will I one day meet a family in my ancestry who seems just like a reflection in a mirror?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

New music

I'm learning to play the flute. For the longest time I've been wanting to learn an instrument that would be more portable than the piano. I played the clarinet for years, but I really wanted to learn something practical like the guitar (great for camping), or sweeping beauty like the violin, or delicate like the flute.

Well, a friend of mine mentioned she has two flutes, and graciously loaned one to me. And I am loving it!

The most difficult part is mastering how to blow air across the flute. My friend will drop in next week to pass on some advice, however it's really going to be just a matter of practice. Thankfully the fingering is close to the clarinet, so it didn't take long for me to pick that up. And because I already play the piano and clarinet, and have basic trumpet and saxophone, adding another instrument is easier than it sounds.

That being said, just to pat my own back a little, I was able to play a few songs during that first half hour of practice! And now after four days (I get about 10-15 minutes a day to practice) I actually have been through 15 or 20 different songs! Now, they aren't all perfect, but they all do sound recognizable. My dad walked in the other day (not knowing about my new instrument) and thought I had a friend over practicing a flute/piano duet (with me obviously on piano!).

I am glad that it did come so easy, however. Between the previous few moments of time to practice, and my natural weakness to give up on anything that doesn't come quickly (a character flaw common to most gifted learners, I've recently learned), I think if I wasn't getting any sound out of the thing yet I might not be as motivated to continue.

I hope to perform for a music number at church sometime in the future (that will still be a while away!), but for now I'm just absolutely loving the floating melodies filling the air.

Guilty Pleasures

It's that time of year when the world falls in love
Every song you hear seems to say
"Merry Christmas, may your New Year Dreams come true!"
And this old rhyme in 3/4 time
Wishes you and yours
The same thing too.

Christmas is my favourite time of year. There's just something about the snow and the music and the light step in people's gait. There's the time spent with loved ones and the bounteous tables of food and the aromas of holiday baking.

I love the memories of Christmases past - decades past - of sleigh rides and Christmas balls with waltzes and long elegant red coats trimmed with white fur.

And there's the decorations.

I love to roam the stores and peruse the catalogues to take in the Christmas decorations. I love the bows and lights and wreaths and trees. I love the Christmas dish sets and table decor. I love candles burning and holly and mistletoe.

I see the displays and flip through the pages and just wish that I could buy it all up and deck the house from top to bottom. I wish I could host dinner parties and music concerts and Christmas celebrations and do it all in style. I know that I could hold all these events surrounded by family and friends and miss nothing of the joy it would bring by missing the abundance of decorations. But they're so pretty!

It would be a guilty pleasure of mine to buy up these decorations by the bagful. "Guilty" because I'm in this place right now where I'm learning the difference between need and want, and much about the great needs (not wants) around the world and even in my own city. My new motto of simplicity twinges me with guilt when I think about indulging in this pleasure, especially since it's only for one month of the year.

And yet...wouldn't it be beautiful, even if only for a short time...

Monday, 3 November 2008

Go hug your children

This week, two good friends have shared very personal and very scary stories with me about events their children underwent. One friend's son is 17 years old, and upon hearing her story I came home and cherished the ages of my kids right now, that although there is a big world out there, for the time being they are under my protection most of the day. The other child is Colin's age, and all I wanted to do was go wake up Colin and give hold him all night. It was 10pm and I wasn't about to actually wake him up, but I longed to envelop him in my arms.

But our kids are so often in tune with what we need. Colin has only woken up in the night a handful of times since he was an infant. But last night within half an hour of hearing my friend's story and me raising my need to hold him to the heavens, I heard this tiny voice calling my name. "Mommy? Are you there? I need a hug."

I rushed into Colin's room and scooped him up, pressing my cheek against his and breathing his smell in deeply. In no time at all he snuggled back into bed, with no fuss. 6 hours later, at four in the morning, that little voice woke me from my slumber. "Mommy? Daddy? Are you there?" James went in this time, but nothing would settle Colin. Eventually he crept into bed with James and I, something he's only done once before. "I just want to hug you, Mommy," he whispered as he cuddled up between us and drifted off to sleep.


Thank you, Lord, for your ever watchful eye over us.
Help me remember that you are Lord over the Storm.
Call me back to you, and shelter my trembling body
and weakening belief.
Fill me with faith to wash away my doubt.
I feel only peace when I am hidden in the shadow of your wings.
I am yours.


"At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you."
(John 14:20)


"Under His wings, O what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life's trials are o'er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me;
Resting in Jesus I'm safe evermore
(William Cushing, "Under His Wings I Am Safely Abiding)