Friday, 30 January 2009


Last weekend James and I caught a showing of the film "Fireproof". While not likely to win many awards, it is a film that resonated deep within many viewers, including myself. A Christian film production by Kirk Cameron, the film challenges the modern-day notion that a marriage is nothing but a contract to be ended when you please. Instead it hails the truth that it is a covenant, sacred between three: you, your spouse and God. The script bravely acknowledges that marriage isn't easy, cannot work in complacency, and requires dedication and work on the part of each partner.

My own emotions are bubbling over, to the extent that I still feel inadequate in trying to pen them. I have witnessed wonderful examples of more than 60 years of dedication, and the heart-wrenching tragedy of separation and divorce. This film is truly "lighting a fire" under all those who have taken the marriage vow to wake up to what they have.

If you get a chance, see the film with your loved husband or wife. Recognize the role God plays in your relationship. Remember the daily efforts to demonstrate your love to your spouse. I'll end with the lyrics of what is fast becoming the "love theme" of the film. The songwriter himself experienced the turmoil of a rocky relationship, and his stark poetry reveals truths so deep and pure they resonate within. May we all have angels guarding our doors.

"Love is Not a Fight"
- Warren Barfield

Love is not a place
To come and go as we please
It's a house we enter in
And then commit to never leave

Lock the door behind you
Throw away the key
We'll work it out together
Let it bring us to our knees

Love is a shelter in the raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
If we try to leave, may God send His angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight but it's something worth fighting for

To some, love is a word
That they can fall into
But when they're falling out
Keeping that word is hard to do

Love will come to save us
If we'll only call
He will ask nothing of us
But demand we give our all

I will fight for you
Would you fight for me?
It's worth fighting for

Rest Time with the Clock

As Colin is transitioning out of naps, the days that he isn't tired he still must spend some time in his room playing or reading quietly. (Mommy also needs this rest time!). Some days he gets restless before time is up, and so yesterday I took down his clock and told him that when the black hand reaches the twelve (about another 15 minutes or so), then he may call me to open the door so that he may come downstairs. He loves his Toronto Maple Leaf clock, and enjoyed keeping an eye on the time as he played.

I knew it wouldn't last forever, but I thought I would get more than a day out of it! Today I told him he had to wait until the hand touched the four. I was only gone from the room a few minutes when I heard the small cry of "Mommy!" waft down the vent.

He proudly displayed the clock to me:

"Mommy! Look! When I touch this button the hand moves all by itself!"

He wound the button a little more, just enough until it touched the four.

"Now, look! It's touching the four! Rest time is over. May I watch my movie now?"

Up he jumped from his bed, freed from his bedroom by both the clock and his own genius.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The phone

The phone is a challenge for me.

I don't know if my "always answer the phone" instinct stems from my social butterfly days of my teen years, or maybe from my work in the film industry where the business demands instant communication. Whatever the root, I have developed the habit of automatically answering the phone whenever it rings, no matter what I'm doing.

It's a habit I'd like to break.

I have a good friend with four children just older than mine. Her life is busy, with a husband in church leadership while he works full time and pursues a Master's degree. Her kids are in school, plus she has a toddler at home. There are a number of activities for the family, the kids. Plus there's the monster-size playful dog as well. She is a very dear friend to me. But I never expect to actually hear her voice when I call. Her family has a (conscious or not) policy not to interrupt something just to answer the phone. She simply waits until she has a convenient time that isn't interfering with her life as a wife and mother to pick up the message and return the call. I so admire it.

Me, the phone rings and I think my pulse quickens. Who is calling? Is it social or business? Does it require immediate action? Mostly it's just curiosity in me that answers the call.

I am famous for decrying modern technology, often saying that "they lived without the devices for thousands of years and somehow made do." or "what on earth did people do a hundred years ago when they couldn't get a hold of me right away!" I long for the easy, slow-paced days gone by.

And so I am making a "phone resolution". I am going to be more discriminate when I answer or don't answer the phone. Specifically, I will not answer:

1) when I have time alone with my husband.
2) during meals
3) during devotionals
4) during family activities
5) when I have a half hour to myself to relax

Maybe after enough time goes by the natural impulse to pick up the phone will pass. Maybe my heart will stay calm, and the sharp ring will fade into the background. Maybe I will attain some of that peaceful atmosphere for which I long.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Playtime with Caleb

Caleb's favourite playtime right now involves the kitchen set the boys got for Christmas. It's a great little wooden set, complete with fridge, oven, stove, sink, countertop and cupboards. In fact, it's the set that my sisters and I got as kids, and it's fun to see the boys playing with it now.

With Caleb's love of food, I guess it's no surprise he gravitates toward this toy. He and I have spent time stirring up play foods in bowls with large wooden spoons. He loves to sit and stir, adding one food item after another to the large bowl, then dumping them all out and starting again.

But just to show you how much kids are paying attention, no matter how young, Caleb surprised me the other day with just how adept he is at the whole "cooking" playtime. I was cleaning up in the kitchen and caught the beginning of this little scene, which I watched in amazement as it unraveled:

First Caleb got a frying pan and put it on the stove. Then he chose a food item from the fridge and put it in the pan. He grabbed a spatula and stirred the food in the pan, flipped it over, and stirred it again. Next he found the salt and sprinkled some over the food. He opened the cupboard and found a plate and fork, and put them on the counter. He lifted the food out of the pan and placed it on the plate. Then he sat on the floor to eat, first adding a little ketchup to the meal. He ate slowly, even using the fork. When he finished, he put the food in the fridge and the dishes in the sink. He turned on the tap and made the "whooshing" sound of running water. He added a bit of soap and scrubbed the dishes with his hand. Then he put the dishes into the cupboard, stacking them each in their proper piles.

Yes, I kid you not, my 14 month old son actually "prepared" a meal, ate it, and cleaned up after himself. Perhaps there is a future chef in him? Wouldn't that be a treat! Also - note to self: be very careful with what I do - my children are watching me closely...very closely!

Playtime with Colin

This past Christmas we showed Colin the film "The Polar Express", and he immediately fell in love with it. He watches it several times a week, enjoys playing a computer game based on the movie, and often pretends his toy trains are the Polar Express journeying to the North Pole.

However, this past week he has reached an all-time impressive factor in play, performing and the Polar Express. He asked James to "play Polar Express" with him. James, unsure what this meant, simply followed his lead. Colin proceeded to act out an entire scene from the film, hitting every line, action and facial expression. If James didn't get every cue of his character right, Colin provided a hint. The first time through Colin played the young boy, and then switched to play the character of the Ghost.

Although the lines are somewhat slurred together, if you've seen the film you can tell that he's getting every single line, including ones like: "But you don't want to be bamboozled? Led down the primrose path?" His memory is absolutely astonishing. There are several scenes Colin enjoys acting out in this manner, but the one with the Ghost seems to be his favourite.

I couldn't finish this entry without commenting on the director in him also. Through the scene, Colin will provide cues like "Now cough! Now spit out the drink. Okay, now you speak." There was also one time through when Colin's next line was "Won't you sit down", but James had forgotten to stand up on his previous line, this negating the need for Colin's line. Colin waited a moment, and then whispered "stand up!" As soon as James was on his feet, Colin delivered his line: "Won't you sit down" and proceeded with the scene. I was behind the video camera, capturing the moment for posterity, and had to stifle my laughter. Well, he is the kid of two actor/directors, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised! There's no doubt James and I are the star of many home videos much like this one!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

I can do it

Every once in a while a day comes along that helps me reevaluate my attitudes about my situation. Yesterday was such a day.

The past 14 months, since the arrival of Caleb, have passed in a blur. Two out-going and always-going boys have tested me in my role as a mother and wife. Building my home, establishing some routine, fitting everything in - many (most) days end with my watching the clock until my husband walks in the door so that I can offload some of the heavy burdens that have gathered during the day.

We (James and I) have a strong belief that the husband/father should take an active role in the home. Yes, his primary responsibility is to earn a living to provide for his family materially, but there are certain responsibilities at home which he holds as well. I have never relied more on this philosophy than in the past year.

But I had a re-framing of ideas yesterday. I met up with a friend whom I have come to know through our blogs. Online friendships are certainly a new phenomenon in our time, and foster a very different kind of relationship than those we are used to. This friend and I met for the first time yesterday, and yet were so intimately acquainted each others' family, thoughts, passions, dreams. We immediately fell into an easy manner of conversation that roamed through topics of every imaginable kind.

Currently she is minding her home and her 5 children (under 7 years) without the daily support of her beloved companion. Her husband is finishing up his schooling and will join them again in the spring, but for now, she is the sole head of the home. I inquired about how she managed, and was surprised at her upbeat outlook. No doubt there are days - there are always days - but she admitted that once she had to do it, she was amazed at how much she could actually do.

And so I looked inward into my own heart to evaluate myself: how much can I actually do? There is no doubt my husband is here for support and wants to be here for support - but do I rely on him more than necessary? Do I offload simply because he's here, selfishly desiring my load to be lighter while weighing him down? There are days I want to tear my hair out for feeling that nothing is getting done. But if I had to do it - if I had no choice but to do it - how would I organize myself to accomplish it all?

There is a spark of energy burning inside me, a desire to be a little better, do a little more. Let me put my nose to the grindstone, my shoulder to the wheel, but let me do it with a song in my heart and a smile on my lips. Life is grand, life is good, life is busy, life is joyful! Let my days have purpose and goals, that I may fall into bed exhausted with the good I have done and the things I have accomplished. Let me fill my life so that I may say of each day: "well lived, my friend."

Monday, 19 January 2009

Guilt-Free: Food

Doesn't the image of grandma's homemade cooking hold such wonderful memories in your mind? I can recall sitting at the counter in my grandmother's kitchen as she artfully cooked a scrumptious meal, or watching her pounding the dough into bread, or pulling out a fresh batch of cookies. The ingredients were natural, the food deliciously reflecting the wholesome heart.

Today the convenience of packaged food assaults our tastebuds. As I've made a move away from these items, I have begun to notice the blandness of my old diet. The times when I throw something "convenient" into the oven for dinner results in a general unhappiness with the meal. It just doesn't taste the same.

Of course, we don't have the farms to grow our own food, and often it's just not possible or practical to obtain whole, natural ingredients to cook everything from scratch. But there is one thing that I have found easy and tasty to make on a regular basis: bread.

No, I don't grind my own flour, and no, I don't pound and re-pound my dough, attending to it all day while it rises. But I do embrace my fantastic breadmaker. Many of you likely have one collecting dust on a shelf or in the basement. Maybe it's in view in the kitchen but is only used a few times a year. I treated this delectable machine the same way for the first few years I owned it. I never seemed to remember to pull it out; I forgot to throw in the ingredients until I actually needed the bread; I didn't have the ingredients to make anything other than white bread.

Then one day I made up my mind. The breadmaker sits in my kitchen at eye level. I bought a large bag of white flour, as well as one of whole wheat and rye. I stocked up on bulk yeast. And as I experimented with different flavours of bread, I stocked up on the extra ingredients needed also. And I stopped buying bread on grocery day.

Now we almost always eat homemade bread. I pop the ingredients in at night, set the timer, and wake in the morning to a fresh loaf. Sometimes I forget - and we go without bread (actually fairly easy to do, and it regulates the amount of bread we eat as well). It's not the end of the world. Now, it's a habit - and that's really where the battle lies. Once you get into the habit of it, it becomes second nature. I've already had to replace the gears inside of my machine from so much use. But we now regularly enjoy:

White bread
Whole wheat bread
Honey oat
12 grain
Cinnamon raisin

As well as:
Banana bread
Pizza dough
Cinnamon buns
Dinner rolls

Yet to try:

So, have I whet your appetite yet? Enjoying these homemade treats have been just that - a delicious treat! Don't be discouraged if habit is slow to form, or if you go through spurts (I still neglect mine at times). Slathering a homemade dinner roll in butter and feeling it melt in your mouth even once in a while will be more than worth it!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Music preferences

A good friend picked up Colin to drive him to preschool the other day. The radio was on, playing in the background. As they drove, Colin suddenly exclaimed:

"I love this song!"
"You know this song, Colin?"
"Yes I do. It's Michael Jackson! (singing:) "You gotta be starting something, gotta be starting something. Too high to get over, too low to get under, you're stuck in the middle, you're a festival..."

Indeed, it was. My friend found it both astonishing and endearing that my little three-year old knew, recognized and loved the music of Michael Jackson. I laughed with her about it afterwards, admitting that while we have a few CDs of Raffi, and Sharon, Lois and Bram, we play all sorts of music for our boys: showtunes, inspirational, pop/rock, classical, jazz. Admittedly, Michael Jackson is a favourite for the boys, because it lends itself so well to dancing in the living room, one of our favourite pastimes.

To our husbands

I heard a great snip of an interview this morning from a husband and wife who together authored a book on marriage. The man brought up the following point, to which his wife whole-heartedly agreed:
Man: We men are pros at fostering good relationships with clients at work. We know how to make that client feel like they are number one - what to say and how to treat them. What we need to do is transfer those skills to how we treat our wife. So here is what you do. Around 9 am, after you've gotten into work and you've already been away from home for a bit, you call your wife. You don't call to ask what's for dinner that night, or if there is something she can help you with. You just ask her how her morning has been. You say you just called to say hi and let her know you're thinking of her. Then, later in the day, around 2 pm, you call her again. You tell her that you just couldn't move on to the next task at work without calling to tell her you were thinking of her, and that you love her.

Wife: And in all likelihood, if you do this, when you get home at the end of the day she will have cooked your favourite meal, and will have had a happier day all around. There will be peace in the home.
How true is this, women! I laughed when I heard the line about having his favourite meal on the table - I sure know I have done that before! We want to make our spouses happy. We love them to the ends of the earth - that's why we married them. But in the chaos of pleasing clients or children or friends or other people to whom we have obligations, pleasing our spouse slips from memory. As illustrated above, however, happiness and thoughtfulness and gratitude are an unending cycle. He calls me to say he's thinking of me, I cook his favourite meal, he does the dishes, I take out the garbage, he puts the kids to bed, I give him a massage, he watches my favourite movie with me...etc... As husband and wife we instinctively like doing little acts of kindness for our spouse, we love to please them. We just forget sometimes.

We don't have to wait for our husbands to make that phone call (or take the initiative in some other way), we can start the cycle ourselves. But if this journal entry happens to find its way onto a husband's desk or tucked in with his lunch or slipped into a briefcase - well, a 30 second phone call is a tiny bit of time to lead to such a grand cycle of love and kindness.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

First Prayer

This morning Colin asked if he could say our family prayer. He usually says the meal time blessings (a sped-through, often indiscernible imitation of what we would say), but normally wanders around the house during morning prayers, and wants an adult to say his bedtime prayer.

This morning, something was different. As we sat together in the living room, he pronounced he would say the prayer. These beautiful and simple words proceeded:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for this wonderful day.
Thank you for our family - thank you for Mommy, thank you for Daddy, thank you for Caleb and thank you for Colin.
Thank you for my toys.
Please help us all to share our toys and help us to be good.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Afterwards, James and I shared a look of amazement and parent-pride. It was the perfect example of how teaching through example is the best method of all. We model the behaviour, and he absorbs it by just being around us. After today I'm worrying just a little less about the heavy responsibility of motherhood.

First Words

Caleb is starting to use words - well, at least "Mama" and "Dada". Always nice when those are the first words! And it is such a delight to walk into the room and see a smile break over your baby's face as he runs to you with open arms and babbles "Mama! Mama!" (Or Dada, it's true. He's using both fairly consistently).

My mom, who often watches the boys for us, mentioned the other day that while I was out, Caleb would once in a while wander around the house calling out "Mama? Mama?" Luckily he wasn't too distressed when he didn't find me. But it's nice to know I'm missed.

Monday, 12 January 2009

The gift of a month

In the midst of the sadness, I realized today that I have been given the gift of a month.

James and I were married five and a half years ago. The first year of our marriage I was in my last year of university in film, which meant spending every waking minute working on writing and producing and directing and editing my major film project. James worked on it alongside me, but this project took most of our focus that first year.

After graduation we received another film project, that slid right into my first pregnancy. The next 4 years of our marriage has been taken up by pregnancies and babies. I lose the nine months of pregnancy to illness, and then, as is typical, the first year of a baby's life is a blur of sleepless nights and barely awake days.

This brings us right up to today. We had slid right from Caleb's first baby year into another pregnancy, and now that is no longer the case. We are ready to try again, but must wait for a month for medical reasons.

And so I realized, I have been given the gift of a month.

A month during which I have energy. A month during which I will not feel ill. A month to catch up on cleaning (a real, deep clean such as is rarely done around here!). A month to play with my children. A month to reconnect with my husband.

It is this last one that I feel most keenly. The illness and exhaustion are par for the course. The cleaning...well, there's always tomorrow. My children I see and play with daily - pregnant, ill or not. But time with James...that I am really cherishing. Time to play and love and talk and eat and enjoy life together. Time to remember the little things. Time to remember first, new, and exciting love.

New love is about being focused on each other, trying to devise ingenious means of capturing the other person's attention and create endless ways to say I love you. There are the small things, the medium things, and the big things. New love is about effortless effort. But as time goes on and relationships deepen, complacency and comfort set in. We don't love them any less, we just don't show it as often.

Added to time, for me, was illness and sleeplessness, which meant collapsing into bed each evening, with little energy to give to the one I love most. I am reminded of the lyrics of a song:
"Are you giving the least to those who matter most
Or are you sharing your best with those who really aren't that close?
Well it's time to turn around,
And find out where your greatest joys are found."
It's easy to lose focus on what is important. Yes, my service to my fellow-men is needed to improve the world around me. Yes, my children need me during their childhood and youth. But my husband is my companion for eternity. This is a relationship that will outlast all others. It shouldn't be said that because it will always be there, there is no need to nurture it. Because it will always be there, it must demand my constant attention.

I am grateful for this gift of a month. I will not take it for granted.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Guilt-Free: The World Around Us

I often feel so preoccupied with my little life that I rarely get a glimpse of the world spinning around me. I know there are wars and conflicts, political turmoil, scientific discoveries, view-changing art, environmental concerns...the list goes on and on. Even closer to home there are election issues, community events, social crises, economical woes. I hear tidbits on the television newsflashes or see headlines in the newspaper boxes, but I admit I'm ignorant as to the details behind the issues.

Sometimes it seems easier to just go on living in my little world, seeing to the day-to-day needs of my family (or job). Other people are dealing with the problems, right?

But then I think that I really should be a little more aware. Ghandi said to "Be the change you want to see", so how can I hope for a more peaceful world, a more stable country, a more understanding community, if I just hope someone else will deal with it?

In an effort to be a little more educated about what's going on around me, I've tuned into the CBC radio 99.1. We leave our radio in the bathroom and in the kitchen tuned to this station, so that for 20 or 30 minutes a day we hear some of the world and local news headlines. This is at least a start. But in between the news reports that occur every half hour, there are interviews, documentaries, investigations, and analysis of the issues effecting us all. Sometimes they are about events I'm well aware of (it's hard to miss the federal politics lately), but sometimes I am amazed about what I hear (like about an inmate pregnancy program in prisons). Often I get to hear two sides to the story (Israeli and Palestinian interviews in Gaza).

It may only be a smattering of information, but it's more than I used to have. And listening for 20 minutes means you hear an entire subject presented. So I may just be able to comment at the next gathering I'm at, and sound a little more "tuned in" to the world around me!

Bonus: CBC also dots their programming with Canadian music and culture, so I get caught up culturally also!


Inspired by my recent post about living life without the burden of guilt, I wanted to start a short series about ways to boost different areas of your life without the heavy load of "shoulds," "coulds" and "woulds".

There are lots of things I'd like to be doing for myself, for my kids, for my husband and for my home. But instead of feeling the joy associated with them, I feel the guilt of not being able to do them fully, properly, or the same way other people do them.

So for this series, I want to explore easy and simple ways to add things to your life. Some ideas will be things that work for me, some will be things I hope to incorporate in my life, and some may be just wishful thinking for the future. Feel free to add your comments and ideas, suggest a "guilt-free" topic, or simply follow along.

Here's to living with joy!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Sleep issues

As a parent, have you ever come across a piece of information that made you sigh one of those sighs that comes from deep within, and releases a huge weight from off your shoulders? I have had this a few times, and an article I just read on infant sleeping had this exact effect on me.

For all mothers of infants who just won't seem to sleep, check the article out:

It's titled "5 reasons why high-need infants sleep differently". I love that the article is not called "why your baby won't sleep" or "why won't your infant sleep through the night by one years old." It wasn't called "sleep issues" or "sleep problems". The title doesn't insinuate there is something wrong with my child, just that there is something different.

Reading the article was such a relief. We know Caleb is high-needs, a definition which includes several important and distinct differences from your average infant: different temperament, different stimulus barrier, different transitions, different sleep maturity and different nighttime needs. All of these difference combine to make sleep a difficult thing for him.

- a tense daytime temperament results in nighttime restlessness
- sensory overload causes him to overreact instead of retreating and tuning it out
- having a hard time making any transition means difficulty going from awake to asleep
- immature sleep habits mean his deep sleep periods are not as long as the average infant
- craving constant physical contact and not being able to self soothe during the day translate to needing mom's presence to sleep at night during the first months. However, these same characteristics as the infant gets older mean that the close presence they crave will actually stimulate them into not sleeping.

This is a perfect description of Caleb. The article doesn't give any "advice" or "solutions". It's simply about understanding your child. and really, that's half the battle. We can read all the books out there, surf all the web sites and desperately try to find someone who wrote something that comes sort of close to what your child is. But the truth is, you'd have to write the book on your child, because no other child out there is exactly like yours. I've found that as I've read books looking for solutions, the case studies might come close to describing our situation, but they rarely include all the elements. Any number of differences could result in a complete success or failure of a method. The best thing I've found is this: read to understand your child, and then use the old mommy instinct (and a little faith a and prayer always help!) to come up with the best solution.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Cold, cold snow

I'm afraid I've passed on my winter hibernation habits to my children.

I have friends who can't get their three-year olds inside for wanting to spend all day in the snow. Colin just doesn't see the point to it all. We've bundled the two boys up in winterwear and trudged outside for toboggan rides around the yard and snowman building...but after 10 minutes or so they are bored and cold and begging to go inside. James is a winter man and could spend hours outside without feeling Old Man Winter's pinch on his nose and cheeks. Me, I'm chilled to the bone through my layers and layers of clothing in a matter of minutes.

But I do love a beautiful winter walk. A brisk pace and enough clothing seem to save me long enough to hike around town pushing the stroller. There is a poetry to a whitewashed world around me, to the stark contrast of dark wood and white snow, to the diamond dust falling from the sky, to the cool blanket covering the grass below.

I have yearned for years to move to a warmer climate (preferably the south of France). I wonder, truly, if I would miss winter snow? Could I really trade the unmatched beauty of this season for endless days of golden sunshine and azure seas and purple lavender fields and the rich red earth of vineyards? Well, I guess it wouldn't be too far to hike to the mountains if I really missed it.

Cold, cold snow. Maybe one day my boys will learn to love it. I'm certain as a young girl I spent hours outside. Maybe it's something you grow into and out of over time. At least I will admit it's lovely to look at from the warmth of my kitchen table.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Perfect Woman

Do you have a definition of what the "perfect mother" looks like? We all know she's out there, right? What immediately comes to mind? Here's an excerpt from the book I'm currently reading, "Toss the Guilt and Catch the Joy" by Merrilee Boyack:

"Clearly, she is a size six. No question about that. She has been married a long time to a really important man. He's the stake president (minister/bishop/pastor). And she's the stake Relief Society president (women's group ministry). And they have eight kids - four boys and four girls - evenly spaced. And she homeschools them all. Yeah, and they all play musical instruments - beautifully. And she's a, a,...a neurosurgeon, and she works out of her home, only part-time.

She has her family history done back to the Dark Ages (and is praying for help to find the rest). She sews clothes for the whole family. She has a huge garden and can most of their food. She makes a loaf of whole-wheat bread from her food storage every day. Her scriptures are completely marked and color-coded, and she studies them for an hour every morning and every night. She is taking a class in Mandarin in order to be able to serve a mission.

Her house is beautifully decorated and always immaculate. Her hair and nails are perfectly done. Her clothes are beautiful. She feeds the homeless every week, and she has created a foundation to help the entire country of Bolivia. She is making a quilt with 100 blocks for her grandmother, who is 100. And yes, all the corners of the quilt blocks match perfectly.

Shall we go on? It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet, somehow, we all believe that the Perfect Woman exists somewhere."

Feel free to add and subtract as you like to this list, but we all have this unrealistic ideal in our heads and in some way truly believe this woman is out there!

I laughed as I read this quote. First of all, I laughed at the descriptions that actually fit me! I bake fresh bread, I'm looking forward to planting my first garden and I can't wait to start canning my own food. I just bought a beautiful pattern to sew a baby crib sheet set, quilt, and accessories. I taught myself basic Spanish. I am very taken with the idea of homschooling. I fantasize about a day when my children and I can join in a family musical evening.

Second of all, I laughed as I thought of the women I know who seem very very close to my idea of the perfect woman. They seem to fulfill many of the above qualifications, plus a large list of things I consider also important.

But what I quickly realized is that any checklist we create for ourselves is nothing more than a trap. Even if the checklist includes worthy goals of daily prayer and scripture study, simply completing these tasks is not what this life is all about.

It isn't? But for a Christian woman, it is, isn't it? No? No. The Lord requires none of this from us. He doesn't want us to do anything. He wants us to be. Charity is the quality above all for which we strive. But charity isn't something you do, it's something you are. It's a love that is rooted deep within, that naturally reaches out to all our fellowman. "Life is a process to learn charity" Merrilee writes. Now, we will definitely learn to love through blessing our family as we keep house, or by coming closer to Christ through study and prayer, or by serving our fellowmen. But there won't be a compiled list at the end of our life. We will simply stand before Him and see if His image is "reflected in our countenance". Have we become charity? Have we become like Him?

One last note that I need to continuously drive into my poor, thick head: life is not a competition! I will be compared to absolutely no one in the end. I won't approach the pearly gates and see the "perfect woman" standing there holding a measuring stick. If it won't matter in the next life, then it doesn't need to matter now.

So, as mothers, embrace your calling with joy. Toss the guilt and catch the joy.

Guilt that I am tossing:
- the desperate, unending, and losing battle of keeping the house tidy
- family history (there's a season for everything...and this is not it!)
- trying to keep a schedule
- keeping the boys silent during church (hey, we're there, and that's a start!)
- the perfect garden. It's my first one and I just hope I can make one lettuce and tomato salad.
- a three year old that isn't toilet trained. Sigh.
- a one year old that still doesn't sleep through the night. Double sigh.
- boxed cereal, potato chips, frozen prepared meals and all those other foods that aren't great for you, but make life so much easier when you're tired, worn out and just don't feel like spending an hour cooking.
- the ponytail. I love to spend a little me-time pampering myself to look nice when I leave the house, but an hour with a blow-dryer just doesn't fit into my day anymore.

Joy that fills me:
- baking bread. Hey, it gives me joy, but don't think it qualifies me for perfection!
- sewing, in small spurts, really really easy projects that don't really need a pattern, or don't matter if you can't follow the pattern
- scripture study. Not always daily, but in-depth when I do manage.
- reading books, playing volleyball, going for a walk, chatting with a good friend, playing the piano, and a number of other activities that involve me spending time on myself.


May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary

and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests.
Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven
with the saving power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.


I knew the answer in my heart, and that was enough for me.

I wanted to do some reading about miscarriages, reading about ways to cope, and how other people felt after one. I spent only minutes reading, because everything that I came across talked about the time it took to grieve the loss. People wrote about how they marked the day they lost the baby, and about how this little angel would never be a part of their family. They spoke of the terrible life-long loss, how something was always missing. Some wrote about how they long to see this baby again in the next life.

I didn't feel the same. Something in me told me that this little soul wasn't lost forever. In fact, it wasn't even really lost for long at all. What I felt was that the spirit of my baby was still waiting up there in heaven. The body whose creation had been started needed to be ended, but another body would form again very soon. And that little spirit is still waiting to come down to me. I will see him or her very soon, will rock her little body or hold his tiny fingers. I didn't feel the need to grieve a child lost from this life forever.

Although the tears still come, although I still feel a vague sense of emptiness in my body, I'm in fact looking forward to the next short while when once again I'll have that little body growing inside of me. The experience is heartbreaking, and I'm sure come July I will wonder at the idea that my little one might have arrived during the warm sunny days of summer. But my baby is up there, waiting for me, and so the only thing truly lost for me is a little time.

Monday, 5 January 2009


Sunday, we lost our baby.

I was nearly three months along in the pregnancy. The baby would have arrived in July. There was no real physical advance warning. Sunday I woke up as I always do - exhausted, nauseous and with the normal discomfort. Sunday evening the baby was gone.

I feel as though I have suddenly become part of a group of women. The world seems divided into those who have experienced the pain of miscarriage and those who haven't. And I can never regain that innocence before loss. No matter the future joys that grace my life, a sad twinge will always rest on the corners of my smile.

I suppose, by luck, I have never bonded to a pregnancy. I suffer horribly during these 9 months, often bedridden and in a lot of pain. With my second pregnancy, I thought finding out the sex of the baby might help me imagine who this little one growing inside me was, but I felt no different than I did not knowing. This lack of connection is a saving grace right now. Somehow I don't really feel the loss of a child, the way I would if I lost one of my boys. Mostly I feel disappointment that the baby won't come in July. I feel that I just have to wait a little longer for this little one to join our family, hopefully in November or December.

I am surprisingly not tired. I thought the draining emotions would exhaust me to my limits, but I found myself wide awake last night. Not wired or over-tired. I simply felt like, for the first time in three months, I was well rested.

The strangest part of it all is how normal I feel physically. All of a sudden I can eat a meal and not feel ill, have a bite of chocolate and feel fine. In the evenings I can talk again because the suffocating tightness in my chest is gone. The nausea disappeared. The exhaustion is ended. 24 hours ago I had a tiny life growing inside of me that affected every aspect of my life, and now there is nothing.

I am an ocean of tears, but I cannot discern their origin. Perhaps there is some level of subconsciousness inside that feels the emptiness and is crying out. Perhaps it is the memory of the tiny little fetus, that I can hardly believe might have one day grown to a healthy 7 pounds.

I am amazed at the emotional preparation that was taking place before I knew I needed it. Over the past few months I have been close to good friends as they dealt with the loss of a pregnancy, endure a difficult pregnancy, pray that a baby will not come to early, and spend weeks in a hospital with a baby that did come to early. I have also followed the online journal of a complete stranger, not sure why I was drawn to her life until Sunday - she miscarried in November, writing openly and honestly about the emotions she struggled with as she mourned her loss and then prepared for pregnancy again. Then, this Sunday afternoon before I took a nap, I opened the bible and came to a passage in Psalms that spoke of the healing power that is provided from heaven. And then I opened the current "Anne of Green Gables" book I am reading and read the heartbreaking chapter of Anne's first birth, and how her baby girl did not live more than a day. Each of these was leading me down a road of empathy and then sympathy, which has gently lifted me up from the valley I am in.

I do feel a strange sense of renewal, a revival of energy and purpose. I suddenly have yearnings to get my home in order, to find purpose and industry as a wife and mother. I am dreaming of my very first garden, of woodshop projects, of taking my fingers to the needle and really learning to sew. I am filled with the desire to bake fresh bread and get on the floor to play with my boys.

I have so many things to be grateful for. I am grateful my body knew that something couldn't support this tiny life and that it wasn't good for it to grow. I am grateful it happened early, that I might not become so attached to the idea of my family one soul bigger. I am grateful that the tragedy was before the baby was born, that I might not have to endure unimaginable heartaches of watching a darling baby struggle with illness or perhaps even depart this world early. I am grateful that it is so easy for me to become pregnant, and that in a short time joy will likely fill up the corners of emptiness. I am grateful for family to fill the long minutes of the day. I am grateful for two healthy, beautiful boys who love me unconditionally. I am grateful for a husband who can be near me for as long as I need, who aches along with me and cheers me with future dreams.

I am grateful for my faith and hope which will heal me, for the comfort of scripture that speaks to the heart, and for the atonement of Jesus Christ, the only one who can truly know exactly the sorrow I feel, and what I need for healing:
"And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."
Right now I am trying to fill the time of my days. When I find a quiet moment, or am alone in the dark at night, or when people have moved to a different room in the house, the tears come unbidden. If I can keep myself busy, my mind in conversation, I find I can forget for just a little while. I pray that this time will be no more than a passing moment until I am again welcoming a baby into our family. And, in time, I pray that I will be able to see the change this has wrought in me for the better, the tugging closer to my husband and children, and the deeper sense of purpose in motherhood.

Friday, 2 January 2009


Have you ever taken one of those "personality" tests? They come in all varieties; some are assign you a colour, some an animal, some combination of letters. Over the years, I've taken a few different ones, some in school, some at church activities, some with friends, and even one of the leading psychiatric versions.

I am always consistent in my results - an exact, even split of everything. I am a schedule-driven free spirit. I rely equally on scientific fact and emotional feelings to make decisions. I am an extroverted introvert. I am a mathematical poet. I thrive on crowds but need to be alone. I am a quiet performer. Basically I am a study of contradictions.

Most often this mish-mash of personalities has worked for my benefit. I find myself at ease in almost any situation. I did well in all areas of schooling. I am usually the peacemaker because I understand nearly every other type of personality.

Sometimes, however, the result is a crushing wave of confusion. My goals, wants, and desires can be so far-reaching and conflicting. I find myself unsatisfied, while living out one facet of my personality and, in so doing, completely neglecting another side of me. I can devote vast amounts of time to achieving a long yearned for goal and feel unfulfilled. Most of all, it makes me tired.

But that's me, I guess. Those giving the various personality tests always marveled at my unusual results. Sometimes I chalk it up to two parents who are diametrically opposite in nearly everything; I must be a complete and perfect meld of the two. But mostly I guess that's just who I am. Nature and nurture, it's who I am. I guess my challenge in life will always centre around reconciling the ocean of opposition within.


James created this nonsense name for when he became a "monster" and chased the boys around the house. Colin immediately committed the word to memory, and it's hilarious to here his little three-year old voice call it out to "Dad". Oh, and the only cure for the Rabba-Shnagga-Nooga-Noggin monster is to operate - with the wide array of power tools we have.


Many parents of young children have to contend with the masterpiece their child presents to them, a glorious combination of colours and lines. "Tell me about it" is the phrase best used to try and discern the clear image the child sees in the drawing. Colin, on the other hand, is much more reality based. When he does get the inkling to draw, he spreads out the crayons and paper. "I'm going to draw train" he will pronounce, picking up a blue (his favourite colour) crayon. Three strokes on the paper and he hands the crayon over to me. "I can't do it, Mommy. It doesn't look like a train." He sees absolutely no point in abstract drawing or pretending it is something it's not.


Much of Colin's active play involves acting out scenes from his favourite movies. Once he's seen a movie once, it's committed to his fantastic memory. He will then walk you through acting out the scene, including word-for-word dialogue, the exact order of plot points, and even the minute details. When the scene comes to an end, he will simply start it again. Luckily he has a few different movies that he chooses from, so it's not completely repetitive for us! Current favourites include: "The Polar Express" - skiing on top of the train with the hobo; and "Star Trek" - stealing the Enterprise.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Caleb's New Years Resolution

It seems perhaps Caleb has made a resolution of his own... last night he finally slept through the night, from 7pm until 5am, took a bottle, and then slept again until 7:30 am. Maybe, just maybe, he's turning a corner...


I am wondering if I should try to stop setting my poor heart on things. I have suffered my entire life of a vivid imagination, which has made shopping increasingly difficult. Without having seen it before, I get my mind set on exactly a style of dress, colour of blanket, the perfect gift, or, as today proved, the perfect dining suite. I have returned empty-handed from many a shopping excursion, heart full of disappointment but wallet nevertheless still full.

My kitchen is sorely in need of a hutch. I have the perfect corner nook that could be home to nothing other than a corner hutch, golden of wood and weathered of years. It would gracefully hold my breadmaker and jars of various flours, my table linens and perhaps a treasured memento or two. It would compliment my current kitchen table and also the larger leafed one I plan to add one day.

More than a month of searching came up empty. My perfect hutch does not exist; my only option likely having it custom made and built (which would not leave my wallet full!) Not only that, but my search for a table that seats six and includes a leaf with which to extend it seems to not be available any longer. Large family dinners are going out of style, I guess.

And then yesterday I remembered an online garage-sale site, where you can list items for sale by city. Although I never find anything of worth, I gave it a go. Well, lo and behold there was a beautiful antique wooden table with eight chairs, that included a leaf to seat ten. And being sold alongside was, alas, not a corner hutch, but a beautiful wall hutch that had so much character I couldn't help falling in love at first site. The entire set was being sold for $800, or best offer.

My heart skipped a beat and then raced in excitement as I tried to send a distant email that didn't express my anticipation. And then my hopes were dashed in the reply: it was sold. Of course it was sold. It was beautiful, perfect, exactly what I wanted and priced lower than either piece would sell for separately.

Ah well. I feel certain that I will never find another like it. And I'm probably right. But hopefully I will find some other addition to the house that emits that feeling that it always belonged here.