Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Bathroom woes

No, there is nothing gross about this entry (although with three boys in the house, I'm sure things could get dicey in the future!). I'm just thinking about redoing parts of the bathroom, giving it a good facelift.

The problem with me a decorating is that it doesn't come naturally to me. I research and surf internet photos until the cows come home and still can't decide. Then I do decide on something and then question myself about it the next day. Then I bite the bullet and actually go out and price everything. Then I throw it all away and start again. Really all I end up doing is finding a picture I like and trying to imitate it the best I can. But since my space is different from that space, it never ends up looking anything like what I hoped.

When we bought the house, I kind of liked the "feel" of the bathroom. It's a nice shade of blue, and had a very gender-neutral feel. It was something I could like and something all the boys in this house wouldn't think was too girly. In fact, when we moved in, I had a photo of the bathroom as the previous owners had it decorated and I went out and bought the same shower curtain and towel set they had. (That's how unoriginal I am!)

But the bathroom could use a little work. The floor is a dreaded peel'n'stick sheet of fake looking tile. The vanity is literally the cheapest thing available out there. It's too large for the space, meaning that if something falls between it and the bathtub it's lost for all eternity, and you feel squashed when you sit on the toilet next to it. The bathtub, vanity top and shower tile are all different shades of brown-beige, and do not match or coordinate in the slightest. They say that to up the value of your home you should do the kitchen and bathroom first, and since there is little we can do about the kitchen, the bathroom seems the next logical place to start.

I thought I had it all done. I thought I'd go a little more modern, with a dark espresso coloured vanity and some fantastic deep brown tiles that look like slats of wood. Some bathtub paint to get the bath a nice white colour and a coat of tan paint would nearly complete the whole thing. And then I realized that when you walk through the rest of the house (nearly 70 years old) there is a distinct country, laid-back feeling, and to open the bathroom door into something more modern would just not fit the bill. And so all my plans, once again, laid to waste.

Decorating is much the same as clothes shopping, for me. I'm excited to do both, but am quickly frustrated by the process. Somewhere in my artistic mind I know exactly what I want, and yet I am never able to find it. I get hooked on this specific idea that I can't seem to articulate and nothing satisfies me.

But I will do this bathroom. I will decide on something and just do it! At least getting some ceramic tiles down and a vanity that doesn't look like it's perpetually dusty and going to fall apart at any second will be better than what is there now.

(For those of you who know the fix-it type that I am: no, I don't plan on doing it all myself. The bathtub I can do, and I'll likely install the new vanity myself also. But I have no desire to try tiling on my own. People tell me it's actually fairly easy, and two people have even offered to loan me a wet-tile cutter. But this is one job I'm willing to pay for!)

More later...

Monday, 29 March 2010

Healthy Eating

I've been reading Laura's journey to healthy eating over at her blog (Heavenly Homemakers). She has written about how she went from being a coupon-clipping frozen-food eating Pepsi-guzzling eater to a whole and natural food eater. She was spurred on by a son with major allergies and her own asthma issues, but now has healthy eating down to a science. I'm so grateful she shares all her wonderful ideas. This is a mom of four boys who needs things inexpensive, fast, easy, and yummy for the kids. She posts her weekly menus and includes tons of recipes.

Most of all, I like that she doesn't make me feel terrible if my ideas differ from hers. Personally, I could never give up breakfast cereals, no matter how terrible I know they are for me. I just love them. I could eat (and have eaten, in my university days) cereal three meals a day. It's easy, and, for me, yummy. If James is up and at it, he'll often make pancakes. Me, bring out the boxes.

That being said, I have certainly learned a lot this past year or two about healthy eating. And no, I don't mean low-fat or calorie counting eating. I just mean trying to eat fresh, whole and natural foods wherever possible. Yes, I have frozen pizzas in the freezer, and yes, a newborn makes things much more difficult. I do my best, and on days when things fall apart I take advantage of the easier but less healthier options out there.

We eat things I never thought would be favourites: asparagus, salads, sweet potato, fresh green beans. My grocery cart was 90% full of fruits and veggies this past week. A salad (with a toasted bagel and cheese) is my current go-to lunch. More than anything, I'm grateful for tastebuds and a constitution that loves healthy eating. I know both James and Caleb are bread-men, picking at veggies last, if there is nothing else. I get that that is their natural preference. I don't like the idea of eating foods I don't love, so I can't imagine how difficult it is to make fruits and vegetables the major part of your diet if you don't have a natural affinity for them. Luckily for me, I can tell the food industry to take their processed foods and fake sugars and stuff it! Which is hard for many people to do, because these foods are engineered to be addictive. Best to stay away completely, that's for sure.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

My favourite quote of the week

"If breastfeeding offends you, put a blanket over your head."

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Procrastination on a rainy day

Boys sleeping. Bagel for lunch. So many things to do. Like maybe it a real lunch. Or clean up from breakfast. For that matter, clean up from dinner last night. Make my bed. Pick up the living room. Make a list of the bigger projects I need to tackle and always forget. (I'm hoping to make a list and whenever I have a spare moment [ha ha] I can just go to the list and get something done. It says much of my days now, since I haven't even made the list yet.)

It's grey and raining outside, which always sucks the motivation right out of me. There are toast crumbs on my chair that are grinding into my jeans, because I didn't even wipe them up before sitting down. There - I just brushed them onto the floor. Now I need to sweep.

I can't stand dull days like this. I've been out and about all morning avoiding the house. But my husband and mother-in-law will be home in six hours. So I've got six hours to get it all done.

Or, I have 5 and a half hours to procrastinate further.

These are the days mothers generally don't write about or talk about. The really great ones and the really lousy ones make great conversation. The grey ones just sort of pass in a haze of quasi-depression. I sure hope spring arrives soon. I'm starting to think the calender needs an overhaul. What's the point of calling a specific date the "first day of spring" when the weather is still cold and snowy? It just gets me excited that winter is going to be over, and then doesn't deliver on its promise of sun and warmth.

There are palm trees outside my parents' new house. And my "French sister" (Aurelie) went to the beach last week. Australia and southern France: two places I would move to in a heartbeat on a day like today.

Grrr. The cat just licked some leftover breakfast milk on the table while I was writing this. I was too lazy to bat her away, and now she is throwing it up.

And so endeth this stream of consciousness.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Problem solving

Half out of knowing Colin is old enough to do some basic problem solving, and half out of having it up to here with being needed every 30 seconds for something, I figured it was high time Colin learned to think on his own before bringing his problems to me.

I had a chance to put this into practice the other day. This was the result:

Colin: Mommy, I want to touch that!
Mommy: What?
Colin: That!
Mommy: What?
Colin: That!
Mommy: Colin, I don't know what you're pointing at. Tell me what it is.
Colin: My artwork. (displayed on the wall behind our kitchen table)
Mommy: Okay.
Colin: Can I touch it?
Mommy: Yes.
Colin: But it's too high!
Mommy: Well, what could you do about that?
Colin: Can you lift me up?
Mommy: No, I'm making dinner.
Colin: But I want to touch it!
Mommy: Well, can you think of another way?

(Colin pauses for a few moments, thinking)

Colin: Well, I could get the stool from upstairs.
Mommy: Yes.
Colin: Or I could stand on a chair. But if I did that I would have to be very careful.
Mommy: Both of those solutions would work great.
Colin: I think I'll stand on the chair.

(Colin then proceeds to gently move a kitchen chair over to the wall, climbs very gingerly up, holds tightly onto the back of the chair, and touches the artwork. After a moment, he climbs down and returns the chair to the table. Finished, he runs off.)

It worked! It actually worked! He solved his problem and I kept my sanity for another 10 minutes!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Home education

No, this isn't another post on homeschooling, although when you combine my enthusiasm for that subject, along with the research I've done on it, I'm surprised myself that I don't already homeschool!

This is a post on home education - teaching your kids what they need to know around the home. If you are a parent, then you've likely heard me RAVE about Merrilee Browne Boyack's book on parenting "The Parenting Breakthrough". For me, it's a brilliant manual that I read every year. I think what I like most about it is that it's starts with a parenting style that is similar to mine, but adds 20 years of experience that I don't have yet. Merrilee makes an excellent comment in the book that BEFORE you drown yourself in parenting books, examine yourself and figure out what kind of parent you are. If you try to completely change your parenting style, it won't work. You'll end up frustrated and going nowhere. But you can improve upon your own style. Well, Merrilee's style is along the same lines of my own style - and similar to that of my mother and my grandmother. I like the Dunkley style - it works for me and I've seen the success of it in my extended family also. Of course there are always adaptations for each person, but on the whole I like it. And so reading Merrilee's book is a good place for me to get new ideas and techniques that will gel really well with what I'm already doing.

Okay, that was a tangent if I ever went off on one. At any rate, one of my philosophies is that kids need to do family chores - chores that they complete not for money but simply because they are a part of our family and need to understand that we all pitch in to make the family and home work at peak efficiency. Learning these things also increases a child's independence. Merrliee agrees whole-heartedly, and provides an excellent list in her book about age-appropriate tasks. More often than not, we underestimate our kids' abilities. Can a 2 year old really have chores? Yup, they can.

Because I have all boys, and many of my friends also seem to be on the Y-chromosome band wagon, I thought I'd share a new website I stumbled upon. It's appropriately called "Homeschool your boys." But aside from formally educating your kids at home, there are lots of great tips about how boys learn, things to teach them at home, and a very comprehensive list of chore ideas starting at 9 months! Yes, that's right - 9 months! Of course every kid is different, but the younger you start, the more likely they are to realize that "chores" are a part of living, and not something you impose on them once their pre-school days are over.

Maybe some of the overwhelming nature of homeschooling for me is how much I need to teach my kids aside from formal education. But I'm hoping that if I start one thing at a time, I can get myself organized and get a system going that will work for us all.

My inner Mary and Martha

I can't remember what I was reading that started this train of thought, but it's been something I've been pondering over the last few weeks. Here is the scripture passage which crossed my mind:

Luke 10: 38 - 42
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

You know what I love about the scriptures? How sometimes a few short verses can create an entire scene in my mind (probably partly because I'm a filmmaker). This scene comes to life in my mind. Sisters Mary and Martha, who are followers of Jesus, have been honored to host Him an his disciples at their home. Liken this to yourself: you get a phone call from Salt Lake that the prophet is going to drop in for a visit with any followers who would like to come and listen to him.

I know that my inner "Martha" would kick in right away - there's the house to clean and food to cook and treats to bake and where on earth will everyone sit and... and... and...

(By the way - I think it's quite appropriate that homemaker icon Martha Stewart shares the same name as one of the heroines of this bible passage!)

So there is Martha, working like crazy just to get things ready. And once everyone shows up, she certainly doesn't think her hostess job finished. She's probably got tons of cooking still to do (could you ever truly anticipate the numbers of people who would flood to your home for such an occasion?), making sure everyone's cup is full of water or wine, making sure people are comfortable, that there are enough places to perch, plus all that dreaded small talk with neighbours and strangers alike...

Is it any wonder Martha got caught up in it all? The NIV version reads "Martha got caught up in all the preparations that had to be made." I think there would be few of us women who wouldn't be caught up in the preparations.

Now, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to do what Martha does next. I think it shows how good friends she and her family were with Jesus. Me, I would have just continued to work like crazy, hoping everything would go well. Martha sees her sister sitting and listening to Jesus instead of helping out in host duties. Martha goes right to Jesus and complains about her sister: "Tell my sister to help me!" I can imagine the exhaustion that Martha felt that led her to openly chastise and complain about her sister to Jesus. I doubt it was sibling rivalry or feelings of ill-will; more than likely Martha was simply exhausted.

But Jesus lovingly helps her see a different point of view. "Martha, Martha," he speaks. Even just those two words are beautiful. I hear him saying her name as lovingly as a parent would to a child who is frustrated and tired and feeling helpless. There is no exasperation in this. He can see her intentions are good in wanting to serve the Lord and his disciples. But Jesus points out that Mary has realized that the opportunity to sit at the Master's feet and learn is much more important than making sure the food and wine are abundant and top quality,that the house is free from every speck of dust. "You are careful and troubled (worried and upset) about many things. But only one thing is needed." Jesus is helping her to see that coming and sitting at his feet, listening to his words, learning of him - this is the one thing that will bring us joy in life.

It's not that Martha's work isn't important. I don't think our husbands and children would be impressed if we stopped doing housework and cooking and caring for our homes. But I've noticed that if my priorities are straight, if I'm putting my learning of the Lord first, then the rest of the things fall into place. My housework burden is lifted, lighter.

And so some days I channel my inner Martha, some days my inner Mary. There is a time for each thing, and sometimes it is time to meditate, and sometimes it is time to roll up my sleeves and get to work. So while the cleaning needs to get done, I need to make sure I'm not getting caught up, worried and upset, over the things that aren't the most important.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Caleb puts himself to bed

Tonight as Caleb and I began his nighttime routine, he announced tonight that he would sit in the chair and I was to sit on his lap, while he read the book. He recited what words he knew from the story while I perched on the edge of the armchair, between his legs. Then he got into bed and told himself a story (about the Incredibles), and then sang himself "face it with a grin" (Let the Sunshine In). Then he told me he loved me very much and to turn out the light on the way out.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Order in the house

Since I'm the parenting expert and my children are so well behaved and always do everything I ask them and never complain about anything... (okay, you're all laughing your head of with me, right?)

Let me start again. Since I've found a few good methods in the dreaded area of obedience, I thought I'd jot them down here.

A while back my kids developed that gene that all kids seem to have - the "I love macaroni and cheese" gene, and more specifically, the Kraft Dinner gene. I can tell you that in our house, that gene fades away when you become a parent, as both James and I dread the thought of eating it anymore. But my kids - they love it.

It got to the point that they were begging me everyday for this delightful lunch. When I said no, they would beg and whine and whine and beg and then beg and whine some more. It drove me crazy! I never gave in, and yet they always seemed to think that asking again and again would eventually wear me down. So I came up with a different system. I made Tuesdays macaroni and cheese days. I have to endure the meal once a week, but if they ask any other day of the week if they can have it, I simply say "what day is it today?" And if it's not Tuesday, they seem to accept it.

Kids love order. Kids love schedules. I think they find comfort in knowing what to expect. And, as shown above, they seem to accept the most unlikeable circumstances as long as it is expected. I use this theory in many areas of our home life.

We don't have TV hookup, but we do have lots of movies. James and I are both filmmakers, so I can't fault my children for having a love of movies. But at least a movie self-limits. There is no danger of letting the TV cartoons run longer than you wanted - when the credits roll, it's over. Again, we set specific expectations in this area. When the kids ask to watch a movie, I say, without skipping a beat "when do we watch movies?" and without skipping a beat they reply "after nap". Now, there are exceptions to this, like if one of them (or one of us parents) are ill, or in a few other extremely rare circumstances. But 99% of the time, it's after nap. And it's only one movie. And we alternate whose pick it is. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it's Colin's pick, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday it is Caleb's pick. Sunday they may choose from a specific set of "Sunday movies", and they have to choose together or they get no movie. Even before the age of two, these are concepts they can understand. And again, because of the schedule and expectations, there is amazingly no arguing about it. Besides, if they start to argue or fight, I turn it off. They know this and rarely push that button.

There are limitless ways this can be used to your advantage. Now that the weather is nice again, I plan on having outdoor time every morning. Only Daddy plays computer games with them, and only for 15 minutes. Toys are always tidied before bed. Sometimes you can schedule to their advantage: play time always before wash time in the bath, or two books and a story always before bed. Get creative. Plus it's a great tool to go to when something is driving you nuts and the kids just don't seem to give you a break!

Spring has sprung!

Spring here is, finally! With a last blast of slushy snow on Saturday night, winter walked out and let spring in. I pulled out the rainboots and mudpants and we all spent the morning outdoors. Benjamin dozed in his stroller (and is still sleeping out on the deck while I make lunch). Caleb ambled around from toy to toy, content to play on his own. Colin asked to play baseball.

I know every mother thinks her kid is great, but my kid is awesome! Can he ever play baseball! Having never played before, I gave him a few pointers as he picked up the bat. Square your feet to the plate, turn your head toward me, keep your eye on the ball. I stood about six feet away and lobbed the ball toward him. THWACK!!!! A massive hit launched the ball right toward me. I ducked out of the way as the ball flew by my, all the way to the other side of the yard. Now, it wasn't an actual baseball, just one of those hollow plastic ones kids start with. But the thing flew a good 30 feet or so! Beginner's luck, right? Wrong. He hit 9 out of 10 pitches I threw in the strike zone. Can my kid ever play baseball!

Throwing and catching we still have to work on. He's still got that "shut your eyes tight" instinct when the ball comes at him (he should try standing on the other side of his bat - even when I moved back to pitch the ball from 10 feet, I still flinched every time he hit the ball back toward me!) I don't doubt that after a few more hits, we'll be retrieving that ball from the neighbours yard more than a few times!

Saturday, 13 March 2010


New Caleb words:

"Paws" (Because)
"Granana" (Banana)
"Gratato" (Potato)

(He can say these words normally, he just seems to prefer to say them starting with "gr")


Colin is a really good kid; he is well-behaved and is very sensitive to obeying the rules, and being polite. Yesterday when James had to insist on him heading upstairs for bedtime, Colin let loose a low growl at being cut off from playing. James didn't waste a second in turning around and asking "Did you just growl at me, mister?" To which Colin didn't waste a second in replying innocently "No, Daddy. I was just being a car motor!"


Benjamin is now in 6 month sleepers. Over the past few weeks, he also started to smile and laugh at us. He is such a good baby. For the most part, he is content to nurse every three hours, take an hour and a half nap in between, and then just sit in his swing or bouncy chair near me and watch as life goes on around him. He thinks the boys are hilarious, and they can always soothe his crying with a rendition of "You Are My Sunshine." We saw with Colin and Caleb how their personalities are evident right from birth. Benjamin seems like he will be laid-back, relaxed, a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. This should be interesting as the youngest in the family. Traditionally this personality type is found more often in the middle child (certainly not so in our family!). It's neat to see how family dynamics develop and play out.


The soother battle is still on with Caleb. He is supposed to only use it when sleeping, at nap and night time. At first he would just go up, find the soother and bring it down in his mouth. So I started explaining to him he could only have it when he was tired and went to sleep. Then he began saying he was "tired" whenever he wanted the soother. I would allow him to go upstairs to "sleep," but he would only lie in bed for a few minutes and then emerge downstairs with the soother again. So I determined that he could only have the soother for designated nap and night times, and if was tired at other times he could nap on the couch. He didn't go for that at all.

Yesterday after dinner he insisted he was tired and wanted the soother. It wasn't nighttime yet, and so my explanation went like this: "No, honey, it's not night time yet. You only have the soother at night time, when your eyes are closed."

He dashed upstairs. Colin and I were still finishing dinner. Next thing I heard was Caleb very slowly making his way down the stairs. Very slowly, one stair at a time, instead of charging down at break neck speed and at the volume level of an elephant. When I heard him round the hall corner, I looked over my shoulder to see the soother in his mouth, with his eyes closed, as he walked toward the table. Every few steps he would squint through open slits to make sure he wasn't going to walk into anything. He made his way to the table, climbed up on his chair and began to eat (putting the soother back in his mouth between mouthfuls), all with his eyes closed! I guess he heard my caveat about the soother and his eyes being closed, and realized he had finally found his loophole. My children are just too clever sometimes!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

A Night at the Theatre

Last night Colin was my date to the theatre. A friend of ours appeared as Maria in a local production of "The Sound of Music." In fact, this is Colin's second night out to the theatre - last January I took him to see "Goodnight Moon" and "The Runaway Bunny." James and I have such a love for live theatre, I want to make sure our boys are exposed to this art form. I wonder in a day of easy entertainment, where movies and video games are so easily accessible and where you don't even have to leave your own home, if live theatre will slowly disappear. Already it can be cost prohibitive compared to the mass produced films at the movie theatre. And of course they aren't as flashy. Bu tI love the immediacy of a live performance, of the actors on the stage with no second takes.

This production was great for Colin, because it was a shortened version of the stage play. Our local professional theatre worked in conjunction with an organization which helps people living with mental disabilities "celebrate their abilities." The music used was the movie recording (starring Julie Andrews), but all the actors wore microphones and sang right along. There were also a handful of short two-handed scenes in which the actors had learned their lines. There were a few hiccups, a few cues needed, but for the most part it was an excellent production. Colin loved that it went from song to song, and remembered many of them from the movie. I think his favourite part was the applauding - the audience clapped so enthusiastically that it was catching, and Colin would clap his heart out, and give a little yell with the rest of the audience here and there also.

I hope to keep up this little bit of culture in our family. It would be fun one day for us all to appear in a play together!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A special dinner

Last night James and I were invited to a small dinner with Elder M. Russell Ballard. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is organized using the same structure as in the New Testament, which means at the head of the church is a prophet (Thomas Monson), and helping him are twelve apostles. Elder Ballard is one of those apostles. He was in town for a training conference for local church leadership and last night he attended a dinner at the church in Brampton, with about 30 other leaders. James was asked last week to attend the dinner to perform a song, a little spiritual entertainment. Usually I would be his accompanist, but this time the song he sang is much more powerful when it is sung a capela, and so I was able to simply attend as his wife.

It was a little overwhelming to be in such company. The local Stake Presidents, Temple President and Mission Presidents were all in attendance, with their wives. These are spiritual giants; leaders who are spiritually in tune and working really hard to guide people to the gospel of Christ. They are all much older than James and I, and although they are humble people, it is easy to sit in awe of the life progress they have made.

We all arrived about 15 minutes early, which allowed for some casual social conversation among us all, and we stood in small groups, learning about each other. James and I stood with our Stake President from the previous stake we lived in, with whom we are good friends, and he and his wife were standing with Barbara Ballard, Elder Ballard's wife. What a sweet woman she is! Her manner was gentle and kind, her eyes twinkled as she spoke of her 40 grandchildren and 30 great grand children. She is truly the matriarch of her family, and I could feel her strength of character and spirituality she has developed over her nearly 80 years. To be in a room with so much to aspire to was inspiring.

James sang just before dinner was served. He was asked to sing "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief," a beautiful poetic story that speaks of service to our fellow men. It is 7 verses long, but tells a moving story that captivates as you listen to the lyrics. When sung a capela, you truly have a chance to hear the words, without the added fancy of piano. I can brag as both a wife and a musician - James was brilliant. I coached him through the song as he rehearsed, fine-tuning the dramatic presentation, working on dynamics and speed and shading to help give each sentence its greatest impact. Afterward, several people, including Barbara Ballard, noted that this was the first time they had ever really internalized the entire story. Most complimentary of all, however, was Elder Ballard's question: "Have you recorded that yet?" When James answered no, Elder Ballard replied "You need to - just as you just sang it. A capela." Elder Ballard's words soft and genuine. The comment was not about James being a world-class singer; he's good, but admitedly not a Josh Groban or Andrea Bocelli. No, the comment was about the interpretation, a simple way of singing this song that touches the spirit inside us.

The dinner was scrumptious and the company interesting. While we weren't sitting at the Ballard's table (we were just the entertainment, after all, and so we held back and let everyone else sit first), the four other sitting with us were good company. There was a grandparent husband and wife, he being the Stake President of the London area, a single man in his forties (an artist) and the Stake President of the Oshawa area, a man also in his forties whose wife was on vacation in Mexico. We laughed a lot, discussing all sorts of topics. That morning, a mutual friend of us all, Graeme Hingston, passed away, and we spent some time reminiscing about this quiet, strong man who was an inspiration to us all, touching each of us in the different ways he served in the Kingdom of God.

The two hours passed in the blink of an eye and before we knew it the Ballard's were speaking a few words of gratitude and love, bearing their testimonies of the work we are all doing, and heading out to spend some time in the mission home, where they served three years as Mission President nearly 40 years ago. In a wonderful "circle of life" moment, they announced that their daughter, who spent three of her teenage years in that home back when they served here, will be arriving in July with her husband, the newly called Mission President of the area. What an experience for her, as now she will be the "mission mother" to the young men serving as missionaries, rather than being the teen daughter of the mission president. Her husband served his mission here back then, also.

We lingered as long as we could, speaking with old friends (including the Brampton Stake President and his wife, the Goobies, whom I used to babysit for all the time when I was a teen), before needing to get back to Benjamin. I am grateful for my sister and her fiance for coming in to watch Benjamin so James and I could both attend this amazing opportunity. Although I felt young and inexperienced in life among such company, it helps to inspire me in my own personal growth and commitment. It will be an evening to remember for a lifetime.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


I remember when Colin was a baby that he would never be hitting the baby "milestones" until the day after we went to the doctor. It was as if he heard the doctor say "he should be doing this by now," and said to himself "oh, well, in that case..." and he would immediately start doing that thing. It was uncanny how many times it actually happened.

Lately he's been learning how to write. He wasn't progressing too far along, mostly due to the fact that he had no interest in actually practicing. I didn't compare him to kids in the class, but just to himself, comparing his writing now to how it was last year. In fact, last year he seemed to be doing much better. And that was only in forming the letters - he had no interest in actually putting anything in writing. I wasn't even sure how to help him get further, other than trying to encourage him to write different things, like letters, or labeling his drawings.

Two days ago his teacher sent home a "writing progression" chart that actually showed about 12 different steps to the evolution of learning to write. I had never considered all the different steps, but as I read through the chart it made perfect sense.

Just as his response to the doctor was as a baby, Colin all of a sudden progressed through 8 different steps in two days! It was like he heard the teacher saying "this is how it's done" and Colin responded with "oh, well, in that case..." I didn't coach him through anything - his writing simply evolved on its own!

Important to note is that I'm not all that concerned about him meeting a certain step by a certain time. What I really want is for him to love writing. Yesterday he asked to write a letter to his Great Grandma Cairney. He dictated the letter to me, and then I spelled out the letters for him to write. I thought about helping him sound it out himself, but I figured one skill at a time. No need to worry about that anyway - today he started another letter to her and was sounding out the words on his own. I think he got a real kick out of writing a letter, putting it in the envelope and mailing it himself. I guess the art of letter writing isn't dead after all, because an email just doesn't have the same kind of thrill to a 4 year old as getting your own letter in the mailbox!

PB & J

Whenever my boys ask for a peanut butter and jam sandwich, this is what they say:

"I'd like a peanut butter sandwich made with jam. Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum."

For those of you who aren't Raffi aficionados, that's a quote from his song about the beloved kids lunch. They don't always sing it, but they do speak it in rhythm. It's so funny.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Staring down the barrel at 30

This year I turn 30. I recall last summer turning 29, and being surprised as I became that magical age that women seem to (jokingly) never age beyond. I've never been one to be concerned about age. My mom tells of how she cried when she turned 20, passing her beloved teenage years. Many good friends of mine have turned 30 in the past year or two (including my hubby). Truly, it's not really bothering me.

In fact, I'm a little excited. This impending birthday put me into a moment of reflection yesterday that led me to consider the different aspects of each decade. I enjoyed the carefree life of my first ten years. My teenagehood brought the roller coaster of ups and downs, and the fun factor of earning independence with relatively little responsibility. My 20s were really about early family life and motherhood - a whirlwind that has seen me lose myself and my time to my children.

Looking forward, I see my 30s as a time when I will get to relive those fun, carefree days with my kids. They will be past the total dependence stage of babyhood, and not yet causing me the worry of teenagehood. I will find time again to be a wife as well as a mother (which is hard to do as a nursing mother of a co-sleeping baby!)

My 40s will be a time when I can find more involvement in projects. Perhaps to do with work, or volunteering, teaching or music or drama. I have so many interests I can never tell which one will push its way to the surface, refusing to be ignored. right now I have to limit myself to one activity or project at a time. But in this decade as my children begin to spread their own wings, I will be able to balance guiding them through their teens and finding time for myself again. Besides that, working with teens has always been my passion. I can't wait for those years with my sons.

My 50s will be my empty-nest years. As my kids all leave home, I will have infinitely more time for all those ideas floating around in my head. I hope to do some more intensive travel than I will be up for in retirement - the walking, adventurous trips to more exotic places.

My 60s and beyond may likely be spent on a cruise ship. Okay, not all the time, but I do plan on relaxing and traveling more. By this time I will also be a grandmother (hopefully). I know it's strange to be looking forward to being a grandma when I've barely become a mother, but hey, that's the circle of life and there are wonderful things in every stage. I also hope to serve missions around the world, likely following in my mom's footsteps of a teaching mission (teaching English and skills to people in third world countries).

Perhaps it is this sunny outlook on the beautiful cycles that exist in life that have made me indifferent to aging. Personally, I still feel like I'm 20, and many days I turn around and think "I'm the mom here? Who put me in charge?" I hope that as I take good care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually now that down the road I will be blessed with a long and healthy life, because boy, do I have plans!


I love that two people can give the best of each of themselves to their children. In play, I am much more detailed oriented, more likely to sit and build something or complete a puzzle. James prefers imaginative play, acting out scenes and playing pretend.

Colin has bits of both of us. Yesterday he had the Lego out, hard at work building a creation. When he showed me the finished product, I was amazed. He had recreated the train from the "Polar Express." It had the form of a caboose, and had an arch at the back on each side where passengers would climb aboard. It also had a space in the back where one could walk from one car to the next. On top of the roof he added white blocks, representing snow, and two small blocks as the handles to which the characters cling to stop from falling. Then, on top of the snow, he built a little boy and a large man (two characters from the film). He asked me how tall I thought the boy was, and how tall the man was, and I said, respectively, four feet and six feet. He built the boy 4 blocks high and the man six blocks high, giving a smaller head to the boy and a larger head to the man. In this scene in the film, the man (a ghost) is boiling a pot of water on a fire, and the two characters share a "cup of joe." Each of these items was crafted in detail, including red blocks for the fire and cup for each person.

I was absolutely amazed at the detail in his creation, the proper scale to which he had built it all. And then, after showing me, he spent the next few hours in imaginative play, recreating the scene the from film, taking the little train all over the house.

His spatial awareness is astounding; even his teacher has noted this advanced ability. A few weeks back she sent home some magnet poles and balls with which the kids build shapes. The teacher was surprised when I told her we didn't have a set at home already. She said whereas most kids build flat shapes, Colin always built in three dimensions - cubes instead of squares, pyramids instead of triangles, and other objects like chairs and tables. And although I can't predict what career he might pursue down the road, it will be neat to look back on moments like these and see how he was already forming his skills and talents.

Monday, 1 March 2010


My boys have been wearing costumes every day lately. Colin puts on a "Mr. Incredible" costume and calls himself "Dash" (the son of Mr. Incredible). Caleb puts on a "Tigger" costume and calls himself "Elastigirl" (the wife of Mr. Incredible).

Too funny for words.

(Discount Hallowe'en costumes on November 1st make great play things)

Two points!

I can land a diaper in a garbage pail from any point in any bedroom.

Yes, that is my big accomplishment as of late. Hey - if I missed, I might lose a diaper, it might sit for a month under a bed, and then the room would really start to smell. So you see how important this skill really is.

Conversely, Colin saw me throw one from my bed yesterday and told me not to throw things in the house.

Motherhood. It has changed my life in so many ways.