Friday, 30 July 2010


Last night. Beautiful warm evening. Sun nearing the horizon. Silence. My in my kayak.

45 minutes to myself on the lake. 35 minutes paddling, 10 minutes reading "Walden." (I took the book sealed in a ziploc bag and pulled it out while sitting in the middle of the water.) Thoreau reaches even deeper when you can imitate the environment about which he writes.



I love when you have a moment in parenting that tells you "yeah, I'm doing it right."

The way I look at parenting is that it is my job to raise independent adults. My home is a place of learning and I am the primary teacher and guide. Kids can do so much more than we give them credit for, and I try really hard to foster independence in as many areas as possible. You would probably know this if you've seen Colin dressed. Not always matching, but he has dressed himself since before he was three, and with that responsibility comes the privilege of choosing what you wear. Caleb is just about to begin this also, so please remember this before you judge me on what my kids are wearing.

The other day, however, I peaked in on a moment that reaffirmed me in my role as mother. I was having an afternoon lie-down with Benjamin, Caleb was napping. Colin emerged from his bedroom after a short rest, not tired enough to sleep. I gave him the nod to go downstairs and play quietly. When Benjamin woke up 20 minutes later, I came downstairs. Colin was at the table having a snack.

"Did Daddy get that for you?"
"Nope. I got it myself. I opened the pantry and found the crackers and the raisins and got them all out. But I couldn't reach the plate so Daddy got the plate for me."

Now that's what I call independence. He had a need, thought of the solution, then saw it through. He asked for help with something beyond his ability. And, bonus: it was an appropriate snack and serving size.

This is me patting myself on the back. I love moments like these.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Currently Reading

You might notice on the right toolbar a new picture I've added. I love to read and always have three or four books on the go at once. I often include in this blog passages that inspire me. So I decided that I wanted to let people in on what book I'm currently reading. Who knows, it may inspire a conversation between us, or perhaps inspire someone else to pick up the book and try it themselves.

No, I won't post all four (or five, six, eight, ten!) books I have on the go. Just the main one.

Which brings me to my latest thought on choosing and reading books. For the longest time I had it in my mind that if I pick up a book, I must finish it. Even if that means slogging through something I am not enjoying. I also used to subscribe to the idea that I should finish one book before starting a second one.

Now I am more of the ilk that books will speak to the reader in different ways at different times in the reader's life. So while "War and Peace" may do nothing for me right now, five years down the road I may wonder why on earth I didn't see the genius of it before. (Side note: I loved "War and Peace!") Reading is a hobby. Hobbies are for enjoyment. Ergo, if I do not enjoy the book, I put it down. I may pick it up down the road, I may never open its pages again. If I enjoy a book, I may read it another three or four times over the years. Then again, akin to my experience with "The Chronicles of Narnia," I may find that a book was perfect for a time in my past, but not relational to me now.

I am always looking for recommendations of books. I can go through the classics easy enough; the list is out there and well known by almost everyone. But I have trouble keeping up with newer books (written in the last 50 years, say). The number of books written has grown, and there simply isn't time to read everything. I don't even have the time just to investigate all the books that have hit a best-seller list. So if you have a favourite book, or read something particularly inspirational or entertaining, I am just the sort of person with whom you can sit down with and share your excitement.

Currently I'm reading (for the second time) "Gone With the Wind." Fantastic book, and even better the second time through. I have very strong opinions about the film, in light of having the read book. Makes a great debate, if you're ever up for it.

(Also currently on the go: "Better Off" (second reading), "The Book of Mormon" (study of the book of Moroni), "Homeschooling on a Shoestring" (random perusing of subjects), and "Walden" (slow going, a couple of pages a week).

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Darn you, new homemade, healthy, whole food diet. Now my favourite Chocolate Chunk cookies (Mr. Christie) taste like cardboard.

One less thing to buy at the grocery store. One more homemade treat on the table more often.

The move to no TV

I grew up without cable. While many people might wonder what on earth we did without TV, I should mention that the good ole' bunny ears meant that we still received a good 10 channels. Sometimes we might have watched our favourite shows through a fuzzy signal, but there were a few channels that were strong. Most of the major network shows aired on the channels we did get.

When I moved out into a basement apartment during university, full cable came with the place. I have to admit that I usually bypassed the lower channels and indulged in programs on the history and arts channels. My television viewing habits changed - I stopped watching television on a schedule (like tuning in for a weekly program) and started dropping in now and then when I needed a mental break.

When I got married, we had basic cable (I moved into James apartment, and he had the cable already). While I was grateful for the distraction for the 18 months of two pregnancies that I spent in bed, I quickly discovered that basic cable is a rip-off. The stuff I really wanted to watch was available via antennae. All the rest was just filler, stuff I would flip on to watch to "relax" or "pass time." None of it I really needed or wanted to watch.

With our move to our first house, we got rid of cable. And then we were hit with a surprise twist: our television downstairs couldn't get any reception, even off the 2 foot bunny ears we bought. It presented our first challenge to our media decision. Should we get cable or leave it? Luckily I was on a "simplify" kick, so it didn't tempt me for long. We put a little TV (previously used as a preview monitor for film editing) in our bedroom and left the TV downstairs for movies only.

Turns out it was the best decision we made. There is absolutely no TV on during the day, because with three kids I can't simply retreat and hideaway in my bedroom to watch something. At night the same principle applies. I've got too much to do around the house to sit up in one room. I never used to watch TV without doing second activity or chore at the same time, and still don't like doing it. The few times when I do flip on a movie, I'm usually folding laundry. The only thing I regularly watch is ten minutes of the nightly news just before going to bed.

Now I would like to thank the broadcast companies for helping me make the last move that we have, as yet, been unable to make. I wanted to get rid of the television completely, but since the analog signal was free, it seemed to not be a big deal to keep the two or three channels we get alive. Next summer the industry is switching to digital cable, which means I would need a digital box monthly subscription to watch TV. No deal. I am not paying for television. I simply don't need it anymore. I'm grateful for our gradual change, so that I don't have to go cold turkey (hmm, that sentence has undertones of an addiction, doesn't it!). Apparently I am one of about 1 million households in Canada that does not subscribe to cable. I wonder how many of us will let it go completely next summer? I imagine there will be a portion who opt to start paying, but I best the vast majority won't. I haven't read any studies on the subject, but I question the statement that most people who don't have cable don't have it because of budgetary reasons. I have heard reports in the past that in low-income areas people will go to the food bank for food but still have a big-screen TV and cable subscription.

So next summer we will get rid of television programming in our home. We will still have our TV and a collection of films. Any TV shows we really want to see we will rent or buy on disc (a much better way to enjoy the show, without the commercials!). I know the next step would be to get rid of the television completely, but as James and I are both filmmakers, I don't think we would ever do that. However a film is a two hour time investment, and certainly we only put in that time once or twice a week. I have loved the extra time I find I have, filling it with reading and quilting and kayaking and board games and music and writing. I hope soon to add composing (it's been too long since I engaged in writing music), finishing the children's book I started, learning more of the guitar, writing more letters, improving my gardening knowledge and skills...there are so many things I want to do and learn and now I have a plethora of time at my fingertips!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Family Matters

Family relationships must be a difficult concept to work out in the mind of a child. I am, at the same time, a mother, a daughter, a wife, an aunt, a niece, and a granddaughter. The boys' grandmother is my mother. Their aunt is my sister. Their cousin is my nephew. I can see how it can get tought.

Here is how Colin and Caleb see things.

Today Colin said "When I grow up and my wife has a son, I think we will buy a trailer." It was so grown-up of him to use the word "wife" and "son," and you don't often hear that from a child. Usually kids use words their hear in relation to themselves, as is evidenced by Caleb's idea of the family. Caleb often says both "When you were a boy, Mommy...." and "When I grow up to be a Mommy..." I think I tried correcting him the first time, but it's harmless, and so darn cute, so I just let it go. He'll figure it out.


Benjamin nurses with his leg sticking up into the air.

I don't have a photo yet, but I wanted to record this for posterity, because he makes me laugh every time. Whichever leg is not tucked into my body, he sticks straight up. Sometimes his foot is in my face, sometimes it's out toward the room, sometimes he is holding it in his hand, sometimes he just lets it swing around loose. But without fail, every time he nurses he sticks out his leg.

Benjamin, you make me laugh. I love you kiddo.


I'm not sure how it evolved (but I do know it started with James!); Benjamin's nickname has become "Benjamin-boo-bear-boy." I know, I know. Nicknames are supposed to be shorter than the full name! At any rate, James coined it and it seems to have caught on.

Once in a while we'll refer to Benjamin as "Ben." Up until last week, Caleb always immediately responded with "His name is not Ben, it's Benjamin." Then last week: "His name is not Ben, it's Benjamin-boo-bear-boy!"

I think it's time we start using Benjamin's full name. I'm not sure this is a nickname he'll want to stick as he grows.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

That's love

Yesterday my sister Jennifer got married and became Mrs. Jennifer Germano. It was a beautiful day, perfectly representative of who she and Derek are. A gathering of friends and family, everyone enjoying the celebrations from afternoon right through into the night.

Seeing the last of my sisters get married, and realizing that there will be no more weddings in my family, made me think about the examples of love I have in my life. Three things immediately came to mind. Funny enough, they are all small things, tokens of someone's love that are seemingly unimportant, but to me stand for so much more.

The first is from my dad. (Mom, don't read this if you want to keep it his secret!) A couple weeks back we were talking about those nightly cravings you get. You know, when all you want is a bag of chips or a chocolate bar or (fill in the blank with your favourite treat) but it's 10pm and you just don't feel like running out. Sometimes love is when your partner does run out for you. But how is this for foresight? My dad shared with me that he keeps a few of my mom's favourite chocolate bars stashed away, so that if she's had a particularly challenging day and she really does need a snack, he can slip away and pull one "out of the air."

The second example is from my mom. Many years ago a friend of hers noted that my dad seemed to help out a lot around the house, doing whatever it was my mom asked of him. My mom then bragged that indeed he would do anything she asked. Her secret? She would never ask him to do anything she knew he would really hate doing.

The last example is one of my very own, from James. James always fills up the cars with gas. I can't tell you the last time I pumped my own gas! Even with two vehicles now, and me using the van more often than James, I still don't have to hit the gas station. The perfect example of this happened just this evening: tomorrow I have a long car ride (5 hours round trip) ahead of me, and so after the kids were in bed James actually went out and filled up the car with gas. I didn't ask him to, nor did I tell him the gas was low. He knew I had the trip tomorrow, that the tank was half empty (after I drove it today!) and that with tomorrow being Sunday, I would prefer not to have to fill up then.

Now, I must jump in here and say that I have no aversion to pumping gas. I know how to do it and am perfectly willing to do it. After all, I do use the gas! But this is just James' way of taking care of me, demonstrating his love for me. It really is the little things...that's love.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


"If we are hungry in a natural sense, we don't need sugar coating on our bread. The bread alone will satisfy us. But most of us never have gone hungry for natural food. So we often want to dress it up and make it fancy.

"If we have prepared room in our hearts, we will savor the taste of the Gospel. Like natural food when we are hungry, it will fill us with thankfulness. But if we haven't prepared, over time we will lose our taste and pursue vain amusements."

- "Better Off" by Eric Brende

This is a quote from a Mennonite-type community sermon. It taught me so much about physical and spiritual nourishment. I think I often suffer from being over-satiated with both. I search for ways to gussy up the meals I prepare, saturating foods in sauces and fancy ideas. Likewise, I am often not satisfied with the simplicity of the gospel and search for more complex ideas and histories. While knowing Israelite backgrounds and Greek word roots can open up bible studies to new levels, it is good to remember that all these are simply appendages to the central message of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Word invention

I love when kids make up their own words.

Colin's is "pompo." He uses it in make different contexts. Sometimes he substitutes words in a song: "Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open pompo." Sometimes he uses it as an adjective "this toy is pompo. Other times he will call you a pompo.

Caleb's is "pishy." He uses it exclusively to describe something undesirable. If he doesn't like a food, if a toy doesn't work right, if you have not done something the way he wants.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Against the grain

This is an entry written in all honesty.

People often ask me if I am going to homeschool my kids. I'm not surprised at the question; I probably have read and researched about homeschooling and alternative education more than many parents who have already pulled their kids from public school and are in the throes of teaching their kids at home. I read about education. I read about others homeschooling. I read curricula. I talk about it with just about everyone I meet. I am passionate about its methods and wary at the public school system. I am fairly certain homeschooling is a better option.

So people are often surprised when I answer "no." It's never a definitive "never," rather just a "no, not right now." My oldest is going into senior kindergarten. My second child is enrolled in a nursery school in the fall. I often tell people that I like that I am prepared to homeschool should I ever see the need arise (a child falling behind, not succeeding in the school system, or being bullied).

But the real answer why I'm not homeschooling? There are two.

The first and biggest one: fear. I am not one who can easily go against the grain. Perhaps if I had been homeschooled, or James had been, I might be very easily and comfortably not enrolling my kids in school. But the idea is so new here, so foreign to most people. I hate that fear has seemingly paralyzed me out of this decision. I wish more people homeschooled, that it were more accepted. I'm just not a trailblazer.

The second is selfishness. I look down the road at the idea of spending all day every day with my kids and I get exhausted thinking about it. The idea of school as a break for me is very alluring. I think this will fade as my kids grow, as they are less dependent on me, as I get more sleep, as I send all three kids away for 6 hours a day and miss them terribly. These early motherhood days of babies and toddlers is physically, emotionally and mentally draining, and I really did look forward to the hours I had this past year with Colin in school and the other two napping. As an introvert I need time alone to recharge, which is nearly impossible with three kids under 4.

My ideal form of education would involve both school and home. I wish I could send my kids for a morning of school, about three hours. I really don't think they need any more than that (and let's face it, even with 6 hours at school, they probably don't get much more than 3 hours of actual instruction time anyway). Schools aren't really set up for this, and I don't think the teachers would take too kindly to me picking my kids up at lunch time every day. What this really demonstrates is the need for a more flexible school system.

But knowing that in a year or two the selfish reason for sending my kids to school will abate, all that remains is fear. This sort of honesty with myself drives me crazy, because I am such a proponent of doing what's best for my family, no matter what other's say. So, in order to combat it a little, I have purchased a preschool program that caught my eye. It's called "Learn Your Letters...Learn to Serve." More about it later, but suffice it to say that I'm really excited about this program that is mostly for Caleb, but will benefit the entire family.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


We often tell each other how much we love them. Colin tends to measure in distance: I love you to the moon, I love you to Mars, I love you to the sky.

Caleb, on the other hand, measures in the largest possible thing he can imagine:

"Mommy, I love you 164."

Always 164. Never more or less, or another imaginary number, like a gazillion. He loves me 164.

I told him I love him 164, too.

Friday, 16 July 2010


Today Benjamin rolled - and not just once over onto his back. I put him down on his mat and he flipped over onto his tummy, then onto his back, then onto his tummy, then back...

I realized that he is rarely on the ground. Usually he is in my arms, in his high chair, in the swing, in a stroller, in his other two boys hated tummy time and so I didn't even bother forcing it upon Benjamin. But without tummy time, there isn't so much opportunity to learn rolling.

I guess he didn't need a whole work up to it. It was as though he just decided that today was a good day to starting rolling over, and so he did.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Six Foot Bay

We've already been back from our week-long camping trip for 5 days, and yet I keep putting off writing about it. Part of the reason is because I forgot my camera, so all the photos are on my sister's camera, and I don't have the files yet to post along with my entry. But the bigger reason is that there is just so much involved in writing a post of this magnitude that I really don't know where to start.

I guess I could start with 21 years ago. That was the first time I went to Six Foot Bay. My Nana and Poppy took my sisters and I for a couple of weeks to this camping/mobile home/golf resort. Two years later my Poppy passed away, but Nana continued to take us, for the next 10 years. I have so many wonderful memories of those vacations, and to be able to take my own boys was another memorable experience.

The campground is much the way I remember it. I knew immediately what was the same and what had been changed (most notably the addition of a salt-water pool - yay!). I could write paragraph after paragraph as a travelog, but instead I will just include some impressions that I have been left with.


I rediscovered my circadian rhythm. Our bodies are tied, without a doubt, to the rising and setting of the sun. I enjoyed lying in bed as the sun was just about to come up, listening to the symphony (cacophany?!) of birds. It was more than a chirp and a caw from a few different varieties; this was entire flocks coming together to herald in the morning. I thought it was beautiful. James moaned at being robbed of another few moments of sleep before the boys were up. I recall the first morning laughing silently until I ached as James gave a sarcastic commentary to the birds' performance.


One of the best things about my years at Sic Foot Bay was the friends I made. The first day we were there Colin met a little boy, 4 years old, named Cole, who was camping beside us. The two were joined at the hip for the rest of the week. They played and created and laughed and conversed seriously, living exclusively in the magical world that belongs to one who is four. When we drove back into the campground on the second last day (having gone to my Nana's to escape a storm) and we saw Cole's camper gone, all of our hearts broke. They had left a day early because of the weather, and Colin had not had a chance to say goodbye. I was teary myself at his loss.


I took along my guitar, and although it was too hot for campfires (it was hitting the mid 40's with humidity!) I did manage to pull it out now and then for a few songs. It didn't quite have the same effect I was hoping for, but I love music in any form, in any place, and so I enjoyed it nonetheless.


Much of the time was spent in a lazy, loose schedule that revolved around mealtimes and swim times. Our minimalist camp style meant that there wasn't tons to do to keep tidy or clean up from. It made me long for a simpler existence at home. Bigger home + more stuff = more to clean.


I used cloth diapers for much of the time. It was much easier than it sounds. When one was wet or dirty, I rinsed it out and laid it in the sun to dry before packing it away for washing. One mid-week wash was all that was needed to top us up. I'm fairly committed to cloth diapering now for Caleb, although I still haven't been converted for Benjamin. Breastmilk poop 6 times a day is not conducive to cloth diapering, in my opinion.


Although I sorely missed the sand beach that had been done away with, the new addition of the pool was fantastic. To everyone else's dismay, but to my delight, the temperature of the pool was warmed nearly to a cool bath temperature. I am not one who likes to be cold, and pools generally send me into an immediate shiver. This one, however, was delightful, which meant that I spent much of the week swimming. It was a blast to swim with my boys, watching Colin paddle and kick as hard as he could to keep up with his friends, seeing Caleb go from clinging to my arm to jumping into the water on his own. Even Benjamin enjoyed nestling in the crook of my arm while I waded around, or sitting in the wading pool and splashing up a storm.


Despite the late nights (no one could even try to sleep until the sun went down and the tents cooled), Caleb was still rising with the sun. Each morning I would rise with him and Benjamin and we would walk the campground. We fed Fruit Loops to the fish (who didn't eat it) and a chipmunk (who didn't eat it). We played at the park. We had serious conversations sitting out on the pier. We ran about on the mini-golf greens. We even beat all the joggers and golfers out. It was a serene and peaceful time to be up.


We enjoyed several Kawartha Dairy ice creams. If you have not tried it, you have not eaten real ice cream. They have a myriad of flavours available. About 10 years ago I discovered Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake. Whenever we visit the Dairy in Bobcaygeon, I generally get this flavour. Often before arriving, I try and convince myself that I should try something different, but it never works. Now I know why. My first cone this time I decided to branch out. I was sorely disappointed. I have arrived at the conclusion that there are not that many flavours so that we change it up each time. They have created that many flavours so that everyone will be able to find that one flavour that is perfect, that is the exact combination of ingredients that sends your tastebuds into a state of ecstasy. There isn't any point in trying anything different - nothing will please my mouth so much as a bite of Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake. I had a second cone last week just to make up for my erroneous choice.


Much of the days were passed in conversations. It's funny how as a kid I can remember passing the days in play. I had a vague notion that the adults were all just sitting around, but I didn't pay them much attention. Now, as an adult, I understand what they were doing. At different times during the week I found myself one on one with different family members, or in small groups, or all gathered together, doing nothing more than shooting the breeze. I didn't feel any pressure to make every minute count during this brief visit of my parents from Australia. We all simply fell into a way about life that was just the same as when we all lived together growing up. That is what family is all about.


All too soon the week came to an end. I will remember it always, stashed along with my previous memories there. I learned on the last day that next year there will be very few camping spots available, as they convert for space into little cottages. It may even be that we never get back there again. I am grateful we were able to get up there this year as a family (my parents, my sisters, my kids) and create one more memory.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Take me as I am?

The past week or two, my mind has been mulling over the idea of self-betterment. A concept prevalent in most religions, it seems to be disappearing (or perhaps was always non-existent) outside this realm. A strong voice crying "take me as I am" is the motto of today's conceited and self-centered culture. Herein lies no desire to change oneself, to cast of facets of personality which are undesirable and adopt admirable characteristics.

What a task self-improvement is. First to divine the habits or traits which are weaknesses, then to have the humility to desire change, then to embark on a long journey to rid yourself of the undesirable. Such depth of self-awareness is often painful, as opposed to the blissful state of ignorance (using both meaning, one of unknowing and the other of ignoring).

Perhaps just as long of a journey, though somewhat less arduous, is to adopt admirable traits. This involves not a study of self, but a study of others, to view in them such qualities as you wish to cultivate in yourself. Here the trick lies in keeping at bay the green-eyed monster known as jealousy. It is easy to pinpoint good in others, and then despise the easy manner in which it comes to them while it always seems just beyond your grasp.

Nevertheless, while it may be a lifelong journey up a gentle slope, it is important to remember that even a gentle slope taxes your muscles, and progress can only be measured after a great distance is covered and you can look back and see the height to which you have climbed. Not all of it involves lofty ideas; think of the joy in learning a new talent, or the accomplishment of a new skill. I take joy in strumming my guitar, or laying a hand-made quilt over my sleeping baby. I am amazed when I have listened to a still small voice and caught hold of an opportunity to serve another. Even my continued bewilderment at gardening has come to be a challenge to which I want to rise defiantly. When my housework skills prove lacking, I set my hand at it again, trying some new way to conquer it (for I keep constantly in my mind the definition of insanity: doing something over and over in the same way and expecting different results).

The spiritual plane of self-betterment always seems elusive. The constant admonition to set myself to daily prayer, daily scripture study, and to keep a focused mind during sermons and lessons reminds me of how far I have to go. But rather than be a discouragement, I hear it as a reminder of that call to improve myself. I don't want to simply settle for what I am now. I don't want people to have to deal with me as I am. I yearn for an age when I will be less selfish, more patient.

In fact, I am adopting Galations 5:22 as a personal goal. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (NIV) In the past these characteristics seemed to blur together. I found it hard to distinguish one from the next, as they all seemed to closely related. Now, however, as a desire develops from deep within myself, I am more clearly seeing each for what it is, and the manner in which I can start to develop each.


What divine words they are, and each word holds within a beautiful idea. The calling of motherhood provides a fertile plot of soil to start cultivating these traits within myself. I am grateful for a desire to grow and change myself, to have courage to walk down the road of self-betterment in a the midst of a culture promoting a useless universe revolving around self. I am grateful for a husband and children who inspire me to become better and to keep at it, one step at a time.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


This past week we taught the boys the game "Red light, green light." The players all line up in a row, and one person playing the "stop light" calls out "green light" for the players to run, and "red light" for the players to freeze in place. The first person to reach the stop light wins.

Then, the other day, I was trying to herd Caleb in for a diaper change. He ran from me, but soon found himself cornered. He looked at me and yelled "No! No! Stay back! Go away!" then pointed at me and called out "red light! red light! red light!"