Sunday, 31 October 2010


The one thing that surprised me as a mother is how often I am completely amazed by my kids. Every time I turn around they have mastered some new skill or completed a task on their own that I never would have guessed they could do. I guess I had this idea that as a kid they would have to be taught everything they learned, and that as their mother I would likely be the one to teach most things.

Not so.

The latest example of this with Colin was a Halloween craft he received from a friend. The package contained about 20 pieces of a 3-D puzzle, that when put together formed a standing house. He asked to open it this morning before breakfast, which I obliged while telling him that he would have to wait until after I ate so I could help him build it.

The next thing I knew, I turned around and he had built it. "I just looked at the picture of it, Mommy, and copied it."

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at this skill, because it is one that I also possess. I learn best by looking at a diagram or a picture or an example of what I am doing and then plunging in and doing.

(Now I can hear Colin trying to convince Caleb to let him help build Caleb's model. Caleb insisted he could do it on his own. He attached two pieces and then threw it all up in the air pronouncing "Argh! I can't do it!")


Colin just asked me if I wanted to help him rebuild his little house, if he took the pieces all apart. So he took them all apart and rebuilt it, this time without looking at the picture. Once again, I am amazed (and you think I might not have been, given that I just wrote this post 20 minutes ago!)

Friday, 29 October 2010


I have rediscovered my homemade cinnamon spread I used to make all the time as a teenager. So good for the taste buds, so bad for me in every other way. Mmmm.

Benjamin, I will win this battle of the wills for naps. You see, my desire for you to sleep and therefore to allow me an hour of time to myself far outstrips your desire not to nap. Yesterday we went head to head for an hour and a half. Outcome? I won. I still hear you fussing up there. As soon as I am done my yummy cinnamon spread bagel for lunch, I'm coming for you.

The latest foods to succumb to the fresh food diet: frozen stir fries and store-bought apple pies. The convenience idea of you both will be missed. Your cardboard taste will not.

My boys will have had 5 opportunities to dress up for Halloween this week, and we're not even going trick-or-treating on Sunday night. All the costumes we own are currently on display on the living room floor, ready for easy choosing when needed. So far, Colin has been "Mr. Incredible" every time. Caleb has been a construction worker, a fireman, and a pumpkin. Although Caleb has quickly divested himself of every costume once we arrive at our event. I think he finds them too cumbersome for moving and playing. It is still my idea to have all three boys go as "Alvin, Simon and Theodore" (the Chipmunks) tomorrow night for the Trunk-or-treat, but I still don't have my act together yet...I wonder if they will be up for it next year?

Yesterday was the last farm share pick up at Everdale. I did it! I managed to make it there every week! I won't be doing it again next year, for I found it a little too confining in terms of pickup times and available produce. There are two great farms about 15 minutes from us that also have large stores inside where you can buy local fruits and vegetables. I'm going to try this method next year, so that I can simply buy what I need week to week and not find myself tossing out limp lettuce or collecting a year's supply of squash.

I'm feeling a little tired of playing in our community band. I love making music with other people, but I think the repetitive nature of band repertoire is what is doing it to me. I was never one for practicing the same songs week after week. Although we do have a whole host of music, much is the same we played last year. (It's expensive to buy music for a band, so we have to use a lot of the same stuff). In January, I may switch to French horn, or perhaps choose a new activity altogether.

These past two weeks my house has been a disaster. We never really seem to recover! I'm thinking I'll need to set aside tonight to just dig in and get it done. I apologize to those friends who have dropped in this week and had to step over toys and sit on books. I really am going to get my act together soon! Actually, I'm reading a fantastic book right now called "A Mother's Book of Secrets" that has some brilliant ideas. I hope to write more on it later, as I digest everything, run it through a sieve and pick out what will work for me.

An interesting conversation with friends this morning. One friend posed the question to myself and another friend if we were done having children. Both of us said yes, we think so, but that we haven't yet tossed our baby stuff. The first friend laughed and said "then just get it over with and have one more. Anyone who doesn't answer an unequivocal "no" isn't done yet!" I laughingly chastened her, giving a quick summary of the awfulness of the nine months of pregnancy I experience. She just grinned and said "I've seen it over and over. When you're really done, there's a set look of determination in your face when you say no." Well, she works at the Early Years centre and spends every day talking with young moms. I guess that does make her an expert. What's that you ask? No, I'm not pregnant. I'm not even thinking about it. But the thought did occur to me that perhaps once all the boys were in school all day and we wouldn't need a nanny during the months I'm in bed...the girl's name Jadyn Joanne (J.J.) has been running through my mind the past couple of weeks...

First rehearsal for the Christmas pageant went well. most of the cast is back from last year, which means I might be able to have even fewer rehearsals. I was in my element directing. My passion truly is the stage, rather than film. In film you have the added aspect of the camera. Although I do love shot composition, I don't like feeling rushed because we might go into overtime and blow the budget. I do love the immediacy of theatre. We work our tails off in preparation, but the show is live and you can't call "cut!" Generally I wouldn't consider myself a funny person, but when I'm directing something of a comic comes out, and I have this wonderful ability to make people laugh while guiding them through the scene. It's a lot of fun.

The other day I bought a book that came so highly recommended, my good friend says she reads it at least once a year. She also said she uses it in teaching her kids, particularly for Family Home Evening. Although my boys are a little young, this friend is very much like me, and she also has three boys about the same age spread apart. I was going to put it on my Christmas list, but as I searched for it on (I like to provide links for people so they know exactly what I'm asking for), I found a used copy for sale for 1 cent! That's right - I bought it for a penny! Of course, it was $6 shipping, but even at that, $6.01 is more than a good deal! I love finding deals like that.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Just the desire

I don't know what it is about these past few weeks, but I have been feeling like I just can't get everything done I need or want to. And I've heard the same thing from friends and other blog writers. More than once the analogy has come up about the pickle jar:

You have a pile of sand and a pile of large rocks. If you put the sand in the jar first (the less important things of life) you don't have room for the rocks (the more important things). But if you put the rocks in first, the sand will then fall in the crevices and everything fits in the jar.

My problem is that I can't seem to even get all my rocks in the jar. James and I have been wearing everything we own before I manage to get our laundry done. The boys' clothes and the kitchen linens always take priority, and there just isn't time for that many loads! I try to get to all the different cleaning tasks just once a week, and yet I can't even fit all of them in. Benjamin is in a strange stage where he takes forever to fall asleep, which is zapping up two or three hours a day. I would love to have personal devotional time, scripture study and prayer time, but I haven't been able to read anything these past couple of weeks. Once I cook meals and see to the kids, there just doesn't seem to be any time left. I'm am literally only getting the basic survival stuff done right now.

Then yesterday I had a great scripture pop into my mind. I was actually teaching a visiting teaching message about the importance of finding spiritual time to pray, read scripture and attend the temple. While talking, I was feeling my own little twinge of guilt, knowing that I wasn't getting much of that done myself. As I looked into the weary eyes of the woman I was teaching, I saw a reflection of my own stress and busyness. I made sure to assure her of my own failings in these areas. The last thing I wanted to do was sit there and make it sound like I had it all together. Too often we as women are reluctant to share our struggles with each other. I think we all would manage a lot easier if we could relax the facade of perfection we feel necessary to present and share in our imperfections and burdens. I'm not perfect in that area either, but I'm trying.

So there I was, talking about how as this busy holiday season approaches that it will be important to carve out some time for God, and this scripture popped into my head:

"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. " (Alma 32:27)

I highlighted the word "desire" there, because it was that part of the scripture that spoke to me. When I get busy, I usually let those important spiritual moments go. I tell myself I'll pick it up again when I've got more time. But the spirit spoke to me, reminding me of this scripture, and teaching this simple idea: if I can just desire to believe (or read my scriptures, or attend the temple, or pray, or whatever it is I can't find time to do), if I just desire to do these things, then God will help me find a way to get it done.

Really? He will? You bet! What's important to remember is that he wants to bless us. He wants us to draw closer to him so that we can have more joy in our lives. He will give us all the help we need, if we truly have the desire to draw nearer to him.

So it may be the kids magically all fall asleep for nap at the same time (wouldn't you love that one!) and you feel an energy boost that enables you to read rather than nap also. Or maybe your evening plans are suddenly canceled, your kids are invited over somewhere to play and your friend calls saying that she's going to the temple and would you like a ride right now. Or maybe you run out of milk and have to make an emergency run, and you find yourself alone in the car with 5 minutes to talk with God.

I can testify that if you have that desire, something will work out. Here's my own example: scripture study just hasn't been happening for me. Yes, I read a lot, but it's generally at night, to help me fall asleep. Reading my scriptures when I'm that drowsy just didn't seem like it would be doing much, except perhaps help me fall asleep even faster. And now Benjamin is taking forever to get to sleep, needing to be held/rocked in the darkness of his room. I was spending anywhere from 30 - 60 minutes in the dark, every time I needed to get him to sleep.

I had a specific desire to read through the Book of Mormon completely, and to finish it just before Christmas, in preparation for the Christmas season. When I worked it out, that meant about 9 pages a day. Impractical! I thought. Unattainable! I couldn't find time for a handful of verses, let alone 9 pages. But I had this feeling that it was something I should do. Honestly, I didn't have any idea how I was actually going to get it done.

Then one day the thought jumped in my mind - "I should download the scriptures onto my mp3 player and listen while I'm rocking him." So I dug out the dusty player, downloaded the scriptures, hooked the player onto my belt loop, threaded my earphones down the back of my shirt (so Benjamin wouldn't pull on them) and hit play. Would you believe that I can usually get through the equivalent of at least 9 pages every day this way?

And here's an added benefit: I am no longer so frustrated with Benjamin's sleep habits. If he went to sleep right away, I'm sure I would find more cleaning or tidying or something to fill the time with. But now, forced to spend a half our or an hour sitting in his room in the dark, my mind is filled with the Word of God while I cuddle with my baby who is growing up fast every day. What a blessing it has become! I find that many evenings I sit in that chair past the moment when Benjamin falls asleep, cuddling him in my arms and listening to "just one more chapter."

So this is an encouragement to moms of young kids, moms of older kids (because it doesn't seem to get any less busy!) and women in general (because busyness really does seem to be a woman thing!). What is it that you really need in your life? What have you been inspired to do? What has the Holy Spirit whispered to you? Toss the guilt of not being able to do it and fill your heart with desire. Heavenly Father, who has all things in His power and control, will orchestrate life so that you will find time and opportunity to get all those big rocks into the pickle jar, and most of that sand, too!

Monday, 25 October 2010

I Knelt to Pray

A friend shared this poem with me today. I don't know the author, but I think it falls perfectly in line with the song we have chosen as our family creed. I hope to memorize this poem and find a way to display it in our home as inspiration.


I knelt to pray as day began

And prayed, "O God, bless every man.
Lift from each weary heart some pain
And let the sick be well again."

And then I rose to meet the day
And thoughtlessly went on my way;
I didn't try to dry a tear
Or take the time a grief to hear.

I took no steps to ease the load
Of hard-pressed travelers on the road;
I didn't even go to see
The sick friend who lives next door to me.

But then again when day was done
I prayed, "O God, bless everyone."
But as I prayed a voice rang clear
Instructing me to think and hear.

"Consult your own heart ere you pray:
What good have you performed today?
God's choicest blessings are bestowed
On those who help him bear the load."

And then I hid my face and cried,
"Forgive me, Lord, for I have lied.
Let me but live another day
And I will live it as I pray."

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A weekend with friends

What a wonderful weekend. These past few days I have been reminded of how blessed I am to have the friendships I do in my life. I had not one but two visits one-on-one with good friends. James and I had dinner with another couple, with whom we are friends individually and as a foursome. A birthday party last night with a group of twelve, some good friends, some budding friends, some women who inspire me but who I don't know well yet. Our host was also a good friend, who is the very definition of a friend. Dinner tonight with friends and their children (our boys' friends).

I have never had my pool of friendship overflowing as it does here in Orangeville. I have so many "best" friends, those who I could drop in on unannounced, drop the kids off in an emergency, lend a compassionate ear, be a shoulder to cry on. I have many "good" friends, those who I don't know as well yet, but whose company I enjoy, who provide hearty laughs and stimulating conversation, with whom I share common interests and passions, friendships I hope to develop deeper over the years and some of whom I'm sure will become even better friends. I have a circle of acquaintances, with whom I cross paths often in this little town of ours, whose friendly faces and waves of greeting are a big reason why I love living where I do.

Friendship is such a blessing and a gift. My friends have expanded my family to embrace these wonderful people who it is a privilege to know.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


Colin: I love apples. Can we plant apples in our garden next year?
Mommy: Apples actually grow on trees. You can plant an apple seed, but it takes years for it to grow into a tree and produce apples.
Colin: We should cut down a tree in our backyard and plant an apple seed. I would love to have apples in our backyard.
Mommy: I would love that also. But we aren't allowed to cut down our trees.
Colin: Oh. Maybe if we move to the country we can have apple trees.
Mommy: Definitely, if we move to the country. I want to have lots of apple trees.

(A light goes on in Caleb's head. His face lights up like a Christmas tree)

Caleb: If I plant a soother, I could grow a soother tree!

(Mommy laughs so hard she cries.)


About 6 weeks ago Benjamin started crawling. Now he's already toddling. With two big brothers who love to be around him, Benjamin can't wait to be able to keep up with them. Neither of the other boys ever really toddled (shuffling along while holding on to furniture); they went straight to walking. Benjamin just started it today, well, right now. It's really cute. Who knows how long it will last. I have a feeling he'll want to walk so badly he won't bother much with anything that slows him down.

He's also at that stage where he loves to toss things. Food from the high chair, clothes from the laundry basket, toys from the toy buckets. I'm very lenient in this area. If I look at the big picture, tossing things from a container will occupy him for a good 3 or 4 minutes. It will take me 20-30 seconds to clean it up. That is an excellent messy:cleanup time ratio. It means I get about 3 and a half minutes to get something done, which is really tough these days.

This is an interesting stage in a baby's life, nine to twelve months. Benjamin's little personality really start to shine. He is starting to be excited to play with me and enjoys little games. He is moving and discovering all day. He is also in the separation anxiety phase. Luckily it is not overly pronounced in Benjamin. He is fine being with other people, as long as I'm not in eye sight.

Sleeping seems to be a write-off currently. Sometimes he only naps a half hour all day, and he's always up every couple hours through the night. I would work harder on sleep training, but my motherly instinct says that this is just a phase, most likely linked to brain development of some sort. No, I have no child psychology training to back this up; but the way I see it, child studies only ever confirm what mothers have known for centuries. My mother senses say that trying to do anything about the current exhaustive sleep situation would only result in failure to change much, except adding to my stress levels.

Benjamin is still a really good eater. Vegetables like sweet potato, squash, carrots and peas are his favourites. Cheerios are also right up there. You should see the arm speed he can get from tray to mouth: there isn't the slightest hesitation! Fruit, other than the occasional pear, is a waste of time and money, he won't bother with it. He still nurses regularly, although he can go longer stretches (5 hours) if need be. He nurses for comfort and relaxation as well as for food. Interestingly, there was a study just published in my parenting magazine that highlighted the importance of the alternative reasons a baby nurses, other than for food. Again, a mother's instinct has told mothers for years to nurse when a baby cries if it helps him to calm down, even if he's not hungry. I do it often with Benjamin. I guess it's nice to have the experts finally agree so that we mothers can point to the study when others frown at our nursing habits.

Benjamin also still nurses with one leg pointing straight up in the air. This morning he actually stopped nursing, pushed my arm that was cradling him out of the way, reached down to pull his leg up, then continued nursing.

The difference between men and women's brains

Friday, 22 October 2010

Family Motto

Ever since hearing a friend talk last year about having a family motto, I have been mulling the idea over in my head. This is exactly the kind of thing I both love and dread. The idea is brilliant and inspiring, but choosing one motto, the perfect motto, is a task simply too daunting. And so, as with other challenges that fall into this category, it sat unattended. There are just so many good ideas out there, so many good options, so many good sayings.

This past Sunday I received a flash of inspiration. We were singing the intermediate hymn at church (one that I had chosen, being the Ward Music Director) and the words spoke so clearly to me. This is exactly how I want to inspire my family. There are lots of things I want to instill in my children, like a love of education, a good work ethic, deep spiritual roots. More than anything I want to teach them to serve. As it says in the book of Corinthians, "if you have not charity, you have nothing." Plus, it only seems fitting that in our musical home we should have a song to inspire us!

The idea bubbled over in the car ride home as I expressed it to James, who was on board right away. Next on my agenda is to find a way to display it in our home. But for now, here are the words to inspire the Gawthroupe family.


Have I Done Any Good?

Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Hav eI cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone's burden been lighter today because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
do not let them pass by, saying, "Sometime I'll try,"
But go and do something today.
'Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love's labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.

Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure,
A joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Freedom 45

The Toronto Star newspaper is running an excellent series called "Freedom 45." Each article highlights thoughts by Tim Stobbs, a young father who plans on retiring at the age of 45. He is also tracking his dream on his blog. I'm not sure why I clicked onto this piece in the first place; generally I only have time to scan the headlines before something (or someone) at home is calling me. But I did click on this article, and am I ever glad I did.

First of all, his profile. No, he is not a big-wage earning, investing-savvy, trust fund-baby man. In fact, they aren't even a double-income family. He earns less than $80,000 a year, and his wife is at home raising their children. He invests his money in a few different areas, but even this part isn't lost in the dark unknown of investing; James and I actually have our money invested in the exact same way.

Which puts the thought in my mind: could we be retired by 45?

I think Tim Stobbs philosophy about money is spot on. Every money decision is put under the spotlight of this question: will I still be glad I spent this money if I think about it next week? If the answer is yes, he spends it. If the answer is no, he doesn't. He doesn't deprive himself of living now so that he can retire sooner. But he spends the money he does have wisely. He saves where he can, and splurges when he'd like to treat himself or his family.

Vacation? Yes - lots of camping. To this I would also add last minute vacations, which can be a steal if you know your prices. Dining out? No - but they do "dining in" - a four-course meal with friends where everyone brings a fancy course to share with the other guests, which cuts the dining cost by 75%. RESP? You bet. But the plan is to help pay for a portion of higher education. He expects his children to also contribute, so they have a greater appreciation of the experience. RRSP? That's the ticket. His ideas on how much you will require are a huge part of the success of his plan.

And what are his plans once he does hit 45? Well, they aren't just about lounging about doing nothing. He has many goals and dreams he wants to accomplish without being tied to the daily grind of a job. This is the focus of his entire plan. He has a vision of his future and is actively working now to achieve it.

At any rate, I highly recommend the article. I am certainly going to be looking over my money plans a little more closely, thinking about what my long-term goals are, and coming up with ways to make those dreams a reality.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

When school gets in the way...

It occurred to me today that school (for Colin) always seems to be in the way of our learning. Seriously. As I wrote the post yesterday about cool learning moments, I reflected on the fact that Colin still seems to do most of his learning at home. I know he spends 6 hours a day at school, and I'm aware that the new curriculum is "play-based learning," but I don't seem much of the fruits of all that time spent there. His favourite station at school is Lego. He has a huge bucket of that here, and has much more time to build intricate creations. At school he barely gets going before the little bell is rung that signals moving onto another station.

And when was the last time a kindergarten teacher explained a concept like "disperse" or "divert?" When was the last time a kindergarten teacher simply sat with a child and let that child's mind wander over questions, posing them, mulling over the answers, and then asking more questions? At school, he doesn't get to listen to me playing the guitar in the background, have scripture discussions over lunch, or spend the morning outside simply because the weather is beautiful today.

There is so much Colin wants to learn and discover, and I find myself constantly rushing him onto the bus and off to school where he isn't really learning much at all. It's like we put learning on pause for six hours, and then press resume once he comes back home.

I know I don't have as much time as I would like to devote to teaching Colin. With a baby and a toddler in tow, Colin generally gets the last of my attention, since the other two often have some sort of immediate need. But I can see just a year or two down the road that we could spend hours discovering the world around us, the four of us together. The world is our classroom! Just as long as school doesn't get in the way...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Family Photos

We have a tradition in our family of getting a yearly family portrait done. It's a tradition that actually goes back unbroken for 30 years now! Back when my mother got married, my grandmother asked for just one gift for Christmas: a family portrait of each of her children with their respective families. My mother, good to her word, has done just that. Then, when I got married seven years ago, my mother asked for the same thing from us. And through all the craziness of pregnancies and babies, we have managed to get it done.

Some years we hit the Wal-Mart portrait studio, some years we could only manage having my dad snap the photo here at home. This year we were able to get professional portraits done. I was really excited about this. Not only would the photos be well composed, outside, and have a casual air about them, but they would also be retouched to have the colours really pop. Amanda Tyas is a local photographer and her mini-session package was perfect for what we needed. The mini-session was only 30 minutes long, whereas a traditional session is 2 hours. Seriously, there is no way I could get my three young kids to sit for that long! It would have been a waste of money, since the longer sessions cost significantly more. Amanda also provides us with the digital files of the photos she touches up (between 10 and 15 shots) which allows us to get the size and quantity of each print we want, at a reasonable price.

The photo shoot was Saturday morning, bright and early at 8:30 am. This actually is the best time for us, since all the boys are well rested, fed, and ready for the day. We drove about 5 minutes out of Orangeville to the quaint little village of Alton. The leaves were brilliant, the air crisp, and the experience so much fun.

Here is a "sneak peak" of one photo. The rest will be delivered in the next couple of weeks, and if the others are like this one, I'm so excited!

Teaching moments

We've had some fantastic teaching moments around here lately. Colin has a highly developed sense of curiosity and questioning, which I have always encouraged. Many people say they dread the "why" stage of childhood, when children ask an endless amount of questions, each one leading to another "why?" This phase never irked me, most likely because Colin's questions are logical, well thought out, and ones to which he is genuinely interested in discover the answering. Here are a couple of the memorable moments from the last month.


Colin: How do you make glass?
Daddy: Well, you take sand, and you heat it up and spin it around really fast and it makes glass.
Colin: How do you heat it?
Daddy: In a machine.
Colin: So, if I put sand in the popcorn machine, would it make glass?


(while waiting for the bus, with Caleb)

Colin: What does "disperse" mean?
Mommy: It means when things that are all in one place get scattered far apart.
Colin: How?
Mommy: Well, I'll show you. You boys come and stand right next to me here, right close. Okay. Right now we are all together. Now, when I say "disperse," Colin you run down that sidewalk, and Caleb you run down the other sidewalk, and I will run down this sidewalk. Ready, disperse!

(everyone runs away)

Mommy: Now come back together!

(everyone run back together)

Colin: I get it! Ready, disperse! Everyone run away!

(everyone runs away)

Colin: Now, Caleb, you say "back together."
Caleb: Back together!

(Everyone runs back together. The game continues for the next 5 minutes until the bus comes. People in cars driving by think we are crazy.)


(at breakfast)

Colin: What does "appropriate" mean?
Mommy: If something is appropriate, it means it is a good thing to do, at a good time. If it is not appropriate, it means it is not a good thing or a good time to do it. So running outside is appropriate, but running in church is not appropriate.
Colin: What else is appropriate?
Mommy: Well, you tell me. Playing with your friends at recess?
Colin: Appropriate.
Mommy: Playing with your friends while your teacher is talking?
Colin: Not appropriate.

(And so continues the game until breakfast is over. I must have come up with two dozen example of appropriate and inappropriate activities!)

Monday, 18 October 2010


"Mommy, can I sleep in your arms?"

(While I was sitting on the floor folding laundry). Always, Caleb, always.

Holiday gift giving

I'm about to gear up for holiday gift season. And because our boys are all born in November/December, it means we have one huge gift buying time of year. My mind has waffled over the years about how best to manage it all. At times we have purchased one big gift. Other times I have bought a little less this time of year in order to surprise the boys with something else in the summertime.

More than anything, I want my boys to grow up appreciating when they receive a present. Inundation of toys only means too much stuff in the house, too many toys to play with, and never a real appreciation for what they do have.

The past few months, whenever the boys have mentioned something they want, our standard answer has been "put it on your birthday/Christmas list." There doesn't actually exist such a list in physical form, but I have filed away all the suggestions and compiled my own list. This not only makes it easier for me to choose a gift, but because the list in created in my email, it is easily forwarded on to friends and family who are looking for ideas.

Recently I read this in a parenting magazine article, and I thought it was the perfect answer to the question "How much do I buy my kids for Christmas?"

"We buy four gifts per child: something he wants, something he needs, something to wear and something to read. Also, we give each child money to buy gifts for their siblings ($10 per gift) and take them each out for a day of relaxed Christmas shopping and lunch with Mom or Dad."

Four gifts - for me, that seems like just the right amount. For us, we also consider that we have lots of extended family nearby, which means our gifts are only the beginning. I also like the suggestion of one gift in each of these areas. I would amend the "something to read" to "something educational." We have an endless collection of books already, and so at this point we don't need many more. As they get older, however, I would definitely include something to read on that list (which could be a book, or a magazine subscription)

I have also never attached specific (or identical) price limits for gifts. Sure, I start with a general Christmas budget, but I don't break it down to x amount per child or gift. Instead I just try to buy something my boys (or gift recipient) will truly love and appreciate. Sometimes the gift is more pricey, sometimes it is inexpensive. I find that in the end it all evens out, but for me, it is really about the perfect gift, not the perfect dollar amount.

So here we go! I absolutely love everything about shopping for presents, so this is a wonderful time of year for me.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

When things get busy

I've noticed that there doesn't seem to be a natural ebb and flow in my life lately; it's either really slow or jam-packed with stuff. A good example of this are Thursdays. With Benjamin trying to get in two naps, I don't have a lot of scheduled events going on right now. I still go out when I'm invited, and often plan spur of the moment trips, but I try to keep things fairly open. I only have a few scheduled weekly activities, and they all happen to fall on Thursdays. Thursdays are crazy for me! First get Colin onto the bus and Caleb up to nursery school. Then up to Overflow (women's bible study). Leave 15 minutes early to pick up Caleb. Try to get lunch in quick and down for nap. Pick up Colin from school and drive straight out to Everdale to pick up our weekly farm share of vegetables. Back home to make dinner. Then out to band, except on the first Thursday of the month which is my Relief Society meeting. It also so happens that the other two activities I wish I could do are also Thursday (one of our ward temple trip days on the second Thursday of the month, and my friend's La Leche League group on the first and third Thursday).

What is it about Thursdays that says fill me with activities! plan your event on my day! I mean, Thursdays are great, but there are 4 other weekdays! Thursdays are also usually school event days (meet the teacher, concerts, etc.)

I always feel like I have to take a big, great, deep breath Thursday morning just to see me through the day. But I enjoy all these commitments too much to shed my schedule of any of them, and so I guess I will just have to adjust.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Another instrument

I seem to have a subtitle to my name that is only now emerging:

Terri-Ann Gawthroupe
Collector of instruments

I guess it is reasonable for others to offer a musician cast-off instruments. And I certainly encourage you to send them this way! You won't find another person more grateful and willing to add another instrument to her playing repertoire as me. And actually, I love that when people pull out a horn or violin or saxophone they dust it off and think "I should pass this along to Terri-Ann."

I learned piano starting at age 8. Clarinet was my second instrument, beginning at age 12. (Chosen for me since my dad played it and we had one sitting at home.) I picked up a little saxophone and trumpet along the way, because my sister and a good friend played these. Then two years ago I started on the flute, thanks to another dear friend who loaned me her extra flute. This year I finally was able to pick up and learn the guitar, which is probably the instrument I practice most often these days. Two months ago James came home with a violin, which still needs to be repaired. And this past weekend my Nana offered me my late grandfather's French horn.

I should mention that the flute, the violin and the French horn just happen to be my three favourite instruments, and three that I have yearned to learn how to play. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to actually learn them now!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

It's Christmas time and time for a carol...

It's that time of year again! I know many of you are cursing me for mentioning this but two days past Thanksgiving, but I gratefully have a reasonable excuse to jump into the holiday spirit. This year I am directing a nativity pageant for the city of Brampton, and writing/rehearsing the Christmas service for my church! Both of these require much practice on the part of the participants, which means I need to get a nice, early jumpstart on the scripts. Which means I get to crack open my Christmas songbooks and play my Christmas CDs!

Our calendar is filling up quickly, but that doesn't make me anxious in the least, as it otherwise might. Christmas is my favourite time of year; the only time of year when I more than tolerate the cold weather and snow, for what is Christmas without rosy cheeks and a chill in the night sky and softly falling snowflakes?

So if there are any other Christmas enthusiasts nearby, feel free to drop in for an early taste of the season, a little Christmas sing-a-long round the piano, and a mug of hot chocolate.

(And yes, I've even already begun my Christmas shopping!)

The haze is lifting

I feel it...I really do...the haze is lifting!

I feel that for the past 5 and a half years I have been living in a perpetual haze of exhaustion. Life has been but a collection of moments strung together that barely make any sense and have little cohesion. Survival has been the name of the game.

But over the last month or so, I have felt as though I was emerging from a dark hole in the ground, gulping a breath of fresh air, blinking in the sunlight.

I'm still not sleeping much at night, and I now have a blanket and pillow on the floor in Benjamin's room for the long nights when he doesn't settle well, but my afternoon naps have become short energy builders or non-existent. I have been able to use those two hours to my advantage (both house and husband are truly grateful!) I am finally getting in some personal study time, reading time, writing time.

My self-imposed house arrest seems to be going well; Benjamin is finally taking morning and afternoon naps as he should have been these past nine months. It took a friend on the outside asking me for sleeping advice for her eight month old, for me to realize what needed to be done for my own baby. And I'm not feeling as isolated as I thought I might. I am using the hour and a half in the morning to get one chore done, a little tidying, and then playing and teaching Caleb. By 10:30 Benjamin usually wakes, and we have an hour before I need to be getting lunch ready in time for afternoon nap, around 12:30. While the weather is holding out I try to get outside for a walk or a play at the park or in the backyard.

There is some order in my life again, and I will be all the happier for it. Although I don't expect life to be the same each and every day, I am happy to enjoy some constancy for a season.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


Morning nap...check.
Afternoon nap...check.
To-do list...finished.
Still have the energy to pick a house chore and get it


Monday, 11 October 2010


Today we went around the Thanksgiving table and each named one thing we are particularly thankful for on this holiday. It was quickly evident how much we cherish each other as a family, as we all expressed our gratitude for family members - husbands, wives, sons, granddaughters.

And so I wanted to take a moment and really think about those things I am truly grateful for. It is at times like these that the everyday trappings are stripped away and you realize what really means the most.

I am thankful for my husband, who loves and protects me fiercely. His loyalty is unmatched. I am grateful we are married for 'time and all eternity' and that our family is sealed together forever. I couldn't imagine not being with them once this life is passed. What a blessing it is to have been sealed as a forever family in the temple.

I am thankful for my boys. I am thankful for their infinite love that gives me a glimpse into the love of my Heavenly Father for me. I am grateful that they so easily forgive my shortcomings. I am thankful for their cuddles and hugs.

I am thankful for the material provisions in life with which I am blessed. I am grateful I do not know the pangs of hunger or the bite of the cold. I am grateful not just for 'enough,' but for more than enough and some to spare.

I am thankful for the light and knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am thankful for the direction it gives me in life, and for the constant drive it provides in me to improve upon myself. I am grateful for the gift of life from my Saviour through his eternal sacrifice. Where would I be today without it?

I am thankful for the gift of music in my life. I can't imagine a day going by without hearing sweet melodies and beautiful poetry.

I am thankful for my beautiful life. It reminds me of a song by Hilary Weeks. When I hear her sing this song, I am reminded of all of which I am blessed.

I am blessed with a beautiful life
I am blessed
All I need He's given me
I am blessed.

There's no doubt Heaven watches over me
There's no doubt
Through thick and thin I'll trust in Him
There's no doubt.

I'll be faithful
Certain as the rising sun
And steady northern star
Constant and true to His name
Like an ocean wave pushing on
Until it reaches shore
Day after day I will remain

These lyrics constantly remind me that I truly am blessed by His love and grace, and are a reminder of the faith I promise Him in return.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Press on

"Exceptional kids." I love that description of children who are challenged with physical or mental problems. Because they truly are exceptional. Life is tough as a general principal, and they must navigate the waters with added challenges. Many of them have never known any different.

But today I was touched as I thought about their parents. I know firsthand the unconditional love of a mother. I do not know the daily effort of taking care of an exceptional child. I do not understand the mental and physical exhaustion these parents experience. I do not know the pure joy of a milestone like their child lifting a hand on their own, or gathering the strength to hold their head up. I do not know the frustration of dealing with hospitals, insurance companies, equipment. I do not know the worries of money not stretching far enough to give your child the comforts or ease of living in a world not designed and built for their needs.

I saw a photo shoot with a beautiful family with two daughters, one of whom is exceptional (although personally, I think the whole family can be called exceptional.) The smiles on their faces, particularly the father's, touched me deeply. I cannot judge for I do not know them personally, but even though this father's unconditional love for his daughter would drive him to do just about anything for her, I imagine there are moments, days, weeks, that stretch him to his limits. And yet I saw the joy in his face. He is representative of the millions of families in this world whose earthly trials revolve around physical or mental disabilities, trials that don't last a short season and then are conquered, but trials that will last a lifetime. Most impressing is the fact that their endurance is not a result of talent, genius or education, those qualities that we most associate with success. This quote is evidence of what it truly takes for these courageous families to thrive.


Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

-- Calvin Coolidge


"I swallowed a bug, and Daddy swallowed a bug. So we both must be sick."

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


Immersed in the world of the Bronte family as I am now, I find myself waxing nostalgic for the future. (I know, I know, is that even possible? But it was the best description I could think of.) I get these little glimpses of moments I hope to create in the future. Here, recorded for posterity, are a few of them. Forgive me if they all seem right out of "Little Women." I've always been a little old-fashioned that way.


Owing a dept of gratitude to the cable companies who decided I wouldn't be able to get free television anymore, I see myself and my family lounging in the family room in the evening. Someone is reading. Someone is doing the dishes (not me!) Someone is talking over a homework question. In fact, everyone is just doing their own thing, while I do my own thing, which is sitting in my armchair with a leg thrown over the side, strumming away on my guitar. I'm not performing or entertaining, just in my own little world, providing a little background music for my family.


The family sitting around playing a game, or reading a book aloud. Growing up we played tons of games. That is a staple of childhood for me, and continues now into adulthood also. But reading aloud as a family isn't something we ever did. I've heard a few of my friends talk about how they do this, and I fell in love with the idea. Instead of sitting and watching a movie together, we sit and read a book together. We pass the book around, each reading a page or two at a time. Or maybe I read a whole chapter at once while the boys stretch their bodies out on the couch or the floor. I hope this will be a natural extension of us reading so many children's books to the boys now.


Lying out on our backyard swing with one of the boys. Just the two of us, swinging lazily in the afternoon summer sun. The back of our swing collapses so that two people can actually lie side by side on it. A couple weeks back I heard a friend speak about how his mother used to swing on the backyard swingset with him when he was a boy and they would talk about the future, his serving a mission, his testimony of Jesus Christ. The image it stirred in my mind was so powerful that I hope to have moments just like this with my boys down the road.


A New Years Eve music party. About 6 years ago James and I were invited to one such party by some friends of ours. They actually have children our age, but our mutual love of music had bridged the generation gap between us and created a good friendship. This husband and wife actually own a music studio and store in Toronto, and they and their five children are all very musically talented. And so each year they hosted a New Years Eve party. The first portion was a sit down dinner in which we were all served a three course meal (they even hired servers!). After the meal we all retired to their music room, complete with a baby grand piano. Each guest had been asked to prepare some sort of musical presentation of a Christmas song. There were solos and duets, vocals, piano, cello, flute, trumpet, violin. We sang as a group and we enjoyed the solos. This was by far my favourite part of the night. After the music was finished there were one or two group games while we counted down to midnight. I hope one day down the road, when the kids are a little older, to host something like this.

Monday, 4 October 2010

One down, eight to go

With a son like Caleb, I thought it might be fun to record the loss of each of his nine lives, a sort of childhood countdown to the day when my poor mother heart can assume a steady and unaltered beat.

One down, eight to go.

It was the sort of morning that should have been a warning something was in the wind. Everyone slept until 7am (unheard of!) and we were actually a little late running out the door for the bus. No matter, Colin zipped ahead and flagged the bus down and Caleb and I waved from down the block. Back home, Benjamin willingly ate breakfast and then settled into a morning nap. After a rousing game of pirates, Caleb and I worked on a craft for the letter 'D' and talked about words and names of people that begin with D. I woke Benjamin and we ran some errands, scoring 60 cans of vegetables for my food storage at half price, and picked up the ingredients for our "Dirt Dessert" for tonight. We were running ahead of schedule so we even dropped by the library, where three books that started with D were sitting right there on the shelf for me to grab. Back in the car, and zip home, ready for lunch and nap.

I thought.

The container of vegetables I thought was in the fridge was actually eaten yesterday, so I had to quickly throw some in the microwave...

Beep, beep, beep.

"I'll get it!"

Slow motion of Caleb grabbing the microwave door, giving it a good yank, and thereby pulling down the microwave, the two tier cart, three heavy glass decorative dishes and an innumerable amount of piled up junk...

Caleb landed first. The glass shattered all around him into thousands of shards. As the cart was tipping I was flying across the kitchen, and somehow managed not to catch the microwave, but at least ease its landing. All on top of poor Caleb.

With inhumane (or motherly) strength I tossed the microwave aside, grabbed Caleb and lifted straight up into the air. Glass tumbled off of his body. I carried him out of the room and stripped him down, terrified of seeing the blood start to pour down his little body. Shirt, pants, socks, underwear...I turned him left and right, back to front. No red! Could there really be no blood after all that? Caleb started to shake and cry, my voice wobbled as I tried to reassure him. I quickly surveyed the damage and decided that with two hungry children, one terrified of what had happened, I better call in reinforcements, also known as my mother-in-law.

While we waited I looked over Caleb again and this time did find blood smears. His hand had sustained a cut. I raced him upstairs to wash it down. Relief - it was just a small gash, and the bleeding was already stemming. I wrapped his hand in a dishcloth, sat him naked on the couch and grabbed what food I could to distract him.

It only took half an hour to clean up the mess. Shoes are the order for the rest of the day, however, as I'm still finding tiny little crystals of glass, despite my best sweeping and vacuuming efforts.

What I have learned from this:

Caleb - you are down one life. Guard the other eight carefully, because you aren't even three years old yet.

Kenmore microwave - you are a rock. I was sure you would explode when I pushed the little green start button.

The best way to clear clutter that piles up where you hate it most - smash it all on the ground amid three heavy glass bowls and just toss it all into the garbage.

Lovely purple and blue handcrafted bowl - I will miss you terribly. You were a beautiful wedding gift from a dear friend to James, one of my favourite gifts we've ever received. you have already been lovingly glued back together once, but this time there was nothing I could do.

Little glass dish that I love and cook everything in - I don't know where you came from, and I don't know how you survived that fall, but I am not surprised. You are the best dish. I only wish I had others just like you.

Linoleum floor - I know I always complain about how you look, and that ugly sheet roll you were laid down in. There is not a dent on you after this accident, something a wood floor would not be able to boast. Please forgive 3 years of withering looks.

And so endeth the account of the death of the first of Caleb's nine lives. I am sure he will go through many more before he flies from this nest. I hope my own heart can survive that long.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The nose knows

Have you ever considered how potent our sense of smell really is? Our sense of smell is linked quite strongly to memory. More than 90% of our sense of taste is actually a result of smell. An odour can immediately change your mood and determine your reaction to a setting.

Caleb's sense of smell is acutely developed. At first I noticed it in relation to food. Since food in all its forms is a favourite hobby, I figured it was just a way that he was expressing this interest. As soon as aromas start to waft from the kitchen, I can generally bet that Caleb will wander in at a slow gait, taking slow deep breaths through his nose, trying to determine what is cooking based on the combination of smells. "What's that I smell?" he always asks. Unsure of the exact smell he is pinpointing, I take a stab at it. "Is it the onions?" "Nooo, not onions." Sniff, sniff. "Not onions." "Maybe the tomatoes in the sauce?" Sniff, sniff." "Hmm, no, something else." Sniff, sniff." "Is it the garlic on the bread?" Sniff. "Yes! That's it!"

Recently Caleb's nose has branched out beyond the kitchen. The other day we were walking home from dropping Colin off at the school bus. It was a beautiful early fall day, crisp air, clear blue sky, with that smell of autumn that promises the oncoming of winter. I had never thought to pinpoint the origin of that smell, other than to attribute it to the cold air and turning leaves.

Sure enough, halfway home Caleb slowed to that deliberate pace he has when his sense of smell takes over. Sniff, sniff, as he turned his head slightly up into the air, then to the left, then a small cock of the head to the right.

"I smell the wind."

There was no deliberation back and forth, no questions of what was inducing such a delectable aroma. For Caleb, it was simply the smell of the wind.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Go Fish

Last night Colin and Caleb played the card game "Go Fish" together.

This in itself might be a cute little memory, two young children figuring out the knack of playing a card game together. But what makes it hilarious is this: they were playing it in the van, in the dark, without any cards!

Colin: Do you have any 3s?
Caleb: Go fish. Do you have any 6s?
Colin. Go fish. Do you have any Ks?
Caleb: Go fish. (etc.)

James and I could barely stifle our laughter as we realized what was going on. After a few minutes I couldn't resist, and I called out "Colin, do you have any 7s?" Imagine my surprise at the answer: "Yes, Mommy! I do have a 7!" I was the first one to actually get a pair (imaginary though it was.)

Friday, 1 October 2010

Who are these guys?

I promise after I get this all out I will leave it alone. I need to stop letting it fester so that I can get to sleep before 2am.

How much do I hate school buses? A lot. More than most. I abhor them.

The theory behind them is great. Kids get picked up by their home so that the parents don't have to drive them all the way to school. That is the theory, right? Unfortunately, our bus seems to be more trouble than it is worth.

Never mind the stop on one of the busiest streets in town. Never mind the bus coming 15 minutes early in the morning so we often miss it. Never mind the bus coming anywhere between 5 minutes to 25 minutes late every afternoon. Never mind the bus stop being changed so that it is two blocks away.

I know these decisions are all made by someone in an office far away (an hour away, in a completely different town). I know it must be hard to coordinate it. I know I can't expect a pickup at my front door. But I think this is getting ridiculous. The busy street means I can't take the van far warmth in the winter while we wait, so we must walk to the stop every day. The unpredictability of the bus arrival in the afternoon has meant numerous bathroom accidents for Caleb, since we leave so early and wait so long, and can't go anywhere when he has to go.

I had been complaining about the stop they originally gave us, because we had to jay-walk that busy street to get to the stop. So they moved it two blocks away, and still on that busy street (at a light). But here's the schedule now for us to pick up Colin:

School end time: 3:20 pm.
Scheduled bus stop time: 3:40 pm

I start getting coats and shoes on: 3:10 pm
Leave the home: 3:15
Get to bus stop: 3:35
Bus arrives: 3:40 - 4:05 (different every day, 4/5 times it is nearer to 4pm)
Arrive back home: 4:25.

Did you notice the time difference? Picking up Colin at the bus takes us an hour and 15 minutes, in good weather. Add at least 10 minutes for winter gear. In what world is an hour and a half an appropriate time to get your kid from the bus???????!!!!!!!!!!!

Here's my new idea:

School ends at 3:20pm

Load kids in van: 3:10
Pick up Colin: 3:20pm
Arrive back home: 3:25 pm.

15 minutes, 20 at the most. Beyond ridiculous.

James and I spent an hour last night submitting a formal request to change Colin's bus. Why? There is another bus that drives right by our street, about 2 minutes from our house. It picks up our good friends around the corner and then drives them right to school. There are only two stops and 3 kids on this bus. Currently, Colin is on the bus for 40 minutes each way. His new bus ride would be about 10 minutes. And the bus stop is 4 times closer to our house.

Breathe, Terri-Ann, breathe. The proposal was lovely. I even included a map of the bus route we hope to be changed to, with its previous stop, our proposed stop, and the next stop, all mapped out with pretty stars and a highlighted route. It is supposed to take 3 weeks for them to make a decision. But let me tell you - if they deny the request, I'll know for sure the level of incompetency I'm dealing with.

Thankfully, my good friend who lives around the corner said that if we can't get onto their bus, I could put her name down as Colin's before and after school babysitter location, and Colin can get on and off the bus there.