Friday, 31 December 2010

The decade in review

2000 - My very first year of university. I spent the first year commuting from home on transit (horrible!) In February, and then again for the summer, I get my first taste of working in the film industry. 16 hour days, long stretches of doing nothing, meeting so many people outside my little sheltered life in which I was raised, and oodles of money earned. I also land my first big job at an advertising agency. The agency was such a blessing, as they were flexible with my school hours, paid me well, provided a wonderful supervisor, and allowed me to graduate school debt-free. I also move out on my own for the summer, and buy my first car.

2001 - Hmmm. Much more of the same in 2001. Still in school, still working in advertising. Moved out permanently from home, never to return. Really enjoyed living on my own, in a basement apartment. I'm an introvert that way.

2002 - Met James. Life is about to take a completely unexpected turn for me.

2003 - Got married, 8 years before I always said I would (at age 30 - which would be this year!)

2004 - Graduated from university and left filmmaking behind, for the time being.

2005 - Spend most of the year sick with pregnancy, lying on the couch in our apartment. The first three months I watched every program on the Entertainment Network. Once I had seen everything, I watched the Women's Network for the next three months. The last three months was the Sports Network. In between I managed to direct/edit a documentary film for the church, and really get back into music through leading choirs and directing canatas.

2006 - Spend the year in bliss with my new baby boy. Absolutely love being a mom. James takes the year off on parental leave to try his hand in the Toronto film business. At the end of his leave, he decides that while it is not a viable career to support a family, he no longer wants to work for Chrysler. He leaves Chrysler to expand his Dad's business in the Toronto area. We are now business owners.

2007 - We buy our first home in a town I always loved. Spend much of the year sick with pregnancy. James and my Mom tag team watching Colin while I lay in bed, barely able to sit up. Caleb is born.

2008 - A bit of a blur. Caleb cried for most of the year, completely exhausting me as a mother. But good friends and family help me through.

2009 - Spend the first half of the year sick with pregnancy. We hire a nanny for the two boys, since James is working so much and my mom is still teaching. She was fantastic, a true blessing from heaven. Colin starts kindergarten. Benjamin is born.

2010 - Sleep deprived nights, fun filled days. Still in the survival mode of early parenthood. Trying to find my own rhythm as a mother, wife and friend. For the first time in 4 years, some semblance of order is returning to my life, although it looks very different than ever before.


Last night over New Years Eve takeout (Thai), James and I did sort of a verbal review of the last year and ideas for goals for the coming year. It was actually really fun. Instead of just jumping into all the things we'd like to do better on, we took the time to talk about what we accomplished over the past year. I highly recommend this exercise, because it provided a very positive foundation for talking about the areas in which we need to improve. So often New Years resolutions are the same year to year, and you end up feeling like you just can't get them done. This way, we were able to see how far we've come.

I'm still processing my ideas for 2011, but I'm hoping to get them all written down soon.


I know that much of a child's music preference is based on what they hear when they are young. Between James and I, we have a very eclectic taste in music.

If you ask the boys what they want to listen to, you would currently get the following answers:

Colin: Michael Jackson
Caleb: Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Benjamin: Southern country gospel ??????

An old Anne Murray song came on the other day, "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," and Benjamin went crazy for it! His face lit up, he ginned from ear to ear, he twisted around in my arms in a sort of baby dance. He has never responded to any song like that before! The Michael Jackson is obvious: he is James' favourite artist, and James plays his music all the time, especially for the boys and him to dance to. The MoTab is slightly more of a mystery. We have a couple CDs in the van that we sometimes throw on for the 5 minute ride to church, but other than that it's not on all that much. Then, beginning about 6 months ago, every time we got in the van Caleb would ask for the "Mohmin Nabernaberknuckle Coyer." To each their own!

Thursday, 30 December 2010


It's so strange when something happens with your third child that is completely new. Benjamin has discovered our floor vents. An acute fascination with them led to the discovery that they can be lifted out. Neither Colin nor Caleb ever knew they came out, or at least they never bothered to do it. Now all day I hear "clunk clunk clunk" as Benjamin lifts the vents and reveals the gaping holes and ducts in the floors around the home. Luckily, he's too big to fit down, although I'm sure a leg or an arm could fall through and get him stuck. Unluckily, I'm sure it won't be long, if it hasn't happened already, that things start being tossed down there. Benjamin already loves the "throw things from my high chair" game. "Throw things down the floor vent" is, I'm sure, much more fun.


(While I was reading a book of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast")

"Mommy, Belle is beautiful. She looks just like you."


A couple nights ago, just before bed, Caleb broke down in tears of exhaustion. As he wept, I enveloped him in my arms, wiped the tears from his face and spoke softly, "Caleb, you're breaking my heart!"

The next day, when something went awry and left Caleb once again in tears, he wandered over to me and, through gulping sobs, asked "Mommy, am I breaking your heart?"

Then I told him I really need a Caleb smile so that my heart could smile. He tipped his head up and grinned the best he could.


"When I grow up to be a man, I want to give all my toys to my sons. If my mom has boys."

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


I heard an interesting radio piece the other day. Apparently, we are the least productive society in history. Why? Well, it takes at least 15 minutes to get into a groove of whatever task you are doing. That may not seem like very long, but after every interruption, it takes 15 minutes again to get back into it.

So obviously mothers at home cannot ever be working at peak productivity. When did you ever have 15 uninterrupted minutes at one task? Ha! Multitasking goes hand in hand with motherhood, so I just let that one go.

What the radio host was talking about, however, had more to do with our instant notification fetish. Cell phones, computers, and smart phones are all designed to notify you with a beep, pop up message or blinking light that you have some new message sitting, waiting to be read. James calls the light on his Blackberry the "red light of doom." I hate it. Hate hate hate hate hate it. Because as soon as that red light flashes, the natural sense of curiousity kicks in, and there is an immediate need to click in and see what it is. And trust me, 99% of the time it is nothing that couldn't have waited until our conversation was over.

Rant finished. Maybe.

Back to the radio show. Imagine how many times a day you check your email, facebook account, voice mail, or text messages. The estimate was 40-50, just in an 8 hour work day. That's on average 6 times an hour, or every 10 minutes. Now recall that it takes 15 minutes of uninterrupted attention to get to your optimal productivity level.

Okay, that was a lot of stats, and it really all comes down to this: just let it go. Designate times to check in with your electronics and to answer messages. Turn off the notification system so your brain isn't going nuts with anticipation. Better yet, put the item away so you don't see it. There are times that James checks the Blackberry to see if there are any messages even when the little red light isn't blinking, and that light blinks as soon as anything happens. No red light = no messages, period. I think that behaviour borders on addiction, and it is rampant in our society.

So next time you've got a project to do, set aside some time to do it (at least 30 minutes) and do it away from the temptations of technology that just won't leave you alone!

Monday, 27 December 2010


Christmas is 2/3 over. My sisters and I decided to celebrate our Christmas on New Years Day, since around the 25th usually gets overloaded. We'll see how it goes this year. But it does mean Christmas decorations stay around for another week.

I'm not sure I can even find my children under the plethora of toys we have. On the plus side, it is spurring me on to get the garage cleaned out so that I can store some of the favourite toys that just won't fit in the playroom. That garage has been driving me crazy for months! At least twice a year I get in there and organize it, but somehow garages never stay tidy for long.

I tried to be very discriminate about the gifts we got the boys. I did cave to pressure from James and got them a few more "toys" than I wanted (which was only one for each!), but they also got some movies and books and art supplies. What was crazy was that, as I was looking for one last gift after one fell through, I couldn't find a single thing on the Toys R Us website that we didn't already have, in some shape or form. How many big trucks, small playsets, puzzles, and trains can you have? I just don't see the point in buying a second of something we already have, just to fill our the present pile.

And yet, no matter how many or few gifts the kids are showered with, they will always revert to the simplest games. After the opening of presents Christmas morning, the boys wanted to play a Lego game on the computer they have recently discovered ("screen time" was not as strictly monitored over the holidays.) And this morning, they have spent much time playing "opening presents" - they find a toy, tell the other brother to close his eyes, and then place the toy in his hand and say "here's your present!" Caleb's variation is to even pretend with an imaginary toy, presenting his cupped, empty hands and pronouncing what the imaginary present is.

Me? I was spoiled with a Kindle (electronic reader.) I was on the fence for a long time whether or not I would enjoy one, since I love the feel of a book. But since I love classics, and they are mostly available for free, I think it is fabulous that in one tiny thin, paperback size machine I can hold hundreds of books at my fingertips. It is a fantastic solution to the terrible library collection we have in town. And reading it really is marvelous - it really does look like paper.

The only thing absent for me this year is Boxing day shopping. While I might hit a store or two tomorrow evening while the boys catch a movie in Brampton, I didn't hit the stores bright and early on Boxing Day (Sunday this year) and shop the stores and malls all day, searching for good deals. I think I've been hit by the "too much stuff" fever, and the thought of buying and bringing in anything else into our home is maddening! So other than a nice winter sweater, a swimsuit for our upcoming vacation, and a case for my Kindle, I'll just layoff the extra shopping this year.

I think my favourite part of Christmases this year was the music. Everywhere I went, and everyday at home, I had my guitar out and strummed through favourite Christmas songs. With James' family, it was mandatory that everyone perform a song (or reading) before opening presents - even the boys. Caleb performed three verses of the "Reindeer Pokey" and Colin wowed the crowd with "When Christmas Comes to Town." (Yes, they were videotaped for posterity!) We also went caroling as a family (the five of us) on Christmas Eve, driving around to several neighbours and friends' homes. That was the most joyous part of the holiday, seeing the joy we brought to their faces as we sang a few songs, then sprinkled "reindeer food" on their front lawn to bring Santa their way.

I would love to post a few pictures, but this year we really just got right down into the middle of it all, and we rarely remembered to step back and snap a picture. Hopefully we'll be able to retain the memories, knowing that we enjoyed every moment together as a family.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Boys vs. girls

I was perusing a friend's blog today. She has four girls. She was writing about taking family photos - she had several with all the girls smiling gorgeously for the camera in the cutest coordinating (not matching) outfits. She wrote about doing crafts, making decorations for the tree, decorating gingerbread houses. She wrote about homeschooling, and how while some days are crazy, many days the girls do sit and get some work done.

It made me think about my three boys.

I started thinking about how boys don't want to sit and pose for lovely family portraits. I thought about how a craft might last two minutes, with a quick marker drawing and maybe one or two things glued on. I thought about decorating gingerbread houses and how I would probably end up doing the decorating. I thought about homeschooling and how I can't seem to find something that works, that we can stick to, that the boys really want to do. I thought about their love of sweatpants and hatred of sweaters or button-up shirts, no matter how cool and stylish they are.

Boys and girls are truly from completely different worlds.

I will admit that looking through the window at my friend's life made me yearn a little for a girl. or perhaps it is not really a girl, but just a little less chaos in my life with boys.

Sure, I love camping and sports and hiking and adventures. I'm not one to sit down and paint my toenails and shop all day for clothes or go to a boyband concert. I have also never liked pink.

Until now.

That's right. When I was small, my mother dressed me in pink all the time. I can remember thinking that pink with red hair was so ugly! As soon as I could buy my own clothes, I never wore pink again. Then, one day (I remember it distinctly) when I was 20, everything changed. It was a cold January day and I was walking in downtown Toronto by the Holt Renfrew store on Bloor Street. A woman was in the window display, setting up the new clothing line. And everything was pink! There was rose and blush and hot pink and coral and fuchsia - every shade you could imagine. I can still remember thinking "oh no! Pink is in!" Not too long after that, I purchased my very first pink top. It was just the right shade to go with my long red mane, and I loved it!

Now I actually own a few pink items - not tons, but a few. But you know what? Lately I have found myself tending more and more to the colour pink, and all things girly. My only explanation is that because I am surrounded by boys, my inner girl is craving some serious femininity, which is manifesting itself in a penchant for pink.

I know the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and when my friend is in the throes of four teenage girls, I'll be laughing. But these days, things aren't so funny.

Love the chaos-love the chaos-love the chaos-lovethechaoslovethechaoslovethechaoslovethechaoslovethechaoslovethechaoslovethechaos

Do you think if I keep repeating it, it will come true?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Bosom friends from far away

It was the beloved literary character Anne of Green Gables that made famous the term "bosom friends." It refers to a friend whose friendship reaches right down to the heart of each of you.

Today I have been thinking about two friends who I wish lived much closer.

Lori lives an hour and a half away, on the other side of Toronto. She has five beautiful children. She loves music and theatre and teaching and reading. She directs musicals (I wish I could be a part of.) She is in a book club (I wish I could join.) She taught the gifted class and believes in true learning and education, not just schooling. She is all things music and I'm sure we could pass hours singing at the piano together. She has a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ and an equal passion to share the good news through the talents with which she has been blessed. Other than having 5 children (I'm two shy), when you describe her you could be describing me.

Lori and I have a constant back-and-forth about how the other person needs to move closer. The other day, when she mentioned she had a copy of a book I'm looking for, she told me I needed to move closer. So I told her we need to start keeping score. 1-0 for her. Today I evened it up when she wished to be part of an impromptu Christmas sing-a-long I'm hosting. We both love our respective towns, but I'm really hoping one day ours wins out and she moves here!

The other friend, Bonnie, lives 2 hours away. We've only met up a handful of times, but an email and blog correspondence meant we got to know each other really well. Bonnie also has a love of music, God, and family. Bonnie has 6 lovely children, and she homeschools them in her country home, complete with goats and chickens. She has found herself in a simpler way of life that I deeply admire. She also loves a good debate; I do too - I good debate always fires me up! Bonnie challenges me, flips my way of thinking on its head, gets me out of my comfort zone, and I love it. There is so much out there to learn, so many ways to open your eyes, and it's too easy to settle down and forget how to really live!

I am so grateful for technology today that lets me keep in touch with friends like these. My life is so richer because of them.

Dear Benjamin

Dear Benjamin,

As I rocked you today, I noticed your hands seemed a little bigger, your face a little older, and you seem a little wiser.

Please stop growing so fast.


Monday, 20 December 2010

Happy Birthday Benjamin!


How on earth has an entire year passed by already? My little baby turned one year old today. This photo is a perfect representation of you. Yes, you have my red hair, but what I love about this picture is that it shows your eyes - the most beautiful, clear shade of grey. I've never known anyone with grey eyes before, although I have read of characters in literature possessing that colour. I love to look into your eyes, because the colour is so unexpected and astonishing.

You love to smile. You smile every time I walk into the room. You smile at your brothers when they play around you. You smile at strangers in the store as they coo over how cute you are. Each smile seems so personal, and I have seen many strangers melt as though that smile was delivered just for them.

You have given me a wonderful birthday present on your birthday - the last two nights you have finally slept through the night! 8am to 4am, for the first time ever. Please let this be a corner you are turning; I can function much better for you on a (somewhat) full night's sleep.

You are so close to walking. You walk holding onto my hands, you toddle along the furniture. I can see it in your eyes that you want to be able to keep up with your brothers; although you can speed crawl more quickly than any baby I know, once you get up and run there will be no stopping you!

You have started to pick up on a few baby signs: "food" and "enough." Generally, though, you just have this really loud, nasal "anh" that means you want food. Breads and grains are your favourites, hands down, although pears and sweet potatoes also rank right up there. Some days you rival Caleb for the amount of food you eat.

You discovered the piano the other day. Now you love to be pushed up to the keys in your high chair, so that you can play away. You don't just bang at the notes - you really seem to understand playing different notes. And you love to sing along. You have this very sweet and deliberate coo sound you make that is imitating singing. You even coo high and low notes. At church you always sit on my lap during the hymns, looking at the hymn book and cooing along. If the song is particularly enthusiastic, you have no fear in belting it out with the rest of us!

You also love to "read." Lately you have taken to opening up one of your big board books and "reading" (cooing). Funny enough, your reading coo and your singing coo are markedly different; you really do hear the difference and then alter your own voice to mimic either reading or singing. You even try to turn the pages through the book, as though you understand that there is a progression from the beginning to the end of the story.

Have patience, my little man. You will catch up to your older brothers soon enough; I know they get frustrated when you try to play with them right now, but before long you'll be right in there with them. Don't grow up too quickly, though. For now, I'll get all the cuddles in I can, even the ones at two in the morning.

I love you.


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Christmas traditions...yet to come

Ah, my mind is swirling with Christmas traditions...not ones that we currently do, but ones that I would love to do someday. They are my "traditions yet to come." Because right now I have 3 boys under 5 including a baby that still nurses through the night. Right now, I can barely manage to keep the house in order and the fridge stocked. Right now, it is a full-scale production to do even the little things like bathtime, or getting the boys dressed, or tidying the play-room.

So, right now, I'm just going to file away some good tradition ideas to implement in the coming years.

1. Reading a different Christmas story each night. This would sort of be an Advent event - starting December 1st, we can sit as a family around the Christmas tree (or under the tree - James loves to look up at the lights from lying under the tree) and read one of the many Christmas books we've got.

2. A manger of hay. I just saw this idea today and LOVE it! You have a small manger, about a foot long, and a jar of "hay" (from a craft store). The idea is to do small acts of service through the month of December, and each time you do you put a little hay into the manger. Hopefully you can fill the manger by Christmas day.

3. Christmas caroling. In the near future, this will just mean singing around the piano as a family. I would also love to sing with our extended families at our get togethers, but not too many of them have the love of music we have here at home. As the boys grow, I hope we can actually bundle up and get out into the town to carol - whether at people's doors, or even in our local park that is decked out in Christmas decorations. People visit there nightly, and it would be neat to sing as they walk through.

4. Making Christmas gifts for each other. My sisters and I did this growing up, and I still have some of the gifts they made me. Since boys are usually not as crafty as girls, I would have a name draw between all five of us, each person making one homemade gift for one other person in the family.

5. Holiday baking. This one I really did want to start this year, but our weekends filled up so quickly! I would love a Saturday afternoon with my sisters and/or sisters-in-law where we all bring a recipe and make enough batches so that everyone takes home a good haul of baking for the season. Perhaps I'll get to it next year.

6. Christmas in July. Okay - this idea isn't new; I've been to a lot of "Christmas in July" celebrations. However, I'm not talking about gift giving and baking. I'm talking about service. I would love to put up the Christmas tree in July and then do a big family service project together. Everyone thinks about going to a soup kitchen at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but not many people remember it 6 months later.

7. A musical service project. James and I (and the boys, when they are older) would offer our musical services for the evening in return for a donation to a charity. Each year as a family we will research and choose a different charity. I envision the evenings either being mini fireside concerts with mostly performances by James and I (vocal, piano, flute) or us leading sing-a-longs, either with piano or guitar accompaniment. I have always wanted to get involved in service projects at Christmas, but so many people are also looking to do the same thing that often it is hard to really get in and serve. But this way we can share the talents with which we have been blessed with those around us, and donate to a cause close to our hearts.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Totally lost my cool

On Monday, I completely lost my cool, collected manner. I'm usually pretty good in an emergency situation; I can assess the problem, stay in control and take action. So I was really surprised when I betrayed myself in such a way. I'm just thankful James was here. He didn't jump in instead, but just seeing him for a moment or two helped me clear my head, steady my nerves, and be able to do what needed to be done.

Colin spiked a fever on Sunday. No other real symptoms, just a really high fever. He slept most of the day, playing while the acetaminophen was working, crashing when it was time for his next dose. Monday he had a bit of a runny nose. He was going through boxes of Kleenex like mad, because he was just dabbing at the tip of his nose and then grabbing another tissue, and another, and another. So I tried to teach him how to gently blow his nose and get a little more out. Now, he's only five, and five-year-olds don't really have a lot of power behind a nose-blow. So when I was in the kitchen and I heard Caleb exclaim "There's something coming out of Colin's nose!" I didn't drop everything and run right away. I figured it was just a long line of snot. But then Colin started to weep, that kind of low, steady scared cry. When I came in, there was two inches of plastic tube handing from his left nostril. I immediately knew it was the tube he had inserted during his tear duct surgery last month. And I knew there was no way it was supposed to be able to be dislodged.

I froze. My body shook uncontrollably. My mind went completely blank.

I scooped Colin up in my arms and just stood there, unmoving.

I ran to the door and yelled for James to come in. He was just about to pull out of the driveway for work.

James came in the door and I tried to covertly explain what was going on, without alarming Colin. Even though I had completely had my own wits scared out of me.

"I just need to call the surgeon. I'll call the hospital. Or his office."

My brain was the first to come back online. I muddled through what needed to be done. Colin needed to be dressed. We needed to make sure he didn't pull at the tube. I needed to find out where to go to have the problem addressed.

I grabbed the phone, surprised at how much it shook in my hand. I stared blankly at the numbers. I needed a phone number. Where to find the phone number?

It was like my mind was moving in slow motion through a lake of tar. It used every effort in me, but I shook myself loose from the stupor and finally jumped into action.

The surgeon was in Mississauga and was leaving the office in 45 minutes - not long enough for us to get to him. We were instructed to go to the ER here in town, and have the doctor call the surgeon for instruction.

The clock was ticking. I dressed Colin, gathered my things and high-tailed it over to the hospital. I was obviously shaken, because as I carried him into the ER waiting room the triage nurse rushed to me. But when I explained what was going on, a wall went up and she condescendingly instructed me that I would just have to wait. The area waiting to be triaged was packed. And once you were triaged, then you had to wait to see the doctor. It was going to be a long wait.

As I saw the clock tick by, the hands passed the time when the surgeon was leaving his office. Now what would happen?

3 hours later, we were finally in to see the doctor. It was a small consolation when she expressed anger and frustration at the triage nurse for not admitting us earlier so that she could talk to the surgeon. She spoke with some of the surgeon's colleagues, who gave instructions based on what they knew about our surgeon. As it turned out, there wasn't much to do other than remove the tube completely.

So there is no longer any tube hanging from Colin's nose, but the result is that we may have to start this whole process again, including the anesthetic and surgery. The tube was supposed to stay in for 3-4 months, and it was in barely one month. There is a possibility the new duct will have healed enough to work, but it is just wait-and-see for right now.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


The past two nights I sang in a Christmas choir. This is something I try to squeeze in every year, even though it means 8 weeks of Sunday night rehearsals, half of them up in Barrie, an hour away. I just love to sing in a choir, and our director Barb is amazing. She digs up some fantastic pieces with beautiful harmonies, flowing poetry and either haunting harmonics or exciting pizazz. This year was no exception.

James was also asked to perform a solo for the concert, which is always fun for us to prepare. However, I was also asked to perform a solo this year! Me. Me with the major phobia of singing on my own. Me who much prefers to hide behind the piano.

Here's the story.

There I am, sitting in choir practice. We had been working on this fantastic southern Baptist-type song, full of "Glory glory" and "Hallelujahs," replete with sass and fun. I'm smiling away, belting it out, enjoying myself, when Barb announces there is a solo part. My eyes dart down to the music: it's for a man. Barb's eyes survey the choir and she asks a man sitting in the front row to take the solo. At this point nothing is even on my radar. But Barb's eyes don't go back to her music - they continue to scan the choir. Her eyes lock with mine and I hear the strangest words roll off her lips:

"Terri-Ann, will you take the next two lines?"

I respond automatically, without forethought.


Barb jolts. She looks up, confused.

"No. Sorry, no."
"For real?"
"Like, for real, for real?"

Now I'm starting to realize what my mouth is involuntarily saying, and I am beginning to feel bad. Barb looks like a deer in headlights. I figured she would just ask someone else, but she genuinely didn't expect me to say no, and so she is stunned in silence. Then, just as I reacted initially from a reflex of fear, my mouth keeps running on its own, and this time I speak out of compassion for a fellow musician who is just trying to pull together a Christmas concert of volunteers.

"Well, okay. I'll give it a go."


Doth my mouth betray me?

But that was it. Barb smiled and cued the pianist. Just like that, I had a solo. Albeit but two lines, but you have no idea how big this was for me.

How did it go? Not bad. The choir is so big I had to sing it into a mic, which sprinkled a little more anxiety on the situation. I was a little frustrated at myself; it was two small lines, after all. A tiny little part in a huge program, and no one would likely even remember it after. Why was I making such a big deal out of it? Even knowing my reaction was involuntary didn't help.

The first performance went okay. My family was all there, which made me a little more nervous. My stomach was a bundle of nerves during the songs leading up to my "solo." Then, as I approached the microphone, all psyched up and ready to go, Benjamin (in the audience, about halfway back) saw me step up and suddenly jumped up on my mom's lap, reached out toward me and started calling out loudly. It set me off my guard as I worried about him being too loud. Before I knew it the piano was playing two notes before my cue and I didn't even have time to take a proper breath. I was just glad I came in at the right spot, with the right words, caught by surprise like that. Afterward I slipped back into my unassuming spot in the choir, glad it was over.

Last night went much better. I wasn't nervous leading up at all. I stepped up in time, took a good breath, and belted out my lines, smiling and full of cheer. I hit the notes perfectly. As I stepped back into the choir, my stomach erupted in nervous shock. That made me smile, because I knew that meant I had done well. You see, whenever I used to perform on stage (acting), I never had the jitters before the show, never experienced stage fright. I was always cool as a cucumber, until after I stepped off stage at the end of the show. Then my stomach would turn over incessantly and my hands would shake with fright. I was thankful for the familiar reaction, knowing it meant a performance well done.

Okay. I know some people must be thinking I'm crazy, writing so much detail about such a small thing. But it was a really big thing for me to do this. I'm glad I did, however, and I hope it will be one more small step to singing more performances. I really do love to sing, and have always wanted to have the confidence and competency to sing solos from the beautiful collection of music I have.

Friday, 10 December 2010


"Mom, I'll be Yoda and you be Wacka-nabba-nobi." (Obi-Wan-Kanobi)


Today Caleb and I built spaceships out of the Crazy Fort sticks and balls. I built a shuttle with a door, two wings, a nose, a control panel and a stick shift. Upon seeing it, Caleb pronounced:
"Now, we will switch ships. I built a ship for you and you built a ship for me."

My ship was three separate sticks.

Caleb climbed into his ship, then narrated the story for me:
"I'm flying my ship, and my ship is much bigger than yours. Now I bump into you and your small ship explodes into pieces."

I didn't hold it against him. I was marveling at his imagination, as he came up with a story about enemies coming near, needing to go to "red alert" when his ship was damaged, crawling through a small space to find a launch button, my small ship coming to the rescue, a quick and dirty repair job, and then us teaming up to vanquish the enemy.


Caleb seems to have adopted a southern drawl. It is most obvious when he says "yeah," his he pronounces in a long, drawn out "yay-yah." He likes to draw out most of his vowals in short words, like "day" (day-yah) and "home" (ho-ohm.) For the longest time we wondered where on earth he had picked it up. Then I noticed a couple of words in my own speech had a bit of a southern twang in them (like "I can get that for you" - "I cay-yan get that for you")! I have no idea where I picked it up; perhaps it is a result of needing to speak so much during the day and yet keep what I'm saying comprehensive to a three year old. Whatever the origin, it sure adds a little southern sunshine on these cold, dark winter days!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Seeing time in a different way

My day today:

6:00 am - wake up with Caleb (James already gone for work)
9:30 am - rush three kids out the door
10:15 am - arrive at the train station in Mississauga
10:45 - 11:15 am - ride the train down one station and then back again
11:30 am - 12:15 pm - lunch at my sister-in-law's, leave Caleb to have a nap
12:15 pm - drive to hospital in Toronto
2:00 pm - arrive at hospital
2:30 pm - appointment at hospital (on time!)
2:50 pm - leave hospital (20 minutes - a first!)
4:00 pm - arrive at sister-in-law's to pick up Caleb (who slept all but 15 minutes we were gone!)
4:05 pm - leave quickly to try and beat rush hours
5:30 pm - have only driven the equivalent of 15 minutes after an hour and a half on the road
5:31 pm - pull off for dinner and to calm crying, hungry children
6:00 pm - back on the road
7:00 pm - arrive home

A careful study of this schedule will reveal we didn't actually get much done today, other than spend 6 and a half hours traveling. Aside from the two 5 minutes train rides (an experience I promised the boys) and the 20 minute appointment (that was less than necessary) the rest of the day was spent driving.

But as a mother I have discovered that it is necessary to see time in a different way than most people. If you judge the productiveness of a day based on how many things you check off of a to-do list, then nearly every day will seem like a failure. But if you look at the productiveness of a day as quality time passed with your children, than every day is a resounding success.

Here's another look at the day, through Colin's eyes:

He got to:
- skip a day of school ("That means I'll be "n'est pas la" today!)
- watch movies in the car
- punch a train ticket
- ride on a real train twice (this has been a promised event for over a year)
- have lunch at his Aunt's apartment
- eat lunch on her couch instead of at the table
- have a huge glass of chocolate milk with lunch
- go on a hunt for Auntie Julia's cats
- drive to Toronto and see the CN Tower and Ontario place (from the van window)
- park underground "in the cave" (he begged me to, instead of parking on the street)
- play with kids at the hospital
- figure out he has a button to open the window
- open and close the window repetitively the whole ride home, because he "needed a little bit of fresh air in here"
- eat at Wendy's
- have a whole bottle of orange juice to himself, with a straw
- get a half of a big donut rather than a timbit
- watch a brand new movie on the way home
- play for 20 whole minutes once he got home, even though it was bedtime

To Colin, this day rocked his world. There were so many new and interesting things he did, and other special treats he only gets once in a while. Colin will likely remember this day for many weeks to come. In the past, after having been out of the house for nearly 10 hours, I would have expected my to-do list to have been decimated, or would have felt exhausted and dejected from having wasted a day accomplishing nothing. Now, I realize that my kids simply want to be with me, spend time with me, share experiences with me. So even a day like this is a success in their eyes, and in my books.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Colin's birthday party

Oh boy, I don't know if I'll ever do it again.

Colin had his birthday party this past Saturday. We planned a "Polar Express" party, based on the beloved book and movie. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and certainly Colin and all his guests were in awe. But two and a half hours of 10 boys running around our main floor, plus days of preparation and decoration was just too much. I think in the future we'll have a family dinner for the boys' actual birthdays, and then have one big summer bash with all their friends. I'm thinking 30 boys, one big sports game (baseball, soccer, etc) and a barbecue. Yeah, it seems big now, but it would be one party instead of three that fall 3 weeks apart and all in the Christmas season.

But for posterity's sake, here are some photos of our wildly successful (and very wild!) Polar Express party:

I cut out a ton of paper snowflakes and hung them from the ceiling, to give the impression of snowing in the living room. This was probably my favourite part of all the decorating. We've left it all up for the Christmas season.

The "Staff" - my sister Jennifer, my mom and I all were waiters, while James played the conductor. The kids' faces were priceless when we served hot chocolate and "candies with nougat centres white as snow," with that scene from the movie playing in the background. Probably the kids' favourite part of the party.We decorated cookies for one of the activities. The boys literally piled about 2 inches of sprinkles on top of the cookies, and were so proud of their creations. We also played a relay game of unwrapping presents - to see which team could unwrap a pile of gifts the fastest. There are no photos of that one, as you can imagine the craziness of it!

Our group of 10 boys, all in pajamas and housecoats, just like in the movie. They all received a gold ticket in their party invitation to bring to the party and get punched by the conductor.The birthday cake - which looks so fancy and was really so easy! A box of cake mix and a jar of icing, a little blue food colouring and a plastic baggie to draw with. The shape of the train was made from two loaf pans (the train cars) and a square pan (the train engine.) I cut a few pieces out of the square and added Oreo cookies for wheels and voila - instant train cake! Colin was over the moon for it.

So that was that. We weren't completely cleaned up until the next day, and I think the boys are still in recovery mode. But Colin thought it was so amazing, and apparently all his friends are still talking about it. By all accounts, a total success!

Monday, 6 December 2010

A little sunshine in the wintertime

Okay, it will be a WHOLE LOTTA SUNSHINE in the wintertime - on my cruise! I just finished booking a winter vacation for James and I this coming January.

This is a big deal for me on many fronts.

First of all, going away, period. During the summer my parents offered to stay and watch the boys for a week in January if James and I wanted to get away. Done deal, right? Wrong. Benjamin will barely be a year old, and I just wasn't sure I could leave him. Plus I really wanted to continue nursing, which might be difficult after a week away. And even if he still wants to nurse, the added "feminine" benefit of nursing will likely end as a result of being away for that long. So what changed? Well, Benjamin is still nursing at 8pm, 11pm, 1am, 3am, 5am, and 8am, and then throughout the day. The daytime I don't mind so much. The nighttime is killing me. I haven't slept more than 2 hours in a row in almost 2 years, and even then I only had a couple months of sleep between my pregnancy with Benjamin and having gone through all this with Caleb. All told, it's been 4 years since I really had a run of good sleep. I need some time away.

Second, I hate booking vacations. Strange, I know, since most people get really excited about it. But I get online and start surfing around and am inundated with a billion websites and cruise ships and ports and locations and prices and flights and hotels and...and...and... after 30 minutes I generally throw my hands up in the air and declare "I'm not going!" An all-inclusive vacation is slightly easier, because at least it's a one-stop shop. Getting the best deal on a cruise involves booking everything separately, which only causes more stress. Right up until last night I had simply told James "You research and book it, just hand me a ticket and tell me when to pack my bags." Thankfully, a good friend with plenty of experience pointed us in a couple directions which made the decisions obvious and easy. Once we were able to narrow things down, the vacation came together amazingly.

Third, I've never been on a cruise. I've traveled lots, and have no problem hopping on a plane and landing in a foreign country with little pre-planning. I like to go with the flow on vacation. But having never cruised before, I felt like I couldn't make the best decisions for myself relying solely on the experience of others. My preferred level of activity, interest in daily excursions and size of my wallet are all vastly different than those friends and family who have "gone before" on a cruise. So this involved a huge leap of faith for such a large amount of money.

In the end, it all worked out. We even scored free flights using points James collected, which cut the cost of the trip by 1/3, and gave us the ability to fly out of Toronto instead of Buffalo (usually cheaper) and fly direct instead of making connections (and worrying about getting to the port on time!). So, come January, we'll be off to the seas of the Caribbean!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Santa: the great debate

I had an interesting conversation with a group of women (mothers) yesterday at a bible study. We all discussed our take on whether or not Santa was a part of our Christmas growing up, and whether or not we then instituted him as a part of Christmas within our own families now.

I was amazed that in 8 women, there were 8 completely different answers.

On the "no Santa" side, the reasons were both about the issue of lying and the attempt to keep the focus on the birth of Jesus. One woman said her mother had felt so betrayed by her own mother at being lied to for so long, that they were very emphatic about telling the truth, including about the myth of Santa Claus. Another woman said that she didn't want to confuse her children between the fact that while Santa is made up, Jesus is real. She mentioned that children often stop believing in both God and Santa around the same time. Because you don't see either of them, kids can find it tough to understand why one is real and one is made up. A third woman said that she found it too difficult to balance the secular and the religious aspects, and she felt Santa would win out every time, so all the presents under the tree were from family instead of Saint Nick.

On the "yes Santa" side, most people either mentioned the magic of the season or roots of family. One woman talked about the glitter and decorations and the happy glow that comes along with the holiday side of Christmas. Another said that her family weren't Christians and so they wanted to balance both aspects so they didn't alienate their family relationships, which they felt were just as important to nourish.

One woman in the group caught my attention. She just gave birth to her first baby, a beautiful little girl, about two months ago. I could see her taking in the conversation, her eyes focused and her mind trying to capture all the positions. You see, it is at this exact moment in life when you really start to ask yourself what position you are going to take on different issues. Before children, there really is only one person at play - you. Flip-flopping on things is no big deal, because you can handle it and it doesn't affect anyone else. Once there is a child in the mix, all of a sudden you realize you have to take a stand on all these issues. Santa or no Santa? Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy? What about Halloween - will you celebrate or not? Let your kids go out? Until what age? Even things around the home like how much TV to watch, what sorts of movies, or will you have a video game system? Although you can change the rules once the kids are around, it's much easier to examine the issue and decide where you stand before the kids are old enough to know any better.

Going back to the great Santa debate, I just thought it was so interesting that among eight women there were eight different stands taken, and for eight completely different reasons. While there was a minuscule amount of tension present (everyone wants to think that they have the right answer, and that everyone else should see things in the same light!), I just loved to see that everyone had thought about the issue, considered the different routes to take, and then had consciously and firmly taken a stand. That is what parenting is all about.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Colin's report day

Report cards came in last week for Colin. As I opened it up, I was surprised at how little weight I was mentally prepared to give the report. Having grown up in an house that put a huge emphasis on schooling, and having worked hard and excelled at school myself, I always figured I would encourage my own children to work hard and excel at school. And yet I felt very nonplussed about this report card. And it's not just that he's only in kindergarten. It is more that my views on formal schooling have been completely overhauled in light of a lot of the reading I've done. While knowledge, wisdom and education are of the utmost importance in my eyes, I just don't equate those goals with getting A's at school. There are not one and the same to me.

Back to Colin's report. He has been catching on quickly, considering he was already a year behind the other children in the French language. All the comments were positive. The only thing he needs to work on is jumping into conversations, which will come as his comprehension of the language increases.

My favourite part of the parent/teacher interview about the report card was in regards to Colin as a person. "The girls all love Colin," the teacher said with a smile. "It's because he is so gentle. Gentle and kind and polite. The girls really like those qualities in him." When I asked about the boys in the class, the teacher replied "Well, the other boys are older and bigger and tougher. Colin often plays with them at recess, but other times he just stays with the girls."

Those comments made me just beam. In my estimation, a child who is kind and gentle and polite is much farther ahead than a "straight A" student who is mean or a bully or rude. From my point of view, Colin is growing just as I hope he would.

The other comment was from the gym teacher, that Colin needs work on using a ball (kicking, throwing, catching, dribbling.) I laughed when I read that. First of all, those are all skills that come between the ages of 4 and 6, so Colin is in no way behind. And besides, Colin can hit with a baseball bat any ball you pitch in the strike zone, and he can self-pitch a ball by tossing it in the air with one hand and then hitting it with the bat when it comes down. I know adults who can't do that.